Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Devdas is a film adaptation of Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyaya’s novel of the same name. Set in Bengal in the early 1900’s, Devdas is a story about the titular character, a English-educated Brahmin who returns to his native country. He anticipates renewing his love for his childhood sweetheart, Paro, played by Aishwarya Rai. Unfortunately, shocking information of Paro’s lineage of nautch performers, deemed inappropriate for Devdas’s elite family, disqualifies Paro from marrying her beloved. As a result, Devdas, portrayed by Shahrukh Khan, drowns in despair and depression, seeking refuge in a tawaif with a heart of gold named Chandramukhi, played by Madhuri Dixit.
The flow of the story is intolerably slow-paced. In fact, this movie should be patented as a suitable antidote for insomnia. The characters are just not well-developed and despite their supposedly intense passion for each other, I sensed no chemistry between the characters of Shahrukh Khan and Aishwarya Rai. Perhaps the makers should have been more selective in casting.
Someone needs to give Sanjay Leela Bhansali sound advice on his post-production techniques. In almost all of this movies, the oversaturation of colors is distracting to the viewer. The setting of the film dosen’t seem natural, thus depriving the story of its authenticity..
The only saving grace of this movie is Madhuri Dixit’s alluring portrayal of Chandramukhi. No Hindi actress today can ever match her charisma and elegance.
Lagaan is a story about a group of villagers in the Oudh Province of British India who compete with stiff-lipped British officials in a cricket match in order to mitigate their taxation burdens. Nominated for an Academy Award, Lagaan is a brilliantly-produced movie, with breathtaking cinematography, dazzling costumes, and a beautiful soundtrack composed by the one and only A.R Rahman. The aura invokes nostalgia, as if you’ve time-traveled to Awandh in the late 19th century .
However, just because a movie is brilliantly-produced, it doesn’t make it a brilliant movie. The plot was incredibly simplistic, which I could forgive if this was a Disney children’s movie. It is not. The characters are shallowly written and it seem that the entire movie orbits around Aamir Khan’s character, as all of his movies do. Even though this film was produced eleven years before the premiere of Satyamev Jayate, Aamir Khan seemed to have been cultivating his persona as a socially-conscious activist in this film. For example, he takes on the role of the knight in shining armor who defends the poor, crippled, dark-skinned untouchable, who’s too weak to defend himself.
In colonial-themed Indian movies, all the British characters are undeservedly portrayed as cold and heartless. Yes, I am aware of the atrocious impact the British Raj had on the Indian subcontinent. I watched Shashi Tharoor’s speech in Oxford Union after all! But can we allow some room for nuances? Not all British officials hated the Indian natives. There were quite a few Englishmen and Irishmen who were involved in the formation of the Indian National Congress. In fact, numerous Labour Party politicians in the British parliament were supportive of Indian Independence! Seriously, “colonial oppressor vs innocent native” trope has been nauseatingly overused
Guru Dutt’s Pyaasa is not widely-known outside the high-brow literary circles of Calcutta. It’s an arthouse film which is simply not marketable to a mass audience. To watch this movie, I desperately attempted to activate my bohemian, avart-garde hipster self so I could try to enjoy this apparently acclaimed cinematic masterpiece. But alas, I failed.
Pyaasa had a few positive moments. Mohammed Rafi’s playback singing is nothing short of divine. The Urdu lyrics invoked sentimentality as it poignantly captured the hypocrisy of a cruel world driven by greed. The conclusion provides a ironic twist, exposing how we only value people once they turn to dust.
In order for a movie to resonate with an audience, the main character has to have some sort of everyman appeal. That did not happen in Pyaasa. While I can certainly identify with the protagonist’s depression and lack of fulfillment (something we can all relate to), his choice to staying away from his house to wander aimlessly in the streets, rather than assist his brothers in earning extra cash, shows how pretentious he is. Yes, I understand he has a university degree and aspires to write poetry. But in life, sometimes you have to suck it up and lower yourself to menial labor. When he is requested by the publication company to write happy poem, because that is currently in demand, the protagonist deludes himself in ‘taking the high road’, forgetting that money doesn’t come from trees.
7) Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayange
They should call this movie ‘Bollywood Movie’, because this film might as well be a parody of every Hindi movie ever released. It’s a story about an London-based NRI storekeeper, Baldev Singh Chaudhary, who bashes his adopted country (despite consciously choosing to live there) and longs for his native Punjab (which he left by his own accord). He has a wife, who bows to every word of her pati parmeshwar, and two children, Simran, who has wet dreams about her lover despite never meeting him, and Chukti, who just thinks she’s better than everyone.
Baldev, in sanskari pride, raised his children with outdated, regressive values to prevent them from being polluted by the heathen West (typical NRI mentality). Simran wants to take a trip around Europe and she wins her father’s permission by pretending to be a good sanskari Indian girl. During her trip, she meets Raj Malhotra, a college failure, who, like every desperate Indian boy, attempts to woo Simran by relentlessly stalking her. Somehow, Simran caves in, because like most Indian girls, she has no self-esteem. And they fall in love.
