Sunday, February 28, 2010

Beauty Break: Bollywood

It's Eye Candy Weekend

This month I've felt a burgeoning desire to start investigating Bollywood, the most popular brand of cinema with which I am least acquainted. You may have noticed. I think this has something to do with never being finished with movie glamour but being very finished with this particular Oscar season. Are you worn out on it yet? If you're a Bollywood fan, please suggest 5 must-see movies in the comments (other than Lagaan which I have seen and greatly enjoyed... but for the length). I'm not sure how quickly I'll get to them or if I'll do anything with them on the blog but I need to get schooled. Please suggest movies with a maximum amount of eye candy because I'm shallow like that. Movies with great song scores too would be ideal because I live for musicals.

And now, some of my favorite beauties of Bollywood... in still photo form at least.

Aishwarya Rai and Hrithik Roshan (pictured above) are the two Bollywood mega stars I've known the most about. And this is due to the US media's brief flirtations with caring about them. And even that was some years ago. But my point is this: Yum^2 !!!

More pretty people now...

Madhuri Dixit (supposedly a fine actress. and you know how I feel 'bout those)
Priyanka Chopra (soon to star in a film where she murders her 7 husbands. That's hot)

John Abraham (once rumored/campaigned for Jake's Prince of Persia)
Arjun Rampal (Kidman's co star in that Schweppe's commercial)

Would I enjoy any of these people as actors? Film Experience readers who double as Bollywood fans are the only ones who might know. Tell me. Or suggest alternatives. Maybe less popular actors who the hipsters like... the Tilda Swintons of Bollywood if you will? (Not that a Swinton can be grown in any region outside of Scotland.) Or suggest 5 movies I MUST watch so I can get started.


Sid said...

Hey Nat, here's a "Best of the Decade" feature I recently posted on my blog.

I'm not sure how you'll respond to these films: in a lot of cases, foreign films tend to elicit different responses from their home audience compared to the rest of the world (and this may be especially true for Bollywood, given its unique style of filmmaking).

Two recommendations: I think it would be easy to start with director Vishal Bhardwaj's two Shakespeare adaptations: Omkara (Othello) and Maqbool (Macbeth) -- though I wouldn't say they are indicative of purely Bollywood filmmaking, which is more or less a dying art now.

Sid said...

Also, if you're more interested in classics, then Guru Dutt's Pyaasa would be a good starting point (Richard Corliss included it in the Top 100 of all time feature Time magazine did a few years back).

ak said...

I still haven't seen Sholay, but that is the classic Amitabh Bacchhan movie everyone interested in Bollywood has been told to watch.

I highly highly recommend Dilwane Dulhania Le Jayenge. Classic Bollywood, many costume/scenery changes, great songs, melodramatic. And it made Kajol and SRK into huge megastars.

Swades, as I mentioned in a previous comment is a legitimately good film. The singing and dancing in that film make sense within the plot of the movie, unlike most Bollywood singing and dancing. Madhuri Dixit and Amitabh both make cameos and are quite good in it as well.

Kal Ho Naa Ho. Horrible, horrible plot and acting. Absolutley abysmal. But SO SO delicious. Maybe you can just youtube the songs from this movie. There are a lot of good ones: It's the time to disco, mahi ve, kuch to hua hai and the title track.

I know you like actresses, so I will recommend a Sridevi movie as my fifth choice. She was the premier actress of 80s Bollywood and is a household name in all Indian homes. Ok, so the movie that sticks out the most in her filmography is Nagini. She is a woman...who is ALSO A SNAKE! (Dun dun dun). She does a great snake dance at the end.

Oh, shit. I know I've surpassed my recommendation of five, but my parents made me watch Satyam Shivam Sundaram when I was a kid. It was heartbreaking and I really can't say more because I can't remember which plot elements would be spoilers or not. Hope this helps

nevermore said...

Nandita Das is amazing as an actress. She's been in 2 of Deepa Mehta's elements trilogy... I'd say Konkona Sen Sharma in "Mr and Mrs Iyer" is also amazing.

Y Kant Goran Rite said...

Any time I read 'Aishwarya Rai is the most beautiful woman in the world', I say 'Yeah, right.' But when I look at that photo, I really have no counter argument. It seems etirely possible that Aishwarya Rai well and truly is - physically at least - the most beautiful human being in the world.

