Saturday, December 29, 2012

India and her Women


Anger. Pain. Hurt. Shame. Four words that pop into my head when I think about the current state of affairs in India. Women are under attack.

With the brutal gang rape and subsequent death of a 23-year old woman, in the heart of New Delhi, a culture of indifference and disrespect against woman has been unraveled. In this week alone, I have lost count on the number of women who have been reportedly gang raped in the country. After Amanat's unfortunate ordeal, I heard news of the rape and murder of a 2-year old, the rape and murder of a 42-year old house wife in Kolkata and more. Like every other individual, with a heart and brain, I'm left numb and enraged at what's happening in a nation, where goddesses are worshiped and heroines are cherished. 

In the days following the rape and hospitalization of the innocent medical student (known as Amanat, Nirbhaya and Damini), I have read hundreds of articles that reason out why India is going through a "rape crisis". I have read first hand accounts of abuse, eve-teasing and harassment. I'm not even going to attempt at examining the reasons for which all this is happening because the issue is so incredibly deep and sensitive that I couldn't do it justice.

However, anyone who has even a slight understanding of Indian culture, will realize that:

Indian culture produces men, which have blatant disregard for women. The culture, for hundreds of years, has repressed woman; rape is only one of the outcomes that stems from the lack of women's rights. It's the CULTURE and lack of MORALS instilled into men which cause such atrocities to occur.

I think this concept is quite simple. Laws, which the incompetent government has little interest in making, will surely cause change in society and the number of crimes committed against women. However, laws will achieve little, in the long run. It's the mindset that must change. It's the mindset that's going to make men respect women, not fear of law.

This brings me to my next point. Movies. More often than not, I hear about Hindi film and music being the reason for increased rapes in India. If a rape scene is shown in a movie's climax or a music video depicts stalking, automatically, the entertainment industry is at fault for spurring crime. Supposedly, people watch movies and follow. 
They watch rape. They rape. They watch murder. They murder.

Now, that is the STUPIDEST reasoning I have ever heard for why crime is on the rise, in India. The entertainment industry is not at fault. 

First of all, if an individual is stupid enough to follow scenes in a movie that causes them to do something as pathetic as rape, they shouldn't be watching films. Period. They evidently do not have the mental capacity to differentiate between fiction and reality. Secondly, film or television, has never glamorized rape. Those who rape or murder, in film, are almost always the villains. I have never seen a "hero" disrespect a woman or commit a crime. A hero is the one who fights the criminal, fights for the common man, protects the weak. So, if the audience is mindlessly emulating the heroes (which they often do), there is no reason for the audience to engage in heinous crimes, right?

How much are film directors and writers supposed to dumb down their films? Should they stop showing everything negative? Should they start making their films a hundred percent rosy and picture perfect? NO! No one should have to compromise on their films because a small section of society are too brain dead to make right decisions.

And since when are films supposed to be the barometer for morality? Hollywood films are dozens of times more provocative. Sex scenes are the norm in film and television. Kissing scenes are even shown on the Disney channel! Please explain to me why the United States has such a drastically lower level of crime against women. Shouldn't the US have more crime since they have so much more sexuality in their entertainment. And who can forget, their girls show much more skin too! *gasp*

So, next time anyone says that Indian film, television and music are the root cause for rape and similar crimes, they need to introspect. The reasons are much, much deeper than that. The answers are within. Within society. Not in make-believe land! 

Best albums of 2012

Hindi cinema thrives on music and so do I. As the year comes to a close, I choose my favorite albums from the past year. Though there weren't tons of albums that I had on replay, there were a few that took me over!
Jab Tak Hai Jaan

I've developed a theory on AR Rehman's music capabilities. His style of music direction and composition is so progressive that it takes time for audience members to fully comprehend and register the music, which he creates. In all honesty, the first few listens of the Jab Tak Hai Jaan soundtrack left me cold. I was left with sheer disappointment simply because the soundtrack was so different from what I had expected. It's only normal to compare the film's music with Chopra's earlier Veer-Zaara, which is undeniably a classic (and one of my all time favorites). However, despite my qualms with the discrepancies between Chopra's soundtracks, Rehman's tunes just can't help but grow on you with every listen. The instrumentals, the vocals, the melodies... everything is so very filmi, yet still, so very innovative. And that is precisely why AR Rehman is so respected in the musical world. Composers like Pritam and Himesh Reshamiya will always make popular, chart-busting songs, but who is going to fondly remember them, in the years to come. JTHJ pushes the bar and that is why it's one of my most beloved soundtracks of the year.

