MICHAEL DEQUINA’S BOLLYWOOD STARTER-KIT (2/2)

4) DIL CHAHTA HAI (The Heart Desires)
2001, directed by Farhan Akhtar, starring Aamir Khan, Akshaye Khanna, Saif Ali Khan, Preity Zinta

Along with “Lagaan” this was considered the other revolutionary film of 2001, and also coincidentally (or not?) stars Aamir Khan. This was the debut film of writer-director Farhan Akhtar, a twenty something at the time (actually, I think he still is), and he was crowned the big new hope as the film became a sensation. Other familiar faces here are Preity and Saif. This film has a clear inspiration in “Swingers”, and while remakes/ripoffs of Hollywood films are common in B’wood, this one stands out in that it isn’t a complete remake/ripoff more than taking some inspiration and doing its own thing with it. Unlike “Swingers”, this follows three guys; Aamir has the Vince/Trent role, while Favs/Mike is split into his more romantic side (Akshaye) and the goofy/pathetic side (Saif). But, as I said, it’s clearly its own thing aside from some character parallels. Such a portrait of young, urban young men in India was quite revolutionary for B’wood, and this film became a sensation, so much that Aamir’s look in the film became quite the in thing, not unlike, say, Jennifer Aniston’s original Rachel haircut.

I guess I can see the “Swingers” thing, with the macho loudmouth and his sensitive/pathetic friend(s) going to clubs and stuff, but as Mike mentions, the resemblances don’t go much further than that. In any case, this is a fun male bonding comedy, with all three actors proving to be charismatic both on their own and when interacting together. The movie also dips into melodrama, notably in the subplot about a woman who hasn’t seen her daughter in 5 years because her ex-husband thinks she’s alcoholic. I’m still enamoured of Indian girls in general, Preity Zinta in particular, and the songs are always welcomed, from the number in the club (a blend of electro, Missy Elliot music videos and the usual B’wood sauce) to Aamir and Preity’s lovely duet through Sydney.

6) MAIN HOON NA (I’m Here Now)
2004, directed by Farah Khan, starring Shahrukh Khan, Suniel Shetty, Sushmita Sen, Amrita Rao, Zayed Khan

You’re an action guy, so I figure I should throw in some B’wood action, heh. I would’ve included the rather fun and *very* faithful 2002 Reservoir Dogs remake Kaante in this slot, but lingering North American home video distribution rights issues have held up its formal DVD release here. Hindi action sequences are generally pretty shitty and laughable, but the set pieces here are very well-done. The director here is Farah Khan, and this is her first directing venture after a long, successful career as a choreographer (she choreographed most of the films here, including this one, and she choreographed that weak Reese Witherspoon dance in Vanity Fair). While largely an action film, this is another classic masala as it also has a lot of broad comedy, melodrama, and music, but one thing that sets this film apart is that all the excesses are done with a knowing tongue-in-cheek; it’s very self-aware excess. Yes, Shahrukh again, but it’s a bit surprising to see him fit so well as guns-blazing action dude. Suniel Shetty, who plays the villain here, is actually one of B’wood’s top action heroes. Leading lady Sushmita Sen was Miss Universe 1994, and the younger leading lady Amrita Rao is a relative newcomer. The one huge blight on this film for me is Zayed Khan, who’s Hrithik Roshan’s real-life brother-in-law. That’s about the only relation as he has none of Hrithik’s ability as an actor and most certainly as a dancer (his intro dance number here is pretty pathetic)–he and Kareena Kapoor need to co-star together frequently, so I can avoid them both easily, heh…

I had been putting off watching this last of Mike’s Starter-Kit for a while when I found out that it would play at Montréal’s Festival du Nouveau Cinéma. I jumped at the opportunity to have my first big screen, packed house Bollywood experience and man, was it worth it! No doubt about it, I’m a fan, these movies are just too fun. A picture like “”Main Hoon Na”” plays to practically all of my cinematic fetishes: spectacular musical numbers, over the top action scenes à la John Woo (white doves included), gorgeous actresses, tearjerking drama, hilarious college comedy… Shahrukh is a film god, Sushmita and Amrita are endlessly adorable and I found Zayed pretty funny – he’s like a Hindi Brice de Nice!

*****
You can read Michael Dequina at The Movie Report/Mr. Brown’s Movie Site