By two_kittehs (Picture by: cvf)
Happy Gudi Padwa, the first day of spring and the New Year. Its time to welcome spring and the new year by celebrating love. Starting the new year in spring makes much more sense than the dead of winter, isn’t it?
And now a celebration of love.
I heard this today, from the recently released Phillauri. I think I am in love. The very last lines, slay me.
Tere bin saas be kaanch si kaate re,
Zindagi raakh si laage re
Translation: Without you , every breath cuts like glass
Life feels like ashes.
ETA: Check out Diljit Dosanjh, you won’t be sorry, Anushka Sharma, too looks radiant.
Welcome to the second edition of the Weekend Movie Club. Queen won the poll by a wide margin. If you haven’t seen it yet it is available on Google Play and iTunes for streaming.
I loved Queen the first time I saw it and I enjoyed it even more the second time around to do this review.
Spoiler Alert: Avert your eyes if you don’t want to be spoiled.
When we first meet Rani (Queen) her wedding preparations are in full swing. It’s day of the mehendi (henna) ceremony, a day before the actual wedding. Rani is full of verve and spirit and has a family that dotes on her and she is getting married to Vijay. A perennially popular name for a Hindi movie hero. What can possibly go wrong?
Plenty, we soon find out. When the London-returned Vijay makes his first appearance, we find that he is no prize. He wants to call off the wedding because he considers Rani gauche and no longer cool enough for his fancy self. We see Rani crumple before our very eyes, her freshly applied mehendi flaking off as she nervously clutches her phone. As she returns home crestfallen with her chaperone and younger brother Chintu, hugging herself, clutching her sweater, you just want to give her a hug.
Pay close attention to both the mehendi and the ugly sweater (her security blanket) she is wearing, they are a guide to Rani’s evolution throughout the movie.
After moping for what might have been and a pep talk by grandma, Rani decides that she wants to go on alone her honeymoon to Europe. Thus begins Rani’s journey from Delhi to Paris to Amsterdam and back again to Delhi.
When she leaves for Paris she is still sad about being dumped, but through subsequent epiphanies at pivotal moments, she discovers her own strength and recognizes Vijay for the controlling cad that he is. But enough about Vijay, the movie is about Rani and how she discovers her mojo, her spirit which was always there. Even when she was being chaperoned on dates by her younger sibling and bullied by her fiancé’.
In Paris, Vijaylakshmi the lanky half-Indian hotel maid takes her under wing. Initially, Rani is shocked and scandalized by Vijaylakshmi devil-may-care attitude compared to her own uptight conservative upbringing. However, she is non-judgmental and open to new experiences and ideas and accepting of people for who they are. At the Paris night club when the drunk Rani loses her sweater and lets her hair down to the tune of Asha Bhonsale’s 1970s hit, Hungama, it’s a sight to behold! Though Rani and Vijaylaksmi are nothing alike on the surface, they form a close bond.
When she heads to Amsterdam on a train to a Youth Hostel, it’s a different Rani than the one that landed in Paris. Initially she is freaked out at the idea of having to share a room with three strange guys in a youth hostel. However, they win her over with their humanity and understanding of where she is coming from, something she never experienced with her clueless fiancé.
Rani soaks up the experience, takes up new challenges, sometimes makes an ass of herself, aces a challenge with flying colors. For the very first time in her sheltered life, she experiences freedom and finds it exhilarating. So when Vijay shows up in Amsterdam to make amends, she is ready. She no longer wilts at his criticism but stands up for herself and does not let him destroy what remains of her vacation. She will deal with him when she gets back to Delhi and deal with him she does!
Kangana is Rani, she makes Queen, utterly believable and real. Her National Award for acting in 2014 for Queen was well deserved. She imbues Rani with grace and character even in her most vulnerable moments. Rani’s transformation from a diffident and shy young woman to a confident person who knows her mind happens before our very eyes. Kangana’s Rani is immensely likeable and vulnerable and makes you want to root for her. We share her enthusiasm, cheer her small victories, feel for her when she is at the receiving end of Vijay’s clueless male privilege. Kangana Ranaut is a revelation as Queen. The supporting cast was memorable too, starting with her family, her grandma, parents and Chintu felt like a close knit Punjabi family. As for the three guys she befriends on her journey, together with they reminded me of the United Colors of Benetton. Lisa Haydon as Vijaylakshmi stood out for me, tall and willowy and charming, she was Rani’s very own fairy godmother.
I liked Vikas Bahl’s little directorial touches, like the motif of the fading mehendi and Rani’s ugly sweater. As she becomes more confident and the mehendi fades, she no longer needs her security blanket. Even the change in Rani’s wardrobe is subtle, she still sticks to long skirts and kurtas. Its more daring than before but Rani is never going to be another Vijaylakshmi, she just going to be the best Rani that she can be!
