India Masala

Bollywood and culture in an emerging India

IIFA Diary: Notes from Colombo on Day 1

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SRILANKA/The first day of the 11th edition of the International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) Weekend has been as chaotic as it has been revealing. From early morning chaos over accreditation and access to venues, by evening it had turned into excitement as the stars starting pouring in for the three-day event.

The centre of the chaos — the Cinnamon Grand hotel has become the ideal ringside location if you want to catch a glimpse of your favourite star and Bollywood crazy Sri Lankans weren’t letting go of any chance. By afternoon, the sprawling lobby of the five-star hotel was packed with eager fans, cameras ready to click and craning their necks to see if any star had arrived yet.

Even the slightest of familiar faces got a cheer from the crowd. However, the most popular star, at least according to an impromptu poll, is Shah Rukh Khan, who will not be making it to the event.

“He is so good-looking,” gushed a volunteer to me. “I wish he would have come.” The Bachchans seem to have been forgotten.

Kites: Romance is in the air

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It has been such a long time since Bollywood has made a true-blue romance that purely on that merit alone, “Kites” is worth a watch.

Actor Hrithik Roshan(R) and his wife Susanne Khan Roshan(C) pose for photographers with Barbara Mori(L) as they arrive at the premiere of "Kites" in New York May 16, 2010. REUTERS/Jessica RinaldiPassion, chemistry and the cruel world against true love have become secondary when it comes to matters like reforming our education system or discovering new worlds.

Of Sholay and Sambha

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- The lines “array o sambha” (hey Sambha) brings back instant memories to a whole generation of Indian moviegoers. The person they were addressed to, perched on a craggy rock toting a rifle, played a miniscule role in the film, but his character went on to be one of the most loved of our times. When “Sambha” (or Macmohan as he was known off screen) passed away on Monday, we lost one of the iconic characters in “Sholay” and also one of the few remaining character artistes in our films — the ones who would always be the villain’s cronies or the neighbourhood doctor who announces that the heroine is pregnant. I think Ramesh Sippy’s “Sholay” was the huge hit it was partly because of the “repeat value” dialogues it had — so many of them. Right from “Ye haath mujhe de de thakur” to my favourite “Tumhara naam kya hai Basanti”, there were such gems throughout the film. And even today, these lines will be repeated whether at a dinner party or in any casual conversation you might have, in any context. So many people love this film for its action and the character of Gabbar, but for me the comedy in “Sholay” will always remain top-class. The scene where Jai speaks to Basanti’s aunt about Veeru’s marriage is hilarious and Amitabh’s deadpan expression makes it even funnier. Of course, the 70s and 80s did have some really memorable lines, but even though I can think of many lovely lyrics, I cannot really recall a dialogue I have found repeat-worthy in recent times. Perhaps it is best to look back in the past for some things. Which is your favourite “Sholay” line? And your favourite Hindi film dialogue?

bollywood-posterThe lines “arre o Sambha” (hey Sambha) bring back instant memories to a whole generation of Indian moviegoers.

The person they were addressed to, perched on a craggy rock toting a rifle, played a miniscule role in the film but his character went on to be one of the most loved of our times.

