Pardes: America is very bad for the Indian soul!

This is my contribution to Roti Kapada aur Rum’s  international call to all Indian film bloggers to submit something for Shameful Classics celebration in July, 2011.  After I saw Pardes (1997) last year I was very enthused about it, yet nearly every NRI I spoke to, emailed, or tweeted about it said how much they disliked the film.  I adored  Pardesmaybe because as a gori I’m free of the cultural shame some NRIs have over Bollywood films, so when Shameful Classics month came up, I figured it’s time to do a post on this insane film, after all I loved the film so much I practically screen capped it all!  In fact, if you scroll quickly over this post it will look like a flip book of the movie, THAT’S how many screen caps there are.  So I suppose at minimum I should be ashamed of adding to internet pollution. One of best parts of doing this blog is being able to rave about a movie that most of you saw years back that I’m just discovering now.  As I said, I LOVED this movie, but then again I tend to love all Subash Ghai films for their kitsch value and dramatic plot twists. Glancing over Ghai’s filmography, I’ve seen and enjoyed all of these, Vishwanath (1978);  Karz (1980);  Krodhi (1981);  Meri Jung (1985);  Ram Lakhan (1989);  Khalnayak (1993);  Trimurti (1995) (producer);  Taal (1999);  Aitraaz (2004) (producer);  Kisna: The Warrior Poet (2005);  Iqbal (2005) (producer);  Black & White (2008); and with time I’ve even remembered Yuvvraaj (2008) as resonating as a fun film, especially when Katrina’s character says something like , “You’re 100% complete anti-family hai!” to Salman’s character.  Remember that?! I LOVED that!  So is it possible that Ghai’s my favorite Bollywood director?  Should I be ashamed? Let’s continue on with Pardes!

Pardes, meaning “foreign land”, is a story that revolves around Ganga (Mahima Chaudhary). She is an Indian girl living in a rural village, brought up by her conservative family. Kishorilal (Amrish Puri) is a wealthy and successful businessman who lives in Los Angeles, America but is still deeply attached to his motherland India and adores the values and culture of India. On a visit to India, he meets his old friend Suraj Dev (Alok Nath) and stays at his house. During his stay he gets to know Suraj Dev’s family and becomes very attached to Ganga, Dev’s eldest daughter, who is the epitome of Indian culture. He hopes to find an Indian girl for his westernized, American son, Rajiv (Apoorva Agnihotri) and feels that Ganga is just right. He offers a marriage proposal between Ganga and Rajiv; Dev’s family accepts. Kishorilal knows he will have a tough time trying to convince Rajiv, who has never even visited India. But Kishorilal has a plan. He sends his foster son, Arjun (Shahrukh Khan) (‘Little Master’), to play cupid and convince Rajiv to visit India and meet and approve of Ganga. Arjun arrives at Dev’s house and makes changes and arrangements to make the place suitable for Rajiv. Rajiv joins him in a few days and initially does not like the idea. Arjun spends many days trying to get Ganga and Rajiv to like each other and, in the process, becomes a close friend of Ganga. Eventually Rajiv and Ganga agree to the wedding….(source)

Pardes (1997) is one of those America is bad for the India soul films, but unlike the more recently released MNIK, Pardes simple “America’s evil culture is bad, and India and its people are good,” theme didn’t bother me at all.  Perhaps this is because America was played a lot of the time by Canada, (Vancouver) in Pardes, and the places where innocent beautiful bride Ganga ( Mahima Chaudhry) does show up in the USA are really not so chaste, such as Las Vegas, aka sin city.

 

So let’s begin the tale of Pardes in India, where everything is good, see:

Those are the words of Amrish Puri’s character, Kishorilal, the typical NRI rich industrialist living in Ameerika who travels back to Hindustan to keep in touch with his roots and meet with childhood friends, like Alok Nath’s Suraj Dev.  After some typically spectacular Indian hospitality, Kishorilal thinks, “I Love My India” and figures why not marry his fancy American-raised son to a pure woman of India, Suraj’s beti, Ganga!.  Wouldn’t you do the same given the opportunity?

He  returns to India to pitch this idea to his fancy son, Ragiv (Apurva Agnihoti), who is of course amoral having been raised in the USA. But how to soften this blow to Ragiv?  How can a lad raised in the pure and constant luxury of America understand and accept India, a developing country?

How to solve this dilemma?  Well as it turns out, Kishorlal has a quasi son, a pure hearted orphan named Arjun, played by  Shahrukh Khan

who’s grown to be both an accomplished auto mechanic, who runs a fancy garage, where he dances with his boyz in their off time

 and also manages to be an Asian Music Chart topper!

 

See how humble Arjun is when being interviewed on a big radio show, even though he’s a chart topper? He’s from India, he’s a good man.

