Wednesday, February 27, 2008


I hesitated to write this post, because I felt anything I would say just wouldn't capture my true love of this film.

But now it's time to try...

Quite surprisingly, this movie has left an imprint on my heart that I've been unable to shake, and I've been reflecting on my favorite parts and humming the tunes for the past couple of days now.

I was surprised because I really wasn't all that excited to see the film. I'm not a big fan of Hollywood epics (Violence is not my thing and sometimes the battle scenes are tedious), so I really didn't know what to expect in Bollywood. Hrithik and Aishwarya are two of the most physically beautiful creatures on the planet, but I had yet to really connect with them onscreen.

But, being the Bollywood fan that I am, I went to see Jodhaa-Akbar on opening day...only to be turned away at the door of my not-so-local AMC theater because--get this--they hadn't received the second half of the film! Frustrated, I decided I wouldn't go back until I read some of the reviews from my blogging friends...Luckily, Beth, Sanket, and Carla all had positive things to say, as did my friend Mary (who doesn't have time to sit through 3 hour+ movies, but considered this one worth every minute),so I figured I'd better trek on back to AMC next week (when they were expecting the rest of the film to arrive).

And so began my obsession with Jodhaa-Akbar.

Oh, how I loved this film! It stretched to almost four hours, but I honestly did not want it to end. This amazed me because during most three hour movies, I get extremely irritated when I feel like the whole thing is dragging and should just end already (ahem, Karan Johar). But with this movie it was different- I was so entranced that I kept glancing at my watch wishing time would go slower.

You may think I'm exaggerating, but I'm just such a sucker for a good love story! And Jodhaa-Akbar was love the way I like it...there was this sweet affection between the two lead characters that eventually grew into passion, instead of the other way around. Watching their love story grow was almost as intense as if it were my own!

I usually think love stories in epic films (in Hollywood, anyway) are forced into the script when the movie is really about the historical events. With Jodhaa-Akbar, there was just the right amount of history, action, and love, with the latter taking center stage. I didn't have to wait for scene after scene of drawn out battle for the love story to resurface-it was always there, weaving in between the more dramatic scenes when I needed it to.

I was extremely impressed with both Hrithik and Aishwayra in this film, but I may be biased since I loved the story so much. I'd seen Hrithik before in Kabhi Khushie Kabhi Gham and Dhoom 2, and found him a bit cold...In Jodhaa-Akbar, this iciness may have still been there, as his character was supposed to be a little intimidating (to some degree) as a Mughal Emperor. However, as he fell in love with Jodhaa and expressed his desire to unite Hindustan, I was caught off guard with his tenderness and compassion. I grew very fond of him in this film and loved his portrayal of Jalaluddin.

This was my favorite Ash performance by far...As with Hrithik, I always thought she could act, but had a hard time connecting with her (with the exception of my recent Devdas revisit) prior to this film.
Here, she was as likable as she was beautiful. Jodhaa had a spunkiness to her, but also a strong bind to her faith, which I could both admire and relate to. She was exquisite and refined as a Rajput princess, looking somewhat like a glass doll (she wore less makeup in this film, and actually looked better than ever, lucky gal). Ash was definitely the best choice for this role...I could see how a mighty Mughal emperor like Jalaluddin would develop a soft spot for her, despite all of her "conditions". Had they stuck someone else in this role, I may not have bought it.

By the way, I happen to be one of the few people who liked the Hrithik/Ash pairing in Dhoom 2. However, I loved them a whole lot more in Jodhaa-Akbar, perhaps because I enjoyed the story so much. One of my favorite parts of the entire film was the song "Inn Lamhon Ke Daaman Mein", a scene I found to be really romantic and incredibly steamy. The increasing tempo of the music matched the building intensity between Jodhaa and Jalaluddin, giving us yet another great example of Bollywood creating some heat onscreen in a tasteful manner. Now why can't Hollywood get this right?

Speaking of the music, I found the entire soundtrack to be unique to anything I'd heard before in Bollywood, but in a very lovely way. Instead of the actors lip-syncing and prancing around (as I happen to also enjoy), we get actual performance-type pieces like "Khwaja Mere Khawaja" and "Azeem-O-Shaan Shahenshah". These ensembles were so majestic on the big screen that I felt like I was actually there, either in the crowd praising the emperor or sitting outside at the wedding tent. I loved all of the songs, every single one, and have played the soundtrack practically on repeat since I saw the film.

Now, I realize I've done nothing but gush about the film for this entire post, but I just loved it that much. The purity of the love story, the beauty of the whole production, the haunting image of Krishna during "Mann Mohana", Jalaluddin identifying his wife amongst a room of covered women, Sonu Sood in his supporting role, the strong ties both leads had to their unique faith...these are just a few of the things I adored. I may have to make it down to the theater to see this one again, so stained is Jodhaa-Akbar on my heart.

