Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Jaane Tu...Ya Jaane Na!

It wasn't hard for me to like Jaane Tu...Ya Jaane Na!.

There was so much good stuff in this film. Imran. Genelia. The cameos. The music. The "young love" factor. How could I resist?

There's been a lot of great reviews on JTYJN lately; I struggled for awhile, trying to come up with something fresh and interesting to say. But what it boils down to is this: Jaane Tu...Ya Jaane Na isn't going to knock your socks off with its originality or depth (at least not for someone that's seen so many similar things in commercial Hollywood). It's just plain ol' puppy love fun, and its strength lies in its abilty to be so good at being so simple.

Ahh, I've said it before, but there's something about "teen love"...it just takes me back! JTYJN takes place immediately following college graduation, so the characters technically aren't teenagers at all, but it has that whole youthful vibe nonetheless. And the hero, cutie pie Imran Khan, actually reminded me of my own high school crush...sigh!

The film follows a group of friends that includes best buds Jai (Imran Khan) and Aditi (Genelia). From the beginning, its implied that the two are in love, but as the film unfolds, we discover they're "just friends". However, after being questioned by Aditi's parents, they start to date other people, and their true feelings begin to surface.

Like I said, the story's not hard to predict, nor does it get much more complicated than that. But the performances and characters were so well developed that nothing else seemed to matter. As Ajnabi said in her review, the dialouges are so good you feel like you're actually there, sitting in on the conversations. And that's what I love about "feel good" films, something JTYJN undoubtedly is--You can watch again and again just to relive the moments with the characters, to spend time in "their world". Those are the films I tend to repeat, the timeless classics I pop in whenever I want to smile.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to tell that Imran and Genelia are here to stay--and I'm all for seeing more of them! Imran has all the qualities of a chocolate filmi hero: Good looks, connections in the industry, and acting chops to boot (Okay, not all filmi heros have that last one, but Imran thankfully does). Like Ranbir Kapoor, he's a natural, though in a more understated way. As Filmigirl would say, its time for the current Bollywood "hero-uncles" to make room!

In my Bommarillu post, I said I prefered Genelia's performance here as Aditi to her character as Hasini in that film. I'm not sure about that now--I truly loved them both. But I will say this--I appreciated Genelia's ability to add a different spin in JTYJN to a character that was, in some ways, similar to Hasini. Both were of similar age, and both required the cutesy spunk that Genelia plays so well. She could have easily slipped into "Hasini-mode" several times during JTYJN--and consequently, would have put herself at risk of being typecast. While that still may happen considering Genelia does have some distinct characteristics, I admired her for playing Aditi as differently as she did. Here, she was much more quiet, less fidgety, and even a bit spoiled--quite the opposite of the lovable, content Hasini. To add to her appeal, Genelia has an exotic look that makes her beauty unique. I'm guessing this can only help secure her spot in the industry--I can't think of any of the present-day heroines that look anything like her, can you?

The supporting cast was loads of fun, including cameos galore! My favorite?Naseeruddin Shah's role as Imran's deceased father, of course! He appeared only to bicker with Imran's mother, speaking to her through the framed portrait that hung on the living room wall. What made this cameo even better was the fact that Imran's mother was played by Naseer's real-life wife, Ratna Pathak Shah!!!

Seriously, I wish I had a photograph like this one of Naseeruddin Shah that talked to me...It would make life a lot more interesting, wouldn't it?:)

But wait, it gets even better...Pratheek Babbar, the son of Smita Patil and Raj Babbar, also had a cameo as Aditi's younger brother, Amit--And he definitely inherited his mother's good looks!

Not to mention the fact that he was perfectly cast as Genelia's brother--and did a fine job in his small role. Hope to see more of him!

While I didn't recognize Aditi's parents, their screen names were "Peachy" and "Pumpkin". Now why couldn't those be my parents' names?

As I'm sure you've guessed, Aditi and Jai both find potential love interests early on in the film. Jai's girlfriend, Meghna (played by Manjari Phandis) was an angelic beauty that almost made me root for her and Jai, despite the whole Aditi factor (almost). But Aditi's boyfriend, Sushant (Ayaz Khan) was a beast...so many times in the film I just wanted to give him a good kick in the pants!

