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Banno Outtakes

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you

  1. are wondering what the hell happened to it
  2. know friend-of-the-blog Banno from Banno, Dhanno and Teja in Bumm-Bumm-Bhole-Land

And while you’ll have to keep wondering about the blog for a little longer, I’m happy to share that I interviewed Banno for Women’s Web and we discussed things like how awesome she is and how difficult it is to be an indie filmmaker in India. No, seriously, check it out! And once you’ve read it, come back to read the outtakes.

Yes, of course there are outtakes! The interview was done in my usual expansive style, after all. I have been away a long time if you can’t remember how I like to go on and on.

Thanks, Banno!

***

Amrita: Let’s talk about India Reborn.
Batul:
India Reborn was a series for Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. One of the episodes was on the Indian economy, and I worked on that as the Indian producer. An international documentary crew is typically very small, a director, a cameraman, a sound recordist, and a local producer like me. This one had a producer their end as well. My job usually is to help with finding stories, research, interviews, apart from the logistical co-ordination. I loved this job because after a long time, I worked with people who were still old-school journalists, we travelled through the country, and I learned so much about the Indian economy.

Amrita: I know from your blog that one of your British documentaries affected you deeply on a personal level.
Batul: The Slumdog Children of Mumbai came in the wake of Slumdog Millionaire‘s success. It was part of a year-long programming by Channel 4, UK. This was one of those jobs where we worked for long months, also the only job I did which was entirely during the monsoons. We had the tiniest crew: Nick Read, who was the producer, director, cameraman and sound recordist and me, working as an associate producer, conducting the interviews, etc.

It was physically grueling, the combination of rains and slums made things very, very difficult to bear at times, and I did come out of this experience traumatized.

Amrita: Any war stories?
Batul: I think the day I landed in Bhuj after the earthquake on Day 2, is the single most devastating day of my professional career. The dead bodies, the smell, the destruction of the entire city, people’s homes, and in the midst of it all trying to get a story. At that time, I was working as an associate for a cameraman who was shooting the International Rescue Corps.

I learned the gruesomeness of news in that one day, and in many ways, my own docu-feature 150 Seconds Ago was a back answer to that.

Amrita: Tell me about that experience.
Batul: 150 Seconds Ago was based on the lives of a few people in Bhuj, over the span of a year after the earthquake there in 2001. The people I followed included a rickshaw-wala, the erstwhile Maharajah of Bhuj, a doctor, a school teacher, and so on. It was very observational and exploratory, with no fixed narrative. The film travelled to many prestigious festivals including the Cinema du Reel, Paris, and the Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival, Japan. The Yamagata Festival curators then included the film in their traveling festival package and showed it around Japan for a year.

 
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Posted by on June 12, 2011 in Entertainment, Life, Movies, Newsmakers, Video

 

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Robomatic

…or When Bad Ideas Happen to Good Intentions.

I’ve always wondered if the “you can do it all” theory, the Superwoman tag, was geared toward men just as much as women. On the one hand, you praise the woman and tell her that she can handle doing everything on her own without any help because she’s awesome like that. And on the other, you pacify her husband that she won’t leave him holding the diapers and cooking pot while she’s off being awesome outside the home.

And of course, there are women who can do it all. There are even men who do it all – there are so many kids from single family homes these days and more than a few of them are headed by a single father.

The question is whether that’s the ideal to which you should be raising a family in this day and age. What’s the kid going to grow up thinking – “My mom works and cooks and cleans and dances and sings and is nice to all the birdies in the sky. My dad… um… he drinks tea and goes to work.” Way to be a hero to your kid.

What really struck me about that Star Plus anthem is that the dad did absolutely fuck all around the house other than flirt with his wife and help his family put up a few decorations which apparently tuckered him out so he fell asleep along with the senior citizens and the little child. Meanwhile, his wife:

wakes up at the crack of dawn, salwar kameez-and-dupatta in place, to fix her adorable toddler a school lunch, before bullying her mother-in-law into sticking with her vocal exercises and her father-in-law his diet. She makes out with her amorous husband in the bathroom, hangs out with a senior citizen, circles around to blow her husband a goodbye kiss on his way to the office, and then jogs in friendly fashion around her neighborhood.

