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Fire in Babylon (2010)
If Lagaan were a documentary
This would be it. A very, very good example of the documentary film art, I think. I was a child in the 70s, and loved watching the matches and players referred to in this film, but had no idea what was going on off the pitch.
Of course the film makers have a point of view they are promoting, but since it's one that was NEVER heard elsewhere, it is certainly fair that they take the chance to provide a different context and some background to the very widely promoted views of the Windies pace attack of the time. The clear connection between the socio-political environment and the players' motivation was fascinating, and the graphic illustration of the shameless and shameful racism and colonial bigotry was illuminating. I can't recommend this film highly enough to any fan of sports documentaries.
Teesri Kasam (1966)
Waheeda is truly lajavaab!
This film was intelligent and thoughtful, tender and achingly sad with simply gorgeous songs and the stunning Waheedaji proving she is so very much more than just a divinely beautiful face. I will give it 9.5/10 only because I was secretly hoping that the ending would be a little different, in an equally non-formulaic way. The exploration of its themes and the strength of her character are both remarkable for the era. The beginning of the film is quite simply astonishing - to literally open with a song of the calibre of sajan re jhoot mat bolo - what a foretaste of the movie's overall quality. The phrase is worn out and hackneyed now, but if any film is a 'must see' teesri kasam is that film.
Singh Is Kinng (2008)
No language on Earth has any word for how awful this movie is
Not Punjabi, not Hindi, not Etruscan, Basque or Xhosa - there are literally no words to describe how utterly terrible this was. The words madar and ben come to mind as prefixes for chod, but those compound words only really describe the criminal lunatics responsible for forcing this ont an unsuspecting world. Eyes and ears alike were savagely assaulted by this nightmare, and the mentally-retarded amoeba I keep for a pet complainred throughout that the movie was insulting its intelligence The good old Anglo-Saxon verb that inspired Battlestar Galactica's "frakking" might come close but I think I'll finish with the old-fashioned French word, because they spit this out with something close to complete contempt this waste of everything deserves. Merde!
Napoleon Dynamite (2004)
Not deadpan, just dead. Leaden and unfunny
I sat through this on the recommendation of a friend who said "you have to watch at least once, if only for the one-liners". It was the cinematic equivalent of Family Guy, a collage of non sequiturs that its compilers (creators seems to be far too flattering here) mistook for funny. I was left with an impression that the people who allegedly "wrote" this may have listened to Steven Wright and Emo Phillips a lot. They have mimicked their deadpan style (though a lot more dead and a lot less pan) , but have overlooked the importance of the ingredient common to Wright and Phillips and missing from this - wit and humour. Like Family Guy, the manatees who cobbled this together should have been slaughtered. Where's Cartman when you need him?
This film is fantastic! An Indianised "comedy of errors", it nicely highlights the similarities between Indian humour and that of Shakespeare. The comic potential of "twin twins" may seem to have been fully exploited,but this film transported the idea to India superbly well. The scene with the bhang was a gem. I am not sure why this film receives so little praise, or even acknowledgement, but if you are looking for a first-class Indian comic film, it is very hard to go past "Angoor". Considering the drek that passes for comedy in Hindi film today, thanks to David Dhawan and others like him, Angoor may be hard to find, but it's worth the effort, and I now want to find more films featuring this talented cast.
Cheeni Kum (2007)
Adult romance drama with nice comedic touches - shabbash!
I watched this immediately after jhoom barabar jhoom, and was very glad I did. JBJ was an AWFUL pile of bakvaas, and Amitabh's appearances in that movie were pointless and embarrassing (why was he trying to look like Stevie Ray Vaughan?) Cheeni kum was a very good movie. A little slower than it could have been, and maybe Amitabh's character was a little bit TOO "cheeni kum", but overall it was an intelligent and well put together film. There were several things not done as well as they could have been, including the shameful underutilization of Paresh Rawal, but overall this was a good try. It was certainly one of Amitabh's better roles of the last couple of years. Zohra was outstanding as was Swini Kehra, and the film examined the central issue well. Almost as well as the outstanding Dil Chahta Hai. After KJo cr*p like KANK, SLB's bloated rubbish (Black, Devdas) and the David Dhawan conveyor belt of pathetically unfunny "comedies", films like Cheeni Kum restore my faith in Hindi cinema. The central jodi was very plausible, and Tabu's character gave as good as she got, except for the scene at the restaurant with the fish (where her capitulation seemed out of character). I just wish that was at least one Cheeni Kum for every Jhoom Barabar Jhoom. Plus I want to see more of Zohra before she leaves us, and more of the excellent Swini.
Waqt: The Race Against Time (2005)
"Waqt" is precious - don't waste any on this bakvaas
This movie's full title is "Waqt: Race Against Time". That's a race no one can ever win, but you can certainly cut your losing margin by not wasting any of your precious "waqt" on this bakvaas. This movie was clumsy and manipulative in a way that made K3G look honest. It strained my credulity too far. It was ridiculously stupid in its storyline, and deserves to be mocked for it.
