Lagaan: Elizabeth, More Than Just A Gori Extra

Elizabeth (Rachel Shelley), She’s more than just a gori extra.

With the encouragement of theBollywoodFan, I decided to contribute to his Lagaan Week to celebrate the 9th anniversary of the release of the epic film.  In order to develop something that would resemble a worthwhile blog post, I knew I had to re-watch Lagaan, since it had been a couple of years since I’d last seen it.  It was my third time seeing Lagaan, and I enjoyed it even more than I did the first 2 viewings, which I believe speaks to the quality of the film.  In case you don’t already know, Lagaan is about Indian villagers challenged by some British imperialists to a game of cricket, and if the villagers win they would not have to pay the Brits the unfair land taxes, known as Lagaan.   Captain Andrew Russell (Paul Blackthorne) is a one-dimensional scoundrel, and this cruel man offers a wager he believe the Indians will never win.  His naive, yet kind-hearted sister, Elizabeth (Rachel Shelley),  arrives to India and begins to take in the scenes with a curious and open mind.  I love seeing  white people pop up in Indian films, since I can pretend they are me!  I can also think  hey, I can one day break into the Indian Film Industry, see, there’s a white person too! So with this delusional thinking, naturally I was fascinated to see Elizabeth.

Despite not knowing Hindi, she quickly sizes things up and all too soon she witnesses her brother’s  maniacal ways.

I do enjoy seeing the word “Whitey” it the subtitles, so I show it to you a lot in this post, here’s a start:

Lagaan (2001) is the movie that taught me about cricket, a little game I’d previously called gilli danda back in my village in India.

Wait, sorry, no village, no India, I keep loosing track that I’m from America and am not Indian, please pardon me.  When I was in contact with theBollywoodFan about Lagaan week, I said I’d like to take the angle of writing about Elizabeth (Rachel Shelley), the gori extra since I’m always making note of my white sisters surfacing in Bollywood films;  theBollywoodFan, wise beyond his years, calmly replied, “She’s more than a gori extra,” and I realized he was right!  She is more than your typical gori extra, she not only plays a bigger role, but she also serves to bridge the cultural gap between the different groups, and helps us think, Hey, wait just one minute, not all these Britishers are so bad after all.  When the villagers are watching the game of cricket, Bhuvan ends up catching a ball out in the field which leads to a confrontation with some of the British players, that ultimately develops into the bet being made over the cricket game and the land tax.

Elizabeth realized this bet is unfair since the villagers are sure to lose a game they don’t know when pitted against people who have a full understanding and longtime experience with the game, not to mention endless leisure hours to play since the Indians are toiling away to make them rich.  She sets out to try to right her brother’s wrong by helping the villagers understand the finer points of the game.

So the teaching and leaning begins…

Recruitment: Initially Elizabeth teaches a small group the game, but there’s still the obstacle of establishing a full team who will be up for the extreme challenge.  Finally a diverse group of people are gathered from the village and surrounding areas since they have a common interest in eliminating the unfair tax by their common enemy, the British.

I learned all I need to know about cricket here:

Jealousy: Gauri (Gracy Singh) is a young village woman who has her eye on Bhuvan so it follows that she starts to get concerned about all the time he spends with the white memsahib.

Cultural exchange: Elizabeth helps to teach some of the finer points of cricket to the villagers, and in turn Bhuvan teaches her something about the Hindu legend of Radha & Krishna.


Elizabeth is enamoured by the festival and is even further taken in by Dandiya Raas number  Kaise Na Jale with music by A.R.  Rahman, playback singers Asha Bhonsle,  Udit Narayan, Vaishali.

Confession: As it turns out, Gauri wasn’t far off on her women’s intuition because Elizabeth, who has managed to learn Hindi in a few days, confesses her pyaar love for Bhuvan.  Luckily she’s able to save face since the part where she really lays it on the line is in English, so Bhuvan doesn’t understand, yet I think he may suspect it.

