Friday, January 9, 2009

Bollywood and Ghajini - all comments, no spam

Herewith archiving a comment thread I was quite enjoying from the ex's "Thompson on Hollywood blog, before TypePad's comments application developed a cannibalistic glitch.

The "Ghajini" review can be read here, and I'll paste it in at the end because the statute of limitations has now run out.


This movie was dull on so many levels. Except for one song, remainder of the music scores are anything but hit. Aamir Khan plays a phenomenol part in otherwise a dry film. The movie lacks climax and does not provide any heart pulsating thirl. Jury is out on the film: Skip it.
Posted by: Jake | December 27, 2008 at 11:14 PM

the movie was crap. Another bolly film that you wish someone stateside would sue for copyright infringement. With distribution in more trouble than ever you'd hope that someone would put a stop to the corruption of india's filmmaking core.
Posted by: seanH | December 27, 2008 at 11:25 PM

It is a shameful day for the Indian cinema and Aamir Khan to act in a film which does no justice to the original director, Chirstopher Nolan. Go out and rent Memento, if you haven't watched it already, and see how original ideas are created and shaped into an awesome movie. Copyright infringement.. you bet!!
Posted by: Jake | December 28, 2008 at 11:53 AM

Wow, you guys are tough. The filmmakers are open about the movie being based on Memento. Hollywood remakes foreign films all the time. So does Bollywood! While I grant that I may be less critical of Bollywood movies because I'm going to have a good time, truth is, I usually do. While Ghajini is far from high art and was a tad too violent for some of us, we all had fun.
Posted by: * | December 28, 2008 at 12:28 PM

The lifts from "Memento" are superficial.
What's more interesting is that this "Ghajini" is, for much of its length, a shot-for-shot remake of the Tamil original: same writer-director, mostly holdovers in the central cast, even the same credit sequence. (Major improvements: the addition of Aamir, and A.R. Rahman's music.)
Tempting to wonder if Mr. Khan was experiencing a mid-life yen to be a god-like South Indian action behemoth and, crafty career-builder that he is, simply took the shortest available route to that goal. He may be onto something, considering how convincingly Bollywood's ass has been kicked recently by Southie icons such as Superstar Rajnikanth.
For a full-strength taste of the South Asian head-banger style, check out this clip from an earlier film by "Ghajini" auteur A.R. Muragadoss, the Megastar Cheerajeevi vehicle "Stalin: Man for the Society."
Posted by: David C. | December 28, 2008 at 12:58 PM

That's a nice little jotting. I looked to see if you reviewed it earlier and got that sad message at journalspace. I'd never heard of "South Asian," it looks so Hong Kong.
Posted by: T. Holly | December 28, 2008 at 02:44 PM

Actually I should have typed "South Indian." The regional cinemas that speak Tamil, Telegu and Malayalam. Hong Kong is a good comparison: that clip is from a film that was first recommended to me by a long-time HK action buff.
Posted by: David C. | December 28, 2008 at 03:33 PM

Asim turned in a terrific performance. Some of us were comparing her to Sally Hawkins in Happy Go Lucky. YES.
Posted by: RGM | December 28, 2008 at 06:54 PM

As an Indian, I am so embarrassed by this Bolly crap. (yes, I saw this terrible movie over the weekend).
Come on, Bollywood! Look what DANNY BOYLE did with Slumdog Millionaire! Can we Indians even make one bloody good film that doesn't fall into Bollycrap????
Aamer Khan is one of my favorite Indian actors and I am disappointed with him for doing this piece of crap.
Posted by: UGLY PUNK GURL! | December 29, 2008 at 07:36 AM

A lot of you are biased against bollywood. while it's true that b'wood throws a lot of crap at you, Ghajini was an exception! I saw Ghajini over the weekend and thought it was fantastic! 
The story was gripping and held my attention all throughout. Both aamir and asin did fabulous jobs acting. The movie had everything - horror, violence, romance, comedy. By far, b'wood's best movie this year. 
To David, who claims that Ghajini was copied from the tamil Ghajini, they're by the same damn director!!
Also, a lot of Hollywood movies even are inspired by foreign films. What's the big deal? It's a great movie in its own right.
Posted by: tiny taurus | December 29, 2008 at 08:32 AM