Also,  a standing ovation for Rehman, who despite being a full-blooded Tamilian, produced two of the most authentically Punjabi songs to come out of Hindi cinema, "Heer" and "Challa". Kudos to him! 

Student of the Year

SOTY, with music composed by duo Vishal-Shekhar and lyrics penned by Anvita Dutt Guptan, was probably my most listened to soundtrack of the year. The songs were definitely not "innovative" like JTHJ's songs were, but they surely gave me a dose of "filminess", which this year's other soundtracks were greatly lacking. After a long time, SOTY gave listeners "wholesome" dance songs, like"Radha" and "Disco Deewane", which weren't just the usual raunchy item numbers. Overall, the soundtrack succeeded in what it sought out to be: young and fresh. In these confusing times, those terms, "young" and "fresh" have unfortunately become synonymous with "western" or "American" for a fare share of music directors. However, tracks like "Kukkad Kamaal Da", "Ishq Wala Love", rightfully prove that "young" and "fresh" surely do not coincide with western, but also, good ol' Hindi rhythms.

Ekk Deewana Tha

This movie, starring Prateik Babbar and Amy Jackson, was a remake of the Tamil Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa, with music by AR Rehman. The Hindi remake retained the original music, but with Hindi lyrics, written by Javed Akhtar. To be honest, I am quite surprised that the music from the film was so easily forgotten by music lovers. I adored the soundtrack and found it extremely refreshing for the reasons, I had listed earlier for JTHJ. AR Rehman's chooses to fight against the waves, not ride with them. Ekk Deewana Tha's music is experimental, yet still extremely influenced by South Indian classical music. Various types of sounds and music styles are brought together into this album to form an amalgamation of pure romance. "Hosanna", "Sharminda Hoon", "Phoolon Jaisi Ladki" and "Sun Lo Zara"  have constantly been on my playlist. Thank you, AR Rehman. Keep at it!

Dabangg 2

The soundtrack from Dabangg 2 is heavily influenced by the original Dabangg's soundtrack. For every track in the first film, there's a new song that replaces it in the sequel; "Dagabaaz Re" revisits "Tere Mast Mast Do Nain", "Saanson Ne" rehashes "Chori Kiya Re", even "Fevicol Se" redoes a "Munni Badnaam". Though not every song from the sequel is as catchy as it's original counterpart, I'm definitely not complaining. With the exception of "Fevicol Se", Dabangg 2's track-list either enhances or largely measures up to Dabangg's songs. The album's soundtrack fulfills all my musical desires with fantastic romantic numbers, dance songs and adrenaline increasing remixes. I enjoyed the film very much, largely because of the music, which did full justice to this year's last film...last Salman film! Surely, an event in itself.

Monday, December 10, 2012

I'm ready

I never thought I would ever say this...but I am ready! I am ready to let our beloved, 40+ heroes take the back seat and let Gen Y take over as the next line of heroes! (woohoo, I let it out!)

Now, that's what you call fandom!
We all love the Khans and the rest of the 40+ brigade! They have a screen presence that transcends mere acting talent or good looks. They've got a certain it factor when it comes to the way they carry themselves, on-screen and off-screen. The older stars have been able to maintain their it factor and keep the audiences asking for more, despite their decades in the industry: definitely, not an easy feat. Their unique persona's and attitudes have made them, not only actors, but stars and moreover, heroes (rightly so). However, it's impossible to deny that...they aren't as young as they used to be!
They've all aged gracefully and very much still have the star power and charisma that can reel in the crowds at the box office. As I said earlier, they're "heroes", not only actors, but there is so much they can no longer do, given their age restrictions. When I say do. I don't mean action or romance roles (please, Salman and Shahrukh do those fabulously), but the "new" roles that have come about with the influx of the "new age" in Hindi cinema. They all just seem out of place in the new, "younger" cinema that's developing in India. "Massy", masala films will always remain an integral part of Hindi entertainment, but "alternate" mainstream movies are definitely coming to stay, as well. Admit it or not, but the current superstars just don't fit into the roles of this new (highly welcomed) phase in cinema.
Could Salman do justice to a Barfi?

