Bollywood- Three Movies (and growing)

Edited and updated: This is going to be the new home of several short and quick Bollywood reviews. Check back from time to time for updates.

Main Prem Ki Diwani Hoon: Not a favorite. Sanjana is a recent college grad whose mother wants her to marry and has somebody in mind. Through a series of errors, two men with the same name end up falling in love with her, both believe her feelings are reciprocated. Lots of colour, lots of Bollywood music and dancing, lots more sensuality than I prefer. Plus, I dislike plots where two equally nice people have the same love interest and somebody is bound to get hurt. Nice, but heavy handed moral message at the end about how it’s not the money you make or the family background, but your love that should count, unrealistic but satisfying conclusion whereby the rejected suitor, within minutes of rejection, is just fine being platonic friends.

Mere Brother Ki Dulhan: Not as family friendly as others, and not one of my favorites. London located Luv has a huge and very profane fight and then break-up with his long-time girlfriend Piyali. Fed up with it, he decides it’s time to settle down, so he calls his younger brother Kush back in India and asks Kush to help their parents find a bride for him. Kush goes to work with a right good will (one of the things I did love here is the brother’s relationship, although you don’t see that much of it). After several epic failures he meets with one promising family and finds that their daughter is Dimple, an old classmate of his. She’s not your typical Indian maid, having grown up in London herself. He picks her, the couple skype and agree, but during the time it takes for Luv to get back to India, Kush starts falling for Dimple himself. She’s wild to a point- there are lines she would never cross, but the lines she does cross are confusing to the locals sometimes, dresses like a London girl favoring boots, shorts and tank tops, and I found her character annoying and the actress’s acting a little too obviously trying hard. It’s predictable enough there are no major shocks. I did enjoy Kush’s clever scheming to make things all work out the way he and Dimple wanted, and it was rather cute how they maneuvered the fathers into pleading with them to marry each other. But if I could get my family to watch a Bollywood movie with me, this is not the one I’d choose.

Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge: Simram and Raj are anglo-Indian- they were born in England to expat parents. Raj’s father is less traditional (‘he keeps Hindustani in his heart’) Simram’s parents are ultra-traditional and they have arranged a marriage for Simram back in India, to the son of the father’s good friend. They allow Simram to go on one last girl-trip with her friends on a train, she gets thrown into Raj’s company, they miss their train, fall in love, then he follows her to India.
Raj irritated me- his pranks and jokes were not funny to me at all, mostly they were just mean spirited and bratty, and one in particular I found borderline abusive at best. For him to suddenly turn into a man that Simram should trust was irksome to me.
The movie really plays up the whole “your parents, right or wrong, and if they think you should marry a total stranger neither you nor they know much about, then it must because that’s what’s best. Let’s obey them no matter what.”
On the one hand, I find that culturally interesting. On the other, I find it chilling.
I did like the mother’s character a lot, as well as her relationship with her daughter.

Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana: Omi Khurana stole money from his grandfather and ran away from his home in India to London ten years ago, and now he’s burdened by gambling debts and the gangsters he owes threaten his life. He can pay off his debt with his grandfather’s secret recipe for Chicken Khurana, so he heads home to India to find it, telling his family in India he is now a successful lawyer. His cousin in engaged to his old girlfriend, although it’s clearly an arranged marriage that both parties accept without enthusiasm his grandfather no longer recognizes anybody, his uncle doesn’t trust him, the gangsters follow him, oh, no, what’s he gonna do?

This is a mixed bag- it’s sweet, it’s got lots of the cultural goodness I love, it’s got food,it made me laugh several times, and best of all, it’s got a delightfully warm family. Mostly family friendly, a couple exceptions below.

The parts I didn’t much care for- It drags on places.  the lead character is just a selfish jerk and he’s old enough to know better. While he does change, there was no particularly compelling reason for this improvement (especially at his age). I realize this a flaw in many rom-coms, but usually there’s an attempt to show something in the lead’s life that prompts him to change, and I didn’t really see it here. I am pretty good at suspended disbelief, in fact, I think I put my disbelief into a comotose sleep when watching foreign movies, so the fact that this stuck in my craw means it was a very weak link in the movie, I think.

