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Geek. Dilettante. Over-analyzer of Hindi movies. World music addict & DJ. Anthropologist of enthusiasms. Other stuff.
Interests: At the moment: India and Hindi films, languages and linguistics, world music, world history, health and fitness
Recent Activity
Dir. Sriram Raghavan I've watched a lot of movies lately but haven't put together a post on one in a while. I'll fix that sooner or later. In the meantime, here is another chat between me and Beth about a... Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at Filmi Geek
Great conversation, both of you - thanks very much. Over the years of writing Filmi Geek I've had lots of cordial disagreement, which I always appreciate and often learn from. The less cordial type tends to center around unspecified accusations of "ignorance". It's not explicitly tied to my foreignness although I can't imagine that this isn't sometimes a factor. On the surface, though, it just seems to stem from having less than ecstatically positive things to say about something that someone else cherishes, like the films of Rajesh Khanna. I've also been lucky to have relatively little of the particular sort of violent expression of anger that tends to be addressed at women who have the nerve to express any opinion at all - I can only think of one or two times that the comments veered in the direction of sexual violence. The only times I can think of when criticism has explicitly addressed my foreignness are when I talk about movies that address political subjects. There is a particularly weird exchange in the comments on my Garam Hawa post where I am accused of being overly sympathetic to Muslims; the idea is more or less that as a foreigner I lack the necessary perspective to see how Muslims are ruining India. The commenter also seemed to think that westerners in general are too sympathetic to Muslim interests, which made me discount pretty much everything he says because he obviously comes from an alternate universe in which majority populations in western nations do not continually persecute Muslims, and western powers are not killing Muslims with drone strikes on a pretty daily basis. Come to think of it, his universe sounds like a nice place to live. The other time my foreignness comes up in comments is when I defend films made largely for Western audiences, like those of Deepa Mehta. There is a certain subset of folks who don't see room for any nuance there; Mehta is pandering and exploiting western stereotypes of India and therefore there can be absolutely no artistic value in her work whatsoever. And if I try to highlight any nuance, I'm a snookered foreigner who doesn't know what I'm talking about. I've also been accused of cultural misappropriation, but only once (that is, only once that I know about), and that wasn't a commenter on Filmi Geek.
Toggle Commented 6 days ago on The Preposterous Lady Carla at Filmi Geek
Last week marked 40 years since Sholay was unleashed on the world. I wanted to write something to mark the occasion, but it wasn't easy to think of something that I, a novice, could say about Sholay that hadn't already... Continue reading
Posted 7 days ago at Filmi Geek
Aw, thanks for asking, Dipika. I'm afraid I missed it already - an acquaintance had invited me to go last weekend but I wasn't able to fit it in. If I get a chance to see it in the future, I will definitely let you know. :)
I have not seen enough of these movies, clearly. Amazingly I have not watched any of those you mention besides Gaddaar (which I love), although I am a big big fan of Vijay Anand so I know what you mean there. I clearly have my watching cut out for me. I enjoyed Jugnu thoroughly and if there's more and even better in the genre I'd best get right on it!
Toggle Commented Aug 7, 2015 on Jugnu (1973) at Filmi Geek
That's really interesting - I'd love to know more about its impact on young people at the time. I watch it as an adult, 40 years later (OMG) and from a different culture, where talking about sexuality and art that talks about sexuality is not such an unusual thing.
Toggle Commented Aug 7, 2015 on Julie (1975) at Filmi Geek
There is clearly a lot of Godfather-referencing going on. I pretty much agree with your assessment - parts of it work really well, and I appreciate that Kashyap is trying to DO something, but it doesn't really end up being a great experience to watch it.
I can't even imagine taking it seriously. Who has done this? Why would anyone do this?
