Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Instant Bollywood gratification

I was recently asked to provide some movie suggestions for the Bollywood novice that can be found on Netflix's Watch Instantly service. It will come as no surprise to those that know me that I went a little overboard in answering this request, providing titles, my comments, links etc. Because I've had a few people over the years ask for suggestions, I thought it would be prudent to post them here as well.

Though not nearly as many of my favorites are available as I'd like, there are quite a few good Bollywood movies on Watch Instantly. I've broken them down into categories (which I have essentially made up) for easier decision-making. Sadly, few of my favorite 1970's Bollywood movies are on Watch Instantly - an era for which I have a particular soft spot. So all of my choices here are relatively newish. All of these selections qualify as both "movies to watch if you've never seen Bollywood" and "movies Laura really likes." Keep in mind that I am not a film snob. There is some serious cheese in some of these films, and I embrace this cheese wholeheartedly.  

"Gateway" Bollywood

"Gateway" Bollywood essentially means, "Non-Bollywood Indian movies for people who like indie films." If your favorite movies are the ones shown at tiny art house theaters, you might very well be turned off by the often hamfisted, commercial, song-and-dance spectacle of an all-out Bollywood film. These two movies are lighter on the cheese factor - more real. If you like 'em, move on to one of the others on this list!

Kahaani (2012) "A pregnant woman's search for her missing husband takes her from London to Kolkata, but everyone she questions denies having ever met her husband."

Kahaani was my favorite movie of 2012. Vidya Balan is easily my favorite actress at the moment, and her performance in this movie could make anybody a believer. It is one of those films that can be easily spoiled if you read too much about it before watching, so just jump right in!

Monsoon Wedding (2001) "A stressed father, a bride-to-be with a secret, a smitten event planner, and relatives from around the world create much ado about the preparations for an arranged marriage in India." 

There is no formal occasion more beautiful and captivating to me than an Indian wedding. So! Many! Marigolds! This movie is a sweet and very beautiful exploration of human emotion and relationships.  

Classic Masala 

"Masala" is the term used to describe your quintessential Bollywood movie - perfect specimens of what Hindi cinema is all about. Want a roller coaster ride through basically all the genres (emphasis on romance and adventure) with lavish song and dance numbers? You got it. Pure escapism.

Bunty Aur Babli (2005) "Two mismatched characters go on a wild road trip in Uttar Pradesh and, while being dogged by a policeman, fall in love."
So. Much. Fun. Rani Mukarjee is one of my favorite actresses. Please don't judge her based on her fake crying at the beginning of this movie. Even though it is hard not to. Huge hat tip to one of my favorite bloggers, Beth Loves Bollywood, for recommending this movie to me.

Over-the-Top Melodrama

The only thing that really separates my Over-the-Top Melodrama category from the Classic Masala category, is more crying. That, and a plot with a more serious focus.

Fanaa (2006) "Set in Delhi and the Kashmir Valley, a blind woman falls in love with a rakish tour guide who hides a terrible secret...

If you can look past Aamir Khan's bad wig this movie (bad wigs being a serious problem in Bollywood for some reason) Fanaa is melodrama gold.

Over-the-Top Action

Suspension of disbelief is important in all Bollywood viewing, but particularly for action films. Bollywood can make Hollywood action movies seem realistic. So much fun.

Ghajini (2008) "A student is endangered after she warns a wealthy male that a crazed recluse with short term memory loss is out to kill him, not knowing the reason behind the recluse's actions."

The quickest way to describe this is "the Bollywood version of Momento." Keep in mind that Bollywood movies based on Hollywood movies veer off the plot early and rarely come back. So don't expect anything but loose parallells between them. That said, this is excellent fun.

Singham (2011) "A humiliated gangster uses his influence and goon power to terrorize a newly transferred police officer.

This movie has a tremendous action scene in which the hero pulls a man out of a car that's flying through the air with his bare hands. I don't see why I have to say anything else here.

Race (2008) "Ranvir Singh runs a successful business he inherited from his father. His younger brother Rajiv Singh mooches off of Ranvir and is an alcoholic."

Mix in girls, jealousy, betrayal and horse racing. Stir. Lots of plot twists. Explosions. 

Tashan (2008) "A woman runs off with her gangster boss's money, and he hires her betrayed ex-lover and a bounty hunter to bring her back."

One of the stars is Anil Kapoor who you'll recognize from 'Slumdog Millionare.' 

Romantic Comedies
If you want something fun and light, these two movies should do the trick. When the conservative cultural conventions of India clash with the modern views of contemporary life, it makes for some really great romantic tension, drama and comedy.

Mere Brother Ki Dulhan (2011) "A young man tries to arrange a marriage for his brother, but finds himself falling in love with the chosen fiancĂ©e."

A silly, sweet romantic comedy with fun music and wedding scenes. Plus, I happen to think Imran Khan (no relation to Aamir) is super cute and charming.

I Hate Luv Storys (2010) "Jay doesn't believe in love Stories, and Simran, is a girl who's in love with the idea of Love itself."

Another silly, sweet romantic comedy starring Imran Khan. In this one, he plays somebody who works in the movie industry, but is cynical about the romantic stories in the very movies he helps make! You can see where this is going...

Super Fucking Long Historical Movies

Into historic costumes and battle scenes? Well, Bollywood serves 'em up in spades. One of my favorite movies is the 4-hour Lagaan, which sadly isn't available on Watch Instantly, but it certainly prepared me for Bollywood's typically long run times. Now when somebody says, "Wow, such-and-such film is over 2 hours long, I roll my eyes. Please. I watch Bollywood.

Jodhaa Akbar (2008) "A sixteenth century love story about a marriage of alliance that gave birth to true love between a great Mughal emperor, Akbar, and a Rajput princess, Jodha." 

I have only seen the first half hour of this, but that's because I started watching it at an inopportune time. Been meaning to get back to it. Fun fact: The star, Hrithik Roshan, has two thumbs on one of his hands.

So there you have it! Give one of these films a chance and let me know what you think. 

1 comment:

Mansi said...

Enjoyed reading this one. Bunty Babli is the kind of film I don't mind watching over n over. Kahaani, Lagaan, Jodha Akbar are all well made. Singham makes for an engaging watch. I remember seeing Monsoon Wedding in bits n parts. The others were mostly avoidable for me.

If you like romantic films, check out Saathiya, Namaste London, Jab We Met, Band Baaja Baraat....there are sooo many more :)

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