Friday, January 27, 2006

Well, that didn't take long. Last semester, my crisis in confidence didn't happen until Week 13. This semester, it's happening in Week 2. Does that mean next time it will happen three weeks before the session even starts?

How do I get out of this class? I told myself after last week's seminar that I should just hold on, it will get better, but that's not happening. I don't understand even half of what's being said by my classmates, and I understand even less of what the professor's saying. I thought I was reasonably well-prepared to take the course, but god, was I ever wrong. I spent most of today's class trying not to throw up. I feel like I have an ulcer, and it's only going to get worse since I'm supposed to present next week's readings and run the seminar. How can I run a seminar when I don't even understand what's going on around me?

I wish I would get hit by a car.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Dil Chahte Hai--good production values, and good sound quality. Live sound really makes a difference. It gets a little muddy at times, but sounds much more natural than most dubbing jobs. Falls into the Bollywood musical genre, but if you cut the singing and dancing, the movie would still hang together. I can completely relate to the "college friends negotiating life in the real world together and apart" theme. All three story arcs are strong, and when I re-watch this movie, I tend to watch them one at a time. Continuity between the chapters it good. I liked all the songs enough to eventually buy the soundtrack. And wow, that dress that Shalini (Preity Zinta) wears to the opera is beautiful. My favorite character (besides Sid) is Mahesh Uncle (Shalini's uncle). I think he was very funny after the movie, bouncing back and forth between agreeing with Akash and agreeing with Shalini. And near the end of that story arc, there is a big dramatic scene in which Shalini's (adopted) father is saying, "You must pay us back, Shalini! And this is how you must do it!" The father makes his dramatic announcement, everyone is stunned and (happily) crying, and in the background, Uncle Mahesh is making this "Well, whaddaya know!" face. Was that scripted? It was very funny. This is the movie to show your American friends if you want them to like Bollywood. After they are all relaxed by this one, you can hit them over the head with something more melodramatic (and dubbed).

Kal Ho Naa Ho--also good to get your American friends hooked. Shahrukh Khan, so good with the tears and Mama loyalty. It has its cheesy moments (like, where the hell did that American flag come from outside Naina's house? And why is Naina living in such a nice house if they can't even afford to keep the business running? One wonders.) and definitely has some problematic stereotypes. The Gujarati jokes were lame. On the other hand, the remark about vegetarians? Funny because it's so true. I don't know, Shahrukh and Saif Ali make such cute boys together, so I think the maid should relax. And really, how does a beautiful woman become unattractive just by putting on glasses? To make Preity Zinta unattractive, you couldn't just take away her make-up artists, hairstylists and wardrobe crew. You'd have to take away her soap, shampoo, hair brush and detergent. Maybe after life on the streets for a couple of months without a shower, you could consider her unattractive. There are a lot of things to love about this movie, only some of which the producers intended. I love the use of the color orange in the first song, the way its picked up from Aman's pants and deployed in different costumes. It's also the base of the moving graffiti sign at the end of the song. I love that Rohit falls in love and turns into a complete metrosexual. How many guys do you know that think, "I love Naina! Now I will get a manicure!" I love the engagement party clothes. I love the title song. I love that someone has to stand off camera and make it look like two daisies are having sex during "Kuch to hua hai." I love it that the subtitles tell us that "Chicken is just one dollar" when Naina and Shiv are arguing at the breakfast table. I also love it that they later let us know that Naina is "a nice little boy." I love it that no one seems to know that a Baptist choir could not sing "Amen!" at a Catholic church. I love it that while Naina and Jennifer(ben) are getting all emotional and crying all over each other, Aman is standing behind them doing a Starbucks commercial. I love it that Naina turns to her mom and very clearly tells her that she loves her during the engagement dance. I love it that Preity Zinta completely blows one of the "chay din laRki in" scenes by reacting to SRK's voice when she shouldn't have been able to hear it over the headset. There are many things to love, and they outweigh the list of things I could type about things to hate (namely, why does Jennifer Kapoor [damn, is it Kapur?] not know enough to run her own damn business? Is she an idiot?).

