Vivah

For Kristen, who asked.

Vivah (English: Marriage) is a thoroughly delightful, almost totally plotless romantic film. The story follows Prem (Shahid Kapoor) and Poonam (Amrita Rao) from their arranged engagement to their wedding. And that’s just about it, although there’s a slight problem at the end that they have to learn to overcome. I say slight because although it is obviously significant to their lives, it isn’t that significant to the movie; it’s just a confirmation that their love and the arranged marriage will last.

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Mini review – Chup Chup Ke

A mini review is mini because it lacks that one thing I hate writing: a plot summary. That’s what Wikipedia is for!

Chup Chup Ke was released in 2006, produced by Ronnie Screwvala (poor guy) and directed by Priyadarshan. Priyadarshan is known for doing remakes (understatement of the year? He’s  made 64 films… 30 of which are remakes) and this is one of them, but I haven’t seen Punjabi House to be able to tell you if it’s better than this Bollywood update.

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Jab We Met

Do you know what today is? It’s a very important day.

Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Anyone?

It’s Shahid Kapoor’s 29th birthday! And reportedly his birthday party got raided by the police because it went on beyond 1:30 AM. Gosh, Shahid, really living on the edge there.

I promised I would review Jab We Met (English: When We Met) this week, and this seems like a good day to do it. It’s one of Shahid’s most successful movies so far, if not his most successful (don’t ask me, I’m clueless). And it’s an excellent film for Bollywood newbies. We’ve shown this to several friends, and after finishing it, one announced she was going to buy it as soon as she got home (we love you, Amber)!

The reason it’s a good one for those new to Bollywood is simple: It has all the things a classic Bollywood movie should have (big stars, silly story, large families, lots of Indian scenery, depression which can be fixed by a pretty girl, mountains, confusion, revered family patriarchs, Sikhs, Punjab, etc, etc, etc) but it doesn’t go over the top with any of them. It’s a nice, gentle step between tame American films, and huge Hindi affairs. This would be my number one choice for introducing someone to Bollywood (if they can handle the subtitles).

At the time the movie was filmed, Shahid was dating his co-star, Kareena Kapoor. They really make a great onscreen couple, even if they couldn’t make it last offscreen. Geet (Kareena) jabbers, and Aditya (Shahid) gives her funny looks (“Come, you can give me this look while walking, too”), but it works. They carry the film on their own– the only other role that gets much screen time is Geet’s first boyfriend, Anshuman, played by Tarun Arora. I do hear that Saumya Tandon, who play’s Geet’s cousin Roop, is a soap opera actress, and Dara Singh, who plays Geet’s perceptive grandfather, is a well-known wrestler and actor (but don’t worry, there’s no wrestling in this movie. You see, we build to that).

The thing I love about Bollywood is that it’s hard to write spoilers. Coming into a movie, you almost always know how it’s going to end: the guy gets the girl, they make up with her family, they live happily ever after. But like everyone says, it’s not the destination, it’s the journey! This movie features a lot of traveling– first, from Mumbai to Punjab, and then from Punjab to Manali. The sights are gorgeous; if you don’t have an overwhelming desire to visit India, you will by the time you finish this film.

You can find a summary of the plot on Wikipedia or IMDB. But, in a nutshell, Geet (Kareena), an incredibly bubbly and crazy girl misses a train, blames it on depressed and unsuccessful businessman Aditya (Shahid), and through her strange logic, they end up traveling together to her home. They stay there for a bit, then Geet takes Aditya with him when she runs away to meet her boyfriend, with whom she intends to elope. He leaves her with her boyfriend, goes back to his company and, using what Geet taught him about life, makes the company successful, naming a product after her. Her family, hearing about this product and thinking Geet eloped with him, demands he bring her back to them. He goes to Manali, and finds Geet, who has been ditched by Anshuman. You can figure it out from there!

All of the songs were composed by Pritam (except Aaoge Jab Tum) and are excellent: Aao Milo Chalo (sung by Shaan and Ustad Sultan Khan) is a montage of traveling scenes, and although it confirms that Shahid can’t lip-synch, it’s a catchy tune and a treat for the eyes.

Nagada Nagada (sung by Sonu Nigam & Javed Ali) is the big dance scene– the joy really bubbles over on this one! The teasing between Shahid and Kareena’s characters in this song will give you a glimpse of their onscreen chemistry, and Shahid’s dancing is excellent, even though the poor guy has to lip-synch to two different singers.

