Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna

Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna (Never Say Good Bye), August 2006, 197 min, Dharma Production

Disturbing, Devastating yet IrresistibleCover2

If you enjoyed Adrian Lyne’s “Unfaithful” or Ricardo de Montreuil’s “La Mujer de mi Hermano” (My Brother’s Wife), then you will appreciate Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna (Never Say Goodbye).  Director Karan Johar tells the tale of human drama superbly with brilliant and persuasive storytelling of stolen glances, telling smiles and shuddering stares.  To say this film is thought provoking and serious is actually an understatement.   This provocative drama will be remembered as the affair that ended all affairs.

This is a film about lives of ordinary metro-sexual middle-class America, comfortable financially and on upward climb of the American dream.  Director Johar has mastered depicting the typical scene all too common in metropolitan USA where the dream is flourishing but marriage is decapitated.

Dev & Wife II

Meet Dev and Rhea Saran of Connecticut. They have attained complacency in their marriage; too old to change, too important to dwell on it and too little time for therapy.  So, what does Dev do…pin his hopes and dreams on borrowed time and stolen moment.

Meet the Talwars of Upper Manhattan. Maya, a school teacher, isn’t looking for an affair when she collides with Dev Saran at the train station. Maya is searching for salvation from her own self.  She is unable to grasp self betrayal that is destroying relationships around her—compromising her own needs, her own dreams to accommodate.   As law of attraction would have it, she finds herself in Dev; oddly enough, he becomes her conscious.  “Are you happy?” he asks. Maya and Husband

Hauntingly directed, “Never Say Goodbye” is a cautionary tale of a journey into the seemingly insignificant choices we make and the weight of their consequences.  Emotionally caustic, what makes this film controversial is its realistic depiction of relationships and the powerful dialogue that not only stings but leaves an everlasting scar.  The director takes our emotions hostage, forcing us to engage with each character’s pungent emotions in every scene:  the confusion, the self doubt, the insecurity, the guilt, the frustration, the sadness ….as if it is a warning signal.  Suddenly, it occurs to you that you know somebody who is going through the same scenario.  It is almost like watching him or her on screen.  This is when you begin to toss and turn as if you just developed constipation.  How many of us have been at a wedding knowing this marriage is already over and done with.  How many of us listen to a friend talking to her husband with indifference and apathy and wonder when is he going to walk out of her life?  The depth of character development, shadowed by the impossibility of placing blame, leaves us with sense of values shaken, at the very least, questioning our values rationally conjectured through the changing morals of today’s society. Yes, Johar with his mastery in storytelling had managed to make us think about our marital relationships, transcending boarders, nationalities or ever cultures.  This is not the typical Bollywood movie but again typical is not what Karan Johar is known for.

Casting

Dev Saran (Shahrukh Khan), fallen football (soccer) player, is married to sultry Rhea (Preity Zinta), DIVA fashion magazine executive. Depressed and desensitized school teacher Maya (Rani Mukherjee) is married to her childhood friend Rishi Talwar (Abhishek Bachchan), a dashing owner of a PR firm, Kamikaze.  Samar “Sexy Sam” (Amitabh Bachchan) is Rishi’s father who leaves for the next hump, and Kamal (Kirron Kher) plays Dev’s mother who seem to manage a catering company.

MayaMaya is full of self-doubt and her inability to trust herself is what makes her untrustworthy. Sure, Dev is the perfect distraction with full of promise that comes with “I understand you babe” assurance.  Sure enough, he becomes her salvation. Ironic because he is a basket case himself on his way to self-destruction.  Their infidelity begins, not with grinding bodies, but the emotional kind with endless stares and casual chats, sharing the depth of their pain and touching the center of their sorrow; the kind of intimacy that is reserved for a spouse. Rani literally writes Maya’s story across her face in an exhilarating and sometimes unsettlingly realistic performance.  Her portrayal of Maya with a tangible display of visible emotion is superb.   Those eyes, tell a story all by themselves, like a lost puppy in the Big Apple.  Her glances are like heavy artillery that will disarm any man.

Take the self-loathing, sarcastic Dev Saran (played disturbingly by Shahrukh Khan), who has an axe to grind with everyone making him unlikely candidate for an affair. He can’t seem to snap out of his anger of his ending career as a football (soccer) player and the loss of star’s seductive lifestyle.  He is like an angry wild cat: unfulfilled, unhappy and desperately needing therapy.  His encounter with Maya seems random and uneventful at the beginning but something about that scene sits in your psyche:  the gesture, her glance, his gaze and the intimate nature of the dialogue.  Who has this kind of conversation especially in New York City? What bench was that anyway?  While you feel the intense chemistry, there is no explosive emotional scenes to follow (we wish).  Johar is treading thin here; he does not want his audience to feel like the characters are in lust.   In a brilliant centerpiece, so effectively and carefully does Johar tell a love story, not an affair.  He elects to ignore the elements of sexual chemistry and the notion of impulsive passion.  If you were eagerly waiting for Samantha Jones’ Sex and the City scene, you will be disappointed.  Rather, he makes us follow Dev and Maya all over Manhattan:  from Central Park, to trendy Meat-packing district to what looks to me like Midtown, dragging our emotions with it along the predictable road to disaster.  The director takes his time to build the attraction between Maya and Dev stressing the ordinariness of the relationship which strangely makes the motivation for affair seem mysteriously tantalizing.  It is particularly tormenting for those of us who are used to reasoning an affair: sexual fetish, fantasy, boredom, over-indulgent, money, disturbing psycho-sexuality….something!  The audience is reduced into guessing clue to this rendezvous.   The truth is, at the end I was so emotionally exhausted I did not care what the deal was.  I just wanted the them to have the affair and get me out of my misery.

Dev7

To say this role is a departure for Shahrukh Khan is beyond simplification. In his long and memorable filmtography, Shahrukh’s roles have always reflected a sense of raw masculine energy, rugged elegance, unwavering confidence and/or a polished style we’ve come to expect. His successful departure from this stereotype in this role provides the perfect element of dimension to a character we might otherwise overlook. Ironically, it’s he who proves to be the film’s heart and soul; his complex personality grounds both the movie and its two intertwined stories.  Shahrukh’s attraction to the role would be obvious: the very textured, the intimate and realistic script, the topic itself if not interesting, it is disturbing.  Disturbing indeed, his portrayal of Dev escalating toward infidelity might well go down as one of the most terrifyingly believable scene in Hindi film history.  No doubt this movie did not go well neither with the audience in India nor his fans.  By succeeding in making us uncomfortable, he mastered his trade as an actor and has done his job superbly. However, as a hero, he did shake our very foundation. How do you bear watching this larger-than-life hero commit adultery?

A refreshing character in this film is Rishi, played so wonderfully by Abhishek Bachchan. He seems so natural in this character where no dialogue is forced or overacted.   You can’t help but love and respect the way he played this character.  His natural charm, looks and an endearing sense of humor attracts anyone irresistibly….except Maya that is.  I just so adore the kitchen scene when Maya asks for his pants; that was a Kodak moment.  Another remarkable and memorable moment in this film is Abhishek’s Oscar performance of the shuddering, raging howl of a breakdown, stunning the movie into silence.  The body language enough makes you shudder.  Sure enough he won Best Supporting role in 2006 Global Indian Film Awards, 2007 Stardust Awards as well as Filmfare Awards.

