The Sanjay Leela Bhansali Controversies

Sanjay Leela Bhansali (or SLB as he is referred to since we hate long names) has been known for movies that are essentially a walk through a beautiful palace, with some characters in between to display great clothes & jewellery. There’s a two year gap between his last movie, Bajirao Mastani, and the new one, Padmavati. And there’ve been controversies on both.

  1. Queens don’t dance. It is insulting to show them dancing!
  2. Costumes: Queens don’t wear such costumes. They are dignified and covered
  3. Intimate scene between the King and a woman! Uff!
  4. No problem with the actors but not sure if these were the ones who should’ve been. chosen to play these characters
  5. Insulting to culture!bhansali-first-poster-padmavati-deepika-padukone-sanjay_08aca446-9e79-11e7-ba2d-20fa1b34073f

Which movie were these issues for? Why, both! Same issues. New meaning to “Formula movies”?

A Ticket for the Chennai Express

I cursed at the crawling traffic and wondered why people were not out of town since it was a long weekend.

Bangaloreans have a tradition. If it is the long weekend, most of the Bangalore crowd would be seen at one of the scenic locations 150-300 kms away from the city. This is one of the best things Bangalore has to offer… plenty of getaways within a few hours drive. But uncharacteristically, most of them seemed to have piled up on this huge road, honking and shouting like always.

The culprit on this particular evening turned out to be Chennai Express. Not the train. The movie.

It has been a while since I saw a movie cause a traffic jam. They used to be the norm at a theatre in South Bangalore, with the traffic crawling out at 8.45 PM and the new crowd waiting to get in. But with the arrival of multiplexes, you see massive lines outside malls and you don’t always think they are headed into the mall to watch a movie. 

These lines belong to the era of old Bangalore when watching a movie was an ‘event’. It was not as simple as sharing an event on Facebook either. You checked listings in the newspaper – and they were accurate 99 percent of the time and gave all the details and theatres – picked the 9.30 PM show at a theatre closest to you. The youngest boy of the family who was just old enough to ride would be sent to book tickets for the show, generally a day or two away. 

On the night in question, the entire family would squeeze into a car designed for 4 normal adults and head to the theatre. There was an air of anticipation. Nobody bought popcorn before the movie. You just wanted to get in, get into your chair and wait to watch those images on screen. 

There was always a prayer before the movie began, with that ‘certificate’ nobody could read. The mellow tunes of Yash Raj Films would be followed by a zippy number while the cast was listed. Of course, these were still times when SRK’s name would elicit some whistles. He was popular while we grew up. My friends dragged me to enough shows on Sunday mornings for me to know that. The movies were entertaining. 

The interval was time for food. You had sated your appetite for stardom enough to think about the other kind of food. Popcorn, fryums, pepsi, perhaps a samosa. You munched on the popcorn, as the movie gained pace and reached some, usually happy, ending. You came out feeling righteous or romantic or whatever the movie intended you to feel. You hashed it over with your family as you squeezed back into the car. You replayed your favorite scene in your mind as your drifted off to sleep. You wished an uncle or aunt would come to town while the movie was still playing so you could watch it again. Or you could wait, you thought, till it played on TV. If you were lucky, the video tapes would be out soon. Or the DVDs.

Those were the days when there were massive jams outside movie theatres. 

It was refreshing to see the lines outside a theatre again, that too a dying one. I didn’t think Chennai Express would be the movie to get people back into the theatre in droves, but whatever works. For all the complaints I have against Shah Rukh Khan, there hasn’t been another star in our generation who can get people into the theatre like him. No, Aamir Khan doesn’t elicit his kind of a response for all his awesome movies and neither does Salman Khan’s jhakaas moves. It might not be intelligent cinema, there might not be a plot. There might not even be a brain cell left when you come out. But he does what movies were supposed to do – entertain.

Still… It doesn’t make me wanna line up outside the theatre. What does that say about me?

Dirty Picture

Every now and then comes a movie that changes your perspective of someone who was alive, replacing that actual person in your head with the person who played the character. The movie makes you think, even as it makes you laugh.

Dirty Picture is one such movie. In the case of Vidya Balan, the second such movie. After Ishqiya, I cannot recall any other movie that has such an impact.

Did Silk Smitha live her life with the same careless attitude and rush that Vidya Balan portrayed? Did she score her roles through the casting couch? Did so many men influence her life or did she really forge the path she wanted by using whatever means was available to her?

My memories of Silk Smitha are vague. Not being a horny teenage boy in need for material, my interactions with her were restricted to recollections of adults discussing her latest movie. Then cable came and there were far more interesting, frothy Hindi movies to look forward to and the dusky actress never really made it into my living room.

