Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Baahubali: An aspiring epic held back by conventional problems

Hey, folks. Long time no see. But a  movie as big as Baahubali called me to return to the blogosphere that I have sadly been neglecting.

My introduction to South Indian films on the big screen was a grand one this weekend (also an expensive one; not sure I can keep up with a $20 per ticket habit). Before I was sitting in a sparsely filled theater Sunday, my watched list included three Tamil films (including Madrasapattinam, which I have been trying to watch again ever since) and one Telugu film that had been dubbed from Tamil. But boy-o, the most expensive movie in Indian filmmaking history (last seen here: Ra.-freaking-One) and an epic was certainly a way to go.

I have some very mixed feels about it, but all could probably be summed up by this:

It’s an entertaining aspiring epic held back by some more conventional entrapments.

It’s hard to provide a short plot synopsis, so here goes a long one: It opens with a woman struggling out of a tunnel carrying a baby. She wards off attackers, gets injured and slips into the river. She holds the baby up, says a prayer, and dies but holds him up until he’s rescued. A village woman raises him; the villagers discover the tunnel but seal it because why not! Boy Shivudu grows up wanting to climb to the top of the Waterfalls That Never End and always falling down, miraculously not injuring himself despite hundreds of feet drops. Grown Shivudu (Prabhas) is proven to be insanely strong and good-hearted if rebellious — he carries a Shiva lingam under the flow of water to ease work for his adoptive mother — and then climbs the waterfall chasing a phantom woman. At the top, he discovers a whole new worlddddd (cue Disney music) and that the phantom woman is, duh, real… real bad-ass Avanthika (Tamannaah) from a tribe of people hellbent on rescuing some princess from The Evil Kingdom. He, ahem, romances the woman, takes on her quest and sets off to battle the kingdom’s forces of evil, epitomized by this king dude named Bhallala Deva who likes to kill mythological-sized bulls for sport. After lots of hullabaloo, good Shivudu who obvs is not just Shivudu kills evil prince, then prince’s bodyguard shows up and realizes THIS GUY IS JUST LIKE ‘BAAHUBALI’! Gather ’round kids while we rewind 50 years to tell the story of said Baahubali: He was one of two princes vying for the throne of Mahishmati, having to fight against evil cousin-brother Bhallala Deva for the right from iron-fisted maa Sivagami (Ramya Krishnan as a total badass) who is currently ruling with no probs but has to give away her throne to a male descendant for some reason. But I digress. Baahubali is obvs the thinking man here, the compassionate one, so on, and also, if you needed more convincing, he does a dance number with some dancing girls while on a mission; obvs this is king material, guyz. Bhallala Deva is just pure evil always. You can see how this is going to end already, so the movie throws in a giant epic, awesome battle sequence that takes forever and distracts you from the obvious while further proving Baahubali is also savvy on the battlefield. YAY KING BAAHUBALI! But as you have already guessed, newly crowned Baahubali got killed by somebody, who actually confesses to everybody as the big twist. NO MORE KING.


Sunday, April 12, 2015

New: The non-mysterious (Bihari) Detective Byomkesh Bakshy

Wow, has it been a long time since the Bollywood Queens have blogged or what?! (Also, has this blog post taken forever or what! I saw this movie more than a week ago. Oooops.)

Yeah, so there are a million excuses and reasons why, but I’m just gonna say it’s good to be back, however long this lasts! And that I wish I’d sat down and written a blog post after I saw the WTFery that was Shamitabh.

There was far less WTFery to be had here with Detective Byomkesh Bakshy, though there were, of course, the moments. (The ending. Oh, the ending. But just wait; we’ll get there.)

Friday, August 22, 2014

Hollywood intrudes: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, gone wrong

NOTE: I wrote this a few days after seeing the 2014 TMNT in early August. I then forgot about its existence, but stumbled upon it again and decided to post.

When I heard that the heroes on the half shell were coming back, I rejoiced.

It was the rebirth of one of those rare things that my siblings and I have all cherished, from big bro down the line to the 23-years-younger baby bro. Cowabunga!

When I heard that they were being rebooted by Michael Bay, featuring Megan Fox, I all but cried. And yet within me, I found a little hope.

For everything that has been wrong with its sequels, I quite enjoyed the first Transformers movie (the first two times I watched, anyway), a reimagining of something that was a blip on my childhood memory. Maybe the reason that I so thoroughly hated this TMNT by comparison lies in that the franchise, from the worn-out videos and then DVDs of the movies to the old cartoon series and then the new, was more than a blip: My three closest-in-age siblings and I each have our own turtle; I have Leonardo, sister Lexi has Mikey, brother Kendall has Raphael and brother Daniel has Donatello (fittingly, the leader, the goof, the hothead and the geek).

