April 05, 2011

Hello-ji

Yes. I´m still alive. And no, I really haven´t watched Indian films for a while. So posting about it was kind of superfluous. There were mainly two reasons for my return to American and British television as main occupance whenever I have the time:
There are no Indian films in Viennese cinemas anymore. Yes, you get the odd Sholay-KKKG-Water Indian film retrospective but the one cinema who used to show Eros releases turned to Turkish movies apart from the standard western fare, and the tour operator who did those single shows of some films now stays in Germany only. When staying in India in 2008 I went and watched at least 2 films a week at the Satyam. And I found out that watching with a crowd increases the fun tenfold, which makes even mediocre films fun. 
And then right when I came back there were not any films I was willing to shell out $20+ on DVD. We not only do not have Indian films in cinemas here, our Indian grocery stores also only sell pirated DVDs. And I really not want those.
So I stopped and spent my time and money on different things. Doctor Who! Torchwood! Castle! Californication!

But recently I found I missed my Hindi, Tamil and Telugu heroes and heroines and I stumbled upon Wake Up, Sid! on the iTunes Music Store. I took it as a sign, rented it and thus my Bollywood dry spell finally ended last Sunday.

So, will I watch more? Probably. I have some films lying around at home that wait to be watched. Let´s see if I return to writing about them as well. In the meantime you can keep up with what´s going on in my life on my Tumblr or on Twitter.

March 16, 2009

Shashi Week 2009 - Monday

Ja, ja, ja I know I´m a bad girl. I am sorry. But listen. I have been super busy since I returned from India. Too busy even to write about the only two BW films I watched since. Since you´re going to ask anyway. Those two were Gajini, which I liked (but not as much as the Tamil Version) and Billu Barber (which I liked as well, loved even had not SRK´s worn such ├╝berugly clothes. Oh, and yes, the editing sucked. Big time).

But that is past. What brings me out of blog-hibernation is Beth´s wonderful brilliant adorable idea of Shashi Week 2009. Why she came up with it. Read here.

And her wonderful brilliant adorable plan brought me luck already. Apart from the films I will try to (re-)watch this week - Do Aur Do Paanch. Shaan - to celebrate all things Shashi, I found out this morning that the in-flight entertainment program on the Emirates Flight that will transport me to Chennai come Saturday offers Kaala Patthar for my viewing pleasures. Which is fantastic. Because so far I only know the first 30 minutes of it. A few years back I was at a book presentation where they screened it but I could not stay to watch it in full. So. Yay. Finally will get that. Socialist-ish masala drama. With a grubby Shashi (and AB1.0 as crumpety guys bonus)














Kaala Patthar is not the only Shashi film I know only parts of. I have the same problem with Dharmputra. Bought two (legal!) DVDs and both are stuck right at the start of the climax.













A very young Hindu-nationalist Shashi running into the house of (unbeknown to him) his Muslim bearing a flaming torch. And cut. DVD khatm. Not a chance of getting to know what happens next. And NO. Don´t you dare telling me who dies and who lives. I´ll find a DVD that works. One day.

December 11, 2008

Oye Lucky, Lucky d´oh















I really wanted to write something witty and clever about OLLO. Problem is, the Hindi/Punjabi in that film was too much for me. I feel I understood way to little to give an even partly significant opinion.

So I will wait for the DVD release, re-watch it with Subs and get the opportunity to drool about Abhay once more. Don´t get me wrong. I got what the movie is about and I really liked what I saw, but from the reaction of the crowd around me, I just know that I missed out on much cool stuff.










So lets concentrate on what I can say. Loved the camera work and the lighting of the film. As I did the way the story unfolded. The music is cool. And the Set Design. Paresh Rawal is so so good. And then there was Abhay.

I´ve been exposed to quite a lot of Deol in the last weeks due to one of them popping up in every second film that plays on TV here. So I feel I can say with authority that Abay is the best out there. Yes, I can hear the screams of "but Dharam in the 70ies!". Yah yah, ok. That is a valid point but as of today the best Deol at this moment in time is by faaaar Abhay. Bas. Khe dia na. Bas.

PS: PassionForCinema.com has tons of cool stuff on Oye Lucky, Lucky Oye. Here.

