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Tuesday, June 30, 2009


I have a new blog now-- I will be updating the new blog now. Same content, new location!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Filmfare Awards and the new Bollywood

I usually don't expect much from the Filmfare Awards. It's rare that a Best Actor or Best Film Award will go to a movie that wasn't a box office sensation. Most years, top-grossing films are the winners and critically acclaimed films receive "The Critics Award," which is odd-- a clear demonstration that deserving movies do not receive the popular awards.
I do not like the Hollywood/ Bollywood comparisons, but The Filmfare Awards are often referred to as The Academy Awards of Bollywood. Keeping that in mind, can one imagine Spider-Man 3, the top- grossing film in Hollywood history, winning an Academy Award over No Country for Old Men?
One of my strongest criticisms of Bollywood was that the immensely commercial, made-for-profit-only films made money and won the awards, strengthening, and only strengthening, that one kind of cinema. But, thankfully, this year's Filmfare Awards reflected the new movement in Bollywood.
Any other year, I would have bet money that the box-office sensation "Om Shanti Om" would have won Best Film, Best Actor, Best Director, and/or even Best Music. But it won no such award. The movie was entertaining and fun-- but definitely not worthy of an award. This year, movies that did win were movies that deserved to win (albeit maybe not my personal favorites).
All the films that won the main awards (Taare Zameen Par, Chak de India, Jab we met, Life in a Metro), were refreshing, innovative, and best represent the new movement in Bollywood cinema. All these films broke away from conventional themes of masala movies (some didn't even have a love story!).
One important point to note is that all these films still did make good money and had at least one major star in it. Granted, the movies that won were not parallel cinema, and most winners were actors who have all won Filmfare Awards before. But the films themselves represent the changing nature of Bollywood. An Om Shanti Om isn't going to guarantee an award, as it once would have in the 1990's. But a heartfelt story about a child with dyslexia won Best Director, Film, and Critic's Award.
The Awards represented, not a new Filmfare, but a new Bollywood.