A round of socializing with the family, friends and random passersby is interspersed by her communing with nature. Next comes a dance class at home and flying kites with her devoted family and helping out with the household chores. She ventures out in between to direct traffic and beat off villainous-looking political types trying to plaster the walls of her home with illegal posters. Afterwards, she heads off to anchor a TV show where she works overtime like a good employee even if it means she’s late to her own birthday party. But that’s all right, because she makes up for it by rousing her family and showing them a jolly good time before cuddling on the rooftop with her husband and stargazing late into the night. When the sun comes up, we are left to assume, the cycle begins all over again.

I ask you again: when does this paragon go potty? I’m sorry to be so fixated on the petty details but I’m told that’s where God likes to reside.

Seriously, it’s men who should be offended.

 
26 Comments

Posted by on February 22, 2011 in Entertainment, Life, Television, Video

 

Breaking Radio Silence

Surprise! Thought I’d forgotten all about you lot, didn’t you? Not at all! I’ve just been going quietly crazy trying to get my life back on track. Which is not going well, thanks for asking. So I’m still stuck in limbo and the hiatus stretches on.

I know, I know. Boo, Me.

But! I have been mucking around here and there on the internet and perhaps you would like to read those efforts? My chat about Dhobi Ghat with friend Filmiholic, for instance!

Warning: it is very, very spoilery as befits a movie that has been out for a month.

Amrita: Also, this is proof positive that more women need to make movies. The way the camera followed the actors, especially the male ones, was significantly different from how a male director would have presented them. For example, there’s that scene in which Prateik is standing under the glow of a naked lightbulb and he’s all sweaty in these gross surroundings, and they shoot him in profile – it’s a shot I’ve seen in so many arthouse movies made in India before: “sweaty poor person in grotty urban shack”. I think people like Om Puri spent the entire 80s doing shots like those. But this time, there was a certain vulnerability and sexiness to that shot. We weren’t just watching a character, we were also being presented with the maleness of that character in a way. Obviously this has to do with Prateik being a hottie but even so… What do you think?
Filmiholic: And he (Munna) was so guileless. I remember being really touched and impressed by Prateik in Jaane Tu… so I had good expectations for him here, but he so exceeded them. Yes, agreed, he is indeed a hottie. But the way in this role he was also vulnerable, and a stand-up guy, and unaware of the effect his smoking hotness was having on people around him. Like when he does that shirtless pose when Shai’s photographing him,
Amrita: Yes! Great scene!
Filmiholic: I really just took that as him aping what he’s seen filmi guys do, not him thinking “I’m too sexy for my shirt” And by the way  it just occurs to me now, but three cheers for how the wardrobe people got his clothes right. When watching those Saturday morning desi entertainment shows here in the US, whenever I see them interviewing Bombay guys exiting cinemas to ask them about X or Y film they just saw, even if you can tell the dude may not have a stack of money in his wallet, 9 times out of 10 he’ll be wearing a somewhat flash, fashion-forward shirt, and probably with some accessories, and I’ve even observed this just being in the city – Mumbai guys often have quite a particular style and daring and a bit of the peacock about then, and I don’t observe the same in Madras when I’m there, no offense intended to the lovely men of Tamil Nadu, who have their own different vibe going on.
Back soon with other updates.
 
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Posted by on February 19, 2011 in Entertainment, Movies, News, Personal

 

Listen Up

Listen Up

My, what big ears you have, 2010! All the better to let all that awful Bollywood music escape, I bet.

Maybe I’m showing my age but this was the year when my head actively hurt almost everytime I loaded up a new soundtrack. I live across the road from a school with a marching band that insists upon practicing right under my window and at one point, I swear to God, I switched off the latest round of cacophony (Action Replayy, I think?) and basked in the blissful sound of an off-key tuba huffing along to an enthusiastic-if-sadly-untalented drum.

The good ones, therefore, were all the sweeter when they showed up. Here’re my favorite tracks from 2010. As with all lists, they’re highly subjective and I imposed a limit of one track per album because there were entire soundtracks that I would have happily included.