Balan wears so many faces that it is hard to keep track of who she really is. The innocence of her face belies the sexiness of her body. The movie literally takes us through the years, as Balan puts on more weight, gains the look of someone depressed and addicted to alcohol and we never realise who the old Silk was till the movie gives us a quick and ruthless flashback.

Silk is perhaps the story of many women in the entertainment industry. Even if they were telling just the story of a single woman, there are so many truths through the movie.

Sex sells like nothing else does. (Else Katrina Kaif wouldn’t be a ‘star’ today, among others). Movies have one reason only – entertainment. True, there are intelligent movies, arty movies and all that. But majority of the movies are made to entertain. To make people forget what’s outside. To create a fantasy. And who better to create a fantasy than a woman with luscious curves?

Was she a victim or a champion? Even through her tantrums and diva-like attitude, Balan manages to keep you charmed and rooting for her through the movie. She changes so many faces… every nuance is calculated and poised for impact. Here is an actress who sinks into the role so deep that it is hard to differentiate the character from the actress.

The supporting cast seems rather demure and faded, even Naseruddin Shah. Or maybe Balan just overshadows them all. Surprisingly, it is Emraan Hashmi who has the most dignified role and carries it off with more elan than Tussar Kapoor in his polo neck shirts. Of course, it guess it would be bad PR for him if he didn’t manage to get a role even in his sister’s movie.

The questions in the movie are haunting… was Silk a true feminist? Or just a depressed female trying to live her life the best way possible. Of course, as the movie says, today’s shame is tomorrow’s hero. But the movie seems to portray her more of a hero.

It brings to mind a line I’d read in a book. “She was given three minutes onscreen and told to sell sex. She sold buckets of it.”

***

A friend wondered if Balan can actually make a comeback after this movie. Her weight gain, all the exposure and such.

Indian audiences are still quite hypocritical. They have grown to accept lead actress stripping for an item number but are they mature enough to see so much skin and then see her covered up and in another role again? Or will this be her defining moment?

We pretend to be respectable and honest, while what we really like to see is the other side. Is there more space for true actresses like Vidya Balan in our generation? The intelligent actress?

There are very few women in the industry who can carry off an entire movie by themselves. And she is one of them. Actually, I cannot recall another actress of this generation who can do that. Nope, not the Katrina Kaifs and Kareena Kapoors of this world. Nor Priyanka Chopra. But for most part, this is still a  male-dominated industry.

Female leads ‘retire’ after marriage. 44 year old men continue to play young boys. Comebacks of 40 year old women are scorned as leads, while men can make a comeback as a lead at any time. Movies are written for the men at any age, while the women are relegated to the background.

Even Hema Malini, who was supposed to be the queen, hasn’t managed a comeback. Or Sridevi. Or Madhuri Dixit, though I personally loved Aaja Nachle.

I certainly hope Balan can reinvent herself yet again. Would definitely want to see more interesting cinema.

Frieda Pinto

I came across this post about Freida Pinto. The post is a month old… but it a question that hasn’t still been answered.

Why hasn’t the Indian population accepted Freida Pinto?

It is rather surprising, particularly given our tendency to ‘own’ even second-generation American Indians like Bobby Jindal or anyone who has the slightest hint of Indian ancestry. And here is a girl who his as Indian as she can get, and yet there has been a reluctance in the Indian media to go hyper over her.

Personally, I find her a lot more charming and capable than Aishwarya Rai, whom the media likes to tout as the one to break into Hollywood. Rai almost ruined one of my favorite comedies – Pink Panther and hasn’t really been heard of much in California.

Pinto, on the other hand, has been making a stream of movies. I haven’t seen many yet but which other Indian actress can claim 4 movies in Hollywood and gracing the red carpet for many events, and doing all that while being the epitome of Indian grace.

True, she isn’t beautiful in the traditional sense of ‘beauty’ as we define it. She isn’t fair, she doesn’t have those green eyes like Rai and all that. But she’s far more charming and beautiful than the current crop of Indian actresses.

“India will never accept Freida Pinto unless she proves herself in Bollywood,” a filmmaker acquaintance told me recently, the article read.

Bollywood – where we have women like Katrina Kaif – a definite hottie who really can’t act; Bipasha Base – ditto; Priyanka Chopra – as boring as yesterday’s news. How many of these women can claim substantial roles in commercial cinema? Proving oneself in Bollywood does not take acting talent, least for the women. It takes big boobs and nice hair.

Not all of Pinto’s movies have received rave reviews, nor has her acting talent. But some of it is due to the movies she picked, that got sad reviews… and some due to her acting. But she continues to shine.

And that isnt’ the point either… because since when did we start throwing away actresses because they couldn’t act. If that were the case, everyone from Katrina Kaif to Deepika Padukone and even Kareen Kapoor to an extent wouldn’t be around.

