Monday, April 29, 2013

Somewhat Soporific Saawariya

Saawariya is a film by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, who also did one of my favorites, Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam. Saawariya is a dream-like, fantasy film set in an entirely fabricated world, and it has Bhansali's stamp of visual artistry on it.

There is a lot of beauty in this movie. However, sometimes perhaps Bhansali forgot the difference between creating a painting, or a series of paintings, and making a movie. In places Saawariya was so slow it was like watching a painting dry, and in other places the threads of the story frayed until it entirely ceased to make sense.

Saawariya is set in a make-believe world, in a city that is not any real city, just a beautiful backdrop for the story. Ranbir Kapoor plays Raj, who falls in love with the beautiful Sakina (Sonam Kapoor) who is pining for her own heart's desire to return to her (her absent love is played by Salman Khan, in a bit of a cameo here). Raj meets Sakina walking through the city and grows obsessed with her. She first wants nothing to do with him, then befriends him, but tells him she is waiting for the man she loves to come back. But he is sure, because his feelings for her are so strong, that she belongs with him. All that remains is to convince her, right?

There is also a small role here for Rani Mukerji, who performs the best dance number in the movie. (Yay Rani!)

There are some similarities between this movie and Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, but I much prefer HDDCS. Now, HDDCS is not a perfect movie by any means. It is filled with melodrama and suffers from some poor directing choices in places. But it is undeniably alive, and so heartfelt, whereas Saawariya feels distant and a little cold. I didn't feel I really knew any of the people in the movie by the time I got to the end of it. Nor did I really care about them or the choices they ultimately made. This is a sharp contrast to my reaction to HDDCS, which I was very invested in. Saawariya can also be, quite frankly, very dull in places. There is a lot of the young couple wandering slowly around the beautiful set, talking, but not getting anywhere with it.

But I did discover something interesting when I watched Saawariya. I discovered that I don't much care for Ranbir Kapoor, at least when he performs in an exuberant or quirky role (I did like him very much in Rocket Singh, Salesman of the Year, but that was a very low-key performance). Which goes a long way toward explaining why I couldn't get into Barfi, in addition to what I mentioned in my post about it. He is very talented and performs very well, which is why I didn't immediately think it was his performance putting me off at all, but now having seen both Barfi and Saawariya it clicked for me: he sells it, but I don't like what he's selling. When he tries to turn on the charm, it turns me right off. My working theory is that he's too technical. He is a Kapoor, after all, part of that powerful Bollywood dynasty, and has been steeped in it his entire life, no doubt. He knows exactly what he's doing. He is a fine-tuned Bollywood-performance instrument. But I don't feel any heart behind it.

Well, maybe I'll see something later that will change my mind!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Tere Naal Love Ho Gaya vs. Mere Brother Ki Dulhan

I watched Tere Naal Love Ho Gaya, which stars Genelia D'Souza and Ritesh Deshmukh, and which is pretty uncomplicated and sweet. It's a fun, feel-good (probably one-time) watch, and the only real complaint I have is that the music could have been better.

The inciting incident of the film unfolds thusly: Viren is working as a cab driver, saving money to start a business of his own someday. One day he comes to work to find that his boss has sold all the cabs, which is a problem for him, because he was storing all his hard-earned money in his cab. He gets drunk and later comes back with a gun, demanding his boss reimburse the lost money. It so happens that his drunken tirade is interrupting a meeting in which his boss is arranging the marriage of his daughter, Mini, who is not happy with the match her father has picked out. Being a spunky sort, and a skilled hand with firearms, Mini forces Viren to drive off with her, pretending that she is being kidnapped. The pair strike a deal in which they plan to split the ransom money Mini's father pays for her, so that he'll get his money back and she'll have the funds to go off and live her life the way she wants to.

It's a pretty implausible story line, but this is not the type of movie to worry overmuch about such trivialities. And it basically works, mainly because the two leads play so well together. Genelia D'Souza is animated and energetic, and I found her completely adorable. Ritesh Deshmukh also gives a heartfelt performance, not seeming to mind that a good percentage of the time he is playing the straight man to Genelia's spunky quirkiness.