Toggle Commented Aug 7, 2015 on Bajrangi Bhaijaan (2015) at Filmi Geek
Dir. Anurag Kashyap With Anurag Kashyap's magnum opus recently becoming available on various streaming services in the US, I sat down to watch it with Beth as my teddy bear in case the violence got to be too much. As... Continue reading
Posted Jul 31, 2015 at Filmi Geek
Oh and one more thing: Mr Misra's proposition occurs, I believe, after Julie's return from her exile - that is, after she has given birth. The idea here is that Julie retains her sense of body autonomy even after this experience, and doesn't buy into any of the "damaged goods" or "if she puts out for one guy, she's fair game for anyone" notions that are part of the dominant culture. Julie is one self-actuated young woman.
Toggle Commented Jul 29, 2015 on Julie (1975) at Filmi Geek
The more I think about this movie, the richer it gets. I really, really like this about Julie - she retains her bodily autonomy, and understands fully that consent is hers to give and that is the end of it. She is not afraid to stand up to the men who ogle and leer and grope at her. She gives Rajendranath the grocer what for, and doesn't Mr Misra look stunned after the verbal smackdown she gives him? Shashi is more of a regular horny guy (again, I am fascinated by the girlie magazines left open on his bed - there are clear shots of topless women visible in the frame). His persuasion of Julie is a hard sell (snort) but one doesn't have the sense he'd get forceful if she didn't give in. And he actually knows her, and likes her, as a person. The result is a strong impression that Julie has sex with him because she WANTS to, not because she feels she owes it to him, and not even just to please him. I feel a little sorry for Richie, because Julie does seem to take advantage of him a little bit. Not that the motorcycle rides entitle him to anything, of course, and she is quite clear about that, so there's no leading-on going on. It's more that Richie isn't a bad guy. Sometimes, the person you like doesn't like you back and there's nothing you can do about it; this is a pain nearly all of us have suffered, and so it makes Richie fairly easy to sympathize with.
Toggle Commented Jul 29, 2015 on Julie (1975) at Filmi Geek
Dir. K.S. Sethumadhavan Stories about minority communities can be engaging, especially when told with delicacy. Older movies like Pestonjee, about the grim, lonely side of life in a Parsi community, or the much lighter Baton Baton Mein's peek into a... Continue reading
Posted Jul 25, 2015 at Filmi Geek
Yipes - Zinta, I just poked around your blog and see that you are in Kathmandu. I do hope all is well with you and your family. If you get the opportunity to watch some movies to take your mind off some dreadfully difficult reality, OK Kanmani is a really nice place to start. So lovely. Piku is really wonderful as well. Best wishes. <3
Thank you! I only just learned that there is a real Chand Nawab. I'm both stunned and delighted. For some reason I had trouble with this review, and after several cuts and rewrites, some of the stuff I thought I would mention didn't make it in there. I saw the film at a pretty full cinema as well, and I enjoyed the audiences reactions. In particular, Salman Khan of course got himself a cheer, when the corner of his face peeks out of the crowd in the beginning of "Selfie le le re". But Nawazuddin Siddiqui's entrance got almost as big a cheer as Bhai's. :)
Toggle Commented Jul 21, 2015 on Bajrangi Bhaijaan (2015) at Filmi Geek
You know, Arvind ji, I have long thought I ought to give Shaan another look. I think I just appreciate masala a lot more now than I did then. Maybe I'd still find it entertaining but not on the level of, say, Parvarish or Naseeb. Your comment about Shatrugan Sinha intrigues me too. I definitely didn't appreciate him then, but I do now - he's so much more than a standard-issue villain. He so often plays characters with shades of grey to them. I really like that about him.
Toggle Commented Jul 21, 2015 on Shaan (1980) at Filmi Geek
Not as long as Sec.377 is in force, that's for sure. I really don't blame anyone in a gay or lesbian relationship in India for being discreet about it. The social cost of coming out is still very, very high. No one should feel compelled to be a martyr to the cause of visibility. It's a very personal decision. When I was a reckless teenager, more than 25 years ago, I got verbally harassed for kissing my girlfriend in Central Park (NYC). We were rather lucky we got no worse than that, and outside of a few cities, at that time we probably could have counted on something worse. It would be hard to find any place in India that is as accepting of lesbians as NYC was even back then.