What is it that keeps the Indian media from going gaga over Pinto?

Delhi Belly

If you really think about it, the entire movie is the result of one guy eating food from a street cart in Delhi.

But then again, it isn’t that simple either.

Delhi Belly is one of the best hindi movies I have seen in a long time. It is a tapestry where each thread delicately links to another. And like all Bollywood movies, it has a healthy dose of love/romance/sex and all that but set so realistically that you can help but laugh.

If Guy 1 had not eaten that piece of chicken, served by the hands of a guy who was rubbing his crotch before serving the food, the story would not have happened.

But his motivations and desires drive the story, giving it bizzare twists, right till the end. And this guy – he isn’t even like the ‘lead’ in the movie.

Like all Aamir Khan productions, the movie is clean and sharp. Every character has some reason to be in the movie, unlike hindi movies that throw in random cartoon characters for entertainment. Okay, well, maybe one such character exists.

There’s drama, there’s fun and there’s sheer bawdiness that doesn’t disgust you like the sly, thigh-slapping jokes of another genre.

I wonder why they are trying to block the movie from screening because nothing you hear is something you wouldn’t hear on the bus or metro on your way home. The conversation, the drama and the confusion.

Plot?

3 guys… roommates. Arty types, if you insist – a journalist, a photojournalist and a cartoonist. A girlfriend – a little ditzy, as required and surprisingly well executed by Shenaz Treasury (apparently, the ‘wala’ has been dropped).

So she has to deliver this package and convinces sullen boyfriend Imran Khan to. But they pass it around, one of them falls prey to the fabled Delhi Belly and the parcel sorta falls low on the priority scale. But it does get delivered, and thereby the drama starts.

If you do think of it, it isn’t a new plot. It has been done several times, including in your own hindi cinema. But never with such flair and comic timing, and brilliant camerawork.

If you feel some the cinematography reminds you of some english flick… don’t complain. Least we got it right.

But never thought Delhi Belly would ever be something to laugh so hard about.

Anjaana Anjaani not really new, but…

This appeared in an online newspaper today:

Anjaana Anjaani

“Life begins on the point of death” is the theme Anjaana Anjani is trying to explore.

Boy meet girl when both want to die. Boy and girl decide to die together. This would’ve summed up the movie, except this particular one starts where most other Bollywood movies used to end.

Additionally, Akash (Ranbir Kapoor) and Kiara (Priyanka Chopra) are not in love with each other. Their lives intersect on the bridge as they are poised to jump. And when that attempt fails, they decide to die together because two is always better than one.  If one chickens out, the other is expected to push them through.

Except, numerous attempts later, when they are still alive, they figure one of them has something to do. So they pick New Year’s Eve for another attempt. In the meanwhile, they figure they can cross off things undone on their version of The Bucket List.

Some wishes are harder, some are easier. And during the course of the crossing off the list, there are moments you wish they had jumped off the bridge.

The movie is predictable. You can predict the ending of the movie at the beginning, and once you know the story behind their death wishes, you also know how that will be resolved.

Like many other Bollywood movies, the back half is emotionally loaded and the director Siddarth Anand did not have enough finesse to take it through with the same ease of the first half. There are the usual host of characters – the ex-boyfriend, the best friend, the do-gooders, none of whom really have a strong presence or a role in the movie.

However, Anjaana Anjaani has a lightheartedness during the first half that makes it easier to stomach the morbidity it is portraying. Just when you begin getting uncomfortable about their attempts at suicides, they make you laugh.

Also, in yet another reversal Indian cinema is seeing, the woman, Kiara, is the force that drives the two of them to live the 20 days they have left. The mystery woman, who is so happy it makes you wonder why she was on that bridge. Akash, you know his story already and he is as prudish as the virgin he claims to be.

So they swim in the middle of the Atlantic ocean, do their share of clubbing in New York City. They live so normally that you forget they have set an expiration date on their lives.

The much-publicized car, titled ‘Blush,’ appears far shorter than it was supposed to. A road trip to sin city Las Vegas, with panning shots of deserts and dry shrubs and a winding road. That is probably one of the wider shots the director even wanted.

The second half of the movie in particular is crammed with close up shots of the duo. Priyanka Chopra and Ranbir Kapoor are actors who have proved themselves in more challenging roles and manage to pull this off with ease too. The extreme close ups though begin to annoy after a few shots of Chopra’s kajal-rimmed eye that aren’t so artistic.

Zayed Khan makes yet another guest appearance, like he seems to be famous for these days. The short time doesn’t make his role any sweeter or his acting any better. Instead, it adds to the flatness of the screenplay, and makes you wish the director had thought of adding little more depth to the characters.

