Saturday, August 30, 2008

Strut Your Stuff--Online Bollywood Dance Competition!


I know it's been a little longer than usual since I've posted but school started last week and I've been bogged down with homework :(. Still, I'm super excited because I get to start my in-house nursing clinicals this semester!Yay!! Stick with me, though...I'll still try my very hardest to get at least one post up per week--I'm currently working on a review for "Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam" and should have it up in the next couple of days. :)

In the meantime, here's something really fun I thought you guys would want to know about: Vin from Saavn gave me the scoop on a Bollywood Online Dance Competition their website put together, sponsored by Verizon. Get this--Anyone can upload either a new or existing video of themselves dancing to any Bollywood song. The voting committee will review all submissions and choose a winner mid-October. That winner will get an opportunity to dance in a major Bollywood film releasing in late '09 or early 2010!!! Saavn will announce the name of the movie in the next few weeks...

You can check out contest details at here and watch the YouTube announcement here. You can also watch the Verizon promo here.











Unfortunately, I have two left feet and probably won't be sharing any of my dance attempts with anyone! But I'm really excited for any of you who actually can dance (Please teach me!) and wish you the best of luck! Keep me posted on your entries and let me know which songs you chose!

Just for fun, if I could actually dance, here's some of the songs I'd consider submitting:

1)"Dhoom Tana" from Om Shanti Om

2)Any of the songs from Jhoom Barabar Jhoom , especially "Kiss of Love".

3)"Salaam-E-Ishq" and "Saiyan Re" from Salaam-E-Ishq

4)"Do You Want A Partner" from Partner

Happy BollyDancing!



All images courtesy Saavn.com.


Text © 2008 Nida Nazir Bitten By Bollywood

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Bachna Ae Haseeno

Don't you love it when you have low expectations for something and it ends up being pretty darn good?



That's exactly what happened when I saw Bachna Ae Haseeno, the new Yashraj romcom featuring Ranbir Kapoor, Deepika Padukone, Bipasha Basu, and Minissha Lamba.

I was on the fence about it--When I first saw the promos, it looked like it could be fun, and I enjoyed Ranbir in Saawariya, but as the months rolled by I lost interest. How much did I like Ranbir, anyways? I couldn't really remember. Also, thanks to my blogging friends, my list of Bollywood recommendations grew, and I watched a string of great films. I began to crave more from my Hindi film experience than the same ol' Yashraj fare.

Was Bachna Ae Haseeno any different? Nope, not really. But gosh, it was still an entertaining way to spend a Monday afternoon. I didn't fall in love with the film, but I definitely thought it was better than Kismat Konnection.



Let's walk through it together (There may be some teeny tiny spoilers, but trust me, there really aren't too many "surprises" to spoil. I won't give away the ending, how about that?). The film kicks off with Ranbir dancing in a Shahid-Kapoor style number with the three leading ladies (who I noticed all have big, cat-shaped eyes--which I love because you can clearly see their makeup and imitate the look). I found it interesting that in both of Ranbir's films (the only two he's done so far), he's gotten to make a grand entrance, as if he's already a superstar (I guess that must be one of the perks to being a Kapoor). Yet he lives up to the hype on the dance floor, at least. The man can move, although he's a bit over the top about it. Don't get too excited, he's no Hrithik Roshan, but he's good when he's trying to be kind of Justin Timberlake-ish, all smooth and hip. Anyways, the title song was cool, but it gave me a bit of a Kismat Konnection flashback, so I remained skeptical.

As the movie began, I realized the plot was not what I expected ( I thought it was a love quadrangle starring Ranbir as the three-timing jerk who can't decide who he wants). Instead, it was a story of a man who fell in love with three different women at three different phases of his life. Hmm, I thought, this could be interesting.



A 17 year old Raj (Ranbir Kapoor) is traveling to Switzerland by train with some buddies. On the same train, Mahi (Minissha Lamba) gazes out the window and dreams of meeting her true love. At this point of the film, I sighed with disappointment, smelling another DDLJ knockoff. But the writers did this intentionally--Mahi is actually a huge DDLJ fan, and the "true love" she hopes to find is literally a real-life version of SRK's Raj in that film. The love story between Ranbir's Raj and Mahi develops under somewhat of a parody of DDLJ--and its actually pretty funny (Notably, Ranbir's impersonation of SRK). You don't get irritated when, like Raj and Simran, Raj and Mahi miss the train, because you know it's deliberately set up to play out that way. Even Raj is privy to the joke--In fact, he's the mastermind behind it, using it to win Mahi over. Of course, once he does, he breaks her heart, and we begin to understand why Raj's relationships have never worked out.