Toggle Commented Jul 21, 2015 on Dil Dhadakne Do (2015) at Filmi Geek
Dir. Kabir Khan Salman Khan is certainly a subject of much controversy, what with blackbuck hunting, deadly driving, and rumored physical abuse of former lovers. But he is also a sort of Teflon superstar; the controversies don't stick, at least... Continue reading
Posted Jul 20, 2015 at Filmi Geek
Dir. S.S. Rajamouli When I first started watching Hindi movies, ten years ago, it took me a while to adjust to its storytelling idioms. Its styles, archetypes, and antecedents were all unfamiliar to me. With respect to the masala films... Continue reading
Posted Jul 18, 2015 at Filmi Geek
जुगनू Dir. Pramod Chakravorty Jugnu is a super-satisfying masala film built around a title character who is part Batman, part Robin Hood. Batman, because Ashok Roy (Dharmendra) is a wealthy, respected member of his community who moonlights as a disguise-wearing... Continue reading
Posted Jun 28, 2015 at Filmi Geek
Genius! Sev you flatter me. (Don't stop though.) Yeah, when Farhan Akktar began acting, I really really really wanted to like him, out of respect for Javed sahib I suppose. And yet each time I watch him in a movie, he annoys me more. He just seems so self-satisfied. As for Ranbir Kapoor - I do think he's massively talented and to his credit I heard him say some humble things about having three flops in a row with Bombay Velvet. But still, a Kapoor scion doesn't need people talking him up. Ranveer Singh is that rare (but increasingly less rare, happily) outsider, and it's good to see his talent not only recognized, but widely thought to be carrying this film.
Toggle Commented Jun 16, 2015 on Dil Dhadakne Do (2015) at Filmi Geek
Hello Singh. :) This movie has come up in comments before - perhaps it was you who mentioned it! I would love to watch it, as it sounds very interesting. But at the moment I do not have access to it with subtitles. Watching movies without subtitles is very challenging and frustrating work for me; it makes me feel annoyed and upset at how little of spoken Hindi I understand even after years of study. I worry too that I would not be able to write meaningfully about a film of any depth that I watched without subtitles. So I am afraid Achanak will have to wait, for now ...
Toggle Commented Jun 16, 2015 on OK Kanmani (2015) at Filmi Geek
दिल धड़कने दो Dir. Zoya Akhtar Films about rich folks are nothing new in Hindi films. For decades, from Tere Ghar ke Samne to Waqt to Hum Saath Saath Hain, the movies have offered stories about universal emotions - such... Continue reading
Posted Jun 6, 2015 at Filmi Geek
Abhishek, my friend, I never thought I would see the day when you and I would come this close to agreeing on a movie. On biryani, sure - but on a movie? Never.
Toggle Commented Jun 6, 2015 on Revolver Rani (2014) at Filmi Geek
Dir. Sai Kabir The film world is all abuzz with praise for Kangana Ranaut's work in Tanu Weds Manu Returns, and when I wrote about that movie I added to the chorus, even though I'm not in love with the... Continue reading
Posted Jun 1, 2015 at Filmi Geek
Thank you so much for this comment, Hari. The issues you raise are exactly the same issues I grappled with when I first watched this movie, and similar issues have come up in the conversations between me and other commenters on the post since then. I still cannot decide (though I haven't rewatched the film in some time) whether it is meant to be a glorification of or a subversion of the value system you outline. What about Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam? That film, on the same story, was a huge blockbuster. Of course now that I think about it, that was 15 years ago, and with the pace of social change in (urban) India, that's an eternity. So perhaps you are right that a movie on this theme today wouldn't fly, at least with multiplex audiences, without some serious updating. How do you think it fits into the analysis?
Toggle Commented May 29, 2015 on Swami (1977) at Filmi Geek