Archive for the ‘India’ Category

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.


Bodyguard – 0

Posted: February 8, 2012 in 2011, Action, Comedy, India

Started watching this Hindu film on the plane as it was one of the biggest box office successes in India last year, but stopped halfway into the movie as plastic dinner was served. I tried to finish it, but it was so incredibly bad that I just couldn’t torture myself any longer.

Some 30 years ago an important town’s figure rescued a pregnant lady from a car wreck who gave birth to a boy, who is now working as a bodyguard in Mumbai. Indebted with gratitude the bodyguard takes on a job for this town’s figure to protect his daughter in her first days at college. Some bad guys are after her and yeah, well, it is just a set up for an action comedy where the action is ridiculous and the humour incredibly toe-crawling simple.

The start is fascinating though as the Sylvester Stallone lookalike begins to flex his arm muscles on the beats of some Indian pop song. (see below) Within 2 minutes of the movie you are thinking: is this for real? Then there is the first action scene in which the hero single-handedly rescues dozens of girls being cargoed in a container to work as slaves abroad. This is a big budget movie, yet I could clearly see the cords on which the actor is hanging while doing his stunts. In Indian action scenes you never see the actors actually hitting each other, there is always a ten cm gap. Yet the sound effects are explosive as if the actors are hitting metal boards with cricket bats. Then there is the Benny Hill inspired comical scenes which are SO bad it makes you throw up more than turbulence in the plane and makes you wonder who actually enjoyed this movie.  Then comes the love interest in typical l’Oreal advertisement style. The actress probably already celebrated her 30th birthday yet has to play an 18y old.

I have seen snippets of Bollywood successes and they basically all deal about the same thing. Man wants woman, woman ignores man, man starts singing and dancing, woman joins in, they hook up at the end.

This has nothing to do with cultural differences. This is just plain BAD, regardless if you are Indian or not.

Just for your pleasure: the somewhat gay erotic, but incredibly silly opening clip:

Sidlingu – **

Posted: February 3, 2012 in 2011, Dramedy, India

The hotel in Mysore was located in front of a cinema, so I decided to go watch the movie that was on that night: Sidlingu. (for 1 usd, balcony seat). Didn’t quite understand it all as it was in the local language and not subtitled, but I enjoyed watching it regardless. Which means quite something.

The story is about a guy who dreams of owning a car. The first part shows his childhood and the rest shows him as an adult. Again, I really didn’t understand all of it, but that made the movie more intriguing. What I really liked was the creativeness of the director. there were a lot of cool shots in that movie. The editing was really good. From what I saw the actors were excellent at what they were doing. Only the comical side characters were over-acting. There was animation introduced as well. And the songs were very entertaining. Apart from the ballads, which always suck, whether you’re watching an Indian or an American movie.

Would love to see it again with subtitles, but it’s not even on imdb and it’s not even shown in the rest of India, so I’m sure this one will just be a very special unique movie which I’ll never quite understand.

Here’s a clip from the movie:

The trailer is pretty boring, although the last second hints at the real style of the movie:

Lagaan – **1/2

Posted: January 9, 2012 in 2001, Drama, Historical, India, Sportsdrama, XX1/2

I planned to go to India, but the voyage has been delayed. In the meantime, I thought of finally watching a Bollywood movie as some kind of preparation and the first one I could think of was this award winner. Sure, I’ve seen other ‘Indian’ movies like A Passage To India, Ghandi, Slumdog Millionaire, The Guru, Monsoon Wedding, etc… But Lagaan is my first real Bollywood production and… I liked it! At least the first half.

Lagaan is a synonym for a tax that was introduced in India some hundred years ago by the British occupiers. In one particular area the British consul decides to double the lagaan just for the fun of it as he challenges the local raj to eat some meat knowing very well he’s vegetarian by religion. When he refuses to do so, he raises the tax. The villagers are in despair as it hasn’t rained for ages and there is no harvest. When they march to the consul to ask him to reconsider, the consul comes up with a new challenge. One of the villagers was heard saying that cricket was a ‘silly’ game, so if the villagers can defeat the British in a game of cricket, they don’t have to pay the lagaan at all. If they lose however, the tax will be tripled in stead of doubled.

It goes without saying that they will win the game of course. So why watch a movie for four hours if you know how it will end?

Well, the interesting thing about this movie is that it’s all very accessible. The story is very universal. The humor as well. There’s obligatory romance and treason. The setting is relatively exciting. And the typical singing and dancing scenes that make Bollywood movies a turn off for some, are actually well incorporated in the movie. Yes, the whole village suddenly starts dancing and singing when they see clouds appear and hope for rain. And the voices from the songs don’t correspond with the voices of the actors who are supposed to sing it. But it’s fun.

The movie is way too long however, especially the second half when the game of cricket starts. It made me lose interest. But in the end: worth checking out!