Amitabh vs. Lady Gaga: Bollywood did it better!

There was a lot of hullabaloo last week regarding Lady Gaga hatching from a giant egg at the Grammy Awards before her performance of a song too reminiscent of Madonna’s Express Yourself to be considered original. With all the attention about the song being a copy of another, I say WAIT!  The egg hatching is also a copy!  Bollywood did it first, and Bollywood did it better.  You already know of  Amitabh Bachchan’s big egg reveal from Amar Akbar Anthony (1977) in My Name is Anthony Gonsalves and if not, here it is:

So readers, please vote: Who had a more magnificent hatching from a giant egg, Amitabh Bachchan,

or this other performer?

Vote karo!

 

Johnnie Walker bottles in Bollywood

Yaar, I had to call you and tell you the news…I’d like to send out the old year and welcome in the new year with a toast to all you readers with a peg of Johnnie Walker.

I always notice Johnnie Walker whiskey bottles in Bollywood films. Perhaps I have a very specific obsessive compulsive disorder that deals exclusively with finding Johnny Walker bottles in the films. I have photos of Johnnie Walker bottles sprinkled throughout this blog, but I thought I’d follow the lead of Shweta at Apni East India Company, who keeps a chronicle of Bollywood chandeliers and create a separate page for all the Johnny Walker.  So please click over to the new Johnnie Walker in Bollywood page and send me your photos to add.

 Have ek aur peg of Johnnie Walker now for our toast! I raise my glass to you, wishng you all the best in the new year!

That Girl in Yellow Boots (2010) and how I met Anurag Kashyap in Minneapolis!

Back on November 3, 2010, I had the pleasure of watching Anurag Kashyap’s new film written with, and starring Kalki Koechlin at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Asian Film Festival.

That Girl in Yellow Boots is an upcoming Indian Thriller film by critically acclaimed director Anurag Kashyap. Starring Kalki Koechlin and Naseeruddin Shah, the film will premiere at the Venice Film Festival. It will also be screened at the Toronto International Film Festival.  Ruth (Kalki Koechlin) comes to Mumbai to find her long-lost father, but when she takes a job as a massage therapist to make ends meet she becomes involved in the seedier side of the city. Although the money is welcome, and she does enjoy the adventure that comes with her new job, she soon faces an important moral decision. (source)

That Girl in Yellow Boots was the opening film in the festival, and as an added bonus, the director attended the film and answered questions before and after the screening. I had no idea this festival was going on and thanks to a tweet from Nicki, the Hmong Chick Who Loves Indian Cinema, I was able to learn about the event just 2  hours before it happened!  I’ve seen Kashyap’s  Black Friday (2004) and Dev. D (2009) and was already a big fan of his work, so I was delighted for the opportunity to see his new film. What was even more exciting was that Kashyap appeared at the event!

That Girl in Yellow Boots also was shown in September of 2010 as part of the Toronto International Film Festival, which you can read about here in a review by Marissa Bronfman

Look how fancy THAT event was! And get a load of Kalki’s gorgeous saree.   Kashyap’s outfits at the different events indicates The Minneapolis/St. Paul Film festival was quite a bit less formal that the Toronto festival.

Q & A before and after screening of That Girl in Yellow Boots

During the pre and post question and answer sessions, Kashyap graciously answered questions about his new film as well as previous works.  He spoke about the censor board in India and the difficulties to passing films through that process.  He also spoke about some missing (lost or destroyed, I can’t recall) footage from Black Friday (2004), and how it was merely pieced together with much of  its full/original content gone.  Having enjoyed Black Friday very much, I can’t imagine how more footage would have improved on an already great film.  A lot of the comments were basically, “Your films are so dark” and at one point Kashyap responded in good humor, something like, “With 800  happy films made in India in a year, it’s OK if 200 can not be happy.”  I bet there’s some recording of these before and after film comments by Kashyap and if I come across it, I’ll link it in.  I can only rely on my memory of the event, and I was so thrilled to be there that a lot of what I heard  has receded in to a vague happy memory.  I should have jotted down some notes or written this down right after it happened, but alas I did not.   There is a very nice interview with Kashyap done by MTN, and while the interviewer does not seem to understand quite how big of a deal Kashyap is, and doesn’t ever manage to say his name correctly, she makes up for this with her earnest curiosity, so I forgive her. :)  If you watch the interview, which I recommended, note how polite Kashyap is with his interviewer too, meeting her at her level of understanding and moving her along quickly to learn a lot in a short time.