Could Akshay do justice to a Gangs of Wasseypur II?

Could Ajay do justice to a Vicky Donor? 
I'm afraid not. The older generation actors undeniably have the acting ability to do such diverse roles, but they just don't fit the characters. Along with their increasing age (Saif Ali Khan's not twenty five?!), their public image just cannot suffice for such discrepancies from what they've always done in the movies. Whether it's beating up goons or just straight romancing heroine, the Khans have always done it BIG! Their public image just cannot suffice for the "flawed" characters prominant in today's cinema. Frankly speaking, no one is interested in seeing them play deaf/mute characters or sperm donors. No one is ready for a change after more than twenty years...I can only imagine one of the Khan's doing Ayushmann Khurana's role in Vicky Donor *shivers down my spine* 
The freshness that the new age actors are bringing onto the table is superb. I'm so so ready to let them take the front seat. They have the talent, looks and, if I can say so, quite a formidable it factor too!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

My Thoughts on Jab Tak Hai Jaan

I got to be honest: I went into the theater to see Jab Tak Hai Jaan with absolutely zero objectivity! No matter what, I was determined to love this film, just for the simple fact that this is Yash Chopra's last film. It's the swan song of a legend...How can I NOT be prepared to LOVE it?

...and I think I did. 

Jab Tak Hai Jaan is such an overwhelming film. Before sitting down to reflect on this film, I needed a 24 hour break to actually sit down and digest what I watched the night before. Undeniably, it was a romantic, heart-wrenching film but it could have been a classic, if only a few loose ends were tied up.

JTHJ is essentially the love story of Samar Anand, a struggling immigrant in the UK, who spends his free time singing "Challa ki labda phire" and works as a waiter in a restaurant. The jolly, fun-loving Samar falls in love with Meera Thapar, the ethereal beauty who steals his heart at first glance. After a passionate affair between the two, Samar gets hurt in a car accident, causing Meera to walk out of his life, in the belief that God is punishing Samar for her breaking her promise to keep her relationship with him strictly platonic. Samar, in angst and pain, goes back to India and becomes a Major in the Army, where he becomes a bomb disposal expert, putting his life at risk constantly as defiance against god. And...I'll stop there. Watch the film!

What I loved about the film: 

First of all, Shahrukh Khan is love. In the past few years, my fondness for him had decreased significantly and his absence from films, like this, is precisely why! Romance is his forte! No one wants to see him beating up goons or play some video game villain. They want to see him romancing girls (or at least, I do!) and I challenge anyone who says that he isn't worthy of being a star, because his performance in this film is incredible. His pain and desire, as Samar Anand, was palpable and left me utterly stunned. If only he stuck to doing romantic hero roles! Katrina Kaif, as his lady-love, Meera, and Anushka Sharma, as the exuberant 21-year old working for Discovery Channel were also great in their respective roles. Katrina may not be the greatest actress of all time, but she sure did justice to her role and looked every bit the character she played and Anushka, as always, did a great job in her role, despite merely playing a catalyst to the lead pair.

The music and picturizations of the songs were superb, all thanks to the hugely talented A.R. Rehman and Gulzar. The music helped carry the film, whether it be the acoustics of "Challa" or the soft notes of "Heer". The lyrics were superb and meaningful and were placed in the film at exactly the right places. A.R. Rehman has this talent of making songs that sound so very lackluster when heard initially but become classic hits, after seeing them in the film. Pure Genius. And the direction of the songs was just fabulous. The "Ishq Shava" video had phenomenal choreography, with the best dancing I've seen Katrina or SRK do ever before and "Heer", such a beautifully written Punjabi song, was shot with equal depth; the lyrics of the song literally mirrored the actions of the characters, Meera and Samar. "Naal naal tur na te vith rakhna, haadh rakh lena, vich dil rakhna, chaave chaave paven assi tere parchaven tur na" was figuratively displayed on screen by the ingeniousness of Yash Chopra. The slow motion movements and heart-felt stares between the actors left me speechless during the song.