November 23, 2008

Dostana. High gloss. Little brain. Bahut mast.



















So there are those two hot Indian ladke in Miami Beach and both are looking for a nice place to stay. The perfect location would be rooms in an apartment owned by this beautiful fashion magazine editor. Only, her auntyji rightfully does not think it to be wise to let two virile guys (one looking like AB2.0 after loosing just the right amount of weight and the other bearing an undeniable resemblance to John - we have a winner in the 6-pack contest - Abraham)











Idea! Since one is a photographer and the other one a nurse, what would be more natural as to pretend to be a gay couple. And by being that posing no danger to the landlady´s honour. So they move in and become the thickest of friends. Until both fall in love with her and the plot somewhat thickens.

Obviously the part with both guys getting more and more entangled in their pretend gayness is very very funny. Yes, of course there are the stereotypes. But hey, those are straight Indian guys pretending to be gay and the film manages to not make a farce of it. The only minus point is guy number 3. Well at least Bobby Deol got rid of his mane a while back but still, it doesn´t gel.











My favorite part? The Kirron Kher bits where a riot.

Oh and btw. Dostana set the bar for the most romantic date. I will only say KKHH. I challenge every guy to top that.

Yuvvraaj - at least it didn´t have a shower scene with Anil













I am utterly confused. It´s a fact. Yuvraaj is a bad movie. Think creepy 90ies bad. But somehow it works. And I don´t have the faintest idea why it does.

The one and only reason for me to make myself brace the rain and watch Yuvraaj yesterday was that I wanted to see how Subash Ghai framed those parts of the story that played in Austria and Czechia (For those interested, except for one tiny piece which might really have been Czechia they shot most scenes in the Tyrol and Salzburg). Cinetirol can be happy. They got a beautifully shot tourism adfilm.
As for the rest of it. Yuvraaj is old school. In a bad sense. Everything people (outside and inside India) make fun about in Bollywood Films is there. Hell, Ghai even used the freaking "thunder" to accent the gravity of what´s happening on screen.

So it took a while to get into it. Mithun helped a bit. As did Zayed who finally looked good again in a film. But a film starting with Katrina stangling her poor chello was not easy to digest. Salman loosing his shirt exactly 15 min into the film did´t help either. The Extras were really really really bad (Bollywood, seriously, you need to get yourself some better white Extras, or at least make them stop looking straight into the camera or at the AD because they have no idea what to do and what not) The costumes will feed Bollywoodfugly for months. Don´t forget Filmi physics like hurricane-like winds in rooms but not even one moving hair when driving an open convertible at 60mph.












As for the story. Been there. Done that. About 1.23.042 times. Three brothers. Not on speaking term. A reluctant father-in-law to be. An unjust will. Evil greedy uncles, aunties and cousins. And POISON. There has been poison! I think that was the moment when I made my peace with Yuvraaj.

So it is an old school film. With an old school story. And old school sloppy filmmaking.
And in the end I came out and had to confess to myself that I had actually had a good time. One part of the Bollywoodfan in me who acutally got hooked on Indian cinema because of films like that, had a fun retro-flashback. Even while the other part cringed and hated Ghai because he ruined my believe that Bollywood was finally over making films that way.

PS: As for the locations. The ones I can name are Hangar 7 in Salzburg, Kristallwelten in Wattens, Festung Kufstein and quite a few other locations in and around Innsbruck.

November 21, 2008

Dasvidaniya bitter-sweet goodbye


















Sure Dasvidaniya (Goodbye in Russian) is nothing but another version of a "bucket list" film. But it is an endearing Indian version.

Amar (fantastic Vinay Pathak) finds out that he has 3 months to live. Problem is that you cannot call what he did with his live up to that moment as "living". So after a pep talk from his alter-ego he starts to write and work down a "10 points to do before I die" list. It contains not really spectacular things. No skydiving or dancing on the terasse of Eiffel tower. It is real stuff like buying a car or meeting old friends that give him a chance to finally live before dying.