But first, these are the albums that missed the cut but took it easy on my ears all the same. In no particular order:

  • Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey
  • Rajneeti
  • Karthik Calling Karthik
  • Madholal Keep Walking
  • Tera Kya Hoga Johnny
  • Udaan
  • Dabangg
  • Jhootha Hi Sahi

10. Kya Hawa Kya Badal (Allah ke Banday) – Look, I would have found some way to include some mention of an album that features a track by the amazingness known as Ishq Bector (go on, click that link! You know you want to!). But I’m helped by this song.

09. Kanha (Veer) – The only good thing about Salman Khan’s golden barbarian fixation is this song. Intentionally, anyway. *snicker*

08. Des Mera (Peepli Live) – I’ve loved Indian Ocean since I was a kid so I’ll admit I was inclined to be kind but the best part about an album like this is that it doesn’t need your pity vote. It can stand up for itself, thanks.

07. Tujhe Bhula Diya (Anjaana Anjaani) – The best part of this song is Shruti Pathak’s bit at the beginning but Mohit Chauhan and Shekhar aren’t exactly slouches either. The movie might have left me cold, but the music was pretty great.

06. Ranjha Ranjha (Raavan) – My self-imposed limit of one track per album might keep me from giving Ab Mujhe Koi the love it deserves, but I thought this song was outstanding the moment I heard it and it was sheer poetry on screen.

05. Tera Zikr Hai (Guzaarish) – The star by far, as far as I’m concerned, in an album that’s a bit overproduced and labored, but quite lovely. Like everything else Sanjay Leela Bhansali does, I guess.

04. Lehrein (Aisha) – Honestly, I could have picked any song from this movie. Especially Sham, which is still on a loop on certain days. Amit Trivedi is on fire right now and long may it continue.

03. Cham Cham (Striker) – God only knows what happened to Sonu Nigam but here’s a track to remind you that he wasn’t always a greasy-haired fountain of bitter who judged reality shows. Somewhere, deep inside that mop, is an immensely talented voice.

02. Madhno Re (Lamhaa) – It’s like they asked me what I liked the most and then composed it to order. Mogambo khush hua!

01. Dil to Bachcha Hai Ji (Ishqiya) – How much do I love this song? Everything from Rahat Fateh Ali Khan’s voice to his enunciation of the amazing lyrics to the string bits in the middle. I could listen to this all day and never tire.

 
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Posted by on December 22, 2010 in Entertainment, Music, Video

 

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Old Fab

My new(ish) post on older actresses in Hindi film:

…just when they reach their truly interesting period, nobody wants to make movies with them anymore because conventional “wisdom” holds that the audience doesn’t care to fantasize about older women, especially if they’re someone else’s wife. Thus begins the slide back into mediocre cinema and eventually retirement – either offscreen or into thankless roles as the white-haired mothers of their former male co-stars.

[D]espite all the fuss people make about older actresses, it is interesting to note that they’re hardly revolutionary even in an industry as conservative Hindi film-making.

Read more at the newly revamped Women’s Web.

 
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Posted by on December 20, 2010 in Celebrity, Entertainment

 

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Dogs, Whales and Men

My friend was outraged. The proud owner of two enthusiastic Great Danes, a mother-son duo, he’d looked forward to the male’s first official date. The breeder had shown up with an attractive female of acceptable pedigree in tow and they’d solemnly escorted the pair up to the terrace where the excited young male chased the puzzled female around for a bit.

Problem was, my friend’s dog was the runt of his litter. In fact, I think that’s why he got to stay behind with his mom – nobody wanted a Great Dane who was merely as tall as they were instead of one that towered over them. This made absolutely no difference to my friend and his family, of course. They loved him for who he was, not for a checklist of points in some breeder’s manual.

But when confronted with his new ladyfriend, certain truths had to be faced. He might have a delightful personality but he was simply too short for the job. The only way he was getting laid was if the girlfriend lay down out of pity… and she clearly wasn’t that kind of girl.

“We have another option,” said the breeder, conveying the sad news to my disappointed friend. “I could help him.”

What, get him a crate to stand on and hope she didn’t move?

