Thursday, 18 September 2014

Love Aaj Kal

Directed by: Imtiaz Ali
Starring: Saif Ali Khan, Deepika Padukone, Rishi Kapoor
Released: 2009
My rating: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good  great – amazing – experience

The story may not be great and performances of varied quality, but there is something lyrical about Imtiaz Ali films, which makes them an enjoyable watch, even if only once. Love Aaj Kal is the least emotional of his movies, least complicated, not reaching the amazing entertainment offered by Jab We Met or even emotional wreckage of Rockstar. But it has its share of charming moments and overal is a pretty, pretty picture, using flashbacks very well, without confusing the viewer, and heightening curiosity as the story goes on.

We are given a glimpse of „modern“ and „cool“ relationship between architect Jai and art student Meera, who have great time hanging out together, all on the backdrop of London. Jai, who is really the one carrying the narrative and the story unfolds from his point of view, considers romantic love an old-fashion concept, and when Meera is offered work in India, he very sportingly supports her to leave him, breaking up with her on friendliest terms possible. How very modern and cool indeed. However as the time passes by, he notices his sloppy attempts to move on are all destined to fail. And being constantly nagged by an elderly restaurant owner, who paints in front of Jai his own story of love he had once lived, Mr. Architect is quite shocked when he realizes Love has probably happened to him. Unfortunately it seems Meera actually did move on...

Deepika Padukone does not have much to contribute to the movie, aside from her utterly gorgeous face and drool-worthy wardrobe. After getting used to her very much exciting self from the last two years, I was actually surprised to revisit the somehow awkward, extremely camera-conscious Deepika with pitiful dialogue delivery (which has so evolved since then!). She doesn´t ruin the scenes she´s in, but the director very wisely let Saif Ali Khan do most of the acting instead, giving him most of the dialogues, and so our dear nawab goes on like a chatterbox, rarely stopping an endless flow of words whenever he is nervous or emotional. Sometimes his monologues actually get so long you wonder if Meera´s turn to talk would ever come (and sometimes it really does not).

The most charming bits of the movie, however, are introduced to the viewer by Rishi Kapoor and his narration of the old-school love story several decades ago, in India. The warm, brown colouring of all the scenes in the „past“ gives them a unique mood, very different from the rest of the film. In fact, it felt so nice, I caught myself wishing it would have been the main bit of the film, or a film of its own! Even more so since I felt it was left rather unsolved, even though Neetu Singh´s brief appearance in the very end of the movie gave away the final result.

Love Aaj Kal concludes a very simple fact: Love is Love, no matter if one searches for it or not, no matter where, no matter how it happens, and no matter how modern and cool you consider yourself. You can never bee too cool for Love. It´s just about how thick you are in the head to realize it happened. Very good production values, very likeable actors and very charming story telling make Love Aaj Kal a nice film, if you are in the right mood.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Satyam Shivam Sundaram

Directed by: Raj Kapoor
Starring: Shashi Kapoor, Zeenat Aman
Released: 1978
My rating: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great amazing – experience

I guess every director has a bad movie or two (or all, righ, Mr. Bazmi?) and Raj Kapoor is no different. Or perhaps Satyam Shivam Sundaram is not „bad“ per se, but the story is just so prepostrous and Shashi Kapoor such an asshole in it, that I cannot help but hate it. And mind you, I am among Raj Kapoor´s most ardent fans. And Shashi Kapoor´s. Which makes it even harder to forgive.

The story is that of a young girl Roopa, whose mother had died while giving birth to her, and who, because of an accident from childhood, has the right part of her face and neck covered in ugly scars. Considered „cursed“ by one and all in her village, Roopa still remains a good soul with great trust in God. Her love for the Creator is only matched by her love for a handsome young engineer (Shashi), who arrives to the village to supervise building and reparations of a nearby dam. He falls in love with her too. Or rather – her voice. Because that is the problem you see: he has never seen her face, which she carefully hides whenever they meet. And she is all too careful never to show herself to him, since he cannot tolerate any ugliness. He doesn´t dislike it, neither he is „not comfortable“ with it – he cannot tolerate it, not even his own reflection in a joking mirror at a fair (seriously, dude?) When a bit later in the film Roopa asks him if he would love her still should she not be beautiful, he completely avoids answering by stating some shit about „not possible you have to be sundar cause you sing so well.“

Ultimately he marries Roopa, and only after marriages sees her face. He is horrified and convinced she is not his beloved. And so poor Roopa chooses to serve his selfishness and in disguise keeps meeting him outside their home, instilling the twisted belief there are two women instead of one even further. (yeah, that would totally work in her favour. Geez girl, have some self-respect!) The whole thing with a covered face may have worked a lot better if it actually remained covered throughout. However the character of Shashi sees almost all of Roopa´s face, more than once, and so his argument about „I´ve never seen it“ makes no sense at all. Further more he never questions the girl as to why won´t she show herself to him. And finally, in the end he recognizes her by her voice. And me, already fed up with all the nonsense and Shashi´s asshole ways, couldn´t understand for the life of me why she just didn´t sing to him an hour ago, which would have saved her loads of humiliation and me thousands of brain cells.

