Lajja (2001): item numbers & eye candy, or could I say aankhon ladoo?

Yaar!

I watched Lajja(2001) (translation: Shame) and got carried away with the screen capping knowing I must do a post.  Yet what to post when I see the wonderful bloggers have already said it so well?  You know I specialize in the more superficial enjoyment of all films, so I’ll share my likes here by showing some photos and focusing on the item numbers, but please go and see the great reviews and thoughtful insight on Lajjaat the post punk cinema clubUpperstall, Filmi Geek and at philip’sfil-ums.

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Starring as pictured above Manisha Koirala (Vaidehi); Madhuri Dixit (Janki); Mahima Choudhary(Maithili); and Rekha(Ramdulaari).  All four of the woman stars have a form of Sita for their name.

Epithets: In common with other major figures of epic literature, Sita is known by many epithets. As the daughter of king Janaka, She is called Janaki; as the princess of Mithila, Mythili or Maithili; as the wife of Raama, She is called Ramaa. Her father Janaka had earned the sobriquet “Videha” due to his ability to transcend body consciousness; Sita is therefore also known as Vaidehi (Vaidehi Vaydehi, or Vaithegi) (Sanskrit: वैदेही)). (source) Thanks to Philip’sfil-ums, I know that Ramdulaari (Rekha’s part) tranlates to Ram’s darling.

 

lajja.menThis is a girl power film, and unfortunately there’s certainly large amount of misandry, (and misogeny, go figure) but worry not since there are some super male heros played by the always satisfying Anil Kapoorand Ajay Devgan to help tip the scales back in the favor of good men. Even super bad guy played by Jackie Shroff is redeemed by movie’s end. The film opens with this statement by the director:

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The music numbers covered here are all written by Anu Malik. Choreographer Ganesh Acharyaputs together 3 wonderful dances which serve to hold the sometimes disjointed picture together. Ganesh Acharya really does some provocative choreography with Urmila Matondkarhere, clearly showing life in the fast lane at an American nightclub. I did wonder a bit about the reason for putting those masks on the background dancers, but why not?  Jazz hands! Can one really ever get enough of the jazz hand?  I think not, so I had to share not one, but two screen caps of the jazz hand:

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Aa Hi Jaiye with playback singer Anuradha Srirampicturized on Urmila  Matondkar:

lajja.prestigeOur story starts with Vaidehi (Manisha Koirala) who finds herself married to a womanizing millionaire crorepati and living in the wicked west, New York City that is. You can see in the item number above the loose moral environment Vaidehi’s husband subjects her to. It’s all about the sex, drinking and money for her evil husband played by Jackie Shroff, but Vaidehi herself must keep up the family name.  Vaidehi makes her plea for a moral lifestyle and he won’t stand for it and ships her back to Hindustan. Of course there’s retribution for the husband’s evil ways and after sending Vaidehi back to Bharat he gets in an auto accident, rendering him impotent. Ha! Well we see that even the very rich, amidst their leaded crystal laden mansions in the USA have problems!

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But…lekin, there is a simple solution! Evil father ( Suresh Oberoi ) suggests:

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Meanwhile back in the safe arms of India, Vaidehi meet a bandit with a heart of gold played by Anil Kapoor, who is called a biscuit wallah and scoundrel here:

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In order to hide from her husband’s men hunting her down, Raju (Anil Kapoor)  and Veidehi crash a wedding and blend among the crowd.  It’s there they meet the bride to be Maithili (Mahima Choudhary)and meet her snobbish in laws. Look at Maithili’s sweet mother (Farida Jalal) be snubbed in her gift offering:

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The bride has an admirer who I thought tried to imitate yesteryear actor Johnny Walker. The second great item number is Saajan Ke Ghar Jaana with playback singers Alka Yagnikand Richa Sharma, picturized on the lovely Sonali Bendre:

 

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Eventually Vaidehi makes her way to another safe haven, where she meets Janki (Madhuri Dixit ) who is an actress. Her first exposure to Janki is her acting out a seen on stage from the 1960 epic Mughal-e-Azam .

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How can you not adore Madhuri?  The third item number is Badi Mushkil with playback singer Alka Yagnik,picturized on Madhuriand Manisha:

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That’s all the fun we get because Janki finds herself pregnant out of wedlock and her fiance is made to question her virtue by her Ravana-esque manager.  So when she’s doing her staged performance of Ramayana, she asks why should Sita  have to do the trial by fire to prove her virtue, why not Ram?