I know its a little hasty to say this off of one viewing, but I think Jodhaa-Akbar is one of my favorite films ever.


Thursday, February 21, 2008


I have a confession to make.

It was probably the real-life rumors surrounding Silsila that peaked my curiosity over the actual movie itself. Whether there is any truth to them or not remains unknown(and quite irrelevant when judging the film), but it certainly made things a bit more interesting to watch.

I promise not to go on a tangent about the real life drama, because I want to give a productive review on this film (and I'm sure everyone's tired of hearing about it already), but there is just one thing I'm insanely curious about...If Amitabh and Rekha's alleged real life affair was such a hot rumor in Bollywood at this time, why on earth would Jaya agree to do this film? Was she proving to everybody that she was confident in her husband's faithfulness? Or did the rumors start going around after the release of the film? And for that matter, why would Amitabh agree to it? Almost makes the rumors seem ridiculous, doesn't it? If those of you who grew up on Bollywood can shed some light on this, I'd really like to know!

But let's talk about Silsila. I'm trying to branch out and slowly roll back into the Bollywood films from decades past, so I really haven't seen many, and I'm still not sure Silsila was a very good place to start. It wasn't an amazing story, but it was still likeable due to the performances, some of the music, and the way the script seemed to flow (I probably don't know much about what constitutes a tight script, but if I had to guess, I would say this one delivers since it stuck to the point and was easy to follow).

As Carla's post states in much more accurate detail, Rekha was the one disappointment in the group. I was surprised because I had been so impressed with her in Umrao Jaan and was expecting another memorable performance. Instead we get Chandni, which she still played with her classic sensuality, but who came across as doing little more than clinging desperately to Amitabh Bachchan. Don't get me wrong, though...I still find the woman's allure to be absolutely fascinating. There's just something bewitching about her, and I can imagine she was the fantasy of many a men in her day.

On the other hand, one of my favorite performances of the film came from Jaya Bachchan, in the scene where her husband tells her about the affair. She did this twisty thing with her mouth like she was going to cry, and I thought it was very believable.

The songs in Silsila were entertaining, especially since I found Amitabh and Rekha to be almost picturesque onscreen together. They looked like the Barbie and Ken of 80's Bollywood.

However, the shining point in the film was its ending. Kudos to the writers for trying to make the point about affairs that I feel is so often the glaring truth: Everything is exciting when its forbidden, but once you actually get what you think you want, you realize its not as perfect as you thought it would be (as opposed to a movie like KANK, which got that part all wrong).

And, last but not least, here comes the makeup artist in me (because I just couldn't hold it in any longer). If you want to duplicate Rekha's to-die-for lips in Silsila, try Desire lipglass from MAC with Vino or Currant lipliner.

You can thank me later.

Text © Copyright 2008 Nida Nazir

Bitten By Bollywood


Monday, February 18, 2008


The first three Bollywood movies I saw were Laawaris, Umrao Jaan (starring Rekha), Umrao Jaan (starring Aishwarya Rai), and Devdas, in that order. Perhaps that explains why I found Devdas a bit frustrating the first time I saw it(Read on and you'll see I've changed my mind). The movies I'd seen (with the exception of Laawaris) had one of three things, or all of the above: 1)a prostitute, 2)Aishwarya Rai, 3)a dragged out ending, or 4)a tragic love story that ended on a bitter note. This also gave me the false impression that the majority of Hindi movies were typically serious in genre, with a classic Indian vibe.

Obviously, I couldn't have been more wrong! As a matter of fact, since viewing many more films, I've discovered the opposite, which caused me to appreciate the darker dramas like Devdas that didn't have happy endings. As you may have read in my Umrao Jaan (starring Rekha) review, I realized it is possible to love a Bollywood film in a whole new way if you come back to it with a bit more understanding of Indian cinema.

The same thing that happened to me with Umrao Jaan happened with Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Devdas, which I decided to show to my mom and bro to prove not all Shahrukh Khan films are as sugary as my fluffy faves. In doing so, I grew quite fond of the film's exquisite sets, magnetic performances, and haunting melodies (Maar daala, Maar daala...Sorry. It comes out sometimes.)

Let's start with the obvious. Aishwarya Rai is flawlessly beautiful, and while I have found this to be distracting in the past (I have to admit, sometimes I stare at her face instead of the subtitles), I think I'm getting more comfortable with her as an indentifyable character. Bhansali was wise to cast her as Paro, as her ethereal beauty was the perfect touch to the movie's elegant atmosphere. I'd heard he was originally considering Kareena Kapoor for this role, but I'm so glad it went to Ash instead.

