Bollywood and culture in an emerging India
It is difficult to judge “Jab Tak Hai Jaan” solely as a movie. Like it or not, it is the swansong of one of the defining directors of the Indian film industry and you cannot help but think of Yash Chopra’s legacy as you watch his last film.
There are shades of “Kabhi Kabhie”, “Dil To Pagal Hai” and “Veer Zaara”, and as you watch Shah Rukh Khan kissing Katrina Kaif on a lush, green meadow, you cannot help but think that this man knew his romance.
The best parts of “Jab Tak Hai Jaan” are undoubtedly the scenes between Shah Rukh Khan and Katrina Kaif. This is about pretty people falling in love — not a hair out place and every scene straight out of a postcard.
These are people who are poor but own expensive guitars and designer leather jackets, and this is a world where even when someone throws away two coffee cups with reckless abandon, they land in exactly the same way. It might be unbelievable, but it is all very beautiful on screen.
In a recent interview, a film-maker described a movie as one “made with a calculator”. He might just have been talking about Ashwni Dhir’s “Son of Sardaar”. For a film that talks of heart and emotion, this is a movie made with cold-hearted calculation.
“Son of Sardaar” is a Diwali film, made with the sole intention of making money during the festival of lights, and stuffed with what Bollywood thinks is the complete package — romance, comedy and action all in one movie. But what is it they say about being a jack of all trades?
The Punjabisation of Bollywood has meant that on-screen depictions show a very polished version of Punjab. Fluttering dupattas, lush fields, glitzy weddings and lively dancing are what Punjab is all about, but Sameer Sharma’s “Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana” doesn’t stick to any of the stereotypes, which is a relief.
The streets are bumpy, the women aren’t flawlessly dressed and the men do not break out into bhangra or slap each other on the back at every given opportunity. Sharma’s film is simple and shorn of any plasticity, and even though the recipe does go haywire a couple of times, Sharma manages to salvage the dish in the end.
How do you satirise an issue without hurting someone’s ego but at the same time ensure it hits its mark? Jaspal Bhatti, arguably the only man to have known the answer in India, at least enough to make a living out of it, is no more.
Bhatti died in the early hours of Thursday in a car accident while he was out promoting his film ‘Power Cut’ — a spoof on the pathetic power situation in India, especially in his home state of Punjab.
I have suspected it for a while now and I’m afraid it might be true. Film-maker Prakash Jha is well on his way to becoming the Madhur Bhandarkar of political films.
I imagine Bhandarkar should keep his cupboard of clichés under lock and key because Jha is dipping into it liberally. He is also helping himself to simplistic storylines, dumbing down sensitive issues, and of course, adding a song or two in between as the police battle Maoist rebels.
My very first Yash Chopra film was a disappointment.
I remember watching “Lamhe” as a kid, almost without blinking, on a grainy television screen on a newfangled device called the VCR and thinking to myself, what is this story about? To my young mind, it didn’t make much sense. But the memory of “Lamhe” and that lazy summer afternoon I watched it with my cousins is still vividly etched.
Of course, it took years for me to actually “get” the film and what it was trying to say. For an Indian film-maker to explore a theme as bold as that of a woman falling in love with her mother’s lover was brave, and to pull it off as he did, spoke volumes of his control over his craft.
Is it possible for a film-maker to regress with each film? Wouldn’t logic dictate that you learn and therefore progress with each film? But Karan Johar, who otherwise comes across as one of the most savvy, intelligent and knowledgeable people in the industry, doesn’t seem to apply that same logic to his films.
After his last film as director “My Name is Khan“, in which he tried to deal with the sensitive issues of terrorism and racism, Johar is back to what you would think is familiar turf with “Student of the Year“. College romance, pretty people falling in love, dances, wedding sequences interspersed with bikini scenes, and bare, perfectly sculpted bodies that are given lots of screen time.
I remember watching Ram Gopal Varma’s “Bhoot” in 2003 in a movie hall in Delhi. Or rather, I remember trying not to watch it. Most of the time, I had my face in my hands and had shielded my eyes because I was just plain scared.
Varma set a ghost story in a modern apartment, with two people and everyday settings, but he did it skillfully enough for you to be on the edge of your seat throughout the film. For weeks afterwards, I couldn’t look into a mirror because I’d remember the scene where the ghost appears in the mirror behind Urmila Matondkar’s back. That’s what a good scary movie should and can do.
Director Sachin Kundalkar’s “Aiyyaa” is based on one of three stories in his earlier Marathi film called “Gandha”. The story, about a girl who falls in love with a man because of the way he smells, is 30 minutes long, simply and honestly told. There are are no frills, no side characters and certainly no sign of any of the absurdity that Kundalkar brings to “Aiyyaa”.
It is very difficult to slot Aiyyaa into a genre. There are strains of comedy, drama, romance and the absurd in the film. There is also over-the-top risqué humour and some raunchy song sequences that will remind you of late night music shows on Tamil channels.
Twitter is abuzz with the spirit of festivity, and here’s why: It is Amitabh Bachchan’s 70th birthday.
One of the few people who can be described as a superstar, the ‘Big B’ is one of the greatest actors India has seen, and (I dare say) one of the few who does not need an introduction almost anywhere in the world.