Some of you I imagine will scratch your heads and say: “This is the dubious production she’s choosing to review after so long?”
Many more of you will say: “Well of course it is.”
To all of you I have only two words: Arjun Hingorani. I have seen a few films in the month since I last posted a review, but as nice as some of them were they simply didn’t inspire me enough to overcome the cloud of Callie-worry and work overload. I was positive that the letter ‘K’ loving Mr. Hingorani would have something up his sleeve to make my eyes pop out. And so he did. He always does.
Sometimes I just have to ask myself if I live in a cave or something. Why have I not seen this movie before?! I could have seen it ten times by now! Why am I so late to this party?
But better late than never, especially to a party like this one. Beyond the endless (and largely nonchalent) WTF-ery there is a lot going on, much of it possibly unintended but tremendously engaging nonetheless. Hacking my way through the dense plot I spot references to the legend of King Arthur, Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, the Bible, Beastmaster, Alice In Wonderland, William Faulkner and so much more. I revel in Amitabh’s recyled outfit from Shahenshah and Rajasthan’s gorgeous Amber Fort. Best of all, I am led to ponder issues like “What is the lifespan of a dolphin, anyway?” and “What’s the point of having a magic talisman that turns into an elephant if you never use it?”
When I look back at pictures of my younger, prettier and thinner self and then look in the mirror at the me of today, I feel the way this film would probably feel if it could look back at Hum Kisise Kum Naheen: the same old thing, but wearier, more bloated and not any smarter or more mature. It is the middle-aged incarnation of HKKN after bad plastic surgery, making it occasionally fascinating in an “I want to look away but can’t” kind of way. Mostly it’s just dull, though, and I might not have bothered to write it up but for my friend and fellow Hindi film music fan PC over at Third Floor Music. He has waited patiently for me to gather the courage to go through this eyesore again for screencaps, and we are doing a tandem music-review post. He has uploaded the RD Burman soundtrack for your delectation, so grab it here and read on!
About the only thing this dreadful movie has going for it is the Bizarro World subtitles—subtitles so strange but enthusiastic that I pictured a crowd of manic little elves shouting and arguing about the best word or phrase to use, none of which probably made any sense, let alone the one they finally settled upon. But I thank Bhagwan above for the weird subs, because there was not much else to like.
I confess that I have never shared the fervent Rishi love that so many of my fellow Hindi film lovers do, although I do pretty much adore Noughties Rishi who has stolen the show in films like Hum Tum, Luck By Chance and Chintuji. He stars here with his real-life lady love Neetu Singh (whom I DO totally share the appreciation for usually) and my recent acquaintance Zahira, with Pran as his military father figure Major Sharma. The story is an exercise in dysfunctional parenting with lots of overacting (Roopesh Kumar I am looking at YOU) and that sacrificial-lamb theme that I so despise, although at least this time it’s mostly the men who wallow in stupid pointless suffering: equal opportunity martyrdom is the order of the day.
In October 1971 the first issue of Stardust magazine was published and a new era of film journalism began: it was snarkier, more gossipy, more intrusive, and a smash hit with readers.
Seven years on, a special edition of the magazine called “The Best of Stardust” was published to commemorate its success.
I spent the Thanksgiving holiday weekend with my brother and his family, watching relatively recent Hollywood fare peopled with quirky, hilarious and (mostly) heartwarming characters (A Christmas Story, I Love You, Man and Duplicity). Steeped as I am at this point in watching decades-old cinema, with only occasional and generally disastrously noisy forays into today’s offerings, it was nice to see contemporary movies with *heart* and actual stories instead of an onrush of special effects. And so it is too with Chintuji, set in the utopian village of Hadbahedi—fictional birthplace of the very not-fictional Rishi Kapoor.
Rishi himself offers a little disclaimer at the beginning: “This film is part reality, part illusion and part fact, part fiction.” How I would love to discuss this statement with him, because he plays himself as a not very nice guy—and he is great at it! In fact, my main quibble with this movie is that it wanders off in too many directions instead of staying focused on The Man. But despite some flaws, it is a sweet and funny film about a Little Village That Could, with the unwilling help of its most famous export.
So now I’ve watched two predictable films in a row, but I really enjoyed this one. A mostly affectionate behind-the-scenes look at Hindi cinema, it’s a fairly standard “follow your dreams/be true to yourself” kind of film but close attention is paid to details, and it is blessed with wonderful performances, snappy dialogue and lots of humorous little moments. It’s colorful, lively, and full of things to take notice of (like, doesn’t Farhan Akhtar look just like his dad in profile?).
Somewhere on the world wide web it says: “Coolie was the biggest grocer of 1983!” Heh heh. That is probably due to the fact that its star Amitabh Bachchan was seriously injured on the sets and almost died—everyone knows that story by now. Many people write the film off now as the same old hackneyed Manmohan Desai story with an aging Big B who was no longer hero material, but I really liked it. Sure, it has now-familiar Desai themes, and it is predictable. Predictably good!!!
Plus, this film is a little less crazed than some of his others. It sticks mostly with the main story, weaving in the side plots more neatly than usual. It’s also a bit lighter on the religious symbolism (most of the characters are Muslim, and secularism is waved at only in passing) and on the usual heavy-handed preaching and long-winded speeches.