Posted by Sari
The shiny new MA degree has apparently muddled Omppu's brain because in the comments she asked tips for Bollywood movies to rend from her local Indian store. I thought that was too momentous to be buried in the comment section so I decided to make a post about it. Im thinking Tarja can either comment or do the same in her LJ where there are lots more fans of hindi cinema to give additional suggestions.
First suggestion: work from the newer towards older films. The New superhits have better production values and are aimed at more international (not necessarily western, but more international) audiences which makes them easier to get into. When you have some grounding in the mannerisms of hindi cinema the older films will "open up" better. And by older I mean the Bollywood from 1960s to circa 1995. 1950s was the first golden age of Bollywood and something of a special case.
For a better take on popular movies, the best link is to Bollywhat's Rental Guide which has three different "top" lists to help to choose. Zulm is a DVD-forum for Bollyfilms, Filmfare awards are the Oscars of India, and Box office is petty self-explanatory. (Baadshaah, on the other hand might be less so, it means King.)
My favourites are not very original, and as I have been watching a film here, film there I have terrible shameful gaps in my filmography. But here goes, Sari's top ten at this moment:
1. Main Hoon Na: Shahrukh is Major Sharma who is sent back to college to protect the daughter of a general threatened by terrorist group determined to stop the exchange of prisoners between India and Pakistan. Real Masala film with over-the-top comedy, Romance, family drama, action and violence. See Shahrukh avoid spit bullet-time.
2. Dil Chahta Hai: this is more sedate look of three friends and their relationships. It is if not realistic, more real than most of the box-office fantasies. Aamir Khan, the artsy one of the reigning trio of Khans is the lead, but I think the movie is stolen by Akshaye Khanna and Dimple Kapadia who are having a bittersweet may-december romance.
3. Sholay: Sholay is the biggest grossing movie ever in India (adjusted for inflation), a classic, the revenge drama of all time. Bollywood icon bar none Amitabh Bachan plays one of two small-time crooks hired to bring in a notorious outlaw.
4. China Gate: there might be better variations on the theme of defending village from outlaws plot, but I am really partial to this one. It is a pretty straight take from Seven Samurais, and what makes it great is to see so many of the generation usually playing Bride's dad modern films taking the center stage. The coolest part is played by Nasureddin Shah, known in the west mainly as captain Nemo from League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and bride's dad in Monsoon Wedding.
5 Kuch Kuch Hota Hai: Karan Johar's first movie has Shahrukh as a widowed father whose daughter plots to get him together with his best friend from college, Kajol. Bollywood romances are usualy triangel dramas: two girls and a guy or two guys and a girl. Karan has the first triangle in the first half of the movie and the second in the second half optimising the tension.
6 Kal Ho Naa Ho: This time Karan is producing but the end result is pretty much same. Awfully pretty family drama. Shahrukh moves in an Indian neighbourhood in Brooklyn and transforms the drab life of Preity Zinta. Kickass bhangra version of Pretty Woman with a rap in b-section. The mind boggles.
7 Dil Se: Mani Ratnam's movies are usually a bit off-center of Bollywood. Dil Se is uneaven, but interesting. Shahrukh plays a radiojournalist travelling somewhere where separationists are blowing up things to interview people about the meaning of India. Of course, he meets a mysterious girl and gets mixed up in all sorts of things. Weird but really great musical numbers, espcially Chayya, Chayya which is performed on the top of a train.
8 Mujse Dosti Karoge: Here I am pretty alone, most people see this as very run-of-the-mill triangle romance. And it is, it is, I can't deny it. But I love it. Rani loves Hritrik, and writes him letters as Kareena Hritrik falls for Kareena But just when he has gotten engaged to Kareena Hritrik realises it is Rani who has written the letters and is the one he loves. What to do?
9 Hey Ram: Partition dramas (movies about the split to India and Pakistan and the surrounding tensions) are one of the main genres of hindi dramas and I thought this was genuinely well made and thoughtful take on the subject. Kamal Hassan is great in the lead, and Sharukh gets to actually play a muslim character in his cameo.
10 Devdas: Sanjay Leela Bansali's movies are the most gorgeous things in the world. The colours are rich, the setting of the scenes are like paintings, but the dialogue is stilted and Devdas especially requires some familiarity both with Indian mythology, especially Ramayana and filmi conventions to make sense. On the plus side it has Madhuri Dixit in one of her best roles as Chandramukhi, and great musical scenes.