Dasvidaniya is a small film with an excellent cast. It´s quiet and sweet and funny and it made me tear up add the oddest scenes. I loved it for being unspectacular. And for small but shining moments like Amar explaining to his guitar teacher why he started wearing all those threads and rings. Or the first scene on the brigde. Or the love declaration. Or... There are so many wonderful moments in it.

Yes, it is a niche film. But if you, as I do, have a weak spot for off the beaten track films and are as happy as I am to see Rajat Kapoor, Neha Dupia or Saraubh Shukhla on the big screen then you have to go and watch this.

November 14, 2008

Vaaranam Aayiram - ahh, lets make that 500

Back in 2006 when I wrote about Peralagan I titled the post "Surya. Wow". That could be a very fitting title for this post as well.











I managed to watch a charity preview of Vaaranam Aayriam (Thousand Elephants) yesterday (with Gautham, Sameera and Surya attending *squee* )
I had high expectations for the combination of Gautham Menon, Harris Jayaraj and Surya. To make it short. Not all could be satisfied.
Inspired by the relationship with his own father, Gautham tries to tell the story of a father-son relationship told to us by the son (Krishnan and Suriya both are played by Surya) in flashbacks. We are led from the 60ies when the parents met to present times.

My tiny problem with the storytelling is that the focus too often shifts from the father-son relationship. Especially in the second half. There are some episodes in the sons life that are just too long and distracting. And sorry, but the climax military thingy is plainly bad. I really hope that the Indian Special Forces are nowhere near as amateurish.

But. Big but. The first half is great. I luuurved the song picturisation. Especially the 60ies and 80ies songs. In fact the first hours or so I felt I was watching an almost perfect movie. Great storytelling. Perfect tempo. Cinematography is beautiful. SFX are the best I´ve seen in an Indian film so far. And I felt the "historical" bits were so sweet and authentic in acting, design, flair, feel.












And the biggest treat is Surya. He really nails it. The 16 year old as well as the 60 year old. Sometimes I almost forgot that this was one and the same actor just in different getups.
Well what can I say? He has been my favorite southern Indian actor for quite a while now and I think he is fast climbing to the top of my "All-Indian Fave" list. Watch out Sanjay/Nana/Atul!
And [fangirlmode on] he looks smoking hot. I still go by my quote from 2006 "He has that very attractive Umphh-factor of being a cool actor with intense eyes and a killer smile." And since he joined the 6-pack club for this film you can add that too (even if I felt the "Salmanitis" he displayed was a bit much) [/fangirl mode off]













But not only Surya was great. Simran is fantastic as Krishnans wife and Suriyas mother. Sameera Reddy surprised me in a good way and Divya was did wonderful

So. Watch it or not? Even with a few points of criticism. No Question. Watch it. For Surya. The great cinematography. The songs. The first half and parts of the second.

Oops. Almost forgot. Of course we need a disclaimer for this review as well. As I still don´t understand more than two Tamil words and the film obviously was without Subs I could only get the English bits of the dialogue. It was not too hard to follow the story though.

PS: I heard rumors that Gautham edited the second half some more since the first previews. I´ll probably go and watch it once more tomorrow, so I will be able to tell.

PPS: It´s confirmed. 15 minutes of the 2nd half have been cut. Reports tell that this helps quite a bit.

November 06, 2008

"German Blogger Barbara Skoda"

Well, that would be me. The TOI Website has an article by Anuradha Varma on the Fans reaction to the Temptation Reloaded disaster in Germany.
Where btw. some of the fans already filed charges for fraud against the promoters and quite a few of the claimants only converse via their lawyers with Sensasian anymore. The SRK youtube apology made it to the evening news on TV. Anyone involved with Bollywood in Germany is fighting for damage control and German Bollywood magazine Ishq is trying to extract at least parts of the truth behind the whole drama.

*of course I am actually "Austrian Blogger Barbara Skoda" since my home base is in Vienna, Austria. And we only speak German there (A fact that might be disputed by anyone living north of Munich). But I stopped minding the mix up. In fact whenever I get asked of my origin here in Chennai I resort to answering "Germany" for quite a while now. It is somehow the better option than to always explain that Austria is not Australia and most of the time giving up because people don´t get it...

November 03, 2008

Fashion - reality? not really!
















