Thursday, July 31, 2008

Bunty Aur Babli

And here I thought Rani Mukerjee didn't do kissing scenes.

Boy, was I wrong. In Bunty Aur Babli, Abhishek Bachchan and Rani Mukerjee kiss. A lot. And you know what? I'm not complaining, because these two were hot together! But don't let me mislead you with that intro...their romantic jodi was really only a small part of their relationship in the film. The pair worked very well together in many other ways, and that is what made BAB appealing. Whether they were arguing, laughing, kissing, dancing, scamming innocent people...It seemed like Rani and Abhishek had a lot of fun shooting this movie. So I had fun because they were having fun.

Some argue that "Kajra Re" was the best thing to come out of Bunty Aur Babli, but I say it was the connection between the lead pair. It's a must-see for any Rani-Abhi fan out there.

**Aside: Lately, I've tried to be realistic about the whole onscreen "chemistry" thing (Something I thought a lot about in my first experiences with Bollywood but have since realized is more of a reflection of two professionals who did a good job at what they were supposed to do and a director who knew how to make that translate onscreen). Don't get me wrong--its still fun to get excited when I see a couple who has good chemistry, but its just not something I think is automatically carried by two people from film to film (By the way, this realization was not based on my own thoughts, but on something Carla said in a comment once). But call it what you want to--in this film, Rani and Abhi had great chemistry.

This comedy/adventure centers around Rakesh(Abhishek Bachchan) and Vimmi(Rani Mukerjee). Rakesh lives in a small village and dreams of making it big as an entrepreneur. Vimmi lives in another small village and hopes to become the next Miss India. One day they each decide to run away from their homes and pursue these dreams. Rakesh brings his business ideas to an investor, who turns him down but eventually steals the idea for himself. Vimmi is offered an indecent proposal as her only entry into the Miss India contest--which she adamantly refuses. Both are almost discouraged completely--until they meet each other. They discuss their situations and devise a plan to con the man who stole Rakesh's idea. Their plan works, and they quickly realize scamming people is the easiest way to acheive their goals.

As I said above, I'm not sure the movie would have worked for me if Rani and Abhishek hadn't clicked so well with their roles. Its just not my type of movie, I guess. But, luckily, the director cast two people who knew how to pull this one off.

I knew Rani was an amazing actress, but I never would have guessed she'd be that good in a comedic role. I should have known--I'm always in awe of Rani's transformation from her public persona to the character she is playing. I mean, if you watch her in interviews, she seems so refined, politically correct, quiet, reserved. But then you see her onscreen and she can be the exact opposite: sultry, sassy, playful, fun, loud, etc. Quite the versatile actress, she was hilarious in this film. Here's one of my favorite scenes:

You can't tell from the screenshots, but after this last frame (where the other girl is saying "what a bitch") Vimmi shouts back, "you bitch!" in English...but she does it in a really cute, almost innocent out for this if you see the film and you'll see what I mean.

Abhishek was less of a surprise--some of the best scenes in Jhoom Barabar Jhoom belonged to his comedic flair. He was great here, too, looking babyfaced and cute throughout most of the film (with the exception of Bunty and Babli's honeymoon, where he had that sexy five'o clock shadow that transforms him from adorable to hot).

The only thing negative I have to say about Abhishek is that I felt he slipped a little on the acting front at times. Now, I'm one of those people who happen to think Baby B can really act, and disagree when critics say otherwise. But, here, for the very first time, I saw a glimmer of what they are talking about when they call him "wooden". I don't mean this as a contradiction--He really did do a great job as a whole, particularly in the funny scenes. I just felt he slipped a little when things got serious. But I still love him, and still feel he was the best choice for this role.

As for Amitabh Bachchan as the cop hoping to capture Bunty Aur Babli, I could take him or leave him.

I'm typically not a big fan of the whole "cops and robbers" thing, as these films usually contain a lot of violence (not something I can't handle to watch, but something I don't particularly care to watch). However, Bunty Aur Babli contained very little violence, and the scams were cut and dry, easy to follow without much bloodshed. This helped to sway my opinion in a favorable direction, but may be a disappointment for those expecting an action flick (it's not).