But Ash wasn't the only one I took notice of in Devdas. Madhuri Dixit melted my heart as Chandramuki, the courtesean with the purest heart on the planet. Funnily, the first time I saw this movie I didn't quite get her role in the story. But this time, especially when watching the unforgettable "Maar Daala", I just got it. She was there because she loved Devdas unconditionally, expecting nothing in return but only living in the moments she could get from him. While I personally felt she deserved better since he insulted her most of the time, I was still glad she kept popping up just so I could get more of her.

Now that I've been exposed to different movies (with various budgets) in Bollywood, I can see how this is referred to as one of the most expensive ones ever made. Luckily, Bhansali's shopping spree worked (for me). The luminous sets glowed with elegance, a stark contrast from the almost vampy, mystical vibe in SLB's latest film, Saawariya.

The music in Devdas was fitting for the story, but there are two songs in particular that I literally cannot get enough of. "Maar Daala", which I find to be very suggestive and alluring in its own right, and "Silsila Ye Chayat Ka", which hypnotizes me every time I see it (Yes, I sometimes watch Bollywood songs over and over on Youtube. And I find it fun.). Madhuri is clearly a natural, but Ash ain't too shabby, either. I've tried to do the hand movements from "Silsila" myself but ended up looking more like a puppet than Paro. I've gotta hand it to Ash...She and Madhuri are now my two favorite female dancers in Bollywood (so far, and followed closely by Rani Mukerjee).

I have to bring up the final scene, and ***it contains a spoiler***: It had me just as much on the edge of my seat as the first time I saw it...I actually held my breath in suspense as Paro ran through the palace stairs, her red and white shawl trailing behind. Although I knew how it was going to turn out, I couldn't keep from thinking, right down to the last second, "Well, maybe she'll make it this time...!"

Obviously, she did not. And while this upset me greatly during my first viewing (I always cry at sad movies), this time I realized what a fine piece of work that scene actually was.

It's also worth mentioning that both my mom and brother loved Devdas from beginning to end on their very first try. But perhaps they're just used to me bringing out the Kuch Kuch Hota Hais and the
Veer Zaaras and needed a change of pace.

My favorite line in Devdas is when Devdas asks Chandramuki if she loves him, and she replies, "Or you could ask me if I breathe." Well, at least that's what my subtitles say. I wonder if it would sound even cooler if I understood Hindi. Either way, I can't wait to meet Mr. Right so he can ask me if I love him and I can use this. Don't worry...I'll be sure to write and tell you all about it.

Text © Copyright 2008 Nida Nazir
Bitten By Bollywood


Saturday, February 9, 2008

Laaga Chunari Mein Daag

I may be just a tad biased where Laaga Chunari Mein Daag is concerned, because it was the first Bollywood movie I got to see on the big screen back in October.

My mom and I made a whole day of it--First the movie and then dinner at The Cheesecake Factory. Mmm, Bollywood and Godiva cheesecake...two of my favorite things! Since we had such a good time that day, and the movie was a part of that experience, I may have enjoyed Laaga Chunari Mein Daag a bit more than I would have otherwise. I was eager to get my hands on the DVD and find out, once and for all, whether this movie would be as much fun in the comfort of my living room.

And guess kind of was! But allow me to explain, because there is a catch. Let me put it like this...if we look at LCMD as "the journey of a woman" from village life into prostitution, and the feelings and experiences she encounters along the way, then it fails miserably. Here's why:

1)We aren't given any real juicy stories about Vibha's life and transformation as a prostitute. In fact, there's really very little shown of her day to day experiences in the profession. We just skip from a scared young woman to a confident call girl with little in between except for a song. I don't know about you, I would have appreciated a little more insight into her life.

2)There are a lot of holes in the story, such as why Vibha would have rather slept with Karan's boss instead of taking him up on his offer to give her money. In a story with such a heavy topic, there really should be a solid basis for her making the decision she did.

3)Abhishek Bachchan, who I normally love onscreen with Rani, had a very small role that he did little with. He kind of seemed like he didn't want to be there(Then again, to cut him a break, the man did just marry Aishwarya Rai. Maybe he really wanted to go home, and who could blame him?). I think the writers placed too much faith in Rani and Abhi's popularity as a couple that they felt they didn't have to flesh the story out, since the public would love them anyways. Well, I am a fan of these two, and I still did get excited when they were onscreen together in LCMD, but I was a tad dissapointed that there wasn't more to their romance.

Despite these issues, if you take Laaga Chunari Mein Daag as a "chick flick", something you can curl up and watch with a pint of chocolate ice cream and some friends, then it is actually quite good. There are some great performances and hidden touches to the film that make it extremely watchable and fun. Here's why:

1)Konkana Sen Sharma and Kunal Kapoor. Wow, I really enjoyed these two onscreen together! Their scenes after the intermission were some of the best parts of the movie. Konkana is a breath of fresh air and Kunal is simply dreamy (so much so, that I forgave him for that disgusting sandwhich with drippy mayo and his feet on Chutki's desk). I love them together, I love them seperately. I've definately got to see Aaja Nachle.