What I didn't love about the film:

90s Shahrukh?! Yes, please!

The storyline was just so-so. Yash Chopra has always been great at illustrating sacrifice in his films, but the "sacrifice" in JTHJ was forced. Meera breaks away from Samar because she thinks God will punish Samar for her being with him?! Meera is supposed to be a modern, educated woman of today but she's more superstitious than the heroines in Ekta Kapoor serials...why? At one point, I wanted to get into the frame and slap the hell out of her! Her character...was just stupid. And the storyline was weak; it was able to suffice in making the premise for a romantic, heart-felt film, but it wasn't grand or "filmi" enough for Yash Chopra's last film. There was too much subtly in the idea of her making a "pact" with god. I wish they had some type of concrete reason for being separated....

Secondly, by the last half hour of the movie, I was anxiously waiting for the movie to end. To be honest, I'm old fashioned; I love a long three hour movie but only when the film demands it! JTHJ just stretched! There were at least two or three scenes that were unnecessarily added into the film and could have easily been edited out. If the run time was cut down to 2.5 hours, I'm sure the film would resonate even more with audiences and critics, alike. Even Anushka's character, Akira, was forced into the film. I understand that her character made for another dance number and a more commercial approach to the storyline, but Aditya Chopra could have written something a bit more for her character.

The more I think about the movie, the more I honestly do love it. Despite it's few flaws, Yash Chopra's last is a film that I see myself revisiting for years to come. It's the perfect ode to sacrifice, selflessness and wait that true love brings along with itself. And with the ending of this film, I sadly feel like this is an end of an era for Hindi cinema, as well. Will there ever be another filmmaker who will make pure Hindi romances, wrapped in classic Bollywood grandiose, like Yash Chopra did? Is this the end of a genre? 

I unfortunately think so.

Thank you, Mr. Yash Chopra! Thank. You. 

Friday, November 9, 2012

Bolly Picturizations/Choreography

Last month Javed Akhtar had a lot on his mind at the CII Media and Entertainment Summit, 2012. Like always, he voiced his opinion on the current state of Hindi cinema and all I can say is a BIG THANK YOU! I thought I was the only one who thought that....

"The people who are making films listen to English songs, their interest in food, clothes and films are non-Indian...songs are being played in the background and not included in the films at all. [Hindi] movies are shorter. Indian films are losing their identity. Songs are integral to Indian films. Removing them from our films is like omitting songs from an opera performance... removing what is the USP of Indian films,"

Finally someone has the balls to admit that Indian directors and producers have less to do with Hindi cinema than anyone else. How many times do we see them tweeting about HINDI movies...not very often. More than not, they are tweeting random lyrics from random Madonna songs and discussing American politics (According to Kunal Kohli, Obama is hope for the economy...the AMERICAN economy, dipshit).  For crying out loud, they need to just STOP and focus on themselves. If I start on that topic, I may go on for pages and pages so I'll stop and go on to Akhtar's second query: MUSIC!

Though I will disagree that songs are a dying breed in a Hindi films (come on...Son of Sardar, Rowdy Rathore, Student of the Year!), I do agree that songs are "integral to Indian films" and through time have been reduced to necessary accessories for selling a film. Where have the days gone when a song's picturization actually mattered? Where have the days gone when songs actually looked different from one another...?

Take a look at:

                                                            "Halkat Jawani" from Heroine

                                                          "Kunda Khol" from Chakravyuh

The above item numbers may be only two from recent times, but trust me, they are extremely similar to almost every item number coming out. There is no creativity when it comes to picturizing these item numbers. Every director has a different vision and sensibility, which can be seen in the execution of their film. Regardless of whether the film is "good" or "bad", the film is "there's" and has their distinct style. I can tell a Prakash Jha film from a Madhur Bhandarkhar film any day. Try me! For some reason (beyond me), 90% of recent item numbers have zero uniqueness about them. THEY ALL LOOK THE SAME! I have no interest in watching the picturization of a song that has absolutely nothing different about it, minus the heroine of course. And shouldn't an item number be flirtatious and playful? Where are those small nuances that make a mere song an "item"? I'm not getting any of it...