The bar scene in the opening and music are the main parts that weren’t family friendly, although for the music that was almost all the lyrics, not the dancing scenes (in India, the whole bar scene in London was just badly done).
The bar scene was both cheesy and sleezy, and the gun play by the gangsters is ridiculous.  You could easily skip it and just explain Omi is a failure in London, he’s got nothing but debts, and he has to go home to find a secret recipe to keep the guys he owes money to from killing him.

There are a few off colour things said by the crazy uncle that I could have done without, but most of them would go right over a younger child’s head. There’s an illicit relationship hinted at in ways that are obvious to an older viewer, but might not be to a younger, and I did appreciate the delicate way it was handled, and the way it was resolved.

Theologically: It’s Indian, okay? You’ve got thank the goddess, and reincarnation issues.

hum-hain-rahi-pyar-ke-1993-gvi-dvd-1486-p[ekm]149x200[ekm]Hum Hain Rahi Pyar Ke: From Wikipedia:

Hum Hain Rahi Pyar Ke is a 1993 Bollywood comedy-drama film directed by Mahesh Bhatt, produced by Tahir Hussain and with a musical score by Nadeem-Shravan. It stars Aamir Khan and Juhi Chawla. The film is a remake of the Hollywood film Houseboat, starring Cary Grant and Sophia Loren

I saw Houseboat once a very long time ago, and I don’t know that the similarities are that close.

Aamir Khan here plays a young bachelor uncle named Rahul. His older sister and brother-in-law died suddenly in a car accident (this is all offscreen backstory), and he has has inherited the guardianship of their three children as well as the garment business he has to get back on its feet while he holds it for the oldest son. He loves his niece and nephews, but they are a handful and he is overwhelmed by all his new responsibilities and sometimes a little hard on them. On the other hand, his gestures of affection are misunderstood or simply not appreciated by these cute but admittedly bratty children.

Juhi Chawla plays Vaijayanti, spoiled only daughter of a rich, upper-caste tycoon of some sort. He wants to marry her off to another upper-caste artsy tartsy type that she doesn’t fancy, so she runs away from home.

The three children, locked in their room for their misdeeds, sneaked out to the fair, where they meet up with Vaijavanti, make friends, and sneak her home. They manage to hide her for two days but finally get caught. Together the four partners in mischief spin a yarn about Vaijavanti’s evil stepmother, and Rahul offers to let her stay at his house in return for helping with the children and housekeeping (he learns later that she cannot cook). The children have already gone through something like three maids, a couple butlers and five cooks, so he figures since they seem to have already bonded with Vaijavanti, they might t least behave for her, and this turns out to be a wise choice.

Naturally, they fall in love, she’s a darling, the children love her, she helps the children and Rahul understand each other.

Rahul’s garment factory has a huge debt they owe to an unscrupulous businessman, whose daughter Maya just happens to have her greedy eye on Rahul, and they contrive to make life difficult for him, to trap him into marriage in order to save the business, and short of that, to cheat him out of everything he’s been holding in trust for the children.

This is cute and fun in a totally cheesy, corny, predictable fashion. It’s an Indian movie so there are songs inserted in strange places. Usually, I love the Bollywood musical numbers, but most of these didn’t work for me. One of them I would skip for costuming issues, but the rest were perfectly safe.

There are a few uses of the Lord’s name, sometimes in vain, sometimes more by way of somebody actually calling out for Heavenly assistance, although it’s your call on whether you’re supposed to believe they mean it or not. Maya is a bit skanky in all her wardrobe choices and she doesn’t keep her hands off Rahul, but it’s overplayed and hammy which seems to offset what could be vulgar. The dancer Vaijavanti’s father wants to marry her off to is a little too campy for me. In one scene, V. changed clothes in Rahul’s room and accidentally left her dress there. The children are still keeping her a secret, so when their uncle asks them to explain the woman’s dress in his room they tell him they can’t explain it, they were going to ask him to explain it to them, and their tone is freighted with eyebrow waggling meaning.