One of the reasons that this movie resonated with me was that I have known many Ranis IRL, who unquestioningly accept the unspoken mores of the society they live in. Shackled by tradition that expects women to put up with men who belittle them. Unlike the stereotypical Hindi movie leading lady, Rani realizes that there is more to her life than a man. She doesn’t waste away pining for a man who clearly doesn’t deserve her, she goes ahead and lives her life. You go girl!
Credits: From IMDB
P.S. If you missed our first outing, check it out and stayed tuned for a poll of classic comedies to be reviewed next by the insufferable movie snob. Suggestions and questions welcome as always.
Queen won the poll and I will review it for the coming weekend. Meanwhile, I realized that though Hindi films were a huge part of growing up for me that is not the case for most of my readers. So before I jump in and start reviewing a movie let me give you some perspective.
Hollywood beats Hindi movies handily in terms of dollars and cents, they have Hollywood beat when it comes to the number of movies produced every year. Hindi movies have not made significant inroads in the United States yet. They have a reach far beyond the Indian diaspora and borders. I have found Hindi movie numbers with German, Portuguese and Spanish subtitles.
Hindi is the language of the north Indian plains and one of the 22 scheduled Indian languages. Native speakers of Hindi don’t number more than 25% of the Indian population but Hindi is widely understood and prevalent as a second or third language.
Hindi film industry is based in Mumbai (Bombay) and in many ways is a microcosm of India and an unconscious representation of its diversity of both language and religion. Yes, they sing and dance and wear their emotions on their sleeve.
If you have any questions about Queen, Hindi movies or the Weekend Movie Club, please feel free to ask. I will try to answer as best as I can. After I review Queen for the next weekend, the insufferable movie snob will review classic comedies. I will put up a poll for the classic comedies this week. If you missed movie snob’s review of the Shock Corridor, check it here.
Before, I end let me leave you with this:
The 10 day long Ganesha festival ended just last week. Here is Shahrukh Khan, bidding Ganpati adieu in the 2006 movie Don, set to music by the trio Shankar-Ehsan-Loy and sung by Shankar Mahadevan.
By two_kittehs ( Picture by: cvf)
Queen has won the poll by a wide margin. So I will be reviewing it soon. Hopefully, this weekend. We had some unfortunate business with the furnace in the basement, that lead to a 911 call. Kittehs and peoples was safe but firemen gave us an okay to get back into the house only at 1 am. As a result I have been a Zombie kitteh all day.
For the next installment of the Weekend Movie Club, I am going east, to India. If you missed our first installment check it out, here. I grew up watching Hindi movies and more importantly listening to Hindi movie numbers. I must have heard and watched many more songs than the movies themselves. Growing up I used to turn up my nose at most of the offerings that came out of the movie industry which is now popularly known as Bollywood. There was a dichotomy between commercial cinema and art cinema and there very few popular Hindi movies that didn’t insult your intelligence or so it seemed to me. For twenty odd years, the new Hindi movies that I must have watched could be counted on the fingers of one hand.
Now that I am at a distance from both my childhood and Bollywood, I think I may have judged those movies harshly. Hollywood can be pretty formulaic too. They have different formulas, that’s all. Since last year I have been rediscovering Indian cinema, particularly Hindi movies, mainly through their music. Through my YouTube meanderings, I have stumbled across many gems. The list of movies that I want to see keeps growing by the day. Either I have become more forgiving or the movies have gotten better. For example, there are many more movies with female protagonists which don’t have a love story as their focus, than the Hindi cinema of yore or even present day Hollywood. Here is a list of three movies with strong female leads. You can click on the links below to see the trailers with English subtitles.
Queen: Rani (Queen), a sheltered young woman from Delhi gets dumped the day before her wedding. Her solo European honeymoon turns into a voyage of internal and external discovery.
Neerja: A biopic about Neerja Bhanot, flight attendant on the hijacked Pan Am flight 73, whose bravery saved many lives.
Jai Gangaajal: A district police superintendent takes on a corrupt and lawless politician who rules the district within an iron hand in the north Indian hinterland.
So vote early and often. You can also leave suggestions in the comments below.
Happy Holi, the festival of colors, that marks the beginning of spring. Holi is the day to let your hair down and have some fun playing with colors, drinking bhang and eating puranpoli. A day when adults have the social sanction to act like kids again. Holi is also the favorite of Hindi movie makers, there seem to be more Holi songs in Hindi movies than that of any of other holiday. Here are some of my favorites.
Lahu Munh Lag Gaya from the 2013 Ramleela: What’s better than seeing Ranveer Singh in a song? Seeing him dance!
Holi Ke Din Dil Khil Jate Hai : Hearts blossom on Holi, from Sholay (Embers). This star studded mid 70s feature directed by Ramesh Sippy, rewrote the rules about how Hindi movies were made. It’s a Western with a masala twist and holds up pretty well after all these years. The look Amitabh’s character gives Jaya’s characters dressed in widow’s whites, watching the festivities from afar just slays me.