Fantasy: The tune O Rey Chori,  (playback singers Udit Narayan, Alka Yagnik, Vasundhara Das) includes Elizabeth’s fantasy of what it would be like if Bhuvan was in her British world, or if she was in his Hindustani duniya.


Elizabeth is caught: A double crossing villager with an ulterior motive  informs Captain Russell that his sister is helping the villagers to learn cricket.  With shame, I admit I did find Captain Russell quite handsome, despite his evil deeds. Do you?

If I can answer for Elizabeth here, I’d tell her brother that it would be the delicious food and the Indian Film Industry that would allow her to turn against her brother, but I suspect she may say something about the cool Dandiya Raas dances and doing the right thing in the face of injustice.
The BIG Game: The stakes are high, and Aamir Khan’s Bhuvan conveys this beautifully here.  I believe Khan is very talented and expressing emotion through his eye, and this is a perfect example. Dekh!  I bet you’re even crying looking at the photos.  I am.



Elizabeth watches the game, worried about the outcome, rooting all the while for the villagers.  I suppose in Indian English one would say she was chewing her brains and taking much tension isn’t it?  In case you haven’t seen Lagaan and don’t know the outcome of the game *SPOILER ALTER*

There are winners and losers. Elizabeth sees the joyful embrace between Bhuvan and Gauri at the end of the match, and instantly understands that her fantasy will never be a reality.

Bittersweet ending: She can’t have Bhuvan, but she can play Radha to his Krishna.

Finally, you may be wondering how all those gori cheerleaders made their way to India, and I’m here to tell you that  Bhuvan and Lagaan are the reason.  When Elizabeth returned to England, she started the  first cricket cheerleading squad, and there after tradition has held that all IPL cheerleaders are to be white only.

And speaking of Lagaan and the IPL, Did you see A. R. Rahman perform at the 2010 closing ceremonies?   

After exploring the part of Elizabeth in Laagan, I am tempted to do a series on the pantheon of gori extra patron saints of Bollywood.

My personal favorite is the character Christina ( Barbara Lindley) from  Purab Aur Paschim (1970).

Opps! sorry, she’s been objectified as only a gori cold be, let me get a better picture of her….Ah, here, that’s better!

And then there’s Katherine (Antonia Bernath) in  Kisna: The Warrior Poet (2005)-yeah, I admit I saw it! So WHAT!?!

Sue McKinley (Alice Patten) of Rang De Basanti (2006); and most recently Sarah (Sarah Thompson) of Raagneeti (2010).

And like all good Bollywood films, allow me to leave you with some inspiration, courtesy of Bhuvan…and the moral of the story is:

This post was so long, time to roll the credits…

For more on Third Annual Lagaan Week: Ninth Anniversary Special, click over to theBollywoodFan-ji’s blog.

Dayavan (1988) The Khanna-o-Rama that is Vinod

In honor of Beth Loves Bollywood’s international Khanna Family initiative to celebrate all film industry Khannas, Khanna-o-Rama, I would like to contribute a little write-up on Dayavan (1988).

 

It starts out with poor little orphan, Shakti Vellu, aka Dayavan (kid version of Vinod Khanna) ending up witnessing his dad being unjustly murdered by some corrupt police.  He has to flee his southern home and hide in Bombay for safety only to run into some punks on the seaside who try to beat and rob him.  During this fight, Dayavan runs into a little ruffian, Shanker (kid version of Feroz Khan), who is impressed by Dayavan’s fighting skills,  flair, generosity, piety, all that good stuff , which to me are the personality traits I want to believe the Khanna’s  (Rahul, Akshaye, and Vinod) posses in real life, don’t you?  OK, real life, whatever, back to the movie.  Dayavan sets Shankar straight about his true inner badass nature, for within the composed orphan, lies a heart capable of murderous rage with he witnesses injustice!

I am too lazy to get into retelling you the plot of the film, so here’s a synopsis to suffice and then I’ll skip to the parts I liked best.