Baldev adamantly disapproves of Raj. He arranges his daughter’s marriage to an equally stalkerish boy who is the son of his beloved friend, because children are commodities to be traded between close companions. Stuff happens. There’s a fight scene, after which, Raj is forced to live and never see Simran. Then, at the last moment in the train station, Baldev releases Simran’s hand (while appearing to have a stroke) and utters those famous words “Ja Beta Ja. Ja apne zindagi!”. Then the instrumental theme to “Tujhe Dekha Ko Yeh Jana Sanam” ensues. Yeah, that’s the entire story. SMH.
6) Kuch Kuch Hota Hai
Kuch Kuch Hota Hai was a milestone in Hindi cinema. The film is the directoral debut of Karan Johar, who would proceed to infect the Hindi film industry with films burdened with his atrocious sense of direction, poorly written screenplays, romantic cliches and offensive stereotypes.
Kuch Kuch Hota Hai stars Shahrukh Khan as Rahul, who plays a wannabe college casanova despite being thirty-three years old. Kajol plays Anjali, Rahul’s tomboy BFF. Suddenly a new girl emerges in the college scene. She is Tina, the principal’s daughter played by Rani Mukherji, who, for some insane reason, left London to finish her studies as her father’s third-rate Indian institution. Consequently, a ‘Betty and Veronica’ situation ensues and since Rahul is not Muslim, he has to choose between Tina and Anjali. Tina is picked and Anjali forgoes her entire future and leaves college. Forever.
Rahul and Tina get married. Tina becomes pregnant despite her awareness of the complications of her pregnancy that would result in her death. Tina takes the logical approach and continues her pregnancy, relinquishing her life while leaving Rahul alone with a daughter to raise. Tina leaves one final wish for Rahul: to name their daughter, Anjali. Yes, I’m serious….
Tina also leaves a series of posthumous letters for her daughter. The last letter, given on Little Anjali’s 7th birthday, elaborates on how Tina deceptively won Rahul’s heart, knowing Rahul was destined to be with (grown-up) Anjali.
Tina assigns Little Anjali the task of uniting her father with grown-up Anjali, as all 7-year-olds are expected to do.
So, our kid hero Anjali, with the assistance of her mute sidekick, Baby Manmohan Singh,
embarks on her mission to fulfill her mother’s dying wish. Oh, and our favorite Arnold Schwarzenegger wannabe/hit-and-run driver makes a cameo. Yes…him!…you know…the Other Khan!
5) My Name is Khan
Another Karan Johar film. And this one also stars Shahrukh Khan and Kajol! Shahrukh Khan portrays (very poorly) an autistic man named Rizwan Khan, who, apparently like all people with his disorder, was born with the savant intelligence of Rainman and the charming innocence of Forrest Gump. He meets Mandira, portrayed by Kajol, a sexy MILF who’s single, to Rizwan’s delight. They get married and Mandira and her son adopts Rizwan’s last name. The unfortunate events of September 11th spark a sea of anti-Muslim rage across the country.
Despite the risk of losing their jobs on grounds of religious discrimination, school teachers teach their students that Islam is a violent religion and Muslims are to be feared! Mandira’s son, Sameer, is assaulted as a consequence of his adopted last name and consequently passes away. The police assure the emotionally-volatile Mandira that her son’s death was a result of a hate crime, despite being given no evidence at this point of the movie. Mandira flies into a fury, asserting to Rizwan that if she ‘had married a Khanna instead of a Khan”, her son would be alive. She sarcastically challenges Rizwan to prove that not all Khans are terrorists.
Rizwan, whose understanding of sarcasm is on par with Sheldon Cooper, accepts her challenge and proceeds with a series of advantages, including spending a night in a shack with an overweight Black woman who looks like Aunt Jemina. Because a film that attempts to eradicates false stereotypes of one group of people should, paradoxically, promote them if they involve a different group of people.
4) Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham
Yet another Karan Johar movie! Also starring Shahrukh Khan and Kajol! Seriously bro!
But Amitabh Bachchan is in the house! He portrays the role of Yashvardhan, the patriarch of the prestigious Raichand clan. He resides with his doting wife and two sons, Rahul and Rohan, in Hogwarts which, according to the film, is apparently in Delhi. Rahul is the grown-up adopted eldest son. While Rohan is spoiled brat who had one too many ladoos. Rahul, being the romantic that he is, manages to woo Anjali, a working class Punjabi resident of Chandni Chowk, portrayed by Kajol.
Fun Fact: Harry Potter’s real name is Hari Putar
In case you can’t tell, the first half of this film is an unsubtle reference to Johar’s Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. Seriously bro? And in case the audience hasn’t been insulted enough, Shahrukh’s character is arranged to be married to Naina, who is played by none other than….you guessed it….Rani Mukherji!! And it doesn’t help that Bachchan’s character is constantly hitting on Rani Mukerji. Like creepy much???