So Arjun escorts Rajiv over to India as his cultural attaché, which comes in handy when some village guy thinks he’s got a claim on bride-to-be Ganga and they decide to play a game of kabaddi to settle the score.

 

NRI Rajiv, is like Kabaddi? So this is where Arjun’s cultural attaché-ness comes in handy, he not only shows him how a mean game of kabaddi is played,

but he shows how to play kabaddi to win the girl!

I think I forgot the part where Ganga sees Arjun when he first arrives in India and thinks he’s cute before she ever sees Rajiv, so there’s that.  Just keep that in the back of your mind for now for dramatic foreshadowing purposes only…  Back to America, and Ganga is a bit shy upon arrival to this foreign land, for it’s so different from her beautiful India, but she’s not too shy to perform      I Love My India in front of the masses at a function. Kishorilal begins to plan for the wedding and it’s clear that he’s been contaminated by his time in America, revealing his superficial materialism, which does not exist in India, right?Ganga is comforted by orphan to foster savior son, Arjun, who is there in Canada America to soften the blow of culture shock. Rajiv is always busy with work and then while looking around the home, abandoned Ganga sees trashy gori and kali girl photos plastered on the walls, as well as dirty magazines and is rightfully concerned.   What does it all mean? Rajiv’s evil cousin helps to explain the morally bankrupt ways of America to innocent Ganga.

Rajiv, Arjun, and Ganga go out to a party on a fancy yacht in the port of Los Angeles Vancouver one afternoon and there’s a scuffle, and while Rajiv is focusing on his own richi-rich status…he doesn’t even notice when some guys leer and grope on Ganga, but watchful Arjun does, and defends her honor.One night the same three all go to a disco, something new to Ganga. She’s shocked to see Rajiv is smoking, but Arjun to the rescue, explains away any concerns about this to Ganga:

No worries, right?  It’s only a bit of smoking, right?  They go one to play some game at the disco called Prince & Princess Made in Heaven Contest which in all my time spent in American discos, I’ve never seen.Their compatibility is revealed in this game and they win!  See how happy they are together?

See the cute statue they win in the leucite box? Alas, their happiness is fleeting because in the background Rajiv is getting drunk.

But remember, Ganga is engaged to Ragiv, not Arjun, the man who’s maintained his pure Indian soul despite his long-term exposure to American culture.  Rajiv having spent all his life in the USA is not so fortunate to have learned good Indian morals, and he gets drunk and Arjun helps remove him from a brawl.

So these warning signs are adding up: the smoking, the drinking, the bar fight, the fight on the yacht, the dirty magazines, and an ex-girlfriend with a gori name. Rajiv even abruptly tells Ganga one evening he’s going out with his girlfriend, which is sort of a red flag, hai na?  Ganga is feeling reluctant about her upcoming marriage to Rajiv and seeks comfort in her friendship with Arjun.  On Arjun’s birthday she brings him a cake and some balloons and hangs out with him at the garage with the boys while Rajiv is probably out somewhere with this Kelly.Ganga even brings their “Match Made in Heaven” statue to the party and Arjun’s wise friend is bit suspicious, remember, Ganga is Rajiv’s match, not Arjun’s match.

It’s Arjun’s wise friend (Pavan Malhotra), peering around some Bollywood balloons, who sees the love he has in his eyes for Ganga. Can you see it too?

Rajiv becomes a bit jealous of the friendship between Arjun and Ganga, tells his dad Kishorilal, who in an effort to keep Arjun away from Ganga,  transfers him to another office very far from where they live now, which I tought was Vancouver posing as Los Angeles, but maybe it was really being Vancouver all along since he was sending Arjun away to Los Angeles, confusing.

In the meantime, Rajiv takes Ganga on a little trip to Las Vegas, corruption capital of America! There were plenty of gori extras,

and for the first time in a Hindi film I saw kali extras too:

Up in the hotel, Rajiv wants to share a penthouse room with his Indian fiance, and “take things to the next level.” Ganga is pure, Ganga is not having that!

What’s so spectacular about this near rape hotel scene is that Rajiv insults Ganga, but it’s not until he makes disparaging remarks against India that she snaps!  After the insults to India, the fight is on and she beats him up. I believe he does get one tight slap to the face in, but once Ganga is fired up, her rage for defending her mother India is unstoppable!  She escapes after knocking him out, and as luck would have it, some of Arjun’s home boys catch wind of Ganga’s location at a truck stop near Las Vegas. Please note the brick phone, I didn’t take this screen cap for nothing!

Kishorilal and Rajiv put the rush on the wedding plans and  plan to catch up with Ganga, who has now returned to her mother India with the help of Arjun, who rescued her from her peril in Las Vegas.  Obviously Kishorilal goes nuts and demands to know how she disappeared from the Vegas hotel, and Rajiv, doesn’t say, “well, I tried to rape her and she knocked me out,” but instead lies:

 

If you’ve read this blog before, you may know that I have a small hobby with spotting Johnnie Walker bottles in Indian films, and this shot is the limit!  Look at the slutty poster on the wall and FIVE bottles of Johnnie Walker, black label,  (not to mention the implied bottles that lurk between him and that poster) to match Rajiv’s black American heart!

