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!

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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!

Paheli

I love absolutely everything about this movie. I think that is the best way to start this post. I decided to watch Paheli (Riddle) tonight in honor of the puppets I bought today that are featured in the film (see mine below). I have been wanting to buy them forever but it was never the right time.  The puppets are the narrators of the film and are so great. Naseeruddein Shah and his real life wife are the voices for them. So sweet.

The music is so amazing! I love every single song in this film, but none more than “Dhire Jalna“. One of the most beautiful songs ever and one of my favorite songs in any language. “Kangana Re” makes me wish I had bangles, made from every color of the rainbow, that I could wear every day. “Minnat Kare” is just so cute, and love the last song with all the characters as puppets, “Phir Raat Kati“.

One of the things that gets me about this movie is the pure, raw emotions. The story is about the new bride, Lachchi (Rani Mukherji), who marries the business minded, Kishanlal (Shah Rukh Khan). On the way home with the new bride the party stops at a well (if you can call that amazing place a well), and Lachchi is seen by a spirit/ghost that lives there. He falls in love with her. When they arrive home, Kishanlal informs his new bride that he will be leaving in the morning for five years. Say what!?! She is devastated but friendly ghost steps up to take his place. How will this all end? Please watch it and see. Every time Lachchi accepts the new Kishanlal, and his breath catches, so does my own. This is the kind of emotion I am talking about. Wow!

There are also really funny parts as well. Poor Bhoja the messenger who does a “Who’s On First” type scene when he gets back from delivering a message from one Kishanlal to the other, and is labeled a drunkard. Also Uncle Kanwarlal is always getting made fun of for his pipe smoking habit. He is so funny and clueless. The camel race is pretty good, as well as Amitabh Bachchan’s guest appearance as the wise shepherd.

This movie always cheers me up and I love it to pieces! Spreading the Bollywood love 🙂 .

Main Hoon Na

I just finished watching Main Hoon Na for the millionth time (well maybe just the 40th, but I have seen it a lot), and it is still my favorite  film. It was the first Bollywood I got to see on the big screen and I went three times to see it. I usually use MHN to introduce folks to Bollywood as it has it all: romance, action, drama, comedy, politics, Shah Rukh Khan, and great music. This most recent watching was to introduce my cousin to Bollywood and needless to say, she loved it.

Shah Rukh Khan is so perfect as Ram, and is by turns dorky, action hero, sexy, and always his sweet self. Zayed Khan plays Lucky, and though not as accomplished as SRK, he is angry, sweet, and too cool by turns. Amrita Rao is Sanjana, the tom-boy turned school hottie with a no nonsense attitude but a little girl at heart. And finally Sushmita Sen, former Miss Universe, has great chemistry with SRK as his teacher. Suniel Shetty is awesome as the villain, Raghavan. There is also a lovable cast of secondary characters that you will cherish as well.

Now, I do not want to give anything away so I will just say a few words about the movie. MHN is a mixture of all the above great elements and has nods to lots of Hollywood and Bollywood films (Matrix, Mission Impossible, Van Wilder, Never Been Kissed, Footloose, Grease, and Sholay just to name a few). I also love the unique way they did the credits to the song “Yeh Fizaein“. Some of my other favorite songs in this film are “Gori Gori” and “Chale Jaise Hawaein“, though I truly love them all. So if y’all wonder what my top recommendation is, wonder no more.

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.