Film History, Movies, Reviews, Tribute

Bloodstone: When Rajini went to Hollywood


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…

There he goes..

Must-watch, all Rajini fans out there!

Film History, Movies, Tribute

The Best Hollywood-Bollywood Remakes (Copies) Ever – Part III


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…

Sholay

Mera Gaon Mera Desh

Here comes Feroze…

Kaala Sona

Khote Sikkay

Kachche Heere

Wanted

Joshilaay

Zalzala

To be continued…

Film History, Movies, Tribute

The Best Hollywood-Bollywood Remakes (Copies) Ever – Part II


3. The Reincarnation of Peter Proud

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

4. A Better Tomorrow

Aatish Dir. Sanjay Gupta, Starring Sanjay Dutt, Raveena Tandon, Atul Agnihotri

5. On The Waterfront

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

6. An Affair to Remember

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

7. West Side Story

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…

Film History, Movies, Tribute

The Best Hollywood-Bollywood Remakes (Copies) Ever


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).

Here goes:

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

Aamir Khan and Rajinikanth in Aatank hi Aatank

2. James Bond Fan Club:

Golden Eyes Secret Agent 077 (1968) Dir. Kamal Sharma, Starring Sailesh Kumar, Mumtaz, Helen

Sailesh Kumar as Agent 077 in Golden Eyes Secret Agent 077

Aankhen (1968) Dir. Ramanand Sagar, Starring Dharmendra, Mala Sinha, Mehmood

Dharmendra as Agent Sunil in Aankhen

Inspector (1970) Dir. Chand, Starring Joy Mukherjee, Helen, Rajendra Nath

Joy Mukherjee as Agent 707 in "Inspector"

Agent Vinod (1977) Dir. Deepak Bahry, Starring Mahendra Sandhu, Asha Sachdev, K.N. Singh

Surakksha (1979) Dir. Ravikant Nagaich, Starring Mithun Chakraborty, Ranjeeta, Jeevan

Mithun as Agent Gopi/ Gunmaster G-9 in Surakksha

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

Film History, Movies, Reviews, Tribute

Tintin and the Golden Fleece/Tintin et le mystère de la Toison d’or


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.

Thomson and Thompson

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).

Captain Haddock in action

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!

Film History, Movies, Tribute

Five All-Time Best Comedies in Hindi


 5. Hera Pheri (2000)

Hera Pheri

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)

Andaz Apna Apna

 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)

Half Ticket

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

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)

Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro

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!

Film History, Movies, Reviews

Harishchandrachi Factory: The Lost Art of Simplicity


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.

Dadasaheb Phalke

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.

Watch!