Saawariya

I have wanted to write about Saawariya (My Love) for a very long time. I like to watch the trailers for new films on the iTunes Movie Trailers site. I was so excited (six years ago) when I saw the first Bollywood movie advertised on it. There were a couple things that drew me to the movie 1) it was directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali and 2) the colors and atmosphere of it (I will explain more later). The film also happens to be based on Dostoevsky’s short story “White Nights” but I found that out later.

I happen to be a big fan of Sanjay Leela Bhansali (SLB for short) as a director. I had previously seen three of his films and count Devdas as one of my all time favorites. His films are usually quite dramatic and heavy, but with so much beauty you could almost drown in them.

Saawariya takes place always during the night in a fictional city, in the red light district, that is inhabited by Muslims, Hindus, Christians, and Buddhists (that I saw evidence of). It felt like Moulin Rouge, Venice, Paris, and Arabian Nights all rolled into one. I loved the sets and how the whole movie was done in deep jewel tones but with a wash of sapphire blue and emerald green over the top. Every shot was stunning in some way and it is a movie that has stuck in my mind over the years. I first watched it five years ago and then again today so I could write about it while it was fresh in my mind.

Saawariya is the story of musician/dreamer/lover Raj (Ranbir Kapoor) who meets Sakina (Sonam Kapoor) on a bridge one night and falls in love. Raj is such a lovely, if not naive, character and I especially loved his relationships with Lilianpop (his landlady) and Gulabji (the prostitute with a heart of gold played by Rani Mukerji). But this is a romantic drama and a heavy one at that. Sakina waits on that bridge for the man she loves, who is to return on Eid and take her away with him. Ufff yaaa, I hate movies like this and especially when said man is played by Salman Khan! You never really get to see what Sakina sees in him, and it is frustrating when she has such a perfect guy right in front of her. While I might visually love the film, the story is annoying. One of the best and most honest parts is when Sakina’s housekeeper tells her she is worried that she has gone mad waiting for this man to return (she kind of has), and then Sakina starts laughing maniacally saying the houskeeper is not a good liar. Made me want to slap her silly.

Anyway,  one of the bigger surprises in the film was the music. It was exotic and beautiful, emotional and haunting. Check out “Chhabeela“, “Saawariya“, “Pari“, and my favorite, the beautiful “Masha Allah“. Those are only half the songs too. All are excellent.

Well until next time, namaste!

Meenaxi: A Tale of Three Cities

Some folks may already know that I  belong to a knitting site called Ravelry. Along with being a place that you can find patterns, ask questions, and find cool yarn, you can also join groups of like-minded people to discuss whatever the theme/subject of the group is about. I belong to a book group, an expat group, a Christian knitters group, a few television show groups, a couple of photography groups, and of course a Bollywood group. The ladies in this group are awesome. They are a great group of virtual girl friends from all over the world. We share a love of crafts, life, and Bollywood together. We may not always agree, but we always have fun. We also recommend (or don’t recommend :)) films to each other. One member mentioned this film and I was immediately intrigued. I couldn’t find it to download, so I ordered it from Nehaflix (a great place to order Bollywood films from). I was not disappointed.

The story centers around Nawab (Raghubir Yadav), a famous author who has entered a five-year dry spell. He can not think of anything to write until the day Meenaxi (Tabu) suddenly enters his life. She offers herself as his muse, but is often actually criticizing and annoying him (not really the kind of muse a struggling author needs).  Nawab’s drunk mechanic also becomes his muse as the hero Kameshwar (Kunal Kapoor), who is entranced by Meenaxi in each of the three tales/cities. Will Nawab finish the book? Will it be a success like all his others? These are the questions, and it is up to your imagination to answer.

I now have another place added to my list of places to visit in India, Jaisalmer. It looks like I will mostly be traveling in NW India. Hyderabad, Jaisalmer, and Prague are the three cities mentioned in the title. The film really does its best to give you an idea of the feel in each city. The cinematography was very well done. Each city is very distinctly different and it showed. The colors were so bright and vivid that you could almost imagine you were there. It was also a very artistic film which had a large part to do with being written and directed by MF Hussain. I began reading about him, and what an interesting and somewhat controversial figure he is. I am really enjoying looking at his art, and now want to get my hands on Gaja Gamini, the movie he did with Madhuri Dixit (his muse).