After having witnessed his dad being killed by the local South Indian police, and being orphaned and homeless, Shakti Velhu develops a hate, and distrust of the police in India. He is befriended by another homeless boy named Shanker, who asks him to accompany him a slum in Bombay, where they live with a kind-hearted Muslim named Karim Baba, and his daughter, Shama. This is where Shakti and Shankar spend their childhood. When they mature, they take to petty crime. Here too, Shakti witnesses police brutality and atrocities, especially at the hands of sadistic, alcoholic, and womanizing Police Inspector Ratan Singh. When Karim Baba is arrested, jailed, and found hanging by his neck in police custody, Shakti hunts down Ratan Singh, and kills him in broad daylight in front of the several hundred people. An investigation is launched, but no one comes forward as a witness. Thus Shakti gets his reputation as a Don with a good heart viz. Dayavan. Shakti marries local prostitute, Neelu, and has two children, Suraj and Sarita. He becomes even more powerful and influential all over Bombay, and his working partners are powerful criminal dons who have ruled over Bombay for eons. Shakti eventually replaces these dons, and becomes Bombay’s only Don. This creates enemies for him and his family, but he believes since he has not really done any harm to anyone, he and his family will be safe. It is this belief that will take a heavy toll on his life and that of his family, when the truth dawns that he, himself, is responsible for being kind to a man, who will ultimately bring forward ruin to the Velhu family. (source)

Fast forward from their childhood to adulthood still in the slums, think Slumdog Millionaire, except in this case the two guys stick together and have a life long bromance.  Check out one of their bromantic escapades here:

There’s the supreme policeman villain there to push Dayavan’s buttons, talk about a corrupt dude!  Inspector Ratan Singh (Amrish Puri!)  harasses the slum dwellers, especially a spicy widow played by Aruna Irani.

As a spinster, I’ve managed quite well for very long without a husband, Amrish-ji, I mean Inspector Ratan Singh.  When the evil cop is not harassing widow Aruna, he  lies about with the courtesans of the slums drinking hooch.

Enter Khanna hero, Vinod, who witnesses the harassment of the widow and breaks into a justice fueled fury, and executes a beat down on the inspector.

Haughtiness intact!  Yet another trait I image the Khanna’s have in real life: intact haughtiness under adverse circumstances.  Then after the severe police brutality takes its toll on Dayavan’s body, enter Shankar, to comfort him. Take in the splendor of the bromance:

How do you cheer up your buddy after an assault from a crooked cop?  A night out at the local brothel of course!

The tune I liked most from the film was Kahe Saiyan Teri Meri Baat with playback singers Ahsa Bhosle and Kavita Krishnamurthy (music by Laxmikant-Pyarelal, lyrics Aziz Qaisi). I couldn’t find the video separate from the film, so to see it go to 2:30 in the clip below to see the greatness.

Shankar teases Dayavan about his lack of experience with women and arranges for him to have an overnight stay in a room at the brothel, if you know what I mean.  Dayavan uses the room to sleep off his night of drinking and is awakened, as is so commonly the case, by the innocent prostitute, who is quietly, yet intensely studying for her exams.  He gives her money to continue her studies, and leaves her untouched.  Now doesn’t this remind you of the class and flair of what you’d imagine the Khanna’s to be like in real life?   Anyway, I suppose I mentioned just then that Madhuri Dixit was in the film  and I found it a waste of her talent  since she really didn’t dance too much and her role was too brief.  Kya waste hai! Here’s a taste of her dancing in a Holi number.

I don’t like seeing other people kissing, since it’s so private, so Hindi movies are perfect for me.  Dayavan has a famous kissing scene between Madhuri and Vinood,  in fact if you google videos for the film, the kissing scene is most prominent and you can see it here if you’re inclined.  If you watch it please make note of how unconvincing Madhuri’s hands are in the scene, which reveals to me she was not comfortable filming it. I mean wouldn’t most women have more gusto in their grasp if sharing a moment with Vinod Khanna?

