Sunday, 25 December 2011

Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara

Directed by: Zoya Akhtar
Starring: Hrithik Roshan, Farhan Akhtar, Abhay Deol, Katrina Kaif, Kalki Koechlin
Released: 2011
Verdict: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

Even among the not that impressive pieces Bollywood managed to churn out this year (which I overally rate as very poor) it is possible to find several pearls and Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara is definitely one of them. It was largely compared to Dil Chahta Hai, but even though it will probably not gain such a cult status, it has made a great impact on the audience and I even dare say it is in many aspects better. One of the greatest plus points for me was a truly equal importance of the three main characters and that they had an equal amount of screentime (whil in DCH it was mostly Aamir with two other heroes criminally sidelined, but more about that in DCH review which is eventually coming as well...).

The story starts with one rather awkward misunderstading. Kabir (Abhay) shows his girlfriend Natasha (Kalki) a ring he bought, which immediately leads her to accept what she considers a marriage proposal – only to find out seconds later he had bought the ring for his mother. However not wanting to embarrass himself or Natasha in public (because it kinda all happened on a birthday party) he actually does propose. And as soon as excited Natasha starts planning her perfect wedding, Kabir is going for a three-week long bachelor trip through Spain with his old friends Imraan (Farhan) and Arjun (Hrithik), as they had promised to each other years ago. The catch of the trip is that each of them is supposed to secretly choose an adventure sport and all three have to go through it no matter what (MEN! Or maybe more like.... BWOYS!).
Bwoys chale Spain.
However old rishtas are not as perfect as they used to be – especially the bond between Arjun and Imraan has apparently suffered. And as it turns out, none of them is going to Spain just to enjoy a trip. Arjun is trying to run away from being emotionally hurt by his ex-girlfriend getting married, Imraan is searching for his biological father and Kabir himself may not be actually be that happy about the prospect of getting married soon... All that is what probably makes them even more adamant when it comes to the adventure sports they have chosen – from scuba-diving to an annual Spanish custom of running with the bulls. All the sports can go terribly wrong. But maybe facing the death with and realizing that you don´t live twice is what the whole trip is about...
Or maybe it all is about an unforgivable waste of food.
Slow (at the verge of boring) at times, rapid at moments, even in its pace, the film is relying on the script more than anything else. Sure, the big star and glamor factor is included in the form of Hrithik and Katrina Kaif, but eventually their screentime is no longer than that of the rest of the actors (in the case of Katrina it´s actually very limited) as I have mentioned at the very beginning. It does use the gorgeous Spanish scenery, but somehow you feel it´s not about visual amazement, more like about what all that visual beauty evokes in you. And the same case is with music, which frames everything nicely. Basically everything deserves a praise from an un-fearing direction to delightufully fine performances. It was refreshing to see someone as impressive but underrated as Farhan doing such a fabulous job as Imraan, looking for his biological father without really knowing what to expect and being ultimately disappointed by what he finds (even though considering he finds the very much amazing Naseeruddin Shah it´s almost criminal to say it like that). It was fun to see Abhay Deol in a rather fun role for a change and it was definitely a treat to watch Hrithik morphing from an arrogant and self-centered businessman into an emotional human being (but not as emotional as to be called over the top or unbelievable).
Moshi moshi!
Katrina Kaif, for the first time in her life, managed not to make me fall asleep, and actually did a good job. One can always argue the role she had was not challenging (it definitely was not as it apparently reflected Katrina´s own personality a lot and did not go through any development), but she did well with whatever she was given. If there was something I did not like about her it was her lisping. I usually cannot hear her bad Hindi pronunciation (being a non-Hindi speaker myself), but she lisps even in English, most of the time her „r“ comes out as „w“. Kalki Koechlin is a delight. She is a far cry from the typical Bollywood beauties, but her earthy and real attitude combined with natural charm makes her truly endearing even if her character is not. And of course, who can forget about Bagwati... wah! Kya acting hai! Plus I´m sure it was Bagwati who made the greatest impact of the whole cast, setting a trend by herself.
The best debutant of 2011.
The movie does not really have a Bollywood or even Indian feel to it, in spite of several songs (and one perfectly performed by the actors themselves) and Farhan´s own beautiful and soulful poetry included. I don´t really think it is a pity, because it works as it is, but should anyone ask, this is definitely not what possible newcomers should expect from Bollywood. We are given some interesting points to think about as well as some excellent one liners and memorable quotes. It all flows beautifully, makes you feel beautifully and maybe you might even learn something about yourself. It gives laughs and gives tears. Just like life that you don´t live twice.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna

Directed by: Karan Johar
Starring: Shahrukh Khan, Rani Mukherjee, Abhishek Bachchan, Preity Zinta, Amitabh Bachchan, Kirron Kher
Released: 2006
Verdict: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

I will never really understand where did my courage to watch Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna come from. Till this day I have not been able to overcome the outrage and hate that both have come over me after watching Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Ghum, which I consider the worst film I´ve ever seen. I guess it was only my devotion to Shahrukh Khan and my wish to know his complete body of work, combined with being naturally curious what is all the fuss about, that made me watch KANK. After 15 minutes I already knew I was going to suffer.

Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna is basically a story about two people whose personalities suck big time and that not as much because of the circumstances but because they choose to. Shahrukh as Dev is an arrogant, selfish and most of all self-pitying brat with no respect whatsoever. Once he was a famous football player but after being hit by a car his career was over and he is limping ever since. Sure, something like that could make anyone deeply depressed, but Dev, rather than trying to move on and be useful, decides to sulk for years, blaming the whole world and mentally terrorizing his little son (I was just waiting for the kid to be hospitalized as mentally unstable and crippled for life). I don´t think I ever disliked any Shahrukh´s character as much. Even when he played an evil person like in Anjaam or Don, there was something you could admire or at least appreciate (even though what they do is wrong). But Dev is just a disgusting piece of existence, giving nothing to anyone, being jealous of his wife´s (Preity) success and destroying every moment of peace for everybody around. I am no fan of perfectly flawless characters , I like it when they are human with flaws, but there is limit to everything. Maybe it was my utter dislike for the character, but either not even Shahrukh´s acting could have make me like Dev or even Shahrukh was just bad in this. Based on my opinion that except for My Name Is Khan Karan Johar has always managed to bring out the worst out of him, I sadly tend to believe the second option.
Herodes could learn how to treat kids from Dev....
Rani as Maya is not an inspiring person either. Also wallowing in self-pity she is pushing away any chance of being happy with her husband Rishi (Abhishek). The film tried to present her as being oh so poor a soul because she does not feel romantic love for Rishi, but I only wanted to scream at her for being such a life-ruiner. Rishi is a husband of dreams really. He copes up with everything she does or says without a complaint. He is incredibly giving. And she apparently doesn´t give a damn. In this sense she is same as Dev. They both obviously LOVE being miserable and they LOVE to blame others for it. HOW in the world am I supposed to be their fan or even feel for them? Impossible!
Let´s just behave like a total ass so I can embarass my partner and pity myself even more.
In a very apparent plot twist these two fall in love and start having a secret affair consisting mainly of getting drenched in the rain and singing songs in imaginary sorrounding Karan Johar style. Up until of course they are caught..... and they separate.... and they are oh so noble now and want to save their marriages.... and they end up together of course after one of the most teary, excruciating and longest climaxes ever. By that point I was already skipping whole minutes, completely worn out by all that crap I had managed to sit through. I was not interested AT ALL in what Dev and Maya were through.

One of the greatest sore spots in the film also remains Amitabh Bachchan in his possibly most cringe worthy role ever – Sexy Sam – out of whose hangover he is suffering till this day. Instead of cool he was sleazy and his part in the story was completely unnecessary. I guess his parts of the film were supposed to be mostly fun, but this intention fails completely.
Hi! I´m Sexy Sam. Embarassment of the decade.
The saving graces are performances by Preity Zinta and Abhishek Bachchan. In other circumstances I would always choose Rani and Shahrukh over them, but not here. Theirs were the bits I enjoyed and the best scene of them all has to be Preity slapping Shahrukh after finding out the truth.