Rhea 3I can’t help but notice how well this role suited Preity Zinta surprisingly I might add. Truth be told, while she is a wonderful actress, this role is far removed from eye-fluttering, flirtatious role she is used to playing.  With dazzling grace, iron strength but visible vulnerability, it is truly a delight to watch her on screen.  I like how she carried herself with dignity until the end.  She feels like a New York executive, with arrogance that comes from confidence and full knowledge of self where “I” comes first.  For a society literally high on sex and high on designer heels taking a queue from Sex and the City, no doubt you will cheer for Rhea Saran, the independent, intelligent, confident metro woman living life seemingly in her own terms.  “If your husbands leave you, trust me you’re better off”, she says to her colleagues.  To be number one is her very goal; being number two is not an option.  You notice in her character’s typical crass disdain of her husband’s feelings.  “No one want to see you”, she tells him.  “The truth is I am the man in this house” she says.  If this doesn’t break a rocky marriage, I don’t know what will quite frankly.  “I am the man whom you have not become”, she tells Dev, an emasculating line that’s meant to provoke debate.  It does not take Dr. Laura Schlessinger to predict where this marriage is likely to go.   You notice the marriage was over long before the affair began.

On the upside, apparently this role was given to Rani Mukerji originally.  Although hindsight is 20/20, I can’t see Rani playing the role of high-power fashion executive. By the same token, I can’t see Kajol who initially was offered the role of Maya Talwar, playing this role.  Rani brings certain vulnerability and softness yet elegance to the character.    Her warmth and sensuality on screen is like a magnet even as the secrets and lies unfold before her with dreary inevitability.

What would this movie be without Sexy Sam?  We would have had an emotional breakdown otherwise.  At least Sam managed to lesson the seriousness and intensity of the theme.   Who better to play this role than Amitabh Bachchan, a superb actor and most elegant to date.  The dance sequences are priceless.

Memorable Scene.

While there are so many scenes that haunted me, I can’t get over Dev’s only passionate scene in this film leading up to the hotel.  Although beautifully filmed, the hotel scene was remarkably devoid of emotion and detached from any feelings. I felt like someone fast forwarded it to the end of the scene. I wanted his face lighting up to see her as if someone turned the switch on.  I wanted their limbs twisted like a vine, embracing each other.  I longed them to find refuge in each other’s embrace.  How about a flame of desire that ignites without any reservation, any guilt, any grief, sorrow or despair?    As writer Amy Tan once described it, “Leap like wolf mates reunited, searching for that which identifies us as belonging to each other; the scent of our skin; the taste of our tongues, the smoothness of our hair… the slopes and creases we know so well yet feels so new.  He is wild and I am tender, nuzzling and nipping, both of us tumbling until we lose all memory of who we were before this moment, because at this moment, we are one.”  If not my expectation, this was my wish for them, to let their love and passion be the guide of infinite possibilities.

While seeing shirtless Shahrukh might have been worth the wait, this scene left me hopeless.  All I am saying is if you are to risk your marriage, make it worthwhile, make it count and most of all do it with all your being as if every breath depends on it.  I still believe the best and most passionate affair scene of Shahrukh was with Maya from his 1993 film Maya Memsaab, an adaptation of Gustave Flaubert’s novel, Madame Bovary.  You hear the intoxication in their breath, see the flame in their eyes, and feel the electric leaping from him to her. It was raw, real, unrefined and evocative with sweat animal impulses where nothing exits but the two.  Now that is an affair of the century right with Bernardo Bertolucci’s Last Tango in Paris, not because of the nude scene (although the flashed bare backside did not hurt) but the audience is confronted with unexpected passionate sensuality and moreover the realism required to perform it actually gets you into a shock.

Fashion Statement

If you were wondering how in God’s name everyone managed to look slick in Karan Johar’s Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna, the answer lies in the power of Manish Malhotra. He gives metro-glamour a new look and inspiration with his classic fashion statement. For mental-case Dev, Manish managed to make him look like a typical New Yorker with grungy gabardine jackets, blazers with tees and jackets in black and military green suitable to his mood. Meanwhile, for the sexy PR consultant Rishi, Abhishek had lots of wild and vivid colored collars which makes him look retro and unbelievably young and handsome although I particularly like the simple Jeans look. I don’t know if I am all about high-flipped collars with matching colorful shirts. I have to admit, Mr. Bachchan’s costumes are the coolest and most interesting. The white leather jacket with fur was something. Now, that is a father-in-law you want to have: hip, happening and busy in every sense of the word. Don’t even talk to me about the leather suit and red blazer. Go Rock Star!

Sexy Maya 5Sexy Maya 4Sexy Maya6 While, Preity Zeita was all about classic glamour look, Rani was all about Chantilly lace, black corset, and colorful saris. I don’t know about you, Rani’s dominatrix outfit with matching whip was the prize winner. Now, we are talking about the shy, quiet, classy Rani; you’ve got to watch it to believe it. My suspicion is Aditya Chopra’s marriage crumbled once he saw her in this Domme outfit. True, his marriage was on the rocks, but the purple ribbon laced corset was the string that broke the camel’s back. Is this leather or vinyl? Never mind. Well, if all goes well, we can all agree that Rani will not have a father-in-law like Sexy Sam, not in this lifetime anyway. Enough with the naughtiness, I have to say, she pulled it off very well. This has to be most memorable scene of the movie. Wouldn’t you want to know where she got it, just out of curiosity? When you reach India on that vacation trip, visit Manish Malhotra’s Pali Hill in Bombay and grab the Sari (not the WIC wear) or catch one his year-round fashion shows.

Overall

Never Say Goodbye” turns out to be a treat for literate moviegoers juggling the ethics of infidelity on one hand and the right of choice on the other. In the US, we celebrate individualism more than any other societies and so we believe that we are entitled to make choices that maximize our personal happiness. When a marriage becomes unsatisfying, difficult or burdensome, it can be dissolved easily relatively anyway. Ironically, for a country that really believes in love-based marriage, we suck at it. The incisive portrait of marriage today is “The Marriage-Go-Round,” as author Andrew J. Cherlin’s puts it.  On the other side, for traditional societies like India where divorce is highly stigmatized socially, this film brings the social issue into surface. A social order where personal choices take secondary to family preference, the film is hard to swallow. Leave it to Johar to play it cleverly with a social message. On one had, he upholds the notion that love is worth fighting for and never to be compromised. On the other hand, if you are in a “loveless” marriage, be prepared to pay the emotional and physiological price to attain your soul mate. Love it or hate it, if this is not most believable and powerful movie ever made about modern marriage, it may have been the most natural film ever made and hence most liberating. Grab your cosmos or pink martini and let’s discuss passionately.

Film Track

Soundtrack to the film was performed by the musical trio, Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy with lyrics written by Javed Akhtar (with English Substitles).