But Anjaana Anjaani also belongs to the new generation of movies, where women are the happy-go-lucky souls, men bawl their eyes out and are virgins, and also caters (or mocks) the gay audience with a gap strip club in the back of nowhere or Ranbir Kapoor trying to take over Salman Khan’s position as the shirtless guy, which makes it all fun enough.

The music would be good for your iPod but does make you wish for the remote while watching the movie.

Anjaana Anjaani is the perfect movie for a lazy Sunday afternoon, as long as you are not expecting a new plot.

Edit: Things I couldn’t say in the official review:

1. Ranbir Kapoor = yumminess. Finally Indian women have a body to ogle over. Maybe he just realises his sex appeal or just likes taking his clothes off, but the one scene in the movie where he walks out of the shower, in the semi-darkness = HOT!!!

2. Priyanka Chopra – did she get collagen or something in her lips. She looks gorgeous except for those lips.

3. What on earth is with the close-ups??? Oh wait… I did mention that in the review, right?

4. The car. Me wants!!!

When Bollywood met Cricket

Lalit Modi, whatever his other faults maybe, managed to combine the two biggest brands in India – Bollywood and Cricket.

Did he tweak some rules, do some under the table work for this? Maybe. (I was reading up about him wondering what exact career path the man had taken, and it never has been too clean. Anyway….) But the general public doesn’t really care about it. Infact, all of that might just add more intrigue to it. After all, Bollywood has the scandals of who is sleeping with whom and cricket, every since the match fixing scandal, is used to things like this as well.

And this is also a common man’s dream – all those beautiful women they see on the screen are now smiling at them standing a foot away… So I guess as long as the matches weren’t rigged, most fans will not just care but even forgive the ‘managerial’ issues.

So I guess it was only a matter of time before Sahara entered the picture, and there was “IPL Awards” ceremony. And when that happened, ShahRukh Khan was the most natural choice to host it, along with Karan Johar.

SRK is an entertainer. And a very astute businessman too (yes, KKR lost. But check their endorsements). But the man has molded himself into that exclusive ‘entertainer host’ position. I enjoy watching him any award ceremony… perhaps he is one of the few guys who has the clout to make certain statements and get away with it (Actually, I respect the guy ever since he refused to bow to the Shiv Sena over the My Name Is Khan movie) or the writers figure he can take a little heat, but the script is no longer politically correct. And in an atmosphere (both cricket and bollywood) where everyone is being saccherine sweet, that is such a relief.

He made Rahul Dravid and Saurav Ganguly dress up women, Adam Gilchrist dance, he ragged Yuvraj Singh (that’s pretty much all I saw actually)… and it was fun. (And we’d like to imagine the ragging some of the guys would take in the locker room). As opposed to Bollywood where everyone is polished and tries to speak in english etc etc, cricket has (had?) people who were picked for talent one and are only one developing the pretenses. It is nice to see people from humble origins making it big… remember Yuvraj Singh when he first came? Before his playboy days? Virender Sehwag, who couldn’t speak english. Harbhajan Singh. OF course, that trend is fast changing. Fancy suits, shiny hair, dancing and white shoes.

I do wonder what will be the future of Indian cricket though? I mean… the national team is already using the IPL as an excuse for their pathetic performance in the World Cup. “Parties caused fatigue” apparently. Which is exclusive to Indians alone, the rest of the world played alright.

Haven’t football clubs been doing this forever? Can David Beckham complain about fatigue?

Oh well… considering the amount of money in both these industries and the public appeal, both of them had to come together on an official platform sooner or later. So yeah, it is a larger-than-life, all the money you can blow, all the booze you can drink fiesta which leaves people a little uneasy and extremely hung over when it is over. And makes some people who were in the right time at the right place, extremely rich.

The rest of us.. we watch, and we envy.

Side note: There were quite a few ads of paan (what is that rajnigandha sorts called) while the awards were on. And I notice there are several familiar faces now advertising these things. Have the people gotten cheap or these companies making so much money that they can hire these notable names for their ads now?
And Nirma found a new girl.. and she is no where as cute or hot as Sonali Bendre. Oh I miss those old ads!! The Liril girl dancing under the waterfall – most of them made in big in Bollywood, starting with Juhi Chawla. Sonali Bendre trying out bracelets in Nirma. That little girl in a white frock circling around and around for the Nirma Washing Powder (I even remember the jingle). And the Diary Milk ad – where the girl dances out into the field to hug the blushing batsman when he hits a six.
Most ads these days aren’t half as interesting. The cutest I’ve seen is the Tanishq one. Some don’t make sense. Some look good so you don’t mind that they don’t make sense. Some just have big names. And some have asses like the Reebok one. I did like the concept… of course, today I noticed that they showed only the shoes, no more butts.

Song of the day: aahun ahun – Love AAj Kal