Ek Hasina Thi--I swear to god, 1/2 of India got shot in the head during this movie. And I think Saif Ali Khan is following me around and I am tired of seeing him. No Bollywood dancing or singing, just a lot of bloodshed. Definitely not my kind of movie, too violent, but I was so taken by Urmila Matondkar that I couldn't stop watching. Great performance. The plotline at the beginning was forced (is anyone that naive?), and also, I don't like seeing people's bones broken. Oh, and also, Urmila Matondkar reminds me a little bit of Cher, only she handles a gun better. There was a spot at the end of the movie where she took my breath away with one flick of the wrist. Very nice.

The Hero: Love Story of a Spy
--Blah. You know it's bad when I don't even want to wait through the first part of the movie to see Preity Zinta. I read a review early on that said that every time her character left the screen, the energy died, and that was so true. The India v. Pakistan theme was really horrible, and after 10 seconds, I was done. Also, the dubbing was horrible, especially right at the beginning. And the hero's disguises looked like they'd been put together by a third grader. I stopped watching after the first guy got shot through the head. After Ek Hasina Thi, I wasn't going to sit through any more blood spatters. It took me two more tries to force myself through the movie. It was fantastic that they made Preity Zinta carry a lamb around on her back for 1/4 of the movie. What was she thinking when she read the script: "How sweet! The weight of living animal on my back in an uncomfortable basket for hours on end! Oh, fab, it gets to sit on my ribcage while I'm daydreaming!" I hope she got paid a lot to do this movie. The little kid in the road at the beginning of the first song was cute.

Hum Tum--Ah, cute. You have to hand it to Saif Ali Khan. He's way over-exposed, but he still manages to entertain. He's good at the cute but utterly self-absorbed roles, and I thought the "It's my Tom Cruise haircut. Tom Cruise! You know, Tom Cruise! It's fashion!" bit was funny. Rani Mukherjee graduates from being Priya or Puja to Rhea, it must have been a thrill for her to be called by a new name. Still, she's beautiful, and hey, I'd like to slap Saif, too. Not a demanding movie, and I never really felt Rhea's pain, but hey, no one got shot, so that's fine with me.

Aarzoo--I swear, I'm not after Saif at all. He just shows up everywhere. This movie was kind of typical Bollywood--someone gets shot right away, there's lots of fighting, the guy is a total jerk but the woman still loves him, there's some singing, the other guy loves the girl so much he stands back so the jerk can have her, and then there's more shooting. Amrish Puri was the industrialist father. How in god's name does he find the time to be in so many movies? Anyway, I give this movie a pass even though I think Reema Lagoo is pretty.

Kya Kehna--Although technically flawed (the sound isn't great, the subtitles disappear at inconvenient times, the hero goes through seven haircuts in seven days), this might be one of my favorite Bollywood movies. Everyone should have such a family, I say. Also, everyone should have such a vehicle to launch their acting careers. Who gets the starring role in their first (although second released) movie? The first song didn't grab me, but the title song was pretty. I know Rahul is an absolute cad, and I didn't even buy his repentance scence, but really, could you resist Priya? Probably not. I liked Preity a lot more before she got so damned polished (before her teeth were capped, eh?) What I actually liked about this movie was its undercurrent of emotional truth. When I was that age, several of my classmates found themselves unwed and pregnant. What I wish now is that I had been a better friend. This movie gives me a stab of guilt, and I guess I like that.