Mitwa (My Believed) by Shafqat Amanat Ali, Shankar Mahadevan & Caralisa is a song of infidelity.  Johar substitutes visual image for what seems to be a dangerous and sensitive narrative. This is Dev’s songs where he looks at deep within himself and realizes that he is willing to disappoint others to be true to himself.  He is willing to be accused of betrayal rather than betray his own soul.   “Oh heart, whisper to my ear which way are you headed” he says to himself. Dev’s laugh in this scene was priceless.

Where’s The Party Tonight by Shaan, Vasundhara Das, Loy Mendonsa & Shankar Mahadevan is truly Rishi and Rhea’s song.  It is contemporary with high energy, conveying the life of the bold and the beautiful contrasted against the unfaithful.  High energy fully charged and hip, the beat is enough to make you get up and dance.  Leave it to DJ cameo John Abraham to heat up the room.  So, party with those who work hard and play hard.  In contract, with its simmering scene that never gets heated, dark interiors but photogenic cast, this video makes cheating in every light flattering and everyone beautiful.  With elegant images and close-ups, it gives a lasting image to the expression, “Dance with me all night”.

Tumhi Dekho Naa (When did We Reach Here) sang by Sonu Nigam & Alka Yagnik, this song to me is about beauty even when it is not pretty.  This may sound simple but simply is never easy.  This is the first time both Dev and Maya recognize the beauty in each other and the beauty they bring to each other despite the circumstances.  Dev is not only willing to receive it (amen to that), but is also open to renew and rejuvenate her.  While the song is slow, it give us the opportunity to see the magic of Rani’s Saree selections (counted seven) that will make you wish you were the actress (don’t even mention her partner). It amazes me how she makes a sari look sensual and sexy (especially backless ones). Amen to designer Manish Malhotra.  P.S., What happens to all these saris once movie is made?

Rock N Roll Soniye sang by Shankar Mahadevan, Shaan & Mahalaxmi Iyer is Talwar Sr.’s song with all its sexual innuendo it can afford.  He brings a breath of fresh air, a remedy in a constipated environment.   Don’t forget to notice his unbelievable party outfit.  Go Sexy Sam.

Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna (Never Say Goodbye) by Sonu Nigam & Alka Yagnik is about punishment and redemption to me anyway. Unforgiving, the guilty party has deserted and has become an outcast.  Yes, the guilty fornicator forfeits the rights for love and is caste in the shadow of loneliness and isolation.  Philly is totally the place for punishment and repentance (for three years!).  Johar, even the Old Testament God is more forgiving.

Farewell Trance by Shweta Pandit & Caralisa.

Official Site: http://www3.dharma-production.com/KANK/launch.html

Disclaimer:  I am not affiliated with any studio.  This commentary is simply a labor of love for Hindi cinema.  Copyrights to images, soundtrack and music videos are owned by the respective publishers while copyright to this commentary on my blog page is owned by me. Videos published here are with the intention to encourage the larger audience to watch the film and give Hindi-impaired enthusiasts the chance to understand the lyrics without it would have been not only unbearable to watch but also missed opportunity to appreciate the utter beauty of poetry in Hindi songs. Unfortunately, nearly all publishers and studios do not post their videos with English subtitles not to mention they don’t allow embedding their videos (don’t believe in viral marketing, scary but true). So, removing this video serves no purpose.

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Pardes

Pardes (Foreign Land), 1997, 191 min, Mukta Arts

Arjun eyes II If you like Joel Zwick’s My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002), you will appreciate this movie. While Big Fat Greek Wedding is between two Americans of different sub-culture, Pardes is a story about Indians from two different cultures. There have been countless films about immigrants and collision of races, cultures, and classes. Movies that come to mind in recent past are Crash and Traffic, multi-character dramas about the illegal immigrant experience in Los Angeles. On a lighter note, there is Mira Nair’s film Namesake (2006) about a tale of a first generation son of traditional Indian immigrant parents. Remember the Oscar-nominated Dirty Pretty Things (2003) by Steven Knight? This was a thriller about a gruesome London underworld preying on the fear and desperation of immigrants. How about Guru (2002)?  Directed by Daisy von Scherler Mayer about Ramu (Jimi Mistry), a UK dance instructor who migrates to the US to become a film star but ended up becoming a sex guru for the rich and famous.  While we are not short of immigrant films, none has ever captured the generational cultural gap so sensibly as Pardes.

Anyone who has ever lived abroad, particularly the Third Culture kids, or first generation immigrants can relate to this movie. Leaving the heavy hit on Indian’s independence aside, Pardes is an insightful film about an immigrant’s dream to connect to his roots. What sets it apart from it predecessors is that it focuses on the invisible scars society leaves on first generations caught between two cultures. It attempts to address the cultural dislocation of migration, the chasm it creates between family members and the lingering emptiness that follows.  This is the burden first-generation immigrants carry to their grave.

The film also touches on the socio-political aspect of modern migration. Writer and director Subhash Ghai skillfully examines the cultural clash that arises, when people of the same ethnic background but different cultures come together. Ghai offers us multi-layered and equally sensitive characters for examination. He presents a slice-of-reality using his own unique brand of jaunty dialogue and stinging candor that we’ve come to expect from his films where every one-liner’s a real zinger and every disdainful human trait is exposed like a raw nerve.

The story is told from the father’s point of view, Mr. Kishorilal (played appropriately by Amrish Puri), a wealthy and successful businessman living in Southern California (feels more like Vegas, Nevada). He wonders how his American son can maintain dual identity without the identities dueling. This is a bold move for Ghai to open his movie in the voice of a 60-year-old dad, and I’m not sure it usually works: I would imagine it tends to isolate the youth. However, director’s commitment to identity politics never feels political, and it’s a sign of his confidence that you find yourself lost in the characters he’s building and the storyline that is about to unfold. Part of the movie’s brilliance is the way it juxtaposes the father’s determination not to lose his son culturally to the West against the reality of what his son has become. His obsession leads him arrange his son’s engagement with a country girl from India, a culture neither his son understands, nor relates to.  At the end you don’t know for whom to feel sorry, the father for trying too hard or for the son who can’t seem to get anything right. A stunning must-see drama, Pardes is proof that words have not lost the ability to shock our anesthetized society.  I can’t remember the last time I have felt so galvanized and moved by full sentences unadorned by profanity, guns and violence.

Casting

Ghai has taken an interesting and risky angle in telling the tale of an immigrant by taking a drastic stand on what it means to be an Indian,  albeit he played on the pride of Indian independence. Meet Rajiv (played by hunk Apurva Agnihotri), the rich and spoiled millionaire, vain and ultimately cruel. Like any pampered American, life revolves around him. Rajiv3Beyond his devastatingly good looks and the fact he speaks Hindi as a foreign language, Apurva actually embodies nothing of India.  More importantly, he has no interest in what is Indian.  Ghai spends a considerable time in formulating this. This portrayal is a hard pill to swallow for Indian immigrants and no doubt the movie must have polarized audiences more than any other film in recent years. How Indian (or any other nationality for that matter) are you expected to be if you were born and raised abroad be Dubai, Australia, UK or US? This is a question every first-generation immigrant struggles with. Ghai’s screenplay with acute attention to every nuance and dialogue, significantly deepens the nature of migration and its impact on generational families.