And still I am not tempted to sit through a Bollywood film just to gaze at her. Having sat through all of Bride and Prejudice for that reason (and, foolishly, without ear plugs), I believe she now owes me.

Leith Q said...

Dil Se
Kal Ho Na Ho
Mother India
Shree 420

Michael Parsons said...

One order of John Abraham to go please

Howler said...

I don't know Bollywood that well, but I can easily recommend 2001 huge musicals: Oscar-nominated "Lagaan" and starpacked "Khabie Kushi Kabhie Gham" (with Shahrukh Khan, Kajol, Hritik Roshan and Amitabh Bachchan), critically acclaimed "Rang de Basanti", independent gem "Mr and Mrs Iyer" and so-terrible-it's-fun-to-watch "Kaho Naa... Pyaar Hai", that served as Hritik Roshan's star vehicle and was a huge hit in India, winning loads of awards.
It's not easy to compare acting in Bollywood films to acting we're used to, because it focuses on entertaining and moving the public without really creating a character, but I love some performances of Kajol ("Fanaa") and Aamir Khan ("Lagaan"), the chemistry between some of the usual onscreen couples is spectacular (Shahrukh Khan & Kajol, Hritik Roshan & Aishwara Ray) and the beauty of those people itself is mesmerazing to watch (and they seem likeable, too).

Anonymous said...

JODHA AKBAR: directed by Ashutosh Gowariker (LAGAAN) this epic features Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Rai as a royal couple. need I say something more?

DEVDAS: based upon an indian literature classic novel, this is one of the most recent version of this history. it stars Bollywood Royalty Shahrukh Khan and Madhuri Dixit and boasts one of the most appreciated star turn by Aishwarya (here at her most beautiful)

DHOOM 2: a no brainer of course (even if it was a blockbuster) but the scene in which Hrithik and Aishwarya kiss passionly each other is worth the view

KAMINEY: Vishal Bhardwaj is maybe the most interesting indian working director, in this frantic thriller he shows to be better (or at least equal) than Boyle or Ritchie...former miss world Priyanka Chopra is excellent in a de-glam role

MAAN HOON NA: think about THE MAJOR AND THE MINOR (or YOU'RE NEVER TOO YOUNG) Bollywood style...Megastar Shahrukh is a secret agent undercover who disguised himself as an aged student just to protect his superior's estranged daughter and to find his own estranged brother...spy story + comedy of errors + musical = adorable!

DOSTANA: it's not easy to speak about omosexuality in India, this was the first Bollywood comic tentative. I think you can find many better alternatives, but it's still interesting, at least as a "document"

KABHIE KUCHI KABHIE GHAM: MOONSUN WEDDING Bollywood style...what a pity Venice Film Festival doesn't open its competition to indian blockbuster...

In another post I already suggested u some titles starring the great Aamir Khan and of course u must try to recover, if u haven't already watched them some classics such as MOTHER INDIA, SHOLAY and MUGHAL-EL-AZAM


Terry said...

Shree 420 is essential.

DHE said...

You should watch:

SHOLAY (1975). Biggest Bolly blockbuster ever, and it will give you a crash course on why Amitabh Bachchan is such a huge star. You'll also become acquainted with everything "good, bad and ugly" about the Bollywood style (pun intended, as you'll see this is basically an Indian spaghetti western.) Suffice to say Indian comedy is very weird but it doesn't really harm the rest of the (dramatic) film any.

DIL CHAHTA HAI - I always recommend this one to Bollywood newbies because it is one of the more "Westernized" hits and the unique Bollywood combo of song, dance, drama and comedy goes down a little easier the first time.

I second the suggestion of OMKARA as a straight-up dramatic film, and also you get to see one of the finer actors, Saif Ali Khan, in action as a villain. Good cast all around, though. More drama, less song.

DEVDAS (2002- it's been remade several times) is more TV miniseries drama to my taste but it has spectacular production numbers that shouldn't be missed. Was the most expensive Bollywood film at the time it was made. Has the best musical number I have seen in ANY film (Hollywood or non) since 1950.

KAL HO NAA HO is not the best film but is a charming one set in New York City. Shows off the city really well.