Let’s end with a few more memorable screen captures & subtitles from Dayavan:

Double point for me here, since the screen cap includes a subtitle with dacoity (which is even better than dacoitery in my book) and a lone bottle of Johnnie Walker black label, which is obviously better than red label, isn’t it?  Look at Vinod Khanna’s intensity here when someone comes to him to get justice: Did I mention that Feroz Khan is in the movie?  Seems like I’ve ignored him, but here he is, handling business!

And handing out a little vigilante justice, which I know chandelier connoisseur Shweta will enjoy:

During the course of the film, Dayavan’s daughter  (Amala)avoids him due to his illegal work, and ironically she marries a police officer  played by Aditya Pancholi,  who is cheated, since she declared herself an orphan.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with declaring ourselves orphans now and again. Dayavan is a remake of the Tamil film called Nayagan (1987).  Have you seen the movie in its original Tamilian form? I want to see it now in its pure form!  Since I’ve  focused on Vinood Khanna here,  I must throw a bit of attention on his sons, Rahul and Akshaye, to balance out my Khanna-o-Rama contribution.  I will ask you the ask the  timeless question that Briyanshu posed: Rahul or Akshaye? HERE’S THE ANSWER.  Now I command you to click on this feast of Khanna-o-Rama blog posts to fulfill all of your Khanna Family desires.

Ram Jaane (1995) featuring a mini SRK tribute.

I love a good orphan film, and there’s not much more I can say about Ram Jaane than hasn’t already been said so well by Fortune City and Post Punk Cinema Club, but I can show you some of the parts that I really enjoyed.  Just look at the cool movie poster from the film with bloody fisted, red headband wearing SRK and I think there’s ample evidence that this is a good film.

Ram Jaane (1995) translation: “Ram Knows” or “God Knows”) is a 1995 Indian Bollywood movie directed by Rajiv Mehra about an unnamed kid (portrayed by Shahrukh Khan) who grows up to become a gangster. He uses the name Ram Jaane after meeting with a priest who in response to the kid asking about his name said “Ram Jaane” (God knows). The movie ranks the 8th highest grossing Hindi movie of 1995 and is also the fourth time Shahrukh Khan is playing a negative role after BaazigarDarr and Anjaam. (source)

So here we start with a feisty young street lad, Ram, who meets his childhood companions who he continues to befriend into adulthood.  Prior to being named Ram, short for Ram Jaane, he was known as Footpath.

Eventually he becomes officially known as Ram Jaane.

He’s a small time hustler with lots of style, the bad boy you can’t help but love.

Sometimes his goonda living and dacoitery catches up with him and he lands in the clinker, and he suffers and bleeds from the mouth, which is something that I firmly belive King Khan does better than any actor!  Dekh:

One day I’ll do a post on a collection of SRK screen captures from various films where he bleeds from the mouth. Devdas would have some good mouth bleeding  material, na?  The story has the love triangle plot between the 3 life long friends.  After a bit of jail time, Ram reunites with his childhood pals Murli (Vivek Mushram) who helps the street kids, and Bela (Juhi Chawla).

Ram falls for Bela, but realizes that his pal Murli also loves Bela, or is it Bela who loves Murli, details.  Either way, Ram Jaane becomes a tad jealous and insecure as a result of this situation.  He begins to question his self worth.

Ram eventually is overtaken by what the viewer may think is blind rage and he roughs up Bela, and eventually gives her a tight slap to the face, which he immediately regrets.

BUT, but, but did he hit her out of a jealous rage? Did he hit her because of his inability to soothe his own psyche independently of his love object?  Nahin!  As it turns out he hit her out of love, because he knew his friend loved her and by hitting Bela she would turn to Murli for love.  Problem solved!  Hey, I’m not saying it’s a good idea, but it worked.  Now clear your mind from the disturbing image of SRK’s character being violent with his love interest, and enjoy the title track from the film Ram Jaane with playback singers,  Alka Yagnik,  Sonu NigamUdit Narayan, and music by Anu Malik.