Now safely back in India, Ganga’s reputation is ruined, because the NRI Americans have said she ran off with Arjun because they were in love, neglecting to tell the truth about Rajiv’s immoral and criminal behavior.  To be fair, Kishorilal has been lied to by his son Rajiv, so how is he to know that his orphan to foster son is really an innocent savior as pure as the Ganga, and Ganga herself? I love my India! Ganga’s mother is mortified at the disgrace that’s happened since her daughter returned unmarried, which really messes up the family izzat. Ganga’s dad, Suraj Dev believes the stories from America that Ganga has run off with Arjun.

Poor Ganga wants to protect her father from the truth about what happened in the US, considering that Kishorilal is his BFF and in leaving out a few key details (attempted rape) she and Arjun become the focus of Suraj Dev’s rage, for after all, a returned bride-to-be is a dirty thing in India.Wow Dad, so harsh! But you know who WON’T let his chaste Ganga be defiled with cruel lies or be hit by her own father!? Arjun! And here things get HOT! SRK goes full-blown crazy, cutting himself with a gigantic saber by pulling it by the blade from Suraj Dev’s furious hands!

I love it when SRK does crazy, it’s one of his strengths as an actor, that over the top  deliscious D R A M A, and Pardes delivers with his self mutilating with a large sword, to clearly make his point to Ganga’s dad. No one will hit or talk trash about Ganga!To escape further harm to Ganga’s already mistakenly tarnished reputation, Arjun runs off to what is supposed to be the bus station, but what is Fatehpur Sikri.  Remember, he was originally an orphan, so he believes that a return to orphanhood is perhaps his fate.  I loved how these scenes shot in historic Fatehpur Sikri were made to look like a bustling bus stand where SRK keeps toting around his backpack in various attempts to storm off in dignity. I had the good fortune to travel to Fatepur Sikri near Agra, India almost 2 years ago, and it looked more like THIS.  I’ve added a few of my own travel photos of this historic site here so you can see I was right near where Arjun was! Dekh! My Fatehpur Sikri:

Arjun’s Fatehpur Sikri:

Arjun’s Fatehpur Sikri may have some sufi action:

 But MY Fatehpur Sikri in the same location has some kingfisher action:

While Arjun runs off, Ganga has been locked away in the house, only to be released by her grandmother who urges her to go after Arjun!

Ganga catches up with Arjun before he gets on the bus at Fatehpur Sikri, but to preserve what he thinks is family honor, he feigns disinterest.  Ganga declares her love for Arjun, he holds back.

Grandma catches up to the scene and encourages Ganga and disburses wisdom.

That’s right girl!

Arjun and Ganga seem to work things out,

 

but guess who has arrived on the scene? Rajiv and some of his goonda friends wielding field hockey sticks, and Kishorilal!

Sorry Ganga, they have returned for you.  Let’s take a break for another view of My  Fatehpur Sikri, right about where all the action is taking place in Pardes:

And Action!

Rajiv finally gets his comeuppance!

Then Ganga finally reveals the wounds she suffered at Rajiv’s hands to Kishorilal and her own family.  Reputation cleared, izaat intact, for Ganga, for her family, for all of India!At last the wise orphan addresses his foster father and tell him what America has done to Kishorilal’s soul:What Kishorilal forgot in America is what he learned in his Bharat MataDoes Arjun get the girl? Is Kishorlal about to slap him or give him a pat of approval? If you don’t know see the film to find out.

It’s unfortunate that Kishorilal and Rajiv weren’t able to read and follow this sign that I found posted in the local mandir, The Hindu Temple of Minnesota. This would have helped them avoid all of the problems they had in America all together,

but then it’s a good thing they didn’t, so great film like Pardes could be made! Please share your thoughts of the film with me.

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?

Ram Aur Shyam (1967) and the Dramatic Birthday Party!

Let me start off by announcing it is my birthday today so it’s fitting to share with you my favorite birthday scene (so far) in a Bollywood movie.

Ram Aur Shyam (1967) stars Dilip Kumar in a double role-playing identical twins separated at birth who know not of each other until they unwittingly switch parts and their worlds collide. Kumar’s Ram is  a  timid dimwit, reminding me a lot Anil Kapoor’s  parts in Beta (1992), and  Yuvvraaj (2008); and Shah Rukh Khan’s part in Koyla (1997). Here’s Dilip playing his special needs Ram part.  Can you tell he’s slow here?

Ah, they’re all confused by Shayam acting so much unlike Ram, and we all know the cure for this, the tight slap, as suggested by Mumtaz here:

OK, let’s get the synopsis out of the way so I can get to the good stuff.