The rest of Jai's and Aditi's friends were funloving and added to the delight of the film. I especially liked Sugandha Garg as Shaleen, one of the most spunky, colorful characters I've seen a female get to play in Bollywood. Shaleen was feisty when necessary, played the guitar, and even danced provocatively with another female...Even though Sungandha had a small role, this has got to be a sign that female roles in Indian cinema are progressively getting more interesting, doesn't it?

Other cameos include Kitu Gadwani, Sohail Khan, Rajat Kapoor, and Paresh Rawal. I'm sure there were some that I didn't catch, but you get the point, right? JTYJN was such a good time!

The music was composed by A.R. Rahman, so of course that was a no brainer. I knew I was going to fall in love with the soundtrack before the film even began! With titles like "Pappu Can't Dance", the music matched the vivacity of the movie perfectly. How does Rahman do it? He can create a sweeping melody fit for an epic (like most of the songs in the Jodhaa-Akbar soundtrack), and then turn around and give us something as hip and contemporary as the music of JTYJN. This guy rocks--no wonder he had such a great year!

Producer Aamir Khan adds another gold star to his list of filmi acheivements. What amazes me most about this one is it's the exact opposite of something I would have expected him to produce--I always see Aamir as being associated with films that make a political or social comment of some sort. But the Amazing Aamir proves that he can do good, clean fun just as well(if not better) as, say, Dharma Productions can. Bravo!

And, finally, as most of you know, Imran Khan also happens to be Aamir's nephew. As if he wasn't adorable enough in Jaane Tu...Ya Jaane Na!, I stumbled upon this little Kodak moment online one day and couldn't wait to share it with you all...

Aww!Don't you just want to pinch those cheeks?


Sunday, February 8, 2009

Dostana, The Three's Company of Bollywood

Say what you will about Dostana, but one thing's for certain...The entire cast had a blast filming this!!!

And why wouldn't they? Abhishek, comfortable with his own sexuality (Here's one man who doesn't care what anybody thinks about this film or him in it: He's laughing all the way home to the "Most Beautiful Woman In the World"), had no qualms about getting cozy with John Abraham. John, looking better than ever (Don't worry, we'll talk more about this later), seemed just as relaxed, soaring above my expectations for him in a comedic role. And Priyanka, though still lacking the fire her good looks command, had every reason to smile through the entire 142 minutes of the film--I'd be smiling too if I had Abhishek on my left and John on my right! Add to the mix Kirron Kher in a perfectly cast role (She's always perfectly cast as a mother, I know, but remarkably so for this one), normally boring Bobby Deol showing he does have a sense of humor, and several cute filmi goodies scattered about, and you've got a pretty fun timepass.

If you're not familiar with Dostana's plot, let me fill you in (Because I know you've seen the promos). Sameer (Abhishek Bachchan) is a male nurse (what is it about a man having this profession that guarantees instant snickers and giggles? Its 2009, for crying out loud!). Kunal (John Abraham) is a photographer. Both appear to be enjoying bachelorhood--especially Kunal (Surprised? Didn't think so). After a chance meeting,Sameer and Kunal continue to bump into one another, with crazy coincidences landing them both in line to rent dual rooms in a beautiful Miami apartment. Because the third room is occupied by the her niece, Neha, the landlord announces she will only accept women tenants. Naturally, Kunal and Sameer concoct an outlandish plan to get her to reconsider. They decide to pose as a gay couple, in hopes of convincing the landlord that they will not be a threat to her niece.

Seem farfetched? Well, it sort of is. A lot of this stuff happens rather quickly and unbelievably. I mean, yeah, its a great apartment, but who would go along with a lie that requires so much work to maintain...just for a stupid room. How many apartments are there in Miami? Come on. Remember, the boys decide on this plan before they even lay eyes on Neha. And, of course, once they do...

Well, lets just say its Priyanka Chopra. Obivously, now the guys are hooked...and the games begin!

The rest of the film is a good time, though not as funny as I expected. I mean, the guys did a grrreat job, but I think the screenwriters could have used their hilarious chemistry more. Abhishek and John appeared to really enjoy working with one another, and I'm sure they had tons of fun on the set. As far as I know, this was a very different role for both of them, one they pulled off effortlessly. As a matter of fact, they seemed capable of pushing the envelope even further for the sake of a few good laughs, but for some reason the film held out. I wished we would have gotten more scenes with the two of them clowning around...Not to mention a complete song featuring them dancing in those black tuxes. Oh, well. I can't really complain too much because the film still worked, mostly thanks to them.

