Archive for the Bollywood Category

Golden Kela Awards: Get Your Vote In!

Posted in Bollywood on March 8, 2011 by theajnabee

There is still time to vote for the Golden Kelas, an alternative award ceremony celebrating the best-of-the-worst of Bollywood, taking place on March 12th.

Last year was not exactly a vintage year for Bollywood, and like 2009, bought us a mixture of bland big-budget movies, obnoxious holiday crowd-pleasers  and uninspiring debuts. However, thanks to the Golden Kelas, you now get the chance to vote for the worst offenders of the year. As well as awards for worst movie, worst actor/actress and most irritating song, there are ‘special awards’ such as The Dara Singh Award for Worst Accent and The Laijja Award for Worst Treatment of a Serious Issue.

For me, the absolute cinematic low of the year was Action replayy. This really was one of the worst films I have ever seen, and I don’t say that lightly. My girl Surabhi and I lost three hours of our lives watching that movie. We will never get those hours back. However, you can help by voting for Action replayy, which I believe is up for Worst Movie, Worst Actress and Worst Debut among others.

Last year, Kambakht Ishq won worst film, which I feel was very well-deserved. Any film in which the hero’s first line to the heroine is ‘shut up, you uptight bitch’, and in which aforesaid trainee-surgeon-heroine accidentally loses a heart-shaped charm from her bracelet inside the abdominal cavity of a patient she is operating on (whom she later marries) has got to merit this kind of honour. Oh, and did I mention that the heart-shaped charm plays wedding bhajans, which can be heard from time to time emanating from deep inside the patient’s thorax at inopportune moments?

In amongst all of those bad movies from 2010, I bet there were some that you Bollywood watchers secretly loved. For me, my guilty pleasure was Anjaana Anjaani, which I watched in a cinema in Biratnagar on a muggy afternoon. Contrived and ridiculous but strangely moving, and Priyanka Chopra and ranbir Kapoor were rather adorable together. Own up, what were yours?

If we’re going to talk about ridiculous, nothing can compete with rajnikanth-starrer robot. This song is up for Most ridiculous Lyrics. I can’t claim to understand all of them but from what I can catch it’s pretty absurd.

Let’s hope that 2011 is going to be an improvement, and that if it’s not, at least we can continue to enjoy some laughs at what the Golden Kela people call ‘the cream of the crap’ of Bollywood.


Bollywood Dance London review

Posted in Bollywood, Dance on February 9, 2011 by theajnabee

One of the best things about being back in London (apart from all that lovely 24hr electricity, and friends/family) has been picking up dance lessons again. I’ve been taking Bollywood dance lessons with Bollywood Dance London for the past couple of weeks, which I’ve absolutely loved. Jassie, our fabulous teacher, has been teaching routines that draw on bhangra, commercial bollywood and the odd move taken from Indian classical dance. We even learned some choreography to last year’s super-hit item song Munni Badnaam Hui – a censored version, but it did include the famous ‘zandu balm’ move!

Main zandu balm hui....

There is such a wide variety of dance lessons on offer in London that the choice is somewhat overwhelming but the BDL course is definitely one I’d recommend. The classes are sufficiently laid back that newcomers can feel comfortable, but at the same time Jassie is just strict enough to make sure that you do learn and improve. It’s a good balance. She also films the dance routines each week, puts them on youtube (a private link, and one which will *not* be appearing here!) and sends them out to her students to help with memorising the routines. Seeing yourself dance on camera is not for the faintheared (‘oh my actual.. do I really have muscle control of a newborn giraffe?’ was my first reaction.) but it is a really good way to learn.

Ultimately, the criterea that separates a good/o.k dance lesson from a fabulous dance lesson for me is whether or not I come out of it feeling energised and on a high, and on this basis BDL is definitely a winner.

The next courses are starting the week beginning Feb 21st, and apparently the ‘pure Bollywood’ classes will be featuring a lot more early 1990’s-inspired routines. Think Madhuri Dixit circa ‘Yaraana’ to be more specific!

Tihar/Dipawali Movie Silliness: Action Replayy

Posted in Bollywood on November 9, 2010 by theajnabee

Dipawali (festival of lights) that time of year when big-budget, crowd-pleasing Bollywood movies release in this part of the world. At the weekend a friend of mine and I decided that we were in need of a dose of silliness, so we went to check out Action Replayy, starring Aishwarya Rai and Akshay Kumar. If you are thinking of going to see this, DO NOT GO. I do not usually write in block capitals on this blog because in netspeak that’s akin to yelling, but right now that is just what I am doing. This is seriously one of the worst Bollywood films I have ever seen, and that is quite a claim.