2)Rani Mukerjee is one of my favorite actresses, and this movie had a lot of Rani in it. I'd read multiple reviews that criticized her performance, saying it was dull and lifeless. But I think one of the great things about Rani's talent is that she never overacts, having the unique ability to say so much with her eyes alone.

3)Konkana's character, Chutki, had a thing for Shahrukh Khan. I love when I hear references to other actors or movies in Bollywood and I just get it. It makes me feel like I've come so far.

4)I always feel like Jaya Bachchan and Anupham Kher are overused in supportive parental roles...well, at least Anupham Kher is. But in this movie, I forgot all about that and found the little family to be pretty believable.

5)And back to Abhishek Bachchan. Although I stand by my opinion above, I was very pleased with Abhi's reaction to Rani's confession at the end. Call it cheesy or predictable, but in that last scene I started to feel like I actually did get a satisfying dose of Rani/Abhi after all(even though it was a small one).

I'm not quite sure where the songs fall in. I liked the visuals and the actors in the sequences more than the actual melodies. Kind of dissapointing since I usually dig Yash Raj songs. The only one I really liked was "Kachi Kaliyan".

And on a final note, I just found out what Laaga Chunari Mein Daag means in Hindi. Nice. Kind of makes me like it more, in a strange way.

So there you have it. My first Bollywood movie in the theater! Make no mistake, though...Laaga Chunari Mein Daag is definately still a "renter". Although it wasn't a dissapointment, either, if viewed as just an excuse to spend some time with Rani and Konkona. Here's to many more trips to the theater for Hindi films!

Text © Copyright 2008 Nida Nazir Bitten By Bollywood


Saturday, February 2, 2008

The Namesake

My brother knows me well--He bought me Mira Nair's The Namesake for my birthday. Yay! I couldn't control my excitement...we watched it almost immediately. I'd heard so many good things about the film, so my expectations were high, but I hadn't read the book and knew next to nothing about the plot.

Was I disappointed? Not one bit.

Although the movie centers around Gogol, a young man born in America to Indian parents, my favorite aspect of the film was the beautiful love story between Gogol's parents(played by Tabu and Irfan Khan).

Tabu as Ashima reminded me so much of my own stepmother! Like Uzma, Ashima left her comfort zone in her native country to live in the bustling world of New York City. Like Uzma, Ashima was excited to experience life with her new husband, but was unsure of what to expect. Tabu played this part brilliantly--her facial expressions and mannerisms were eerily similar to my stepmother's reactions in real life.

I don't know what kind of emotions this comment is going to stir up, but it will certainly make for an interesting discussion, so I'll say it anyways: I think arranged marriages have gotten a bad rap. I'm not saying I want one, or that one should be considered when one is already in love with someone else (as so often happens in Bollywood), but I would say that I'm not opposed to it, either. Here in the West, we scoff at arranged marriages, but who has the higher divorce rate? In my unqualified never-been-married opinion, a great marriage depends on the character of both parties and their committment and faithfulness to one another. Arranged or not isn't really the issue, is it?

Ashoke and Ashima are prime examples of a solid marriage. They grew into a deep love for one another that many of the couples I know would envy. Ashoke was a simple man and a caring, considerate husband, and Ashima was content with him and no one else. I adored them together!

Much of the rest of the film was about Gogol and his realization of his roots and his identity. He had a big problem with his name (which I can relate to, but that's another story). But Gogol's path to finding himself had more to it than just accepting his name. He had to learn to accept his Indian heritage in a culture that was strickingly different.

These two elements made for a very interesting story, but The Namesake unraveled them a bit slowly. Sometimes things were said or done that didn't seem to make sense. However, everything tied together in the end, and it became apparent that they were all there for a reason.

The Namesake had a very realistic, unflashy feel, which worked for the story it was trying to tell. I throughly enjoyed the film, but there was one thing that bugged me:(***Spoilers ahead***) Gogol's first girlfriend, Maxine, got a raw deal... She wasn't Indian, and she wasn't trying to be, but she was desperately trying to understand him and all aspects of his life. I felt sorry for her when she was dumped. It's not like she was trying to make Gogol something he wasn't...She seemed like she really loved him, and I thought he loved her, until he married another woman so quickly! And, if you've seen the film, you know how that turned out...

Oh, well. The Namesake was still a good movie, make no mistake. Mira Nair works her magic again!

Text © Copyright 2008 Nida NazirBitten By Bollywood


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