My Love Story with Indian Films: The Inner Workings of a Bollywood Devotee

Those of you who have been following this blog for a while have gotten an insight into my relationship with Indian films. In the past, I’ve talked about my strange yearnings for scenes of films past and I’ve dived into unnecessary philosophy about film experiences more than once, but I’ve never really told you how this all started in the first place, which I’m about to do now.

I should also note that aside from the reminiscing mood that I am in now, I’ve also come to a major realization about why I am so drawn to films, and to Indian films, in particular.

It was my very first semester in college and I was having an especially difficult time adjusting to my new life in a new place. I was homesick and couldn’t fall asleep that night. It was well past 3 a.m. as I recall and out of boredom, I had no choice but to try to watch something in my tiny dorm room television. And of course I couldn’t find anything worthwhile and I had reached the unknown channels beyond 100 when I caught a glimpse of a song and stopped.

It was the funniest thing I had seen in my life. I had never seen dancing and singing like that before. I was very amused and kept laughing and watching. To my surprise, it was not just a song but a film. I found myself so immersed in the story, the characters, the colors and vibrant visuals that I didn’t even realize that I had stayed up until dawn watching it.

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Sanam Teri Kasam Review

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When I decided to see this film, I had no idea that I was about to see a very good and touching romance. The film caught me completely by surprise. This film is a combination of a great script, great on-screen couple and wonderful performances. The best thing about the film is definitely the casting of what initially appears as a completely opposite and unlikely romantic couple. Harshvardhan Rane plays a rough and tough ex-con while Mawra Hocane plays a dorky librarian who is rejected by grooms because of her appearance.

Appearance wise, one would not imagine that such a couple could come together. Strangely so, they have made such a wonderful on-screen couple and their chemistry is something raw and different. Both leads have performed their role very nicely which made an otherwise typical story into something very unique and interesting. If we were to look at the elements in the story, it’s nothing we haven’t come across before. But the leads have performed it so genuinely that every scene and moment was exciting. Especially in the second half of the film, I was so anxious to learn what happened next. And if you are an emotional type like me, I suggest you prepare your tissues for many touchy moments in the second half.

Sanam Teri Kasam is no less a love story than an Aashique. If you liked Aashiqui 2, I would say you will love Sanam Teri Kasam, which is a better film. The music in Sanam Teri Kasam was apt and the background score was also very good. I think we should also mention the cinematographer and editor who made such smooth and perfect transitions between scenes and shots. I suggest that you catch this film as soon as possible.

Youngistaan Review

Youngistaan is a romantic-political film starring Jackky Bhagnani and Neha Sharma. Abhimanyu’s (Jackky) father is the prime minister of India. Abhimanyu lives in Japan with his girlfriend Anwita (Neha). When his father dies, he becomes Prime Minister until the next elections.

The problem with Youngistaan is that Mr. Prime Minister has to take a break from ruling the country every couple of hours to romance his spoiled girlfriend. Just as we dove into the more interesting part of the story, we had to take a break every now and then to watch the hero and heroine hug and sing songs.

I genuinely believe that in order for a film to work, a film has to have a single main concept, and it must follow through with that till the end. Youngistaan is like a lego-man’s castle. It claims to be the real thing, but it’s just the toy version.

It’s a great idea to make a film about young people and how important it is for them to be present in politics and represent the interest of young Indians. It’s also a nice idea to show that young Indians are up for the challenge and can take on big responsibilities. They can even run the country, and they can do it much better than others.

If one has decided to make a film like this with a socio-political message, than one must also understand that it’s important to play down other themes in the film. Otherwise, the story becomes muddy, what needs to be highlighted takes a back seat. And the writer and director give the impression that they didn’t develop the screenplay enough and inserted Romantic Scene #1, Song #1, Romantic Scene #2, Song #2, just to fill in those spots and reach the allotted running time.

It was fine to show the relationship angle in the beginning, it was not necessary to show a young Prime Minister doting on his girlfriend and running behind her every whim.

I also dislike that the filmmakers’ idea that modern and progressive means not getting married, living together and having children out of wedlock. That is certainly not the definition of progressive, not by my definition. So I did not understand the persistence in this film to show young people as being apathetic towards marriage and committment. Or the characters’ deviant and childish attitude of refusing marriage to prove their non-conformity to cultural expectations. There are battles worth fighting for and that certainly did not seem to be the right one in this film.