It is a bit of a pity that Madhur Bhandarkar did not dare to go the whole nine yards with Fashion.
Working in the fashion industry is a tough job. Duh! Yes, we know that. And of course there is almost not difference between the Indian industry and Fashion business anywhere else in the world.

Whatever. Here´s the not so surprising story.
Smalltown beauty queen aspires to become model. No, Supermodel. Mom is ok with it. Dad not. Beauty queen travels to Mumbai and meets with gay friend and assistant designer. He makes her meet people and since aspiring model looks like Priyanka Chopra and the big honchos are neither stupid nor blind, she heads to the top at lightning speed. But being a country bumpkin she of course does not read the 500 pages contract nor does she listen to the warning of her coke-abusing fallen successor. So beauty queen now Supermodel looses her friends, lets herself get knocked up by her married boss, has an abortion and starts the coke/alcohol routine. Thank god she has an epiphany and heads home.
Sad little traumatized now Ex-Supermodel need about a year to sort of recover only to go back and show it to the world (now with the blessing of Daddy). She apologises to her best model friend and alibi-wife who is now pregnant from her gay designer husband, best gay now-designer-not-assistant-anymore friend and ditched former model boyfriend who is now engaged to some other girl.
She not only tries a comeback but also tries to help the other totally rundown former supermodel to get back on her feet. One succeeds. One dies. Go figure.

What have I learned from this movie?

-Every male designer in India is gay.
-Breaking up with your boyfriend makes you addicted to cigarettes and vodka.
-Kangana should not speak. Ever. And even less shout. It is unintentional comedy at its best to watch her yell at her boyfriend and then tumble down the stairs. The cinema roared with laughter.

-Indian models do not have eating disorders.
-
Everyone who ever watched America´s Next Topmodel knows that walking the ramp is similar to nuclear science.

The only thing I liked about the fim was its cinematography. And
Ashwin Mushran. The rest was boring. As movies tend to be that oversimplify the worlds dark areas and are so predictible that you can narrate the story plus all the side twists after watching the first 5 minutes of the film

October 29, 2008

Aegan - Main nahin hoon na
















Disclaimer:
This post will not be a proper review since I don´t understand any Tamil and it was screened without subtitles. But nonetheless I got most of the story, especially since Aegan is sort of a remake of Main Hoon Na.

As you can read, I did eventually manage to get a ticket. And so I had a blast watching this years big Diwali release with a Tamil crowd. I still have to confess that I would have preferred to watch the new Surya release but since Ayngaran, the producer of Aegan, seemed to have blocked most of the screens for the Diwali weekend, the Vaaranam Aayiram makers decided to move its release to November 14th.
From my point of view it seems like a good plan from Ayngaran to overkill with screens on this release, since judging from the reaction of the audience, the film left most of them pretty cold. So I don´t think word-of-mouth is going to be too good. The audience´s enthusiasm cooled down from a huge cheer Ajith got for his first scene to people starting to leave while the climax fight was still on. In the end everybody just wanted to get out as fast as they could. People seemed not to hate it, they just looked unaffected.

However, I still had lots of fun. Btw. Aegan is not a 1:1 clone of MHN. There are some more or less significant changes in the story. Not all are for the best I am afraid.













Aegan tells the story of a CBI Special Ops Super Agent called Shiva who gets called in by his boss (and father) to protect the daughter of a criminal-turned-key witness. Since said former-crook went AWOL after an attempt for his life through his former partner in crime, the CBI hopes to catch him when he contacts his daughter. So Shiva is forced to go undercover as a student in her boarding school in Ooty. It takes a while and some rope-action fights for Shiva to befriend Pooja (Piaa Bajpai) and her boyfriend Narain (Navdeep). Life gets even more complicated for our hero when he falls head over heals for his beautiful, very sparsely clad chemistry teacher Mallika (Nayantara) who not seems to be at the very least interested. Oh and there is the (very far on the) side-story of Shiva´s adoptive mother and brother who happen to be living in Ooty as well.