Now, let's take a look at the item numbers from the "golden era" (Okay, maybe not that long ago. I meant the 70s).

                                                       "Piya Tu Ab To Aaja" from Caravan

                                                            "Yeh Mera Dil" from Don

It only takes one, that's right, ONE woman to achieve sensuality in an item number. That's it! Helen was able to take sensuality to new heights without ever having to rip her cleavage out of her shirt and carry 200 background dancers! In all honesty, the small nuances is what make a picturization stand out. Don't get me wrong! I love a song with hundreds of dancers and beautiful clothes, but shouldn't a song have more than actress, even while dancing, should be able to prove something about her abilities and be able to reinvent herself and the song! Even if a song is put into a movie for the hell of it, shouldn't it have some standing on it's own.

Do you think "Halkat Jawani" will be remembered like "Piya Tu" in the next 30 years?

Lastly, I just have to post this song because it is, in my honest opinion, one of THE greatest song picturizations ever to grace Hindi cinema. And can I say: Sanjay Leela Bhansali, I miss you! No one, I repeat, no one directs songs like you do!

                                     "Aankhon Ki Gustakhiyan" from Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam

Monday, October 22, 2012

Bye Mr. Chopra

I don't really know how to start this post.

On October 21, 2012 Yash Chopra passed away!

Wow. Who knew that I would ever say those four words. It seems so surreal to me because when someone is as lively and passionate about cinema as him, death seems like the farthest thing possible.

It's hard to believe that a man, who just a few weeks back, was laughing and thoughtfully discussing his retirement and his just gone. Just like that. Gone. To even think that THE last legend of Hindi cinema has left...I honestly don't even know how to express my feelings. In his career that spanned for half a century, he influenced so many people's lives by simply doing what he did best: make movies. Silsila. Chandini. Lamhe. Dil to Pagal Hai. Veer-Zaara. Movies that defined generations and everything that Bollywood has always stood for. He romanticized pain, betrayal and even, hate. This is the man that created Hindi can anyone describe the loss of such an icon?

Is there really anyone that can love cinema as much as he did? And when I say cinema, I mean Hindi cinema? 

Thank you, Mr. Chopra.

For making real films...and for so, so much more!

And in classic Bolly spirit, my week-long tribute for the legend will start tomorrow! <3

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Film vs. Television

If I say that movies are my passion, I'd be lying because actually Indian movies are my passion. If I say Indian movies are my passion, I'd be lying again because actually, I love Desi entertainment. Period.
Television, music, films, dance. I pretty much take everything with the Hindi entertainment industry's stamp on it. Next week, once I get enough time to watch Gangs of Wasseypur and the rest of the small releases that everyone's been raving about, I'll more than likely be back to my film obsessed self, but in the meanwhile, I've been entertaining myself other ways.

For years now, I've been glued to the Indian television screen. I admit it: I can switch from a Khan film to Ekta Kapoor's mindless serials faster than Katrina Kaif can shake her hips in Chikni Chameli. It's all so addictive but, god dammit, those Hindi dramas are a disease! Two shows, that I watch religiously are Iss Pyar Ko Kya Naam Doon and Bade Acche Lagte Hai. Yes, the latter is an Ekta show!

Last week, as I was sitting on my sofa, stuffing my mouth with Indian food and oogling at my TV screen, while watching Iss Pyar (even the name is romantic), I was left thinking...when was the last time I was so captivated by a movie? What movie?
Band Baaja Baarat, I think...wait, that was TWO FREAKING YEARS AGO! A few weeks ago, I was literally watching a scene between Ram Kapoor and Sakshi Tanwar in Bade Acche Lagte Hai and I was crying. That's a big deal, coming from a girl, who hasn't cried watching something since The Notebook. I want to have my feelings evoked the same way as I do while watching those melodramatic, filmy dramas. The stories, the dialogues and even the actors of television emote so much more than their Filmi counterparts do.
Hair blowing in the wind isn't "cheesy" for TV because TV doesn't let it get "cheesy". It's meaningful, it's romantic and it's deep. Television isn't afraid or ashamed about what it does best...and for the first time ever, I'm sitting here thinking television has more filminess than films do.

