- Last – Don’t smirk. I’m not talking about Lost. I’m talking about Last, the Korean show, and it’s not about a group of people stranded on an island. It’s the story of Tae-Ho, an investment Banker from Seoul who loses all he had in the course of one fateful night, and lands up on the streets. As he tries to fend for himself – at times literally eating off the streets – Tae-Ho comes across a parallel civilisation/ society run by homeless people. This city-wide network of hobos becomes his only chance at redeeming the money and power he’s lost and he must fight through the ranks to gain control of the crew. Very gripping and keeps you guessing at every turn.
- Misfits – When I heard the premise of this series, I thought it interesting but kinda cliched. A bunch of convicts gets hit by lightning, which endows them with super-powers. Sounds cliched, right? I was mistaken and how! The said superpowers are not the DC-Marvel kind. They are weird. Lemme explain. Curtis can rewind time whenever he is consumed by regret, Alisha turns anyone who touches her into a sex-maniac (age/gender no bar), Kelly can hear what people around her are thinking, Simon can go invisible when no one’s looking and Nathan…well, watch the show to know what power Nathan has. Nathan is quite the Chandler Bing in this motley gang of psychos, hence the most likeable. But I guess that’s what I think. Watch and decide for yourself!
- Happy Valley – It’s a happy sign that we are finally seeing some flawed-detective characters among women as well. Catherine from Happy Valley is one of them. A tough-as-nails cop who nurses demons of her own, she is on the lookout for Tommy, the man who raped and killed her daughter almost a decade ago. The fact that Catherine is raising Ryan – a son fathered by Tommy out of the rape – complicates things further. Tommy is released from jail and Catherine is determined to track him down. Unbeknownst to her, he is on the prowl again, having kidnapping another girl. An engaging narrative with well fleshed out characters, Happy Valley is as wholesome as most Brit shows nowadays. There are some heart-in-your-mouth moments to look out for, keywords being “rescue” and “houseboat”.
- Marcella – Marcella falls in the aforesaid flawed/disturbed female cop category, but if you thought it’s the same as Happy Valley, you cannot be more wrong. Marcella is the brain-child of Hans Rosenfeldt, creator of the much-loved Swedish thriller Bron/ The Bridge. We meet ex-cop Marcella Backland when she’s just been divorced by her husband, who happens to work for a shady corporate giant. A serial killer is on the rampage, and Marcella seemed to have crossed paths with him on one of her old unsolved cases. She is hired by the police department once again to help them nab the culprit this time and Marcella has a reason to live. But she can’t figure what she’s really after: revenge or redemption.
- Hinterland – Well, the show is really called Y Gwyll (try pronouncing that, I dare you) and it’s in Welsh. For the longest time I thought Welsh was maybe just a dialect of English, spoken in an unintelligible accent. How was I to know it’s a whole different language? But I digress. Hinterland is the English version of Y Gwyll. The title is as literal as it gets – its about the sinister goings-on in a tranquil Welsh town called Aberystwyth. DCI Tom Mathias goes about solving murders in the idyllic but eerie surroundings of the countryside.
- Zoo – One of my friends posted on Facebook: “Thank you ZOO. Not even a gold fish is welcome in my house now. You sick, sick TV show.” (Follow him on @BhatkaPanchi, he’s a riot) Now, I can hardly find a better way to describe Zoo or the impact it has on you. It doesn’t have the layers and psychological ramblings of the more successful shows, sure, but it’s such a guilty pleasure! Every single (non-human) animal in the planet is afflicted by a condition that makes them progressively violent towards humans. So, right from insects to cute puppies to giant apes, all go bloodthirsty at the sight of good ol’ homo sapiens. Whether you’re an animal lover who thinks humans always had it coming, or a twisted mind like mine that derives immeasurable glee out of seeing a fictionalised version of earth at the brink of extinction, you are gonna love Zoo.