KANK fails. In basically every department. I am nobody to preach about fidelity between husband and wife (though yeah, I believe in the concept) and I can see why many marriages fail. I am not saying two people HAVE TO live with each other if they are so very unhappy. However the way infidelity is presented in this movie makes it all seem actually right and legit. There are other films that deal with the same issue and yet they manage to show all the involved people as likeable humans with reasons of their own, like Yash Chopra´s Silsila or most recently Imtiaz Ali´s Rockstar, but Karan Johar, skilled with pouring glycerine but completely clueless about real feelings makes it all one great mess where you hate the hero, you hate the heroine and you hate their love story. And you definitely hate Sexy Sam.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Chalo Dilli

Directed by: Shashant Shah
Starring: Lara Dutta, Vinay Pathak
Released: 2011
Verdict: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

One of the better films of the first half of 2011, and at the time I watched it (spring 2011) after 7 Khoon Maaf also the first which I watched at one go without looking at the timeline (which actually seems quite rare these days). It is a small film about small people who encounter trouble – that as we learn near the end are either big or small depending on your experience and view of life. Quite unusual for a Bollywood film it doesn´t have a love twist and the leading pair is not romantically involved at all (though they share a wonderful chemistry).

We have two characters who could not be more different – and I mean that to the extreme. Mihika is a drop dead gorgeous Senior Vice President of a top multinational Financial Institution in Mumbai. She is highly ambitious, extremely professional and confident and strictly demands the same level of professionalism not only from her employees, but apparently also from the whole world. Her own world works the way she likes it. Everything is organized, planned, punctual and most importantly clean. She is nothing less but outraged when she misses her flight to Delhi and is compelled to board another, where sadly there is no first class and she is forced to sit beside people from that other world which disgusts her so much. And what more – right next to her is the seemingly worst speciment of that world!
Tujhe dekha to yeh jaana sanam.....
Manu is a chubby, moustached, loud, paan-chewing, gutkaa juice-spitting and sweaty individual who has no qualms of keeping his money notes in the front part of his pants. A rather exaggarated portrayal of a „common Indian“ perhaps? I wouldn´t know. He definitely seemed at times like a caricature, then again I just completely can imagine people like him. Mihika, drinking her important paani, is honestly terrified of his manners. But fate apparently wants to play with her nerves, resistance and even life, because after a series of unfortunate happenings Mihika and Manu find themselves stuck with each other throughout increasingly bizzare situations. And while Manu is trying to cheer his companion up, Mihika only prays the journey will be over soon....

The movie in itself is what I would call a typical road story, where everything is going wrong. In fact, I was just wondering what more can actually go wrong, and I was always showed that the more wrong is actually possible. Only the ending makes the film what it is though, and it is one of the reasons why a viewer shouldn´t ask questions while watching. All will fall into place eventually. The film can get a bit lengthy, especially during the first 40 minutes, but once our two main protagonists board a train there is not one boring minute. Overally predictable i guess, but it is one of those cases you don´t really mind. It definitely doesn´t take anything away from the movie´s charm.
Example of the movie´s BEAUTIFUL cinematography.
I am a huge Vinay Pathak fan. His ordinary, down to earth and unpretentious character of Manu is endearing despite all the habits which may seem purely disgusting. He never overdoes anything, be it the humour or emotions and his timing is flawless. This was the first film in which I´ve seen Lara Dutta in the lead. Previously I´ve only seen her blink and miss cameo in Fanaa and her short role in Billu. She is definitely underrated! She is not only gorgeous, but has a good comic timing and both her anger and her tears are believable. Plus this was definitely not an easy role and she simply nailed it. Mihika could have easily turned out to be a “reformed bitch”, but instead one takes an immediate liking for her in spite of her prejudices. By making a film like Challo Dilli she also took a risk hardly any of the A-list star actresses ever would. And she succeeds. And I can already know she will not get a single award....
WHY is this woman not getting roles opposite the Khans?
Akshay Kumar´s cameo is one of the best ones this year. It comes definitely as a surprise, and though his first appearance has (intentionally which is obvious) the „Khiladi“ feel, he does not become a caricature of himself, as it seems to be so popular in the films these days, but acquires his own identity. His character is highly likeable and Akshay, not trying too hard, as well.