                                            Unsurprisingly, a sad fact for a Bolly lover.

Still from Iss Pyar Ko Kya Naam Doon *Sigh*  

Monday, February 6, 2012

No Expectations

It may be a bit too late to write a "films of 2012" post, but after looking at the crap release list for this year, I just had to write about the movies I'm dreading! Plus, most of the "interesting" movies are set for release in the second half of the year. So...

1) Tere Naal Love Ho Gaya

Can anyone say "yuck"?! The trailer has cliche, 90s style romantic "comedy" written all over it. How many wannabe comedic scenes can be saturated into a single trailer? Over that, did the makers really expect Riteish Deshmukh and Genelia D'souza to carry a film all by THEMSELVES! They aren't exactly lead actor material. They may have decent acting abilities and chemistry (duh, they're married), but I just don't see that "hero" or "heroine" element in either of them. Secondly, the whole film seems like a large, convoluted spoof, majorly dependent on Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani, which is in no way worthy of being alluded to. Now, why would one allude to APKGK? Is that movie some type of classic? NO! Then, TNLHG must already be hopeless? YES!

2) Tezz

Emphasis of the "zzzz" 

Kangana Ranaut, Anil Kapoor, Ajay Devgun, Zayed Khan and Sameera Reddy together in a film, directed by Priyadarshan?! I am afraid that this one's going to be horribly reminiscent of No Problem and De Dana Dan, but with some added action sequences that look like they're from the '80s. Now add that to a dreadfully lackluster star cast and Priyadarshan, whose last decent film was Hera Pheri.

I think that sums it all up!

3) Shootout at Wadala

First of all, I think it should be warned that this is a Sanjay Gupta movie! Sanjay Gupta, as in the King of copying. I know Hindi films are infamous for stealing foreign film stories and plots, but this guy does it so shamelessly that I refuse to watch anything he directs. Every single one of his movies is an unofficial remake! Though this movie is based on a real life event, I don't expect Mr. Gupta to bring any freshness to it. And of course, this movie is the sequel to Shootout at Lockandwala...a movie that I'm sure, none of us want to relive (unless Arbaaz Khan was to come back, which he is NOT).

Thursday, January 26, 2012

30 Day Bollywood Challenge Day 7

Day 7. A song that you like dancing to

Chunari Chunari
Biwi No. 1
This song is the epitome of Bollywood dance. It has all those stylish layers that Bollywood numbers are infamous for. The lyrics are suggestive and the music video's dance (particularly Sush's) has "oomph". Plus, Salman Khan + Sushmita Sen = HOT! 
 Secret: when I'm home alone, I blast this song on full volume, take out my dupatta and dance my heart out to it. I just can't help myself.

Firangi Babes

India has always been a country with a very little foreign population. Most of the time, Indians are the ones to leave their homeland and move to the west (after all, India is a developing nation). Therefore, it's no surprise that India's entertainment sector has traditionally been devoid of foreigners: white, black or tan. However, in recent years there has been a large influx of foreign models and actresses that have taken over the Hindi film industry. The controversy on their entrance into the exclusively Indian entertainment business is gaining lots of tempo, lately.  My opinion: Why? Is it needed?

It all started with Katrina Kaif, who isn't technically fully "foreign" since she has 50% Indian ancestry (at least that's what she says). She was pretty, tall and had charisma. The problem: she couldn't speak Hindi, nor could she act. But that was ten years, she's one of India's biggest heroines. She's cast in India's biggest productions and dates the hottest of men (if you ask me). She knows how to speak Hindi now too, though her acting skills are still questionable. Regardless of any of the criticism she may receive, Kat's even managed to make most people forget that she's "imported" in the first place. Frankly, she's as Indian as they come. And after all of these years, it doesn't and shouldn't matter where she came from because her success speaks by itself. Katrina Kaif undoubtedly started a trend. She ripped the red tape that had restricted non-Indians from playing pivotal roles in Hindi films. Like other countries, India's Bollywood finally became an open market for the whole world to act in. Though Katrina may not be THE reason Bollywood has opened up, she is undoubtedly an influential factor in the change. However, can she speak for other "foreigners"?