Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Prema Katha

In 1988, director/producer Nasir Hussain launched his nephew Aamir Khan's film career with Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak, a tragic story about two doomed young lovers. In 1999, actor/producer Nagarjuna launched his nephew Sumanth's career with Prema Katha, a tragic story about two doomed young lovers. Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak is a tragedy along the lines of Romeo and Juliet, although I prefer it to the latter for basically the same reasons stated in this review. Prema Katha, on the other hand, strikes me as a tragedy more along the lines of Hamlet: nothing happens and then everyone dies. (The similarities end there, however, so don't watch Prema Katha just because you're looking for some good existential quotes.)

Prema Katha begins with a somewhat crazy-looking woman telling some kids that she wants to tell them her son's love story.

Her son, Suri (Sumanth), is the type of filmi hero who lives off his hard-working dad's earnings with the excuse that he's holding out for a better job, although he makes no efforts to secure employment of any kind. The type of guy who scolds his mother if she's not around to prepare him food at the very moment when he wants it. He's not a bad guy, but he prefers to spend his time dancing and hanging out with his friends in the village rather than doing anything productive.

One day, a new girl (Antara Mali) shows up, and he instantly falls for her. She's a rich and somewhat clueless girl from the city who quickly comes to appreciate his sense of humor and carpe diem approach towards life. But, then comes bad news.

Naturally, the girl has a homicidal, honor-obsessed brother (Manoj Bajpai), who isn't too happy when he hears about what's been going on in the village. That brings us up to the intermission, so at this point you'll want to skip to the last paragraph if you don't want to read spoilers for the second half.

After various things happen, the girl finally decides to run off with the boy. His parents, her aunt and uncle, and his friends convince them to hide from her brother, who is angrily searching for her. I thought at this point that they might die together -- especially given some apparent foreshadowing about flooding in the place where they were hiding. But no, the movie had something much worse in mind. The brother is temporarily thwarted, the hero and heroine are fine, and everyone gets set for a wedding.

There's a very nice wedding song, my favorite part of the whole movie, which is ruined when the brother shows up with a bunch of armed goons. And then the film degenerates into a terrible bloodbath in which basically everyone with a speaking role gets massacred, starting with the boy's dad and the girl's uncle. The girl asks the boy to do her one last favor and tie the marriage thread around her neck, but he dies before he can. She manages to tie it on herself and promptly dies as well.

And we cut from this lovely scene back to the present, where the poor kids who listened to this story have probably sworn to themselves not to fall in love, since love obviously brings a lot of trauma along with it, for all of your friends and family members as well as you.

So, in conclusion, I would not really recommend this film, unless you're a huge fan of Sumanth and/or Antara Mali. And if you do watch it, prepare to be traumatized.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

7 reasons why I love 70s films

Reading other people's posts for 70s week this week has reminded me just how great 70s Bollywood films are. So, here's my list of 7 reasons why I love 70s films:

1. They tend to revolve around ideas of family ties and societal responsibilities and other values I generally agree with.

2. Instead of trying to surprise you with emotionally unsatisfactory twist endings (I'm looking at you, Shahrukh's Don), they just surprise you with their creative ways of doing things. Even though I generally can anticipate the basic plot outline, I still find myself being surprised by, for instance, the sight of a purplish horse jumping over a castle wall, or Amitabh Bachchan in an Easter egg.

3. So many attractive and distinctive actors (and actresses). And they're attractive in a real way, rather than looking like they've come off an assembly line at a gym or plastic surgeon's office.

4. Also on a superficial note, have you seen the bellbottoms and other awesome clothes? Not to mention the amazing villains' lairs and other impressive locations. Sometimes I think I'd like to live in a 70s film, minus the kidnappings and lost children and other unfortunate circumstances.

5. The music. Many of my favorite film songs are from the 70s.

6. They've got action and romance and family melodrama and, well, pretty much everything you might want to see in a film, plus a lot of things you never realized you wanted to see until they happened.

7. They may not always be "good" by critical standards, but they're almost always entertaining. And that's what I watch films for.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Anukokunda Oka Roju

Anukokunda Oka Roju is one of the most suspenseful Indian films I've seen. Of course the basic premise -- girl is drugged at a party and wakes up not remembering anything that's happened -- lends itself pretty well to suspense, but apparently the Hindi remake, Sunday, got rid of a lot of the suspense in favor of comedy. (I haven't seen Sunday, so I'm just basing this opinion on the reviews I've read. It is clear from these reviews, though, that there are some significant differences between the two, not just in tone but also in plot.)

Sahasra (Charme) is an aspiring singer and college student who lives with her father, evil stepmother, and half-brother and sister in a typical busy neighborhood. When her family goes out of town, her friend drags her along to a wild party, where some guys slip Rophynol into her drink. After joining in the party for a few minutes, she wanders off into the darkness -- and wakes up in her own bed with no memory of anything that happened at the party or afterwards.

She looks at the clock, sees that she's going to be late for class, and runs off to school, only to discover that it's actually Sunday and there are no classes. Apparently she never keeps track of the date well, because she just shrugs this off and goes back to normal life without any concern about the mix-up. But then, strange things start happening.

A taxi driver starts following her around insisting that she owns him money. A doctor notices fingernail marks on her neck, and she can't remember how they got there. Someone tries to kill her, and the policeman who comes to her rescue seems much more interested in her than in her attacker.

Gradually, the story of what happened to her while she was drugged unfolds. And by the end, everything actually makes sense. (Well, almost everything. I still don't understand how she could be so oblivious to the fact that she has no memory of a day of her life, especially after she's been given reason to wonder whether anything happened the night of the party.) Even the comic relief guy ends up being relevant to the plot in the end.

If you want to see a rare heroine-centric Telugu film, if you're a fan of Charme, or if you like well-scripted, suspenseful Indian action films, you might want to give Anukokunda Oka Roju a watch.