Music doesn´t really stay in mind, but both songs and background score follow the story nicely. From the technical aspects however the best is cinematography. The makers managed to show various faces of both cosmopolitan and rural India in a short span of 2 hours beautifully. Challo Dilli is colourful, but not in the rather eye-soaring way Yashraj sometimes make their films, it really breaths both the hectic life of big cities and peacefulness of the rather deserted areas where time does not move ahead too quickly. True, one would wish the script was more tight, the first 40 minutes more funny, the sickly looking Yana Gupta´s item number was not there and other little things. The film is not perfect, but something tells me that was not even the intention in the first place.

I really enjoyed this one for all its differences from the „usual“ mainstream Bollywood films. Here is a film without a love plot, with a an unattractive elderly (though still brilliant) „hero“, making you think but not preaching. Charming to the core.
Welcome to the Red Tomato hotel.

Why don´t  you just kill me now?

Friday, 16 December 2011

Chikni Chameli thoughts

Second by second Chikni Chameli has made its way to the public. An item number meant to spice up the upcoming Karan Johar´s production Agneepath, it is going to fully rock the screens early next year. After Sheila and Munni in 2010, that both enjoyed huge popularity, 2011 seems almost bare without it sown iconic item number. Sure, there were at least three attempts – Deepika in Dum Maro Dum remake, Yana Gupta gyrating her hips and looking rather sickly in Challo Dilli and I think I´ve heard something about „Shallu“ - but have not seen the song or the film... The fact remains 2011 was rather uneventful for Bollywood in general, and considering it´s BOLLYWOOD I actually did miss dancing in films.

I never would have though I would be thanking Katrina Kaif for reminding us that dancing is actually an essential, and one of the best parts of Indian cinema. Her Sheila was a well-shot video, but there was not much of an actual dancing. However promo of Chikni Chameli promises to be better. It leaves behind the Sheila image and actually is channeling Munni! The rustic look, play of colours (Katrina in bright shades of yellow and red while everything else is brown), chest and torso thrusting back and forth.... The choreographer is Ganesh Acharya, out of whose work so far I´ve only liked one song – Badi Mushkil from Lajja – and that was no doubt because of the dancer more then the choreography itself.... Chikni Chameli has some moves that looks plain weird at first, but after few rewatches become to seem rather cool – and probably a signature movements as well.

Katrina has apparently worked really hard. She may still be a below average actress, but she is a fairly good dancer, definitely one of the better ones in Bollywood of today. She looks beautiful in the song and what gets her few more points is the fact she also improved her expressions. The quick editing and change of camera angles also ads to her efforts. Another pleasant point – though Katrina is presented in a very sexy way, one does not get the slightly awkward feel Sheila Ki Jawani caused. Chikni Chameli is a bit naughty, but I don´t think it´s degrading women in a way Sheila did. True, Chameli is apparently lighting up cigarets with her hotness, but it´s nowhere near the drooling sleazy director in Sheila.....

What puzzles me however, are statements like „Katrina dances like no other actress ever has“, uttered by people like Riteish Deshmunk and others. Makes me wonder if they have ever watched any Vyjayanthimala film. Or Madhuri. Or Sridevi. Or Meenakshi Sheshadri. Or Hema Malini. Or even Aishwarya and Rani. Katrina is no way on their level of dancing and I can only forgive comments like that thinking it´s the excitement over something new (and for a long time un-seen).

So welcome Chikni Chameli. Hopefully you´ll again remind filmmakers that dancing is not uncool.