The music was also great, and no wonder, it was A.R. Rahman. Just to give you a few to watch as a sample of what can be found in the film watch “Yeh Rishta”, “Do Kadam” sung by the wonderful Sonu Nigam, “Noor Un Ala” which was very controversial for using verses from the Koran, and the “Jaisamler Theme” which is full of color.  This film was such a delight for the senses.

Spreading the Bollywood love, yaara!

Paap

I had been wanting to re-watch Paap (Sin) for quite some time. The first time was over five years ago and I remember the beautiful place it took place in, that I really liked the actress, and that there was great chemistry between her and John Abraham. I had forgotten the whole crime that takes place and how it ends. I was definitely not let down and enjoyed it even more this time around.

Kaya (Udita Goswami) and her father live near a Buddhist monastery. He has hopes that she will one day join the monastery and live a holy life. Kaya is sent to Delhi to retrieve their reincarnated Lama and bring him back. On their way, the Lama becomes the sole witness to the murder of a police officer. Detective Shiven (John Abraham) is assigned the case and uncovers some serious implications. He is shot as he is helping Kaya and the Lama get back to the monastery, and when they reach there he needs to be nursed back to health. Eventually love blooms between Kaya and Shiven, but will she choose him or the life she has been raised to live?

The film was shot on location in the Spiti Valley (in Kashmir) and in the region of Himachal Pradesh. The HP region has been on my radar for a while because I would love to see Shimla and visit the Himalayas. Now I have another reason to go! It is just breathtaking. Both places are situated between Tibet and Pakistan. Perhaps its location is the reason behind the use of so many Pakistani playback singers, which (according to Wiki) was the beginning of a trend in Bollywood films. I thought the music was beautiful, and there were many different instrumental pieces as well. For a glimpse of the cinematography and a taste of the music, check out “Mann Ki Lagan” and my favorite, “Intezaar“.

I also absolutely love the different look of Udita Goswami. Her eyes have a little Asian influence and she is just beautiful. I also think the clothes she wears in the film are so amazing. I would love to have a whole wardrobe of them.

Now, no film is perfect, and after all that gushing about it, I should warn that a couple things really bugged me. The subtitles seemed a little off in their translation and had some enigmatic moments. Also, John Abraham was WAY over the top in a few scenes. He was way too dramatic when suffering from his bullet wound, and being ravished by him looked like it might hurt ones neck an awful lot. Oh, and the scene in the grain silo. Who drowns in grain that comes to shoulder level? Really? Come on!

All the silly parts aside, I love this movie. Now that I own it again I will definitely be watching it more frequently.

Spreading the Bollywood love, yaara!

Dhobi Ghat

So this is the first Bollywood I have watched after becoming a married woman. It was great getting to show my friends and family around Istanbul and celebrate with them. The wedding was over too soon, but now I am married to the love of my life. Such a wonderful time, but life is returning to normal now and back to work and all the other stress life has to offer.

Watching Dhobi Ghat (Mumbai Diaries) today was like being let in to the lives of a few new friends in Bombay for a short while. It is a dream of mine to someday visit this great city and I think it may happen sooner rather than later, but that is not important right now. This film was amazing. Not a typical Bollywood (no singing and dancing and colorful saris) but an excellent example of Hindi cinema.

The film stars Aamir Khan as Arun, a painter who finds the video letters of Yasmin, the previous tenant in his new apartment and she becomes his muse. It is also the breakout performance of Monica Dogra as Shai the photographer who kinda falls in love with Arun while befriending her “dhobi” or laundry man, Munna (Prateik).I loved Munna the best, and will definitely keep an eye out for more films from Prateik in the future.

But the film’s biggest star is Mumbai. Kiran Rao (the director and wife of Aamir Khan) really knew what she was doing when she cast Mumbai in this film. I loved getting to see Munna working in Dhobi Ghat washing the laundry, driving down Marine Drive with Yasmin, and all the amazing views from the different apartments. Mumbai plays its part perfectly, as the magnet that seems to draw people from every walk of life together, if only for a moment.