Other suggestions - LAGAAN, the recent RANG DE BASANTI, and I hear the currently released THREE IDIOTS is quite good.

Go to Youtube and find some music videos from these films.

Anonymous said...

you should also mention Rani Mukherjee,yes her star is sinking...but she's one hell of an actress (Black,Yuva)
and Konkona Sen Sharma, may not be the prettiest looking actress but shes an amazing actress cause she's natural and less melodramatic

KD said...

Nat, Indians love films that they can take their family to and experience believable escapism. I know it hards to explain. Take a look at Shahrukh's NPR interview here:

I would recommend 3 idiots, Dil Chahta Hai, Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna - for gorgeous production design, Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham, and Lamhe, my personal favorite.

Check out My name is Khan in theatres if you can. Its broad but its enjoyable.

For the very reason, its supposed to be believable escapism (no sci-fi, no special effects), they tend to be long - giving you an immersive experience.

Neel Mehta said...

Maybe less popular actors who the hipsters like... the Tilda Swintons of Bollywood if you will?

Bollywood, or at least the part of it that comes to DVD stateside, doesn't have much of an indie scene. So maybe India's Tilda Swinton speaks Tamil...

You have enough film suggestions, but I thought it may be helpful to separate the Khans by providing some Hollywood equivalents.

Shahrukh Khan = Nicolas Cage. (When Cage isn't being bat-shit crazy.) Handsome, but not pretty. Devdas is basically SRK's Leaving Las Vegas.

Aamir Khan = Mel Gibson. (Young, appealing Mel Gibson.) Athletic, undersized, comic, a little edgy, with an eye toward historical projects. Each played against type (as teachers) in their directorial debuts.

Salman Khan = Tom Cruise. (No qualifiers; take the comparison however you like.) Set the standard of physicality as a movie star that others followed. Later attempts to be a serious actor have had mixed results.

I haven't seen enough of other actors to make more comparisons. I'll let others step in.

john said...

Seriously Nathaniel, no one in Bollywood equals La Swinton, they all wear too much makeup, get surgery and get their skin lightened. They also lack talent.

Unknown said...

I have to un-recommend Devdas, Main Hoon Naa and K3G--- they are WAY over the top. BUT, Devdas (2002) is STUNNING to look at and almost worth seeing for that.

Dil Chahta Hai (2001)- 3 college grads making their way in the world, including the charming and adorable Saif Ali Khan. Aamir Khan of Lagaan also stars.

Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995)- Featuring star-making performances from Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol. A classic love story for the 90s.

Kabhi Khabie (1976)- One of the great Bollywood stories.

Sholay (1975)- Classic action.

Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998)- A TEENY bit over the top and maybe too long, but a delightful love story with very catchy music.

Also from 2004, which Swades is, Veer-Zaara. It's intense and long, but satisfying and musically lovely.

Finally, since I haven't seen anything with Madhuri Dixit in the lead: Dil to Pagal Hai (1997)- Again a bit over done, over long, but catchy music, and Karisma Kapoor's scene by the lake is almost enough for a Best Supporting Actress nomination.

Angie said...

My five favorites:
1. Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (get through the first half, which reminds me of an episode of Saved by the Bell, but I promise you it's worth it in the end).
2. Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge
3. Devdas
4. Dil Chatha Hai
5. Main Hoon Na (this is something you should see, but only after you've exposed yourself with other Bollywood films because it parodies the conventions of Bollywood cinema).


tesh said...

I disagree and agree with all the suggestions above.

My 'expertise' is from 1988-2006.

CATEGORY A: Sridevi, Madhuri Dixit & Juhi Chawla films.

They were the best, most well-known actresses from 1988-1995, esp. the first two.

1. LAMHE (1991) ('Moments') - for me the best movie of the 1990s, a serious Bollywood-style love story from the same filmmakers (Yash Raj Chopra) who later gave us Dilwale Dulhaniya. But Nathaniel, you have to watch ONE Yash Raj film to know what it means when they say that Bollywood loves song-and-dance in foreign locales. I'll explain the context of this film after you watch it. Remember, it released right before India's economic liberalization. Sridevi and Anil Kapoor, along with Waheeda Rehman and Anupam Kher -- magical, for me.