- Marco Polo – There have been some people who were smart enough to expect Game of Thrones to be available on Netflix India, and were furious when it wasn’t. While we wish them a speedy recovery, it maybe worth noting that when you type “Game of Thrones” on Netflix, one of the related to titles it throws up is Marco Polo. If you are a Bong who grew up in the 80s, there are chances you might have come across the travails of this Venetian adventurer, in translation. The name is also carried by a well-loved character in a popular Bengali novel and an even more popular film where Marco Polo is played by none other than Utpal Dutt. There I go again. Coming back to TV shows, Marco Polo is a dramatised take on the eponymous traveller, chronicling his days in the court of the great Kublai Khan, the flamboyant grandson of Genghis Khan. This may sound somewhat like a dry history lesson but the show is anything but. From court intrigue to battle machinations to martial arts to gratuitous amounts of violence and…ahem, nudity, there’s plenty of reasons the Netflix search algorithm compares Marco Polo to Game of Thrones. There’s also this blind warrior monk who trains Marco to fight, and tangoes with a live cobra in his spare time. The monk is called Hundred Eyes, and he just earned a spin-off Netflix movie called, what else, One Hundred Eyes!
- Spotless – A French migrant who’s now assimilated into London mainstream, leads a mundane life as a…crime scene cleaner. Jean is an expert at the job, and now has team of professionals assisting him. He has left his dark days at the French countryside long behind, where he and his brother were party to a crime most foul. But his serene life takes a turn for the diabolic when that same brother comes to visit, with a dead woman in tow. All hell breaks lose when Jean realises his brother dearest has got themselves involved with the most dreaded gangster in all of London. If this isn’t enough for you, visualise two men in yellow hazmat suits scraping blood from the floor. Does that remind you of something? I thought so.
- Hatfields & McCoys – A series about a blood feud between two families during American Civil War. The aforementioned families, of course, are the Hatfields and the McCoys. Doesn’t sound enticing enough? Let me tell you who play the heads of these two families – William Anderson Hatfield is played by Kevin Costner, while Randolph McCoy is Bill Paxton. The miniseries was originally made for History Channel, but what the heck – it’s there in all its glory on Netflix India now. Enjoy.
- Shetland – For those who love their Nordic thrillers (The Bridge, The Killing/ Forbrydelsen), there’s a whole new genre to be explored, touted in the media as “Celtic Noir”. That’s a moniker for thrillers from the Irish/ Scottish and Welsh folks, and their time has come. If Hinterland listed above is a prime example of that, Shetland is (arguably) even better! There’s something about whodunits in a British/ Scottish countryside. Shetland is a delicious thriller that checks all the boxes of this genre, and keeps you guessing till the very end. During the setup, a new character is introduced every minute-and-a-half, and you won’t mind noting down the characters and their relations on paper, just to keep track. But do trust me when I tell you that all the effort is totally worth its while.
It’s that time of the year again. Rajinikanth, or Thalaivar (The Leader) as his worshipers affectionately call him, has set screens ablaze all across the world with his latest tour de force, Enthiran/Robot. Facebook, twitter et al are bursting with reviews, anecdotes, videos, articles about the star. Slate, the world renowned online magazine devoted to the arts, posted an article on him, which introduces him thus:
Jackie Chan is the highest-paid actor in Asia…The second-highest-paid actor in Asia is a balding, middle-aged man with a paunch, hailing from the Indian state of Tamil Nadu and sporting the kind of moustache that went out of style in 1986. This is Rajinikanth, and he is no mere actor—he is a force of nature. If a tiger had sex with a tornado and then their tiger-nado baby got married to an earthquake, their offspring would be Rajinikanth.
That’s Rajini for you; you can love him, adore him, dismiss him or laugh at him, but you can NOT ignore him. He’s literally, and I mean literally, worshiped by those hailing from South India, particularly the state of Tamil Nadu – but his fan following is spread all across the world – from Japan and Korea to the US and UK.
And he enjoyed the same adulation and praise in the 80s, so much so that a certain Ashok Amritraj (brother of ace Tennis player Vijay Amritraj), decided to co-produce a Hollywood adventure spectacle a la Indiana Jones films or Romancing the Stone, set in India, starring Rajinikanth. Thus was born Bloodstone. It was written by B-Movie Mogul Nico Mastorakis, and directed by Dwight Little (known for films like Halloween 4, Rapid Fire, and Murder at 1600).
Bloodstone is Hollywood B-Movie in all its glory. It is about a mythical Indian stone – a ruby, looted by the British in colonial times, which is smuggled back to India by a cold blooded Dutch collector named Ludwig Van Hoeven, who’ll go to any extent to get his hands on it. An American tourist couple (played by Brett Stimley and Anna Nicholas), unwittingly become a party to the crime, and the wife is kidnapped by Van Hoeven. To the rescue comes Shyam Sabu, the most colorful and talented cabbie in the whole wide world, who can drive an Ambassador and a knife with equal panache – played by who else – Rajinikanth!
