Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Day Bollywood Got Even Sweeter...Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak


What, you mean Bollywood didn't always have the dynamic Aamir Khan and the lovely Juhi Chawla?

Nowadays, its hard to imagine Aamir Khan being in amateur--and even in his first leading role he is hardly that. Arguably one of the most gifted and powerful actors Indian cinema has ever seen, Aamir's success can be traced through more than two decades, from classics like Lagaan and Rang De Basanti to recent triumphs such as Taare Zameen Par and Ghajini. Yet it had to begin somewhere, and that somewhere was Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak--a story about first love caught up in a web of fueding families.

This film was recommended to me by The Bollywood Fan, and after realizing we both had yet to write about it, we decided to collaborate and compile a joint review; I knew I was in for a real treat--Writing with the big Aamir fan would add an entertaining yet informative spin to the review, as well as my viewing experience (not only that, but I'd get to hear him say "Haye Allah--Juhi Chawla!"). We talked about all of my questions (and then some)--What was this film's reception by its target audience when in came out back in 1988? What was the general response to Aamir and Juhi? Which songs were embraced? The Bollywood Fan has written his part to this review here.

On first glance, Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak seemed to be yet another young love story to emerge from the whole "DDLJ and HAHK Era", despite being released prior to those two films. However, after watching this I realized I was wrong--very, very wrong. QSQT is anything but "typical", espically for a Bollywood film. But then again, has Aamir Khan done anything typical, ever? This is one of those films that must be watched in its entiriety before you even begin to judge it. In other words, stick with it--You may think you've been down this road before in Bollywood, but rest assured, by the end you will see what separates QSQT from its counterparts.


The Story

Again, the story--on the surface, at least--is basic. Raj and Rashmi meet and unexpectedly fall in love, yet their families have been enemies for years. Raj's father, Dhanraj, even spent years in prison as a result of a tragic event related to this feud. And, yes,(following the stereotypical mold) Rashmi is already engaged to somebody else. Yet the film does such a good job of telling us this story that we don't seem to mind if we can guess how it will all turn out in the end (or will it?).

The Beginning

Unlike most films from this era (at least the ones I've seen anyways, Ahem, Hum Aapke Hain Kaun), QSQT does not drag in the beginning. Quite the contrary, the beginning was so strong and made such an impact that I instantly trusted its ability to entertain me for the next 2.5 hours. Those of you who have sat through an hour plus of boring dialouges and shoddy character development just to get to the good stuff in other Hindi films will truly appreciate this; QSQT gives the backstory to the feuding families in a way that gets to the point and yet is believable-- By the time the opening credits roll, we know why these guys don't like each other, and can even sympathize with both sides.

Aamir

Aamir Khan (as "Raj") makes his entrance to the film shortly after the backstory is told, in the vibrant song "Papa Kehte Hain"(Ironically enough, baby Imran Khan is seen first in the film as the young Raj). Babyfaced and charming, I saw Aamir in a whole new light here--I'd always found him attractive, sure, but in a sort of intelligent, smarty pants way. Here he's just a total heartthrob, plain and simple!



Aamir wears short-shorts!




But don't let Aamir's daisy dukes fool you--he was just as talented then as he is now. A natural screen presence, his Raj was the "perfect" hero; Sweet and senstive yet strong and protective. And although Aamir's talent was obvious to the viewer, it seemed somewhat unapparent to Aamir himself; A glimpse of a more naive version of the actor, perhaps, before he unevitably realized just how good he was (I'm not saying anything negative about the man--I'm just saying he didn't seem to have any idea how big he would become, and it was endearing to see him when he was somewhat "untouched" by fame).

Juhi (Haye-Allah!)

So I'd never considered myself a Juhi Chawla fan, and still don't, exactly, but...well, I can see why men all over were smitten with this actress after QSQT. Though her character annoyed me at first, there was something different and special about Rashmi which grew on me as the film went on. For one, she was kind of flighty, but as I got to know her, I realized this was genuine to her character and not just a ploy to look cute. Further, her love and devotion to Raj was adorable-As the Bollywood Fan pointed out, she won the hearts of many with her debut as a heroine.

Secondly, Rashmi's character seemed to break the conventional heroine mold I'd become accustomed to in Bollywood. You know, the one where the actress looks cute, flips her hair and lets her saree blow in the wind while the hero stalks her from behind the trees and pursues her with a song. In Bollywood (as I've known it to be so far, anyways) the hero practically worships the heroine, while she, in many cases, can't even stand the mere sight of him until he sings a song or two (See Kajol in DDLJ, Rani in Hum Tum, and Nargis in Shree 420 to name a few). Rashmi is sooo different. Although its Raj who notices her first, that's only because she's not paying attention. Once Rashmi lays eyes on Raj, its she who does the pursuing (and even follows him in the forest, signing a song that isn't subtitled, urgh!). There's a scene that makes me laugh out loud where Rashmi and Raj spend the night by the campfire--Rashmi makes it clear she would like Raj to sleep next to her, and is quite forward about it. After refusing, Raj literally turns his back on her and goes to sleep!

Raj turns his back on Rashmi...




Rejected!



The Chemistry

Once Raj stops putting up a wall and admits his true feelings for Rashmi, sparks fly. There's a lot of chemistry between these two, though in a pretty subtle way (think HAHK and DDLJ again). But that's what makes it so sweet--Every time Raj would blow a kiss or flash a dazzling smile at his love, my heart would flutter. I'd love to see these two paired up now, as they're both older and it would be interesting to see how they'd match up today.