There’s a sublime perversity in director’s casting, especially that of Shahrukh Khan. Although he is not fashion-model handsome, Shahrukh manages to become irresistible and devastatingly handsome. From his mannerism to his attire, to his character, Arjun seems the unlikeliest of Don Juans. Even his suits look worn out hand-me-downs. But Shahrukh Khan is a master of body language and facial expression. His screen presence alone radiates seductive ardor. The beckoning gentleness of his stare divulges more without uttering a word and his lush full lips are enough to set off women in any audience. Arjun2Arjun1

In this film, he also brings a fascinating dimension to his character with honesty and integrity. Arjun’s character unfolds to show a kind, attentive, dependable, trustworthy and protective person emerging as the pillar of the family. What he does not have in looks and wealth, he makes it up with character underlining just how small a role physical beauty plays in attaining a woman’s love. For anyone who is still asking the century-old question as to what women want, look no further. While Rajiv’s money and wealth buys comfort and convenience, Arjun’s character brings security and protection a woman needs.

Like the saying goes, a man may make a house, but a woman makes a home. Meet village girl betrothed to Rajiv, Kusum Ganga, played by Mahima Chaudhry with astonishing vitality and vibrancy. She is indeed full of spirit and warmth with rich expressive eyes and smile that lights up like the sun. Her personality is every bit as Punjabi as the phulkari itself–rich as its colors, bold as its patterns and dense as its silk embroidery. It is amazing to watch her transform from a fun-loving country girl to a commanding woman. A sensual body and alluring eyes is what makes this village girl an irresistible woman. Ganga5Everything about her- full lips, high cheek bones, flashing whiskey eyes, and unbelievable body flushes with sensuality.  For some reason, she reminds of Sophia LoGanga6ren.  Although Juhi Chawla and Madhuri Dixit were considered for the role of Ganga, Mahima Chaudhry finally got the part and amen to that.  Despite the fact that I am a fan of both Madhuri and Juhi, a new fresh face opposite of Shahrukh Khan did a lot of good for this movie.  Indeed what a screen presence! We definitely are not disappointed.

Favorite Scene

This is a scene where Ganga is venting about the fact that she just found out her fiancé has had an intimate relationship with is American woman, Kelley. Moreover, Kelly is still in Rajiv’s life and she apparently has more access to him than Ganga. Frustrated, Arjun Saagar asks her the kind of love she wants and she simply answers, ” The kind of love you give to people, that’s the kind of love I want! You’ve all mistaken me for some innocent little painting that you’ve framed in gold, and now you want me to hang on these walls in silence and become a part of this false decor! This isn’t the dream Ganga came to this foreign land with.” Ghai’s expert story telling lies in his subtle yet pungent style of communication. I have to admit, while some of the conversations sounded like a speech even sometimes preachy, Ghai also rewards our perception by engaging us. The characters not only are always in dialogue with each other and with the larger world we live in, transcending demographics and national boundaries. I also salute the director for not being afraid of headstrong, high-strung women characters; his films are built around them (Yaadein, Aitraaz, Yuvvraaj come to mind). Chip away the Teflon to reveal the aching people beneath his stories lie strong women and Ganga is one of them which is a delight to watch. Enjoy it because it is rare in Hindi movies; women generally just don’t rock the boat. I really enjoyed Ganga’s Punjab spirit, strength and zeal. And, you see that throughout the movie.

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Film Track

Thanks to music director, Nadeem Shravan, the film track transcends time and place. You will not see the typical dazzling spectacle of Hindi music video or quick edits, flashy costumes, and breathtaking lights that generally enchants viewers. Rather, what is noticeable here is the use of many Indian musical elements, although the songs may have features of Western music.  Much of the melody is sourced from folk music.  The narrative moves into song sequence smoothly, without a drastic break on the drama, and the visuals of the songs add to the dramatic effect of the narrative.   Moreover, the songs give meaning to the images, and equally the images give meaning to the songs.  Nadeem Shravan has interwoven Ghai’s patriotic message wonderfully in the visual images of the songs (Meri Mehbooba, and more vividly in Nahin Hona Tha).  While I have to admit most of recent movie song formats are more or less like MTV pop video, which partially ignores the musical dimension and focuses only on the visuals, the lyrics of the this film’s song sequence are poetic and melodramatic enforcing the cultural depth and history of India.  Clever!

Do Dil Mil Rahe Hain sung by Kumar Sanu is Rajiv’s song as he gets seduced by this country girl in a “foreign land” masterminded by the cupid, Arjun.

Meri Mehbooba sung by Kumar Sanu and Alka Yagnik, is Arjun’s song, longing for a woman he loves (with English sub title).

Nahin Ho Na Tha is my favorite song. This is a song that embodies the meaning of the film. You also get a glimpse of the beautiful Islamic architecture of Fatehpur Sikri. The song is full of expression of Indian folk art befitting to this film (with English sub title).

My first Day in USA did not grab me;  it neither captures the spirit of California nor embodies its elements of a wealthy Californian.  The visuals were poor and were mainly of Vegas.  If I had to show one scene of USA, or a lifestyle of the rich, Vegas would not have been my destination.

Although I loved the lyric and the singer’s voice, I had an issue with I love India by Hariharan, Kavita Krishnamurthy, Shankar Mahadevan and Aditya Narayan.  The problem is the positioning in the movie.  Granted that it is meant to be patriotic, if this is meant to be Dad’s song, it does not make sense when he has  built his wealth in the US and it has become home for his only beloved son.   Arjun would have been a better choice for its image not only because he is the song writer but also he has more connection to India.  But, it did not stop me for enjoying it.

Other songs include: Deewana Dil by Shankar Mahadevan, Sonu Nigam and Hema Sardesai; Jahan Piya Wahan Main by Shankar Mahadevan and Chitra; and the title music by Sapna Awasthi.

Here are all videos from Pardes I could find for your pleasure.  Otherwise, go to you tube channel  IsisBollywood and choose playlist “Pardes”.

Memorable Scene

Fatehpur Sikri has to be one of the most memorable scenes in the movie. It is full of history and memories of another day.

Castle 2

Fatehpur Sikri (City of Victory) came into being four centuries ago when a 28-year old Mughal Emperor Akbar, created the first planned city in Indo-Islamic style. It is actually a fort built during 1571 and 1585. It is believed that Akbar created imperial residences in Sikri in gratitude to the Muslim saint Shaikh Salim Chishti, who had foretold the birth of Akbar’s son and heir, Jahangir. As a mark of his faith and his recent victories, he named his new city Fatehpur Sikri, the City of Victory. This site reveals the architectural master work. It is evident from the gardens, the palaces, harems, bathing pools and the residence complexes. Inside the complex the major points of interest are the Panch Mahal – the palace of Five Storeys, the Dargah of Sheikh Salim Chisti – where childless women come for blessings, the Buland Darwaza – the largest gateway in India, the Palace of Jodha Bai – Akbar’s Hindu queen, and the Jama Masjid, one of the largest mosques in India. The Dargah is also known for its lattice work, one of the best in India.