Abhishek, who's impressed me before as a funny guy, was missing some of the goofiness he had in Bunty Aur Babli or Jhoom Barabar Jhoom. But that wasn't his fault--his character was a little on the low key side and not written to be as far out as Bunty or Rishi in those films. Still, he shined most here when sharing screentime with John.

And, of course, watching John onscreen was like being fed eye candy through an IV. No question about it--he brought the Pretty Boy back! I really have to say, this performance was the best I've seen from him. His looks fit the part, he seemed to be enjoying himself, and he was actually good at being funny! Looks like he's found his niche...Playboy bachelor who lies about his sexuality...Hmm, sounds like a few guys I know!

Piggy Chops (A name I hate for her) turned out another average performance as Neha, which was disappointing (C'mon, Priyanka, let's kick it in gear-you're one of the hottest chicks in Bollywood!). I think the only performance of hers I've been semi-satisfied with was her role in Salaam-E-Ishq. I don't mean to be hard on the poor girl, but geez, I've seen her exude more personality on a Koffee with Karan episode! But, to her credit, she didn't do an awful job and was at her very best when onscreen with John and Abhishek (Although, I can't blame her--I'd be happiest when working with them, too!). Still, I feel like I always get less than I expect from her, and its frustrating--can't help but wonder what Preity Zinta would have been like in this role instead. Oh, well...I just bought Fashion recently so here's hoping.

I'm sure you can guess that both Kunal and Sameer fall in love with Neha (Obviously a problem since she thinks they're both gay). Add to the mix Neha's boss (Bobby Deol) who also has the hots for her, and you've got a nice little quadrangle that could shake this happy household to the core.

In a quest to win Neha's heart, Sameer and Kunal simultaneusly try to woo her with little romantic gestures and even each take her out on a "date". Of course, since the three of them have become the best of friends, nothing about the guys' attention feels unnatural to Neha, and she goes along with it all, never suspecting either of them could actually be straight--much less in love with her.

Sameer rents out a carnival for his date. The two spend the evening laughing and frolicking on the rides like children, and he closes the night with a gift: A scrapbook he's put together in honor of their friendship. Oddly enough, Kunal is absent from all of the photos! Wouldn't that have been a red flag for Neha? Oh, I know he's the photographer, but still...they make tripods for that stuff. Anyways, the point is, the two had zero spark together, which I found surprising. I'd heard once that Abhishek had a real life crush on Priyanka in the past, so I was hoping for some traces of that to show. I mean, I know he's married now, but c'mon, guys, work is work! Give us something that would make Ash green with envy! Ok, I'm totally kidding, but seriously, these two had nothing. Maybe it was the annoyingly bland English tune playing in the background, but...let's just say I have no plans to see Drona.

Onto Kunal and Neha's date. First of all, whether he was straight or not, a date with John Abraham alone would make me swoon. But a candelight dinner followed by a widescreen viewing of "Kuch Kuch Hota Hai"? Are you serious??!!Marry me now, Kunal!!

Not to mention the fact that Kunal and Neha reenacted my cherished gazebo scene. Aww...It didn't matter that Priyanka lacked Kajol's expressiveness or that Kunal wasn't as charasmatic as SRK. It wasn't meant to be as good as the original, anyways--this was all just for fun! And I, for one, welcomed the inclusion! Kjo, you can mention KKHH as much as you want--yes, its a little self-indulgent, but I don't mind(Speaking of which, there's also a reference to "Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham" in the film that had me laughing out loud)!

I can't tell you who I was rooting for at this point. I mean, the film didn't really show a preference for Neha/Sameer or Neha/Kunal so I honestly didn't know who she would end up with--if anyone. Of course, the real chemistry of the film belonged to Kunal and Sameer, but I'll admit that I still cared about Neha's fate, too. Would she fall for Sameer's sweetness? Or Kunal's charm? Or would it be a draw and go to Bobby Deol's dry character? You'll have to watch Dostana to find out!