UPDATE aka how I was forced to change my mind. Read about it in my film review:

Sunday, 11 December 2011


Directed by: Mani Ratnam
Starring: Abhishek Bachchan, Mithun Chakraborthy, Aishwarya Rai, Madhavan, Vidya Balan
Released: 2007
Verdict: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

It might have been the setting, the overall look of the film, which was visually very pleasing, it might have been a really good music - and it was definitely the great work of all the actors involved, that earned this movie such a high mark from me. I generally love films set in the past, and for whatever reason they are rather rare in Bollywood, which is only a reason more why to appreciate Guru.

The film opens in the year 1951 in a small Gujarat village, where young boy has both big dreams and strict unsupportive father. Gurukant (or Guru) because of that practically runs away from home, absolutely determined to make it big no matter what, and because he does not lack common sense, he enters the spice trade business in Turkey, learns everything there is to learn about making money and at that point he decides he´s worked enough for others and the time has come to work for himself. But big dreams cost a lot and upon his return to India Guru does not have financial resources to start his own business. 
Poor and ambitious groom.
He decides to take the quickest and most popular way to enrich himself – he gets married. He does not care at all if the girl in question does not like him, if she has tried to runaway with somebody else, if she is older to him, or even if she is ugly – and except for the last bit all those things are true. An so drop-dead gorgeous Sujata is married off to Guru, and in spite of not all that romantic beginning their relationship grows stronger with time, until by the end it is really the only stable thing in Guru´s life...
Rich and unimpressed bride.
Anyway – finally Guru has enough money, and because he´s bold, daring and not ashamed of not-that-completely-legal ways either, his business soon starts to progress. And it grows bigger. And bigger.... Enjoying popularity among thousands of people he provides with jobs, Guru ruthlessly pursues success. Bribing people and smuggling parts for polyester mills and other machines that fill his factories is a daily bread for him. But all this success is also a source of a serious rift that is created between Guru and Manik Dasgupta – aging but still ass-kicking Mithun Chakraborthy in a role worthy of his talent and once legendary status – a mighty newspaper publisher, who for years acted like a father figure to him, because „nanaji“ does not approve of Guru´s illegal means. His untiring attempts to reveal Guru´s illegal actions give me a reason for immense happiness, because that is where Madhavan (Madhavaaaaaaaaannnnn.... teddy bear.... my chweeeeeeeeeett chweeeeeeett teddy..... that dusky colouring and those eyeeeeeeeeeeesssssssss..... I love youuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu) comes into the picture, even if for a limited time....
The disco dancer of the 80s! YAY!
Abhishek Bachchan is astoundingly good as Guru, with all the changes that happen through the progress of time in the movie – from witty and stubborn youngster, through manipulative and arrogant businessman to ultimately depressed and helpless patient, he convinces the viewer completely. The film is his, and he proves that he is a very good actor. I believe a lot of him not being a saleable actor come from the lack of x-factor then acting skills, and many people also don´t take him seriously because of his father´s larger than life persona he, sadly and unfairly, has to compete with. At the same time Abshishek has given a fair share of bad and „lazy“ performances, and nobody will convince me he is not getting the lead roles still because of his family name and connections.
Abhishek´s physical "evolution" in the film was impressive - including grey hair and weight gain.
The role of Guru is meaty, there is a lot to work with, but somehow it wouldn´t be completely without supporting characters, that help to shape the image of the hero throughout the story. Already I have mentioned Sujata – Aishwarya, looking splendidly gorgeous (which, let´s face it, is the first thing that comes to your mind when she appears) and giving a great performance herself. Both those facts are reasons why I was a bit disappointed by the amount of screen-time she was given, in fact she hardly has had any role in the second half. Not fair, really.
Aishwarya as the woman behind the man.
I have already mentioned that Mithun Chakraborthy has not lost anything from his charisma or acting skill, and I was actually surprised how happy I was to see him on the screen. Madhavan, my teddy bear, was excellent as always. There is something incredibly likeable about him. And he is good. Period. His pairing with Vidya Balan (as Mithun´s grand-daughter slowly dying of multiple sclerosis), is very pleasant and his love for her incredibly touching. Their storyline gave the film a gentle feel and romantic touch, that somehow was amiss from Guru´s own relationship with his wife (where there was love, caring, devotion, but not much of a „romantic romance“).
With all due respect to Abhi/Aish, these two were THE jodi for me.
The atmosphere, the overall look and music, everything is done with much apparent care and together with performances and very human story creates an interesting collage, which at time, I admit is on the verge of boredom, but ultimately works.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Tere Naam