Castle

Fatehpur Sikri was planned on a definite mathematical grid and is completely built from red sandstone which gives it the unbelievable glow during sunset. These red sandstone buildings lend themselves to the plummeting sun, and as the rays bounce off, the beauty of this ancient site leaves you feeling stunned. Fatehpur Sikri is a must see destination. You will enjoy being surrounded by what at one time would have been sheer opulence. It’s a world within a world.

Another great scene in this movie is Rishikesh, the place of sage. Cinematograher Kabir Lai gives us a scenic view of the river bank of Ganga. It is a hub for tourists who want to delve deeper into meditation and yoga. If you visit Delhi in February, you may get the chance to participate in International yoga week which attracts Yogis from around the world. Go and have a yogi blast. This is also a great destination for adventurous tourists, particularly for trekking expeditions and excursions in the Himalayas and rock climbing at nearby Kaudiyala. If you prefer water sports, the river offer rafting, kayaking and other water sports on the roaring Ganga. It is too bad we did not get to see Rajiv as being typically Californian; generally wealthy Californians seek seamless balance between work and play and enjoy to outdoor splendor of nature which is the core essence of California lifestyle (aside from Nightlife). This is one of my complaints about the film. While Rajiv looked the part, and he did not fit the part of California Boy. This is a missed opportunity for Ghai which would have made the character genuine and believable.  What is also noticeble in this movies is the lack of appreciation of US.  I am not sure I agree that in order to be patriotic, one has to demean others.  But, I will let you be the judge.  Grab the movie and let me know what you think.

Rishikesh

Disclaimer:  Copyrights to images and music videos are owned by the respective publishers. Videos are published with the intention to encourage the larger audience to watch the film and give Hindi-impaired enthusiasts the chance to understand the lyrics without it would have been not only unbearable to watch but also missed opportunity to appreciate the utter beauty of poetry in Hindi songs. Unfortunately, nearly all publishers and studios do not post their videos with English subtitles not to mention they don’t allow video embedding (so much for viral marketing). Removing these videos or images therefore serves no purpose.

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Asoka

Asoka, 2001, 171min, Dreamz UnlimitedAcover

If you like Frank Miller’s 300 or Ridley Scott’s Gladiator, you will love this movie.  Writer-director Santosh Sivan set out to make this loosely historical epic young Emperor Asoka, one of the India’s greatest emperors of the Maurya Dynasty from 273 BCE to 232 BCE who ruled almost all of the Indian subcontinent and South Asia.Asoka 2

Though the story is largely fictional, Sivan uses actual historical figures and tells the story in the context of the events of the day. From its opening moments detailing Asoka’s trust for the sword to the sumptuous splendor of the battlefield defining the skill of Asoka’s swordsmanship, the visuals of the film Asoka are simply breathtaking. Blending an eye for detail in production design, Sivan brings the long-dead civilization back to life like no other Hindi film has done before.  First and foremost, a big round of applause to not only Sivan for orchestrating this enjoyable historical jaunt and evocative cinematography, but also Manish Malhotra for the gorgeous costume design and John Kundan Pai for the beautiful production designs. Stunning ancient architecture, strategic use of curtains and lighting, and absolutely stunning garb work with the unique camera angles to bring the ancient era to light.  Scholarly issues aside, this is the kind of film that defines the term ‘masterpiece’– filled with spectacle and action, and telling a story of epic scope and humanity.  Asoka is an enthralling and totally immersing production that will probably be viewed as a Hindi classic paving the way to films like Jodha Akbar.

Asoka and Kaurwaki (unbeknown to her that he is indeed her love Pawan), gather their forces for the final show down confrontation known to history as the Battle of Kalinga, whose outcome decided the fate of civilization and destiny of Asoka. A man who began his life as an emperor but ended as a monk achieving what he dreamt of which is to become the greatest emperor in history, that is emperor of hearts.  The reticence pays off near the end when screenwriter provides the characters with a provocative and literate debate about the nature of war.

Askoa 5

Though many will remember the film for its violent and edge-of-your-seat battles, there is a lot of humanity found within this film, which builds up nicely to the film’s emotionally satisfying climax.  Sivan chooses to devote a fair amount of time focusing on Asoka’s worrier Princess Kaurwaki, played beautifully by Kareena Kapoor. Her character is as violent, sensual, and full of intrigue her counterpart Prince Asoka.  This complex love relationship between two people from rival kingdoms is expanded upon from its historical reference to portray Kaurwaki as a strong willed and passionate woman.  There are few of passionate (I say not enough) moments between Asoka and Princess Kaurwaki highlighted by the music sequences tossed in to balance out the brutal and savage war scenes (not to mention a smoking-hot wet scenes of Shahrukh and Kareena) making the film worthwhile to watch.

Casting. What raises Asoka above the usual epic drama is not only the strength of its story but power of its performances.  As the film’s titular worrier, Shahrukh Khan carries the story, both with his impassioned performance and commanding screen presence.  He is able to project the self-assuredness, leadership, and burning rage that dominate his character.    Once again, Shahrukh Khan gives a convincing performance as Asoka, carrying the charisma of a born leader. He moves through this film like a caged panther, dripping fierce masculinity and infecting every scene with relentless power and raw energy.  His penetrating eyes do all the talking at every step of this movie from lust to love to anger.  While Shahrukh Khan has played such diverse roles, I believe he gives a natural performance giving the character life and substance with emotions and expressions rather than portraying the character just a mean fighting machine.  This film also showed to date his versatility as an actor, a role that is different than previously played of the typical formula for a commercially successful Hindi film.  He poses and expressions while extremely intense and penetrating, while his acting remains authentic.  This is a nice change for Sharukh from his often finesse lover-boy character we are so accustomed in seeing.

Asoka Worrier kareensKareena Kapoor is equally terrific as the tough fallen Princess of Kalinga.  Kareena does an astonishing job of portraying the sexually insatiable Princess at many stages of dress.  She is saucy and heedless at first, headstrong when she needed to be, as well as but smart, and able to learn.  Her stunning portrayal of Kaurwaki, emanating both the poise and valor of her character makes her irresistibly watchable.  As the protective sister and fierce worrier, she’s a lioness who’ll strike dead any potential predator who may cause harm.  I absolutely adored of Kareena in this film.  There are many unforgettable close-ups scenes revealing her facial expressions and body language giving the character life. The portrayal of a strong leader without an alliance with a man is indeed a rare but refreshing scene in Hindi Cinema.  Her journey from fright and despair to resistance is played with considerable skill.  Sivan mercilessly concentrates on her condemnation and agony with all the fervor of a fanatic.  But his film would be nothing without the charismatic and emotional performance of Kareena. In fact, Sivan’s entire cast does an admirable job of bringing ancient history alive onscreen.

