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Awesomely Insane Jeetendra

Awesomely Insane Jeetendra

While searching for material to post during Sridevipalooza week, I made a mistake – albeit a happy one. I went to Youtube to look for clips and fell down a Jeetendra-related video-hole.

I’d forgotten, for example, that the man spent a good chunk of his life dressed like Errol Flynn. The results were so astoundingly, blindingly B-movie fabulous, I just had to share! Just to scratch the surface…

10. Jaise Ko Taise

What better to start us off than a spot of homoerotic S&M? Complete with gymnastics and crotch shots!

Because you’re special.

9. Badi Mastani Meri Jawani

You know what Sholay lacked? The part where Jai and Veeru are hung over a bunch of hungry lions while Basanti and Radha dance awkwardly in harem pants with a bunch of passing African tribesmen.

What? No self-respecting African lady would be seen without a feather duster on her head, I’ll have you know!

8. Kismat Likhne Wale Par

A floating gold throne gently deposits Jeetendra and Jaya Prada (dressed in doublet and apsara costume, respectively) in the technicolor land of floating disco balls. You know things can only improve from there!

7. Chumma Chumma

Apart from the amazing lyrics (the rhyme scheme alone merits it a mention on every list), what I particularly love about this song is the expression on both their faces:

Jeetendra: But… but… that’s not Jaya Prada!
Dimple Kapadia: What the fuck am I doing? That’s right – I have two kids to bring up.
Jeetendra: I don’t understand! Those are the right clothes but that’s not her! This one looks like she actually understands what she’s saying!
Dimple Kapadia: Wave hands! Raise leg! Wave hands! Raise leg! I can dance! And I have no idea what I’m saying! See? Kiss me, you fool!
Jeetendra: Fraud! There is no kissing between Jaya Prada and me – we only have pretend sex while partially clothed! Get off me!

6. Deewana

Mithun wept.

5. Oye Sanam-a

It is a crime to choose just one song out of Hatim Tai but since I can’t embed the entire movie here, this will have to do. Sigh.

4. Daiya Re Daiya

There are some things without which you really can’t call yourself a Bollywood Hero of a certain vintage – and one of those things is the honored tradition of blackface. Or, as practiced in Bollytown, dark green face.

Omigod! Is that Jeetendra under that “tan”? I totally didn’t recognize him! What a cunning disguise! Of course, all the pelvic thrusts helped distract.

3. Maine Tum Sang

Did you ever wonder what people did before they had CGI or if they couldn’t afford special effects? Well, this is your lucky day! The answer is: they simulated running in slo-mo and took over some school’s annual day decorations. An absolutely fabulous school, of course!

These two really made the best movies!

2. Nainon Mein Sapna

I don’t care what you say – if you were in India at a certain point in the 80s, you knew this song like your mother’s lullaby. You saw it on Doordarshan on those oh-so-special Thursdays (Fridays?) when the holy half hour of Chitrahar played state-approved movie songs. You heard it on the radio at your grandmother’s house. Your cleaning lady hummed it under her breath. You knew it, no lie.

Try getting it out of your head now. Muahahaha!

1. Yeh Mera Premi

The thunderous notes that open this song herald your entry into a whole another dimension. Canary yellow wigs! A handkerchief on Leena Chandravarkar’s head! Playing card motifs! The I-got-beaned-on-the-head-till-I-drooled expressions on Jeetendra’s face! Tights! Happy skips! Extras in lockstep! Nothing beats this song!

[pic source]

 
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Posted by on August 18, 2010 in Celebrity, Entertainment, Movies, Music, Video

 

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Robots Are People Too

While Aamir Khan’s Peepli Live continues to garner lukewarm/ condescending reviews, anticipation is building around the world for an entirely different kind of project: Endhiran.

That’s right, Rajnikanth and his insane robot movie co-starring Aishwarya Rai are about to take over the world. Like, who’s not going to watch this? You hear that phone ringing? That’s your aged granny calling to ask you if the advance booking is open.

[Pic]

 
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Posted by on August 12, 2010 in Celebrity, Entertainment, Movies, News, Video

 

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New Age Salman

If Wanted and now Dabangg is the direction Salman Khan plans to take with his career, he’s one smart cookie. Everyone else in Bollywood has hitched themselves so wholeheartedly to competing with international talent, all those who like to watch their Bollywood with generous splashes of 80s-style machismo have been left to the tender mercies of Z-listers and various regional cinemas.

Enter St. Salman of the Regressives. Bigger, badder and more funner. An A-lister who remembers the faithful. A temperamental, more successful Akshay Kumar with a better team.

And in case you were wondering about that chick who looks like the Indian version of his usual furriner Amazonians, that’s Sonakshi Sinha, daughter of the one and only Shatrughan.