Kabhi Kushi, Kahbie Gham
--Don't ask me about the spelling on that, I can't explain it. I admit, I watched this just because I think Jaya Bachchan/Badhuri is hot. Yeah, Preity, you're fine and all that, but you're way too young for me. I wish I could see Dr. Mukhta but I can't find a copy. I wish I could say I liked this movie, but I can't. How did the Big B's character end up being all noble in the end, as if he wasn't the one that made Shahrukh Khan leave the family? One funny thing. Last Friday, we played "Win, Lose or Draw" in Hindi class (because apparently that's what they do in college these days) and one kid got up and drew a guy w/huge biceps. The entire class called out una voce "Hrithik Roshan! Hrithik Roshan!" Let's face it, his biceps are a little overwhelming. Turns out the kid was trying to draw Shahrukh Khan. He obviously needs drawing lessons.

Koi...Mil I don't even know what to say about this. E.T. meets Close Encounters of the Third Kind: The Musical. All I can think to say is, this is such a cute movie that I'm also embarrassed to admit I enjoyed it. Hrithik Roshan is so cute (and *not* Saif Ali Khan for a change). The little kid gang is cute. Preity Zinta is cute (although not without some unfortunate costuming), and for once, is not required to cry. Well, this movie is all over the place, plot-wise, and totally unbelievable and crazy, but the spaceship was awesome when they came flying up the valley. I think it was this movie that made me realize how good Preity Zinta is as an actress. She can hold an entire conversation without ever speaking a word. You have to watch her over several films to see it, but that woman really has some acting skills. That kind of made up for the fact that this is one long commercial. Obviously, Coke poured a hell of a lot of money into this budget, as did Nescafe. Off the top of my head, I can also remember Emami Naturally Fair popping up more than once, Sansui, Avon Cycle, Lays potato chips, Hero Honda (which sponsored the stupidest part of the movie), and ... who am I missing? I'll let you know next I see this. Oh, yeah, the "hill station" scenery is pretty awesome. Most of those beautiful outdoor scenes were filmed at Yoho National Park in British Columbia (thus the boat with the word "Goodsirs" on it, named after the mountain.)

Bride and Prejudice
--Not really a Bollywood movie, I know, but we just watched it so I'm adding it. Honestly, I'm not really feeling the Jane Austen love, I'm tired of watching all the makes and remakes. At least this was different, although a bit disorienting since it was in English. Could they have picked a more wooden actor to play the American? (No.) The consensus in my Hindi class is that Aishwarya Rai is beautiful and generally a good actress, but not when she's acting in English.

Woh Tera Naam Tha--When this first came out, the reviews all complained about it being "old-fashioned." So true. The only thing I can really say is that Gaurav Chanana has beautiful eyes. The title song was pretty. The ending was unpleasant on many levels. Rajat Bedi got to reprise his bad guy role of Raj Saxena from Koi...Mil Gaya. I was really put off by the scene of Reshma on her knees in front of Badru, drinking from the spout of water he's pouring out of his leather bag. It doesn't improve when Akthar steps in to help. It really doesn't improve with the decision to dub in her ecstatic whimpers.

Saathiya--Holy cow. There you are, enjoying a nice romance, and wham! From that "wham" moment on, I disliked the movie. What an implausible ending (even for Bollywood). Aditya was annoying as hell, and I was constantly hoping Suhani would just leave him. Such a big baby. And honestly, I know Vivek Oberoi is supposed to be all hot and everything, but he seems really wooden to me. Rani can make me pay attention. Vivek? No. I though the appearance of SRK and Tabu near the end was disconcerting, too. I never quite understood what was being said--did Yeshwant turn down the opportunity (apparently available to all corrupt policeman) to get his wife out of trouble, or not? For a minute there, I thought we were going to spin off into an entirely new "While You Were Sleeping" storyline. Anyway, I liked this enough to buy the soundtrack. I kept saying, "God, doesn't this music remind you of the Dil Se?" only to find out that A.R. Rahman was behind the music in both movies. Two points for my ear.