As for the music, say what you will about Yashraj films, but they sure know how to whip up some cool song visuals. And, no, I'm not talking about "Nach Baliye", the song that looks like it was the inspiration for Love Story 2050--I have mixed feelings about that one...

I'm talking mostly about the pretty "Chup Chup Ke", the song used to portray Bunty and Babli's honeymoon. In classic Yashraj fashion, we're transported from one beautiful locale to another as each new verse plays...and it's this song that truly displays the smokin' hot connection between the leads I described at the beginning of this post...

And Rani got to wear this cool skirt...(By the way, this is the same expression I would have on my face if I were on my honeymoon with Abhishek Bachchan/Bunty).

Of course, Bunty Aur Babli is not known for this song. It's the dazzling item number "Kajra Re" featuring Aishwarya Rai that people remember most.

I'd heard so much about this song that my curiosity got the best of me last summer and I peeped it out on Youtube. I didn't really appreciate it back then, but this time around, I think I can see why it is such a hit.

For one, Aishwarya is her usual stunning self--the look her makeup artist did really suited her here(I'm a makeup artist, so this stood out to me even more than the fabulous outfit she wore--another flattering element that deserves to be mentioned).

Its also a very pretty song--Alisha Chinai's sweet voice is as smooth as butter. Aishwarya dances well, as I usually think she does.

Also, watching "Kajra Re" in the film meant I got the subtitles--a plus because some of the lyrics were very cool:

This song was made before any real life romance emerged between Ash and Abhishek--at least as far as I know--so it was somewhat amusing to watch her cast him aside in favor of Daddy B. I know they were all in character, still gotta love the irony, right?

Speaking of Amitabh's Lt. Singh, check out this line Ash uses to seduce him:

Lt. Singh chooses the latter option, making him probably the only man on the planet who would pull out a knife instead:

And, last but not least, I got a whole new insight on the whole "Aei Handsome" thing from JBJ--I had no idea it originated here!

The worst thing about my Bunty Aur Babli experience was the growing ache in my heart caused by my lack of funds to purchase tickets to The Unforgettable Tour for its Chicago stop. It almost made my "Kajra Re" moment bittersweet. Another bummer in my life as a college student--and a single parent! Oh well, hopefully they'll come back someday...they will come back, right?...Right?? ;)

For me, this was a pretty good way to spend a Tuesday night. But don't go into Bunty Aur Babli expecting to be blown away by plot or storyline. Just go in wanting to have a good time, because that's what this film is all about.

Text © Nida Nazir 2008 Bitten By Bollywood


Monday, July 28, 2008

Satyam Shivam Sundaram

In Satyam Shivam Sundaram, director Raj Kapoor sets out to teach us it is not what is outside, but what is inside that counts (Really, Raj? And you chose a scantily-clad Zeenat Aman to illustrate that point?).

Sarcasm aside, once I got past the irony of it all, I found SSS to be a fairly enjoyable film. There was lots of pretty things to look at. The story was interesting. I added Zeenat Aman and Shashi Kapoor to my list of actors I want to see more of. And I had my first taste of 70s Bollywood--which, by the way, is just as groovy as everyone says it is!

And, you know what? After watching the film, I think Raj Kapoor made the right choice for his heroine. Zeenat gave the role a mysterious, mesmerizing tone that perhaps only she could pull off. Yes, she was barely dressed and every movement she made was super-suggestive...But it kept you watching...and created a believeable backdrop for an otherwise unlikely tale. I mean, let's face it...only Zeenat's bronze curves prancing through the forest could make a man fall in love without even seeing her face (And by that I should clarify a man like Shashi Kapoor's Rangeev, who was self-admittedly hung up on physical appearances).

Now, I usually steer clear of plot summaries in my posts for two reasons: 1) I'm extremely bad at pulling out main ideas and 2)I'm afraid of going on a tangent and telling too much. But I'm beginning to think they might be helpful to those who have not seen the film and want to decide whether or not it is something they would like. So, I've decided to include a little plot synopsis in all of my posts from here on out. And I promise, I'll try to keep them as simple and brief as possible.