Action Replayy is billed as a ‘science fiction romantic comedy’, about a young man who goes back to the 1970’s in a time machine to put right his parents’ unhappy marriage. In actual fact, the movie is more like The Taming of the Shrew-meets-‘The Game’-meets-‘Back to the Future’. Son travels back in time to teach his Dad not to take any crap from his gold-digging, obnoxious future wife, thus laying the ground for a long and happy marriage.  Akshay Kumar’s character is transformed from chump to player over the course of the movie, and learns to employ tactics such as ignoring Aishwarya Rai when she bakes him a cake (that’ll teach ‘er) and throwing around cheesy lines such as ‘AWAAZ……. neeche!’ to show who is boss.

By the interval my friend and I were just about ready to walk out, but decided to stick it out to see if it would get any better. After some refreshments of an alcoholic nature we were ready for round two. And it did not get any better.

The strangest thing was that the audience in the cinema hall all seemed to be laughing there arses off at this sexist tripe. The very same moments that had my friend and I reaching for our concealed bottle of merlot had the audience practically rolling in the aisles with hilarity. ‘Am I in some kind of parallel universe?’ my (Nepali) friend remarked in horror ‘Do people really find this kind of thing acceptable?’

This will be a subject of more inquiry here, so watch this space for more thoughts.

Childhood Memories: Going for an Indian in Lewisham

Posted in Bollywood on November 6, 2010 by theajnabee

A post dedicated to my family and my friends who grew up in Lee and all those with fond memories of The Curry Garden:

When I was a child in London one of my family’s weekend rituals was to go out for curry at our local Indian restaurant (which, like most Indian restaurants in London, was actually Bangladeshi). We feasted on bright red chicken tikka masala, naan and kulfi amid the plastic flowers, flock wallpaper and lurid photo prints of waterfalls and beaches. I can safely say that the food was absolutely nothing like what you would find in the Subcontinent and my Indian/Pakistani/Nepali friends would be utterly horrified if I ever took them to eat there. The restaurant played the same cassette of instrumental versions of  bollywood songs  for the whole ten-year time period in which we used to eat there, including this one from the 1990’s movie ‘Main Anari Tu Kiladi’:

I was in a hotel in the Tarai recently, which incidentally very much resembled my local Indian restaurant in Lewisham (looking something like your gran’s-living-room-circa-1970-meets-the set of Mughal-e-Azaam) when I turned on the tv, and what should I hear but ‘Chura ke Dil Mera’ which I must have heard dozens of times as a kid. It took me right back those childhood curry outings in Southeast London. By the way, the videoclip is a must-watch for Shilpa Shetty’s kitsch outfits and truly horrible dance moves.

I think I will have to make an outing to the Curry Garden when I’m back in London.

‘Today’s Bollywood Heroine Has Shades of Grey’: Yash Chopra at SOAS

Posted in Bollywood on August 1, 2010 by theajnabee

While I was back in England on leave I went to a talk given by Yash Chopra at my alma mater, SOAS. Bollywood producer/director Yash Chopra is probably the most influential figure in Indian cinema today. He has brought us mega-hits like Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge and Veer-Zara as a producer, Silsila and Dil To Pagal Hai as a director, and is responsible for giving tens thousands of women unrealistic expectations about love.

Chopra-ji had just received an honorary doctorate from SOAS and was able to spare an hour for a Q and A session with Prof Rachel Dwyer in front of a rather starstruck audience of ex-SOAS students.

It’s hard to overstate the importance of Yash Chopra in mainstream Bollywood cinema. He basically is mainstream Bollywood cinema. For some of us in the audience it was almost a religious experience to see him in person.

The discussion touched on a broad range of themes, ranging from the strong presence of Punjabi culture in his movies to the impact that dvd piracy could have on the Hindi movie industry.

One particularly interesting question that came up was the question of what are the defining characteristics of today’s ‘Yash Chopra woman’? (Chopra’s movies are known for their intensely romantic female leads). Chopra gave a cryptic but interesting answer which I might unpack more in another blog post. ‘In the past, female leads used to be very “black and white”. There was a positive pole and a negative pole’ said Chopra-ji ‘but today’s ‘Yash Chopra woman’ has shades of grey.’ Today’s heroine has notes of moral ambiguity that would have been unacceptable to earlier Bollywood audiences, and this is a bonus to today’s crop of female actors, as they have more complex characters to portray, he explained. I would have been interested to hear him go into more detail on this point and to give an example of a grey-shaded heroine.

