I watched ‘Taal’ over the weekend. I like when you can tell that a writer/director has made a film close to his/her heart. With ‘Taal’, Subhash Ghai set out to make a modern story with a strong musical element. The musical element, provided by A. R. Rahman, is indeed strong, with a soundtrack that’s quite varied and a bit adventurous. While I didn’t like every single song, I enjoyed most of them, especially ‘Ishq Bina Kya’, sung with beautiful, emotional nuance by Alka Yagnik. I wasn’t surprised to discover that A. R. Rahman and Alka both won Filmfare awards for this film. In line with his focus on the power of music, Subhash Ghai also gives himself a cute little cameo singing along to his Walkman in a market.
As far as the story goes, it’s nothing ground-breaking. A rich boy named Manav (played by Akshaye Khanna), on a visit to Chamba, falls for a lowly village damsel named Manasi (or Mansi, played by Aishwarya Rai), and she (after a little resistance) returns his affections. When Manasi’s father, a renowned folk singer named Tarababu (played by Alok Nath) finds out, he tries to bring the affair into the open (and to forge suitable family ties) by visiting Manav’s father (played by Amrish Puri), who has lately become a friend. Things don’t go very well during the visit, and Manasi and her father are despondent until they meet a famous pop singer named Vikrant (played by Anil Kapoor), who gives Manasi a shot at fame and a new lease of life. But Manav still wants Manasi, and isn’t prepared to take ‘no’ for an answer (in fact his unshakeable confidence that he will get his Manasi back is a bit weird and annoying).
While the story is nothing new, I like the way it was told. I enjoyed the beautiful scenic shots in Chamba, and I thought the song picturisations were very lovely. As mentioned above, the music is charming, and some of the choreography is very good (some of it is dodgy). While the film as a whole is a bit uneven, with some really good scenes and some bits that were just out of place, I enjoyed the way it was wrapped up. I liked the emphasis on relationships, and the fact that all the relationships in the film got some attention and resolution, from the obvious (Manav and Manasi, Tarababu and Manav’s father), to those that would typically be considered less significant (Manav and Vikrant, Manav and his father, Manasi and Vikrant).
I thought the performances were quite strong. Akshaye Khanna hands in an understated and quite mature performance, and although I found his character very annoying in some parts of the film, I think Akshaye handled him quite well. He lets you see the courage, strength and confidence of the character, although some of that I felt was a bit questionable. He is also quite sweet in some scenes, especially with Ash.
I loved Aishwarya in the first half of the film – or perhaps I should say I loved what Ghai did with her (and the character of Manasi) in the first half. It was an unusual treatment – Ash (nicely stripped down, with wavy, simple hair and little make up) plays an innocent girl becoming aware of herself, the opposite sex (in the person of Manav) and most interestingly, her power over the opposite sex. I like that Manasi was depicted as fighting a battle she not only did not want to win, but one she knew she would eventually rejoice over losing. Ash plays this Manasi well, with a sexual awareness, sensuousness and intensity that is compelling, yet simple and without guile. The second, post-fame and success, meek and a bit majboor, burdened with love and divided loyalties, Manasi we meet in the second half of ‘Taal’, I found much less interesting, because she was someone I’ve seen many times before.
Alok Nath is good with these kinds of roles, and ‘Taal’ is no exception. I especially liked him and Ash in the scene at Manav’s home in Bombay (it was a bit of a stretch, though – I think realistically, most people would have just upped and left after a while). Amrish Puri is very good in his role as well. And there is a sweet little pooch called Brownie who had no wondrous abilities and was just so cute.
But for me, the standout performance in this film is by Anil Kapoor, with a gorgeous, meaty comic role (he won a Filmfare award for it). His character, Vikrant Kapur, is self-consciously over-the-top and dramatic, but also intelligent and even a bit sensitive. Vikrant is a showman, constantly playing ‘pop star’, surrounded by lots of spandex-clad dancers who just never seem to stop dancing and just seem kinda trippy. He even has his dancers on the go when he’s recording songs in the studio. He’s really crazy (his scene expounding his ‘7 Commandments’ is priceless comedy), but somehow you don’t find him annoying or grating (at least, I didn’t). Even when he starts acting out of character (as he does later in the film), he does a funny little scene to remind you he’s still the wacky Vikrant you’ve come to like. And in the midst of all the craziness, there’s a depth to his character that comes through here and there.
This scene was hilarious: 'Arrest him!' 'No, why should I?' 'Arrest him!' 'No!' 'Then dance!' Loved it...
All-in-all, I liked ‘Taal’. Not sure if I’d like to watch it again, but I enjoyed it very much and think Ghai and his team did a good job.
This was such a chore to watch. I just found it flat and bland, there was nothing particularly cute, or sweet, or endearing, or enjoyable about it. It was just a load of ‘blah’ for me. And it’s a bit perplexing for me because the film stars two of my favourite Bollywood actors, Rani Mukerji and Ajay ‘the hotness’ Devgan. I so wanted to like their performances, to enjoy the movie, but it just wasn’t happening.