So, here goes: Rupa (Zeenat Aman) has been considered unlucky since the day she was born. She is an outcast, a lonely young girl with few friends and a father who considers her misfortune a curse. As a young girl, Rupa is burned in a cooking accident, which leaves one side of her face scarred. Villagers whisper that Rupa will never get married, and her father fears the same.

Enter Shashi Kapoor (Ranjeev), an engineer transported to Rupa's village to oversee construction of a dam. One morning, Ranjeev is lulled out of his quarters and into the forest by Rupa's enchanting voice, where he spies her volumptous image from afar. He pursues her relentlessly, never once seeing her scars (If the thought of Ranjeev meeting Rupa several times without noticing the side of her face seems impossible to you, just watch the movie. You'd never believe this would work, but it does. Way to go, Raj Kapoor). Ranjeev is head over heels for Rupa, and asks her father for her hand in marriage.

We start to hold out hope for Ranjeev and Rupa until we discover Ranjeev has a phobia for anything less than beautiful. In his own words, he "cannot tolerate any form of ugliness". Uh-oh. What happens when Ranjeev unveils his new bride? I won't reveal anything else, but the rest of the movie takes you down this path.

One nagging flaw in all of this: As the viewer, you seem to be the only one other than Ranjeev who notices how hot Rupa is. The rest of the town appears oblivious to this fact, which seems kind of ridiculous. Scar or no scar, Zeenat Aman is one sultry babe. It's like watching Marilyn Monroe walk through an army of soldiers without turning any heads.

Make no mistake, though--Zeenat Aman gave us more than sex appeal in her performance. I hadn't really seen her in anything, except for Laawaris, which I really didn't remember much about. I thought she was awesome here--the role gave her an opprotunity to take on many different shades to Rupa's personality, and she delivered every time. Her dancing was cool, too-- very snake-like and alluring. Check out this video of "Bhor Bhaye Panghat Pe" and you'll see what I mean (also be sure to notice Shashi's adorable face at 4:22).

In the 70s, men in the U.S. were drooling over Farrah Fawcett. I'll bet men everywhere else were fantasizing about Zeenat Aman in the waterfall.

I've heard that Satyam Shivam Sundaram did not sit well with some because Raj Kapoor flaunted Zeenat Aman's sex appeal to no end. This definitely spiced things up a bit, but I can see why some might be disturbed given the treatment of the main character. Personally, I chose not to overanalyze it, and I'm glad I didn't. It was worth my while to just sit back and enjoy the eye candy, because there was lots of it. As a matter of fact, the entire movie was colored with beauty, from Rupa to Ranjeev to the trippy "Chanchal Sheetal Nirmal Komal"(more on that later).

Ahh, but the real reason I bought Satyam Shivam Sundaram was because it starred Shashi Kapoor.

He's such a fan favorite, especially with my fellow bloggers (check out Sanket's awesome tribute), that I couldn't wait to get my hands on some of his films. In hindsight, this probably wasn't the best place to start, as Ranjeev wasn't the most likable character in the world, but...It just means I'll have to watch more of his films, right? Not that he didn't do a great job--I'm convinced that I would have hated Ranjeev if anyone else had played him. But Shashi had a sort of softness in his voice and smile (I loved the little nervous chuckle he did under his breath!), a boyish quality that caused me to blame his actions on immaturity rather than character. Like Rupa, I kept wanting to forgive him, kept trying to give him ways to redeem himself (***SPOILER***And he does redeem himself in the end--once he and Rupa end up together, I wiped his slate clean of all his past sins. I couldn't help it, because I honestly trusted that he would shape up and treat Rupa right from there on out***SPOILER END***).

Which brings me to the creme filling in Satyam Shivam Sundaram--the song that looks like it was inspired by a 70s acid trip, "Chanchal Sheetal Nirmal Komal". Seriously, I kept expecting little munchkins to pop out and join in on the song. Well, whatever RK was smoking, it did the trick, because this song is jam packed with visual goodies. And, as I've done with my other Raj Kapoor posts, I've included some pics for you...

As you can see, Satyam Shivam Sundaram made more of a visual impact on me than anything else. But it was still a decent film--and totally worth my time. Watch it for Zeenat, for Shashi, and for eye candy galore.

Text © 2008 Nida Nazir Bitten By Bollywood


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