Archive for the ‘India’ Category

Bahubali: The Beginning -*(*)

Posted: February 12, 2016 in 2015, Adventure, Drama, India, War, X1/2

A nice thing about travelling with companies like Qatar Airways is that they have Bollywood movies! Sure, you can rent them online (iTunes), buy an illegal copy in a Pakistani run night shop or drive to the nearest Bollywood cinema (there aren’t many in ’The West’), but somehow it’s a must to watch one on a plane flying East.

Bahubali is an epic production about an (imaginary) kingdom, which has been run by a tyrant for many years and whose rightful heir to the throne grew up as an orphan in a far away land unaware of his royal blood. The kid (rescued from a river down a majestic waterfall) grows up to be a strong and adventurous man who is keen on climbing the waterfall rock and discover the land above. Of course he manages to do so (guided by a stunning female spirit) and when he is there he joins a rebel group trying to rescue the captivated queen (the boy’s real mother). But just when you think the end credits will roll, another story is told as a flashback, which takes almost as long as the first tale. It is supposed to help you understand why the boy was taken away, but it only confuses more.

It’s all very corny, but it’s fun. It’s filled with clichés (hero wears a moustache of course, strong female character succumbs for the macho man of course), but there are some surprises. Some special effects are great (the battle scenes could come from the Lord Of The Ring-trilogy), others are ridiculous (the hero making it to the top of the waterfall). There is little singing and dancing (in case you find this a turn off), and the romance isn’t all that dramatic.


Dabba (The Lunchbox) – **

Posted: September 29, 2014 in 2013, Drama, India, Romance, XX

A young Indian woman prepares a lunchbox for her husband and puts a lot of effort into it, hoping that her cooking will rekindle their love. It’s soon clear that the lunchbox gets delivered to another man: a grumpy accountant, who’s reluctantly in charge of training the guy that will replace him once he retires. However, the lunchbox becomes the highlight of his day and when the woman puts a little letter in it to check if it really gets delivered wrongly, he replies and they start a letter correspondence.

The idea is great. For a book. The fact that they write letters to each other, doesn’t really translate well on the screen. The back and forward reading of the letters is filmed with added visual drama, but it doesn’t help. The preparation of the lunchbox on the other hand is filmed like cooking shows should be made. Eat before you watch this movie or you’ll be really hungry for the entire two hours. Irrfan Khan transformation from being an unpleasant prick to a gentle smiler is predictable, but well done. Too bad there’s almost no humor, unless you find the annoying assistant’s dumb behavior funny.

And in case you are worried: no, there are no Bollywood dance routines.

Rock On – *

Posted: September 18, 2014 in 2008, Drama, India, Musical, X

Okay, not all modern Bollywood movies are good.

This is pretty bad.

The story itself is very basic: A decade ago, four friends were ready to hit it big as a rock band, but split even before the first album was recorded. Now, all of them lead a different life and by change they get together again. To make it into a 2,5 hour movie the story is told with flashbacks, several side stories and a lot of long sequences of the rock music the band was supposed to be successful with. The flashbacks and side stories work, but the music is horrible.

It’s a low budget movie that scored well, in India. The story is told in a simple, but efficient and truthful way. The acting is amateur, but not annoying. But the editing is terrible. Horrible really. And there is no humor at all. Zero laughs in 2,5 hours, which is too long anyhow.

Just skip this one.

Three (rich) Indian friends go on a road trip in Spain after one of them got engaged. It’s not a true bachelor trip however. Two of them haven’t really been on speaking terms for a while, but this trip may get them back together and each of them have their own demons to deal with. One is a busy stock broker who misses out on happiness as he puts his career first. The other just learned his natural father is an artist living in Spain. And the engaged one has unexpressed doubts about his upcoming marriage.

It’s a shame that this movie did not get a widespread release. It’s a great tale of three friends coming of adult age with the right balance of adventure, humor, drama and dance. After all, it is made in Bollywood. However, the only dance routine is a welcome surprise as it mixes the typical Bollywood dance routines with flamenco! The movie is filled with pleasant surprises. The acting is great. India’s superhero star Hrithik Roshan shows he does have talent (apart from flexing his muscles), Farhan Aktar has that Gene Kelly-charm that just makes him loved by everyone and Abhay Deol makes this perfectly cast trio complete. There are also great parts for independent women! Katrina Kaif plays a diving instructor who knows exactly how to deal with the three boys. Two of the most famous Spanish festivals play an important part: the tomato throwing festival and the bull running event. And the whole movie is one big commercial for Indians to visit Spain: Barcelona, Ronda, Seville, Pamplona, the Costa Brava… It’s a perfect promo movie for the country. The humor is simple, but clever. The story just makes sense. It feels real.

