Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Bolly Babes Continued and More (or less)

Word for the Day - purblind - which I came across in a Saint short story - as in "fit to govern this purblind country". I like the sound of this word but doubt if I will ever get it into a conversation and if I did people would just give me a puzzled look. Meaning - 1) having poor vision or nearly blind, 2) slow in understanding, dull.

Get your disco dancing shoes back on! Three Bollywood disco songs all sung by the great Nazia Hassan. Nazia was born in my first stomping ground - Karachi, Pakistan in 1965 and was first discovered by actor Feroz Khan for his film Qurbani. She was fifteen years old at the time and sang Aap Jaisa Koi, which was picturized in the film by Zeenat Aman. The song and film were big hits. In the same year she sang for a film that was all disco - Disco Diwane - and the title song was an even bigger hit in the disco crazy country. Two years later she sang in Star and had a hit with Boom Boom. Interestingly, her brother Zoheb Hassan sang the male vocals for Star and Disco Diwane. Sadly, Nazia died in 2000, leaving behind quite a legacy of music but also of spending much of her time helping poor children all over the world.

Not that anyone has seemed particularly interested in these Bollywood actresses, but one of the really nice things about getting into Bollywood films and the personalities that surround it is that there is an enormous amount of information about them on the Internet - in English. After trying to diligently piece together information on Hong Kong stars for years with a snippet here and a sentence there - this is easy - most of the actors are on Wikipedia and current gossip about them is rampant on the Internet - and there are loads and loads of blogs about Bollywood - way more than on Hong Kong films. Check Beth Loves Bollywood for a great list of links. And now apparently, many of the actors have begun blogging and twittering themselves - so if you want to know what Amrita Rao had for breakfast you can do so!

If I was a betting man I would have lost a bundle on Katrina Kaif making it big in Bollywood. She showed up a few years back - half British, half Indian - not able to speak Hindi worth a damn - like an orphan in a storm. Her buoy was Salman Khan who grabbed her after his Aish fiasco and paraded her around Mumbai like a prize cocker spaniel. With his clout he was able to get his girlfriend into some films in which she looked quite awkward I thought and I figured she would be gone before my dinner was digested - but in fact she has become a big star with a number of box office successes. So I admit to knowing nothing. And she has thankfully outgrown Salman like a bad haircut and moved on. So good for her.

The best actress in India? Almost by universal accord it is Kokona Sen Sharma. She began her career in what is termed the "parallel cinema" of India - i.e. films with no musical numbers. You may know her for Amu, which had a small theatrical release in the states or Mr. and Mrs. Iyer which received huge accolades for its story about two people caught up in a Hindi-Muslim communal riot. But she made the move eventually to Bollywood films, while still keeping one foot outside in "parallel" films.

Most of you HK film fans must recall Mallika Sherawat for her short but memorable part in Jackie Chan's The Myth back a few years. At that time she was topic number one in the Bollywood rags, but they have moved on to some degree to new actresses coming down the turnpike. Whether deserved or not, Mallika got a reputation of being a cute nitwit who exposed much more cleavage than talent - but cleavage usually works for me.

Finally for today, another actress who is just on the scene who I know nothing about other than what I read on the Internet - she started off making films in the Tamil and Telugu industries before coming to Bollywood and having a big hit in an Aamir Khan produced film - Jaane Tu . . . Ya Jaane Na. I just like her waifish anime doll look - something you don't see a lot of in Bollywood.

Nothing much watched other than a Psycho film deja vu moment. Picked up the DVD with the 1937 and the 1952 versions of Prisoner of Zenda on it. The first one has the stronger cast - Ronald Coleman, Madeleine Carroll, David Niven, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Mary Astor, C. Aubrey Smith and a forbidding Raymond Massey (this guy is so dark and creepy sometimes that it amazes me what an incredible Abraham Lincoln he was) - and while the second is no slouch with Stewart Granger, Deborah Kerr, Jane Greer and James Mason it doesn't feel quite on the same star power level.

But what is so weird about these films are they are really one film - only one is in color and has a taller leading man. It's the exact same film - the exact same script - the same everything. Talk about lazy and trying to cash in on a classic - because the first one is highly recommended if you haven't seen it - a true Hollywood classic adventure romance film that is dashing and heroic - that old fashioned stiff upper lip duty thing - a man has to do what a man has to do - and Coleman and Carroll send off real sparks. Coleman was a huge star back in the 1930's but seems largely forgotten these days - but I love his clipped British accent, his restrained acting style and a sense of real decency in films like Tale of Two Cities, Lost Horizon, Random Harvest, The Talk of the Town and If I Were King.


Anonymous said...

I'm afraid that, as with Chinese film, I'm stuck in the 50s and 60s when it comes to Bollywood.

Post some pics of Helen, Madhubala, Geeta Bali, Nimmi, Nutan, or Suchitra Sen, and then you'll get a peep out of me. ;)

Brian said...

You just have to tell yourself that in 30 years these are the actresses you will then be interested in and get interested now! Time is just a sliding door. Whatever that means!

Steve said...

What do you want me to say? Konkona is a fantastic actress in Mr and Mrs Iyer, Genelia is hot in Boys, Katrina and Mallika haven't impressed me either way yet. Check out Trisha Krishnan, Shreya Saran, and Sneha.

Brian said...

That's good! I never would have thought Genelia would be hot from her picts - cute maybe but not hot.

Steve said...

Obviously better to see on DVD with a subwoofer-equipped sound system...
Genelia: Maro maro

Trisha: Something something

Sneha pics

Shriya pics

Brian said...

Those are great videos, but good lord that last thing I can afford to do is get into South Indian films! Don't tempt me. I know you have been getting into them lately - are you finding them better than BW or just different?

Steve said...

Better or different? Both, really. As Hindi movie makers have tried to broaden the appeal of their films to later generations of children of NRIs and mainstream UK/US audiences, many of the films have become little more than bland, cheaper knockoffs of Hollywood. There are still good Hindi movies being made, but now many of them could have been made anywhere, and probably better.

Tamil, and especially Telugu cinema, OTOH, seem mainly concerned with entertaining the native speaker, and have more local flavor than Hindi cinema. While the budgets are generally lower, even the biggest budget affairs usually retain the energy which often seems lacking from Hindi films. Good South Indian films to some degree have that feel one gets from certain HK films -- it may be slapdash, but it's very entertaining.

There are a lot of reviews and recommendations here: Beyond Bollywood

At least see these films:
Nuvvostanante Nenoddantana
Dumm Dumm Dumm

Brian, you don't have to buy lots of SI films -- I'm sure you can rent them somewhere in NYC.

Brian said...

I know how you feel - you turned South - I turned back - began watching mainly older BW films.

They probably have rental places for films here but if so they would be in Queens which is about a 2 hour trip for me and my guess is they are on tape without subs. Many of the BW video stores in NYC have gone out of biz just like regular video stores. In all of NYC I think we only have one regular video store where you can buy dvds - the rest like Virgin and Tower are gone and many of the Blockbusters are slowly going as well. I think some of the same reasons forced many of the Indian stores out of biz - the Internet.

Steve said...

Netflix has a bunch of SI films, including Nuvvostanante Nenoddantana and Autograph; try Mass instead of Dumm Dumm Dumm (they are very different films, but I really enjoyed both).

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