It's not quite as awful as Baghban or Black, but this movie has nothing to recommend it. Stupid, pointless, with a ridiculously OTT performance by Amitji. The central "plot" is another nasty example of the crudely manipulative propaganda that infests so many "family" BW films. If my father, who raised me, and who I love dearly, treated me like Big B did Akshay, I'd shoot him myself. To say nothing of the trivialising of terminal illness.
Hum Aapke Hain Koun...! (1994)
Sickly sweet, but great fun. It should help you find your smile
Over the last few months, I've become increasingly jaded and cynical about Hindi cinema. The choices seem to be narrowing to increasingly violent and brutal films with good performances or soulless masala clones with production line Barbie dolls for heroines, and songs that are forgotten seconds after they finish. I've been pushing myself to reach 150 BW films watched, and it has increasingly seemed like a waste of time and effort, often leaving me angry at the time chewed up by the drek on offer. In the last week, I've sat through Aashiq and Gumrah, both films that left me bewildered and angry at their awfulness.
Then, today, I finally got to see HAHK. I went in expecting to loathe it. Despite my vigorous efforts, I just couldn't. Cinematically, there's almost nothing right with this film, but it was still great fun to watch. One IMDb review disparaged it by calling it "just a shaadi cassette", and I think that was right on the money. I also don't think that it is such a bad thing. There's an artless naivety and innocence to the film's spirit that makes it easy to overlook the fact that watching it will induce a coma in the saccharine-intolerant. I am normally very intolerant of super-sweet fluiff, but somehow this film sneaked past my outer cynic and found my inner child. It was a better K3G, better for not having all the negative elements. If you're going to make candy floss, don't try to be "cool" by spicing it with pepper, just celebrate the sugar, and that's what HAHK does. I don't know if I'll watch it again, but there are several songs that were well worth the watch, and Tuffy was great.
I don't think such a film could be made today, since jaded cynicism is de rigueur for film viewers the world over, and I doubt that many directors would have the courage, or find the backers, to make such an unabashedly retro piece. To compress the "mushkil" into the last 20 or so was genius, it let the film just bubble away, with so many laughing, smiling faces that only the stoniest grinches could be unmoved. Maybe the biggest flaw with HAHK is the fact that so many subsequent films tried to copy its "formula", without realising it didn't really have one, and that calculating mimicry is no substitute for the real thing.
As a film, I'd give it 5/10. For refreshing my BW palate, and reminding me of the magic of masala, I'd give it 8.
Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna (2006)
Karan hits a new low
Kabhi "kank" na dekhnaa!! This movie had the best ending of any BW film I've seen. The only way to improve on the ending of this film would have been to move it 190 minutes closer to the beginning.
I must congratulate KJ on blending unsympathetic, whiny, self-absorbed characters with a convoluted, self-indulgent and incredibly overblown storyline. I should also thank him for making me think kindly of Mother India, which now seems like a 10 minute comic riot when compared to this month-long episode of "Hamare Zindagii ke dinoN". I was easily able to understand how desperation to get out out of it caused Big B to have a heart attack. Talk about life imitating art! Still, it must have been less painful than being stuck in the nightmare of that movie. The guy is well-read, thoughtful and well-spoken off screen, but is painted a sleazy lecher in the first 45 minutes of this film. When Preity says "this marriage is over", my only reaction was "but this movie's still got 40 minutes to go!" Poor Kajol should have avoided this stinker like the plague, opting for classy, high-quality drama like "Girlfriend" instead.
I now have a soft spot for Preity, and hope that starring in this clunker doesn't weigh her down with too much bad karma. Now I'm off to do pooja for whichever deity inspired the FF button, to say thanks for preventing my suicide.
Hindi cinema cops a lot of flak for its escapist fluff, and rightly so, when it churns out drek like MPKK, HSSH and HTHS with depressing frequency. It was, however, not always so. Pyaasa reminds us that the Golden Age of Hindi cinema was just that, truly golden. There is almost nothing at all to fault with this gem. I'm listening to Sar Jo Tera Chakraye while I type this, but the whole soundtrack is outstanding, and the story, both in design and execution is a great demonstration of the fact that commercial cinema _can_ be fine art, too.
The evocation of atmosphere is well-done, and the main characters are well drawn. Johnny Walker is, as always, excellent in the comic relief. Some have said that they found him an intrusion, but for me, this very un-comic movie benefited from a little lightening touch from the inimitable Johhny. Subhaan Alaah that it wasn't Johnny Lever!
I love every song in the soundtrack, and think that it is the best soundtrack from any of the 320 or so Hindi films I've seen. It is, in my opinion, rare to find a Hindi film in which the songs work very well both in the film AND on their own. Sometimes, there are boring films with great songs, like Swades, and sometimes there are unremarkable songs that work well inside the film, like Dhadak Dhadak from "Bunty aur Babli". In Pyaasa though, every song fits AND every song survives apart from its context in the film.
However, the clincher for me the ending. There are maybe three or four Hindi films I've seen with almost perfect endings, in terms of being right for the film. I would say that they are, Dil Se (breathtaking and brave, but absolutely right for that film), Page 3 (the 21st century Pyaasa in its storyline, to me) and at the top of the heap, Pyaasa. The fade out to Yeh Duniya Agar is utterly perfect. I love this film to bits, and it was the ending that sealed it for me.