 Ram Aur Shyam is a 1967 Indian Hindi feature film, directed by Tapi Chanakya. Its producer B. Nagi Reddy previously produced Ramudu Bheemudu, a Telugu film starring N.T. Rama Rao, in 1964; Ram Aur Shyam is Nagi Reddi’s Hindi version. Ram Aur Shyam has music by Naushad and lyrics by Shakeel Badayuni, it stars Dilip Kumar (in his first dual role), Pran, Waheeda Rehman, and Mumtaz. The theme owes its origins to Alexandre Dumas, père’s story The Corsican Brothers: twins separated at birth who grow up with very different temperaments and then exchange places, leading to the villain being taught a lesson. Like The Corsican Brothers, which has been adapted into several feature films, Ram Aur Shyam has inspired remakes in Hindi movies too, with Seeta Aur Geeta (featuring female twins, played by Hema Malini) in 1972; Chaalbaaz (starring Sridevi) in 1989; and Kishen Kanhaiya (starring Anil Kapoor) in 1990. (source)

I have a filmi friend who jokes about Hindi movies saying, “and there was a wedding,” which is funny because isn’t there a wedding in 75% or more of all Indian films?  The Indian social system is glued together by marriage,  from the joint family system, to the industries that profit from the actual wedding functions themselves, so of course weddings are part of the movies because they’re so much a part of the culture. Yet nearly as often as the weddings are part of the films, I’ve noticed there are a lot of parties in general, and in particular birthday parties, the singing of  huppy burdhay tew ewe, and birthday cakes!  I love a good birthday cake!  Since it’s my birthday today, please indulge me and allow me to focus on the birthday section of this film, complete with some Bollywood balloons.

The Dramatic Birthday Party of Ram Aur Shyam go like this: The party for Shyam’s  niece, Kuku (Baby Farinda) begins, (except it’s Ram pretending to be Shyam): giant birthday card, huge cake, many guests…

Enter deliciously evil daddy of birthday girl, Pran, demanding silence. Khamosh!

Cute daughter approaches him and offers him some of her birthday cake:

It’s Pran, so you can guess what he does, right?  He slaps that plate right out of her hand on her birthday, in front of everyone! Look at her cry!

Oh no he didn’t!  Oh yes he DID!  Enter fake docile Shyam, lekin it’s really badass Ram:

Ram/Shyam picks up the cake from the floor…



then shoves it in Pran’s mouth! Can it get anymore dramatic and filmy than that? YES IT CAN! Because DEKH!  In this photo there is a Bollywood hat trick of:

  • a chandelier
  • grand central staircase
  • Bollywood balloons

Technically it’s even better than the hat trick, since it’s also a birthday party, with Pran, and a cake. Start watching at the 6 minute mark in order to see this wild scene take place.

Is the birthday ruined from this drama? Nahin!!! Enter Ram/Shyam with some more balloons and a happy song.

All is saved by a fantastic song and all the kids dancing to Aaye Hain Baharen Mite Zulmo Sitam by Mohammed Rafi.

Here’s one more Bollywood chandelier from the film for chandelier specialist, Shweta at Apni East India Company:

OK, the party is over, so I’ll just add that all the wacky mix ups and drama end with a double wedding ceremony for Ram aur Shyam, but this isn’t quite a spoiler alert, because I bet you can’t tell Ram from Shyam in these photos.

Wandering around the web, I found this great blog review of the film at Ranranbolly as well as one by the intellectual gold standard of all things filmy HERE at Philip’sfilums.

Sita-ji’s favorite Bollywood films from 2000-2009

Namaste yaar!  As 2010 dawns, I’d like to offer up some of my favorite films from the past decade. Technically I should wait until 2011 to count a full decade, but I’m doing it anyway.  I waiver from the blog’s subject of Bollywood quite often, but here I will try to focus on pure Bollywood filums, no Tollywood, Kollywood, no art house or parallel cinema, only sirf what is what I consider pure Bollywood. Shall we begin?

~ 2000 ~

Up for my nomination were Alaipayuthey (2000) but I disqualified it since it’s Tamil, and this is Bollywood decade in review, not Kollywood. I know it was remade into Saathiya in Hindi later, but not in 2000. I also enjoyed Zubeidaa (2000) and Hey Ram (2000) but those are both too art house, so disqualified! I almost chose Dhadkan (2000) because I love how crazy Sunil Shetty was in that movie. I ended up choosing Fiza (2000) because I like how Karisma Kapoor changes into some acid washed jeans to TCB (take care of business!) and heads to the northern border to go and search for her once sweet brother who has turned into a wayward terrorist. Don’t you hate when that happens? I mean the terrorism thing as well as acid washed jeans.