So you see. Pretty close but not a clone. And since even the filmmakers openly(!) acknowledged a close relation between those to two movies, why not compare MHN and Aegan

Action. Aegan has a lot of more blood and some very cool wire-action fights. But it sadly misses the cycle-riksha chase. Tie. 1:1

Comedy. The comedy track with the school principal and the weird teachers is equally nice in both film. Aegan has a comedy side kick for Shiva and he´s fun. One Point for Aegan 1:2

Romance. Sush and SRK sizzle. And the heartbreak of Sanjana due to Lucky´s insensitiveness. Her makeover. Lucky´s makeover. MHN has it all. In Aegan the romance between Pooja and Narain is already established and Shiva and his chemistry teacher don´t sizzle. They annoy each other and unfortunately us as well. MHN un point 2:2













Emotional highlights. SRK standing in front of his brother and stepmother with the urn of his father is heartbreaking filmi greatness. Aegan completely wastes that opportunity. We get a so-so flashback very late in the movie and no confrontation whatsoever in present time. We only see the happily reunited family right after the climax fight for 2 seconds. Bas. Another point for MHN 3:2

Songs. Farah Khan managed to fit all of the songs in MHN perfectly into the story (even the item-song-wali ones) Raju Sundaram doesn´t. Also I love "Chale Jaise Hawaien" and I don´t love "Yahoo Yahoo" Not even shooting on of the songs in Switzerland saves Aegan loosing that point to MHN. 4:2













Hero. SRK vs. Ajith. Tough one. But then. Not really tough. Sorry Ajith, as much as I like you and as much as I am not a hardcore SRK Fan. Major Ram Prasad Sharma is so taking that point from CID Special Agent Shiva. 5:2

Heroine. No-brainer. Sush and Amrita Rao. Every time. 6:2

MHN also gets one point each for technical execution, script execution and the overall "tribute to filmy history" theme.

Final Result. 9:2

A landslide victory for Main Hoon Na. Aegan is a wasted chance. It would probably not be so obvious if it was an original story but so it is but a MHN minus the heart. Following more closely to the MHN script might have made a terrific Kollywood film. Pity.

All pictures copyright Ayngaran.

October 23, 2008

Too slow. Bleh.

I really really really wanted to go and watch Ajith in Aegan this weekend, but since there was some Internet/electricity/server trouble at the office I just couldn't log into the thecinema.in or the inox website yesterday. So I tried this morning and ALL tickets (and we´re talking about 10.000 at Satyam cinemas alone) for this weekend are already gone and only very few tickets for the late shows which I can´t attend on Monday and Tuesday are left.

Bleh.

October 20, 2008

The Blame Game

I´m sitting at the airport in Brussels waiting for my flight back to Chennai after veeery busy 5 days in Berlin (hence no update) but now looks like a good time to do a quick follow up on my last blog post.

Ever since I wrote my piece there have been press releases (from both sides), SRK sort of apologised to his German audience through a special video message and the German fans are ripping each other apart on account of who the truer fans are. Those who are pissed at SRK/his management for their share of the messing up but still love him as an actor/posterboy or those who already forgave and forgot everything, deeming SRK and "his people" the victims of the whole drama.















I am still standing by any word I wrote. Just in case you´re wondering. And I of course will go on watching any Indian film I can in cinemas or buy the (original) DVD´s of the ones I can´t and that look promising to me.

October 14, 2008

oops, they did it again or how to ruin a pretty well-doing market

SRK´s Temptation 2008 concerts in Germany have been canceled today. Three days before their scheduled dates. Back in August the German stop of the Bachchans Unforgettable Tour met the same fate. They informed their audience 4 days in advance about the adjourment sine die.

The big honchos in Mumbai seem to have got something wrong. Ever since the Johars and YashRaj started to make their profitable deals with REM and RTL2 the German market seemed to look like fat firang tourist in Chor Bazar to the Filmi Industry-walas that could easily be skinned for money.
Except, if you trick somebody and want to keep on milking him, don´t become too greedy. You can only screw us so far. To steal a line from K3G: Tum sirf entertainer ho, parameshwar nahin. For us Non-Desi Europeans you just produce films we like (sometimes very very much) with stars we like (and sometimes honestly love) but you can´t do whatever you like and not pay a price for it.