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Backstage she continues to share what’s on her heart and mind:

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Now that’s a great question, but I guess she forgot she was in India. It’s more than just an elephant in the room, it’s the elephant in the country.  The aftermath of the big question about equality has predictable results in a man’s world:

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The crowd beats Janki and as a result she miscarries.  Infuriated, Vaidehi goes to confront the evil, gossiping, lecherous pervert manager of Janki and get a load of what she says:

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Yeah!  She said it! Vaidehi escapes that mess and finds yet another safe haven with  Rekha‘s Ramdulaari. Do you see how in Rekha’s world they keep it real, cow dung patties drying on the wall.  Now that says “village!”

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And while I speak of cow dung patties, here’s a photo I took of some I saw on my trip to India:

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Back to Rekha and Manisha and their suffering:

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Another hero that comes to Vaidehi’s rescue is the super human Bulwa (Ajay Devgan) who handles dacoits on a train as well as the evil town leader Gajendra( Danny Denzongpa ). Now Bulwa has held a grudge ever since the Gajendra boiled Bulwa’s moms hands in oil.   This resulted in Bulwa amputating one of Gajendra’s arms back in the day, which of in turn caused Gajendra to hold a grudge against Bulwa.  Years pass and Bulwa returns for another confrontation and Gajendra whips off his pashmina to reveal that arm he’s been missing for years:

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Amputations are one of those things I look for in a Bollywood film.  Nothing says revenge like an amputation. Bulwa even commits a double arm amputation on another scoundrel.

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Bulwa is once again to the rescue when Vaidehi’s evil  NRI husband catches up to her. The sword wielding hero is ready to chop off her husband’s head, but to Bulwa’s horror, she stops him:

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Well Bulwa does have a valid point there Vaidehi, hai na?

Here’s one more screen cap to show what a bad-ass Bulwa is:

Since I’d like to end on a positive note, feast your eyes on the ever beautiful Madhuri:

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If you’ve seen Lajja, tell me what you thought.

“AIDS Sutra:Untold Stories from India” with a touch of Bollywood

http://sajablogs.typepad.com/.a/6a00d83451dd1469e20105361b738b970b-800wiFor time-pass I watch a lot of movies and I also read books.  I suppose it’s normal to find stories about films in books about India, since the film industry infiltrates the culture. Even in this anthology on the serious subject of AIDS,  I was able to find a bit of very uplifting Bollywood material.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is pleased to announce the publication of AIDS Sutra: Untold Stories from India, a landmark collection of essays that presents a complex and gripping picture of the disease. Sixteen of India’s most well-known literary writers go on the road to tell the story of people affected by the epidemic and the stigma that surrounds them. “This book reveals the human side of the disease,” write Bill and Melinda Gates in their introduction to this groundbreaking anthology. (source)

Bhoot Ki Kahaanian by Jaspreet Singh references Taare Zameen Par (2007).

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Return to Sonagachi by Sunil Gangopadhyay presented a delightful dilemma: where on earth do we hide the whisky?  I bet it was Johnnie Walker.  Read on to see how the dilemma reminded me a bit of Umrao Jaan (1981) and (2006):

 

 

 

 

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Now here’s the Umrao Jaan-ish part:

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(p.158)  

See!  A poetry writing prostitute with a heart of gold, just like Umrao Jaan.

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Love in the Time of Positives by Nalini Jones baghban00 describes how Baghban (2003), and in particular the part played by  Salman Khan, ended up saving someone’s life.

On the day he planned to die, he decided to spend his last afternoon at the movies. Basavaraj described the film he saw at great length-a family drama starring Amitabh Bachchan called Baghban. It is the story of loving parents who give everything they have to their son and look froward to a happy old age.  But their children have grown selfish, caught up in their own concerns, and the parents are left destitute until an unlikely saviour, a street boy the couple had adopted and educated, comes to their rescue.  Sitting alone in the theater, Basavaraj began to worry about this own parents. He realised he was their only son, their best hope for ‘a good old age’. He wanted to be like the adopted boy in the film, the only one who doesn’t forget what he owes his family.  Basavaraj went home, threw out the pills, pored away the alcohol, and cast himself as the unlikely saviour- the son who is secretly HIV positive. (source p.320)

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So if you’ve seen Baghban, I suppose the credit would go to Salman Khan  for saving the life of Basavaraj! Who would have thought!?  I wonder if Salman-ji knows about this.