Did I lose you yet? Because all this Raj stuff is beginning to make my head spin. Let's move on, shall we? ;)

Fast forward to 2002. Raj now lives with Radhika (Bipasha Basu), his gorgeous new girlfriend. However, once Raj is offered a job transfer to Sydney, he jumps at the chance, planning to drop Radhika and enjoy bachelorhood in Austrailia. Sadly, Raj isn't man enough to be straightforward with Radhika and tell her he doesn't see their relationship going any further, and she mistakenly assumes he is going to marry her and take her to Sydney with him. This segment of the film really proves what a coward Raj is, as he makes several tasteless attempts to get Radhika to break up with him, so he doesn't end up looking like the bad guy. Needless to say, the outcome to this relationship doesn't end up any better than the first, and another woman is left brokenhearted.

The final romance in the film occurs between Raj and Gayatri, played by Ranbir's real life girlfriend Deepika Padukone. This time, it is Raj who falls head over heels in love, yet Gayatri isn't ready to settle down and marry. Raj finally gets a taste of his own medicine! But he isn't ready to give up... He decides the only way he will have a chance with Gayatri is if he makes peace with the two women he has hurt in the past. The second half of the movie follows Raj on this mission, and unfortunately it does drag a bit here.



Still, overall Bachna Ae Haseeno was surprisingly pleasant. I wasn't moved too much by any of the romance stories, but the beat of the film was still witty and the performances solid, making it an entertaining ride. I'll most likely purchase the DVD when it comes out (which will probably be before the ridiculously delayed Jodhaa-Akbar, not that I'm bitter or anything, lol ).

I wasn't as smitten with Ranbir as I was in Saawariya, but I have to say I was impressed by him in this light-hearted role. He was actually pretty funny at times, despite the fact that his character was an immature little prick who liked to use women. Can you believe that after all he did to his first two girlfriends, I couldn't hate him? I wasn't rooting for him 100%, either, but I did give him a little credit for at least trying to make amends--even though his reasons for that also happened to be selfish.



Minissha Lamba was sweet, but she was my least favorite of the three ladies. Her dancing and acting seemed stiff at times, but in all honesty I don't think that's what bugged me about her. There was just something missing--Maybe she didn't spark enough chemistry with Ranbir, I don't know. To be fair, her character was written as the more bland of the three women, which obviously wasn't her fault. And I, for one, would never be able to hold my own next to Bipasha Basu and Deepika Padukone, so she deserves points for that as well. Watch out for a surprise cameo as the man who plays her husband in the second half.

The only other film I'd seen Bipasha in was Dhoom 2, and I didn't feel she was given enough to do in that for me to pass judgement. I really liked her here, though. In the first half, when Raj developed a crush on her, I remember thinking, whoa, buddy, she's totally out of your league. But by the end of their love segment I was convinced Radhika simply didn't care whether or not she could "do better" (because, let's face it, she totally could have)--she genuinely loved Raj.



Bipasha deserves a second paragraph for her performance after the intermission, when Raj locates her to deliver his apology. She's a famous Bollywood star now (and quite the diva), and makes him earn her forgiveness by becoming her personal assistant. Since she verbally abuses most of her staff, this is totally Radhika's way of getting sweet revenge. Gosh, I know its wrong, and goes against the moral code for forgiveness, but could you actually imagine what it would be like to do that to an ex? And one that left you at the altar, at that? It was absolutely hilarious...I couldn't help but root for her here! There's a scene in this segment where Radhika calls Raj over to zip her dress up for her. She's not being seductive, but rather sticking it to him, because she looks amazing in this shot. Both actors conveyed so much without saying a word--it was a very well done scene. I really wish I had a screencap so you could see how picturesque Bips looks in this white dress, but watch for it if you go see the film. Eat your heart out, Raj!

Deepika Padukone wowed me with her charm in Om Shanti Om, and she managed to do it again this time. In Bachna Ae Haseeno, I noticed her talent even more without the glitz of Shahrukh and his 31 friends to distract me. Deepika is once again more than I expect her to be, and everything I wish Priyanka Chopra was. She shines onscreen, whether she is dancing, smiling, and yes, even acting. If she keeps this up she may make it to my list of favorite actresses someday, but its still too early to tell.



Shockingly, I thought all of the comedy in Bachna Ae Haseeno was well done, and didn't find any of it weird or over the top. I really expected some oddball side performance from one of the Bollywood comedians, but there was none of that here (No disrespect, but that can be distracting sometimes. A glaring example would be Rajpal Yadav in Waqt, a film I haven't gotten around to even watching the second half of). The jokes were sharp and flowed with the context of the film, and I appreciated that.