II don't think I can be read as suggesting that Murugadoss stole "Ghajini" from himself. He remade his own movie in a different regional language, and exceedingly closely. This is more interesting to me than the borrowings from "Memento," which are obvious enough.
"Bollywood throws a lot of crap at us"? Sure it does. So does Hollywood. So does every cinema on earth. "90 percent of everything is crap," as per Sturgeon's Law. In most cases we only see the tiny hand-picked minority of films that make it past the gatekeepers into film festivals.
Posted by: David C. | December 29, 2008 at 10:50 AM

Ghajini also ripped off "Amelie." See the scene where Kaplana helped the blind man across the street?
How absolutely infuriating and embarrassing.
Posted by: UGLY PUNK GURL! | December 29, 2008 at 11:17 AM

*Kalpana, my bad.
Posted by: UGLY PUNK GURL! | December 29, 2008 at 11:17 AM

Forgive me for possibly reading too much into your choice of a single word, but...why "embarrassing"?
Posted by: David C. | December 29, 2008 at 11:45 AM

David C., you even had to ask me that? We're talking about Bollywood, you realize that? Enough said.
Posted by: UGLY PUNK GURL! | December 29, 2008 at 01:59 PM

David C, you and I have usually been near the same page through out the year.
I've produced a tv show in India, had indian roommates in college, and have been there several times while seeing various indian movies... had occasional drunken fling with indian girls.
This movie shares the worst of bollywood movies to me. And yeah, stories and themes are stolen and similar through most films. But this is a large scale Indian rip off that isn't giving any royalties to Nolan or his brother.
There's so much more story and culture to be shown through India than them to be ripping off American films (and badly at that) . That's why I've been impressed with the Indian filmmakers at USC, AFI, and NYU (keep the name Sushrut Jain, who filmed his entire thesis in mumbai this year on your radar).
I admit, I have Indian friends who are all about the remakes. To note the one of the highest grossing Indian film was simply a rip off of the Richard Gere/Diane Lane movie Unfaithful. But all and all most of my hindi friends are always upset about the ripoffs more than the much as they get po'd with the typical bolly movie about an arranged marriage between two people who don't like each other but end up falling in love w/ another anyways.
Posted by: seanH | December 29, 2008 at 02:50 PM

UPG: Expressing your blanket dislike of Bollywood as personal embarrassment is not something that can be taken at face value. Sorry.
seanH, all I can say is, get real. We're talking about a movie industry that, like Hong Kong's, is aggressively, single-mindedly commercial. That's the context in which all of this stuff is being produced, and you're either comfortable with it or you're not.
As an old-time "Sullivan's Travels" fan, I tend to think that lifting people's spirits is a high calling. Your milage may differ.
Posted by: David C. | December 29, 2008 at 04:00 PM

Terrible movie, what in the world are you guys thinking.
Posted by: arif | December 29, 2008 at 04:13 PM

Aamir's previous film "Fanaa" was also two movies in one. Before the intermission it was a love story and then a terrorist thriller after. I wondered if I'd wandered into the wrong screen! Not sure I want to see this althought I heard the music was great.
Posted by: Shali Dore | December 29, 2008 at 06:13 PM

At the mid-point of "Fanaa," when tapori tourist guide Aamir walked into an airport men's room and emerged as a sleek international terrorist, one member of out party (a certain eminent blogger) rolled her eyes and said, "Oh, please!" At which point one super-intelligent young lady leaned over with the perfect squelch: "Mommy, if you can't get past THIS, maybe Bollywood is not for you."
Posted by: David C. | December 29, 2008 at 07:13 PM

Well, some of us do have some standards to maintain!
Posted by: * | December 29, 2008 at 08:50 PM