Mohabbatein--"Love Stories." Whoever failed to cast Amitabh Bachchan as a wizard in the Harry Potter movies really made a mistake. He is so ready for that role. This was one of two movies we watched last weekend that reminded me of exactly why I loved him when I was young. Most of this movie is forgettable (notably, the three school-boy romances, the Dead Poet's Society remake), but I thought the Big B was fantastic. Well, right up until the last scene, but isn't that the way it always is? The last scene of any movie from India seems to be an afterthought and a throwaway. Anyway, the real chemistry in this movie was between Amitabh Bachchan's charcter, Prinicipal Narayan Shankar, and Shahrukh Khan's character, Raj Aryan. I liked SRK in this role because his energy was muted. Even though his trousers were ill-fitted, he looked good in the preppy role. What I wouldn't give to see SRK and Amitabh Bachchan do Shakespeare. That would be.totally.awesome. I imagine Shiv Shena/BJP hated this film w/its Valentine's Day romance. Aishwarya Rai's role was allegedly supporting, but she made a good contribution to the film overall. The role of Vikram was apparently cast by someone looking for effective steroid abuse rather than effective acting skills.

Veer-Zaara--A very sweet film. It felt very nostalgic and full of longing. The music played a big role in creating that atmosphere, I think. The beginning of the film was contrived, but I forgave the script that flaw once the story started to take off. And the helicopter scene gave Preity Zinta a chance to shout over her bag (she shouts well). Overall, I don't think it was a challenge for SRK or Preity, although it was nice to see SRK get to look unglamorous for awhile. I thought the scene in which Veer throws nuts in Zaara's mouth while simultaneously pulling them across the river in a handcar was very funny. The best parts of the movie involved Veer's parents, and once again, I was reminded that I love Amitabh Bachchan. Catherine didn't even recognize him: "Is couldn't be...he's laughing!" And it's true, he's always cast as stern, oppressive figure these days. I loved Bauji and Maati. The Lodi song was the best in the movie. Rani Mukherjee had a tough role, trying to look serious and sympathetic and challenged and determined and frustrated and compassionate simultaneously. She had some good tears near the end. The end had a couple of flaws that I won't spell out, but mostly it was nice. Garry watched this with us, and all three of us tried to predict the ending, but we all three at least partially missed the mark. Pakistan came out looking not so bad in the end, which was a nice change from the India good-Pakistan bad rhetoric that dominates these days. I only had time to watch this once, but I would definitely watch it again, if only to see SRK pelt Preity Zinta with nuts.

Dil Se--Wow. Amazing movie. Catherine and I are still arguing over it. I know it wasn't a box-office hit (if you made a list of ten things every successful Bollywood film should have, this movie would have missed at least nine of them) but I disagree with those who think this isn't a good movie. For one, the cinematography was amazing. There's one scene between Amar and "Meghna" that takes place in a dark hallway with a door in the background opening and closing the entire time--how many tries did it take to shoot that scene? And the picturizations were also fantastic. None of the music really pushed the plot forward and, in fact, the movie would have been a lot tighter without them. On the other hand, that last song with Amar and Preety on the water? Beautiful. Dancing on the train top? Dangerous. But Fantastic. One of the lovely things about this movie is SRK, of course. I didn't even like Amar, but couldn't help admiring SRK's skill the entire time I watching. This movie is ostensibly about terrorism, but if you ask me, it's really about obsession. Amar's obsession, specifically. I thought Preety offered him a shot at redemption, and he refused to take it. He could have chosen to do so many other things than the thing he actually did, and I can't help but be disappointed by him in the end. This movie is a good example of how selfish Bollywood love can be. Amar really believes his love is the most important thing--everything outside it doesn't exist for him. I didn't really have trouble understanding "Meghna's" motivation, but Amar? Needs to rethink the concept of love. Preity Zinta does a good job in this role. This is one of her early movies, so she hasn't yet been polished to within an inch of her life. I wonder how much henna Bollywood hairstylists go through in a year. Zohra Sehgal had her small "I'm the grandmother" role. I love that woman.

