Here goes. All films from INDIA
unless o/w noted. Gonna do a mix of older stuff and contemporary Bollywood, maybe watch all the stuff left from the IMDb Top 250. Pray for me.
(Reema Kagti, 2012)
I don't think Aamir Khan cracks a smile once in this film. He's a stern, committed, no-nonsense cop investigating the suspicious accident - or suicide - or murder of famous actor Armaan Kapoor (Vivian Bhatena) who crashed his car into the sea while driving alone late at night in an area that wasn't near his home or movie set. And he's also struggling with his own demons, particularly the drowning death of his young son and the distancing it's causing with his wife (Rani Mukerjee). But when he meets a beautiful hooker (Kareena Kapoor) who seems to have some of the keys to what happened on the night of Kapoor's death, clues start to fall into place while danger increases. This is a decent mystery-crime film with some excitement to it that isn't too derailed by inappropriate music or excessive sentiment - though they are there and do slow it down somewhat - but I'm not sure that the similarity of one major plot point to a similar element in
really works in the end. Anyway overall enjoyable enough and I really liked Mukerjee, have to look for her in more stuff.
2.Prem Sanyas / The Light of Asia
(Franz Osten/Himanshu Rai, 1925)
(Franz Osten, 1928)
4. Acchut Kanya / Untouchable Girl
(Franz Osten, 1936)
The first two of these form, along with the somewhat better-known Pranacha Pash / Roll of the Dice
(1929) a loose late-silent trilogy on historical themes. The German Osten trained in his native country and made a couple dozen films there before embarking on an extended stay in India, and probably had better training and more resources at his disposal than any native filmmakers and the time, so these are not surprisingly some fairly sumptuous productions, particularly the first two with their grand palace settings.
is a fanciful biography of Gautama, the Buddha (co-director and producer Rai, also an important figure in early Indian cinema) and his wife and (according to the film) first disciple Gopa (Seeta Devi, only 12 or 13 when this was made but looking a little older). The wealthy prince Gautama cares only for the beautiful Gopa, and does everything he can to win her from rivals, but gradually comes to realize that the life of luxury and in particular the hunting of animals sickens him and offers no meaning. This is nicely done and carries some real feeling in the last act in particular.
I liked Shiraz
, the story of the Mughal emperor Shah Jehan, his blind architect Shiraz (Himanshu Rai again) and the woman they both love and to whom they build the monumental Taj Mahal, a little less; Shiraz is a rather pathetic character and the empress isn't terribly interesting either. Charu Roy as Jehan on the other hand has a certain magnetism and screen presence, and Seeta Devi appears again as a villainous and jealous rival for his affections. Still the sets and production are lovely and, like the other Indian silents I've seen, it can't be accused of running on forever.
enters into the world of much of the Indian cinema for the next few decades - a melodramatic music-heavy story about the lives of the poor. Here we have an Untouchable girl in love with a Brahmin boy and of course nothing but tragedy can come of it; what's most interesting though is that the film is very much an attack on the caste system and a call for brotherhood among all. I don't know if this was common in Indian cinema of the time but it seems fairly progressive to me. As it turns out the fathers of the two young would-be lovers are friends, the older Untouchable father having saved the Brahmin man's life when younger, but this doesn't matter to the village as a whole which seems otherwise to be made up entirely of stupid bigots who follow every word of a charlatan "doctor". The songs aren't bad (though not particularly memorable either) and fit in reasonably well with the plot, though they do get repetitive in the end.
5. 3 Idiots
(Rajkumar Hirani, 2009)
Currently #80 on the IMDb top 250, and #13 on the IMDb Indian top 250 (oh please please can this list become official? And can I have my eyes put out with slow-acting acid?). I've had a download of this forever but as it turns out it - along with a quite large number of mainstream Indian cinema from the past 20-30 years - is on Netflix. You probably all knew that, I didn't until starting to think about this challenge. Good to know, now if I can only do a better job picking in the future...anyway this is quite easily the worst Indian film I've seen so far. I'm not a Bollywood hater at all, most of what I've seen I've liked - though little of it is really memorable and I've yet to see a masterpiece - and even the ones I've disliked have been tolerable. This...no. It's a STUNNINGLY predictable story (apart perhaps from one major plot point which I didn't see coming - but which didn't really matter much) about three best buddies in engineering school, two of whom actually do seem to be idiots or at least poor student, and the third a genius of sorts, their problems with the dean of the school, and of course a romance between the dean's daughter and the genius/troublemaker leader of the trio. I will give this a couple of points for a reasonably decent production, for Aamir Khan doing an ok job in a somewhat comic role that's totally different from what I've seen him in before and for a few moments - not nearly enough - of self-parody or at least self-recognition that it's just mimicking Bollywood tropes (the poor family with the paralyzed father, shot in b/w - probably the best scene in the film). Kareena Kapoor is the love interest and she's always easy on the eyes but so are most Bollywood actresses. The songs/numbers range from pretty awful to just OK, but what really kills this is the extreme dollops of sentimentality and melodrama. OK I'm more tolerant of this than most cineastes - in fact I've been thinking about this a lot, and wondering why so many serious film buffs hate sentiment so much in all it's guises; if serious literature buffs felt the same way Dickens would be lost to history by now. Something about us movie people. But this is a case where I can fully get behind the feeling and it rears up most when we find out, surprise surprise that the seemingly lackadaisical Khan character is really practically a Gandhi-like saint who is always going to be there when his friends are in need (and of course they are). And of course it's almost 3 hours long. Just crap.