I do have to mention, however, the two glaring problems in the film. First of all, the bland music--Dostana's tunes lacked the catchiness and originality that we can usually expect from a Karan Johar film. Instead, we got mediocre songs with boring picturizations. The best the film had to offer was the semi-catchy opening tune starring Shilpa Shetty in a smoking hot cameo (I know I've questioned this woman's sex appeal before, and I hereby take it all back--she's got it going on!), and an extremely dance-able closing song which I've included

Ahh, this really was a great song...Now here's the goofiness I longed to see in Abhishek during the film! And Priyanka's working it, looking better than she did in any of the other songs. And John...well, John's just looking hot. Again.

The second major complaint was the gay stereotypes the film seems to embrace, somewhat offensively. I took this with a grain of salt--Seriously, can we expect anything less than ignorance from Karan Johar? The man has never been the most tactful on his own show...why would he start now? But it was pretty irritating, in particular the way the writer's depicted "every" gay man as walking and speaking a certain way. Also, the assumption that "every" gay man would automatically be attracted to "every" other gay man bugged me. If you find any of this directly offensive, I would either advise you to stay away from Dostana or to consider the source.

Aside from its missteps, I did enjoy watching this. I don't think I've ever labeled a film as "a decent timepass" before. But if there's one that deserves the title, it's definitely Dostana. Though its not nearly as good as any of the other Karan Johar films I've seen (yep, I'll admit that I do like most of them), its still worth the time just to see John, Abhishek, and even Priyanka having a ball! Go into it with little expectations and you'll likely have some fun, too!


Wednesday, February 4, 2009

U Me Aur Hum

If you're wondering why U Me Aur Hum, starring the ultra talented Ajay Devgan and his seldom-seen-nowadays-but-still-loved wife Kajol was only a moderate success, I've got the answer: It was really only a moderately good movie.

(***Warning****There aren't any real spoilers to U Me Aur Hum here, as anything I've discussed in the next paragraph can be told on the DVD jacket, but there's a slight spoiler to the Hollywood film The Notebook****).

U Me Aur Hum, which marks Devgan's first attempt at directing, has been criticized for being another example of Bollywood plagiarism, in this case a copycat of the Hollywood blockbuster The Notebook. I'm not sure that's fair. Yes, in The Notebook the heroine suffers from dementia, and in this film, Kajol ends up with Alzheimer's, but the issue is dealt with very differently. The Notebook centers around the love story of the two main characters in a flashback of their younger years--when both were healthy. The only time we hear about the dementia is in intervals throughout the narration, in "real time". U Me Aur Hum, though narrated in the same format, turns into a film about how the couple, now married, faces the disease.

It starts out as your average "boy-meets-girl" love story. Ajay (Ajay Devgan) is a single psychiatrist vacationing on a cruise with two couples, which we quickly learn are supposed to be his best buds. Piya (Kajol) is a cocktail waitress at a nightclub on the ship. Naturally, when Ajay lays eyes on Piya he falls in love with her. He spends the remainder of his time on the cruise attempting to win her heart.

I had problems with the film right off the bat. For one, the side stories involving Ajay's annoying friends were obviously supposed to add comic relief, but I ended up with a headache instead (I will note that by the end of the film I realized why they were there and considered them a positive addition to the second half of the story). It seemed as if Ajay was trying to duplicate the corny humor found in a typical Karan Johar love story, but it just didn't work. In fact, he made Kjo look like a comedic genius. Yikes!

Secondly, the first song, "Dil Dhaka Hai", featuring a drunken Ajay, was completely unattractive and unappealing. Not to mention a certain layer of sleaze that could be felt every time one of the scary looking extras did a pole dance. See for yourself...

Also, the path Ajay took to win Piya's heart was filled with deception. One day, upon sneaking into her cabin, Ajay snoops through Piya's "Book of Possibilities"... a diary of some sorts which just happens to be lying around practically on display and is clearly labeled as such. The book is a collection of all of Piya's hopes, dreams, and best loved things: Liquor chocolates, salsa dancing, Labradors. Ajay, of course, takes advantage of this newfound knowledge and uses it to become the man of her dreams. Inevitably, he repents, but its not a very favorable first impression to make.