Friday, December 28, 2007

2007: Turning Point for Bollywood

2007 was a move in the right direction for Bollywood. Although 2006 had some better movies, 2007 comprised of films that had great performances, better scripts, and no random shots to Switzerland. The films I chose were based on what I believed were incredibly entertaining, to films that were intellectually wonderful, to films that were healthy and necessary for Bollywood, and pushed the envelope. So, here are a list of my 2007 top favorites (in no particular order):
  • Dharm-- This movie, although almost impossible to find, has been very much in the news. From being screened at Cannes Film Festival, filmed in superior quality, and the controversial court case issued by director Bhavna Talwar when it wasn't entered into The Academy Awards, this film was able to keep its own in the news, a rare feat for such art films. Maybe it wasn't widely watched in India, but it has garnered some press, which is a start. From the script to the cinematography to performances, from reaching the depths of understanding religion and humanity-- this film was one of the best Bollywood films in the last few years. I only hope I see a film as brilliant as this one in the future.
  • Taare Zameen Par-- This movie was able to appeal to the masses, and was touching and real. The performances (Darsheel, Tisca Chopra) were incredible. The story was unique and definitely one that told the tale of many households. But another reason is why I added this movie to this list is because of Aamir Khan's involvement. One of the highest paid actors in Bollywood (neck to neck with Shahrukh Khan), Aamir's directorial venture didn't use the typical masala ingredients. It was an attempt to make a completely different, smart, "intellectual" film. So all those who look down on "intellectual" films because of their lack of appeal or profit-- Taare Zameen Par proves them completely wrong.
  • Chak de India-- The reason this movie is on this list is not because I was completely bowled over or because I was incredibly entertained, but because of the script's originality, the themes of feminism in India, a woman's role in society, and the gap between language and cultures in India. I also loved that this movie, like TZP, did so well, despite the lack of synchronized dance sequences, lip syncing, or a love story. Even if the story was predictable-- the overall themes and the fact that it was a success should also prove to critics that commercial isn't what it used to mean in Bollywood.
  • Life in a Metro-- This is the most "Bollywood" out of any movie on this list, but still no synchronized dance sequences or lip syncing. It was sincere, real-- yes over-the-top at times, but with some great performances and stories. I think Bollywood can do better, and some stories were better than others (the Konkona-- Irfan story was brilliant), but this smart, emotional story made me like Anurag Basu, love Irfan even more, and regain faith in Bollywood love stories.
  • Gandhi My Father-- This film was risky, in that it was pointing fingers at Gandhi. But, it was a risk worth taking. Although the film unfolded like a play (after all, it was based off of a play), the overall production was a gem of 2007. The best performance was not Akshay Khanna, I believe, but Shefali Shah, who proved yet again that good acting is everything.
  • Black Friday-- So tragically real, and yet, so entertaining. All those Anurag Kashyup haters (I'm not one of them, because I admire his bluntness) may use "No Smoking" as an example of a failure, but not Black Friday. It was true, yet not racist- real, but not offensive. What more could one ask for from a movie about the horrible 1993 Mumbai Bombings?
  • Johnny Gaddaar-- Neil Mukesh is hot, but that's not why I liked the movie. It was a thriller done well, with an amazing script and great performances from all. I also applaud Neil Mukesh for his choice of debut to Bollywood. He himself said that he wanted a film that would show his acting ability, not his profitability. Lucky for him this film definitely proved both!
  • Bheja Fry-- Although it's a copy of a French film, this movie is on the list because it was a low budget alternative film-- yet highly entertaining, and it actually made some money. Great performances and fun movie, I hope to see more of these in the future.
  • Honeymoon Travels-- A comedy, yet one that was gutsy enough to include themes of feminism, homosexuality, and typecasting. It was silly at some points, but incredibly touching at others. This film touched on topics which were usually stereotypical and derogatory (interracial marriage, homosexuality) in mainstream Bollywood, and for that-- I applaud Farhan Akhtar for stepping away from typical masala and taking a risk to produce something much, much better.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Taare Zameen Par- A Winner

So I finally saw Taare Zameen Par-- and I do believe it has lived up to all the hype.

The performances by all, the realness of the movie (definitely one of the best Bollywood movies that has captured the cutthroat competition and expectations among Indian youth today), and the script were all brilliant and some reasons why this was one of the best Bollywood movies these past few years.

But-- the reason why this movie in particular has stunned critics and audiences everywhere is that, simply, it's different. First of all-- the movie isn't directed by a Nagesh Kukunoor or a Rituporno Ghosh. It's directed by the extremely mainstream, popular actor Aamir Khan (who also stars in it). Khan could have opted for an extremely masala movie, like his last film, Fanaa. But, he opted to make this film about a child who has dyslexia, and the struggle the child (Darsheel Safaray) faces at home and at school. There was no romantic angle, or any of the "ingredients" masala films usually demand, such as synchronized dance sequences or action scenes.

The script also deserves a special mention. The father of Safaray's character could have easily been portrayed as an unreasonable man who refuses to budge from his strict nature. This character was handled quite well. He wasn't so evil that he was unrelatable, but instead, a figure that people could easily relate to. Stories where children are the main characters haven't done too well in the past. Safaray's incredible performance and the realities of this story have made the movie a hit.

The film, albeit had a slow pace at some points-- was a touching and heart warming one to watch. With that said, this movie is one that is necessary for today's India.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

India's still a democracy, isn't it?

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought India was a democracy and an advocate for free speech.

Recently, Actress and former Miss Universe Sushmita Sen stated in the newspaper The Tamil Daily that “No Indian has chastity or virginity anymore.” Her words did not only cause some anger from the "moral police, but also from legal authorities. She was issued a notice under many counts, including one that said she used a "word gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman."

It seems ridiculous to me that Sen's comments, which can be seen as a reflection over the massive change in India over the past decade, have resulted in legal action. Obviously, she was exaggerating when she referred to every Indian as having sex. But, using the law against Sen because her words could "affect the moral fabric of India" is regressive and a lame attempt to justify the legal action taken.