Saturday, July 12, 2014

NEW: Bobby Jasoos could've done with a bit more plotting

I had high expectations, especially after Vidya Balan herself talked it up to me in May and Dia Mirza was buzzing about it in front of me in April, and it’s obvious that Bobby Jasoos is high on many production values, most notably characters and their development.

What it’s low on: cohesion and continuity. For real.

It starts off with wonderful premise, 30-year-old Bilkis (Bilkis!) “Bobby” wants to be a detective in Hyderabad’s old city, but nobody will give her a job or even the time of day. (Unless you count TV news hunk Tassawur [Ali Fazal], who pays her regularly to foil his dad’s attempts at marrying him off.) And her family is certainly less than understanding as well, worrying about marrying her off or at least reining her in enough to get her sister married off.

But then it devolves into continuity errors, seriously uneven pacing and desperate attempts to wind all of the threads together. (Case in point: Mysteriously Threatening Bad Guy A, a gangster in love with Bobby’s childhood friend [whose name is not even consistent] whom Bobby sort of blackmails, turns out to be the son of Mysteriously Threatening Bad Guy B, who is paying Bobby to find girls in the city who then quietly disappear.)

Saturday, May 10, 2014

The good bits about IIFA

Photos courtesy of IIFA
Y'all, I'm not some whiny baby who rants when not everything goes her way. Despite what commenters have said in the last few days after I posted my IIFA mega rant. (Also, I don't just make stuff up. I'm actually a professional journalist when I don't write about Bollywood as a fan. But that's another story.)

Ahem, not that I care.

Anyway, I thought it was worth saying at some point that there were a few nice things about IIFA. Not as many as there were bad things, and having done it once, I still never would do it again (as a member of the media or as a fan). Next time I'll just watch it all on TV.

But still, here were some fun bits nonetheless:

Stars said some nice things about Tampa (when they weren't busy gushing about their love for fans despite dodging them all weekend). Aside from the folks who just cooked stuff up because that's what they're supposed to say, there were some real nice sentiments. "Bahut khoobsurat hai, bahut peaceful, bahut charm," singer Ankit Tiwari (now being held on rape accusations... oops) said of Tampa. "I just don't want to leave this place," Anil Kapoor said in the Tampa Theatre. "This theater is absolutely magnificent. It's fantastic. This city has a soul, and I can see that soul in this theater." Vivek Oberoi, who has family in the area and has visited before, said before the event: "It's not as crazy and gritty as Miami but it's so beautiful, so you get the best of both worlds in Tampa. You can relax, unwind. There are beautiful beaches nearby. The weather is always fantastic." It isn't always, but it was for that weekend. Several stars said on the green carpet that they'd been enjoying the sun at Clearwater Beach. In fact I heard this so often that I wondered whether all the fans shouldn't have camped out there rather than the green carpet to see stars. It would've been a nicer atmosphere, for sure.

Meeting international journalists was awesome. The coolest part of the whole IIFA experience was being sandwiched between journalists from the U.K., Kenya, New Zealand, Pakistan and India. Talking with them was overall better than meeting the stars. Except the "media professionals" who think they deserve the spot you've been standing in for six hours because they think they're better than you. They sucked.

I thought Deepika's gown was especially nice.
Got to see some nice gowns on the green carpet. You already know not all of the big stars walk the green carpet, but the ones that did had some nice gowns when they did. I saw a few fashion disasters (Dia Mirza's gown... yikes; though she seemed nice when I ran into her earlier that day, and I heard nice things about her in general), but most gowns were pretty good. Certainly not something you get to see every day.

Kevin Spacey doing Lungi Dance. This. It was amazing. If you haven't watched it on YouTube yet, do it. NOW. What I haven't seen on YouTube is the hilarity after, when Spacey bundled up his lungi and laid down to take a nap on stage. Shahid then covered him with his own lungi as a blanket.

John Travolta strutting his stuff -- at 60! I mean, was there a more perfect Hollywood star to bring to IIFA? Aside from the fact that he lives like two hours from Tampa, Travolta is basically a Bollywood star: He sings, he dances, he acts. He gave his speech reading from cards, which was rather lame, but overall Travolta's presence was a plus. (He wasn't overly friendly on the green carpet, either, tho. I definitely don't intend to sugar coat that fact, either.)