A while back I did a post on B.Rohrer’s SRK Fantasies in which the artist pays tribute to SRK in a series of creative pieces.  Recently I was lucky to run across another such creative fan on youtube and Breaking Free of the Box has taken things to a whole new level with this video tribute to Ram Jaane.  How can my humble collection of screen captures from the films measure up to the devotional nature of Breaking Free of the Box‘s work? It can’t, so now, I’ve saved the best for last so sit down and get ready to be entertained.  In the words of Breaking Free of the Box:

Here’s a miniature tribute to Shahrukh and Juhi . . . Let’s hope that someday they make another romantic film as intense as their earlier ones. . . Enjoy!! (source)

Did you notice the Central Jail on the mini set?

To wrap things up neatly as Bollywood so often does,  let’s take a moment to empathize with our film’s orphan:

Let’s now go on to be uplifted by the orphan, who has been enlightened through his suffering, only to go on to inspire us all!  Jai Bollywood wisdom:

P. S.  Due to heavy international pressure from the blogging community, and to avoid further mutiny from blog commenters, I must make mention of SRK’s style of wearing a suit jacket without any shirt underneath (think of the ring around the collar!) in the film and link in the song Pump Up the Bhangra.  Thanks readers for keeping me on my toes! Now pump up some bhangra!

Fiza (2000)

Fiza (2000) is concisely described at IMDB here: In 1993 Fiza’s brother disappears during the riots in Mumbai. In 1999 Fiza is tired of waiting and goes looking for him. But there’s a little more to it than this, since when he’s gone he becomes a TERRORIST!  And this makes me think, can I write the word terrorist without being put on some kind of a watch list?  I’ll let you know.  I suppose the movie’s poster hints at what happened to the lost brother.

Fiza (Hindi: फ़िज़, Urdu: ﻓﻀﺎ) is a 2000 Indian film written and directed by Khalid Mohammed.  The film stars Karisma Kapoor, Hrithik Roshan and Jaya Bachchan. Although the film failed at the box office, it was well acclaimed by critics. Originally Amitabh Bachchan and Shahrukh Khan were supposed to have cameo appearances, but their scenes were removed due to considerations about the length of the running time. The film is about Fiza (Karisma Kapoor), whose brother, Amaan (Hrithik Roshan), disappears during the 1993 Mumbai riots. Fiza and her mother Nishatbi (Jaya Bachchan) desperately hold on to the hope that one day he will return. However, six years after his disappearance, Fiza, fed up with living with uncertainty, resolves to go in search of her brother. Driven by her mother Nishatbi’s fervent hope and her own determination, Fiza decides to use whatever means she can—the law, media, even politicians—to find her brother, which brings her into contact with various characters and situations.  When she does find him, to her horror she sees that he has joined a terrorist group!!!!! (source)

One of the first gorgeous songs in the film is Piya Haji Ali by A.R. Rahman (who will be embarking on a world tour this year) which plays as we see the stunning views of  Haji Ali Dargah Mosque in Mumbai. All the music from the film is composed by Anu Malik.

The Filmfare for Best Actress went to Karisma Kapoor, and Best Supporting Actress went to Jaya Bachchan for their performances in Fiza. I always enjoy the intensity Karisma Kapoor brings to her characters, and for my tastes, the more hysterical the better!  Kapoor has plenty of opportunities to be her most animated and outraged best in portraying Fiza.

Fiza is fietsy and surly as it is, but she’s put on edge even more than usual since the ’93 bombings, and the fact that her brother has mysteriously vanished.  Her mother (Jaya) processes her grief over her missing son differently than Fiza and she’s trapped somewhere between denial and faith, but Fiza’s frustrations are manifested in her acting out more than is acceptable for a nice Muslim girl.  Her mom gently warns her about this…

Fiza sometimes goes out to the club and on one occasion she seems to attempt to pick a fight through a dance. It’s been a while since I’ve seen the film, but I’m sorry to report that I think this was a girl fight over a guy.  I hate to see the ladies stoop so low, but hota hai.

