Parineeta, (2005); Asoka, (2001); Mrityudand, (1997)
Well, faithful readers (I know there's one, maybe two of you) it has been a long month since I last posted. I moved out, moved in, attended graduations, and pulled up the ugly pink carpet that gave me rugburn when I fell down the stairs WITH MY BARE HANDS (I'm mad vengeful, yo). Aside from that, I really haven't had time to indulge in my Bollywood addiction, so I offer some recaplet/reviews of movies I've seen a while ago.
As easy as it is to fall in love in Bollywood, there's also the movies where the hero and the heroine do not fall in love with each other. Instead, being bachpan ki dost, their love blooms slowly, eventually coming to fruition when one or the other is inevitably engaged/married to someone else (depending, of course, on whether or not there's a happy ending). In Parineeta (which means "already married" so you tell me, happy or sad ending?) Saif Ali Khan and Vidya Balan, two beatiful people with large noses, are childhood friends, albeit Saif's Shekhar is higher up on the food chain than Vidya's Lolita. In fact, Shekhar's father lent Lolita's father a considerable amount of money, and plans to pull the house from under the family if he can. Enter Girish (Sanjay Dutt), who's got the hots for Lolita and the money to help out. Of course, there's also Gayetri (Diya Mirza) who's got the hots for Shekhar. And then, for good measure, there's Rekha in an item number, who I've got the hots for (honestly, she's twice my age and twice as sexy; she's one of the few females that could make me swear off men forever).
The film is beautiful to watch and, although the pace is a little slow, it's fitting for a film with so many romantic, social, and financial entanglements. The cinematography, the costumes, the sets all serve to make this Calcutta drama all the more compelling. The acting is top notch, whether it's from old hats like Sanjay or Saif or newcomer Vidya. Although Paheli was also fun and exciting and beautiful, I don't understand how it was chosen over the tear-jerking Parineeta.
So many people love this movie, but I just didn't feel it. Sure, it's got swordplay, lush scenery, scantily clad men and women, waterfalls, lovable children, and so on, but it seemed an overreaching yet underdeveloped piece of Hollywood bait. It claims to be an epic based on King Asoka's life, yet only gives viewers half the story (the violent, Hollywood half). The story begins when Asoka (Shahrukh Khan, out of character), a prince, begins a journey that his mother hopes will end his swordplaying ways and days. Instead, he meets (and by "meets" I mean "stalks") the captivating Princess Kaurwaki (Kareena Kapoor) and her younger brother. He teaches them to defend themselves from assassins (Oh? Did I not mention the assassins?) and some other stuff happens, I don't know, I started to lose interest, and to make a long story short Asoka thinks Kaurwaki's been killed and goes ballistic after rubbing someone else's ashes all over his face (ewww). Asoka ends up marrying a Buddhist priestess who saves his life, but instead of taking her teaching to heart he decides to conquer the world. Of course, this culminates into an "ultimate battle" scenario, with Asoka leading one force while the other is led by - surprise surprise - the not so dead Kaurwaki.
So why didn't I like this movie? Um, let's see - violence of the Hollywood variety (which differs from Bollywood violence), lackluster acting, weird song picturizations, and it ended just when the ball was getting rolling. Asoka, the historical figure, eventually converted to Buddhism and with his twin son and daughter set out to create a peaceful empire; Asoka, the movie hero, ends up just being really really really sorry and really really really sad at the end of three hours.
Already you realize this isn't a feel-good film. Instead, this movie brings to the forefront the oppression faced by women in rural villages. Chandravati (Shabana Azmi) bears the stigma of being a barren woman, while her husband deserts her to be a monk. Ketki (Madhuri Dixit) is rebuffed for trying to help her husband with business. Although the focus of the Their stories are wrapped up almost effortlessly in plots concerning caste, economics, and grassroots politics. The effect is that of an art film with the mainstream Bollywood singing, dancing, violence, and a dash of melodrama for flavor. The moral of the story: Women will kick your ass.