The film is a delightful action-adventure romp, the kind that you laugh off but enjoy all the same. Full of all the stereotypical imagery and iconography that India invokes in the western psyche – Maharajahs, Princesses, gold and riches, cursed diamonds, snakes, tigers and elephants, the most persistently annoying and irritating factor of the film is a buffoon named Inspector Ramesh. Lord Almighty knows (does he?) why the makers chose to let an American (Charlie Brill) essay the role – the fake accent and mannerisms get extremely tiresome for the poor viewer. But whatever misgivings you might have with such a film, is compensated many times over by Rajinikanth’s awesome presence. Even with the cute accent (“Money, money, money – that’s all people talk about – whatever happened to lau?“), he exudes the charm and charisma that he’s known for. Even the Rajini Antics like throwing the knife from one hand to the other back and forth, lighting the cigarette in style…they’re all there. He even throws in a dance move, even if for a split second…
Must-watch, all Rajini fans out there!
8. The Westerns
Yes, we’ve always had our own brand of ‘Curry’ Westerns, complete with guns, horses and the barren landscape. Feroze Khan was the poster-boy of this genre in Bollywood, but once in a while, every star worth his salt has tried his hand at it. One desi equivalent of the Western Outlaw, the ‘daaku’ genre, was also immensely popular in the 70s and 80s (the genre merits a list of its own, having spawned scores of exploitation movies like Daaku Hasina and Phoolan Hasina Ramkali)
First the Big Daddy of ’em all…
Here comes Feroze…
To be continued…
This relatively lesser known film is the only one in the list that has the distinction of ‘inspiring’ a classic in Bollywood, which in turn, was ‘remade’ several years later, in 2008. To add to the confusion, our dear David Fincher is working on an official ‘remake’ of the original.
Karz (1980) Dir. Subhash Ghai, Starring Rishi Kapoor, Tina Munim, Simi Garewal & Pran
Karzzzz (2008) Dir. Satish Kaushik, Starring Himesh Reshammya, Urmila Matondkar, Danny
Aatish Dir. Sanjay Gupta, Starring Sanjay Dutt, Raveena Tandon, Atul Agnihotri
Kabzaa Dir. Mahesh Bhatt, Starring Sanjay Dutt, Amrita Singh, Raj Babbar, Paresh Rawal
Ghulam Dir. Vikram Bhatt, Starring Aamir Khan, Rani Mukherjee, Rajit Kapur, Sharat Saxena
Ok, a footnote here. The above film starring Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr, widely considered a classic, was itself a remake. Actually, both the films were directed by the same man. Leo McCarey. He made Love Affair in 1939, and 18 years later, made An Affair to Remember, based on the same script. One wonders why.
Mann Dir. Indra Kumar, Starring Aamir Khan, Manisha Koirala
Mere Apne Dir. Gulzar, Starring Vinod Khanna, Shatrughan Sinha, Meena Kumari, Asrani, Danny, Mehmood, Yogita Bali
( Mere Apne was an official remake of a Bengali Film called Aponjon, which itself was heavily influenced by West Side, with political undertones)
Josh Dir. Mansoor Khan, Starring Shahrukh Khan, Aishwarya Rai, Chandrachur Singh, Sharad Kapoor
To be continued…
Have been unable to post much in the past weeks. Life has been throwing some nasty surprises. Anyways, let’s get down to business. Today’s list will cover Bollywood remakes/ (ahem) adaptations of Hollywood movies. Our filmmakers have always been inspired by Hollywood. Right from Raj Kapoor’s Chori Chori (1956) which had ‘elements of’ Frank Capra’s Clark Gable starrer It happened One Night (1934), to the more recent Kareena-Shahid Kapoor debacle Milenge Milenge (2010) which was a shoddy copy of John Cusack-Kate Beckinsale blockbuster Serendipity (2001).