“No, no,” said the breeder. “I can get a specimen from him. It’ll only take a minute.”

“He wanted to molest my dog!” my friend reported, aghast and ashen-faced. “The dirty motherfucker wanted to jerk my dog off! What kind of sick bastard suggests something like that? I threw him out of the house and told him never to come back!”

I don’t know what happened after that – for all I know, that particular dog now has a pack of half-breed puppies running around town, fathered on more convenient, shorter females. Or maybe they fixed it so he’s a lifelong bachelor. Who knows? But he certainly wasn’t depositing samples into some breeder’s test tube. Or whatever it is breeders use. (Silk handkerchiefs? Stockings? Flannel? Do I really want to know? No.)

I do remember thinking that it was a good thing my friend wasn’t born on a farm or a ranch with a breeding program because horses, cows and pigs get regularly touched in their no-no area by white-coated professionals in the faster, bigger, better business. But I guess knowing that artificial insemination exists is quite different from seeing it practiced on the pet you raised from its birth.

Like zoo animals. Let’s not forget zoo animals. Artificial insemination is the cornerstone of many a conservation effort carried out by modern zoos. It’s not always possible to satisfactorily matchmake between polar bears or giant pandas or komodo dragons… or orcas.

Tommy Lee’s letter about harvesting sperm from killer whales got my attention for the amount of time he spends obsessing about the method of extraction. Like, what did he expect? What would be a better way of getting sperm from a giant whale? They could:

  • Stand at the poolside and throw a big specimen jar into the water where the whale could deposit his business like a gentleman with opposable thumbs
  • Use a device made with synthetic fibers so the icky cross-species touching (of which neither is aware since the cow is dead, unless some unfortunate bovine is running around the United States without a vagina in which case, Jesus! forget the whale, let’s save that poor cow! or even worse, it’s a live cow with a cootchie full of hot water, and you know what? I’m going to stop right now. And the whale doesn’t know because… well, it’s a fucking whale. If it ever sees a cow*, it’ll eat it and ask questions later) doesn’t occur
  • Offer to pay $20, payable in Soylent Green or whatever it is that killer whales eat
  • Get them drunk
  • Advertise along the international killer whale route for volunteer orcas.

I don’t know if his problem is with Sea World keeping whales in a pool to perform tricks for children, or the whales being masturbated at all, or Tilikum in particular being treated as the “sperm bank”, or the method employed.

*Actually, the “cow” in question is, I think, a female orca. Which is fucked up in its own necrophiliac way but imagining a whale getting with the kind of cow that goes “Moo!” is even more screwy, so that’s what I’ll go for.

 
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Posted by on December 8, 2010 in Celebrity, Life, News, Newsmakers, Video

 

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Raunchy Haunch

You’ve heard of leg-men and ass-men and boob-men – but did you know Indians were thigh-men?

The first time I even knew this was a possibility was when Shilpa Shirodkar still had a career. It was way before my time so I have no idea how she suddenly ballooned several sizes over the course of a year (?) from a fairly unremarkable starlet to a big girl whom lecherous directors delighted in squeezing into rustic costumes much too small for her. (And then drenched her in more water than the annual rainfall of that area, of course.) What I do remember is that she immediately started appearing in the back-page gossip columns of Sunday supplements as the pin-up du jour for all “thunder thighs” enthusiasts.

Even that term makes no sense to me. I’m all for alliteration but that’s not even a sexy one. It beings to mind someone who’s so obese, the ground shakes when they walk. Except it’s clearly meant to be a compliment. The reason Shilpa Shirodkar sticks in my memory, for instance, is because the writer came off as extremely creepy even to my uncomprehending young eyes as he wrote about his vision filling with her supple thighs as he sat down to interview her and how all that weight gains had done wondrous things to her figure. Ew.

South Indian actresses get this a lot, I’ve noticed. In fact, that’s what brought it all back. It’s impossible to look for videos of Sridevi, for example, from her late 70s-Jeetendra 80s period without running into a legion of her devoted fans all busily drooling over publicity stills of her wearing shorts.