Mesmerizing and breathtaking, Asoka is something you have to experience for yourself.  Cinematographer’s striking use of color helps to emphasize and enhance the mood of each scene, is fluid and flawless. I particularly liked the close shots.  There are enough close-ups of Shahrukh Khan’s handsome muscular glory and extended shots of his beautiful eyes and mouthwatering lips.   I am not sure about you, but I was devouring every close shot I could get.  Sivan does evoke the response he wanted from his audience by pounding home the drama and sense of doom.  The production is steeped in rich, saturated colors and emotions, your thoughts will linger for weeks to come. The texture of the film is enough to recommend it, even apart from the story.

Soundtrack. Unlike other Hindi movies you get less dance numbers but more powerful but relevant visuals Asoka 8resemble conventional music video.  Although the lyrics are memorable, what is more captivating is the dance choreography, thanks to Brinda, Geeta Kapoor  and renowned Farah Khan, reinforcing not only the ferociousness of a Price bringing out the natural characteristic of Shahrukh Khan himself.  Shahrukh Khan is generally not known for his finesse and technicality of his dance moves.  However, what Shahrukh Khan manages to do is to reveal his natural self to captivate his audience.  For starters, he is built like a cheetah, nature’s perfect predator, with naturally lean athletic body and muscular powerful face.  His dance style is animalistic with vigor, instinct and undeniable intensity.  His pose is territorial, dominating and arrogant like a lion marking his mate.  This is particularly visible in this film, holding Kaurwaki like a lion’s claw seizing his prey, possessively and passionately.  In the songs “San Sanana”, he moves are like a hunter crawling skillfully stalking.  His eyes are dancing with lust as if he is devouring.  With his flexible spine and masculine legs, his leaps and strides charging toward his mate.  Don’t even mention his eyes.  He has an eye like a tiger shining down clutching his prey dancing with forest depth and poisonous concentration.  His stare is undoubtedly arresting and piercing enough to mesmerize anyone who dares to stare back.

His gaze in Roshne Se, is so penetrating with ferocity and intensity as if he is about to outtake.   As he nozzles her neck, his nostrils enlarge to take a deep air as if he is pumping air to his lugs before snatching her neck.

There is so much adrenaline in this movie as he moves like a majestic beast.   The music video alone is worthy of to see Shahrukh Khan in a naturally befitting character of a savage but raw worrier.   Raat Ka Nasha is Kareena at her best: from costume to the provocative dance.  You just have to see it.  I recommend you see this movie just for this scene alone.

Additional songs are:  O Re Kanchi, Aa Tayar Ho Hoja and Asoka Theme.

Memorable Scene. The heartbreaking moment when the two lovers face off in the battle ground. The last scene of the Battle of Kalinga where Prices Kaurwaki and Asoka meet face to face and Price Aryan finally finds Pawan.   Another scene is when he pleads with his mother to talk to him even threatens her out of desperation to hear her voice.Asoka 9

Overall, this is a film for the young or the restless.  Noteworthy, the film does not claim to be historically accurate.  If you’re one of those people who judge historical dramas on their accuracy, let that go for now and simply enjoy the drama.  Put aside, this is a visually stunning, innovative epic unlike anything we’ve seen.   The shots of Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh and Konark, Orissa are breathtaking and worth a trip to visit.  In this day and age, we definitely need a hero. So, if you did not see this majestic film on screen, grab the DVD and sit back and enjoy the show!


Here are all Asoka Videos for your pleasure including subtitled music tracks, making of the film and director’s comment.  Otherwise, go to you tube channel  IsisBollywood and choose playlist “Asoka”.

For more snapshots from Asoka, go to Eye on Bollywood on Facebook.

Enjoy the Film and let me know what you think.

Disclaimer: Copyrights to images, soundtrack and music videos are owned by the respective content publishers. Copyright to insightful commentary which is a labor of love is owned by me.  Videos published here are with the intention to encourage larger audience to watch the film and offer Hindi-impaired audience with English subtitles without it would have been not only unbearable to watch but also miss the utter beauty of poetry of Hindi songs.  Unfortunately, nearly all publishers and studios do not post their videos with English subtitles.  So, removing this video serves no purpose.

Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi

Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi (Match Made By God), 167 min 2008, Yash Raj Filmsrab-ne-bana-di-jodi-Suri1

If you enjoyed Sharon Maguire’s, “Bridget Jones Diary”, you will love this Hindi movie.  With less melodrama and fantasy that Bollywood is known to offer, this film gives the allegiance to blind faith in the true self.  The story is so charming with its mixture of insouciance, wit and candor that it’s enough to restore a belief in fairy tale endings to the most embittered casualty of modern life–modern marriage.  This film is full of wisdom and hope especially for Generation X who are buckled up to ride on the fast lane of urban dating.

rab-ne-bana-di-jodi-RajThe story is about a man’s journey to save his marriage, as it’s tearing at the seams.  Arranged marriage by her dying father, his young wife Taani, played by new comer 20-year old Anushka Sharma, reveals to him that she has no love to give, even before the honeymoon begins.  Here is the usual love story with unusual dilemma; a loveless marriage.  Believe me, there is no money, no glitter, and no glamour either. So, how in God’s name does a man make his woman love him, SLOWLY, SLOWLY!    This is where the story gets interesting.  Rather than submerging himself in alcohol or therapy, Surinder “Suri” Sahni, played cleverly by Shahrukh Khan, decides to seduce his wife by becoming “the ideal lover”, straight out of Robert Green’s best seller “Seduction”.  He transforms himself into a hip flirtatious, flamboyant carefree Raj to win her love.

Don’t expect Suri to be Casanova, however.  Rather, his seduction process is pure, unblemished and almost spiritual.  I have to admit, to bring this rather boring, meek character to life must have been a challenge for director Aditya Chopra. Who could have imagined that Shahrukh Khan would be so perfect? Adopting an impeccable look of a geek who can’t seem to “lit up his own life” let alone his energetic wife’s, he plays the role of Suri with so much sensitivity and dignity, and you fall in love with Suri.  Shahrukh brings integrity with childlike stubbornness, innocence, and tenderness melting your heart like ice cream in a New York Summer.  Shahrukh’s double role of Raj is impeccable allowing Suri to enter into Taani’s life in the guise of Raj—the skintight shirt, ripped jeans, spiked hair with ample of tackiness and brassiness — to win Taani’s affection.  Aditya accomplishes a miracle of making Suri entirely endearing, utterly real and acceptable while the aloof, slick and hypnotizing Raj becomes attractive even alluring to a woman with broken dreams.  Sharukh’s performance of Suri is deeply sentimental and natural one barely senses the work that must have gone into it. Throughout the film I ardently rooted for Suri to succeed and prayed that the two will end together.  This film is a delight to watch giving a whole new meaning to Billy Joel’s song, ”I love you just the way you are”, although I would have suggested a film title to be “Against All Odds”.  If you want a more spiritual title, Match Made in Heaven definitely works.

What makes this film more relevant to Generation X is that we can all relate to Taani.  How many dates have we been without seeing an end in sight?  How many of us have lost the faith in loving, completely disenchanted with this entire concept of love?  Taani summarized it well, “I can’t see love in anyone”, she says. It is not that love does not exist, but we are so caught up at the moment, we no longer recognize it.