There definitely is a struggle between India's growing modernization in big cities, and the "moral police." Sen's comments were apt in that they were representing this new India that is often overlooked by segments of the country. India isn't what it was ten years ago, and people need to recognize that.

I'm not advocating for or against "pre-martial sex"-- but come on, aren't there more important issues that the police and courts need to worry about than what an actress said in an interview?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Aaja Nachle: Greatest Lesson for Bollywood

The verdict is in: Aaja Nachle has failed. This is definitely a wake-up call for Bollywood.

First of all-- the reason Aaja Nachle failed was because it had a poor script, lack of strong character development. It was filled with cliche dialogues, too many songs that took away from the story, and great actors that were completely wasted.

The thing is-- this movie could have been monumental. A 45 year old single mother (Madhuri Dixit's character) was the protagonist, a rare feat in Bollywood. The film was not another Mother India or any sort of Bollywood tragedy where the actress is crying the whole time or is faced with extreme injustices-- it was supposed to welcome an era in Bollywood where producers would make films that could stand with a female as the lead in mainstream masalas.

But, this didn't happen. And as this movie fails, people are labeling it as a failure for Dixit, for whom this film was a comeback. The problem in actuality is that, although the concept for the film was fresh, nothing else was. Along with Dixit, there were at least four other mainstream actors and three mainstream actresses. This is a typical Bollywood technique-- fill the movie with surprise guest appearances and other stars to make it more marketable. The film wasn't a failure for Madhuri-- but for Bollywood's mainstream masala formulas.

Many are using this film as an example of Bollywood's glaring problem of how to deal with actresses that are too old to be love interests but too young to be mothers of 20- some actors. Aaja Nachle was an attempt to try a new "formula." But the problem rests with this idea of a "formula." The film was horrible because of the script and the addition of more than four love stories and many more subplots in the film. It should not be viewed as a Dixit failure, or a queue that Dixit should be done with Bollywood.

Aaja Nachle shouldn't make the industry shy away with having older women as protagonists in mainstream cinema-- but it should make Bollywood realize that the same routine techniques for hits that have been used throughout the 1990's and 2000's will not work. Aaja Nachle was one of the most anticipated films in Bollywood for 2007 because of Dixit-- nothing else. That being the case, Bollywood needs to stop following the "formula" and be more innovative.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Would Bollywood Play Gay?

Bollywood has not opened up to homosexuality yet-- as I said in an earlier post, it's still "trapped in the closet." But, a simple question by posed to various actors gathered noteworthy results.

Eight actors were asked if they would play a role in which they were gay. Of the actors who said they would, 5 actors said they would. Arshard Warsi was definitely the biggest name in the group (none of the other actors were that established-- which also says something), said that he would "willingly play a gay character. It will be a new challenge for me as an actor," which definitely makes sense.

Neil Mukesh, after just starring in one film (that won accolades of critical acclaim) also agreed that he would have no problem at all.

But the people who would weren't really having the greatest careers at the moment. Mohit Ahlawat, a prodigy of Ram Gopal Varma, really has no hits to his name, said that "For me it's difficult to play gay as I won't be able to identify with such a character. Sorry, I can't play a role I'm so far removed from. But I respect an actor like Irrfan or Sanjay Suri who can." Obviously, this is ridiculous. He's not really a great actor if he can't play a role which he claims he's "so far removed from."

Actor Prashant Raj was probably the most mistaken: "I don't think I'd do justice to a role like that. My structure and built might not be conducive to playing such a role." What does he even mean by that? He's too much of a "man" to play a gay character, or that he feels he doesn't fit a certain stereotype? And anyways, Raj has only done one film-- which has totally failed.

So, this interview is in many ways no surprises. But, it was nice for Arshad Warsi and Neil Mukesh to be progressive and open to different roles. As for the actors who denied the possibility... I don't think anyone is rushing to make a film with them anyways.