And clearly, this was something the people involved appreciated because once you start looking at them without a giant frame of WTF dancing in front of your eyes, you notice that the photographs carefully focus on their thighs. The women are frequently wearing shirts buttoned up to the throat, but with their legs drawn up to present their thighs.

I’m aware there are women out there who are obsessed with their thighs and some people spend more time thinking about it than others – Jezebel’s Thighlights never did anything for me, but to each their own, right? – but when Google shows me headlines like “Shocking Thigh Show!” I have to wonder what the deal is.

 
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Posted by on December 5, 2010 in Celebrity, Entertainment, Life

 

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Break ke Baad: Dear John

<i>Break ke Baad</i>: Dear John

Dear Movie, we have got to break up. Wake up Sid, Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na, Anjaana Anjaani, I Hate Luv Storys, Bachna Ae Haseeno… and now Break ke Baad, directed by Danish Aslam. The title of which made me laugh because we’ve essentially been watching the same movie starring Ranbir Kapoor and Imran Khan in turn, over and over and over again.

If I see one more middling movie about a likable pair of youngsters (the male confused yet ultimately correct; the female focused yet ultimately proven wrong) who stumble around in the dark before finding each other without too much fuss… well, I guess I will be well-rested because I’ll just turn over and go back to sleep. It’s not like I’ll lose my temper because that would be an actual reaction which is more than these things aim for.

[Digression 1: That's not strictly true. The first couple of times I saw this plot, viz. Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na and Wake Up Sid as well as parts of Bachna Ae Haseeno, I was interested. With each subsequent installment, I quickly got over it.]

I’ve been wondering why this is, this utter lack of any response other than a shrug and a meh. Was it the careful result of much planning on the filmmakers’ part – did they deliver the innocuous movie they set out to make? Or was it inadvertent – an attempt to speak Gen Now gone terribly boring?

It finally struck me as I was watching Break ke Baad that (as a member of Gen 10 Minutes Past) the problem appears to be the romance. On their own, as angsty young people, all these movies feature interesting characters.

In Break ke Baad, for example, Abhay Gulati (Imran Khan) is that guy from college who kind of coasted along, uninterested in reaching for anything because he knew his (extremely unvillainous, terribly nice and supportive) father had an office all ready for him at home. And then once he got into that office, it began to pinch because he was like a balloon filled to bursting with all these half-formulated ideas and desires that had never been expressed because he hadn’t even tried to put them into words before. And yet, nothing short of a life-changing event can knock him out of his stupor and into experimenting a little with his idea of self.

Aaliya Khan (Deepika Padukone) is that girl you’re friends with because life is always so much more entertaining when she’s around to fuck things up. Your boyfriend hates her and thinks she’s a terrible influence on you, your other friends wonder what you see in her, and you shrug them off because your friendship is inexplicably based on giggly minutes spent fixing your makeup after throwing up in the restroom of a club or convincing a bartender to slip you free drinks. Everyone else got you really nice, safe, thoughtful gifts of books and knickknacks for your birthday but hers is the one you’ll always treasure – she made it herself, it serves absolutely no purpose (not even decorative because it’s fucking hideous), and is absolutely perfect to remember her by because you know and she knows that once these brief, few years are over, you’ll probably never meet her again although you’ll never forget her.

The difference between these two characters is that when they get to the big screen, Abhay is still sympathetic enough to be portrayed as he is while Aaliya turns into this monstrous vampire that feeds off the emotional energy of other people. In other words, you’ll see those exact scenes in Abhay’s portions of the movie, while the Aaliya I described above is crammed into a few scenes of pottery in a sunny courtyard and drunken revelry in inappropriate places. Even so, there’s a sense of drama lurking under the surface in her interactions with her mother, her frequent references to her adulterous absentee father, her determination to hack her own path and give no quarter.

[Digression 2: Aslam joins his long line of fellow debutant directors in making a movie in which the parent-child relationship comes off as much more genuine and heartfelt. A trend that first came to my attention in Wake Up Sid.]