The full interview with Kashyap on MTN can be found HERE.  There’s also  a very nice review of the film, by local writer, Will Wright, HERE.

Upon completing the question and answer session after the film, several audience members stopped Shree Kashyap for photos, autographs, and conversation while he was exiting the theater.  I caught him and said something like, “Do you want to know my FAVORITE scene from  Dev. D ?” I didn’t give him a chance to say no, and told him it was the scene when Mahi Gill’s Paro is dancing, knowing the Dev (Abhay Deol)  is finally on his way back home to the Punjab from London, but not back yet, and suddenly she glances up and sees him photographing her.

And then she meets him privately in the house, and he puts his arm up against the wall, to make sure she stays:

The scene described can be found here starting at 2:20:

That is one of my favorite movie sequences EVER for it completely captures the passionate anticipation the characters have for each other.  Though I told Kashyap how  much I loved that scene,  I’m not sure if he heard what I exactly said, since I said it so quickly and he was trying to attend to his other fans, but I loved having the opportunity to tell him that in person.

The After Party

If that wasn’t good enough, here’s the even better part: I actually got to sit and chat with Mr. Kashyap after the film! There was a gathering after the film viewing at a nearby bar,  Honey.  Now I know Honey sponsored the event, and they serve Asian fusion food, and this was an Asian film festival, BUT just across the street, within a stone’s throw of the Ganga Mississippi River,  is Nye’s Polonaise Room, voted best bar in America, which would have been my choice.

Nye’s has a lot more filmi charm and the character that a director of Kashyap’s reputation deserves, but I digress. Along with some of the audience, I made my way over to Honey and watched Anurag Kashyap speak with viewers.  I had a wonderful time talking about films with some NRIs and after about an hour we worked up our courage to approach that table where the director was sitting and eventually we sat down and talked to him.  As time passed I was able to sit right next to him and tell him another favorite scene I had from Dev. D. It’s the one where Kalki Koechlin’s character is asked to decide on a name to use in the brothel by Chunni (Dibyendu Bhattacharya)

and while watching Madhuri Dixit’s Chandramuki in Devdas (2002) on TV, she replies:

I also love the steaming momos sequence in Dev. D. but forgot to tell him that.

I asked Kashyap if he liked how Emosanal Attaychar was worked into  the background soundtrack of Peepli Live (2010). He asked what I thought of the new film. I told him it was fabulous.  Though the subject was dark, the humor and suspense worked in throughout relieved the intensity at just the right times.  I especially loved the scene where the goonda breaks into Ruth’s home and stubbornly struggles to work the various remote controls for her entertainment system.  I overheard one of the Tamilian NRI‘s at the table talk to Kashyap about Rajinikanth.  These Madrasis can’t help but talk about their superstar, I understand.  While Kashyap did not mention that he’d be working with Rajinikanth, he did say he was working on a film with Prithviraj and Rani Mukeji, if I heard correctly.  I’m not sure if he meant on the same film, if he was currently working on this project, or if they were separate projects not yet started.  My internet research does confirm the Prithviraj project.   Another thing discussed were the film’s yellow boots. Kashyap said in the store it was a choice between yellow or red Doc  Martens, and the yellow boots won.  I told him I thought the work boots were to represent that Ruth was there in Mumbai to do the heavy labor of finding out the mystery of her past;  she was there to take care of some dirty business, thus the work boots.  He said, no, but that this is the beauty of film, one can think what they’d like, make a variety of their own interpretations regardless of the director’s intentions.  I also told him that his films are in our Minneapolis library system, and he seemed to like that.  I did exercise great restraint by NOT saying some of these things I was thinking:  “Where’s Kalki?  I wanted to see Kalki too! How much does Nasruddin Shah charge  to be in a film? What about Abhay Deol?! He’s SO cute, what’s he like?!” I did though try to touch Mr. Kashyap’s feet for fun, something I like to do to Indians because I love when they say, “no, no, no,”   just like in the movies and it’s how I indulge my fantasies of being a gori extra in film.