If only they had concentrated more on what this young Prime Minister could do to change things around in India. Yes, they showed some of that, whenever the Prime Minister had time from romancing his girlfriend. But it was not satisfactory and did not seem to be researched well enough.

I had seen Jackky Bhagnani’s debut film, Kal Kisne Dekha Hai and he wasn’t very impressive in it. I think he has improved in this film. I was expecting a poor performance from him but he was not bad at all. Neha is very beautiful and not a bad actress. It was just her character in the script that was annoying.

This film is not unwatchable if you’re okay with the romantic angle being forefront.

Ek Villain Review

 

Ek Villain is a Hindi romantic thriller starring Sidharth Malhotra, Shraddha Kapoor and Riteish Deshmukh.

The film is about the love of a gangster Guru (Sidharth) and a girl who has a short time left to live, Aisha (Shraddha). And then there is Rakesh (Riteish), a frustrated telephone company employee who finds a horrific way to vent his frustration. The film is about revenge, but more so about forgiveness and kindness.

Ek Villain turned out much better than I had expected. The promotions of the film didn’t interest me much and knowing that Sidharth and Shradda aren’t the best actors on the planet, I didn’t think this film had much to offer. But I was wrong.

Ek Villain is actually a very good film with a very interesting story. The film starts off with a rather moving and dramatic scene and throughout the film, we are taken to different segments in the story. So we put pieces of the puzzle together slowly and learn how the hero and heroine came together and why this dramatic event has taken place. I don’t want to tell you what they are because I want you to enjoy the film while watching.

Aside from the great storyline, the other surprise in this film is Riteish. Who knew Riteish could be such a good villain? He was completely convincing in his role and blew me over with his performance. I’d much rather see him in these roles than silly comedies. I saw a comment by one critic that Riteish is the hero of Ek Villain, and performance wise, it wouldn’t be incorrect to say that.

There is a scene in Ek Villain where a group are shown watching an Amitabh Bachchan film. In the scene in that film where Bachchan kicks open a door and emerges from the cloud of dust, the real door of the room is kicked open and a tall figure walks into the room through a cloud of dust. The group starts clapping and whistling thinking it to be Amitabh Bachchan. The one walking in is Sidharth. Just a few scenes before this precise scene as I was watching Sidharth walking, I felt that his walk and demeanor is much like Amitabh Bachchan’s. So I really enjoyed the scene where he was likened to Amitabhji. Some people in the industry have been resembling Sidharth to him and feel that he may be the next Amitabh Bachchan.

This is the second film of both Sidharth and Shraddha I have seen. I saw Sidharth in SOTY and Shraddha in Aashique 2. In this film, I saw some improvement in Shraddha’s acting. She was more comfortable and performed with less effort than before. But with Sidharth, I did not see much of an improvement. He is a very good looking guy, he is tall and attractive. His dialogue delivery is good too. Sidharth’s problem is his facial expressions, the lack of them. Throughout Ek Villain, Sidhart has only one facial expression: the “angry young man” look. I understand that he is playing a serious character who has experienced many traumas in his life. But until he learns to show more facial expressions as an actor, I don’t think he can think of being a future Amitabh Bachchan. Aside from this, Sidharth did a good job in the film and I did like the Sidharth-Shraddha on screen couple.

Like I said, Shraddha has improved a little. She is very energetic, and happy-go-lucky in this film which suited her. Since Sidharth’s character was so depressed and angry, Shraddha’s character provided a nice contradiction and positive mood to the film. She performed her role convincingly and was particularly good in the opening scenes. There were a few moments in the Banjara song where I felt that she was not very elegant and could have done better.

As for Riteish, he was fantastic. He totally creeped me out and that’s exactly what that role demanded. I did not like the contacts he used in the film, but I guess it increased the creepiness level a little bit. Fans of Riteish must not miss this film because it’s by far one of his best performances. I’m so glad that after a film like Humshakals, he came to his viewers with a role and project like this.

The dialogues of the film are very good. The dialogues that stood out were: “Andhere ko andhera nahi, sirf roshni mita sakti hai, nafrat ko nafrat nahi, sirf pyar mita sakta hai.” And “Jab tak hum kisi ke humdard nahi bante na, tab tak hum dard se aur dard hum se juda nahi hota.”

The other aspect of the film that requires recognition is the music. It’s impressive. Half way through the film, one is already hooked on the music. There are not many films nowadays where half way through one says ” I have got to get the music of this film” and Ek Villain is one of them. My favorite songs are Zaroorat and Galliyan. I like the second version of Galliyan sung by Shraddha Kapoor. Yes, she sang a song and she is great at it. She has a lovely, soothing voice and worked great for this song.