Drama. Which brings us back to my big problem with movies like Break ke Baad – these are the most comatose romances I’ve ever seen in my life. I appreciate that they’re trying to set a tone that isn’t as hysterical as your classic Bollywood romance can be, with cruel parents and promises to die with sweeping background music. But as much as things have changed, falling in love is same old hysterical business, I’m afraid. Lovers are still fighting over trifles, irritating and boring their friends in turn by assuring them that none of them know the true meaning of love, bursting into storms of tears and accusations and other sappy stuff.

Compare that to movies like Anjaana Anjaani, which turned even the concept of suicide for love’s sake into a drawn out yawn. I know a real life version of that story and it is so much more entertaining. Meanwhile, people in these movies are so articulate, so soft-spoken, so polite I imagine their sex life consists of strenuous cuddling. In Break ke Baad, when Aaliya flips out at Abhay in the midst of the most uneventful beach rave Australia has ever hosted, the best she can do is grit out that she’s on a break in a half-raised growl before throwing the phone on the soft sand of the beach. I mean, she doesn’t even destroy her phone! What kind of tantrum is that for a capricious, self-obsessed creative? And yet, not a single character in the movie misses an opportunity to inform us that Aaliya is indeed all those things.

[Digression 3: Apart from Dev D, which is really a beast of a different sort, and perhaps a bit of Jaane Tu... how come all these cool, hip young folk go to the most boring parties where nothing ever happens? No brawls, no skeevy middle-aged men scoping out the latest batch of teenage girls, no catfight in the restroom, no puddles of vomit in random corners, no idiot adolescent tripping out for the first time and nearly killing him/herself, no cops who've totally been paid off, no sleazy waiters who know all the shady gossip about all the patrons, no drug peddling kingpins recruiting fresh customers... Aaliya would have found much better parties in her hometown of Delhi instead of going all the way to Australia to play with a surfboard.]

I sat there, one part of my brain watching Break ke Baad while the other ran through all the lovelife drama I’ve witnessed over the past year alone and no contest – every one of my friends had a more eventful, drama-filled story to tell. And this includes the ones that aren’t even in a relationship! Hmmm. Maybe I need new friends! :P

Having said all that, if there are young kids out there who’re watching these movies and coming away with the lesson that it pays to treat each other with respect (which, to give these movies their due, is a statement they eventually deliver) in a relationship, I couldn’t be happier. I’d rather watch a million versions of Break Ke Baad than a single Kambakkht Ishq.

 
20 Comments

Posted by on November 30, 2010 in Celebrity, Entertainment, Movies, Review, Video

 

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Listen!

Just a note to remind you all that Masala Zindabad is now up and running. We take no prisoners in this week’s podcast about Current Actresses – what’s wrong with them and how do we fix it?

Keep the red sweater but teach them some table manners, probably.

If there are topics you’d like to see covered, drop us a note. We probably won’t use them but it’ll be nice to know how far off base we are. :P

 
2 Comments

Posted by on November 29, 2010 in Celebrity, Entertainment, Movies, News, Personal, Video

 

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For Want of Whiplash

I don’t care what anybody says, but I love Willow Smith’s Whip My Hair. And that’s a good thing because I can’t get it out of my freakin’ head.

But look, it’s age-appropriate and it’s fun and it’s silly and it makes me vaguely wish I was still a kid – and hardly anything makes me want to be a kid again because let’s face it, being a kid sucks. But if I got to whip my hair back and forth and just shake ‘em off, shake ‘em off, shake ‘em off, shake ‘em off, maybe it won’t be so bad.

I don’t know why public opinion is so harsh against the Smiths for letting their kids act. Will Smith was a child star too and he didn’t invent the whole famous-parents-introduce-spawn-to-family-business gig. In fact, if we must have the children of famous people foisted on us, I wish more of them would be like the Smith siblings, Jaden and Willow, who have a real personality.

Look at Willow’s red-carpet outfits (thanks for alerting me to those, Beth!)! I think the Fanning sisters, Dakota and Elle, do a good job at princessy-appropriate, as does Abigail Breslin – but it’s great to see a kid really play dress up. So her parents have the money to make it couture rather than family hand-me-downs discovered in the attic and she does it on red carpets – that’s the way it is. She didn’t go rob it from some other kid.

 
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Posted by on November 26, 2010 in Celebrity, Entertainment, Music, Video

 

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