Na Tum Jaano Na Hum--proof positive that without a strong lead female, a movie sucks. Hrithik Roshan and Saif Ali Khan just couldn't rescue this one. The pacing was sluggish, most of the music just died in the speakers, and the dubbing was sloppy. I really tried to like it, but just didn't.

Lakshya--Okay, I'm coming back to edit this. I've done some reading about the Kargil conflict, and done some thinking, and I've decided the film gets a more positive review than I originally gave it. There were some really nice touches from "real life," like the shepherd, and now that I know more about high-altitude fighting, it seems more realistic. I still hate Indo-Pak war movies, but after watching this three times, I've grown to appreciate it. The cinematography was great in places (no rock climbing for me) and Hrithik Roshan is a fantabulous dancer--no bones in his arms, that boy. I think the really big flaw in this movie is its lack of complexity. Did anyone have any trouble seeing where the movie was going to end up? No? Me, neither, and it wasn't just because we know how the conflict was resolved in real life. No one character was very deep. Preity Zinta did a good job with a poorly sketched character. Hrithik Roshan did an even better job with a very one-dimensional character. A *very* one-dimensional character. At the end, I realized I didn't care if he lived or died (although we'd hate to make Romila cry). Catherine took an instant liking to one of the secondary characters and spent the rest of the movie worrying about him. I felt more for the secondary characters than for the Hrithik Roshan character. See? I saw the movie three times and I still can't remember his name! Three of the five songs were very good ("Main eisa kyon hoon" [new wave straight-jacket song], "Agar main kahoon" [the second song where he plays Romi's arm like a guitar and then later does a Steve Martin imitation, look for it], and "Kandhon se milte hain kandhe" [the Army driving song]). Love the short hair on Preity, hate the long curly hair.

Lagaan--Great production values, *horrible* Hindi. I don't like to re-watch this movie because everytime one of those damn Brits says something in Hindi I cringe and vow never to speak another word of it. Because you know I sound JUST LIKE THAT. This is a good Aamir Khan role, not nearly as annoying as he was in DCH. Some of the villagers were very entertaining, especially the big guy who reminded me of Hagrid. A little bit of an anachronism going on there with Bhuvan's championing of the dalit, but I guess they needed to invent the googly somehow. Biggest googly ever. Hated Elizabeth's character--"I'm falling in love with you!" but then again, you're supposed to hate the British. I heard once that Preity Zinta turned down the role of Gauri, which is just as well. I can't see it as a role she could sink her teeth into, it was just sort of standard. I loved the village landscape (the cricket scenes could have been shot near my hometown) and I loved the soundtrack. Bonus points if you know which movies lifted songs from Lagaan.

Salaam Namaste--We waited forever to get this from Netflix. Was it worth the wait? Only if you want to see a beefy Saif spend two hours in his underwear (I know, there are a lot of women who want to see exactly that). Overall, I think Preity turns in a good performance as usual, and Saif turned in an adequate performance. My favorite scene of his did not involve his underwear. It was when he was yelling "Hambar! Hambarrrrrrrrrrrrr!" into his phone. Mostly, this was the movie that Kya Kehna! would have been had Priya's family not chased her down at the train station. I don't know, would you trust Nick to grow up and be a real husband and father? At least no one hit him in the stomach and said, "Be a man!" like usually happens. Anyway, this movie was edgy for Bollywood but really nothing so new. But, I'm all for anything with Preity in it, so I can't say anything too negative. It wasn't a waste of my 2.5 hours.