It’s all hammy and goofy whenever there’s any shenanigans are suggested.
Otherwise, I’d consider this one squeaky clean, family friendly, goofy, fun show when in the mood for a foreign movie that provides mostly mindless entertainment. It’s hard to find with English subtitles, and the one I found did not sub the songs. I watched on youtube, but you’ll have to google around to find it.

jab27vJab We Met: 2007- Shahid Kapoor, Kareena Kapoor, Tarun Arora.   I really, really loved this one.  Better production values and more modern than the above. I liked this a lot. It was fun, and less obviously cheesy. There were also a few more innuendoes, and the last song and dance number was totally inappropriate for family viewing.  I wasn’t watching with my family, so no worries.
The song and dance numbers were the bigger, splashier productions I associate with Bollywood, so I enjoyed them more.

The two main characters meet on a train- he’s a depressed, suicidal, taciturn businessman. She’s a bubbly, vivacious, infectiously friendly Shikh girl on her way home after a long absence. At first she really irritates him, but she grows on him. They miss their train, and intend to go separate ways, but she ends up requiring his protection (a young woman traveling alone is like a treasure box without a a lock, she is told). There’s a lot of traveling together because of external circumstances and forced proximity, and a handful of comments I could have done without (‘just in case you’re thinking of rape, I know karate’), but, this being a Bollywood show, physically, it’s pretty chaste.
I didn’t care for the whole ‘follow your heart, if you’re in love you must do that and it cannot be wrong’ Disney theme. But the two main characters have a lot of charisma, the male lead is a very good guy, her family are all utterly delightful darlings, the music and the colors are fun, and over-all, this is fun intro to Bollywood with a bit of screening.
If you skip that last song and dance number, you do want to ffwd to watch the final scene with the grandfather/uncle. It’s precious and funny at the same time. Old people are always right, regardless of whether they have their facts straight or not.;-D
Netflix has this, and I suppose others do as well.

I Hate Luv Stories- I turned it off halfway through, mainly because it was so boring. He’s a playboy who doesn’t believe in love, working for the most romantic girl in the world and they both work in the movie industry, making cheesy love story movies. Naturally, they fall in love. But she began by being engaged to somebody else, by all appearances a very nice person, and I hate stories like that. Also, I really couldn’t see any reason at all for them to be in love with each other, and they weren’t that interesting.

I’m interested in other Bollywood movies (I have already watched Bride and Prejudice and loved it).  Any suggestions?

Vivah: reviewed here (Vivah and Jab We Met are my favorites so far)

Daahwat-e-isq: Reviewed here.  Pretty cute. Mostly family friendly.

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4 Comments

  1. Posted June 16, 2014 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

    My favorite Bollywood films both come with content warnings, mostly of the “don’t watch these with men in the room” sort:

    I really, really love Jodhaa Akbar, despite major historical inaccuracies. There is one music number/extended scene that’s meant to depict a honeymoon scene. Despite being way more chaste and way more symbolic than comparable scenes in American movies, it manages to be way more “hot” than any of what passes for sexy in American movies. So I’d skip that scene. But otherwise an excellent historical epic.

    Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham has GREAT music. A couple of the dance scenes are partially inappropriate–they involve women in Western clothing that isn’t overly skimpy, but is so contrasting to the Indian clothing that it makes them stand out. Also the whole premise of “saying ‘I’m sorry’ makes all sort of bad behavior immediately okay” annoys me. And I hate the idea of “you have to completely obey your parents in every little thing, no matter how old you are or how irrational they are because respect your elders.” It allows for too much bad behavior. But did I mention the music? Maybe you should just get the soundtrack for this one…

  2. Marie R.
    Posted June 21, 2014 at 9:03 pm | Permalink

    Oh, I love Jab We Met. So much fun!

  3. BR
    Posted July 2, 2014 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    I mostly follow your blog for the Korean drama recs (I end up liking the ones you recommended) – thanks for that!

    You should watch Dil Chahta Hai – a coming of age move for 3 friends. Very enjoyable. If you like it I can suggest some more.

    • Headmistress, zookeeper
      Posted July 2, 2014 at 9:21 am | Permalink

      Oh, thanks! I will put that on my list!

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  1. By Bollywood Review: Vivah | The Common Room on January 28, 2015 at 4:03 pm

    […] I’ve reviewed other Bollywood movies here and here. […]

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