Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire: Life's like a game show

Dr. Gulab Jamun
Bollywood Man Film Reviewer

I like the way "Slumdog Millionaire" segregates people by their reaction to the film. White liberals feel good about themselves and life in general because it has a happy ending and makes them feel they know about how awful the slums of a foreign nation are (see "Barack Obama Effect"). Then there are the diaspora Indians who liked it, but laugh at its unrealistic look at slums and the mere happenstance of the plot twists of the climax. Then there are real Indians living in India who could care less and seem offended by this film. And, there are the Indians, who are in the business of promotion and filmmaking in India, who LOVE it because it could mean a way out for them and a shot at Hollywood films. 

Finally, there was me, Dr. Gulab Jamun - normal, everyday, white Indian male - who liked it as an afternoon diversion, but an Academy Award winner? This is probably the worst Best Film winner the Oscars have ever celebrated.

Why? Because of what the film isn't. Over the decades plenty of great Indian filmmakers (Mira Nair, Deepa Mehta...etc) have made realistic films about their country. Did they win Oscars? No. "Salaam Bombay"? "Monsoon Wedding"? "Earth"? "Fire"? "Water"? All superior products from Indians that were ignored and even banned from the South Asian country. Now comes a white Scottish director and screenwriter who adapt a mediocre novel into a movie known as "Slumdog Millionaire." Accolades all around. Never seen so much backslapping and high-fives.

I could have written a funny post about this film. But I won't. The reaction to "Slumdog" by Westerners and its acceptance of its title is racist. I've seen better Bollywood films than this and that's the reality. A well manicured and dressed chai wallah who has the run of a call facility? A slum girl becoming a glamorous girlfriend of a don? Clean Mumbai slums? Sheesh, I would have never have believed it had I watched it. I wonder why it takes a white man in the instances of "Gandhi" and this to get accolades on Indian subject matter in Hollywood? And don't forget "A Passage to India" - another Western product - that even had a white actor playing an Indian brahmin. Nice. Can you imagine a white actor playing MLK? Hell nah.

In short, "Slumdog Millionaire" is a rip off of many Bollywood films and seems new to Hollywood because quite frankly it doesn't watch South Asian films. It only pays attention long enough to steal its fashion - right Gwen Stefani? For a time pass this film is fine, even entertaining, Dev Patel is rocking, but as an award winner? It's the worst I've seen since "Juno" and "Crash."

"Slumdog Millionaire"
Starring: Dev Patel, Anil Kapoor and some street kids Danny Boyle exploited.
Rating: 5 out of 10.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

De Taali: Great fun despite typical conservative Indian attire of actors

Dr. Gulab Jamun
Bollywood Man Film Reviewer

Like eating honey from a beehive on a warm summer morning or licking ice cream in the back of my grandfather's horse-drawn hay trailer or blasting napalm down my camouflage shorts, comes a film equally as delightful as these things - "De Taali." I must admit I was doubtful that I'd enjoy this film about three friends who must rescue one of their own from the clutches of a devious woman. I thought this would be a film full of comedic nonsense along the lines of South Indian films you find while waiting in line at the local bazaar - slapstick comedy aimed at the groinage region.

But "De Taali" (It means: High Five) may have started along that line but after a few shots of Ayesha Takia's heart-warming brown eyes and Aftab Shivdasani's smile, I was hooked. The tight jeans, the lipsticked pouty lips, the gorgeous soft wheatish body and deep chocolate black hair caused me to forget I was married with five children and made me feel I was 44 and in the Army again. Oh and Ayesha Takia looked marvelous too.

"De Taali" is a funny movie because it uses very skillful actors to not push the comedy too much. It's led by very funny situations that take place in Singapore, which is filmed beautifully by the director whose name I'm unable to spell with any sort of confidence. There is a third actor who essentially drives the story but has a name that requires four lines of my blog so I'll just leave that out, too. The music is rocking as well and the dance numbers are choreographed with such skill and energy that I felt I was in a Singapore disco rather than in my partially converted garage/basement/nuclear bomb shelter. I would also commend the choreographer but her name appears it could contain a swear word in Urdu so I'll just leave it out as well. Just to be safe, yah know.