The only people who will watch this movie are people on honeymoon from Slumdog Millionare, which this film is a direct to dvd steven seagal movie compared to. I guess I'm just a bit shocked in the thumbs up from the big V on this one.
But all and all I hate the majority of Bollywood and hold some hope that the generation of filmmakers studying over here take their talents back to India to make better movies than this one. The actresses are simply beauty queens and the actors are too perfect to feel compassionate about. Oh well, that's probably what the rest of the world thinks of our movies anyways. To each his/her own in their own world.
Posted by: seanH | December 29, 2008 at 10:19 PM

I'm sorry but Ghajini was a fantastic film, the love story was pure and amazing. i have no idea what film you guys saw, but Aamir Khan did full justice to this film. Also, this is a TAMIL remake. It's a remake of a TAMIL film. You people obviously don't know anything if you didn't even know that. Aamir has given full justice to the film, by roping in the same ACTRESS and DIRECTOR of the tamil film.
Posted by: Yasin | December 30, 2008 at 08:54 AM

Ghajini was good action movie for Indian cinema, never seen this sort of movies before. Anyway enjoyed watching.
I think one movie you should not miss is Chandni Chowk to China, starring Akshay Kumar and beautiful Deepika Pundkar, this is first Indian Movie of Warner Brother and they are planning to release this one all over the world, don't be surprised it this movies breaks into all time great movies!!!
It is releasing on January 15th or so. you can find promo on youtube or check website
Enjoy this one don't miss life time opportunity and of course will change your views on Indian Movies.
Posted by: Don | December 30, 2008 at 09:17 AM

seanH: You may simply be a more serious person than I am. In fact, the older I get, the less serious I seem to be. I could argue that the world is a better place because it includes movies in which beautiful people lip synch and dance together on gigantic piano keyboards; that any addition to the overall fund of high spirits is a Good Thing. But that would misrepresent what I love about this stuff, which is frivolity for its own sake.
But consider this: Screenwriter Simon Beaufoy says he felt compelled to add a love story when adapting "Slumdog Millionaire" because the culture of the Mumbai slums, as grim as it is, is also "saturated with romance." And a friend of mine, a quite serious person, was like many Westerners unprepared despite all she'd read for the sheer scale of the city's poverty. But she told me that she came away from it with a new respect for Bollywood; a new understanding of the cultural service it provides: extreme escapism from a correspondingly extreme reality.
Do you think Preston Sturges would approve?
For the record, "Ghajini" is not the movie I would fall back on as a make or break test case for Bollywood. The romantic melodrama "Kal No Naa Ho" or, better yet, the exuberant comedy "Jhoom Barabar Jhoom" would be much closer to the mark.
I reviewed the latter as follows for the LA Weekly:
JHOOM BARABAR JHOOM Now this is more like it: Flirtatious repartee between glamorous stars in travel-poster international locations; a gratifyingly simple plot with puzzles and sleight-of-hand surprises; and, at regular intervals, outbursts of gaudy, energetic dancing. After a dispiriting series of summer films from both Hollywood and Bollywood that aimed at nothing more than fun and failed to achieve even that, Shaad Ali’s nutritious and filling (and glossy and sexy and inventive) Jhoom Barabar Jhoom is light entertainment so gratifyingly well crafted that it’s uplifting. It restores our faith in the High Show Biz calling of making people feel good. The central romantic situation couldn’t be simpler: Preity Zinta and Abishek Bachchan, playing off each other like longtime sparring partners, are two strangers who meet at a café in London’s Waterloo Station while waiting for their respective fiancés. Or so they claim. But JBJ distinctly resembles two other recent hits, both about gifted deceivers: Bunty aur Babli, made by the same producer-director team, and Bluffmaster, in which the dashing young Bachchan played a high-stepping con artist. So we can’t help squinting at this film’s flashbacks, searching for evidence of some elaborate hustle. (When the underlying agendas are revealed, they may seem to be a cheat in genre terms, but they reward our affection for the characters, and this is a higher code than the rules of any genre.) The entire last half hour of the film is one long blowout of a production number, a dance contest at which all the relationships are sorted out. Dancing, in fact, is the movie’s governing metaphor: The title translates as “Sway Baby Sway,” and it clearly refers not just to a dance step but also to an attitude toward life. The dancer who expresses this best, in what is finally little more than a running cameo appearance, is young Abhishek'’s father, the veteran superstar Amitabh Bachchan, who lips synchs in the first person as a Greek-chorus-like street performer, with hippie hair and a Technicolor dreamcoat, who effortlessly invests a minimalist, Zorba-style, macho two-step with the charisma of a lifetime. (Naz 8; Fallbrook 7) (David Chute) Posted by: David C. | December 30, 2008 at 11:19 AM