The Music

The music was another strength of the film. Though the picturizations were kept fairly simple, they were also woven into the story so well that I can remember each one vividly. Aamir's song entrance was a favorite (and as noted in part one of this review, his real-life wife at the time even makes in appearance), and both of the love songs between Aamir and Juhi were touching (I especially liked the one at the end). The only one I didn't really care for was the song where Rashmi follows Raj through the forest--her facial expressions bothered me.

!!!SPOILER ALERT!!!!!SPOILER ALERT!!!!!

The Ending

Like the beginning, the ending to Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak leaves an unshakable impact. I was completely and totally shocked by the turn of events, and sat like a statue staring at the screen long after the last credits rolled. The Bollywood Fan and I discussed how an audience that immersed itself in rainbow and sunshine endings could have possibly reacted to such a tragic climax, and agreed that its uncommon ending is what made it memorable. So, while I wished things would have turned out differently for Raj and Rashimi, I understood and appreciated the filmmaker's choice. Had it turned out any other way, I may have been less moved by the film as a whole.

***SPOILER END***

A fitting film for the starring debut of a legend, Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak must not be missed by any Hindi film fan. Thank you to Bollywood Fan for recommending and sharing this experience with me!

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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Worth The Wait---Arth



Oooohhh, Arth is an incredible film!

Every bit worth the wait it took it get my hands on a copy that actually played (Special thank you to Nicki for sending me one--you're a sweetheart, girl!), Arth was probably one of the best Hindi films I've ever seen. First of all, it stars not one, but two remarkable women in Indian cinema--Shabana Azmi and Smita Patil. Need I say more?



The Plot

The movie is about a woman named Pooja(Shabana Azmi) whose husband, Inder (Kulbhushan Kharbanda)is having an affair with a film actress(named Kavita, played by the late Smita Patil!). When news of Inder and Kavita's tryst comes to light, Pooja finds herself alone and abandoned. With nowhere to go, she ends up living at a women's hostel, having to learn how to support herself as a newly single woman. She finds solace in friendship with Raj (Raj Kiran), a musician who appreciates what Inder did not.


A stunning Shabana Azmi--who would cheat on her?



Sounds simple, right? Well, actually it is. Unlike most Bollywood films, there aren't many plot twists or side stories going on in Arth--for the most part, it manages to stick to the issue at hand. And that's when it really shines, thanks to the smooth, controlled performances from the three leads!

The Women

I've wanted to see both Shabana and Smita onscreen for quite some time, but hadn't really seen anything until now (If anybody has any recommendations on these two, please do share!). Both women were deliciously good in Arth. There's a scene when Pooja confronts Kavita and Inder at a party, and let me tell you, sparks fly! Its one of the most effective scenes in the film, and fortunately, in Arth there are plenty.



Smita'a performance as the glamorous yet insecure Kavita rang so true that I really felt worse for her character than I did for Pooja. Pooja was strong-willed, and I knew she would recover once the pain of losing Inder lessened with time. But as Kavita unraveled, she showed true fragility despite her fame and beauty. Moreover, her guilt in having "stolen" Inder from Pooja haunted her to no end, turning to psychotic paranoia that prevented her from the life she had wanted so badly in the first place. She was also extremely passionate--there was a scene where she literally licks Inder's tears. As I watched Smita at work, one thing was clear--I finally understood just what a loss the untimely death of this talented actress was to the Indian film industry!

The legendary Smita Patil.



The Loser

Though he was more often than not overshadowed by the two actresses, Kulbhushan Kharbanda's understated portrayal of Inder was just what Arth needed its leading man to be; He had to convey just the right amount of emotion with saying and doing very little. He did a perfect job of this--Anything more from him would have been too much given the intensity of the two women.

Kulbhushan Kharbanda looks so young!



The music

The music of Arth was not you typical Bollywood fare. Most of the songs were woven into the story, since Raj was a musician and liked to sing to Pooja. Overall, I enjoyed the songs very much; They were few and far between, but welcomed nonetheless. Yet it was the eerie melody that played during the opening credits that reeled me right in--I knew trouble was ahead, and I was at the edge of my seat with anticipation as the story began to play out. It was almost as if I was watching a thriller or a horror film! Funny, isn't it? Sometimes the actions of humanity are scarier than monsters and murderers.



The Ambiance

In addition, the film had a sort of sepia tone, which added to the unshakable sense of foreboding. I'm not sure if this was the director's intention, or the quality of the actual film being used, but it worked.

The Backstory

After watching Arth, I found out it was supposed to have been based on director Mahesh Bhatt's real-life affair with yesteryear actress Parveen Babi. First of all, I was already intrigued with Parveen Babi after seeing a couple of her films with Amitabh, because she was just so fascinatingly beautiful! But after reading up on the stories (whether they are true or not), I learned what a sad life she is said to have had. Her issues with paranoia and schizophrenia bore an uncanny resemblance to Kavita's...


Kavita loses her mind...



Second of all, the fact that Mahesh chose to focus on Pooja's character, Pooja's strength, and Pooja's fate said a mouthful. If Mahesh was in fact trying to tell a story based on his own actions with Parveen, he certainly humbled himself enough--Inder ended up looking like a big fat loser up to the very end.

(**WARNING*****SPOILER ALERT)

It was a no-brainer that Pooja would end up with our Teddy Bear Musician, Raj, by the end...but, wait....she didn't!?! Nope, that's right folks, even in 80s Bollywood you don't need a man to feel good about yourself(well, that's rarely true in Indian cinema, but let's just enjoy it here, shall we?)! Pooja's rejecting of Raj in the final scenes showed her strength and sensitivity at the very same time. She didn't need to replace Inder to make herself feel complete, and she wasn't going to be unfair to Raj by using him as a rebound boyfriend. Hooray!!!

(****SPOILER END****)

Have I convinced you to see this film yet? It's truly amazing, and I'm so glad I didn't give up on the search!

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