Yeh Ishq Hai (Sung by Shreya Ghoshal, who won a National Film Award for Best Female Playback Singer with it) is a bouncy song with some interesting costumes! If you’ll look closely, you’ll see that they visit an international photo studio, which explains some of these costumes.  it was a good chance for Kareena to show off her dance skills. I think she’s completely adorable in this song (and the whole movie), dancing around in the Himalayas. And I kind of wish I could do that, too.

Tum Se Hi (sung by Mohit Chauhan) is a slow and sort of sad song that’s actually quite beautiful– if I’ll listen to it over and over, it has to be. I like my Hindi songs fast and loud, but this is a pleasant exception.

Aaoge Jab Tum (composed by Sandesh Shandilya with playback singing by Ustad Rashid Khan) is quite lovely, too.. it doesn’t stick in my head the way Tum Se Hi does (probably due to my not being able to understand Hindi) but it’s gorgeous.

Mauja Hi Mauja (playback by Mika Singh) is probably the best song. It comes at the end, and Sarah and I agreed it’s a bit of a shocker as a dance scene (that’s just a link to the song). Jab We Met is really a family friendly movie, up until this point. The the clothing gets a little, um, unladylike. It’s a great song, though! We downloaded it from Amazon, and listen to it constantly. Our recommendation is to skip the song in the film (there’s one small scene afterward you don’t want to miss) and buy it so you can listen to it whenever you feel like it.

I can’t stress how much fun this movie is. And if you’ve ever traveled by train (as I got to this summer) you’ll enjoy it even more. If you’re timid about Bollywood, this is the place to start.
And the best part… It’s on Youtube, with English subs!

Oh, this is the other best part: Shahid’s smile.

Just Enough Bollywood to Get By

I’ll be reviewing Jab We Met later this week. Right now I’m caught up in studying, cleaning, and obsessively keeping up with the Olympics.

First, on the subject of the Olympics– American silver medalists Charlie White and Meryl Davis’s Bollywood-inspired ice dance! Charlie’s sherwani is a little blah, but that’s just me being persnickety. If you haven’t seen their program yet, check this out!

Now, Jab We Met. Mmm. If you haven’t seen this gem, find yourself 142 minutes (maybe a few more for all the parts you’ll want to rewind and watch again) and get to it. Here’s a teaser:

Kuch Kuch Hota Hai

Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (English: Something Happens)… it’s hard to know where to start. It was one of the first Bollywood films I saw, and it was therefore full of significant “first” moments:

But when watching a movie for the first time, it’s hard to take in all of these things, and they were really insignificant to me, because all I could think about was how much I was enjoying it. I had no idea of who Shahrukh Khan is, but I paused the movie after the first ten minutes so that I could go tell Sarah how sweet I was finding his performance.
When Kajol appeared, I knew I had found my favorite Bollywood on-screen couple. Wow.  People have talked about SRK and Kajol’s chemistry, but they themselves have described it as just being very comfortable together, and I think that makes the most sense to me. Their characters of Rahul and Anjali seem extremely natural to me; even in their corniness. It’s impossible not to get a kick out of their scenes together, especially when they fight.

Rani’s character seemed a little bland to me, but I warmed up to her by the end. Little Anjali (Sana Saeed) alternates between being adorable and slightly obnoxious, but if she begins to wear on you, don’t worry; she gets less screen time in the second half of the movie.
Johnny Lever… is Johnny Lever. It’s just one of those things you have to get used to when you’re new to Hindi films (and keep an ear out for his line poking fun at Hindi films!). Salman is quite endearing in his “extended cameo”. Anupam is a bit unremarkable, but Farida was amusing.
The plot is pure Bollywood. Don’t expect it to be believable– and have patience for the (lack of) action– and you’ll have a good time.

There’s one very memorable song, “Yeh Ladka Hai Deewana“, with a cute story attached. To be honest, the words I would use to describe this song are ‘fun’ and ‘exciting’, which probably only goes to show how pathetic I am… but give it a shot. The other that sticks out is “Saajanji Ghar Aaye“. “Koi Mil Gaya” is alright, but it wasn’t my favorite… I’m not overly fond of the 90s.

Oh, and Parzun Dastur as Silent Sardarji, a little Sikh boy, was utterly too cute. Hmm. That sums up KKHH. Too cute. If cute isn’t your thing, this probably isn’t your movie. But if you like cute (and a little cheese) it’s a delightful way to spend an evening or a long afternoon.

And check out this Pepsi ad released after the movie:

Recognize the guy in the plaid shirt?