Directed by: Satish Kaushik
Starring: Salman Khan, Bhumika Chawla
Released: 2003
Verdict: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

I had no idea what the story or genre was beforehand. All I have seen were several Salman pictures and his awful greasy mess of hair had me expecting something about a killer escaping from jail. I was pleasantly surprised when I realized it was going to be a love story. And I was even more happy to find out, it was an intense love story, because if something is really missing in the post-90s Bollywood, it is the intensity of love stories. Sure, there are exceptions like Devdas, Veer-Zaara, but they are rather scarce. Tere Naam is one of these exceptions.

Radhe Mohan seems like kind of a useless piece of existence. He graduated a long time ago, but still spends his days at collage, roaming its grounds and being the highest authority among students. He has no job (of course), but he has a bunch of loyal friends and one helluva repulsive hairstyle. His macho image is constantly re-newed by occasional (but harmless) bullying of the newcomers and beating the heck up of harmful bullies. He lives with his elder brother and his family, but the relationship with brother is not exactly good as the elder one does not like Radhe to live off him. He does not understand him, his lifestyle or hairstyle and considers him an intentional trouble maker. 
Channeling the Hippies.
Nirjara could not be seemingly more different. Coming from a Brahmin family, quiet, reserved, shy, traditional, devoted and dutiful daughter of a priest, she has just entered the collage. Radhe decides to tease her, making her giving up her lunch for him and ordering her to salute him whenever they meet – and to his amazement Nirjara not only obey every single thing he says, but at the same time does even more, acting in her own demure and fragile way, being naturally scared (of Radhe´s hair I guess) and her fear growing by day as Radhe´s infatuation with her rises and his attempts to be nice to her thus fail.
The best song. But the music overal was great.
There are lot or tender moments showing beautifully Radhe´s gentle side when it comes to Nirjara, like him letting her repeating a poem over and over again, without noticing she has finished a long time ago, and the deep distress it´s causing her. But as his love remains unrequired, it is turning into an obsessive kind of a relationship, resulting in Nirjara´s kidnapping, threatening her and finally breaking down and feeling helpless. At this point in the film it all finally turns from a common love story to an intense one – and Nirjara finally reciprocates. Only to have her heart broken minutes later, when Radhe gets involved in a fight and his severe head injury turns him into a living vegetable...
There were times when he missed his hair.....
The first half, as I have already said, was a timepass, a LOT degraded by the terrible hair for which I have not find any excuse whatsoever and as you can see will probably never recover from the shock it gave me. Salman looked ironically a lot more damaged then in the second half, where he is supposed to suffer both mentally and physically. The ending of the film was definitely moving and unexpected. Why not 10 out of 10? Sadly not only Salman´s hair is to be blamed. As intense and even thrilling as the second part was, it had some serious loopholes that bothered me. I couldn´t help but wonder why when Radhe came to his senses, he simply didn´t talk to any of the guards? Instead he tries to run away, hurting the guards and himself in the process – making himself look like a madman even more. Also - the iron rounds around his head, feet and hands were all loose and he could have very easily slip out of them - yet he kept them on. And when he hurts his leg - he is left alone without any medical care. WTF? And when Nirjara comes to see him, she just looks at him lying injured there, cries and goes home. No attempt to communicate with him, no attempt to get him some treatment. We could argue she was too shocked, but still...
Your boyfriend is injured and in a madhouse.
Let´s cry and leave.
Salman Khan did impress me, definitely one of his best performances - and makes me even more sad now that I know he really can be good - but he doesn´t give a damn. Bhumika Chawla brough a lot of freshness and sensitivity into the story. She is far cry from perfect models with perfect bodies and faces we have grown accustomed to see on the screen, yet she is beautiful. Her looks scream fragile and it makes only more sense that someone as worldly as Radhe would fall for a girl like this, who must have seem like an apparition to him. Her last act disturbed me greatly though, as I could not really grasp why would she do what she did after agreeing she should live and be happy for her father and others, but than – that was the intensity of a feeling, which in the end makes Tere Naam a great film and a great love story.
Everything was forgiven by this point. His obsessiveness, his bullying... even the hair.

