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.

Saturday, June 13, 2009


I have to start any recommendation of Chatrapathi with disclaimers: This film is pretty violent. It's a hero-centric film where the heroine gets less screen time than the hero's muscles and is mostly just there for the songs. And the songs are, with one exception, totally unnecessary and rather goofy.


That said, I love this film. There are two main reasons why. First, I love 1970s masala, especially plots about heroes saving the downtrodden and being reunited with their misplaced family members, and Chatrapathi is very much in that style. Second, after about twenty minutes of not-so-subliminal messages, I gave in and agreed with the film that Prabhas is a very attractive man. And, the film has good pacing and great (albeit plagiarized) background music (which you can check out in the trailer here).

70s ishstyle

In a prologue that will seem familiar to anyone who's seen many 70s masala films, Chatrapathi begins with two young brothers and a widowed mother. In this case, the younger brother is totally psycho. He's clearly not going to grow up to be a light-hearted Shashi-type brother. He is psychotically jealous of his mother's love for his half-brother Shivaji, and thus, when the inevitable separation takes place ten minutes into the prologue, he tells his mother that his brother has died.

Creepy little brother

Not Shashi

Meanwhile, our young protagonist ends up in a refuge camp run by a very evil gangster/smuggler. He grows up smuggling and surviving constant threats from the police, rival gangsters, and his own boss. And after twelve years, he turns out to be Prabhas pretty darn awesome. Where 1970s masala heroes sometimes proved their toughness by wrestling with unrealistic stuffed tigers, he proves his toughness by fighting off an unrealistic animated shark.

Putting the "special" in special effects.

Sharks may pose no problem for our intrepid hero, but his life is certainly not problem free. He and his friends must decide whether to rebel against the powerful gangster who controls them, putting all of their family members and friends at risk, or to live with oppression and deal with it the best they can. (There are some shades of Sholay here.) While he continues to search for his mother and brother, he is unaware of the extent of his brother's craziness and doesn't realize that their reunion may not be as great as he hopes. And of course, this being a South Indian masala film, there are corrupt politicians to spare. It's fortunate he gets a love interest so he can take a break every once in a while from all of the demands of being an action hero.

Chatrapathi may not be a great film, but I find it to be a highly entertaining and emotionally satisfying one. Just keep the disclaimers in mind if you decide to watch it too.

Don't watch this movie, Mom.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Khatta Meetha

After a spree of watching masala Tamil films, I was in the mood for something sweet, simple, and non-violent. Khatta Meetha turned out to be just the right choice.

His kids: the shiftless one; the musical one; the sporty one; and the little one.

Homi Mistry (Ashok Kumar) is a widower with four sons, and Nargis Sethna (Pearl Padamsee) is a widow with two sons and a daughter. Their kids, like most kids, are a bit self-absorbed, and they don't help much with the housework and other family concerns. At the instigation of some mutual friends, Homi and Nargis meet and decide to get married to have someone to help carry the load. It doesn't hurt that they really hit it off as well.

The first meeting.

Neither set of kids is pleased by the news that their parents are getting married, and they're even less happy when they discover after the marriage that they've acquired new siblings as well. They squabble constantly with each other, while their parents handle the whole situation with grace and patience.

One of my favorite scenes: the oldest son gets ready to duke it out with the sporty kid
who charges straight past him, maintaining his karate stance the whole time.

Of course, the family members have their own personal problems as well. In particular, Nargis's eldest son (Rakesh Roshan, sporting some really ugly 80s glasses) is in love with the daughter of a rich businessman (Bindiya Goswami) who does not approve of the match, while Nargis's daughter Freni (Preeti Ganguli) is constantly being teased by her brothers about her weight and fears she'll never get married.

As they deal with these individual issues and as problems arise from outside, the family members learn to pull together and really become a family. The movie isn't amazingly thrilling or anything like that, but it's got a lot of sweet and funny and touching little moments. As usual, Ashok Kumar puts in a great performance as the humble but dignified father of this blended family. If you're looking for a sweet movie about familial love and you've exhausted your Sooraj Barjatya collection, Khatta Meetha might just hit the spot.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Badaltey Rishtey: I don't know how I feel about this

Badaltey Rishtey is the story of a love triangle, with a rather unusual twist: an astrologer has predicted that the heroine's first husband with die within the first 40 days of her marriage and that she will be happy after she remarries.

I was totally engrossed by the film the entire time, although with mixed emotions: I really liked the first hour, was distraught by the way things were going in the second, and was surprised by the last ten minutes, which finally made the whole movie make sense to me. Perhaps I should have been able to predict where the movie was going, but I certainly didn't. (I'm a good audience for screenwriters -- I willingly accept things that don't quite fit, without realizing that this signals a potential twist, but after something unexpected happens, I'll think, "Oh, that other thing that happened before now makes so much sense! What a brilliant script!")

That said, I'm not entirely sure how I feel about this movie, and especially the resolution. If you haven't seen it yet, please come back to discuss after you do. If you have seen it, I'd really like to know what other people think, because I'm conflicted.

***Warning: Major spoilers below.**

My thoughts about this film are all mixed up with my thoughts about Woh Saat Din and Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, both of which I have conflicted feelings about as well. (The fact that I was still surprised by the ending of this movie perhaps indicates how bad my plot-predicting skills are. I was shocked (and distressed) by the ending of Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, the first one of the three I watched, and although I initially thought that Woh Saat Din would end the same way, I started second-guessing myself when Naseeruddin was listing the reasons why he thought the fictious film-within-the-film could and maybe should end differently. So it's pretty funny that I was once again blind-sided by this ending.)