Anyway, Shahrukh marries Kajol. Amitabh kicks them both out. And the fat kid grows up to be Hrikrik Roshan, which is a pretty remarkable deal if you ignore the sixth finger on his left hand. In the second half the film, Roshan initiates a quest to unite the family. During his journey, he meets Pooja, his childhood friend, who is now a total skank played by Kareena Kapoor. The rest of the film is quite a head-smacking ride so enjoy!
3) Rang De Basanti
Six years before the premiere of Satyamev Jayate and Aamir Khan is still cultivating his socially-conscious activist persona. In 2006, a new generation took the world by storm: The Millenials. As Millennials, we perceive ourselves to be social activists and we need movies that cater to our need for controversial hot topics and current issues. So, here’s Rang De Basanti!
Rang De Basanti opens with a British filmmaker named Sue who travels to India to make a documentary concerning the revolutionaries, led by ‘Shahid’ Bhagat Singh, who, according to her grandfather who served as a jailer for the Imperial Police in colonial India, retained smiles on their faces while hanging from the gallows. After being eve-teased by thirsty locals, Sue meets with her friend Sona at the University of Delhi, who introduces four of her male friends, suitable to play the roles of the revolutionaries.
Let’s take a minute to talk about ‘Shahid’ Bhagat Singh. Although he is hailed as a ‘youth icon’, Bhagat Singh was nothing more than a violently-prone moron who should be ridiculed for his stupidity. In an attempt to avenge the death of radical freedom fighter, Lala Lajput Rai, Bhagat Singh and his companions resolved to assassinate James Scott, the superintendent of police. Instead, they unintentionally killed John Saunders, the assistent superintendent because all White men look alike. Bhagat Singh actually didn’t witness the blows endured by Lala Lajput Rai but he sought revenge anyway. And he didn’t regret killing the wrong person because its all the same cause, comrade.
This film glorifies violence. This movie misleads impressionable young viewers that in order to change the system, you have to throw rocks at the establishment! India is a democracy. A dysfunctional democracy…but a democracy nevertheless. You want to change the system? You want to change the country? Then why don’t you invest more time in studying and earn a Law degree. Join the bar and open your own law practice. Or better yet, apply for a position in the Indian Administrative Services (which would definitely require more studying). Maybe run as an MP and join the Parliament. And use your influence to enact laws that would improve the country. That’s what those idiots in that movie should have done.
2) 3 Idiot
I don’t disapprove of the message promoted by 3 Idiots. After all, one should pursue a
degree based on personal ambition rather than parental/societal expectations. And yes, the hyper competitiveness in Indian universities is counterproductive, instigating high rates of suicides in hostels.
It’s one thing to have a strong message. However, there is the matter of delivering that message. From the contrived romantic subplot between Rancho and Pia to that horrendous baby delivery with a vacuum cleaner scene, the direction was atrocious. The film’s overreliance on Aamir Khan’s stardom inhibited basic character development. There was no chemistry between any of the leading players. The dialogues were pretentious and sanctimonious. The overall flow of the plot was extremely awkward. So in short, good message, bad movie
My criticism of 3 Idiots could be applied to PK. It’s refreshing to see Indian filmmakers brave enough to tackle a topic held dear by the majority of their country’s population. In a nation contaminated with opportunistic ‘babas’, superficial rituals, regressive caste trends, and beef bans, rationalism and freethought should definitely be promoted in India
And what better way to do so than through cinema?
Unfortunately, everything about this particular movie was cringeworthy at best. Examples of poor filmmaking include the laughable depiction of an incoming spaceship (apparently, Hindi movies are still 50 years behind in the Sci-Fi department), a contrived and nauseatingly cliched romantic subplot, Aamir Khan bulging eyes (because apparently that’s an accurate portrayal of an alien), and an excessive amount of unnecessary low-brow, potty humor.
Ever since Rajkumar Hirani started collaborating with Aamir Khan, his movies have become intolerably preachy. Let’s compare 3 Idiots and PK with the Munna Bhai series. Munna Bhai wasn’t exactly what you would call ‘high-brow’. In fact, two films consisted of immature slapstick comedic gags. But unlike PK and 3 Idiots, those films didn’t take themselves seriously. They didn’t scream the message at the audience, delivering it in most sanctimonious manner. The flow of the screenplay worked its way towards the moral of the story, rather than have Aamir Khan preach from the pulpit every fifteen minutes!!
And what exactly was the message in PK? For a preachy film, its sermon was more incoherent than a Pat Robertson’s anecdotes! It disparages religion yet strongly affirms the existence of God based on…….?
Obviously the filmmaker need something to appeal to the ever-growing ‘spiritual but not religious’ (whatever the fuck that means) millennial base.