David C, thanks for the really cool , detailed response. I probably wouldn't get that at any other site.
I don't even really love the love story in Slumdog. I kept on thinking that we were missing one scene to see that she loved Jamaal.
I don't consider myself to be that serious as a person. I love movies like Bad Santa, Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle, and Wall E was probably my favorite movie of the year.
Some people will go into this movie and want the experience that you just mentioned. They order a dish and hope it tastes exactly how they want it to and to be honest, I think a lot of people will be happy with this film if they have an inkling of fun Indian cinema.
A great cinematic experience to me is going to a see a film that constantly toys with my predictions of where it will and won't go. I probably see somewhere between 90-150 feature films a year and like (on a good year) 8 of them.
Since 2001 I've seen a ton of bollywood movies and every time I just want to find one that goes against the traditional template that Anne speaks of. Imagine if There Will Be Blood had Daniel Day bursting out in song with the same instrumentals played in every movie ever played and he was a bit of a crazy oil driller but he also had an Elizabeth Bennet that competed with him who would get into some trouble with horribly played villains.
A few days ago I had lunch with a few indian born directors and we all hope what the Red Camera will do to Indian cinema. The inexpensiveness of it all will hopefully allow the growing middle class will begin to begin an indpendent wave of cinema that has never been allowed (unless a indian would travel to England or the US to persue work). Both CAA and William Morris are going to be starting camps in Dehli and hopefully set up infostructure with the Indian world (which really works without agencies or management - or hollywood like studios for that matter)
Watching bollywood films, to me, is almost like watching communist china at work. The producers that make the movies as well as most of the people who have their hands in the honey jar (including the government) don't really allow the typical template to be broken. One story that you'll hear often from independent filmmakers that travel to India is that the logistics of getting any non-bollywood template film made in India is near impossible. There is no crowd control, you'll want to hire one PA and the person will bring in 10 gaffers, equipment usually gets stolen even if you hire a speciality security service, controling sound is simply impossible, there will be thousands of issues with so-called government officials, and any non-indians will get stomach flu from the catering. By the time everything is made you have to get your film past customs and customs isn't the same as canada. A true producer will spend hours fighting for the right for the film to travel back to the states without any harm being done to the masters.

I will have to check out the film that you did review (and very well) once I get past my Doubt and Wrestler screeners this week.
Posted by: seanH | December 31, 2008 at 12:42 AM

Enough of crap tell you the truth I watched the movie this weekend...All the crap abt the movie being inspired from some other movie is intresting..Just think guys and tell me who is not inspired in this world by some or the other thing..Be it good or bad..If some one does good to you or you see something gud you will get inspired..Ditto with the bad things...So let's just forget the crappy shit and give the due where it is supposed to be..A good movie is all about gripping story, good direction and if the movie excels in all departments like acting, music, cinmatography direction and all other things, you cannot call a movie a bad one-even if it is a remake or has some sceanes from some hollywood, tollywood or bollywood movie..i am sure you will agree that a movie excels if it is good in all departments..I am sure that a badly made movie with an original story would be a dud as well..So let's forget the movie being remake and enojoy as it is a good watch..
Posted by: Amit | December 31, 2008 at 02:20 PM

uh Im an indian that completely hates many (many many) bollywood films others usually like, and I loved gajini.
I think it's a Ravi K Chandran (cin) film from start to finish.
I just think its too infradig to write a review for it because know...remake ...and all that...
I understand you got to pander to a certain cell phone owning tycoon, and remake films inspired by Hollywood with much singing and what you gotta do, but don't expect me to be writing reviews for it.
Ugly punk girl, I’m not going to be banging you. thanks.
Posted by: Ramesh | January 03, 2009 at 12:30 PM