He sees THIS much of her face.
And THIS much. 
And how much more do you need to see???? WTF man???
It is, indeed, the story which makes the whole film an unpleasant experience. One cannot protest about the production values, because they are (for the time the film was made in) excellent. From colour play of the early morning in the temple to a bit psychadelic fantasy song, the camera presents everything beautifully. The music is actually a highlight, and till now I have goosebumps listening to Lata Mangeshkar´s voice in the title song. 

Performances are fairly good (aside from Zeenat´s emotional scenes which reveal her limitations as an actress), unfortunatelly 90% of the characters are unlikeable. I have never imagined it was possible for me to dislike Shashi Kapoor in any avatar, but his own brother made it possible. To see little Padmini Kolhapure in Roopa´s chidhood avatar was a sweet surprise for me and she did very well, especially considering how awful most of Hindi cinema child artists are.

Semi-nudity in Raj Kapoor films somehow never bothered me (be it Simi Garewal´s butt in Mera Naam Joker, Mandakini´s breasts in Ram Teri Ganga Maili or Roopa´s overal semi-nudeness in this), even though I realize what effect it must have had on certain parts of the audience. I suppose that what makes the marginal difference lies in how the people on screen react to Roopa. She chooses to wear the clothes she wants, and others around her are unconcerned. They would have treated her the same (awfully or well) had she been fully covered from head to toe. Roopa is also obviously at peace with her body, so why should I be concerned? It is not like she is selling herself at the market. She bathes. She changes clothes. She walks the fields under a blazing sun. Now, if people off-screen see her only as a titillating sexual objects because of the clothes (or rather lack of it), it is above all because they have a filthy mind.

Satyam Shivam Sundaram is definitely, so far, the weakest Raj Kapoor film I have seen.

Friday, 15 August 2014


Directed by: K.K. Singh
Starring: Salman Khan, Atul Agnihotri, Himani Shivpuri, Farida Jalal, Divya Dutta
Released: 1995
My rating: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing – experience

Veergati is one of those film made by and for men who consider themselves awesomely macho. Or who think being awesomely macho is the coolest thing ever. The 90s have given us some real gems of Indian cinema, but there is also a dark side to them, and from its darkest depths of all stuff regressive comes this story of an orphan played by Salman Khan, weirdly dead-eyed and foreshadowing his non-acting today, even though back then, in other films, he has always beamed with energy.

I have no love interest in the film which already gives you the idea I will die in the end.
It is all very bizarre and WTF from the very start. Upon bringing home a helpless baby he had found abandoned in the streets, a soft-hearted police officer needs to deal with a hysterical wife, who leaves him because one day the baby will surely make her yet unborn daugther a prostitute (if this sentence doesn´t make any sense to you, do not ever try watching the film). The policeman lets the pregnant wife leave him forever to raise up the baby. The kid grows up into a very disagreeable hero, who is supposed to be good in heart, but to be honest he acts like an idiot. To people he supposedly loves he is consistently hurtful, never failing to cry over the fact he has been thrown into the gutter as a baby, completely omitting how lucky he was to be found and brought up with much care and love. He also gets insulted because of his origin, and all in all the filmmaker expects you to embrace the character and pity him. Well, then maybe they should have tried a bit harder in actually making him less of an agressive maniac.

"I broke his arm and kicked his dog!" "So cute beta!"
Also, for a person constantly cribbing about how he doesn´t believe in relationships and gambles away, he becomes hell of a preacher (and „slapper“ of young girls) on moral codes when other people are not respectable towards their elders. Nothing about Salman´s character makes sense. The acting is awful from his part, and while the rest of the cast do whatever they can (the extremely lovely Divya Dutta sucks in this though), nobody saves the day.

The awful moaning of women being raped creates an eternal soundtrack to the villain´s den or even his mere presence on screen, showing his power of the underworld in the only form Bollywood knows – by inflicting injustice to women. One even more fondly remembers Mogambo who had it all sorted and though he was a highly caricatur-esque character in a comedy film, he still commanded more respect and caused you worries than any filthy pimp whom just one cleanly shaved guy can destroy by shaking his muscles.

In case you have not noticed this guy is evil, he has an ugly black mole to help you.
Perhaps you are confused why I have skipped describing the story, but there is not much to describe. Veergati is a diary of voes of a self-pitying agressor, who happens to be surrounded by people who never get angry with his annoying whining and abusive behaviour, and people who are just insane (yeah, still talking about the policeman´s wife). There is also a subplot revolving around the character of a friend, who is trying to raise money to get married to a wealthy girl he loves, but who cares really. In the end Ajay looses most of the people who are family to him (read: people who endless put up with his asshole ways), dresses into white sheets and goes on a vengeful killing spree mouthing some deep spiritual stuff in between increasing the death rate of the film.

Hello sir.

I have come to you to talk about our Lord Jesus Christ.

Neither well shot, scripted or acted, Veergati is more 80s than 90s, with all the darkness of bad cinema you can imagine under that tag, and a woman only having worth if she is a Maa.