Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Bollywood Bleg

Here's a Friday entertainment post to see how diverse in movie taste our readership is.

MrsDarwin and I recently attempted a foray into Hindi film. I have a certain interest in Indian culture, working with so many Indians at work, and we'd seen several Indian-made or themed movies made with a mainstream, English-speaking audience in mind. (Monsoon Wedding, Bride and Prejudice, We'd seen the epic Lagaan -- nearly four hours about love, colonialism, and cricket.

However, the other night we mis-stepped badly while sitting up late with NetFlix instant play -- striking out with both the crossover Bollywood/Hollywood:

Which was simply flat, and a bit too much like an Indian-Canadian remake of Pretty Woman as a musical.

And then with the Hindi movie Race:

Which featured eye candy, music video style songs with even less relation to the plot than usual, and a plot whose swerves went far beyond hair-pin. It had a certain rogue-ish charm, but we remain mildly flummoxed by why we watched the whole thing.

So, clearly looking at the capsule summaries on NetFlix (and the number of stars from user reviews, which all seem to range from 3-4 anyway) is not the way to select quality movies. Do we have anyone out there who is familiar with Bollywood cinema and can recommend a top five or ten favorites? (I think we're looking more for the romantic comedy musical genre, than the seemingly endless number of hopeless epic historical love-story musicals -- a surprising number between Indians and Pakistanis. One can only be hopeless and epic so much of the time.)


Roberto said...

Black with Rani Mukerji -- an Indian take on "The Miracle Worker." It's possibly the most highly-praised Bollywood film of recent years.

Ghajini -- a remake of a Tamil film inspired by Memento. IMO, better than Memento. It's a combination of action and romantic comedy. Yes, you read correctly. The highest-grossing Indian film of all-time. Stars Amir Khan from Lagaan.

Dil Se, a love story about suicide bombers. Really. A great film.

Jodhaa Akbar: an epic romance about the Mughal Emperor and his Rajput bride.

Kal Ho Na Ho: three-hanky minimum. Appealing cast. For you or Mrs. Darwin need a good cry.

Sarkar: the Indian Godfather

Hope these help

mrsdarwin said...


Glad to see you mention Jodhaa Akbar, because we started watching it on Netflix the other night and flagged it to see another time (we weren't up for a three hour haul that night).

TS said...

We occasionally eat out at an Indian restaurant and we've watched Outsourced but that's the extent of our immersion into Indian culture. (signed Mr. and/or Mrs. O'Rama...:-)

CMinor said...

Sorry, Bride and Prejudice is the extent of my experience with Bollywood. If you come across a Bolly version of Lord of the Rings, though, let us know!

Roberto said...

we weren't up for a three hour haul that night

I know what you mean: being into Hindi cinema requires a serious time commitment. I suspect that Indian audiences feel that they are being ripped off if the run time is less than three hours. Then again, cinema occupies a place in Indian life that Hollywood hasn't occupied here in a long time. I

Warren said...

Ooh ooh ooh!

1. Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (means "Something has happened to me..."). Shah Rukh Khan, who you met in Kal Ho Na Ho, is arguably the biggest bollywood star under 50. And my fave indian starlet, Kajol, is his romantic interest in this lovely film. My fave.

2. Swades (also SRK). Oh my. Should have won an oscar. My heart will never quite recover.

3. Nach. Possibly the most incredible dancing I have ever seen. And possibly the most beautiful girl on screen, ever.

3. Mumbai se aaya mera doste. WOW. Okay, maybe this one's even better than all the above ones. It's so hard to pick faves. This one is a must see, and features the ever-popular theme of rising up against injustice in tribal areas with their traditional caste-system, against the simplicity and beauty of the poor country people, and the relative coldness and corruption of those who live in the big cities. Country-mouse, city-mouse, Hindi style.

4. Dilwale Dulhania Lejayenge. (DDLJ). Another ShahRukhKhan classic. Also featuring kajol. Same stars as #1.

5. Dil to pagal hai. The heart is completely crazy. Maybe I like Hindi films because I think they represent a kind of emotional "masala" mix of craziness, faithfulness to certain core ideals, and rampant romanticism. There is dancing. There is love. What more do you need? There is Madhuri Dixit, a true goddess of the indian silver screen.

6. Raincoat. And now for something a LOT different. This is not bollywood. This is Bengali intellectual theatre put on screen. If you hate it, don't blame me. But if you like real movies where real directors write real scripts about real things of the heart, you just might LOVE this film. Stars Aishwarya Rai, who is both the #1 and #2 most beautiful woman in the world according to Roger Ebert. His wife apparently doesn't mind his fixation. :-)

7. Salaam e Ishq. Introductions are in order. Bollywood fan, meet Govinda, comedy legend and crazy guy. Govinda, meet your new fan.

8. Loafer - I got sucked in by Monsoon Wedding. I just LOVED that song "Aaja mausam" by Mohd. Rafi, and I had to watch the film where this song made its big screen entrance into the national subconscious song-pool of Great Classic Hindi Film Songs. This is not a spectacular film, rather a typical period piece from the 1970s, but the singing, oh the singing. Mohd Rafi had the voice of an angel. One wishes they had better recording equipment though, in the 1970s in Bombay. The fidelity is close to AM radio.

9. Devdas. A classic novel, that has been turned into films several times. I recommend the modern Shah Rukh Khan version made circa 2000. The classic version stars Dilip Kumar, and is worthy of your time as well.

10.Sholay. Any list of Hindi films that does not contain this film is made by a complete poser. You have to mention this one just like you have to mention Citizen Kane if you want people to think you actually like film. Also, it rocks.

I got more. You in area, I lend you some DVDs. :-)


Roberto said...

I was going to mention many of the ones one your list, especially Swades and Dilwale Dulhania Lejayenge. I was aiming for films that might be easier to relate to for a western viewer.

I own Devdas but I'm not crazy about it. Rai leaves me cold. I don't believe her performances in the way that I do Rani, Kajol or Urmila for that matter.

If we're moving away from Bollywood then might I recommend the Tamil film "A Peck on the Cheek?" It's by the same man who directed Dil Se and it, too, is a love story set in the context of modern terrorism.

Darwin said...

Roberto & Warren,

Thanks for all the recommendations. I've added a bunch of these to the NetFlix queue. Have to see how it goes.

Just goes to show, again, how lucky we are to have such an interesting array of readers.

Kelly said...

Has no one mentioned Hum Aapke Hain Koun yet??? It's only the most famous Bollywood movie ever made! They even showed a little of it in Outsourced.