In conclusion, I highly recommend Ek Villain. The story is good, the performances are good, the music is good. What else do you want? Go and watch it.

Chennai Express

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Chennai Express is a Hindi romantic comedy starring Shahrukh Khan and Deepika Padukone. It is a Rohit Shetty film.

The film is about the by chance meeting of a Tamil girl (Meenamma) and a Punjabi boy (Rahul) on the Chennai Express. Somehow Rahul lands up in Meenamma’s hometown and Meenamma lies that they are lovers so that she can get out of an arranged marriage. The rest of the film is about how Meenamma and Rahul escape the wrath of Meenamma’s family and the marriage that is being forced on Meenamma.

I didn’t have specific expectations from this film, I didn’t think that it would be amazing or anything like that. But still, I felt disappointed and a little bit cheated. It really wasn’t that great and I think the reason is the combination of poor story and performances. The film’s promotions also confused me.

It was revealed many months before that the film was about a a boy and girl travelling on the Chennai Express. So I thought that almost all of the film took place in the train and these two were traveling to the same destination. Well that’s partly true, but they’re not alone on the train and then they get off the train even before the interval. And there is no love blooming between them all through this time.

 

I might be biased about Chennai Express because I have seen a lot of South films and I’m familiar with South stories and South Indian culture and accent. Chennai Express doesn’t have a special story, it’s the same story found in every other South Indian film. Marriage is forced upon the girl and she tries to get out of it. The girl’s father is a big don and there is always lots of fights and blood spilling everywhere. The only difference in Chennai Express is that the boy is North Indian and he doesn’t even love the girl! And he can’t fight. And he has a terrible sense of humor. And he’s old enough to be her dad.

The other problem with the story is that Rahul’s love for Meenamma was not convincing. He suddenly fell in love with her right at the end of the movie, no explanation given. Meenamma’s love was explained and Deepika portrayed it well.  But Rahul doesn’t seem like a guy that would fight for Meenamma’s love.

And what about that fight sequence at the climax? I have seen some very crazy fight sequences in South films, but this fight sequence was the craziest. Which human being can survive so many deadly blows to the head? And then they hug like nothing happened? Rahul should have collapsed and died from concussion and brain damage. Thangaballi too. Shahrukh hits the guy in the head with a propane cylinder. ROFL.

Shahrukh was almost the worst part about this film. He is one of my favorite actors but he was very irritating in this film. Over-acting does not equal funny and that’s all Shahrukh seemed to do —overact. His performance was very similar to his other performances and at one point, it just seemed like he was acting like himself and not his character.

Deepika was better than Shahrukh performance wise, she was more natural and she really seemed like a South Indian girl in most scenes. Deepika’s problem was her fake South Indian accent that was only convincing in two scenes of the movie. In order to make what she thinks is a South Indian accent, she made her voice very thick at times. I thought I was listening to a transvestite (no offense meant). I have no idea why she did that and I have no idea how Rohit Shetty believes that this is what a South Indian accent should sound like. Just terrible! Moreover, in that emotional scene after Rahul dispersed his grandfather’s ashes, Deepika completely forgot to use her South accent!

Deepika said in an interview that she wasn’t getting this accent right and kept working on it and then one day she just “got it.” So clearly, she was casted for the film without the director or producer even worrying about whether she would get the accent right or not. I don’t blame them because isn’t Deepika South Indian? Deepika is a talented and beautiful girl but I think someone else would have been better in this role. Maybe someone like Asin or Genelia – people who have acted in the South industry for years–  would have been better.

I can’t say that Chennai Express is outright horrible, it did have its moments. There were some scenes that were very funny like the DDLJ train scene and Meenamma’s night time transformation into a Chandramukhi like character. Maybe Deepika should be casted for an Arundhati remake. And then there is the scene when Shahrukh is carrying Meenamma up the steps to the temple which was very touching.

The music of the film is decent. I like Kashmir Tu Main Kanyakumari, Lungi Dance and Titli. Titli is my favorite song, it’s very beautiful. And I can watch Bharatanatyam all day.

If you haven’t seen Chennai Express, consider it if you’re a fan of Deepika. This is Deepika’s film all the way.