I want to offer you a serious response, though with TypePad's recent comments weirdness I'm not sure you'll ever be able to read it. But still:
"A great cinematic experience to me is going to a see a film that constantly toys with my predictions of where it will and won't go."
That's certainly one kind of cinematic experience that I savor also--and when reading and listening to music. But I would insist that most Bollywood movies are genre movies--correctly described by Robert Warshow in his essay on the Western as "an art form for connoisseurs, where the spectator derives his pleasure from the appreciation of minor variations within the working out of an established order." The most revelatory description I've ever read, in, fact, called Bollywood "the movie industry that is also a genre." Certainly not the only kind of movie I enjoy watching, but the kind that for me is the most fun to write about.
If the people you are talking to in India are mostly from the parallel or indie movie realm, I would respectfully suggest that they have an axe to grind. From their perspective the commercial monopoly of the Bollywood idiom must seem infuriatingly oppressive and exclusionary. I have the admitted luxury of standing out side all that. But if their contention is that if they only had access to the means of production they could make movies that would win the mass audience away from Bwd, I have to say, I think they're dreaming. The industry seems to be doing a fine job of giving the large Indian audience exactly what it wants.
Communist China? In the sense of cranking out propaganda for an establishment world view? Well, maybe. But wouldn't the film theorists say that all cinemas do that? I agree to the extent that Bollywood is not a cinema of discontent but a cinema of reassurance. (I coined that description, but you should feel free to use it.) There are plenty of worse ways to use the medium, IMHO.
Posted by: David C. | January 03, 2009 at 02:32 PM

GO GHAJINI Aamir Khan, a teen idol in the early ‘90s turned dashing romantic leading man, has for several years been Bollywood’s most exportable overachiever: producer-star of the Oscar-nominated Lagaan, director-star of this year’s Indian Oscar submission Taare Zameen Par. In his latest offering, Ghajini, Khan goes aggressively down-market, indulging a midlife urge to kick ass and snap necks in slow motion, like some of the South Indian action behemoths who have recently been kicking Hindi cinema’s ass at the national box office.
The result is an experience almost too stimulating for the non-Indian nervous system, a blockbuster layer cake of full-strength escapist entertainment. In a series of gaudy, tuneful flashbacks, Khan is the sleek CEO of a cell-phone company, a prince of industry passing as a commoner so that a radiant young actress will fall in love with his soul and not his money. In the much darker present-day sequences, he’s a revenge-obsessed victim of anterograde amnesia, complete with shaved, scarred cranium, bulging muscles crawling with tattoos, and a pocketful of annotated Polaroids.
The movie does, indeed, owe a large debt to Memento, albeit once removed: This version of Ghajini is an exceedingly detailed redo of a 2005 Tamil/Telegu hit of the same name that lifted the trappings of short-term memory loss from Christopher Nolan’s film. Although there are some variations, especially in the second half, long stretches of the two Ghajinis are virtually identical. The cast also includes several prominent holdovers, including leading lady Asin Thottumkal, bad guy Pradeep Rawat, and muscle-bound cop Riyaz Khan, with Aamir Khan seemingly pasted in over original star Surya, who won a regional Best Actor award playing the tormented yet brawny hero.
If Khan was hoping some of the commercial mojo of South Indian action icons such as Superstar Rajnikanth (Sivaji the Boss) might rub off, he could scarcely have picked a better collaborator for the project than A.R. Murugadoss, the writer-director of both versions of Ghajini, auteur of the legendary headbanger Stalin: Man for the Society (2005), and a master of the pile-driving Southern style. (Key YouTube clip: “megastalin intro.”) The reinvigorated performer strides into battle in Ghajini haloed with bullet-time clouds of glittering water droplets, wrapping his opponents around tree trunks and perforating them with iron pipes, already half-transformed into Superstar Aamirkhanth.
(Culver Plaza; Fallbrook 7; Laguna Hills Mall; Naz 8 Artesia; Naz 8 Riverside) (David Chute).


c said...

bollywood isn't the cinema of reassurance. To qute mr Lindke, it is cinema in pursuit of a summum bonum.


Generic said...

Good to know!

c said...

thanks mr lindke!