Take the DVD market for example.
Primary rule: If you want to sell films in Germany you have to dub them. Cinema in Germany has been German-dialogues-only ever since the first talkie in the 1920ies. Same goes for the Video and DVD market. Thankfully there are companies like REM who cater to a niche audience with high quality releases. Due to their cooperation with the RTL2 TV station they were able to produce top standard Bollywood DVD´s that sold fantasticly.

Enter greedy Bollywoodproducers. And swamp the market with C-grade movies, flop-films and bad quality production. That in itself would not be such a problem had they not tried to go the tourist-gouging routine. Even the King Khan has made some really really bad movies over the years. Sell them to the unsuspecting K3G, DDLJ or KHNH fan and you get somebody who will think twice if he will ever again spend 18,- to 24,- Euro on a BW DVD.
Mistake born out of greed #2: Quite a few of those crappy DVD´s had SRK (the only BW actor that really sells in Germany) on their cover. Even without him being in it. Instead customers got such shiny moments of Indian movie history like Hottestm@ail.com or Husn Bewafa.
Is it any wonder that sales of Bollywood DVD dropped like the stock market during the last weeks? Two years ago you had entire sections in DVD stores dedicated to Indian films. Now you can be lucky if you get a tiny part on the "B" shelf.

Then the TV ratings started to drop as well. Films were edited beyond recognition. And the big selling K3G-style extravaganzas were a thing of the past too. You just can´t expect films like D:2 or Krrish to work for an audience that is used to watch Hollywood quality action or SciFi films. Sorry. But, no.

Thank god the Berlinale 08 happened. SRK and OSO came, saw and conquered. The hard-core fans, still loyal and actually pretty active in promoting the thing they love, stroke up a frenzy. SRK made the evening news. And the German fans were led to believe that the slump that hit the Bollywood Trend in Germany was finally over. Especially since some of the Multiplex chains started to screen current films and both the Unforgettable and the Temptation Tours were announcing shows in Germany.

Bollywood Concerts and Germany do have a rather shaky past.
The local promoters like SensAsian are, lets be frank, crooks. Plain and simple. They talk, they announce, they sell tickets and they mess up, go into hiding, take the money with them and piss of the fans. Just look at SA´s track record. Apart from the very first "Dinner with SRK" in Offenbach in 2005 everything else was either canceled or had to be cut short.

And now we have the latest of their disasters and this time it is not simply Shilpa Shetty´s Miss Bollywood or the Bachchans (which both probably got canceled due to bad pre-sales). This time it really hits hard. This time it is SRK. I know of more than a few cases of Fans who literally had to scrimp and save to be able to afford a once-in-a-lifetime journey to one of the concerts. So this time it is personal. And that is bad news.

First they demand outrageous sums for - lets be honest - a tacky playback show and the fans pay it. And now the fans already sitting on their packed suitcases have to hope and pray that they get their 50,- to 250,- Euros back. And I am not even talking about the hundreds of fans that will surely loose money because their plane tickets or hotel reservations can´t be canceled.

(You want numbers? Lets take this very dear friend of mine. She shelled out 150,- for the ticket, 100,- for the airfare, the hotel for two nights would have cost her another 100,- add to that food, public transport and maybe some merchandise and you have at least 400,- . A sum that she was willing to spend on "her" SRK. She earns about 900,- each month. After deducting her fixed costs she has about 300,- for food, petrol etc. Do the maths!)

So, Yo! Greedy Bollywoodproducers and greedy Bollywoodstars!
If you want to save what is left of your start rebuilding some credibility in Germany to maybe have some kind of a future here: Don´t do deals with promoters you know have let you down in the past or distributors that do more damage than good. That can´t be too hard, can it?

There is that (very crass but nonetheless true) saying "don´t crap where you eat". And eating you seemed to do just fine in Germany for the last few years. But by crapping on our heads once too often I feel that you finally crossed the limit of our hospitality.


EDIT 16/10/08: Thanx to the great feedback to my rambling. To answer a few questions I was asked a few times. Yes, please copy the text if you want to (just give me credits for it) and no, I don´t have a German version of it, sorry. And since I am at a business convention for the next 3 days I won´t have the time to translate it either.