Here she is in the club about to show her dance/fight moves. It’s like she’s a hybrid Capoeira master, Bollywood style. It’s one of those item numbers that makes you think What on earth am I watching and why? In other words the type I love most! Not a lot of people know this, but I choreographed this number:

Fiza has a fiery personality as it is, but too often she is pushed to the limit and her very sharp tongue and tantrums are justified.  There are some scoundrels who follow her making lewd comments and generally sexually harass her;  as they say in India they are eve teasing. Isn’t that a crazy term, twisting the fault back to the woman?

Idiots!  They go to a further level at  taunt her with threats of throwing some acid at her.   Look how casually these n’er do wells toss up the acid bottle here:Well, boys will be boys afterall, (kidding) and nobody messes with the Fiza, and she just snatches the  bottle of acid, taking control of the situation!

If Fiza can speak her mind in the face of extreme harassment, have cool nightclub dance challenges, can’t she go to infiltrate some top-secret terrorist group to try to find her missing brother? YES SHE CAN! So she sheds her salwar kameez and puts on her polar fleece jacket, some acid wash jeans, and her backpack and heads Kashmir or where ever they train terrorists, to handle things! Does she have time to buy a puppet?  NO!

After slipping on her high waisted, acid wash jeans, Fiza happens upon Shusmita Sen grooving out to Mehboob Mere, with playback singers Sunidhi Chauhan and Karsan Sargathia.  I was listening to  Curry Smuggler’s podcast last week, and they made reference to the film, which reminded me that in my ever-growing backlog of movie screen caps, I had several images from Fiza.  This was reminder enough to help get to posting about it. It’s the eclectic mash-up of  Mehboob Mere with Slave 4 U by Britney Spears (which was based on Nasty Girl by Vanity 6 ) that reminded me to do this post.  You can find that HERE: episode 2 track 4.

Fast forward to find that Fiza locates her radicalized brother outside of a gift shop.

Fiza brings her brother back to Mumbai, but he’s different, sort of stressed out and tense since he’s an undercover terrorist! Mom tries to help him out by taking him to a relaxation/friendship group in the park called the Ha Hi Hi club, lead by Johnny Lever. I think a better naam for the club would have been The LOL club.

I hope you’ve enjoyed some of the more peculiar screen caps I found from Fiza and I’d love to hear about your impressions and memories of the film.  I will always take a screen cap when I see the word melodious, so I’ll leave you with this one from Fiza:

Boot Polish (1954) Orphan Power!

Orphans Unite!

Slumdog Millionaire (2008), step aside because Boot Polish (1954) has trumped you by delivering more tragic orphans frame per frame than your film and possibly any movie ever…well in any movie I’ve seen.

Boot Polish is a 1954 Hindi film directed by Prakash Arora and produced by Raj Kapoor. It won Best Film at the Filmfare Awards and was nominated for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. Belu (Baby Naaz) and Bhola (Ratan Kumar) are left to the care of their wicked aunt Kamla (Chand Burque) when their mother dies. She forces them to beg in the streets and grabs all the money they get. A bootlegger John Chacha (David) teaches them to lead a life of self-respect and work for a living instead of begging.
They scrimp and save to buy a shoe-polish kit and start shining shoes. Kamla finds out about what they have been doing behind her back, beats them and throws them out of the house. John Chacha gives them shelter, but then he is arrested and the kids are left to fend for themselves. When it rains and people don’t get their shoes polished any more, the children are in danger of starving. But Bhola believes that he will never beg anymore but on one rainy night, a man tosses him a coin and he rejects it, but Belu takes it as she is very hungry…(source)

Brother and sister, Bhola (Ratan Kumar) and Belu (Baby Naaz) are abandoned in the slums in Bombay.  The siblings get slapped around by their cranky and evil auntie  Kamla (Chand Burque) and though I love kids, I kept thinking what a fun part that must have been for Burque to play with its over the top wickedness.