1. The Godfather Inspirations:
Dharmatma (1975) Dir. Feroze Khan, Starring Feroze Khan (Michael Corleone), Prem Nath (Vito “The Godfather” Corleone) , Hema Malini & Rekha
Zulm Ki Hukumat (1992) Dir. Bharat Rangachary, Starring Dharmendra, Govinda, Shakti Kapoor, Paresh Rawal & Kimi Katkar
Aatank Hi Aatank (1995) Dir. Dilip Shankar, Starring Aamir Khan, Rajinikanth (Sonny Corleone), Juhi Chawla, Pooja Bedi
2. James Bond Fan Club:
Golden Eyes Secret Agent 077 (1968) Dir. Kamal Sharma, Starring Sailesh Kumar, Mumtaz, Helen
Aankhen (1968) Dir. Ramanand Sagar, Starring Dharmendra, Mala Sinha, Mehmood
Inspector (1970) Dir. Chand, Starring Joy Mukherjee, Helen, Rajendra Nath
Agent Vinod (1977) Dir. Deepak Bahry, Starring Mahendra Sandhu, Asha Sachdev, K.N. Singh
Surakksha (1979) Dir. Ravikant Nagaich, Starring Mithun Chakraborty, Ranjeeta, Jeevan
Wardaat (1981) Dir. Ravikant Nagaich, Starring Mithun Chakraborty, Kaajal Kiran, Shakti Kapoor, Kalpana Iyer
Bond 303 (1985) Dir. Ravi Tandon, Starring Jeetendra, Parveen Babi
Mr. Bond (1992) Dir. Raj N. Sippy, Starring Akshay Kumar, Sheeba, Pankaj Dheer
And, finally…this one’s more of a Jason Bourne clone:
Prince (2010) Dir. Kookie V Gulati, Starring Vivek Oberoi, Nandana Sen, Neeru Bajwa & Aruna Shields
…..to be continued
Tintin and the Golden Fleece/ Tintin et le mystère de la Toison d’or (1961) is one of the two live action films ever made on the eponymous adventurer, the other being Tintin and the Blue Oranges/ Tintin et les oranges bleues (1964). Steven Spielberg nursed dreams of making a live action version of his own for more than 25 years, until Peter Jackson (LOTR, King Kong) convinced him that a Weta-Digital-branded-motion-capture-animation is the way to go.
The film is an absolutely enjoyable action-adventure spectacle. Anyone who grew up in the 70s/80s, especially the Bengalis, will be reminded of all the children’s detective novels and comics that used to be an integral part of growing up those days, with regular doses of the Feludas (a Holmes-like super sleuth created by Satyajit Ray) and the Tintins, and a little bit of Hardy Boys and Famous Five thrown in. Tintin and the Golden Fleece is very much a part of that space. And it hardly matters that the language here is French. Snowy is Milou, Thomson and Thompson are Dupont and Dupond, so on and so forth… but to Tintin aficionados, the characters are so recognizable, the changed names don’t take away from the experience (after all, Tintin IS a French/ Belgian character).
It’s a regular Tintin adventure in celluloid. Period. Conscious effort seems to have been made to ensure that the characters, the settings, the milieu, the plot, everything looks straight out of a Tintin comic. In that sense, I’m not sure how it’ll appeal to those not exposed to that world. Georges Wilson as Captain Haddock does a hell of a job – especially the scenes where he goes absolutely nuts with his name-calling and all that (again, those who’ve followed the series know what I am talking about). Jean-Pierre Talbot makes a great Tintin (albeit a bit too cold and unfunny for the character maybe); this film along with its sequel, are his only claims to fame as an actor. Ironically, he remains the only actor who’s ever depicted the character on screen, in its live-action-flesh-and-blood avatar. Ditto for the Director Jean-Jacques Vierne, who’s probably only directed three other features in his lifetime (surprising, considering he assisted the illustrious Jules Dassin, on the even more illustrious Rififi).
The plot is simple. One of Captain Haddock’s old pirate friends leaves him a rusted old ship before dying. To honor his wish, Captain flies to Istanbul, Tintin and Snowy in tow. The vessel, apparently of very little value, is sought for an astronomical sum by a shady businessman. Why? That, friends, is the mystery of “The Golden Fleece”, which is what the ship is called.
And for the Billions of Billious Blue Blistering Barnacles!
Pantera (1987) is The Boss’ only International Album, in which he collaborated with Jose Flores. A rare treat for RDB aficionados…Enjoy!
Rock Dancer (1995): Bappi Da, Govinda and Samantha Fox….what bloody fun!
5. Hera Pheri (2000)
Priyadarshan’s breakout comedy caper was 2000’s surprise sleeper hit. A namesake of the 70s Big B starrer heist classic, it was the inspired rehash of a Malayalam film called Ramji Rao Speaking (1989), which was also remade in Tamil as Arangetra Velai (1990). It’s about a trio of buffoons, a woman (but of course), mistaken identity, and loads of cash… Paresh Rawal is still remembered for his stellar performance as Baburao Ganpatrao Apte, a myopic, foul-mouthed simpleton with a heart of gold.