Swades--You know, I'm not sure if it was just my mood while I was watching this, or the company that I was in when I watched it (that would be my father-in-law, saying "I guess that guy will never win an Academy Award, will he?" everytime SRK said something), but I didn't really get into this movie. That's incredibly odd, since I love all things astronautic, but maybe that was the problem. Was that opening news conference supposed to make sense? I liked this movie in that it tried to cover real issues in India. I never really felt India's pain, though. I loved the old woman who kept saying, "Electricity! Electricity!" I liked the supporting characters. I loved the idea of driving a caravan through a village. But I just didn't really like the movie. Maybe it was because they expected me to believe that no one in the village had ever looked up at the stars before SRK came to town (please). I was a little disappointed by the music. Usually I really enjoy A.R. Rahman's music (Dil Se, Saathiya) but this movie only had one song that stuck with me afterward. Good production values (that means "good sound quality."). My partner disagrees with me, she liked it more, so maybe I should watch it again. And now I'm coming back to edit this to say that the soundtrack has quite grown on me, so I guess I can go back to liking A.R. Rahman.

Black--Can I touch Rani Mukherji's feet? Just to watch her not be elegant and untouchable was worth the price of admission (well, the price of the Netflix subscription). I know a lot of people complained about this movie, saying it was "just" The Miracle Worker, but come on...since when are revivals a bad thing? That's like saying, "You know, we did Hamlet once back in the 50s, so I don't think anyone should ever perform it again." Anyway, although some of the plotline was fairly close to the original story, there were definite variations (nice job with them, too, Mr. Bachchan). I can't think of single superfluous character (you know, no Johny Lever to lighten things up). Everyone introduced had a purpose in the plot. Ayesha should have gotten a "best female actress" award along with Rani, I think. Catherine started crying four, five times during this one, a sign that the emotions played true. I liked the score and give the cinematography generally high marks. Some of the scenery seemed flat, but maybe that was for the best, it didn't compete with the actors. Truly a wonderful viewing experience.

Rang De Basanti--Okay, we've been watching this in class, so it's probably not fair to even have an opinion about it. Watching a Bollywood movie in 25 minute chunks, once a week, makes it almost impossible to keep track of what is going on. But I have an opinion, anyway. What I'd like to say about this movie is that I like the intention behind it, but I didn't so much like the movie. Partly I think I was just underwhelmed by Aamir Khan, or maybe his character. He just seemed a bit flat, or at least the rest of the cast seemed to have a lot more life in them. But mostly what bugged me was the "outsider shows them the meaning of life" trope. I hate it when someone from the outside comes into a community and shows them how to live (or in this case...well, you finish that thought). I mean, why, all the sudden were these boys so passionate about India? What started everything in motion? That stupid British Sue's movie, that's what. It's similar to what bothered me about Swadesh, it's like you have to be an NRI or a foreigner to see India "the way it really is." Imperialist viewpoint, if you ask me. I actually liked the idea behind the movie, showing the psychological growth of these young men, turning them into people who cared about their environment and hoped for change, but I was kind of put off by the nationalist discourse. Also, I disliked the way they "became" their movie characters, as if they wouldn't have had any access to the emotions they needed to embrace vigilante justice if they hadn't had Sue's script to feed them earlier. I don't know, I didn't hate the movie, and I really can appreciate it as a serious attempt at political commentary, but it left me lukewarm about the whole thing. And the ending was just annoying.

