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March 3, 2008 | by  | in Features |
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Bollywood

High School Musical’s Zac Efron recently told a New Zealand current affairs journo’ that he wants to bring the musical back. Zac, you need to learn from the masters: Bollywood. Mumbai is home to the world’s largest movie industry; Shah Rukh Khan the world’s biggest star. And no Hollywood dancer comes close to the inconceivable movements of Hrithik Roshan. In the motorcycle cops vs. motorcycle crims musical Dhoom 2 (a takeoff of the dreadfully unmusical Torque, starring Aotearoa’s own blandiferous Martin Henderson), Hrithik plays a dastardly international jewel thief on a bike whose torso and hips dance in completely independent and contrary ways from one-another. Suck on that, Zac.

This movie awards season, as the Golden Globes were smothered with writer strikes, Bollywood indulged in its usual multitude of identical, lavish and lengthy ceremonies. Top among these are the Filmfare Awards, introduced in 1954 and decided by both the public and a committee of experts; and the Star Screen Awards, only fourteen years old but hosted even more lavishly in a glittering function at the Andheri Sports Complex. The individual awards are often presented by captains of industry who quote the amount of money films pull in and speak in a mix of Hindi and English.

Nominations this year were dominated by four films: Taare Zameen Par, centred around an eight-year-old dyslexic who appreciates the beauty of creatures and colours but is sent off to boarding school; Shahrukh Khan’s Om Shanti Om, about Bollywood-star lovers who are reincarnated to take revenge upon their killers; Shahrukh Khan’s Chak De India, where the star is a former hockey champ sent to train the Indian Women’s team; and Guru, a beautifully sepia-toned musical about why the free-market is good, vaguely based upon Citizen Kane but justifying it’s protagonist’s tax crimes.

The Star Screen went to the formulaic Chak De India; the Filmfare went to the more thoughtful Taare Zameen Par.

Chak De against a wall

By Haimona Peretini Gray

Bollywood has long had a bad reputation in the West for its love affair with the musical and bright over-the-top scenery, which seems outdated compared to other nation’s cinema.

Chak De! India has been heralded as a change from the old love- affair musical formula, but a film about a disgraced sports star coming back to coach a team of no-hopers to champion status is about as original as adapting I Am Legend for the big screen (Heston did it better).

Chak De! is your standard early 90s teen sports movie; only replace Emilio Estevez and his ragtag bunch of kids with an Indian George Clooney and a gang of adult women who act like children. While the film may be about women overcoming sexism, the characters still behave like teen girl stereotypes. In one scene the team screams (and one woman even faints) when a male cricket star shows up to a practice. This would almost be funny if the film wasn’t about female empowerment!.

Chak De! could almost be labeled a comedy but you would be hard pressed to find a comedy this long. The editors removed any real value out of the film by slowing the plot progression down to a crawl and turning what could’ve been pastiche humour into an exercise in clock watching. The most regrettable omission is the obligatory archenemy team that dresses in black, doesn’t play fair, and makes puns about your team (LikeThe Cobra Kai dojo from Karate Kid, Team Iceland from The Mighty Ducks 2 and the Germans from Life).

Unfortunately Chak De! shows that movement from hilarious poorly executed musicals to drawn out Disney remakes is a bizarre regression that won‘t change India’s reputation for the better. We will continue covering Bollywood and hope for better from the region if only to calm the corpse of Satyajit Ray.

Guru

By Haimona Peretini Gray

Guru is the story of a driven, big hearted capitalist making his way to the top, and plays out like an upbeat Citizen Kane. It may not be the most sophisticated film but it triumphs through this, its star Abhishek Bachchan maintains a positive resolve through his tribulations that almost parallels the film. It succeeds because it dares to be significant like Kane, and even though it fails in this lofty goal, its ambition is commendable.

Guru star Abhishek Bachchan, son of Amitabh (the most famous Bollywood star ever), gives a stand out performance as the good-natured mogul who symbolises the capitalist leader at its best and wost. The supporting cast not bad either, and Abhishek’s real-life bride Aishwarya Rai proves that even people who were once married to a tree can succeed in film (the fact that she’s insanely beautiful helps. That and the fact that she can speak five languages).

But it’s Bachchan performance and the more-serious-then-your-average-bollywood feel of the film that have had many heralding Guru as a potential cross-over hit in the west. However its progression is disjointed and what is in general a fast paced film is diminished by its musical scenes which only seem to exist to show off the beautiful landscapes. The Cinematography is incredible and it helps give the film a larger then life quality which helps the film show its lead characters development without wasting anymore scenes, but there real star is the landscapes of India which words can not do justice to.

If the filmmakers had hoped Guru would catch on outside India then they have come up short but it is surely one the best bollywood films I have ever seen, it’s not perfect but its simple charms have won over even a mean spirited sod like me.

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About the Author ()

Tristan Egarr edited in 2008. He threw a chair once.

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