2. HUM APKE HAIN KAUN (1994)('Who am I to You?') -- WATCH THIS for Madhuri and Salman! The first movie with 10+ songs that is a charmer with great music. It paved the way for all the big Karan Johar films of later, and was even inspirational for Dilwale Dulhaniya... A huge ass hit!

3. HUM HAIN RAHI PYAR KE (1993) ('We are the vessels/journeyers of love') - funny haha, with charming pre-polished filmmaking. Aamir Khan and Juhi Chawla star. Another majorly funny comedy from this time is 'ANDAZ APNA APNA', starring Aamir Khan and Salman Khan, but the subtitles won't do it justice.

CATEGORY B: Quality filmmaking, Bollywoodish or otherwise, from 1995-2006. In no particular order:

1. SATYA (1996) - must-watch Bombay underworld drama. Better than COMPANY.

2. MR & MRS IYER (2001) - quality work from Aparna Sen, who directs her daughter, Konkona Sensharma's debut.

3. DEVDAS (2002) - I did not care for this one, but if you want lavish, extravagant, total Bollywood classic drama, that starred Aishwarya Rai and SRK AND MADHURI DIXIT, directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, with great music and dance, watch this. If for nothing else, then for watching Aishwarya Rai and Madhuri Dixit share the same dance stage to the A-W-E-S-O-M-E 'Dola Re' -- two of the finest dancers! Uff! Uff! Uff! Note, personally, I don't care for the movie

4. CHANDNI BAR (2001) - Authentic, chilling. Stars the incredible Tabu. About the 'dance bar'/'strip bar' scene in Mumbai.

5. MAQBOOL (2002) -- for me, among the most quality films from Bollywood. Based on Macbeth. Music director-turned-director,

6. MEENAXI (2003) -- NATHANIEL, nobody will recommend you this movie. It's directed among India's most famous painters, M.F. Husain, along with his son. This movie is a painting in the form of a film. BRILIANT CINEMATOGRAPHY AND ART DIRECTION, and for me, the only movie of the decade that garners an A+. Most nobody will agree with me. But again, most nobody saw it.

CATEGORY C: Golden old-timers

If you want OLD (1950-1985), serious-themed quality movies from India that are NOT Bollywood-ish dance-around-trees (these are not the best, just five good one -- there are at least 40-50 films worth watching from 1950-1985):

1. MASOOM (1982/1983), directed by Shekhar Kapur, and stars among the greatest indie actors of all time: Naseeruddin Shah and Shabana Azmi.

2. ARTH (1983) *ing Shabana Azmi -- female empowerment

3. ANAND (1971) *ing Amitabh Bachchan and Rajesh Kumar - tragic story about 2 friends

4. MUGHAL-E-AZAM (1960) - G-L-O-R-I-O-U-S old world musical love story

5. Kabhi Kabhie (1978) OR SILSILA (1981) -- love stories with evergreen music

maple said...

Hrithik is not only gorgeous to look at, he can also act. He is mesmerising in Jodhaa Akbar, an epic love story with Aishwarya. Plus he is the best dancer in Bollywood, just watch Baware from last year's Luck by Chance on YouTube.

TALKING MOVIEzzz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

- Rang de Basanti

- Koi Mil Gaya

- K3G

- Fanaa

- Dil Chahta Hai

Josh said...

I need to broaden my horizons when it comes to international film. Bollywood has proven time and again it can produce excellent movies, yet I've barely scratched the surface of their repertoire.

We hear so much about Bollywood, I can't help but wonder where else to go for great foreign film. Any ideas?

Anonymous said...

anything by Madhuri Dixit is worth a watch. Superb actress+superb dancer=Bollywood Queen

DHE said...

I totally started my Bollywood journey with RANGEELA! It was on U.S. TV for some reason and I was so mortified yet fascinated I had to watch. However I think it is far more akin to a Bollywood version of FLASHDANCE. (Yes, all Bollywood movies are like Flashdance, but this one particularly is.)

DHE said...

Also, I can't really understand why Saif Ali Khan hasn't broken through to a Western audience. Of all the long term stars with staying power, his career arc has been the most satisfying. I thought he might have done it through the arthouse route with BEING CYRUS, but instead he seems content to be Mr Big Bollywood Star.

Do not get why he is the least celebrated of the Khans.

Mary Beth said...