She screams at them and hits them and send them out to beg and demands their earnings when they return to her hutment each night.  Yes, I used the word hutment, and I’ll use it again, since I’ll have the chance.  Chacha John played by David, is a  hutment bootlegger dweller with a  heart of gold who instills in the orphans the desire work rather than beg for a living.  Easy for him to say.  He spends a lot of time doing the sign of the cross and praying to a picture of Jesus sporting the flaming  sacred heart with the thorns around it. To beg or not to beg, that is the question.

Just when you think things can’t get worse for these orphans they get a break with a little song and dance. Let song writers Shankar Jaikishan, with playback singers Mohammad Rafi and Asha Bhonsle lift your spirits here with Nanhe Munne Bachche Teri. I couldn’t find a video with the lyrics translated into English, but the message of the song is that we hold destiny in our fists.  I’ve screen capped much of the song below and you can find it translated into English over at Dances on the Footpath HERE.

Uncle John has a strong hold over this group of orphans, convincing them to not beg, and to also cheer up through their starvation, since a better day is coming. I can’t even imagine that starving children would dance happily, but they do here, so don’t feel too sad for them, see:

I get crabby if I miss a meal or a snack so I don’t know how these orphans do it. Things can’t stay too happy for too long and the siblings get separated one night at the train station during a raid.  Belu, delirious with a fever, ends up on the train where she’s discovered by a rich couple.

The rich folks adopt her and despite the comforts of her new posh lifestyle and new loving family, Belu is distraught, missing her brother.

Bhola is picked up in the raid and sent to an orphanage.

Now both kids are at least in better conditions materially, but they are not content since they are separated and don’t know the whereabouts of each other.  Then one day, Bhola hears Uncle John’s voice through the window, runs to find him, and invites him in to her new home.  She’s happy talking about all the material comforts, but then remembers how much she misses Bhola.

Uncle John sets out to search for Bhola while newly rich Belu and her family are  preparing to take an extended leave from the city.  It seems as if John will not meet the deadline to reunite the orphan siblings, but, BUT, BUT, as Belu is about to board her train with her new family, a young orphan boy begs for some money and she hands him a coin…

Only to look up to see her long lost brother, Bhola!
Bhola has a rush of shame seeing his sister and knowing he is a hypocrite, having demanded they never beg for money, no matter what. In his eyes he’s been caught and exposed, which caused him to spiral into a flashback of slapping his sister for begging.  I enjoyed seeing the tight slap to the face in a flashback form, with images superimposed on each other:

Bhola runs away in shame.  Belu chases him and looses him in the crowd. Uncle John  appears and hobbles along  on his crutches after Bhola, but in his attempt to catch up to  Bhola, he’s hit by a car!  Spoiler Alert! So  that sequence plays out like this: Happy! Happy! Shame! Run! Run! Sad! Hope! Run! Sad! Hit! SAD! Wait, not sad, HAPPY!

The rich people adopt Bhola too, and all cleaned up, fed, safe and happy, they go off to school.

Thus in the end, Raj Kapoor managed to make a light-hearted movie about tragic poverty, starvation, and orphans, and that’s Bollywood yaar.

Now head over to Bollywood Deewana to see his write up of Boot Polish.


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!

Dharmatma (1975) Feroz Khan does The Godfather, Bollywood style

When Feroz Khan died earlier this year, I thought I’d better see a few more of his films in order to pay tribute to his career.  One of the most mentioned films of Khan’s career seemed to be Dharmatma (1975), so I watched it.

Feroz Khan, who has died aged 69, was an Indian actor and producer who became one of Bollywood’s biggest stars; with his swagger and tough-guy styling he was compared to American leading men like Clint Eastwood or Steve McQueen. He based one typically all-action picture, Dharmatma (1975), on Francis Ford Coppola’s Oscar-winning film, The Godfather, and starred in another as a suave racing driver who wins the world championship. Later he appeared in a series of cowboy films that aped the Spaghetti westerns of Sergio Leone – they became known as Curry Westerns. (source)

First off, let me get this spectacular image out of the way:

Hema Malini’s character declaring her orphan-hood.

