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!

Khalnayak

I have been wanting to watch this movie for a long time and finally ordered it from Nehaflix. It stars Madhuri Dixit who is one of the best dancers in all of Bollywood (in my opinion) and Sanjay Dutt, who I really enjoy watching. It also has one of my all time favorite songs in it, “Choli Ke Peeche“, which was sort of made into a song found on the Slumdog Millionaire soundtrack, “Ringa Ringa“, and later became the Turkish song “Rengarenk“. The evolution of a song.

Khalnayak (The Villan) is the story of Ballu Balram(Dutt) who is the main henchman of the evil gangster/”guru” Roshida. He is sent in to do Roshida’s dirty work like killing police or politicians. Ballu is caught by Inspector Ram (Jackie Shroff, who I have realized I do not care for at all), but later escapes while Ram is visiting his girlfriend, Ganga (Dixit). Ganga sees what this does to Ram and decides to go undercover as a prostitute/dancing girl in order to get close to Ballu. It works and Ballu takes her with him on his trip across country to meet up with his boss again (there was some talk about going Singapore too, but it just seemed out-of-place).

There were some things I loved about this film and other things I thought were quite funny and cheesy. I thought the story was great. It had a lot of twists and turns and pretty much all your questions are answered in the end. It was a well-developed story with equally developed characters. You really hate the bad guy, grow to feel sympathy for Ballu, and love Ganga’s courage. Ballu’s mother was another character I really enjoyed (played by Raakhee Gulzar) as well as Ganga’s friend who sang the “Choli Ke Peeche” song with her. I absolutely loved Madhuri’s outfits in the film. I will take one of each, please :). Last but not least, the cinematography and locations were so beautiful. Just adding fuel to the fire under my feet , burning to go to India.

Now for the funny. “Nayak Nahi Khalnayak Hai Tu“. Period. With a creepy beginning like that I began to question the film, but as soon as the pelvic thrusting began I could not help but laugh. Then there was Ballu’s “bad boy” hair and his equally comical “good boy” hair. Maybe it was the style back then, but it is quite funny now. I loved Anupam Kher’s small part as the silly warden. There were lots of other little things here and there (the guys trying to cheer Madhuri up with their version of the Choli song was awesome), but the funniest scene was the fight in the tree. Sanjay and Jackie are fighting up in the branches of a tree, but the fighting keeps cutting to monkeys watching them or doing something similar to them. It was genius. Now that was a great film making move ;)! For those who need to see it now, click here and skip to minute 3:40.

Overall, I felt that Khalnayak was worth the wait and I would gladly watch it again and recommend it to others.

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.

Dil Chahta Hai

Wedding plans and work stress have seriously gotten in the way of my Bollywood watching schedule. I was going through serious withdrawal so I decided to re-watch Dil Chahta Hai (The Heart Desires). I can not believe how long it has been since I last watched it, maybe eight years or so. What a fabulous film!

It is a story about “deep friendship” (or is the photo 3D 😉 ) between three men finishing college and going out on their own (well kind of since they still live at home mostly, but you get what I mean right). They are very different from each other, but it is loves’ ups and downs that keep them together, drive them apart, and bring reconciliation in the end. Akash (Aamir Khan) loves the chase but rarely has relationships that last longer than two weeks, until he meets Shalini (Preity Zinta) and she teaches him about love. Sameer (Saif Ali Khan) is a hopeless romantic who thinks he’s in love with everyone, until he meets Pooja (Sonali Kulkarni) and has to convince her she should be with him and not the dope she is with already. And lastly, my favorite, Sid (Akshaye Khanna) the artist. Sid is a genuinely sweet-hearted guy, wise beyond his years. He slowly falls in love with his new neighbor Tara (Dimple Kapadia), fifteen years his senior and a divorced alcoholic, romance is the furthest thing from her mind. How they all fit together and work themselves out is something you will have to watch and see for yourselves.

The music in this film is pretty great as well. I love the song “Koi Kahe Kehta Rahe” and it is made even better because of the leather pants worn by all three guys, LOL! “Kaisi Hai Yeh Ruth” is a beautiful song and Akshaye looks so cute in it. I love his side smile, and I like him so much better as a sweet character than the nasty bad guy he played in Humraaz. And of course the song main song “Dil Chahta Hai” is a favorite of mine. I would love to take a road trip to Goa (and with the three of them it would be even better ;). Ah, to dream…

Well, spreading the Bollywood love. Hopefully it won’t be so long before I write again. Namaste!

Main Aisa Hi Hoon

I had begun watching this movie about five years ago but lost interest early on. Last night I gave it another try and thought it was a very sweet movie. Main Aisa Hi Hoon (I Am Like This) is very much a copy of the Hollywood film I Am Sam. So much so that the main character even works at a coffee shop, but there are some differences too.