He did the usual, when I tried to touch his feet and Anuragji said, “No, you must not do this.”  Kashyap left the table to go out to smoke and left his iPad, and I thought if I were the stealing type, a goonda, a dacoit, that would be a great iPad to steal, maybe get a few movie ideas out of it to sell.  While I did not steal his iPad, I confess, I stole on sip of whiskey from his unattended glass, only just a small part of the peg.  I felt fancy and daring doing this, and I’m almost positive that it was Johnnie Walker, and I would presume it was black label, hai na?  Wouldn’t you have done the same given the opportunity?

I was delighted to have the opportunity to see Kashyap’s new film and get a chance to share a few  moments chatting with him.  Read more about The Girl in Yellow Boots HERE, and in Katherine Matthew’s insightful Bollyspice review HERE, and be sure to see it when it’s released next year.

The wise man of Pardes (1997) Kaun hai? It’s Pavan Malhotra!

I watched Pardes (2007) this week and have not been able to find out who this man is pictured below. Kaun hai?

He plays the very wise friend to Shahrukh Khan’s character, Arjun.  At first I thought that maybe the sage was played by Arshad Warsi, but he’s not in the credits. Do you notice how wise he is?  While the others in this scene are dancing and playing with balloons, as is so typical of Hindustanis worldwide, he is still, taking in the bigger picture, and contemplating the inner workings of Arjun’s heart and soul. So please help me out and look beyond the Bollywood balloons and tell me what is the name of this wise, bearded man, playing with his mullet.  And maybe as your own personal challenge during this week’s Diwali and Halloween celebrations, you can take the time between balloons, cakes, costumes, candy,  parties, and lights,  to stand still, play with your hair and try to figure out what Shahrukh Khan and his various characters are really thinking, I know I will.

Updated 11/6/10

Thanks Shweta and Tapan for bringing to light in their comments on this post that the actor in question is Pavan Malhotra. I now realize that I’ve seen him in several movies before, including Earth (1998),  Black Friday (2004),  Don – The Chase Begins Again (2006), Jab We Met (2007), Delhi 6 (2009) and most recently in  Badmaash Company (2010), where once again he plays a sage (Uncle Jazz)  doling out timeless good advice to those in need.

But what about when one makes very big mistakes?

Awaargi (1990)

Awaargi (1990) is a little tale about a prostitute with a heart of gold who is rescued from the brothel while she’s still chaste, by a goonda who also possesses  a heart of gold under his rough exterior.   This picture rolled at the film’s start and aren’t we all grateful to Hema for something?  Allow a moment to reflect…

The lead Meena (Meenakshi Shishandri) never actually becomes a full-fledged prostitute, but I like to write prostitute with a heart of gold, so let’s just leave it like that, instead of the more clumsy nearly became a prostitute with a heart of gold.  That sounds too awkward, doesn’t it?  Here’s a nice little collection of screen captures of Meenakshi/Meena as a nautch girl before the lovable scoundrel Azaad,  played by a well-mulletted Anil Kapoor, saves her from that fate.

I just loved Meenakshi and can’t believe I hadn’t seen her in more films.  I now would love to see her entire filmography and was able to find a mutual love for her at Nicki’s Hmong Chick Who Loves Indian Cinema’s blog and also at Bollywooddeewana.  Meena’s innocent past included singing at the mandir and studying music under the guidance of her music teacher father.  After a near miss at a prostitution career, Meena is catapulted toward super stardom and is half of the singing and dancing duo.  How does that happen you may wonder?  Well as it so happens, pop star Dhiren  (Govinda!) sees Meena performing in a hotel lounge singing gig that Azaad secured for her and is immediately enthralled by her.  Govinda is very luscious in this film.  How would YOU like to be the focus of Govinda’s gaze here?

Doesn’t that make your heart skip a beat? He invites her to become his song and dance partner and to go on tour with him.  She’s so nervous!  But look how he helps encourage her to go!I didn’t realize that Bollywood invented flamenco dancing until I saw this film and the song Ae Mere Saathiya featuring playback singers Lata Mangeshkar and Mohammed Aziz, with music by Anu Malik, and lyrics by Anand Bakshi.  This is proof:

This wonderful flamenco inspired number includes an impressive backdrop of chandeliers that Apni East India would covet.  It’s so hard to capture the fluid and graceful Govinda in the dance, but despite the blurred focus, these are still something to behold. Govinda and chandelier:

Meena stays with Azaad, and he begins to fall in love with her and dream of a life away from the one he’s lived as a goonda.