Arre Jare Natkhat Na Chule Mera Gunghat from Navrang (Nine Colors) made in 1959. Sandhya’s performance, playing both the male and female parts, makes me wish that I could dance like her.
There are many more which I haven’t included. If you have any suggestions, or other favorites that I have missed, leave it in the comments.
No one can accuse mainstream Hindi movies of being progressive regarding matters concerning gender. We regularly have had fifty year old heroes romancing women in their twenties and mostly interchangeable female stock characters. There is your long suffering mother, your flirtatious but coy virginal heroine, sometimes a hero’s sister or a gangster’s moll. Fully realized female characters with their own motivations that did not fit in these neat boxes have been rare in Hindi cinema. So I am pleasantly surprised with the slate of new movies with fully realized female characters. I would like to see both these movies.
First there is the no nonsense Abha Mathur, the chief police officer in a lawless fictional district in Bihar, where there is little distinction between the elected representatives and the mob. Priyanka Chopra kicks butt both literally and figuratively in Prakash Jha’s Jai Gangajal.
Then there is Neerja, a biopic based on Neerja Bhanot,a flight attendant on the ill fated Pan-Am flight 73. directed by Ram Madhvani . Her presence of mind saved the lives of passengers on board. She died shielding children from bullets, days short of her 23 birthday. She also was a survivor of a bad arranged marriage and familiar face advertising chocolate and crackers on TV. A short life but a consequential one and an inspiration to us all.
Last but not the least, Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Bajirao Mastani deserves a shout out. The women of Bajirao Mastani, whether it was the dutiful wife Kashi (Priyanka Chopra) or the doting mother Radhabai (Tanvi Azmi) , they were no pushovers and had no problems either speaking their mind or acting on their own agendas. My quick review here.
This trend warms the cockles of my cold cynical heart. Any other women centric movies you have seen lately or would like to see?
- The musical score is sublime (jukebox 1 and jukebox 2)
- Best Number: Gajanana (entire song)
- Most Boring Number : Mohe Rang Do Lal, even Bajirao looks like he is going to fall asleep at any moment.
- Most relatable character : It has to be Priyanka Chopra’s Kashibai.
- Best Dressed : Kashibai, I loved her traditional Marathi outfits, from the nose-pins to the nine-yard sarees to the traditional khopa, or the braided bun.
- Character that defies Credulity: Mastani, she was drowning in a sea of fabric and seemed weighed down by the jewelry, especially the nose rings. You would die in Pune in summer (90s in shade, if you are lucky) if you wore all those layers. Also, her pedantic lectures about Ishq (romantic love) to her parents, Bajirao’s terrifying mother and Chattrapati Shahu defy both common sense and credulity.
- Dialog seems at times overwrought and overdone, see the point above.
- Hottest scene: Kashibai sneaking up on Bajirao in the bath. (around 0.56 in the Albela Sajan video)
- A paragraph about where Bajirao fits in the history (chronologically and in terms of importance) of India would have been useful either at the beginning and/or the end of the movie. A prologue and/or an epilogue, if you will.
- All in all, despite some missteps Sanjay Leela Bhansali manages to hit many high notes. The main love story is not as riveting as it could have been, I found it hard to root for Bajirao and Mastani. However the resulting fallout and conflict with orthodox religious hierarchy of Pune and Bajirao’s own family is believable and depressing familiar. Even today an interfaith match like Bajirao Mastani wouldn’t go down too well among most Indian families.
Musical Score : A
Dialog : B-
Overall : B +
I will expand on these points in my upcoming posts. Until then I leave you with a poster of Bajirao Mastani starring my kittehs. As always questions and comments are welcome.
By two_kittehs ( Picture by: two_kittehs)
After the energetic Gajanana and the visually decadent Deewani Mastani, two songs from Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s upcoming movie Bajirao Mastani, I was expecting a hat trick from SLB. However, the much hyped dance-off between the two female leads is a dud. It didn’t float my boat. Here in no particular order is a list of my critiques.
2. Whatever this dance is, it is not pinga. (pinga ghalene : to spin around)
3. Lame choreography is lame, mishmash of the dancing styles doesn’t quite gel.
6. Married Marathi women don’t put sindoor in the hair part. Research fail.
7. Where is the Gauri? Isn’t this supposed to be a Gauri celebration? Which is presumably why these women are dancing in the first place. This to me looks like a Gauri or Mangla-Gauri jagran or all nighter, which is primarily a huge sleepover party for women where they get together, gossip, sing songs, dance etc. This is usually an female affair, by women and for women, and men are not welcome.
8. Plaigarism alert, Bhansali needs to credit V. Shantaram.
9. Deepika Padukone and Priyanka Chopra have nothing on goddess Madhuri when it comes to dancing abilities.
10. Is it my imagination or does the pattern on this dance floor resemble the one in Chandramukhi’s parlor? SLB we expect better from you, stop being so repetitive.
Deepika and Priyanka pretending to put sindoor in their hair part in a still from Pinga (Credit :NDTV)