Indraneel “Neel” (Ajay Devgan) is a simple man/autistic (they use the words over and over again) who with the purity of his love wins over the disturbed, drug addicted, Maya (Esha Deol) for a time. After she gives birth to a baby girl, Gungun, she leaves Neel and runs away. With the help of his upstairs neighbor Ritu and his equally “simple” friends he raises Gungun to the best of his ability. One day her grandfather Dayanath (Anupam Kher) comes and wants to take her away. They go to court for custody and Neel gets Niti (Sushmita Sen) to be his lawyer. The court case is often laughable but had some genuinely moving moments as well. There are lots of other things I liked as well; and for the ending, you will have to watch it and see.

The acting in the film was great. This is the first Ajay Devgan film I have reviewed, but not the first I have seen. He is very talented and he gave the role of Neel all his heart and soul. Esha Deol was great when she was in the film and I would like to see more of her films. Anupam was great as always but I will always like him more as the funny sweet father figure rather than cold and mean. Sushmita Sen was lovely as usual but did not really do anything special or memorable in this film.

Perhaps one reason I only think of this as an average film is that the music was so forgettable. I am still humming along to the song I love from Humraaz, but the songs in this movie are forgotten as soon as they are over. No fun if you ask me ;). Well, that’s it for now folks.

Spreading the Bollywood love.

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 🙂 .

My Name Is Khan

Last night my fiance and I decided to watch a movie, and we decided on a Shah Rukh Khan film we had not seen yet (not many in that list). We set up My Name Is Khan (MNIK) and began to watch. It is the kind of movie that you just get sucked in and takes you on the journey with the characters. I love Rizwan Khan, Mandira, Sam, Ammi, Zakir, Haseena, Mamma Jenny, Funny Hair Joel, and the other characters that Rizwan comes across on his journey to meet the President of the US and utter the words “My name is Khan, and I am not a terrorist.”

It starts with an airport scene in which he gets taken to a room to be searched. I remembered that this actually happened to SRK while he was filming this movie in the US. Even though people recognized him and vouched for him being a famous star, they kept him for two hours. His name was supposedly similar to another name on the “watch list”. People in the holding area were asking for his autograph and everything. OK, maybe no one in the TSA has ever seen a Bollywood, but I might want to check out someones information if everyone else knew them.

The story is narrated by the letter/diary entries that Rizwan writes to his wife Mandira while on his journey. There are also flashbacks to his youth and when he moved to San Francisco and started his life with Mandira and Sam. Rizwan has Asperger’s and SRK does an amazing acting job being in character. He is still charming as ever, but never once do you suspect he is playing a part. I have taught a couple children with Asperger’s (much milder versions than the one Rizwan has) and he is really right on. I was laughing though when he comments on San Francisco being “scary, very scary.” Growing up a couple hours away from the city I went there all the time. I love SF but it can definitely be scary and I usually have some kind of panic attack while driving there (I hate it!).

So, I would love to hear all of your thoughts if you have seen the movie, and if not, watch it as soon as possible.

Hum Tum

It does not get much cuter than Hum Tum (Me – You). Karan and Rhea meet by chance on an airplane when they are both moving from India to New York. After their initial less-than-perfect (although memorable) meeting, they part ways both hoping forever. The film spans nine years of chance meetings, growing friendships, and good byes. Interspersed through the film are funny animated sequences of Hum and Tum, a young boy and girl, who are the main characters of a cartoon strip Karan pens.

I just loved these animated bits. When I looked online, I was happy to see that they actually made the comic into a strip. It seems to have run in the newspaper for awhile and was penned by Vijay Raibole and his wife. He posted them all on his blog, and though some are in Hindi, you will understand how funny they are from the ones in English. Now I just wish there was a whole book of them :).

The music is also top-notch in the film as is the chemistry between Saif Ali Khan (Karan) and Rani Mukherji (Rhea). From the wonderful love song “Hum Tum” to the fun and feisty “Gore Gore Say Chore“, I could listen to these songs over and over again. You can see from these songs that the relationship between these two characters has its ups and downs, and plenty of butting heads, but they will melt your heart in the end (as well as each others).

I really though both, Saif Ali and Rani, did an excellent job with their acting. Saif Ali begins cocky and obnoxious, then adds some charm, and finally becomes sincere though unsure of his newly acknowledged self. Rani starts out very sure of herself and continues that way until a huge life change. Then she becomes much more calm and collected until Karan brings her back to herself, granted a more mature version. Also worth acknowledging are Rishi Kapoor as Karan’s father and Kiron Kher as Rhea’s mother. My friend says that Kiron Kher “is the perfect mother” in Bollywood. I told him it is because his first film was Main Hoon Na ;).

Happy Watching!

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