Bachna Ae Haseeno tries to subtly slip a few commentaries on love and romance in today's era, but thankfully the messages aren't drilled into our brains. The film did an excellent job portraying the man who isn't ready to commit, something that was also well done in Salaam Namaste, which had the same director.

I'm glad I decided to see this film instead of the more popular Singh is Kinng (I just couldn't do another Welcome). This may be because my expectations were so low after the Kismat Konnection disappointment, but it was surprisingly not bad. Not bad at all.



Text © 2008 Nida Nazir

Bitten By Bollywood

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Thursday, August 7, 2008

Hum Tumhare Hain Sanam



Prior to watching, I just didn't get why I hadn't heard more about Hum Tumhare Hain Sanam. I mean, its a love triangle between Madhuri, Salman, and Shahrukh! Yet its only grazed over briefly on most Shahrukh Khan fan sites, has never been recommended to me by any of my fellow bloggers, and...well, its just not talked about much.

After watching the film, I can see why. Its just not very good. Not awful, but mediocre at best. Still, it is a love triangle between Madhuri, Salman, and Shahrukh (though not in the way I'd expected), and thus there were things I really caught myself enjoying. These three did a fabulous job, and gave me enough things to talk about to warrant a review.



First of all, the biggest shock of this film was that it was made in 2002. The direction, lighting, cinematography and outfits made it look like it crawled out of the shadows of the HAHK and DDLJ hangover, gathered whichever actors from those films it could, and slopped itself together in about 1996 or so. My only clue that it could have been made later was the shape of Shahrukh Khan's hair. Maybe that's why I kept having to backtrack on my little knowledge of Bollywood pre-2007 chronology and ask myself which Khan was going to be the true "hero" of the film. Since I incorrectly assumed this was made somewhere in between Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge and Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, I expected this movie to be quite different, with Madhuri having an affair with Salman, and Shahrukh playing the husband we all felt sorry for but knew wasn't the one she was "supposed" to be with...you know,
KANK-style.

But the movie wasn't like that at all, which wasn't a bad thing, just not what I expected. Shahrukh was in the film much more than Salman was, and there was no love affair (I don't mean to throw a spoiler in here without warning, but its really no secret, as it becomes apparent to the viewer fairly quickly that the director has no intention of developing a romance between Madhuri and Salman's characters).




Here's the synopsis: Radha(Madhuri Dixit) and Suraj (Salman Khan) have been friends since childhood. The two share a beautiful relationship much like a brother and a sister would, and Suraj is practically a part of Radha's family. When Radha marries Gopal (Shahrukh Khan), her new husband sees this friendship as a threat. Most of the film centers on Gopal's struggle to trust his wife and his growing jealousy of Suraj, which definitely had its interesting moments.



I must say, Shahrukh played his part very well. I think the film would have really crashed and burned for me had he not been so great at being such a...well, such a jerk. Gopal was needy, possessive, jealous, and a Classic Big Baby. As a matter of fact, had this been real life, I would have sworn Gopal was the one who was actually having the affair, since he was so hopelessly insecure. On the other hand, there were times where I actually felt he was justified in feeling this way. Suraj was a total fifth wheel, and both he and Radha seemed completely oblivious to the fact that maybe Gopal wanted some alone time with his wife (Suraj even almost accompanied the newlyweds on their honeymoon, at Radha's suggestion, no less).






Surprisingly, these moments in the film were pretty hilarious, and I have to give credit to Shahrukh here as well. I think this was the funniest I've ever seen him--his facial expressions and mutterings under his breath whenever Suraj popped up were some of the best parts of Hum Tumhare Hain Sanam, and probably the main reason I'd consider watching it again.

But all praise doesn't go to Shahrukh. I really liked Salman, too, but in a different way. His character, Suraj, was fun and extremely likable. In fact, I actually wished Radha would end up with him, since Gopal was such a psycho. And Madhuri and Salman worked well together, as they had in Hum Aapke Hain Kaun, so I found myself enjoying these two onscreen once again.

My first impression of Salman Khan was in his more recent films like Partner and Salaam-E-Ishq. In both of those, I thought he came across as arrogant and was unimpressed with his acting skills. But after HAHK and Hum Tumhare Hain Sanam, I can finally say he's growing on me. The man can be really adorable, in a cheesy, Bollywoody, kind of way. And he's quite handsome, something I'd tried not to notice before. But I'm still a teensy bit confused about the acting part--Gosh, he just seemed so fake sometimes...like he was totally overemphasizing his words. Ironically, its this little flaw that's causing me to like him, since I'm seeing less arrogance and more vulnerabilty.

