India Masala

Bollywood and culture in an emerging India

Which is your favourite Rajesh Khanna moment?

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The image that came to mind when one heard of Rajesh Khanna’s death was, of course, the pivotal scene in Hrishikesh Mukherjee‘s “Anand” where the words “babu moshai” ring out.

Fans of Khanna will feel the same kind of emotion — that he might be gone, but that his voice, his shy smile and the “flying a kite” hand movement that was so much a part of his personality will be with us, reverberating much after he has passed on.

He was, of course, India’s first romantic superstar, giving rise to much frenzy among female fans in the 1970s, and even though his last years weren’t all that distinguished, every romantic hero today will admit there is a bit of Rajesh Khanna in him.

For me, there can never be another performance like “Anand”, ironically, one of the few films where he wasn’t a romantic hero. But his line, “zindagi lambi nahi, badi honi chahiye” (life should be big, not long) epitomises the character in that film.

Cocktail: The mix isn’t right

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You know that time when you chance upon this new product at the supermarket? Maybe it’s a new drink or a bottle of jam — it comes in a really nice looking bottle and looks so enticing that you have to pick it up and bring it home. And then you open it and realise it only looks good on the outside. The product is past expiry, the fizz has gone out of the drink and all you are left with is a nice looking bottle. Yes, that.

Homi Adajania’s “Cocktail” is definitely one of those films you shouldn’t judge by its cover (or poster). This is supposed to be a light-hearted attempt at tackling the oldest trick in the romantic comedy book — the love triangle, but Adajania forgets to infuse any freshness into the story.

Bol Bachchan: All talk, no substance

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A one-line review saying “this is a Rohit Shetty” film would suffice for most movies this director churns out with billion-rupee regularity, but “Bol Bachchan” is different. This time, Shetty has attempted to remake one of Hindi cinema’s most iconic comedies, one which shares its name with the series of films that gave Shetty his first hits in the industry.

In re-imagining “Gol Maal“, Shetty is taking up a gauntlet that he should have left well alone. Hrishikesh Mukherjee‘s brand of comedy couldn’t be more different than Shetty’s and in trying to combine the two,  the film ends up going nowhere.

from India Insight:

Cleaning up TV’s dirty pictures

I was watching a documentary on Greta Garbo on television. The film was in English with English subtitles for people more comfortable following written English than quick spoken English. Every time the word "sex" or something related to it would come up, the subtitles avoided it. "Heterosexual" became "hetero." "Her sexuality" became "her femininity." Dedicated channel surfing revealed similar evasions. In a conversation about breast cancer on an English channel, the station inserted an asterisk to partially mask the word "breast" in the subtitles, even though you could hear it onscreen.

TV stations and networks in India, similar to broadcast TV channels in the United States, remove objectionable content (sex scenes, nudity, some foul language and violence) from movies and other programming (see this recent Reuters story about how it works). This is thanks to the Indian Broadcasting Federation's Broadcasting Content Complaint Council. The idea is to make sure that public airwaves remain friendly enough for the ears of children and sensitive adults, though it can result in unintentional bloopers like the breast cancer example.

Teri Meri Kahaani: A love story that needs direction

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As they sit sipping coffee at a roadside café in London, Radha (Priyanka Chopra) tells Krissh (Shahid Kapur) “sometimes life is a suitcase but you feel like it’s a lunch-box” (or was it the opposite?), and if you are sitting in the audience, you might be forgiven for going “Huh? Did she really say that?”

Be prepared for many such moments during this two-and-a-half-hour film that claims to be an epic love story spanning three eras. Director Kunal Kohli is obviously trying to tell you that love does not change, whether in pre-independence India or London in 2012.  If only you didn’t have to watch this film to find out.

Gangs of Wasseypur: Visceral revenge saga

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Anurag Kashyap’s revenge saga “Gangs of Wasseypur” starts off in the most innocuous way — a shot of actress Smriti Irani opening the door and inviting the audience in with a beaming smile. It’s a scene millions of viewers are familiar with, thanks to the popularity of the soap, but definitely not something you’d expect to see in the first frame of a revenge drama.

Such incongruous scenes and unexpected surprises pop up regularly during the 2.5-hour-long film. Kashyap uses a tongue-in-cheek approach to tell his story, pairing it with searing imagery, a couple of history lessons and the edgiest characters you will see on screen for some time.

Ferrari Ki Sawaari: Would you please hurry up?

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Towards the end of Rajesh Mapuskar’s “Ferrari Ki Sawaari“, as the protagonist and his son are re-united and embrace each other, cry and wipe the tears off each other’s cheeks, an onlooker hesitantly asks “aap jaldi karenge zara?” (would you please hurry up?). It might sound like an insensitive thing to say, but perhaps that is what someone should have said to Mapuskar as he went about making this film.

Perhaps he might have restrained himself from writing a convoluted and at times contrived script that seems to stretch on for longer than its 2 hour 15 minute duration.

Shanghai: The story of India

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There are some films that you watch, not because you want (as Vidya Balan claims in ‘The Dirty Picture’) “entertainment, entertainment, entertainment”, but because they are a reflection of the times we live in, and if these movies didn’t get made, these chaotic times wouldn’t be chronicled for eternity.

Dibakar Banerjee certainly seems determined to be that chronicler for India. In his fourth film “Shanghai”, Banerjee keeps the grittiness of “Love, Sex Aur Dhokha” or “Khosla Ka Ghosla“, but gets more ambitious, with his canvas, dealing with murkier issues like urbanisation, development and the politics of today’s India.

Rowdy Rathore: South Indian remix

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When Akshay Kumar fashions himself a sudarshan chakra (the ultimate weapon of destructive in Indian mythology) from a broken bamboo stick and some construction equipment and uses it to slay 20 men with axes and knives, you know “Rowdy Rathore” isn’t aiming for realistic cinema.

Once you reconcile yourself to that and realise that director Prabhu Deva is channeling his inner Rajnikanth, you can sit back and enjoy the Ray-Bans, nubile dancers and a pretty liberal use of cinematic liberties.

India: More than just call centres

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India is the land of colours, sound, and call centres — or at least, that is what Western popular culture has been trying to reinforce over the past few years. “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel“, starring Judi Dench, is Hollywood’s most recent expedition to India, and it sticks to the formula.

The film is a comedy about a group of British retirees, shunned or underestimated in their own country, rediscovering their desires and ambitions in India.

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