EDIT: I’ve gotten a lot of feedback about my review from my IF friends. Majority of IFers seem to have liked the movie and especially Deepika’s performance. They think that I over-analyzed the film and that the performances and Deepika’s accent was supposed to be OTT because it’s a comedy film. Moreover, Rohit Shetty is known for OTT films (like Bol Bachchan). I still hold the same opinion about the film but I understand that it was very entertaining for other people. So you should probably see the film and decide for yourself.

Aashiqui 2

poster featuring a couple hugging each other

I have mixed feelings about this movie. The intentions were good and I think the film was a blockbuster, but things didn’t quite play out right in the story. It just didn’t make sense. This film is supposed to be an epic love story, a film that makes us believe in love all over again. It’s supposed to show that unconditional love still exists. I’m not sure from which angle of the film we’re supposed to get all these messages. Yes, there is unconditional love. Aarohi has unconditional love for Rahul and Rahul has unconditional love for alcohol. He loves alcohol so much that he’d rather live without his girlfriend or die than to quit drinking. Rahul (Aditya) is an alcoholic singer on downfall. He used to have a lot of fame but decided to ruin his career and life by taking up drinking and ignoring his career committments. On one drunken day, he comes across Aarohi (Shraddha) at a beer bar. She is singing his song. Rahul is very touched by Aarohi and decides that he will make a superstar, a famous singer. As Rahul helps her reach fame, the two fall in love. But Rahul’s fame and money quickly diminishes because of his alcohol habit and laziness. He feels that he can never leave drinking and that his drinking will get in the way of Aarohi’s success. He tries to distance himself from her and this is what makes up most of the film. The film seemed promising in the beginning. Aditya’s intense looks and Shraddha’s innocence were attractive. Aditya and Shraddha make a gorgeous on-screen couple. And they had their moments of intense love. Like in the studio scene when Rahul tells Aarohi that he loves her. But as the scenes progress, it becomes more and more confusing why Rahul doesn’t stop drinking and why Aarohi doesn’t do more to help him than just giving him hugs. Why does Rahul have to drink so much? What is his excuse? That he’s bored of fame and yet can’t handle not being famous anymore? What kind of contradiction is that? Aarohi does seem to truly love him, they both clearly love each other. But why doesn’t Aarohi get him some real help or encourage him to sing and make a career again? He trained her to be a better singer, she could do the same for him. Why don’t they make a duet or something? As the questions multiplied in my mind towards the end of the film, things got too unrealistic or should I say outright stupid for me. If only they had given us some solid reason as to why Rahul is tormenting himself and causing his own destruction. Perhaps a mental disorder? A past incident, a grievance? It would have explained his impending doom and added reality and intensity to their love. I mean who becomes an alcoholic because fame came too easy? And every time he tries to pull his act together, he falls back to alcohol because he heard some random people saying stupid stuff? The stuff they’re saying isn’t even true. And yet Rahul gets so affected by what these people say that he tries to ease his pain by drowning in alcohol.  Why?!   I also couldn’t help but feel that this film was inspired by too many things. Shraddha’s character was all too reminiscent of Shreya Goshal. Yes, it’s her voice singing but at times, Shraddha even looked like her. And the drunken, out-of-control behavior of Rahul was all too reminiscent of Ranbir’s recent performance in Rockstar. The best thing about this movie was definitely Aditya and Shraddha, Aditya especially. I knew he had potential from the beginning and he fulfilled my expectations. This was his best performance yet. And he looked so handsome. He has an intense romantic look that can make any girl faint. This was the first time I watched Shraddha on screen. She was a bit stiff at times, but mostly acted very well and was very expressive. She’s also very cute.

As for the music, music is a very important part of this film. I listened to a few of the songs before I watched the movie and they seemed a bit too slow and boring for me. But after seeing the songs picturized, I have grown more fond of them. Of the songs, I enjoyed Sunn Raha Hai and Milne Hai Mujhse the most. Milne Hai Mujse wasn’t included in the film, they did shoot a video for it and include it in the DVD though.

Endukante Premanta

This film has suspense elements. If you have any intention to see the film, do not read past the first three paragraphs here. Otherwise, it will ruin the film for you.

First of all, the reviews and ratings given for this film are not fair. It received average to low ratings across the board but the film, in reality, is pretty good. I don’t deny that there are a few shortcomings, but it deserves much better ratings and I think it’s worth a watch.