"De Taali" is only 2 hours and 21 minutes and really is a good time. Yeah, you get some really stupid comedy such as a bit where an uncle tries to train a golden retriever to love him but as we all know that is unrealistic - Indian uncles can't be loved...ever. I think its a law. Anyway, please go rent "De Taali", you'll be glad you did because Ayesha and Aftab are wonderful. And to simply have a chance to catch sight of a scantily clad, dripping moist rock hard body with bulging muscles gyrating to the most awesome Hindi tunes is motivation enough. Oh and Aftab Shivdasani looks good too.

"De Taali"
Starring: Ayesha Takia, Aftab Shivdasani and a few people with big names that I couldn't spell if my life depended on it.
Rating: 8 out of 10.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Jodhaa Akbar: A lesson in Armor-getten

Dr. Gulab Jamun,
Bollywood Man Film Reviewer

I watched, I cried (because it's run time is listed as 4 hours) and I attempted to slit my wrists with the Netflix DVD after the fifth CG fight in the Rajasthan desert in the first half hour of "Jodhaa Akbar." To say the least, the film "Jodhaa Akbar," starring Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Rai-Khan-Oberoi-Bachchan, was a lesson of what happens when a Bollywood filmmaker lets one legendary effort go to his head.
Director Ashutosh Gowariker tries to give us "Lagaan" all over again, which he also directed to great success with the help of an evil little elf (Google "Aamir Khan"). In that inspiring effort detailing one village's remarkable quest to beat the Colonial British at a game of cricket, we watched a wonderful story full of history, drama and colorful dance. So you think it would be a good idea for Mr. Gowariker to revisit this theme and do something historical. He does, but instead of another "Lagaan" we get something more like "Lagaan II: The Attack of the 4-Hour Film."

Amazingly, "Jodhaa Akbar" doesn't mean "ripping off my own source material," but is the name of our romantically-linked protagonists. Could have fooled me since the beginning starts just like Lagaan, narrated by the same man - Amitabh Bachchan - and stars at least half of the cast of "Lagaan." The Mughals have invaded and young Hrithik is heir to the kingdom his troops capture. Rajput kings fall one after another until one dares to refuse and instead says, "Hey, lets rule together, mmkay? I'll give you my sword-wielding, former Miss World daughter as an enticement!" Hrithik accepts, making sure his muscles bulge through the iron mesh armor to show his pleasure.

I would reveal more about the movie but after the fifth or sixth CGed battle sequence that apparently included thousands of warriors (the director actually used 20 street peddlars and five overly demonstrative theater actors from Mumbai and used a computer to replicate them). But the special effects creating the illusion fell short each time. By the time Aishwarya comes on screen to glare and pray and whatever she does else, I had had it. 35 minutes in I turned it off. It was the time of the big dramatic turn where Aishwraya said she wouldn't marry Hrithik unless he accepted her Hindu religion. Being a Mughal in the film, he was Muslim. After ten minutes of him deciding, he goes and says to the gathered public he will accept her, even though she is Hindu and may try to partition him into little pieces.

Great. Meanwhile I had fallen asleep on the floor, dreaming about green horned trolls trying to snatch my money belt in a Mysore temple. Plus, in that first 35 minutes there are no song and dance numbers, nothing to overcome the mediocrity of the filmmaking. In short, I decided that it wouldn't be worth watching both DVDs (they couldn't put the entire 4 hours on one DVD!) and turned it off so I could watch a rerun of "The Mentalist."

"Jodhaa Akbar"
Starring: Aishwarya Rai-Khan-Oberoi-Bachchan, Hrithik Roshan and five guys from "Lagaan."
Rating: 2 out of 10.

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Dear earthly peoples and Indians,

Welcome to the leading Bollywood and Indian film review blog on the Internet and the Web. Dr. Gulab Jamun strives to review the best in Indian entertainment so that you may make an informed decision about what to do with your four hours of spare time. Plus, Jamun's past dancing career helps him better critique whether the viewer is getting their money's worth from the various dance numbers often found in Bollywood cinema. Together with his inate knowledge of Indian life and his naach abilities, Dr. Gulab Jamun, or better known to the Indian public as "Bollywood Man," will give the absolute best Bollywood reviews ever generated by a partially employed PHD physicist from Agoura Hills with three known mental diseases.

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