Sunday, 4 December 2011


Directed by: Vijay Anand
Starring: Dev Anand, Waheeda Rehman
Released: 1965
Verdict: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

It is always sad when a sudden demise of an actor is a reason for re-watching a film, but if that film happens to be something as touching, epic and perfect as Guide, then you realize the actor is actually immortal. That is exactly the case of Dev Anand, who passed away just today – and made me re-watch Guide.

The story, told partly in present time and partly in restrospective, slowly unfolds, showing us the life and fate of Raju, a simple man living an ordinary middle-class life, but „owning a whole city“ in a way - he works as a tourist guide, knows every corner and every rock in the streets and beyond. And the whole city knows him and loves him for his good nature and mischievousness. Then Marco, an elderly archeologist, comes into town and demands to see the nearby caves and Raju naturally takes the job. Marco´s wife comes with him to the city. Thus Raju meets Rosie. Being much younger then Marco, she couldn´t be more different from him. Passionate, free-spirited, longing for affection, she is deeply suffering bound to a man who has no interest in her and the only thing that exists for him is archeology. A daughter of a prostitute, she did acquire a social status with her marriage, but paid a great prize for it, when her husband forbade her from dancing – the only real passion she had, and at the same time he refused to give her anything in return.

Raju is honestly puzzled by the couple and becomes a witness to both Marco´s coldness towards his wife (that outrages him) and Rosie´s nearly hysterical attempts to get his attention, that go to the extreme. Once Marco reacts more to his new discovery in the caves than to the information his wife has tried to commit suicide, Raju is utterly disgusted and leaving the archeologist to himself he tries to bring some happiness to Rosie instead. Taking her to the city, to see the gypsies dance and buying her dancing bells, he gets to see a whole another Rosie – who loves life, breathes joy and most importantly wants to dance. Soon both Raju and Rosie develop tender feelings towards each other and Raju supports Rosie vehemently in her desire to be free, and at last, after being ultimately disappointed by Marco, Rosie makes a daring step of leaving her husband and comes to live with Raju.

While such a step followed by lovers uniting would be a predictable climax of many other films, Guide takes us beyond it. And shows us that as difficult as the first step might be, the ones that need to be made afterwards are no less thorny. Especially if you are far from being perfect – like Raju, who from lovelorn supporter of Rosie´s art becomes a smart businessman lusting for more wealth and power, or like Rosie, who still dances with the same zest, but is beginning to feel alone and somehow bitter all over again....

Guide is a story about things that change and about things that stay the same. It is also very human. The hero and heroine are not innocent angels, but very flawed people who find a happiness for a while, only to loose it (and more) because of misunderstandings and jealousy. Essentially it is not a film about love, but about two people who once loved each other, if you can see the difference. It is about hurt pride and shattered illusions. About life.

Dev Anand and Waheeda Rehman are a delightful couple, and both portraited their characters perfectly. For Dev Anand, I feel, was the film the role of a lifetime. Sure, there were other, famous and great performances, in other famous and great films, but I don´t believe anything can overpower the impact this particular performance and film had on me as a viewer. He was absolutely convincing as both a stranger unsure how to handle the depressed Rosie, as a subdued lover trying to give her happiness, and finally as a man attempting to fulfill the hopes of others. A concept of the dark and light side of a person is shown admirably simply, with the dark side inevitably perishing, as Raju is overcoming his weaknesses due to a suffering he takes upon himself to help others. Waheeda Rehman as Rosie is one of the most remarkable female roles of Bollywood, mainly because of the grey shades of her character, which usually are not to be found in pure and nice Indian heroines. Her every feeling is mirrored on her face and in her eyes.
When darkness needs to die...
There are so many beautiful scenes in the film, from the already mentioned „dying of the dark side“ or for example Rosie´s last attempt to attract her husband´s attention. The tinkling of her anklets in the dark cavern filled with statues of dancers was haunting. My personal favourite remains Rosie´s utter joy and „I couldn´t care less what people think“ attitude when Raju buys her dancing bells and she walk the street with them on her feet, her head high, exumberant joy on her face – and puzzled or outraged people watching her go. Music is plain gorgeous and dancing as well, again thanks to Waheeda. Her „cobra dance“ is, after all, legendary.