In some ways, this film worked better for me than the other two. With Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, I felt like the filmmakers wanted me to believe that the girl ended up choosing her husband out of love, but I didn't buy it. Maybe this is partly because Ajay Devgan doesn't appeal to me, but the husband had seemed so sullen and stalkerish in most of the film that I didn't see why she would like him, especially since her love for the first guy had been so clearly established in the first part. And in Woh Saat Din, I saw a lot more reason for the heroine to like her husband, but the way she seemed happy to ditch him until she was asked to physically remove the mangalsutra made me think that she was choosing cultural beliefs or values over love, which isn't an entirely satisfactory ending for me.

Here, the girl had a very good reason to make the switch. I think part of why the film was effective for me was that I went through the same emotional transitions -- at first, I just wanted her to end up with Manohar (Rishi); then, when she found out about the prediction, I thought it was great that Sagar (Jeetendra) was willing and able to be the sacrificial lamb, although I did feel a little bad that he didn't know the full circumstances. And then, when things started going crazy, I thought, "Wow, I thought Manohar was a bit pushy in courting her before, but that just seemed like normal filmi behavior, and I certainly hadn't expected that he'd turn out to be psycho. She dodged a bullet there. I just hope Sagar stays alive." This made the ultimate choice much more realistic and believable than the same supposedly emotion-driven choice in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam. And, the fact that Manohar was able to quickly persuade her that he was nothing like she'd initially thought suggests that maybe she didn't know him that well in the first place, which made me feel not quite as bad for her as I would have otherwise.

The ending still leaves me somewhat dissatisfied, though. For one thing, I thought the way the prediction was handled was a bit of a cop-out. If her husband had truly been in grave danger and her loyalty had saved him, then I'd buy that this was a way of avoiding his fate. But, it hardly seems like they should have been able to avoid the prediction through a completely manufactured threat. I also generally have a problem with plotlines based on someone lying to someone they love for their own good. For one thing, I think people usually find out the truth sooner or later, and that usually just makes things worse. There's also the problem that once again the men in the movie are making the girl's choices for her, although I don't find it as offensive as usual in the context of this film.

Also, of course, I was very sad for Manohar in the end. I'm hoping he meant what he said in his drunken song about not letting one unfortunate love affair ruin his life. He didn't seem the type to go the Devdas route, so I guess there is hope. There's no reason a person can't move on and fall in love with someone else, but in the filmi universe that's not always the case. In fact, I think I'm just not a fan of movies about love triangles in general. I want everyone to end up happy. I know that doesn't always happen in real life, but if I were a huge fan of realism I wouldn't be watching Bollywood films in the first place.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Mysteries of Patanga

Contrary to what the subtitles might have you think, Patanga is not actually a movie about archaeologists or people with a skeleton fetish.

What it is all about, though, I still don't know. My DVD stopped working at almost exactly the halfway point, leaving me stranded in the midst of familial problems, melodrama, deception, and young hearts torn asunder. I'm assuming these difficulties get resolved by the end, but I have no idea how.

The internet is no help either, since there is a dearth of online information regarding this film. In fact, before buying the DVD I hadn't even been able to figure out what year the movie was released. Eros Entertainment listed it as a 1971 film, Nehaflix had a 1949 date, and Music India Movies said it was from 1960. Induna added to the confusion by suggesting that Shashi might have been in films called Patanga in both 1949 and 1971. Meanwhile, the pictures of Shashi from the DVD jackets seemed to place the film in the mid to late 1960s.

I ended up buying the DVD sold by Eros, which is never a good idea. (In fact, I bought two copies, both of which had the exact same problem.) This DVD is released by Samrat International, a company I haven't heard of before and have a very bad opinion of now. Oddly, the DVD jacket does not look like the picture shown on the Eros website but is instead the one shown on the Music India Movies site. The picture Eros advertised appears to be the same DVD jacket advertised on Nehaflix, which is purportedly the Music India version. It would be helpful if Indian DVD sellers would actually show the version of the movie they're going to sell you, but maybe I'm asking too much. I'd settle for them just selling DVDs that worked.

As for the actual date of the film, the certificate at the beginning verifies that it was in fact released in 1971.

Scenes in which Shashi looks more like this

than this

suggest that filming took place over several years, which explains the general 1960s look and the 1971 release date.

The film also includes an early appearance of that favorite 1970s plot element, the child lost at a fair who spends the next two decades on the streets as a petty crook.

A youtube search indicates that a film named Patanga was in fact released in 1949 as well. However, it strains credulity to think that not only Shashi but also Vimi, Ajit, and Rajendra Nath appeared in both the 1949 and the 1971 films. My guess is that at some point someone got confused and added the cast list from the 1971 film to the 1949 list. This error appears not only on Induna's site but on IMDB as well.

Although Nehaflix also uses the 1949 date, the cast list on Nehaflix appears to be exclusively from the 1971 film. Hopefully this means that Nehaflix carries the 1971 film, since it would be nice to finish it and get some resolution.

But until then, I suppose the plot will have to remain a mystery.

Monday, March 16, 2009

smooth lines: Shashi Week 2009 edition

After discussing a terrible pick-up line in my last post, I decided it would be appropriate to commemorate Shashi Week 2009 with a brief look at some fun lines from one of the best sweet-talkers in cinema.

Whether the line is spoken in jest,

devoid of any false modesty,


or surprisingly bitter,

he always brings the charm.


Saturday, January 31, 2009

quick poll

Is this the worst pick-up line ever?

I'm going with yes. It's tacky, creepy, tasteless, and neither flattering nor funny. But don't let that influence you.

Vote to the right, and if you want to explain your vote you can do so below.