It’s a Wonderful Afterlife: Too little laughter, too much curry

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- Gurinder Chadha’s “It’s a Wonderful Afterlife” (‘Hai Marjaawaan’ in Hindi) is a comedy about a harassed Indian mother, who is so obsessed with marrying off her only daughter that she kills off anyone who dares to reject her. Those killing methods are so corny, you want to puke when you see a victim’s stomach burst open due to an overdose of curry and another one stabbed with a skewer of chicken tikka kebabs. The victims come back to haunt her, chicken tikka skewers intact. They cannot be reincarnated unless their killer dies but Mrs Sethi doesn’t want to kill herself before her daughter is “settled”. So the spirits and Mrs Sethi (played endearingly by Shabana Azmi) set out to look for a suitable groom for her daughter, leading to a somewhat comedic situation. The problem here is that the comedy is as laboured and forced as the make-up job on the spirits and laughing becomes a chore. Chadha does bring in some of the sharp, British humour that characterised “Bend it like Beckham” but those moments are few and far between. For most of the time, there is only curry flying in all directions, making you think about the colossal waste of food shooting for this film would have involved. Also, just because it is meant to be a comedy doesn’t mean you can account for a nonsensical storyline. Most of the events don’t make much sense and plot points are explained away by the flimsiest of excuses. Azmi does play her role well and Sendhil Ramamurthy as a police officer investigating the attacks is good, but watching the film isiawasuch a laboured exercise that these two don’t quite make up for it.

iawaGurinder Chadha’s “It’s a Wonderful Afterlife” (‘Hai Marjaawaan’ in Hindi) is a comedy about a harassed Indian mother, who is so obsessed with marrying off her only daughter that she kills off anyone who dares to reject her.

Those killing methods are so corny, you want to puke when you see a victim’s stomach burst open due to an overdose of curry and another one stabbed with a skewer of chicken tikka kebabs. The victims come back to haunt her, chicken tikka skewers intact. They cannot be reincarnated unless their killer dies but Mrs Sethi doesn’t want to kill herself before her daughter is “settled”.

Housefull: Turn down the volume!

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housefullThere is a song in Sajid Khan’s “Housefull” with the lyrics “volume kam kar” (turn down the volume). Wouldn’t it be nice if the director and actors had imbibed this simple message? That would have made this alleged comedy easier to tolerate.

Instead every character in the film either screams, laughs or cries so loudly, and for seemingly no reason, that you want to hit the mute button.

Phoonk 2: Hardly scary

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phoonk2I hate watching horror films. I am easily scared and even the most innocuous sounds or predictable of horror scenes make me flinch.

Milind Gadagkar’s sequel to “Phoonk”, imaginatively titled “Phoonk 2″, is however less about the thrills and chills and more about unnecessarily loud background music, badly made- up ghosts and an inane storyline that has no beginning and no end.

Paathshala: Punished for three hours

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paathshaalaIf any real-life kids went to the school shown in Milind Ukey’s “Paathshaala”, you can be sure they would hardly get any studying done. Instead they would be busy dancing, singing, ogling at teachers, romancing and participating in reality TV shows.

The teachers in this school aren’t any better — they also sing, dance, wear inappropriate clothes and generally do everything but the things you are expected to do in a school.

Jaane Kahaan Se Aayi Hai: Alien disaster

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jksahThe first few scenes of Milap Zaveri’s “Jaane Kahaan Se Aayi Hai” are actually quite funny. The dialogues are fairly okay and at one or two points you actually smile. Maybe this will actually turn out well, you tell yourself.

But when has life ever been that simple?

Especially a film critic’s life. Of course the film goes unbearably downhill from there and you want to throw something at the screen at the end of the two-and-a-half hour screening.

The Japanese Wife: Nice, but niché

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japanesewifeBased on a short story, Aparna Sen’s “The Japanese Wife” is an evocative but slightly stretched tale of an unusual marriage between two seemingly everyday people.

The key words here are “short story” and “stretched”. While Sen does manage to draw an evocative picture of main characters Snehomoy (Rahul Bose) and Miyagi (Chigusa Takaku) the narrative feels a little drawn out at times and it does feel like a short story which has been stretched into a two-hour film.

Well Done Abba: Not that well done

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wdaShyam Benegal’s last two films have had similar themes — humour coupled with a social message (actually lots of social messages). The last one “Welcome to Sajjanpur” was a delightful watch, with neither the humour nor the social message getting too overpowering.

But in his latest film “Well Done Abba”, Benegal doesn’t quite manage to recreate the same magic, cramming in too many messages, because of which the humour accompanying it spreads out too thin.

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