Friday, January 22, 2010

Sikandar (2009)

I want to start this review out with a confession. I will watch virtually any movie you put in front of me that has to do with Partition and the myriad of problems that stemmed from it, especially those involving the mystical vale of Kashmir. It's been an obsession of mine ever since I read the book 'Freedom at Midnight' and even though I have lived in the US for most of my life - the subject remains very dear to my heart. I have close friends from both sides of the border and have written a past post on the subject as well. So when I heard about the movie 'Sikandar' I was immediately drawn to it for it's catchy songs as well as it's subject matter.

Sadly though, this movie was just a mess. The first half explored the basic themes of movies of this sort - violence undertaken for the sake of freedom, religious extremism, children caught in this cycle of hate, etc. The story centers around Sikandar - a 14 y.o. Muslim boy who has been orphaned by the jihaadi movement in Kashmir who now lives with his aunt and uncle. One day he finds a gun and the events that stem from that fateful discovery are what make up the bulk of the movie. The director really tries in earnest to point out how complex this problem is and how the solution to it's resolution will not be easy. But he does it in such a confusing and ultimately uninteresting way that his efforts go in vain. There are many better Partition movies out there including 'Pinjar', 'Parzania' and the 1975 National Award winner 'Garam Hawa' (review coming soon).

Not everything was bad about the movie. The actress who played Sikandar's best friend Nasreen (Ayesha Kapoor) was a joy to watch and the scenery was simply spectacular. Not sure if they shot the movie on location but seeing Kashmir is definitely on my bucket list of things to do. And last but not least, a cute little number that is the song of the week - Chaal Apni by Hrishikesh Kamerkar & Hamsika Iyer.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Yaarana (1981)

In 1981 Amitabh Bachchan was at the absolute pinnacle of his popularity in Bollywood. His hits were not only this film but 'Silsila', 'Naseeb', 'Kaalia' and 'Lawaaris' as well. It seemed that everything he touched turned into box office gold and this movie was no exception. It was well received at the box office and the soundtrack was a resounding success as well. I remember this movie fondly not only because of AB but because it was the first movie that I had seen with Amjad Khan playing a good guy. It was a real shocker to see the actor who brought Gabbar Singh to life in 'Sholay' play someone with a heart and even all these years later I remember thinking he was going to turn on AB any minute and just start shooting.

The story is about two best friends (played by AB & Amjad Khan) Kishan and Bishan respectively. They grew up together in a small village and Bishan went off to the city to get an education and when he returned years later to visit he found that his old friend Kishan had an amazing singing voice and vowed to make a star out of him. Plenty of high jinks ensue when the country bumpkin Kishan is taken to the big city and introduced to the wonders of modern technology. My favorite sceene is when Kishan (growing tired of singing lessons) attempts to get himself kicked out of dance class and an all out brawl ensues. Neetu Singh (in a very underutilized role) plays the love interest but is given surprisingly little to do. Like most Bollywood movies the story gets rather silly at the end and goes on for far too long but it was good for the time.

Our friend Beth over at Beth Loves Bollywood had a very different opinion of this film (she hated it) and after reading her post I do get where she is coming from. I saw this film as a 13 y.o. teenager in full hero worship of Amitabh Bachchan but my parents, aunts & uncles all enjoyed the movie as well. Is it a cultural thing or does it just not hold up well over time? There is a heaping dose of physical comedy in the movie and an equally heaping dose of melodrama as well. 'Do Aur Do Paanch' was made just a year earlier with the same director/star and had much of the same elements in it but rewatching that recently was a blast. I have not seen 'Yaarana' since my original viewing and maybe it's best that I keep it that way to preserve the magical memories. And if you do want to undertake the viewing of this movie - do what we do when watching these masala AB movies from the 70's & 80's... Don't worry too much about the plot and fast forward to the songs as well as the scenes with AB himself ;)

At the end of the day though, this movie is remembered for the same reason that many not-so-good Bollywood movies are considered classics - the songs. Yes, there is the now legendary lightbulb suit song Saara Zamana that I wrote about a few weeks ago but the entire soundtrack is just phenomenal. Kishore Kumar was at the height of his career as well and in addition to the high energy songs he gave us two wonderfully tender ones as well. The video for Chookar Mere Man Ko can be found above. My personal favorite though is the song for today's post and is one of the best odes to friendship ever written - Tere Jaisa Yaar.