Plus, the word melodious was used in the film, so that automatically catapults it to the top of my list:

~ 2001 ~

So much to choose from in 2001.  My first choice would be 2001 Kandukondain Kandukondain (2001), but alas it’s Tamil, so disqualified. I also loved  Lagaan (2001), but that’s an obvious choice.  I have a soft spot for the especially freaky and melodramatic Lajja (2001), but it’s not the best of 2001.  One of my all time favorites is Chandni Bar (2001), but it’s parallel cinema, not Bollywood, so I choose the fantastic partition drama, Gadar: Ek Prem Katha (2001) starring Sunny DeolAmisha Patel, and Amrish Puri. I can still hear Amrish Puri’s character screaming, and picture  Amisha Patel’s character learning how to fold Sunny Deol’s turban.

Plus I really like the tune Main Nikla Gaddi Leke.

~ 2002 ~

Well the clear choice here could be the beautiful Devdas with all of Aishwarya and Madhuri’s lovely dancing,  and Shahrukh Khan’s fantastic overacting. And speaking of Aishwarya and 2002, I adored Chokher Bali, but Tagore and high brow Bengali cinema are not Bollywood, so I nominate Shakti – The Power (2002) starring Karisma KapoorNana Patekar, with an extended appearance with Shahrukh Khan, where he bleeds from the mouth like he does so often in films. Nana and Karisma freak out in this film like Amrish Puri to the 10th power, which means it’s ultra dramatic. Have you seen this one?  Do you remember the drama? I can still taste it!

~ 2003 ~

Kal Ho Naa Ho (2003) has a special place in my heart since it was one of my first Bollywood films, but I’d like to nominate Pinjar (2003) as my favorite for that year, since like I said above, I love a good Partition movie, and though it’s nearly a parallel cinema movie, it’s just Bollywood enough to count. Urmila Matondkar and Manoj Bajpai and Sanjay Suri are fantastic, and like all good movies, it still lurks in my memory.  Head over to Philip’sFil-ums for an excellent examination of  Pinjar.

~ 2004 ~

I loved Veer-Zaara (2004) and Swades (2004) as well as  Raincoat (2004) where Ajay Devgan and Aishwarya Rai do a magnificent job, but my rule says no parallel cinema, so for 2004 I offer up Ek Hasina Thi (2004), though nearly parallel cinema, it’s more mainstream Bollywood than Raincoat. I still remember what Urmila Matondkar‘s character did to  Saif Ali Khan‘s character, and if you don’t know what I’m referring to, see the film! You can also go over to Bollywood Deewana’s blog to see a slick review of the film.

~ 2005 ~

Water (2005) is a beautifully sad film but doesn’t count as Bollywood since it’s directed by NRI Canadian, Deepa Mehta. The other films from 2005 that stand out for me are Iqbal (2005) and Parineeta (2005), but for my decade review, I will award Ramji Londonwaley (2005) as my favorite.  Southie star Madhavan (wasn’t he fabulous in 3 Idiots?), and his charisma made this movie a favorite for me.

~ 2006 ~

If I could choose a Telugu movie for the best of 2006, it would be Bommarillu (2005), but it’s Bollywood, not Tollywood, so nahin! 2006 was a good film year for me; I loved FanaaOmkara, and Guru, but choose to mominate the slightly lesser known Taxi Number 9211 (2006) for the fantastic chemistry  John Abraham and Nana Patekar delivered in their lead roles, plus it taught me a new word in Hindi: gyarah, eleven!  Now if it has John Abraham, Nicki’s  blog (Hmong Chick who loves Indian Cinema) will have covered it, DEKH!

~ 2007 ~

Jab We Met ,  Namastey London,  and Om Shanti Om, were my favorites from 2007.  Wait let’s not forget Ta Ra Rum Pum…just kidding! :)  A lesser known film released that year  which I loved was Traffic Signal (2007). OK, technically it’s parallel cinema since it’s directed by Madhur Bhandarkar, but I love Kunal Khemu and Konkona Sen Sharma‘s work in the film, so it won! Read more about the film HERE at Ajnabi’s blog, Paisa Vasool.

~ 2008 ~


Mumbai Meri Jaan (2008 ) is compelling and thought-provoking, while Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi (2008) is a sweet, feel-good, Bollywood film on the other end of the spectrum and I loved them both. I also thoroughly enjoyed the fresh style of Jaane Tu… Ya Jaane Na (2008) and the award-winning lush epic, Jodhaa Akbar (2008).  For 2008, I will call Ghajini (2008) the best of the best.  Maybe I’ll do a post one day to tell you all the reasons I enjoyed Ghajini, but if you’re reading this blog, no doubt you’ve probably already seen the film and know how spectacular it is.  It has all the key ingredients of a great Bollywood film: orphans, mistaken identity, super evil bad guys,  parking ramp fights, flash backs, unrequited love, mental illness, organ harvesting, A. R. Rahman soundtrack, fantastic acting, and of course a scene with balloons and a birthday cake! Huppy burday to ewe, Huppy burday to ewe…

Listen to the beautiful song form the film, Guzarish with playback singer Sonu Nigam and music by the incomparable A. R. Rahman maybe my favorite of the decade:

lyrics translated by TheBollywoodFan HERE.