[pics via]

 
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Posted by on August 4, 2010 in Celebrity, Entertainment, Movies, Video

 

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Is This a Joke?

You know that scene from – what was it? Bones, I think? In which some guy too shy to put up his actual pic on the dating site he invented decides instead to photoshop the profile pics of several different men to create a brand new super datable person?

I feel like that’s what happened here. You’re looking at an experiment in Kapoor making! I can only hope he’s been programmed for etiquette, not destruction.

His name is Aditya Raj Kapoor, Shammi Kapoor is his dad, they call him Mickey at home, he does the salsa, built Appu Ghar, has a guru called Bhole Baba, directed a movie called Sambar Salsa starring Rishi Kapoor and now he’s acting in a Bollywood movie.

I’m so not making this up!

And yet! Come on! Right? Admittedly, I’m not up to speed on my Kapoor family tree (look, I have an insanely extended family of my own if I were interested in that kind of thing) but this seems… so out of the blue.

I thought my fever was over, but now I have second thoughts.

 
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Posted by on July 19, 2010 in Celebrity, Entertainment, News

 

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Die-For Duo

Die-For Duo

All pretenders kindly cease and desist. My favorite mystery couple will always be Madhubala and Ashok Kumar. Unlike other claimants like the baby-faced duo of Sadhana and Manoj Kumar, for example, who often exuded a slightly off-putting matched-set vibe, Ashok Kumar and Madhubala complemented each other.

He was rugged, gravelly voiced, tough, and alternated between a stern-faced authoritarian and a dashing man about town with a sense of humor. She was beautiful, full-figured, charming, and channeled  a mischievous sprite.  Together they were perfection.

Chalti ka Naam Gaadi (1958)

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my month of retina-scarring television, it’s that India loves its men strong and angry. Manly Men Be Aaaaangrryyyy! Rawr.

Much as I love to be contrary, that’s precisely why I love Ashok Kumar in this movie. Although he doesn’t star opposite Madhubala and younger brother Kishore walks around picking pieces of scenery from between his teeth when he’s not singing some of the most deliriously fun (and “inspired”) songs ever recorded for a Hindi film, Ashok is a big reason why I watch this movie over and over and over again.

The stern exterior hiding the battered heart, the marshmallow center of a hard candy – AIEEEEEE! If you’re lucky enough to find a clear(ish) print of this movie, you can gaze at his un-pretty but oh-so-charismatic visage and sigh that you’ll never find a man today who can bark out orders and forbid his brothers from associating with an entire gender the way he does.

What I seriously appreciate about his performance though is that he plays it straight. A lesser actor would have played the role for laughs and descended into caricature – something that happens distressingly often in a Hindi comedy where everyone is self consciously aware that they’re being !FuNnY! AK, on the other hand, let his brothers’ supreme hamming talents ricochet off his performance instead of trying to match them step for step. It’s a trick he would do in other movies, this metaphorical stepping back so that other more fiery stars could let the rockets fire out their bum while he quietly carried the scene in peace, but it’s never as perfect than in Chalti ka Naam Gaadi where all three of the Kumar brothers are so in tune.

In fact, given my druthers, I’d embed the whole movie here in lieu of a paltry clip or two. Although, I can’t imagine the madness that must have been the Ganguly household growing up.

Howrah Bridge (1958)

I have no idea why this movie gets so little love while Shakti Samanta’s other weepfests like Amanush and Amar Prem are still obsessed over. From the mid-60s on, Samanta was looking towards Europe but in his early days he had a bit of an Oriental fetish which you can see in movies like Howrah Bridge, Singapore and (the proto-Don) China Town.

Following the trajectory of Samanta’s less celebrated works, Howrah Bridge is a murder mystery featuring a stolen heirloom, shot in the noir style that (I assume) was then all the rage. It features Madhubala as a thoroughly believable femme-fatale-who-really-isn’t, Helen as the famous Ms. Chin Chin Choo, Madan Puri with slanted eye make-up, K.N. Singh as a sinister evildoer you can’t take your eyes off, and Ashok Kumar as the dashing out-of-towner with a game of his own to play.

This movie also brings up the question: was Ashok Kumar the last Indian actor who could wear a dinner jacket like he meant it? Some men can just wear it, you know? While most men look silly. And lordy, lordy, could AK wear it!

In conclusion: Look at them flirt! Well? What more do you need, cretin?

Mahal (1949)

I can’t remember the first time I saw Mahal, but I do remember that it scared the crap out of me. I was very young and the cable-wallah threw himself a little Scare Fest by showing us Bees Saal Baad (the one with Waheeda Rehman; he saved the Mithun Chakraborty one, which was scary for entirely different reasons, for a later date), the Rebecca-remake Kohraa, and Mahal.