And, oh, yeah, did I mention Suraj was a famous singer? Well, he is, and this just kicks up the cheese factor about ten notches more... As these screencaps illustrate.





Here are Suraj's exact words: "Hey You, Beautiful Girl...I have this beautiful flower in my hand. I want to know which one of you will be lucky enough to get it...You, you, (points at Madhuri, who gives a fake surprised look), how about YOU?"...throws flower into crowd.

Yep, this is the man I liked best in the film. Go figure.

Ahh, onto Madhuri. The beautiful, graceful, talented Madhuri. I could never truly join in on her praises...I'd only seen a few films, and liked her in them, but never had that experience with her where my appreciation turned into affection. Now, that moment has finally arrived.



One of the major weaknesses in this film is that the script barely allows us to see how Radha truly feels. She mentions something sweet to herself on their wedding night, but after that, we are left to wonder if Gopal may be onto something with all his insecurities. The story is written mostly from Gopal's point of view, and his guess is as good as ours. Yet Madhuri does well with what she has to work with, and when the movie reaches its climax, we no longer have to question who she loves. It is literally written all over her face.

The supportive cast added a nice element, too, with Radha's brother Prashant (Atul Agnihotri) and his fixation on Amitabh Bachchan...



And Gopal's sister, Neeta (Suman Ranganathan), who sort of reminded me of Aishwarya Rai...



Then again, I'm always finding these random resemblances that nobody seems to agree with me on, so I guess I could be way off ;).

More cool elements? The beautiful picturization of the title song, "Hum Tumhare Hain Sanam", which is probably the one point in the film that Shahrukh made me swoon...And I saw more chemistry between him and Madhuri than I did in the entire length of Dil To Pagal Hai. I tried to take some screencaps, but none of them did any justice to what you actually see onscreen, so here's the YouTube video...The beginning looks like its a Ford commercial, but don't worry, it's not :)



I discovered on Wikipedia that this song was a copy of a Pakistani song (I always get excited when there's a Pakistani connection), "Boohey Bariyan", so I included this one for anybody who's interested...



I couldn't find the name for my second favorite song in the film, but it was a total nod to HAHK...The bedroom, Madhuri's outfit, the slick dance moves, it was all very dejavu. If there are more films with Salman and Madhuri in them, please let me know, because I'd probably buy them if somebody recommended them to me.



As for Salman and Shahrukh, they have little time alone onscreen together, but there is one little showdown that proved to be quite interesting. Salman's lines at the end were oddly humorous, and I found myself nodding my head in agreement, wondering why this was a little funny to watch. Maybe it had something to do with the onscreen rivalry between the two that the media hypes up, I don't know. Or maybe it was the expressions on their faces...Either way, it was a moment in Bollywood I'm glad I caught.



(**SPOILER***)

Towards the end of the film, Gopal's insecurities escalate to a point where he pretty much forces Radha to leave her own home. She is heartbroken, even at the verge of suicide, but Gopal is stubborn and will not budge. Guess who comes along to straighten all of this mess out...



Yep, that's right! Its the real Aishwarya Rai! She plays Suman, Suraj's blind girlfriend that nobody seems to talk much about up until this point. Somehow one visit from her magically makes Gopal see the light and realize what a gem of a wife he has.

It was kind of irritating that the writers chose Radha to nearly attempt suicide before Gopal comes riding in on his white horse and practically commands her to forgive him and return home. Of course, she does, and this lackluster ending just added to the mediocracy of the film.

(***SPOILER END****)

I had a very high tolerance level for the film's flaws, due to my affection for the three lead actors. I forgave a lot here, and enjoyed a lot of the things I mentioned above. Hum Tumhare Hain Sanam was not what I expected, but worked in some ways, which is probably why I ended up typing more than I thought I would. I'd love to hear your thoughts, though!

And, oh, yeah, on the heels of Memsaab's post comes another lovely "Hinglish" (her word, not mine)screencap. Ahh, yes, in this movie we don't drink "7up", we drink "Thumbs Up" (And if that's an actual name for a soda in India, I apologize and someone can yell at me for my ignorance.).




Text © 2008 Nida Nazir Bitten By Bollywood

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Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Rang De Basanti



Before viewing the film, I knew next to nothing about Rang De Basanti, except for that it:

1)Starred the ultra-talented Aamir Khan.

2)Was a highly respected film, receiving postive reviews from bloggers, critical acclaim, and several award nominations/wins.