~ 2009 ~

Dosto, finally we come to 2009!  What a filmi feast we have had this year.  Magadheera (2009) the  epic blockbuster would win my nomination, but it’s Telugu language is not Hindi, na?  I saw this in the theater without subtitles and it still was my favorite of the year.  I have a friend who also speaks no Telugu who saw it in the theater 4 times, THAT’S how great it is.  I you’re interested in Magadheera, read what Post-Punk Cinema Club said about it  HERE.  Billu Barber was so sweet and fun,  Kaminay (2009) was a fabulous film, but too parallel cinema to be pure Bollywood.  And let’s not forget Kambakkht Ishq, just kidding. I’m fresh off seeing the smashing  3 Idiots, which I think is going to be considered the best Bollywood film of 2009 with reason, but I will instead chose Delhi 6 (2009) for my favorite. The gorgeous music and breathtaking scenes of Delhi were absolutely wonderful, and the plot twists were unconventional.  I particularly enjoyed all the Ramayana references throughout the film as well as the metaphysical messages.  Delhi 6 still resonates in my mind, for its beautiful layered, often spiritually uplifting messages about how we should relate to each other. Read Darshit’s insightful review of Delhi 6 HERE.   Now I’ll leave you with one of the beautiful and uplifting songs from the film, Masakali, with playback singer Mohit Chauhan, and music by A.R. Rahman, of course:

Here are other Bollywood bloggers lists of best  and worst of 2009 or of the decade: TheBollywoodFan; Apni East India Company; So They Dance; Filmi Girl. If I missed you let me know and I’ll link you in.  Happy Hew Year!  See you next year dosto!

Mehbooba (2008) 2 brothers, 1 woman, a chandelier, and lots of balloons, slaps, and Johnnie Walker

Mehbooba was released in 2008, but director Afzal Khan began filming in 1999.  There are a lot of reasons why the filming took so long to finally be released which you can read about HERE.

mehboobaThe film stars Sanjay Dutt, Ajay Devgan and Manisha Koirala in the lead roles. Set on a huge canvas and shot across three continents, America, Europe and Asia, with four different countries as the story’s backdrop, with New York, Budapest, Austria, Bikaner, Jaisalmer and Mumbai as the key locations, the film boasts of lavish settings and locales, expensive sets. (source) Also check out the film’s official website for more on the story.

Come with me for a quick review of what I enjoyed from the film.  Fancy NRI New York City based businessman Sharvan Dhariwal (Sanjay Dutt) meets Varsha (Manisha Koirala) and they enjoy a balloon filled party.  mehbooba.balloons

The film has some huge dance numbers, like Kuch Kar Lo with playback singer Sonu Nigam

Varsha finds Mr. Shravan Dhariwal much too arrogant for her traditional Indian ways and he takes things too far at a fancy balloon filled New Year’s party.

mehbooba.slap

Varsha warns him, and then winds up for a  tight slap to the face.

mehbooba.slap2 mehbooba.slap.1

Look at the aftermath of the slap: one sad bollywood balloon,  Sanjay, I mean Mr. Shravan Dhariwal, left alone with his feelings of regret, a cigarette, and a half empty bottle of Johnny Walker, black label, since he is a business tycoon afterall. Even business tycoons have it bad sometimes.  I almost feel sorry for him, dekh:

mehbooba.balloon.bummer.JW

Don’t feel too sorry for him because he’s got an evil plan brewing.   While sitting there he decides he will win over this Varsha woman in order to take his revenge.  He now has a vendetta!  He begins to formulate his nefarious plan the next day on his yacht, complete with the requisite blond gori extra (to represent low moral values, hai na?),  a bottle of Johnny Walker, and a phone that reveals that even thought the film was released in 2008, this scene must have been shot in 1999. ( Addition to this post:  It should be noted that  along with the Johnny Walker,  Samir the oenophile was able to identify Champagne, wine, orange juice, Perrier and  Heineken in front of the gori.  Perhaps this is used to emphasis the evil decadence of America and what it can do to an innocent NRI tycoon-industrialist-hotelier-investor.)

mehbooba.goriandJohnnieWalker

Evidently Mr. Shravan Dhariwal ki plan works because he gets Varsha Merha all dancey, wiggley, and happy here in the Tu Meri Mehbooba number with playback singer Udit Narayan:

Spoiler alert: Varsha Mehra does what is normally done after making the 7  nuptial rounds, if you know what I mean. Mr. Shravan Dhariwal tricked her into a night of love all because of that slap he suffered from Varsha at the party, and then on top of all that HE goes on to slap HER!  As we say here in the USA, payback is a mother%$#@&*!

mehbooba.slap.payback

mehbooba.slap.payback.2 mehbooba.slap.payback.3

mehbooba.slap.payback.4

Well you can’t just slap Sanjay Mr. Shravan Dhariwal at a lavish, balloon filled party in front of hundreds of his peers without some payback! In case those stills weren’t enough, take a look at what happens!