I’m glad that I didn’t listen to the bad reviews and decided to see the film. Honestly, I watched it for Tamannah only but Ram stole the show. He was superb in this film, especially in the last few scenes. He expresses emotions very well. The last time I saw Ram was all the way back during Ready days and I can see that he has improved a lot. He’s a better actor now. Tamannah was good and played her role well as usual. This girl is a charmer, I think I will watch all Tamannah films regardless of the ratings, well maybe not Himmatwala. I heard very bad things about that one.

Now to the story of the film. If you read other reviews and synopses online, they will fool you into thinking that this film is about reincarnation. No doubt, there is a reincarnation segment in the film. The film starts out showing how these two characters had met in a previous life. I personally thought that the film was going to be about how the characters discover their past life connection and fall in love. But that’s not what the film is about. The film is about how Ram (Ram) struggles to keep Sravanthi (Tamannah) alive. Her life is in danger and Ram is the only one who can help her.

Sravanthi is a medicine student and the daughter of the Indian ambassador to Paris. She has lived under strict security because of her father’s job and wishes to live freely. One day, she comes to know that someone who works under her father is collaborating with a terrorist. The man comes to know and makes a plan to send Sravanthi to India and have her killed so that his true character is not revealed.  Sravanthi arrives in Hyderabad and gets into a car accident while running away from the goons and falls into a coma.

There are two scenes in the film that are very important. These scenes shocked me. I didn’t expect this film to have suspense elements in it and I have to say that it was a very pleasant surprise. I think the writers did an excellent job at building the suspense without making it apparent. The first scene that shocks is the scene of the car accident. Sravanthi falls out of the car and is clearly unconscious. Then, immediately, you see the goons arriving at the place of the accident and Sravanthi getting up and running. Just as I was thinking how ridiculous this scene was, things changed. I mean, how can someone have a serious accident like that, clearly fall unconscious and then get up and run? But my question was answered. When Sravanthi hears the goons say that she’s dead, she turns around and sees her body still lying on the ground. Yes, you heard it right. Sravanthi’s spirit is separated from her body. It was also at this time that I understood why Sravanthi was wearing the same clothes everyday.

Her body is taken to the morgue but right before she is placed, a doctor holds her wrist and notices that she still has a pulse. Sravanthi’s body is put in the ICU but no one knows her identity. The goons are also unaware that she is not dead.

Sravanthi’s spirit returns to Paris to tell everything to her father but naturally, no one can see or hear her. Except for Ram. Ram was sent to Paris to work as a coolie at a winery by his father as punishment for his misdeeds. This part is stupid, but they had to find a way to get Ram to Paris. On one of those days, Ram sees Sravanthi’s spirit and starts talking to her. Sravanthi realizes that Ram is the only one who can see her and devises a plan to get Ram to Hyderabad to show him her body in the ICU and ask for his help. The second scene of suspense is when Ram sees Sravanthi’s body in the hospital and realizes that he has been hanging out with a spirit all this time. Meanwhile, the goons find out that Sravanthi is still alive and plan to finish her off.

The rest of the story is about how Ram tries to keep Sravanthi alive while her dad gets to know the truth and comes for his daughter. Meanwhile, Sravanthi is being treated by Ram’s aunt who is also a doctor. They have to administer three medications to her on time in order to treat the blood clot in her brain so that she comes out of the coma. But every time, the goons find her body and Ram has to save her before it’s time for the next medication.

The one major problem with this film is the ending. It’s too rushed and not elaborated enough. I find it extremely frustrating when the writers build up an intense story and keep us on our edge for three hours and then decide to take the easy way out and end the film in just a few minutes. I was expecting a more touching, emotional ending and felt unsatisfied when the film got over.

The other problem is the songs. Except for two songs which were a part of the story, the rest of the songs were ill-fitting, unnecessary and just annoying. I personally skipped those songs altogether and if you watch the film, I suggest you to do the same. One gets a better grasp of the film when it’s not cut up by stupid songs with stupid lyrics about lentils and milk shakes.

Nee Choopuley, Yegiri Povey and Hrudayama Pagalake are nice. I also liked the background theme. The rest of the songs were a waste in my opinion.

I want to finish up my review by saying that this film could have been so much better if the filmmakers had not bothered with the comedy and the dance songs and had made this film a straight-out suspense romance. Telugu film industry is not very courageous and is afraid of venturing out of the typical romance-comedy-drama in one masalas. If this film had been made in the Tamil or Hindi industry, it would have been made very differently and it would have probably been a hit. One day, I hope to see Telugu films that are more unconventional.

Despite this, I hold my ground that it’s a decent film with a good story and can be watched.

Also read Filmy Talks: Endukante Premanta