Shahid and Farhan were funny hosting. I mean, they had to ask for the teleprompter to be fixed about a dozen times, so maybe it wasn't them being funny, but there were some good laughs to be had. (And I'm sure the jokes that fell flat, of which there were also a few, will be edited out in the end.)

They entered on a pirate ship! I was right beside them when it happened. They threw out beads (I even caught some) like a real Gasparilla parade and everything. (Gasparilla is a Tampa tradition, a big pirate festival and parade every year.)

The performances were pretty good. Other than some dragging bits that will obviously be trimmed down, the performances were pretty good. However, there were some parts that were way too busy for you to see anything. Like too much happening all at once, lights flashing blindingly in your eyes, etc. Ranveer entered driving around on a motorcycle, which was pretty cool and changed tacky jackets about five times (he must have an endless supply of them...). Hrithik's performance started blacked out with lighted suits, which was also pretty nifty. Priyanka started her performance off with aerial stunts although some of that will definitely be edited out; she didn't seem very comfortable in the harness.

Milkha Singh was there, and friendly -- and funny. I mean, who would've expected he'd run in place and sing "Bhaag Milkha Bhaag" on the green carpet? And that he'd be much better spoken than "star" director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra (seriously, slowest, most boring talker ever)? Though I could have done without Milkhaji's 10-minute acceptance speech at the show's end. That's sure to be edited, too.

So, yeah, most of the good things to be said are about the show itself -- the stuff they did for the cameras.

Of course the obvious downside of all this good talk about the show is that if you didn't pay $300 or more, you couldn't see or hear anything from the top deck.

Catch it on TV for free.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

2014 IIFA Awards up close and personal: A disastrous, infuriating mess

Two weekends ago now, I attended the International Indian Film Academy — IIFA — Awards here in own back yard of Tampa Bay as a member of the media — a dream come true, right? A dream that led me to come home early from India, to skip a trip to Assam.

Boy, did I end up regretting that.

I've watched IIFA broadcasts before and was so excited to see it up close and personal, but I came out of it realizing that IIFA is much, much better enjoyed as a TV show. Covering IIFA was a terrible, terrible experience that given the chance I’d never choose again. It was infuriatingly unprofessional and much less than promised (more on that later). And I'm not the only one who feels that way. I've heard complaints from everywhere, and there's even a survey circulating about how awful the experience was. Some others have made me feel like a whiny baby though (boohoo the stars came to my back yard but didn't want to see me), so I've held back on posting even after writing this epically long rant days after the events ended. But, nope, most of the fury hasn't died down.

I get the impression that IIFA’s “imperfections” are generally glossed over by media and everyone else, but I’m not one to sugarcoat things — ever — so here goes nothing.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

IIFA 2014 Tampa Bay gossip: Priyanka Chopra seriously ticks off Ranveer Singh during the show

Photo courtesy of IIFA
I've got much more to come later on how covering the IIFA Awards was a nightmare, but first I thought I'd whip this up and put it out there:

Months ago after Gunday, some sources said Ranveer Singh vowed he’d never work with Priyanka Chopra again.

Those of us sitting on the floor at the IIFA Awards this weekend in Tampa Bay saw the rumored spat turn into a full-blown fight during PC’s act.

After some aerial stunts and busting more than a few moves, Priyanka descended from the stage during Tune Maari Entriyaan to the celebrity seating, where she was met by an eager Ranveer. After good-naturedly shimmying a bit with her Gunday co-star (worth noting other co-star Arjun Kapoor wasn’t there, though his daddy was), she proceeded to her real target: John Travolta.

60-year-old Travolta, of course known for shaking a leg in hits like Grease and Saturday Night Fever, was there accepting a special award for his outstanding contribution to international cinema. He proceeded on stage with her to show off those dance moves. The video is amazing, if you haven't seen it.

He later accepted the award from and then did a dance with Hrithik Roshan, the only star’s name he even tried to pronounce, probably wisely so after his now infamous Oscar gaffe.

But let’s just say Ranveer wasn’t too happy about being passed over for a Hollywood star.

He stormed off to the side, found organizers and proceeded to let loose a serious string of abuses. The organizers of course had to placate Ranveer as he was performing later in the show.

Also later in the show, Priyanka was supposed to be presented with a special “Woman Of Substance” award (you know, one of those things they cook up just so she gets something). But announcers said she had left to catch a flight and so her music agent would accept it in her place.

I have to wonder whether a fight rather than a flight was the cause for PC’s early departure. It does seem odd that she'd plan to leave before being presented with her only award of the night.