Main Prem Ki Diwani Hoon--This movie explained a lot of things about the kids in my Hindi class. No wonder they're so freaking unable to sit still for five minutes, they're watching movies like this. I felt like the producers were trying to induce a seizure in the viewer. Well, until Abhishek Bachchan hit the screen, and then I thought they were offering a cure for insomnia. Actually, this movie was super cute, and probably a huge hit with the pre-teen set, which surely was its intended audience. Hrithik Roshan's character was a nutcase, and Abhishek Bachchan's character was boring. Kareena was all over the map. I should say, I usually do not like Kareena, but her character made me laugh harder than I have ever laughed at a Hindi film. When she opened the door (when Prem1 first arrives at the family home) and did her eye-blink thing, I almost fell off the couch laughing. I'm not sure why I thought it was so funny, but Catherine also started crying she was laughing so much, so it wasn't just me. I think Catherine liked the movie better than I did, but I did sit and watch the entire thing, so it couldn't have been totally bad (like a couple of others I haven't finished). I am probably one of the two people in the world who likes Johnny Lever, he's so cuddly, so I tend to be pleased when he pops into a movie. The animation was crazy, although not as crazy as tying a dead parrot to your handlebars when you go to a bike ride (I'm looking at you, Prem1). Also, even if college = high school in India, I don't believe Bollywood college bears any resemblence to any college ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD. Two other things: 1) there's a scene right at the end, in which Abhishek's character is sitting on the floor, doing a finger painting. Maybe it was the red shirt, but he looked just like his father, until he looked up and broke the illusion. Catherine says he's better looking than his father was at that age, I think that is heresy; 2) the always and ever fabulous Reema Lagoo shows up after the intermission. I would have married Abhishek's character just to have her for the most beautiful mother-in-law in the world.

Kaho Naa Pyar Hai--Not actually Hrithik Roshan's first movie, but the one who made him "just like Elvis." Fifteen seconds into the movie, Catherine turned to me and said, "Well, of course, he became a star, how could he not after that opening?" to which I answered, "Yeah, if they had any sense, they'd stop this movie now, because it can only go downhill from here." And right at that moment, coolio Rohit started doing the stupidest air guitar routine I've ever seen and proved my point. He recovered his coolness, though, because it was only a dream. I avoided this movie because I wasn't sure about Amisha Patel, she reminded me of Kareena, and I can only take so much of that. But I ended up liking her character. When they realized they were castaways, her character didn't freak out like they always make girls do in the movies. Instead, she was completely happy about being stranded on a deserted island. On the other hand, she didn't at any time try to find fresh water. But I guess she knew craft services would be feeding them at some point. Anyway, what I really got from this movie is that I so prefer Hrithik WITH HIS SHIRT ON. What is this Bollywood obsession with his rather creepy physique? Also, I really don't like hero-type Hrithik. I don't know if he just plays the hero badly (doesn't bode well for Krrish! does it?), or if he is being told to play it badly. I think Hrithik has a talent for playing the dork or the average guy, but once he hits that transformation to hero-type, I can turn off the movie. Possibly the best part of the movie was his interview in the special features section. He at least seems normal (or knows how to act like he's normal) there.

Shakespeare Wallah--Merchant-Ivory's second India film. This is an awesome slice of imperialist nostalgia, filmed when India hadn't even been independent for 20 years. It ends up making India look sort of degenerate (have to ship the young white woman home to protect her, those bad Indians lose their love of British culture) but I think that's exactly what the British were feeling in the 1960s. I didn't really enjoy the film the first time through, I forgot that nothing happens in a Merchant-Ivory production. Then I watched the interviews with Merchant, Ivory, and Felicity Kendal and decided the film was fantastic. Also included on the DVD was Merchant's 1960 documentary "Delhi Way." Nothing happened in it, either, but it was still interesting to see what he was thinking about 46 years ago.

Dil Hai Tumhaara--Nice, light and fluffy. Any movie that offers me three hours of non-stop Preity is good by me. There must be a Preity saturation point, but I haven't reached it yet, even though I feel as if I've memorized the mannerisms that reappear in picturization after picturization (the "I'm cute" eye blink, for instance, or the "I find myself absolutely stunned by your proximity" gaze). Still, there was a scene in this movie that reminded me all over again that she really can act. When she transitioned from sobs to laughter in the space of three seconds, I realized that I completely bought her sad act because I said outloud "How can anyone go from that sad to that happy just like that? She must have been acting!" Well, no kidding. Catherine rediscovered her attraction to Jimmy Shergill in this movie (previously seen in Mohabbatein). He is far down the list from SRK and SAK, but he's on her list. Can I just say, that is the ugliest damn puppet I've ever seen? Maybe if they'd stop running to New Zealand to film their picturizations they could afford to put more money into their puppets. I have a soft spot for the "baldies" in the movie, they were kind of charming in their own inept-attempt-at-humor way. Also, could Rekha be more intense? I'm serious, if her character had whipped out an axe and started chasing Shalu around the house, I wouldn't have been surprised, she was that creepy.