She was tricked by that player, but I say to Varsha, don’t hate the playa, hate the game.mehbooba.played

Like lots of girls do, Varsha heads over to Budapest with her broken dil.  She’s de-flowered afterall, so devalued in her own mind, but she meets a nice fellow, Karan (Ajay Devgan) who understands and loves her tarnished image.mehbooba.tarnish

mehbooba.bhailove

Karan wants to take Varsha home to India to introduce her to his family so they can get married.  Karan arrives to India before her and his brother also returns to India from New York and is delighted to see him. Karan spends a lot of time with Shravan. They party with dancing girls and drink Johnny Walker.

mehbooba.jw.2

And they spend more time drinking Johnny Walker.

mehbooba.jw.5 mehbooba.jw.3

mehbooba.jw.4

mehbooba.tub.2They even hang out in the hot tub together which some might find a bit homoerotic, but they’re brothers, you know how brothers take hot bubble baths together, right?  They take baths together and caress each others faces, right?

mehbooba.tub

Despite all these good times, Karan notices that Shravan is very melancholy and spends lots of time playing the piano and drinking Johnny Walker.

mehbooba.jw

Varsha arrives and she soon finds Karan’s rich, bahut rich, but little does she know he’s got a brother who is that same man who she had the intimate encounter with in New York. In fact, she never even catches a glimpse of him until her marriage to Karan is already taking place.mehbooba.crazycrazycrazy

Karan does eventually figure it all out and goes pagal and swings from a chandelier, did you know about THAT chandelier Shweta?

mehbooba.chandelier

mehbooba.manishaHow does Mehbooba end? Does Varsha marry Karan? Or does she marry his brother, Mr. Shravan Dhariwal?  You know I can’t even remember since it’s been a while since I’ve seen the film, so even if I wanted to tell you I couldn’t.  I do recall that they didn’t even ask Varsha what she wanted and I’m not sure that she should choose either if they didn’t even check with her.   As usual, please let me know what you thought of this film, I’d love to hear from you.

Izzat (1968) featuring Jayalalitha

izzat

Izzat (1968) stars  Dharmendrain a double role playing brothers who don’t know they’re brothers until late in life. One is rich, the other poor; one dark, the other fair; one a land owner’s privileged son, the other an illegitimate  hard working student who’s just been orphaned.  There are no illegitimate children, only illegitimate parents!..doesn’t Amitabh or SRK scream that out in some film, maybe it’s Amitabh in Lawaaris?  Tell me if you know.  Fate brings the Dharmendrai together and wacky misunderstandings occur and vendettas are settled.  Here’s a plot summary courtesy of  the prolificrAjOo, but skip it if you don’t want spoilers.

After completing his college, dark-skinned Adivasi Shekhar returns home and finds that his mother, Savli, has passed away. Distraught, he is consoled by Father Abraham, who also tells him that his mother had an affair with wealthy Ramgarh-based Thakur Pratap Singh, who refused to marry her even after she became pregnant. Shekhar decides to avenge his humiliation and sets forth to expose Pratap. Upon arrival in Ramgarh, he finds that he has a fair-skinned look-alike half-brother, Dilip, as well as a sister, Neelu. Dilip meets him, hires him as an office staff person, and asks him to impersonate him in order to meet Deepa, the only daughter of wealthy Vinodbabu, and Shekhar agrees to do so. Shekhar meets Deepa and both are attracted to each other. Shekhar decides to tell her the truth about himself, and returns to Ramgarh. Once there, he finds history repeating itself as Dilip is in love with an Adivasi belle, Jhumki, but is refusing to marry her. Written by rAjOo (IMDB)

At the beginning of the film Shekhar who I will refer to as dark Dharmendra, since in the film they make a big deal about this dark skin, finds out about his mother’s tragic past, and his parentage.  That Thakur (Balraj Sahni) kaminey found his dark skinned, low caste villager good enough to sleep with, but once she was with child, he coldly accuses her of wanting his lakhs. Thakur is wrong, all she wants is his love, and ek chutki sindoor and blessings of the goddess.izzat.$

"Ek chutki sindoor!"

"Ek chutki sindoor!"