Too bad it’s so long and the Hindi poetry and play of words get lost in translation.

Great surprise!

Milkha Singh is an Indian sports hero who won several 400m races from the mid fifties until the early sixties. Bhaag Milkha Bhaag means Run Milkha, Run and tells the story of how this man became the fastest Indian ever.

It’s three hours long, but it never bores. The directing and editing are really good and quite different from the typical Bollywood movies. Nothing we haven’t seen in any Hollywood or Eastern Asian movie, but very enjoyable. The storytelling uses a lot of flashbacks, jumping between different periods in the mans life. But it’s never confusing or predictable. The compulsory dance & chant scenes are limited and the soundtrack is surprisingly cool with heavy guitar riffs during the action scenes. And the acting is superb. Especially by Farhan Akhtar in the leading role. This guy isn’t just a pretty boy, he also has the talent to move the audience in every funny, emotional and physical scene. That smile. Those expressions. That body!

This is an interesting biopic with the right balance between entertainment and drama. Life for Milkha was hard, surviving a massacre as a child, becoming an orphan, growing up as a petty thief, entering the army, competing with India’s elitist athletes and facing his own demons. You start rooting for this guy from the very first scene to the last one.

There are a lot of superfluous (but not necessarily bad) scenes that prevent this from being a classic masterpiece. But it’s a must nevertheless.

Check out this training scene:

It also has scenes like these:

Krrish 3 – *1/2

Posted: February 19, 2014 in 2013, Action, Fantasy, India, Science Fiction, X1/2

A paralysed Magneto vs a masked Superman, Bollywood style!

That’s the easiest way to describe this Indian blockbuster. It’s long and has three boring and silly musical sequences. The special effects are dated, the fight scenes weird, the editing is horrible, there is no cinematography at all.

But it’s a Bollywood superhero movie ! Which makes it funny. Fuck Hollywood, they must think in Mumbai, we want to see Indian good vs evil. And it works somehow. I totally enjoyed this pulp. And muscle king Hrithik Roshan may act like Steven Seagal or Jean Claude Van Damme, he somehow gets away with it better.

English Vinglish – **

Posted: July 2, 2013 in 2012, Comedy, Dramedy, India, X1/2

I always feel bad for dissing a well intended movie that has a lot of merits but also a lot of painfully bad moments. Some movies aim to please everybody and become so fake that it makes you throw up. No pity for them. But other movies please a large audience because of their sincerity, purity and sweetness, without actually aiming to do so. English Vinglish  is one of the latter. You can see that everybody on the set just wanted to make a nice movie with a positive message and some jokes that will offend no-one. That’s fine, but it’s all so harmless. Yawn.

Indian actress Sridevi is excellent as Shashi Godbole, a young Indian mother who feels trapped in her marriage with a husband and kids who only see her as a woman who cooks well. – you’ll want to eat ladoos by the end of the movie – Her biggest frustration is that everyone around her seems to able to speak English, which makes her look (and feel) very dumb. When she’s sent to New York to help assist at the wedding of her niece, she picks up a language course and finally finds appreciation. Sridevi really carries the movies. Any viewer will empathize with her character. She’s that traditional woman who is in doubt about her capabilities and duties. New York unleashes an independent woman in her and it’s clear she has no idea what to do with this new ‘freedom’.

All the other characters however, are incredibly stereotypical and the music is TER-RI-BLE. As a linguist and a friend of many language teachers, I got really annoyed by the teacher and the way he addressed his pupils. If this is how language is taught in NYC than it’s no wonder so many people still struggle with ‘the’ English. What a bozo. And did he really needed to be flamboyantly gay? Sure, it’s all over acting, but it really wasn’t funny. Same thing with the songs. Could they BE more tacky?  I’m a pretty tolerant guy when it comes to music, but this soundtrack is the worst I’ve heard in ages. Moreover, when the songs interrupt the story, there’s hardly any dancing (apart from at the wedding). No, the director decided to show snapshots of NYC during the cheesy indian pop tunes. There’s this one song that names all kinds of fashion designer stores in Manhattan and it will make you want to put in another movie to watch. TER-RI-BLE.

But in the end it’s a nice and sweet movie that will please a lot of people, especially women who might relate to the fact that in some cultures women still have duties to fulfill even though they have dreams of doing something completely different.