 

The Daughters of Yellamma by William Dalrymple includes an Amitabh Bachchan siting!  In some parts of India young girls are “married” or dedicated to the temple goddess as prostitutes.  Dalrymple interviews one of the women and she recalls the time she lived in Bombay:

I ate fabulous biryani at the Sagar Hotel and once when I was in the streets I saw Amitabh Bachchan pass by in his car. (p. 226)

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As much as I enjoyed to Sunil Gangopadhyay’s piece, I enjoyed The Last of the Ustaads by Aman Sethi which both mentions and pays a great tribute to Gadar, Ek Prem Katha (2001).  Maybe I loved Sethi’s piece so much because Gadar is one of my favorite movies.

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Questioning the plight of truck drivers in India and their higher tendency to have HIV than the general population, Sethi interviews a truck driver:

Is it just ‘modern life’? When finding answers to sudhcomplex questions in a country infested with faux holy men, one must turn to the sole oracle of truth—Bollywood super hit film Gadar: Ek Prem Katha(Gadar: A Love Story), Tara Singh the truck driver, played by trucker demigod Sunny Deol, is asked a poignant question by Partition refugee Sakina, played by Amisha Patel.  ‘Tara Singhji,’ she asks as sh expertly ties hi turban, ‘why don’t you get married?’ Tho this, Tara Singh shakes his turbaned head, and gives her an answer that made practically every truck driver in India nod his head approvingly and say ‘Wah!’ ‘Madamji,’ says Tara Singh, ‘I live in Khana Buddur; today my truck is parked here, but tomorrow I might  be in Delhi. After that why would anyone want to marry a truck driver?’ Thought the movie is set in 1947, Tara Singh’s question touches upon an issue that is relevant even today.  Truck drivers aren’t particularly discriminated against when it comes to marriage partners; but some of the younger drivers I spoke with said that finding partners was becoming harder and harder.  I watched Gadar on the recommendation of Sanjay and some of his friends Played out against the backdrop of the Partition riots in 1947 in the border states of India and Pakistan, Gadar tells the tale of how a heroic Jat-Sikh truck driver rescues a wealthy Muslim girl from a rampaging mob; wins her trust, marries her, rescues her once more–this time from her rampaging father–and finally settles down, in a happy ending. While several films have had their heroes careen up and down highways in trucks, the heroes. are rarely truck drivers;l the truck just happens to be the closest vehicle at had to make good their escape, rescue their lovers, or run over their enemies.  Gadar is perhaps the only mainstream hit in which the protagonist is a truck driver who proves to be a good husband, father, patriot, and all round nice guy.  Unfortunately, Gadar  too starts with Tara Singh accepting that fate has dealt him a poor hand by making him a truck driver.  He obligingly sings and dances and plays the part of the happy truck driver, but he understands the distance between him and the object of his desire.  As he says, ‘Even if I wanted to, I can’t touch the moon, can I?’ The rest of the plot is a story of redemption–of proving that truck drivers are honourable, powerful , and patriotic.  Why does truck driving lack izzat?  Why are truck drivers victims of negative stereotypes?  Is it class? Is it their association with a high-risk behavior group? Does, in fact, being categorised as  a high-risk group stigmatise them even further? From Gadar to their portrayal in the Indian press, truckers are regarded as rough and ready and reckless, dirty and dissolute.  Prone to drink, driving accidents–and now disease. (p. 306-7)

For more about the book,  read a review  from The Telegraph, Calcutta India, and another from The Indian Journal of Medical Ethics. Listen to the NPR Podcast on the book: ‘AIDS Sutra’ Challenges Widespread Denial In India’

Also, if you want to get filmy with it, here’s something else.

The AIDS Jaago (AIDS Awake) project is four short dramatic films which aim to dismantle myths and raise awareness about HIV/AIDS. These films were funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and made by acclaimed Indian filmmakers Mira Nair (Monsoon Wedding; The Namesake), Vishal Bhardwaj, Santosh Sivan and Farhan Akhtar. Designed to use the immense power of moviemaking to wake people up about AIDS, the project was the brainchild of Mira Nair and was produced by her company Mirabai Films. (source)

Watch for Free on Jaman HERE

other Bollywood Movies on HIV