3)Made a political and social comment, and although I had no idea regarding what, I knew it generated a lot of discussion and gave RDB a substantial mark in the history of Indian cinema.

4)Had a cool name. I didn't know what Rang de Basanti meant at the time, but I loved the way it sounded(By the way, thanks to IMDB.com, now I know it means Paint it Yellow (Saffron), a statement that represents being sacrificed for a good cause. The color yellow is also used frequently in the film. Wow. Its even cooler now!)



Sold. I would have purchased it based on #1 alone.

I was cautious about going into the film blindly, especially with such high expectations, as I had with Lagaan. Although I enjoyed that film, I totally overanalyzed it and walked away feeling it wasn't what I expected. But after I wrote the post and started reading the comments, I realized I missed the beauty of Lagaan--its uniqueness is what sets it apart, and I didn't appreciate that at the time.

With Rang de Basanti, I wasn't going to let that happen. I remained patient through the first half, which reminded me a tad bit of Dil Chata Hai. This wasn't a good thing, since Rang de Basanti lacked the character development and chemistry the friends in that film shared. Even Aamir Khan's DJ felt like a milder Aakash...



But, I chose to cast those feelings aside and remain patient, knowing something big was going to happen and whirl the balance of the film in a completely different direction. Boy, was I glad I kept the faith. Shortly after intermission, it all came together, and I realized this film was nothing like Dil Chata Hai. In fact, it was unlike any film I had ever seen, and I was amazed in the turn of events as well as the clever plot which was unraveling before my eyes.

The film begins when a British filmmaker named Sue(played by Alice Patten) decides to make a movie in India based on her grandfather's diary, a prison guard during the Indian Independence Movement. She travels to India to begin shooting with her friend Sonia (Soha Ali Khan--Saif Ali Khan's sister, for those of you who are like me and did not know). Sonia helps Sue find her cast for the film--four of Sonia's own closest college friends, DJ, Karan, Aslam, and Sukhi(Aamir Khan, Siddarth, Kunal Kapoor, and Sharman Joshi, respectively). Later the crew adds Laxman (Atul Kulkarni), although not without some conflict. We see the friends laugh, cry, have fun, all things we can expect college students to do. This occupies most of the first half, although the film is peppered with flashbacks from Sue's grandfather's diary, which later transform to our college friends in character.

If you've seen Rang de Basanti, you know its much more than that, as the core of the film's message starts to really take shape in the second half. But for the sake of those who haven't seen the film, the rest is better left unsaid--Just please trust me on this one and see it for yourself!



I've said it before and I'll say it again--Aamir Khan is truly an amazing actor. But I realized after watching Rang De Basanti that I respect him for something else, too: It seems like he chooses to do films that have a political or social message that he feels strongly about. Just look at the evidence--his role in Fanaa and controversial comments he made surrounding it, the strong Indian unity and triumph during British rule in Lagaan, the sensitive issue in Taare Zameen Par (a film I haven't seen but I know is about a child with a disabilty--which definitely strikes a sensitivity chord with me). Unfortunately, I don't know Aamir Khan personally, so I can't say whether my statement is valid or not, but I just get the impression that he chooses projects which mean something to him. And, wow, I really love him for that.

The rest of the cast was amazing, and all deserve individual credit, but since there are so many of them, I'll refrain from doing so--its not really necessary in this film. I will say that I heard Shahrukh Khan was supposed to play the part of Sonia's boyfriend, but was unavailable to do so (the part was ultimately given to Madhavan). I have mixed feelings about that--it could have been an amazing opprotunity for him to do something different and do it well, or his star power could have bogged down his ability to play a supporting character. It would have been either great or awful, but I guess we'll never know, and that's okay.



I thought some of the songs in the film were pretty, but sometimes felt a little bored while watching--weird for me because I'm not one of those people who get antsy during song-time in Hindi films. I usually watch them as closely as I do the dialouges. But, for some reason, I found my mind wandering in this film's musical moments.

(***SPOILER*****)I just have to say the ending is extremely powerful and effective, and I mean that in more than just content but on a technical level as well. The director played this out brilliantly--I'll never forget the last few frames...or DJ and Karan's smiles. Not to mention Karan's flashback of his last moment with his father. Powerful. I was literally in floods of tears.
(****SPOILER END*****)

I guess this is a short post because a film like this truly speaks for itself. I can't even crack any sarcastic jokes or comment on Kunal Kapoor's hottness, because it just doesn't seem relevant(but hot he is--ok, I couldn't help it).



Just go see it. It is definitely a one of a kind film.


Text © 2008 Nida Nazir
Bitten By Bollywood

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