I’ve never seen a quality print of this movie but, as you can imagine, any movie that saw the debut of Kamal Amrohi as director, gave Madhubala her first lead as an adult, and played a significant role in turning Lata Mangeshkar into a household name, is sufficiently awesome enough to battle crappy preservation and still shine through.

Although the camera faithfully follows AK’s extremely effective performance as a man faced with Very Weird Things that are totally destroying his mind, Madhubala left the greater impression on me. Not only because she was so amazingly lovely in this movie or because she managed to imbue a deep suspicion of all swings in me for a time, but because the big reveal was so incredible.

It was the first time I’d seen a true blue sociopath as a Hindi film heroine and they’re still pretty rare on the ground. And don’t tell me she wasn’t – girl be nuttier than a squirrel’s winter stash.

Ek Saal (1957)

The cutest ever. Seriously. This is a movie you watch curled up on your couch with the lights off, a big box of chocolates and a bottle of wine. The romance, the pretty, the Madhubala who is a light source on her own, the innocence of and the doomed struggle against true love, the heartbreak, the mocking AK who sings to the stricken AK as he realizes the value of what he’s lost, the penitence – I know it’s not technically a mystery but it’s all so satisfying!

Look at that poor sap on his flower-patterned couch. He actually thinks he has a chance! Ha! Ha, I say!

(And OMG, my mother totally has that necklace!)

 
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Posted by on June 30, 2010 in Entertainment, Movies, Review, Video

 

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On Raavan

On <i>Raavan</i>

Beera: “How do you kill someone who isn’t afraid to die?”

Ans: Show them Raavan.

Noooooooooooooooo. That’s not true. But it’s the lure of the low hanging fruit – I must reach. Here’s what I really think of the love story of Twinkle Toes McScreech and Scowly Caricatureson:

Mani Ratnam’s Raavan, evocatively shot by cinematographers Santosh Sivan and V. Manikandan, is an excellent bait-and-switch operation. You think you’re going in for an exciting Naxalite-ish Gangaajal  loosely based on the central conflict of the Ramayana, and you exit from a two hour meditation on what it means to be a human being.

This is a movie that will not be rushed. A magnificent bird of prey lands next to a beautiful woman on a boat, startling her. Ragini is being kidnapped by Beera, a man who seems determined to take his ongoing vendetta with the police shockingly personal. “Why should you kill me?” she asks him defiantly as he takes aim at her, choosing instead to dive off a cliff. It is an unexpected moment of bravery that leaves him spinning. “Will you stay here with me?” he asks. She does not know what to say, not when she knows he holds her captive by his mere presence. This was not the plan; he’d fully intended to kill her and she’d sworn to destroy him.

 
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Posted by on June 21, 2010 in Entertainment, Movies, Review

 

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Raajneeti: Epic Fail

<i>Raajneeti</i>: Epic Fail

What do you get if you boil the Mahabharata down to its bare bones? Going by Prakash Jha’s Raajneeti: nearly three hours of horrible people killing each other, that’s what.

The movie begins on the banks of the Ganga, much like the Mahabharata. Bharati (Nikhila Trikha), the daughter of pro-establishment politician Rajnath Rai (Darshan Jariwala), is praying for the illegitimate son she gave up to the river 30 years ago. The baby is the result of many a noble marchalong and a brief makeout scene in the rain with the middle-aged Leftist Bhaskar Sanyal (Naseeruddin Shah). The sex was apparently so good, he skedaddles from both Bharati’s life and the movie with a lame “Dear Jane” that says he’ll feel guilty forever. Fittingly, he’s making khichdi the day they tumble into bed together – because that’s exactly what Bharati’s life is about to become.

In very short order then, Bharati gives birth and her father’s right-hand man Brij Gopal (Nana Patekar) sails him down the river before marrying her off to Chandra Pratap, the younger brother and power-behind-the-throne of a rising politician, Bhanu Pratap. 30 years later, Bharati’s father Rajnath Rai has reached the end of his career and there is a palace coup of sorts led by the Prataps.

The Prataps have their own issues. Elder brother Bhanu Pratap’s son Virendra (Manoj Bajpai) considers himself the Crown Prince while Chandra Pratap’s elder son Prithvi (Arjun Rampal) is busy setting up his own power base within the party. But these are matters to be settled later – right now, the family is united behind Bhanu Pratap’s ambition. Until he’s unexpectedly felled by a paralytic stroke just as he announces that elections have been called. And thus begins the war.

Chandra Pratap and Prithvi take over the party as per Bhanu Pratap’s hospital-bed command. Virendra revolts and manages to wrest control, kicking his cousins out. Brij Gopal, his loyalty now switching from Rajnath Rai to his in-laws, allies himself with Prithvi alongside the ambivalent younger Pratap sibling, Samar (Ranbir Kapoor). Meanwhile, Virendra recruits a rising Dalit leader called Sooraj Kumar (Ajay Devgan) to his cause, mainly to piss off Prithvi who can’t stand the sight of him.