It is a harmless, fluffy movie and fun to watch. And it reminded me of something. After it ended, I realized that it reminded me of Mere Brother Ki Dulhan.

In Mere Brother Ki Dulhan, Imran Khan plays Kush, who agrees to find a wife for his brother Luv (Ali Zafar). He finds a seemingly ideal match in Dimple (yes! a person named Dimple!), but, none too surprisingly, the two of them end up falling in love with each other, and the film deals with their attempts to find a way to be together without causing hard feelings.

It's not that the plotlines of the two movies are terribly similar, it's the overall feel of both of the films. Both films are simple, aim-to-charm love stories in which the romantic pairs don't intend to fall in love with each other but inevitably and with much cuteness do.

But that's not all. In each film you have a spunky, goofy main female character (who, naturally, also happens to be very beautiful) who takes the lead in a lot of the hijinks of the film but also is a bit childlike and needs to be reigned in a smidge by the main male character.

Katrina Kaif, incidentally, is much better at being cute and quirky than emotional or sultry. I wouldn't say that she displays any great acting in MBKD, but her performance is pretty charming nonetheless.

Also, in each of these movies, the male protagonist is more sensible and a bit more conservative and buttoned-down than his love interest, and more sensitive to the possible repercussions of the two of them deciding to be together.

But since they are both feel-good romcoms, in the end, love gets to prevail in both movies!

It occurs to me now that I'm not quite sure of the point of this exercise in comparison, unless it is to point out that if you liked one of these, you will quite likely enjoy the other as well. I very superficially enjoyed them both. Nothing deep here; what you see is what you get!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Our Mediocre Story- Teri Meri Kahaani

It pains me to say it, but I have to be honest. It's getting difficult to sustain my enthusiasm for Shahid Kapoor.
I know!

I'm not giving up hope, because he has some new projects in the works, and there are still a few of his older films I haven't seen yet. But the latest I watched, Teri Meri Kahaani (Our Story), was not terribly encouraging.

It's not that it is really all that awful, it just isn't anything special. The story is actually three love stories with Shahid Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra playing the couple in all three. At the beginning you think it's a reincarnation-themed story about love triumphing throughout all lifetimes, but by the end it feels more like those responsible for this film had three story ideas they couldn't decide between and ended up putting all three together in one movie, which necessarily means that none of the stories are fleshed out or well-developed.

Also, the chemistry between Shahid and Priyanka is lacking. This is, however, largely because Shahid's character is pretty much a jerk in two out of the three vignettes (in the remaining one he's arrogant, but seems  more of a decent guy who messes up than a rampant egomaniac). I hope this is the writing and not what Shahid brought to the table, and I think it is, because it actually exemplifies my most-hated Bollywood trope. That would be the womanizing, arrogant, sexist male character with no respect for women who suddenly falls in love with a 'good girl,' and, we are supposed to believe, instantly transforms into a faithful, loving man who should be entirely forgiven by both the audience and his love interest and deserves her love and trust and would never, you know, go back to behaving the way he's always behaved up to that point. Uh huh. Sure.

At least the recreation of 1960s Mumbai (or should I say Bombay?) and the recreation of Lahore in 1910 are fun to see and give us some interesting and beautiful costumes and settings to look at.

 The story set in 2012 lacks this, of course, and is very concerned with texting (and facebook). I would think that most everyone at this point knows that it's not very interesting to watch someone else text (we've all been in the company of someone glued to their phone, right?), even if they are Shahid Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra, but the filmmakers seem to think it is. I pretty much hated everything about the 2012 segment.

There was some nice music, although come to think of it, I even hated the music in the 2012 segment. Shahid danced, and it's always a pleasure to see some dancing from Shahid. Personally I think they could have had him dance even more. There can never be too much Shahid dancing.

If you're not feeling very choosy and you'd like to watch a romantic comedy and you like Shahid and/or Priyanka, then this is a decent timepass. Otherwise, don't bother.