I have been a Bollywood fan for about 6 years. I own many of the films mentioned above, such as "Devdas", "Kal Ho Naa Ho", and "Lagaan", as well as many, many others. If you want a fun movie about Bollywood BY Bollywood try "Om Shanti Om" with Shah Rukh Khan. "Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi" and "Billi Barber" are recent SRK movies that poke a little fun at the Bollywood movie industry. "Mangal Panday" with Amir Kahn is great Bollywood historical fiction.
These are all movies that are incredibly fun to watch, especially when you enjoy singing and dancing.

P.S. Sholay is a classic!

Chele Belle said...

Saif Ali Khan in Parineeta
Shah Rukh Khan in Veer-Zaara
Arjun Rampal in Yakeen
Ajay Devgan in Omkara [Bollywood version of Othello]
Shah Rukh Khan in Paheli

Good luck and enjoy the spectacle.

Unknown said...

Bollywood is mostly associated mainly with musicals, even it's action flick, horror flicks have songs squeezed in.But, this is all bcoz. bollywood loves to celebrate.despite this, bollywood has it's share of great cinema.Let me guide u stating the best of them.

Movies-pre 1990 and post 1990's have been golden era for bollywood.In classics go for Mughal-e-azam, Guide,pyaasa, Sholay(biggest hit of indian cinema),Kagaz ke phool,Ram teri ganga maili,Padosan(best comic film so far in india).Though 1990's was a period of formula films stiull u can watch Hum aapke hain kaun(second highest grosser), Dilwale dulhaniya le jaayenge(longest run in cinemas),Dil chahta hai(trend setter),Dil to pagal hai(pure love).From the period of 2000's watch Pukar(2001),Rang de basanti(awesome),Hera pheri(gr8 comedy),Black(masterpiece and class act),Omkara,Swadesh,Lagaan.From the recent ones watch Taare Zameen par,Chak de India(best sports flivk in india),Kaminey,Aaja Nachle(a bit low on stle yet special,as a 40 plus actress playss a lead role for the 1st time in bollywood and palys it with perfection).
The coming to actors,
Acting wise (males) u will find Amitabh Bachchan(megastar),Hrithik Roshan(trendsetter),Aamir khan(perfectionist),Paresh Rawal(great comedian),Boman Irani(watch his array of expressions) as entertaining.Lookwise Hrithik is greek god, John abraham and arjun rampal are super sexy.Salman khan and akshaye kumar have delecious body.BTW, beware of India's superstar ShahRukh Khan, he may deliver hits, but mostly u will hate him.
Acting wise Sridevi(brilliant),Rekha(mysterious),kajol(power house),and Rani mukherjee(superb), kangana Ranaut(natural),Tabu(unmatched) are good.
Lookwise yeateryear actress late Madhubala, is considered as the most beautiful actress ever.Then among the new breed there is Rani mukherjee and priyanka chopra are glam dolls.
And it's true that Aishwarya Rai is gorgeous, very beautiful,seductive but at times she seems fake, plastic beauty and her acting is terrible.Watch her(if u have to!!) in Devdas,Hum dil de chuke sanam, and Dhoom 2.
All said, there is one actress in bollywood who is called as the Venus of indian cinema, the original diva, most beautiful and talented of them all.She has more powers than any male catress in bollywood. She has most number of filmfare awrds nominations to her credits and wins too.Evrything about her her is so chimerical that Indian's call her MAGIC.She stayed away from cinema for 6 years and when decided to return, 21 scripts were showered on her. She is the only actress who demands higher renumeation than her male counterparts.The lady is undoubetdly the best indian dancer. The name is MADHURI DIXIT NENE.She is the last superstar among actresses,Google her out and all your doubts will vanish.Watch the song MAAR DAALA on you tube, and u will know her acting prowess.she is the one who returned to bollywood in AAJA NACHLE at the age of 40, a feat in itself.Even in the worst phase of bollywood in 90's she was a dream girl.No wonder, Pakistan chantd "Give madhuri, take kashmir" during the Kargil war(1999), over disputed kashmir land.
Summary, watch out for films by Madhuri Dixit, Rani mukherjee, Amitabh bachaan.Only they have done all kind of cinema, Few good few bad.If u want, i will give the lsit of their best works.