Let’s start with the obvious – the tagline for this movie is ‘Everyone falls in love’. It should’ve been ‘Everyone falls in love except the stars of this movie’. I did not believe that they fell in love, I could not relate to their angst, torment and emotion, there was less than zero chemistry between them, and it was just… not good. And then the story – it wasn’t charming, or sweet, or witty – although it was obviously trying to be. It wasn’t even offbeat, edgy, black comedy – which I think it was also trying to be. It was just blah – a bit annoying, if anything.
I didn’t like the characters – Rani’s character is meant to be street-smart and sharp, yet somehow likeable (I think). I didn’t feel any of it – I just thought she was such a big fat liar and kept lying with an amazing casualness and ease which I found somewhat appalling. Maybe I need to loosen up, but I didn’t like her at all. Ajay’s character was a big fat bore and just seemed empty, uncaring, selfish and uninteresting – even his excitement and passion was half-hearted. The depiction of Ajay’s family is no more than an unwieldy caricature, and Ajay’s ex, played by Sonali Bendre, really does nothing except look sad/regretful.
The music in the film is not particularly great either. In fact, there’s nothing particularly great about this film. It looks pretty enough, but it lacks heart and substance. And it’s sad, because it has potential (I guess). And because I’m always searching for slightly sensational theories to back up observed phenomena, perhaps the biggest lesson of ‘Chori Chori’ is: never make a romantic movie opposite your cousin’s husband, especially when you and said cousin don’t get on well enough to laugh over a few drinks at the movie launch party.
‘PYAAR KIYA TO DARNA KYA’ (PKTDK)
Once upon a time I tried to watch this film – but then a few minutes into it, a shirtless guitar-playing Salman Khan leapt out at me and I was exasperated. I think I was in one of those I-don’t-want-no-crap moods that day – I skimmed over a few scenes and then just gave up. Looking back, I think I had just suffered through Salman’s ‘Lucky – No Time for Love’, which I absolutely hated – so my Salman tolerance-level must’ve been at an all-time low. Recently, I got a chance to borrow a few DVDs from a fellow Bollywood fan, and there it was in her collection – PKTDK. I thought to myself, why not give it another try? At the very least, you’ll be able to give your ‘slacking’ Dharmendra movie list a much-needed boost. I’m glad I did.
PKTDK, like ‘Taal’, is basically a rich boy (played by Salman) meets and falls in love with lowly girl (played by Kajol) movie. However, on this occasion, the major obstacle to the lovers’ bliss is Kajol’s over-protective and rather violent bhaiyya (played by Arbaaz Khan), who takes fierce delight in battering all of Kajol’s prospects. Salman does not help his case by making a terrible first impression on bhaiyya, and also by being a young, happy-go-lucky kinda fella. Despite his best efforts, bhaiyya remains stubbornly unimpressed. Can’t believe I haven’t mentioned my darling Dharmendra yet, who plays Kajol’s wise and strong chachu, who has looked after her and her brother since the loss of their parents. To cut a long story short, obviously there is much drama but love prevails at the end because the protagonists (Salman in particular) are determined to take risks in the name of love, and not to give way to their fears (hence the title).
I really enjoyed this movie – it was actually fun and kinda sweet. Kajol and Salman both did well, and I think they made a nice couple, surprisingly. The songs are mostly cute. There’s a scene with ‘duplicates’ of Bollywood stars that’s really quite funny. And there are quite a few hilarious subtitles, some of which are showcased below (we always love that!)
Don't know why I love this... I just do.
'Wed me thee'?? If you're going for the Shakespearean approach to subtitling (nothing wrong with that, it's always fun), at least do it right and say 'wed thee me'...
And of course, it was so great to see my Dharmendra kicking bad guys’ behinds and being all fatherly and sweet. And his voice still does ‘it’ for me. If I have any complaints about Dharam in this film, they are (a) it would have been nice to see more of him; (b) his dubbing skills seemed a bit off – there was sometimes a glaring lack of sync – like once his lips said ‘strong boy lakhta hai’, but his voice said ‘he’s a strong boy’ (I think I'm nit-picking); and (c) there were a few ‘voiceless’ scenes where they deliberately don’t let you hear the character’s voices – and I would've liked to hear his. Anyway, whatever, I don’t care enough about this to bother about it much. It was just nice to see him again.
But the craziest thing about watching PKTDK was the realisation that I AM CHANGING (and not in a cute, inspirational I’m-getting-stronger-and-wiser Effie-White-in-Dreamgirls way either). No – I am changing: from a girl who didn’t like Salman at all, to one whose Salman tolerance-level is currently rather high! I mean, the shirtless scene didn’t bother me that much this time. I didn’t wince much at his silly, goofy wiggling-his-bumbum scenes. I wasn’t constantly rolling my eyes at his frequent corniness – OMG! I think he just might be (gasp!) growing on me. I find this very, very, very disturbing.