Another good question was who, out of today’s crop of new talent, will be the next superstar? (That is to say, I’m inferring, an Amitabh or Shahrukh rather than, say, another John Abraham). For the boys, there was no hesitation on this one: Ranbir Kapoor. Even though he is only a few films old, his ‘lovable onscreen presence’ and charisma mark him out as the Next (really) Big Thing in Bollywood. Prof Dwyer agreed hands-down (and so, for that matter, does The Ajnabee). Yash Chopra did not have a clear answer when it came to female actors. Although Bollywood has no shortage of talented and very beautiful female stars, no-one on the scene seems to have quite that ‘epic’ quality that, for Yash Chopra, separates a star from a superstar.

Chopra admitted that one of the films that he had enjoyed making the most – and had been the most surprised by – was Veer-Zara (2004). Even when the film was just about to hit the cinema screens, he was unsure of how today’s audience would receive it. Would the younger generation really accept a melodrama in whose hero is so devoted to a woman that he refuses to even take her name for over 20 years for fear of damaging her reputation (even when he is in prison, and speaking her name could get him out)? Or a heroine who, thinking her lover is dead, leaves her native Pakistan, and goes to India to care for his aging parents? Well, buy it they did, and Chopra’s Indo-Pak romance became one of his best-loved movies.

Veer-Zara may be melodramatic, but Chopra believes that its ‘strong moral core’ is exactly what the audience wants – and indeed expects – when they go to see a Yash Chopra movie.

Yash-ji was economical with what he let on about his next movie, so unfortunately The Ajnabee has no breaking news for you about future projects.

There was too little time and too many questions, but for us ex-SOASers it was a real privilege to have an audience with the great man himself.

Raavan: A Disappointment of Epic Proportions

Posted in Bollywood on June 21, 2010 by theajnabee

I went to see Mani Ratnam’s much awaited movie Raavan over the weekend.

Raavan was a real disappointment and I wouldn’t recommend it unless you have a fairly advanced Aishwarya Rai fetish. However, if you do have an Aishwarya Rai fetish you will probably love it. There are lots of interminable shots of Aish variously tethered, goat-like, to trees, falling through the air in an orange salwar kameez, getting covered in mud and busting some Bharatnatyam moves in ill-placed song sequences.

Raavan is loosely based on the abduction of Sita in the Ramayan; a senior police officer’s wife, Ragini (Rai) is kidnapped by Beera (Abishek Bachchan) the leader of a gang of outlaws, and spirited away to the forest. Her husband (Vikram) sets out with his officers to rescue her and get revenge on Beera. However, there is a twist in Mani Ratnam’s version of the epic; once all the characters are in the forest, they come face to face with a darker side of their natures. And his Sita falls in love with her captor, Raavan.

The cinematography is gorgeous, with lots of moody shots of the mountains and jungle, but this is not enough to rescue the film from its total lack of structure and lame script.

One of the people I went on this cinema outing with was a friend of South Indian origin, who said that she thought that the film would be better and more nuanced in Tamil than in Hindi (the film was shot in both languages). When we started watching it became pretty clear that the language would not really have made much of a difference (not that I actually speak Tamil) because most of the interchanges consisted of primordial grunts and high-pitched screams.

A typical scene might go something like this:

Beera: (tying up Ragini) aaaaaaaaaaarf

Ragini: eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep!

Beera: grrrrrhmpmhph

(looks deep into Ragini’s eyes. They share what we assume is meant to be a sexually charged moment)

Beera: chakakakakaka! Raaaaaaah!

Ragini: mmmmmmh! mmmmmmh!

(Beera walks away. Dramatic pause)

Beera: yerfle.

Unintentional hilarity ensues.

Now, you would think that a film in which the Indian state comes into conflict with a group of outlaws deep in the forest might be trying to make some comment on a rather serious social/political issue that India is facing at the moment – you know, those Naxalite guys fighting a war against the police/army in the tribal belt? But nah, Mani Ratnam did not want to go there. Not even in the most cursory way. And that was a real disappointment.

Raavan is a waste of a star cast, a fantastic A.R Rahman soundtrack and a stunning location, and is certainly not the triumphant return that I’d been hoping for from Aishwarya after her recent absence from our screens.