Somewhere in the middle of all this testosterone is the temperamental Indu Saxena (Katrina Kaif), the daughter of a wheeler dealer who auctions her off (along with his handy fortune) to whichever cousin, Virendra or Prithvi, can promise him the political cachet of the Pratap name. Samar, with a sweet blonde (Sarah Thompson) waiting for him in America, takes advantage of Indu’s love for him to marry her off to his brother, thus solving the party’s cash crunch and getting rid of her unwanted affections in one blow. Indu, for her part, comes to realize that her new husband might be a raving psycho, but he’s at least human unlike his reptilian brother.

As all these lovely people try to get the better of each other with increasing amounts of violence, truckloads of minor characters are steadily mowed down. The only interesting one of these is the ambitious sexpot (Shruti Seth), who shows up in an unintentionally hilarious yet horribly sad scene to sleep with Prithvi in order to get an election ticket as the female face of the party.

Raajneeti is a story told with authority, performed by a cast that’s well up to the job – including prophesied weak spots Kaif and Rampal. I was raring to go watch it, even if the kissy Ranbir-Katrina promos were giving me pause, and I can’t say I feel cheated when I walked out at the end. Why, then, is my overall reaction to the movie a resounding “meh”?

***SPOILERS AHEAD***
(or not, depending on whether you’ve read the Mahabharata)

Adaptations, especially when the source material is as sprawling as the Mahabharata, are a tricky business. If you don’t end the process by getting tarred and feathered, consider it a raging success. My own two favorites are Shyam Benegal’s elegant Shashi Kapoor-starrer Kalyug and Mani Ratnam’s much more feisty Thalapathi starring Rajnikanth. Both of them chose the murky waters of the Draupadi-Karna relationship as their emotional anchor with Karna-Kunti backstory playing support, while locating the main battle in a corporate boardroom and the underworld, respectively.

Jha chooses the pairing of Draupadi and Arjun to give it heft, and isolates the Karna-Kunti relationship as a thread that binds the whole together. It might have worked if:

A. Karna a.k.a. Sooraj, the only child of the Pratap family driver, ever showed the slightest sign of being conflicted about his choices. It’s true Ajay Devgan spends a great deal of time frowning (puzzlement? pain? attraction? bowel movement? it’s That Frown – you know the one!) at Manoj Bajpai, but he always follows it up by expressing concern for his friend’s well-being rather than his own actions. So when Bharati shows up for the big reveal, it’s possibly the most anti-climactic scene in the movie.

B. Arjuna a.k.a. Samar was anything other than a self-aware psychopath. The great moment of the battle comes before a single blow has been dealt, when Arjuna looks at the faces of his family arrayed against him and tells Krishna that he cannot take up arms against those he loves. In Raajneeti, when Samar notes dispassionately that his enemy is unarmed, you wonder why he’s being so nice all of a sudden.

The Mahabharata is so violent a tale that my religious mother and aunts fully subscribe to the superstition that merely keeping a copy of the epic in your house is bound to bring doom upon it. But it is a not a senseless, alienating violence. Each and every act of violence in the epic, from murder to rape and everything in between, performed by noble characters as well as vile, has an ethical and emotional resonance. The person who commits the crime pays a price just as much as the person who endures it. It is a cautionary tale.

Raajneeti is not. People die because other people find it convenient for them to die. Women are used because that is their function. Violence is the answer because it is satisfying. Raajneeti is the Hum Saath Saath Hain of political drama; a reductive re-telling rather than an interesting interpretation.

*** END SPOILERS ***

Narrative issues aside, Jha steps up his game by loading the movie with visual symbols. From the moment of Sooraj’s birth, for example, Jha frames him against the rising and setting sun. At times, it can get a little awkwardly blatant, as in the confrontation between Bharati and Sooraj, wherein he leaves her in tears against a barren tree lit by a setting sun. Sadly, the image has more pathos than the conversation itself.

My personal favorite was of Bhanu Pratap, standing on the dais  in the golden spotlight just prior to his stroke and announcing his intention to be crowned king of all he surveys. Meanwhile his brother, his son and his nephew, all of them his heir-presumptives, stand in the shadows, directing the adulation of the crowds.

It’s that kind of touch that elevates Raajneeti from the soulless mess it repeatedly threatens to become. Jha has a gift for the political cameo, from the woman who will trade her body for a shot at power, to the aging Rajnath Rai truculently refusing to get out of his car so he can be peaceably deposed, to Virendra’s absolute certainty that Samar’s using his American voodoo to rob him of his birthright.

It’s a khichdi that doesn’t taste as good as it ought.

 
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Posted by on June 6, 2010 in Entertainment, Movies, Review, Video

 

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