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Don’t you think that reel for reel Bollywood may have the highest occurrence of orphans than any other film industry in the world?  Now back to the movie Dharmatma (1975), which is essentially supposed to be a Hindustani-ized version of The  Godfather.  One thing The Godfather doesn’t have is Helen.

Here’s a brief synopsis of the film I copied from IMDB:

DHARMATMAWealthy, powerful and influential Seth Dharamdas leads a financially secure life in a palatial mansion. He is known to come to the aid of all people who are beyond any hope of assistance, and this leads to him being known as “Dharmatma”. But Seth Dharamdas does have a number of skeletons in his closet, and a parallel life as a gangster. The only person Dharamdas hates and fears is none other than his very own son, Ranbir, who has sworn that he will never compromise with his father’s dark career, and threatens to expose him. Dharamdas has never conceded surrender or defeat at the hands of any mortal, and will never even consider to do so – even if this means the death of Ranbir. (by rAjOo)

Rekha plays a smaller part in this film and is in love with  the rugged, morally upstanding Ranbir (Feroz Khan).darmatma.enemies

Alas,  Ranbir has sets his sights on Reshma (Hema Malini) a girl living over the border in Afghanistan, since it’s never quite Bollywood until there’s a love triangle.  I enjoyed the lavish tent like home where Hema’s character lived. It looked like a high class yurt, but I thought yurts were in Mongolia, not Afghanistan, right?   Even in this opulently decorated  tent, she’s stifled

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Her adoptive father isn’t going for her relationship with a man of another culture, but she does what she can to change his heart and mind.

darmatma.culture darmatma.orphan.beg

For a taste of that nomadic life, enjoy Meri Galiyon Se, featuring playback singer Lata Mangeshkar with the music of Kalyanji Anandji, and picturized on Hema Malini in some nomadic camp in Afghanistan, or maybe it’s in movie studio, you be the judge. Both Danny Denzongpa and Khan’s character are smitten with Hema’s Reshma. Who will win her love?

Besides digging the hip 70’s vibe of this flick, I was delighted to find it had one of my favorites, Farida Jalal, who played Mona, the sister to Feroz Khan’s Ranbir.  Unfortunately, she’s married to a dacoit, Kundan (Imtiaz Khan) but it takes her sometime to figure this out.  Kundan’s  gangster side kicks are played by Ranjeet and Sudhir, who wear matching outfits throughout the film.  Their shirts are always open, and often made of sheer fabrics. They are very, very bad men, but more on them later.

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Wait a minute, even the good guy wears an open, chest hair bearing shirt a lot of the time:

dharmatma.spell

Eventually Mona lets her creepy gangster husband know that she doesn’t like the lowly company he’s keeping which causes some marital strife.

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Doesn’t she know this is Bollywood and a woman cannot talk to a man in such a way without suffering a tight slap to the face?  Even I saw that one coming.

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Mona’s husband may be a hopeless pig, but her brother is reliable and caring.   Everything is fine on Raksha Bandhan and she ties a rakhi on brother Ranbir.  Look how sweet!

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Yet moments later she changes her warm feelings when she realizes that …

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Can’t you almost feel that tight slap to the face, or at least hear it?  When I saw this in the opening credits I was very pleased:

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I’m a big Ranjeet fan.  It’s most likely psychologically problematic that I find his bad boy characters irresistibly attractive, but I’ll work that out on my own time.  dharmatma.sudhirNormally I love Ranjeet, but his character was so extra creepy in Dharmatma, that I found him only mildly hot, not ultra hot.  Hats off to his acting distracting me from his beauty. Was is due to being paired with a creepy sidekick played by Sudhir that was too much?  Who knows, but together in their sheer, unbuttoned, and always matching shirts, they were repulsive. I looked forward to seeing each new outfit.

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Their characters were abusive and drunk most of the time. Take a nice look at them here. I believe there can never be enough photos of Ranjeet out there for the world to see, no matter what.

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Ranjeet wears a pinky ring here, which is a tell tale sign of villain-hood:

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Now allow Feroz Khan’s memory to live on and please read his words of wisdom.

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