In the world of disenchantment, there is limitless opportunity for hypnotizing Raj to enter our lives and they usually do.   We can recall a Raj in our lives, who not only helps us escape from our broken dreams but also awakens our dormant and battered hearts and gives us purpose and hope.  And, if you are the lucky one like Taani, it is your spouse who will cultivate the pleasures of your senses with patience, indulgence and subtlety.

Let me warn you, this film is particularly challenging for the Generation X where everything must happen in a New York minute.  Suri’s courage and commitment might be unthinkable in a multiple-choice culture with the next choice a click away.  “The best choice without commitment” advertizes an online dating site, offering you a countless options.  The only scarifies we as a nation are willing to make is giving up carbs to get that washboard abs.  The nobility of scarifies, working through discomfort is hardly welcomed.  This movie is even harder for those who subscribe to “Sex and the City” or Sherry Argov’s, “Why Men Love Bitches”; it offers a radically different perspective to love and marriage.  The next time you are in a bar in Tribeca  with your match.com or Shaadi.com date, wondering if this would be the man/woman whom you will be spending the rest of your life with or just tonight, remember Haule Haule!  It is truly inspirational.

Memorable scene. The magnificent Golden Temple in Amritsar, as Taani and Suri spend a day for a prayer and reflection.  Known as Harmandir Sahib, it is one of the most significant place of worship of Sikhs.  Constructed on a land donated by the Mughal emperor Akbar, the temple was completed in 1601 and was embellished in the early 19th century with 100 kilograms of gold as well as decorative marble. The next time you visit India, take a day trip to the state of Punjab and visit the Temple of God.  It is known to be a sanctuary for retreat, meditation and prayer irrespective of your religion.   The building itself attracts tourists for its historical and architectural value, as well as a spiritual meaning even among non-believers.01 Golden Temple

Favorite Scene.   Day trip of Taani and Raj for his birthday where Raj sings Roop Kumar Rathod’s song, “Tujh Mein Rab Dikhta Hai“, telling her, “In you I see God, what should I do”.  This is the most heart-felting moment.

Soundtrack. If you are looking for soul mate, take a lesson from Haule Haule. The song is as deep and as melodic as the theme itself.  I think is one of the rare Hindi films where the songs are so suitable, poetic, relevant and so powerful that it carries all the meaning of the movie.  The Lyric is as pure, as selfless and tender as the character Suri himself.  So, by all means listen to the lyrics (or if you are like me read the translation).  If you are lovers for the first time, or rekindling it, let this song be your guide.  Let your journey be slow, filled with shyness and discovery, wondering from each experience and aching for what comes next.

By far the most inspiring love song, Tujh Mein Rab Dikhta Hai is the melodic expression for the “beloved”, depicting Suri’s profound feeling. The more I hear it, the more I long for it.  The poetry of this song breaks even the stoniest hearts; it is so spiritual that there is no preparation for the unpredictable and chaotic longing you will feel after you hear this song.   In the way, it yanks your heart leaving you in the fierceness of ache.  It is beautifully painful to feel the ache of his longing for this woman, be Suri  in Raj or vice versa.  “In you I see God, what should I do”, he says to her.  This is a song that epitomizes Suri’s love disguised as Raj with commitment and devotion. For the next Valentine, send her this song that is if you have the courage.

Dance Pe Chance to me is Taani’s song; it starts with great beat light in its meaning with not much depth or dimension, similar to Taani’s character but with lot of energy and beat. 

Another song you might enjoy is Phir Milenge Chalte Chalte. I included this song as part of cutom playlist (see below).   This song has reference to classical Hindi films but I am not sure what they mean.  Perhaps someone can explain it.  Also Dancing Jodi, a song that is truly come-to-Jesus moment for Taani. The expression alone tells the entire story. This song is also included in the custom playlist.

Overall, Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi is worth the time to watch.  If you miss the big screen, grab it when it comes on a DVD.  While Adi has given us a superb love story, I have to admit, it is a long way from topping DDLJ, where I fell in love with the couple.  I think Taani does not possess the passion, the conviction and depth to compete with Simran.  To me, Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, is the love journey of Suri and Suri alone.  Not only the character but the film in general seduces you slowly and deliberately, allowing you to open your heart slowly, savoring each discovery. By the very end, you realize be in a New York bar, London, Rome or Mumbai, the lesson is the same: desire of a human soul to attain intimacy and love.  Rightly so, this film was the second highest grossing Bollywood film in 2008.  From an industry that releases about 900 films a year, that says something. Go grab the movie from NetFlix and let me know what you think (aside loving Suri despite the grandpa pants and that awful sneakers he wears to work).  To end this commentary, let me quote Oriah Mountain Dream’s inspiring note from The Invitation, “It does not interest me how old you are.  I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream and for the adventure of being alive.”  To me this is Suri, the ideal man in a woman’s life.

If you want to view all other music videos and everything else about RNBDJ, here is a custom playlist for your pleasure including all music videos, star interviews and behind the scene the making of the movie.   If the link is broken, go to http://youtube.com/user/Isisbollywood select playlist Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi.

Official Web page:  http://www.yashrajfilms.com/microsites/rnbdjmicro/rnbdj.html

Disclaimer:  I am not affiliated with any studio.  This commentary is simply a labor of love for Hindi cinema.  Copyrights to images, soundtrack and music videos are owned by the respective publishers while copyright to this commentary on my blog page is owned by me. Videos published here are with the intention to encourage the larger audience to watch the film and give Hindi-impaired enthusiasts the chance to understand the lyrics without it would have been not only unbearable to watch but also missed opportunity to appreciate the utter beauty of poetry in Hindi songs. Unfortunately, nearly all publishers and studios do not post their videos with English subtitles not to mention they don’t allow embedding (scary but true). So, removing this video serves no purpose.

Billu

Billu Barber, 2009, 138 min, Red Chillies Entertainment

Priyadarshan’s film produced by Gauri Khan, Billu is the story of a small-town humble barber, from a sleepy village who is having a tough time making ends meet with overdue electricity bills and unpaid school tuition when a film star enters his life for a shoot. Interestingly, the larger-than-life star arrives to town, sending the village into frenzy as they try to catch the glimpse of Sahir Khan, played by non-other than Shahrukh Khan. Billu’s poverty-stricken life is contrasted beautifully against the mega star until the face off of these two characters when they finally meet. This is a movie about unconditional childhood friendship, cutting through age, status or fame and transcending time and place. At the end, childhood love and friendship heals any wound and bonds broken relationships.

Billu Both

What really makes the movie is the character Billu Bilas himself, played by Irrfan Khan, surely one of the most talented but underrated actor in Bollywood today.  Some of you may remember him from Mira Nair’s film Namesake in which he gave superb performances as Gogol’s father as well as the mean police inspector in Danny Boyle‘s Slumdog Millionaire. He is the emotional core of this movie. The film starts with his desperate and innocent attempt to bribe a government officer in order to get a business loan for his barber shop. While listening to his plea, you can’t help it but feel for him. Apparently, it is believed that this role was first offered to Ashkay Kumar. I can’t imagine Ashkay playing this role. Irrfan brings a certain human dignity and respect not only to the character Billu and the profession but also the life of poverty, convening so much by saying very little.  He manages to make his character extremely believable and likable with ease. That is true acting.