4. Andaaz Apna Apna (1994)
In 1994, ace director Rajkumar Santoshi landed a casting coup that has not been bettered ever since, not even by Santoshi himself! Two of three reigning Khans of the time, Aamir and Salman Khan, co-starred in a crazy, madcap comedy called Andaaz Apna Apna. It was a box office bomb, but over the years, it has gained a strong cult following. The film was full of in-jokes and film references: the two leads were named “Amar” and “Prem” respectively, Paresh Rawal in a dual role of Ram Gopal Bajaj and Shyam Gopal Bajaj, Amar and Prem’s dads were named “Murli” and “Bankelal” respectivley (played by Jagdeep and Deven Varma), Shakti Kapoor starred as Crime Master Gogo (“Mugambo ka Bhatija”), Karishma Kapoor’s character was called “Raveena” disguised as Karishma, Raveena Tandon’s character was “Karishma” in the guise of Raveena…confused? Watch the film!
3. Half Ticket (1962)
Back in the early 1960s, Kishore da was a major star. He was an acting, singing, dancing sensation. A true maverick. Half Ticket has him playing a young man, his mother, a 10 year old boy, a dancing girl… Add to it the dazzling presence of Madhubala in her prime, and you have a memorable classic in your hands.
2. Gol Maal (1979)
Gol Maal is the story of the encounter between Bhawani Shankar, an old disciplinarian and idealist whose code of honor has a lot to do with sporting a moustache, and a young man named Ramprasad Sharma who gets a job at the former’s office. The inimitable chemistry between Amol Palekar and Utpal Dutt forms the core of the movie. The fuming Dutt and the stuttering Palekar keep you in splits all throughout.
1. Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro (1983)
And then, the Baap of all black comedies. Who can forget the extended Mahabharat/Mughal/Ramayan stage play sequence? A satire on the corruption plaguing the media and nexus between real estate cartels and the government departments, Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro was unsuccessful at the BO on release. But as time went by, quite a cult developed surrounding the film. And its on the rise. Amen!
Harishchandrachi Factory is strongly reminiscent of Malgudi Days and other DD serials, Hrishikesh Mukherjee & Basu Chatterjee oeuvre of films, snugging into the quilt with Grandma telling a story… In short, the Good Old Days. Days when films were not merely about form or technique, but about the simple pleasures in life – about a fast-disappearing tribe called the middle class. When intelligence and simplicity were not mutually exclusive, in the realm of films. Today, cinema consists of either way-too-complex-see-how-intelligent-I-am films or way-too-idiotic-audience-is-stupid kinda trash! Along comes a film like Harishchandrachi Factory and you start believing all is not lost – beside the banal and the super intelligent, the simpler, fun way of story-telling still exists.
Harishchandrachi… is the fable of how Dhundiraj Govind Phalke, better known as Dadasaheb Phalke, almost literally, gave birth to Indian Cinema with its first ever film Raja Harishchandra (might add here, two other contenders for the first film maker in India are Dadasaheb Torne and Hiralal Sen, although the first filmed plays being staged and the other was a shorts and ad film maker). It’s the story of his obsession with the medium, his struggles to prove that it can be done in India and that he wasn’t crazy (literally), the sacrifices he and his family made to realize the dream, casting of the film and how it was finally shot. With such a seemingly sombre and high brow plot line, one would expect a somewhat serious biopic of sorts. What debut ante Director Paresh Mokashi does is turn this very notion on its head by making a very light hearted, simplistic movie, filled with various hilarious and touching incidents. This film lives in its moments.
For example, when Phalke runs outs of funds to make his film, he ends up selling his cupboard and other pieces of furniture – with the money, he buys some books on film making. When he returns home, his house is crowded with neighbours, all tearfully consoling his wife. He feels something is amiss, walks up to his wife and asks what is wrong, only to realize they had been consoling her on the loss of the cupboard! Precious… Or when the son goes looking for his father in the dead of the night, or the story of the casting – one by one, all such pearls sewn by Mokashi into this priceless necklace of a film. One may say that the complexity of such a momentous occasion in history has been rather too “simplified”, but hey, who’s complaining?
As with most Marathi productions, this one too is full of stellar performances. Nandu Madhav (last seen by Hindi film audiences in Jis Desh Me Ganga Rehta Hai) as Phalke proves himself to be an actor of immense caliber. Vibhawari Deshpande as Saraswati Phalke and the child actors support him suitably.