Ever since Azaad  has lost his drive for the goonda lifestyle,  his don, played by Anupam Kher, notices this change and tries to encourage Azaad to not lose his focus on crime.

And if this isn’t enough trouble for Azaad, now Meena realizes that she’s falling in love with Dhiren, and the Bollywood love triangle begins!Meena is aware that Azaad is the one who saved her from the fate of being a nautch girl/prostitute, so she is indebted to him and thus rejects Dhiren’s love to fulfill her perceived obligation to Azaad.   Eventually she lets Azaad know her feelings are conflicted.


Azaad finds out about the feelings Meena and Dhiren have for each other and to stop their love from blooming rushes ahead with a marriage proposal.  Dhiren falls into a sea of despair, thinking he’s lost his chance with  Meena.  Normally I see Govinda as a jolly good time guy, dancing and prancing about, but  behold the deliciously rare emo-Govinda!

At a party to announce his engagement to Meena, Azaad becomes drunk and decides to deal with his jealousy over Dhiren and Meena’s love by telling everyone that he bought Meena from a brothel.  Now that  somehow did not help smooth things over.

Dhiren is at the party, and witnesses Azaad humiliate Meena and can’t understand how she could agreed to marry Azaad.

So *spoiler alert* Dhiren goes to comfort Meena after her public humiliation and ends up (as we say in the USA) going all the way with her during the time that Azaad is sleeping off his drunkness.  When Azaad wakes up, his friends tell him about what an idiot he was at the party and he goes to look for Meena to apologize.  Remember, Azaad is a goonda, savvy to the ways of the world, so when he sees a clue like this…

Now you are most likely not a goonda, and perhaps a bit more naive than Azaad, so I’ll help you out with a clue.  Look beyond that bottle of Johnnie Walker on the table, and take a closer look at what Azaad sees…

That’s right! Lipstick on the glass, a glass that is emptied of its Johnnie Walker red liable whiskey! Which can only mean *spoiler alert* that Meena and Dhiren went all the way! Meena tells a Azaad something like, yeah I slept with Dhiren, and!  Then of course the fight begins over her love and a love triangle Bollywood brawl begins.

How does it end?  I’ll let you guess!  The entire movie has been uploaded to YouTube with English subtitles HERE so if you need to know who ends up with who, give it a watch.  Have you already seen this film?  If so, tell me what you remember.  Now before I leave, I have to share with you that Awaargi had so many instances of Johnnie Walker bottles, that felt obliged to make a visual record of it.  Some bottles are red label, others are black label, but they all show up in scenes here that warn of trouble brewing. Let this be a lesson to you: When you see a Johnnie Walker bottle in a Bollywood film, trouble is not far behind.

Now just LOOK and how lucky this shot is!  It includes BOTH the Johnny Walker bottle and a threat of the tight slap in the same shot!  These of course are two of the things I track in all Bollywood films, so for this reason, I say Awaargi is a classic, because I really don’t take a Bollywood film seriously until I see a tight slap, or at least the threat of one, and a bottle of Johnnie Walker.

“I love white plumpness,” A Struggle on the Nile (1959)

I was at my local library the other day when this DVD cover’s image mesmerized me: the art, the font used in the English version of the title, the Arabic font, the entire package, VAY!  Of course I had to check out  A Struggle on the Nile (1959) and watch the movie after the cover image enticed me oh so much. I can’t seem to get enough of this spectacular poster, so here’s yet another great version of the movie poster I found at Movie Poster Collecting: Omar Sharif’s Egyptian Films:

The movie is in Arabic, so it’s not technically not Bollywood, but it has the familiar love triangle theme of many Indian film industry movies.  The love triangle involves characters played by Omar Sharif, Hind Rostom, Roshidi Abaza.

Now HERE is why I was compelled to do a post on this film, because of this scene where Omar Sharif‘s  Muhasab character is frolicking in the Nile with Hind Rostom‘s character, Nargis, while Roshidi Abaza‘s Mujahed and other boat workers look on in lust and envy…

And here is what they say:

And once more en Francais, because it’s such a great subtitle:

I felt so proud of my own personal white plumpness after reading these subtitles, I wanted to eat some cake! As it turns out, I am not the only Bollywood fan who enjoyed Hind Rostom, because when I was looking around the internet for more information on the movie, I found that fellow blogger Richard from Dances on the Footpath wrote a post on Rostom which you can enjoy HERE.