A surprising and refreshing character is Bindiya, Billu’s wife played by Lara Dutta. She should be commended for delivering a captivating and believable performance; you would not know she is a former Miss Universe.  This is a different role for her; she usually plays the sophisticated beauty.  I might add it is refreshing to see her in a different role.   The director took a risk of this one because it is hard for an audience to see her as the character rather than the model or actress.  Nonetheless, Lara did an amazing job.  At least when I saw the movie, I did not see a model but a loving wife.  The stage presence of both Lara and Irrfan is impressive as husband and wife.  Lara gives her character the strength with moments of depth, love and respect which I find very inspiring.Billu Lara Dutt song

What makes this film great is its real depiction of rural life in India, unlike other Bollywood movies, with no pretension or smug (see pictures on facebook).  The cinematography of this movie is amazing, showcasing the lush of rural India. The simplicity of the film, portrayal of poverty without overwhelming the audience makes this film a delight to watch. I liked the clever way the director unfolds the story.  He first invites you in, but leaves you to your own considerations as the story progresses. This film lets certain details out when the moments are right, but not before the audience is fully involved in the somber life of small-town man. You even get the feeling that Billu is lying until the heartwarming climax.  The film Billu is deeply touching not only in details of an ordinary man’s life, but also his shortcomings and insecurities.  The director also makes us realize what seems to be trivial at any given moment in life could be important later on.

Besides all this, great acting, thoughtfulness, genuine sincerity, and total emotional honesty are what one can expect from “Billu” without the loss of a typical grandiose of Bollywood musicals. If you want to see a movie that affirms the meaning of friendship, this is it. “Billu” reminds us to celebrate the extraordinary people in our ordinary town.

Favorite Scene: My favorite scene is Mr. Chaubey’s die-hard acting out his small role as inspector so desperately and disastrously. Truly priceless!  I will try to find the footage.  Let me know if you find a clip.

Memorable Scene: The climactic scene at the end of the movie revealing the truth about Billu and Sahir leaving you speechless and misty eyed. Award worthy, I hope Filmfare award (equivalent of US Oscars or UK BAFTA) will recognize Irrfan Khan for his stellar performance.  Check out the trailer below (although I can’t imagine why Eros or Red Chillies does not have the English subtitled version of the commercial).  If you a see video floating online, please alert me so that can post it for those Hindi-impaired fans.

Soundtrack: While it may not have been woven tightly with the storyline, the music track nevertheless will uplift any viewer.  Juxtapose against a great a small town man’s life is the lifestyle of the rich and famous, mainly depicted in the songs beginning with AeAaO which marks the arrival of Khan to town.  Of course the flamboyant Khan with spectacular sets, slick costumes and the sexiest women in Bollywood- Deepika Padukone, Priyanka Chopra and Kareena Kapoor – makes the movie worth your money. What happens folks when your wife produces the movie and your best friend choreographs your dance moves? You bet your bottom dollars that you will look smashing.  See this movie on a big screen in a theater.  The impact of cinematography and dance scene is amazing and seductive.  But, if you have missed it, here is my recommendation.  Get your friends together, set up the projector, grab your favorite wine and get ready for a three-hour seductive journey.  Be sure to have your popcorn ready for this one.  I prefer cheese and crackers myself.  You will not be disappointed; both Irrfan and Shahrukh Khan along with four most beautiful women in Bollywood will leave you speechless.

The title song Billoo Bhayankar was actually touching and somewhat reflects Billu’s state of confusion with the arrival of Sahir Khan to town.   Khudaya Khair, my favorite, is melodic and sweet with acoustic guitar that soothes your soul like honey in milk. It is nostalgic and the scene is beautiful and memorable. The remix version of Khudaya Khair, You Get Me Rockin & Reeling, is more hip-hop befitting to Priyanka Chopra.


SoundTrack

The item song for the film with 20-year old model Deepeka Padukone,  Love Mera Hit Hit has a fabulous beat.  There are three versions of this song: original, hip hop and house mix versions. Be sure to download the song of your choice the next time you have a house party. The beat is great and the dance is awesome.  The lyric is simple and sweet.  “Give me a place in your heart”, he says to her.  Both Shahrukh Khan and Deepeka seem to be enjoying themselves and it does show in their performance.

I also liked the spectacular and colorful costume and choreography of the song Marjaani with Bollywood version of Paris Hilton, Kareena Kapoor.   Kareena in this song looks fantastic and her smile is captivating.  Her screen presence holds this song. If you get a chance, see the film in the cinema theater for best visual effect.  This is a fast-paced track full of vision, color and awesome beat. This is a must list for your playlist. I believe there are several versions of this song as well both House and Elextro House version.  While I admit the visual is more stimulating than the lyric, I definitely will have this item song on my ipod while cycling.  Here is the origianl version with English Subtitle.

Overall, I did love the track.  The lyrics of the songs are wonderful, especially those in Hindi.

Here are all videos from Billu for your pleasure, including subtitled music tracks, making of the film and director’s comment.  If you are on you tube, visit the channel  IsisBollywood and choose playlist “Billu”.

Hit Costume

Wardrobe and Costume. What is most interesting in this film aside from storyline and cast is the costume.  Cast Designer is none other than Manish Malhotra along with Neeta Lulla, Naresh Malhotra, Vogue India fashion director Anaita Shroff Adajania and V Sai Babu. Of course Manish Malhotra needs no introduction; he is not only one of the leading designers in Bollywood industry but also main designer for most of Shahrukh Khan’s movies.  Just about every Shahrukh Khan’s costume in every movie is either designed by Manish or influenced by him. He has won numerous awards particularly in the last 10 years. What I like to know is what happened to all the costumes created for Shahrukh Khan in this movie along with his dancing partners? Does anybody know what they do with the costumes?  The next time I visit India or Dubai, I will make sure to stop by Malhotra’s shop and ask this very question for those inquiring minds who want to know.

I don’t know about you but Khan’s wardrobe suddenly has a touch of Latin/Caribbean flavor and seem more accessible than before, maybe not in terms of cost, but in the fact you could actually wear this stuff and feel like a star (without parading like a peacock on a Bentley with a dozen secret servicemen).   The problem is I don’t know where to look for this stuff.  So, I created a facebook page in order to share with global fans about Khan’s clothing, accessories and gadgets from Billu.  Log on to facebook “Eye on Bollywood” page and check out Name that Wear album and let us know where to look for it.   Please give your comments on the wear including the brand, the designer who created it, the company responsible for the manufacturing, the retail outlet that carries the item and if possible let us know if there is a replica being sold in the market.

Overall, the film is entertaining leaving you in good spirit.  My suggestion is see it on a big screen. You will feel the impact of the cinematography of the music videos.  Share your thoughts.

Official site:  http://billu.redchillies.com/home.html although I have to say, there is no subtitled version in any of the five promos.  I am baffled as to why Red Chillies (or Eros) did not bother to have subtitles since the web attracts international audience.  Go figure!  But I found one so go enjoy!