Bitter and sweet. Just two of the words that can define Guide. And also life, which is so sensitively captured in the frames of this film. Very much like Dev Anand. Rest in peace.

Friday, 2 December 2011


Directed by: Shashilal K. Nair
Starring: Mithun Chakraborthy, Meenakshi Sheshadri, Shakti Kapoor
Released: 1987
Verdict: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

A film about a tightly knot family consisting of a man, two orphans, a monkey and a dog. Yes, you heard right. And if the children´s tears leave you cool, the crying dog and sobbing monkey will make up for it (maybe). But here we are running too much ahead....

Birju is an honest con artist, who is raising two children, whom he both had found as babies trown away by their parents. To earn a living for them, himself and two faithful beasts – a monkey and a German sheperd dog, he slogs day and night, but never complains, because the closeness and love between all the members of this curious parivaar makes up for all the possible hardships. Where would Birju find a time for love? However a fate brings love straight to his home. Being thrown out of the house by her in-laws because of in-suficient dowry, a young woman Anita tries to commit suicide, but is rescued by the joint effort of the two small kids and their two animal companions (let´s not question the near impossibility of the deed, after all this film is not short of miracles and WTFs).
Looking high but happy.
She finds a comforting shelter in a poor hut Birju shares with his family, and taking the matters of the house into her own hands she seems to be completely happy and satisfied in the new sorroundings short of wealth but not of love and appreciation. But nothing is permanent and soon it seems that the parivaar shall be torn apart, because the dowry Anita had lost previously, is now found, and her husband would like to claim it...

The main leads are Mithun Chakraborthy and Meenakshi Sheshadri (I wanted to see the film for her, because it´s actually pretty difficult to find her films), and even though Meenakshi has less screen-space, she and her character prove that screen-space is not everything. Except for several dubbed crying scenes and rather brow-raising rescue by the children she is pleasant to watch. She has something that makes her different from other Indian actresses, and maybe because she doesn´t remind one of Sridevi in any way she got her share of success even during the greatest Sridevi craze in the mid-80s. Her dancing is amazing and in the song Ram Bakht Hanuman she expresses so much pain she feels (both mental and physical) your heart goes out to her.
The heart-stealer!
Mithun does the usual righteous, poor and lecturing others role, which I´ve seen him doing quite a few times already. He seems to be very comfortable with these kinds of characters and so delivers a good performance without much effort. The children, especially the girl, were good. The animals are way smarter then all the other famous beasts put together (yes, even more then the pigeon from Maine Pyar Kiya or Tuffy from Hum Aapke Hain Koun!) and they handle everything from offering in a mandir to driving a car to catch the bad guys.
Yo, problem?
The story itself is interesting enough and has substance, but could have been handled better, and the film overall suffers - from being an 80s film! Too many unnecessary scenes and subplots. Too many scenes in serious need of being shorter. Too many illogical things. Too many miracles. Some really WTF stuff (like when the monkey at the end turning into Hannuman and jumping all around, setting the place on fire). 

Hmm. Seems legit.
No disrespect to hinduism, but there was some serious and less then impressive overuse of godly interventions. And let-us-put-this-crap-into-it-as-well-it-will-be-rocking-like-hell ending action scene, in which for whatever reason is always the WHOLE cast including the two kids, the monkey and the dog.... the latter two save everybody´s sitting parts.
You shall not pass.
You shall not pass.
You shall not pass.
You guys watch too much Lord of the Rings!