So Shekhar works himself into the fancy home of his father and finds that he’s got a fairer skinned half brother.
izzat.vendetta izzat.double Shekhar’s got some killing on his mind, but he also finds himself at a party.  What to do? Dharmendra sings at  the party, as Shekhar and they all think he’s his look alike rich brother,  Dilip.  Please take note of the bollywood balloons that decorate the party:izzat.balloonI suppose I should have been excited by Dharmendra and Tanuja’s performances  here (yawn), but for me this was  Jayalalitha‘s film.   It was the first time I’d ever seen her.  She plays a super spunky mountain girl, who likes that fancy Dharmendra character, fair-skinned Dilip, but he’s socially out of her reach, being wrong caste for her to desire, let alone acquire.  She can’t possibly marry up…or can she?  Take a good look at her, I think she can:
izzat.item.3

The live wire  Jayalalitha of Izzat transformed herself into a  real life politician. It was the first time I’d seen her in a movie, and she was a Tamil star, so her part in a Hindi film was not the norm.  She also did some playback singing.

Prior to her venture into politics, she had a successful career in the Tamil film industry as an actress. She acted in the English language movie “Epistle” released in 1961 produced by Shankar Giri, son of former president of India Dr. V.V. Giri. Chinnada Gombe, her first film (in Kannada) was a major hit. Her first Telugufilm Manushulu Mamathalu made her famous. In 1972, she was honoured by the Tamil Nadu government with the award Kalaimamani. She has acted opposite Dharmendra in the Hindi Movie named Izzat. Her last film was Nadhiyai Thedi Vandha Kadal in the year 1980. (source)

Now that I know she’s an over achiever, I’m a bit suspicious of her, but after her performance in Izzat, I’d vote for her, no problem.  On a side note, I would be an extremely reckless voter in India, for that very reason. “Jaylalitha is on the ballot!?  She was soooo cute in Izzat, and what a dancer!” I’d check that ballot, not even caring about her politics simply because she was so cute in that film.  Good thing I can’t vote in India. In her role as Jhulki, she’s fearless, not afraid to love:

izzat.youth

izzat.chuklishekar

She’s not afraid to defend herself against a dirtball goonda/thug/dacoit. This scoundrel has lusted after her and when he tries to forcefully move in, she delivers a tight slap to the face! Go girl!

izzat.slapI wasn’t able to find a version of the item number featuring Jayalalitha dancing with about 30 other women to the music Laxmikant Pyarelal and a lavish set, but I did find it as part of a set clips of the full movie uploaded on youtube. Now THIS is what I call an item number:

The beginning part of this number, which is not in the above clip can be seen about 8 1/2 minutes into this link.  This number was so lavish that I needed to screen cap some of it for the world to see.  Look how fantastic Jayalalithaa looks here.izzat.item.7izzat.item

Eventually that nasty Thakur gets his just rewards.  It was only a matter of time before karma catches up with him.izzat.tribalsWell, tribals will be tribals, so easily incited and ready to light a torch for justice.izzat.riotThough she had a small part, I was very taken with Laxmi Chhaya’s performance as a servant.  She’s a real mess here, but very hot, so I suppose she’s a hot mess. I just love the colors here, from the walls to her sari, to her make up. Fantastic!izzat.maid.2

izzat.maid

izzat.jesusandtheflagstone

And as a nice touch, there was a cute little statue of Jesus, in front of some stylin’ flagstone.  I like my Jesus with flagstone, sort of how I like my coffee with mile and sugar. Now I’ve got to see more of Jayalalitha, so looks like there will have to be some more Tamil, Telegu and Kannada films are in my future. Now head over to Memsaab’s blog, to read her impressions of Izzat.

Noor Jehan, Queen of Melody. Plus: murder by balloons!

Dosto! I’m working my way back from the world of Iranian cinema through Pakistan films, before I eventually land again in Bollywood. I have only seen two Pakistani (Lollywood)  films, one was Khuda Ke Liye (2007) and the other,  Dupatta (1952).  I read about Dupatta at Dances on the Footpath where Richard did a great write up HERE. I’d heard of singer/actress Noor Jehan, who of course I like to call  Mallika-e-Tarranum, the queen of melody.

noorjehan_bw noor1

Now that’s really and achievement to be a playback singer and actress all in one.  The song that sticks in my mind still months after viewing the film is Chandani Raatein:

Then I found a more recent version of the song and Noor Jehan is really the Queen of Melody in this rendition:

If you want a modern Bally Sagoo remix of the same tune, Darshit told me about this version.

Chandani Raatein is not all that stuck in my head from the film.  If you read this blog, you may have seen me fixate on the use of balloons in Bollywood films.  I love it!  Well this scene from Lollywood surpasses almost all balloon scenes I’ve seen in Bollywood, except for maybe this one from Hum Kisise Kum Nahin.  Enjoy this sweet little murder by balloons scene and keep it in mind in case you need to murder a small child, or anyone easily fascinated by balloons:

The entire film has been lovingly uploded with English subtitles by jimmynoor68 HERE. Now please, take these balloons…no, no, how about from here. Yes now step up here…yes! take them from here…

noorballoons