Throughout the film, Devgan seems to get creative with his directional moves, experimenting with different shots and angles. I can appreciate that. But some of the stuff just comes across as odd. For example, the kid on the cruise ship that followed Ajay around like a little stalker was weird enough--we didn't need the darkened split screen to add to his creepiness:

And as Ajay flips through Piya's diary, he has some strange ways of reflecting on what he's read:

My final nitpick about the first half of the film is that you can't learn salsa overnight. Obviously. Unless you're a natural, which Ajay is clearly not. But I could have accepted that if we'd have gotten some snazzy salsa moves from Ajay and Piya in the catchy "Jee Le" (my favorite song of the film). Instead, the camera seemed to be editing Kajol and Ajay to make them look like they knew what they were doing. I don't mean to criticize--I have two left feet myself--but I honestly think Ajay and Kajol were capable of more! Especially Kajol--C'mon, girl, I've seen you work it out in Fanaa!

Somehow, the film got sooo much better after they got off that stupid cruise ship (pretty as it was). Once Ajay and Piya got married, and as Piya's mental health deteriorated, U Me Aur Hum proved it was more than just a mediocre rom-com. Though some things were predictable, the movie did a decent job of showing the different aspects of Ajay and Piya's lives that were affected by the illness.

Ajay's devotion to Piya was beautiful--and heartbreaking. Now here was the talented lass that won me over in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam and blew me away in Omkara(review forthcoming). I literally felt his love for his wife, particularly in the emotional final scenes. I actually had to remind myself that the leads were married in real life and perhaps what I was seeing was real love, but I quickly dismissed that thought. Yes, they were most likely really in love, but their performances weren't in any way reliant on that. They were completely and totally in character, and if the film worked it was because of them alone.

Kajol, looking more beautiful than ever, lit up the screen in her happier moments as Piya. In the heavier scenes, she did seem to hold back a tad bit, but still managed to pull it off. Heck, who cares about the film: I was just happy to see her onscreen again! And the part where Piya dances for her husband was toooo adorable...When I get married, that's how I want to be--Dancing to a Kajol song for my hubby!

I'm not going to lie to you: U Me Aur Hum had me in tears by the end. While that's not a complete miracle, a film has to touch me in some way for me to react. And U Me Aur Hum did--The problems with the film diminished by its end, and the solid performances from Ajay and Kajol made it worthwhile. Still, for me, its one of those movies that you sort of enjoy while you're watching but becomes forgettable a couple of weeks later.

There are two things I should say before I close this review, because they may be responsible for my crankiness with this one: First, The Notebook happens to be one of my favorite films of all times (If you haven't seen it--Don't bother with U Me Aur Hum--go rent that one instead!), so I'm a little biased, even though I maintain my stance that the two don't really deserve to be compared. Secondly, I popped this in after the whole Arth mishap, so I was probably a little bitter about that, too. Because of those two points, I think its safe to say you have a pretty good chance of enjoying this film more than I did!

One final, disturbing thought: Is this all we get of Kajol until My Name is Khan?


Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Arth DVD--HELP!!!!

So this post was originally supposed to be my review of the 1982 Shabana Azmi and Smita Patil starrer. I've been obsessed with these two women since I started reading about Indian cinema on the internet and in books, although I've yet to see a film with either of them in it. I'd been searching for Arth for about a year now, as I've heard countless praise about the story and the riveting performances.

Imagine my disappointment when, after finally purchasing my own copy from India Weekly, I popped in Arth after a long day at school, and...the DVD won't play! I've tried every DVD player in the entire house...even the top of the line one in the living room that will play just about anything...and I can't get past the opening credits! When I looked at the back of the DVD I didn't see any scratches, but some weird discoloration that looks like a result of a manufacturing error.

I sent an email to India Weekly asking for an exchange of the DVD...but they won't do that. Instead, they offered me a refund if I ship Arth back to them within 15 days (They say this is because when one DVD won't play, the entire batch usually won't play in my brand of DVD player). But I don't want my money back!!! I just want this film!!!

Please help a sister out! I really, really want to see this! Should I ship this back to India Weekly and repurchase from them all over again? Does anybody know of a reliable service that I can find this movie on? I suppose I could check Amazon, but since they go through third parties anyways, I figured I could eliminate the middle man and find something else online. Any recommendations or comments would be appreciated! Thank you sooo much!:)


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