My recommendation is to watch it and then sit and think about it for a while. I have a feeling this movie will stay with me for a long time to come.

Asoka

The first time I tried to watch Asoka there were no subtitles. I ordered it right away and could not wait until it arrived. Asoka was my introduction to Shah Rukh Khan, and for that I will be forever thankful. No other actor in the world can compare to how great I think he is. Just my opinion, but there are probably others out there like me.

Asoka is about the emperor of the same name who brought Buddhism to India. It takes place back in around 320 BC so it is a historical tale, but highly fictionalized I found out from reading about the real story later. Asoka (SRK) falls in love with the feisty and proud princess Kaurwaki (Kareena Kapoor) while both are hiding from folks trying to do them in. There is also an adorable little prince as well, who is too big for his britches some times. The story ends in a grand battle where the real truths in life are revealed and Asoka becomes a changed man.

I loved the music, especially the haunting “Roshini Se“.  “Raat Ka Nasha” and “San Sanana” stand out as excellent songs as well. The story was very interesting and had great twists and turns. It was a roller coaster of emotions and my love for Bollywood just kept growing.

Lagaan

Lagaan was my first real Bollywood film and it surprised me in so many ways. Firstly, it was looooong. I had never watched a movie that long (almost four hours!), but what surprised me even more was I did not want it to end. Secondly, it had a lot about cricket in it. A sport that was never on my radar and I knew nothing about. And thirdly, it was a musical?!? I had not educated myself at all about Bollywood and had no clue what to expect.

Lagaan is, on the surface, about the oppression of an Indian village, during colonial times, by the taxes imposed by the local British cantonment. Rain has been scarce and crops scarcer. How does does one provide for their family and pay outrageous taxes (which is what Lagaan means, taxes)? Well, making a crazy bet with the British General might be their only hope. Under the surface, and what you take from the movie as you watch it, is hope and an unbreakable spirit. Every character holds that hope in their heart and puts it into learning and playing the game of their lives. There is also a lot of comedy, romance, signing, and dancing. The music is amazing and I could not get enough of it. I kept re-watching just the songs and trying to dance along. My favorites are “O Rey Chhori“, “Radha Kaise Na Jale“, and “Ghanan Ghanan” but they are all great songs.

My final surprise was Aamir Khan. He was such an amazing actor and quite handsome. He became my first Bollywood crush, but certainly not the last ;). I made a list of all the movies he had made (which is no small list), and started to look for them online. I found many for purchase on eBay and they even came 3 or 4 at a time. I also had discovered a CD with songs from Lagaan and other films. If I liked the song I looked for the film. Movies led to actors/actresses/music and then onto other movies. And that is how an obsession starts, my friends.

Monsoon Wedding

Let’s start at the very beginning. A very good place to start. When you sing you begin with Do-Re-Mi. In Bollywood I began with Mon-soon-Wed-ding. Okay, corny…but true. Now I do not really consider Monsoon Wedding to be Bollywood, but it ignited my interest to go out and find more Hindi films.

In Auburn, where I hail from, it is a small town. In high school my Spanish teacher suggested I watch foreign films in Spanish as language practice and so I began to. Spanish films led to German, French, Portuguese, and Japanese films as well. I blew through most the foreign section at our Blockbuster and was looking for more, and really wished to see them in a real theater some day. We had little opportunity to see foreign/independent films at the theater until in 2001 when they started the Independent Film Series. I read about it in the paper and dragged my mom to the first film, Monsoon Wedding.

I was completely blown away. I loved everything about the movie. The colorful cast or character, with their fantastic clothes, and interspersed with the scenery of New Delhi. The music was great as well. The song sung during the Mehndi ceremony was awesome and I really liked “Chunari Chunari” too (not to mention the finale song “Aaja Nachle“). I loved the wedding preparations and the silly sweet wedding planner, Dubey, and his love for Alice. There were so many contrasting emotions and  people, and the story was great and well developed. I began to dream of an Indian style wedding of my own some day.

After leaving the theater, I went to see if there were any Hindi language films at the rental store and came away with two: Lagaan and Asoka. But those are for other posts.