Praan Jaaye Par Shaan Na Jaye , (2003)
My skills at procrastination shine through as I am the last of the international Bollybloggers to post my review of Sanjay Jha's film, Praan Jaaye Par Shaan Na Jaye.
In our "Bloggers Meet Director" exercise for Bollywoodbloggers, here are all of the other participants:
Now on to the film!
First things first: is this you, Sanjay?
All right, now I can move on to my response to the film. I liked it. In fact, I liked it a lot. Allow me to enumerate:
1) I think, first and foremost, the film functions as a very successful satire. It shows the problems encountered by middle class citizens of a Mumbai chawl (an apartment building not unlike the overcrowded tenements of New York at the turn of the 20th century) without ever becoming heavy-handed or moralistic. An excellent example of this is Laxmi's (Raveena Tandon) fake sati. By commercializing the illegal practice of a wife's self-immolation on her husband's pyre, the chawl was able to bring in wealth, media attention, and controversy. The situation manages to portray the problems of sati without taking either side, instead treating the whole thing with humor.
2) I really enjoyed the mix of satire and slapstick. I was laughing during nearly every sequence, whether it was Saundarya (Diya Mirza) treating her suitors like potential brides or Laxmi (Raveena Tandon) saying "Shut up, Ganpat."
3) The dramatic parts weren't treated too "filmi." There weren't a lot of happy endings, which is appropriate in a realistic film (I define a realistic Bollywood film as "one with less than five songs").
4) It was funny how self-referential this film was, whether the songs were parodizing the songs from other Hindi films (like Lagaan or Josh), or Ganpat (Vijay Raaz) addressing the audience directly ("Why are you folks worried? You've already seen so many Hindi films!")
5) The music director must have had a good time, whether playing "Yeh Dosti" in the background whenever Ganpat and Aman converse or backing Sushmita Sen up with "Mehboob Mere."
Admittedly, a lot of the film probably went over my head (the subtitles on the DVD weren't entirely functional) and I don't think I would have enjoyed the film so much if I hadn't already seen so many Hindi films. Because it's so self-referential, the movie wouldn't operate on so many levels so well if it were in any other format - not in Hollywood, not on stage (sorry to disagree with you there, Beth!), not as a book. The songs were nods to typical film songs, whether parodizing them outright or including homages to the hero/heroine fantasies.
As far as acting goes, nearly everyone excelled, whether they were the narrator, the villain, or the lowly black-market ticketwallah. Vijay Raaz was wonderful, as could be expected. Diya Mirza was better than I've ever seen her before (and, quite frankly, I'm glad she stuck with Michael at the end - it's like she said, "The face changes, not the heart"). Divya Dutta made lemonade with her small supporting role, and Raveena Tandon and Rinkie Khanna were enjoyable. Namrata Shirodkar was admirable. Aman Verma did his best (I liked him here better than in Baghban but still not much). Sushmita Sen may have been a little over the top, but at least she seemed to enjoy herself.
Overall, I'd recommend this film to experienced Bollywood viewers with a taste for satire, humor more sophistacated than your everyday Hindi comedy.
EDITED TO ADD:
I think I'm the only female blogger not to touch on the ugly-duckling-to-swan storyline. I'm going to come right out and say it: I think this was one of the best "transformation" storylines out there, because while it seemed to be a complete change in Saundarya's appearance, it wasn't. It was a boost of her self-esteem. Remember in her earliest scene - she was not only lamenting her appearance, but her inability to cook and clean and sew. All it took was someone to remove one obstacle (her appearance) to show her how superficial all of the qualities she lacked really were. And I was pleased that she stuck with Michael, even if he only noticed her once she was dolled up, because she acknowledged that feelings run deeper than appearance - she had changed on the outside, not on the inside, and to drop her boytoy for a more handsome accessory would negate the entire point.
Well, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.