Sunday, January 8, 2012

more movies, more actors

I started watching Agneepath yesterday, although the subtitles got screwed up in the middle and I wasn't able to finish.  (I've gotten a second copy which I hope to be able to finish.)  There's a remake opening soon, and I thought I would watch the original Amitabh Bachchan version first.

Somehow, I was under the impression that this was one of those films based on Hindi myth, and I'm not sure why.  It might have been the promo snippets I saw from the newer film that suggested it, or maybe the title.  But it's far from that.  It seems to be one of those Indian films that doesn't cop to being a remake or "inspired by," but is in fact...well, basically, it borrows really heavily from Scarface.  Like Sarkar, Bachchan is made up to resemble Al Pacino in a big way, and wears a lot of white suits.  He's a gangster, his mother doesn't approve, and it looks as if his pal has taken a shine to his sister, apart from the fact that the gangster, Vijay, starts off working for four established gangsters and then takes over their business.

The good surprise in this movie (so far) was Mithun Chakraborty as the pal, Krishnan.  Like Manny in Scarface, Krishnan is a less sophisticated foil to the lead.  This is where my knowledge of India fails me somewhat, but he seems to be identified as a "southerner," which I'm sensing is something like the way American southerners were once stereotyped: good-natured, non-urban, old-fashioned.  But Chakraborty takes the role and runs with it.  The movie is most not musical, but more than an hour into it, there's a scene where Krishnan shows up at a dance to check on Vijay's sister, and gets himself a nice little dance number.  It's like being in another movie for a little while.  In this scene, Krishnan comes into the "disco" party, where the young people make fun of him, until he shows them his "coconut disco." The character announces himself over and over as having a master's degree but working as a coconut "wallah" (vendor).  I have no idea why they're disco dancing in 1990, unless the film is set earlier and I missed those cues.

The actor has had a very long career, and I'm interested in seeing more of his work.

And speaking of remakes...there was an exchange on Twitter yesterday between Ram Gopal Varma and Amitabh Bachchan in Hindi, which seemed to have something to do with remakes and flops and American film. One of my mutual followers there was nice enough to translate for me. It's kind of thrilling to be privy to that sort of thing.  RGV was basically saying that Indian remakes of American movies are never as good as the originals, and that America makes the best original movies.  Amitabh replied that one never hears about American flops, and besides, what about films like Sarkar and Sholay?  (Sarkar is the Godfather-inspired film that RGV directed himself, and Sholay, Bachchan's big breakthrough film, was a remake of The Magnificant Seven, which itself was a remake of The Seven Samurai.)

RGV may have been taking a swipe at Players, Abhishek Bachchan's just-released movie, which is a remake of The Italian Job and opened to lukewarm reviews.  That couldn't have pleased Big B too much; he's like a mother bear protecting a cub when it comes to Abhishek.  On Friday, he retweeted every single positive thing about Players, giving me the brief impression that it was something of a hit.

I get two TV programs a week here that deal with Indian movies:  "Showbiz India" and "Namaste America."  They're basically combinations of  movie-star gossip and promotions of big commercial films (although "Namaste America" usually has a segment of political news as well).  As I've watched the shows over the weeks, the films promoted went this way:  Desi Boys, The Ladies vs. Ricky Bahl, Don 2, Players.  The new Agneepath (which Hrithik Roshan) seems to be next on the list.  It was on one of these shows yesterday that I learned Players was not all that well-regarded.  One of the shows interviews customers leaving the theater, and even though half are in Hindi, it's pretty easy to tell when someone doesn't like a movie.  No one seemed to like the music.

For the most part, Amitabh's fans drink the kool-aid when it comes to Abhishek.  (For my non-American friends:  "drink the kool-aid" means to blindly follow.  It comes from an incident in the 1980s where an American cult leader's followers committed mass suicide by drinking a poisoned soft drink similar to "Kool-Aid.")  One member of the EF was brave enough to report that she didn't much care for Players, but that was an exception.

A lot of the newer films don't excite me that much; they're geared to a younger set of viewers, with younger actors, and more Western dress, music, and themes.  I can watch American romantic comedies and American Idol if that's what I want.  I like Indian movies to be Indian...hate to see them spoiled by the worst of the west.

One other thing from yesterday's show-biz shows.  They showed Bachchan at a promotion for a new book by Anupam Kher.  Kher is kind of an interesting guy; there isn't that much info on IMDB or Wikipedia, but he seems to be something of a renaissance man, a writer, activist, and theater actor as well as a long-time character actor in Indian film (he's also done a little crossing over into Western films like Bend it Like Beckham and the Ang Lee film Lust, Caution).  He's also married to the actress Kiron Kher, who played opposite an older Amitabh Bachchan in Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna and Veer-Zaara, but was something of a bombshell as a younger woman.  She's still quite lovely.

I swear there was something on my mind besides Indian film, but I have no idea what it was.

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