Deewani Huye Pagal--Catherine's response: "At least it was supposed to be a fake parrot this time." That tells you a lot about how blah this movie was to us. The best part was the introduction/segues by Vivek Oberoi. Catherine discovered Sunil Shetty (he's a little above Vivek Oberoi on her list, but somewhere below Hrithik). This film reminded me a little bit of Hera Pheri, mabye because of Akshay Kumar, maybe because of the fast talking. Again, as one of the two Johnny Lever fans in the world, I liked it that he had a slightly larger role than he usually gets in movies. I must say, that I wasn't a huge fan of There's Something About Mary, to which this movie is usually compared, but I thought this one was somewhat fun. I'm not sure why people are so down on Bollywood for being derivative, or copying storylines from Hollywood. Do you people ever watch Hollywood movies? There are only four or five storylines in the industry, they just copy each other. At least they add music when they take it to India.

Bumbai--Holy @#*$&! I guess this movie knocks Dil Se out of its first place position in the "Best Bollywood Movie I've Ever Seen" competition. Really, it was quite stunning. Dil Se made me sick to my stomach for a full 24 hours. Bumbai will hurt my stomach a lot and I loved those smiles the twins wore when they found each other in the empty house. The ending, as we all know ten years later, was way too optimistic, but I guess you can't blame them for trying. The only jarring note was the item number--it just didn't fit the narrative the way the rest of the picturizations did. But as a stand alone song, I liked it (when A. R. Rahman is on his game, he produces the most wonderful music). Mani Ratnam just writes nice screen plays and apparently gives good direction, he turns out great products. The other nice thing about this movie was its lack of English. Unlike some of the newer productions, it had only three English words that we caught (journalist and T-shirt were two of them, can't remember the third). That may have been because the movie was done in Tamil and then dubbed into Hindi, or it could be that Mani Ratnam is just a better writer and doesn't need to fall back on loan words in every other sentence. This isn't a movie like Kal Ho Naa Ho; you can't keep watching it over and over or it will just kill you, but it is definitely the best movie I've seen in a long time.

The Mystic Masseur--The first 2/3s of this Merchant-Ivory production were quite good. The end (after the pandit joins the political world) were just empty and boring. I haven't read the original Naipaul story, so I'm not sure if the imbalance was introduced in the writing of the screenplay or what. But the first 2/3s make the movie worth watching, especially if you're interested in the Hindu diaspora. Great characters, quite witty. Also, any movie with Zohra Sehgal in it is quite fine by me. I love that woman.

Mission Kashmir--Well, after reading the description of how this movie was made in Maximum City, I sure didn't expect much out of this one. Also, I've avoided Sanjay Dutt...well...I'll let everyone else figure out why. However, it really had some fine moments, few of them involving Hrithik Roshan, unfortunately. Again, it's difficult to tell if he really can't pull off the hero/terrorist role, or he's been given bad direction. Whichever it is, the movie turns into a cartoon whenever his character is on screen. I know SRK was originally slated for the role, but I can't see that he would have peformed any better. He's also a cartoonish strong man. Sanjay Dutt, on the other hand, did an amazing job, as did Master Moshin. Puru Rajkumar was exactly as sinister as he should have been. Sonali Kulkarni was also quite nice. Preity was her usually solid self, but her role wasn't much. (As an aside, this is the first movie I've seen her use a full-on South Asian Head Wobble. I've seen one or two highly abbreviated SAHWs out of her, but this was the best one ever.) The soundtrack was so nice, and really cruel in its own way (I'm talking to you, "Maaf Karo"). This is the third movie I've seen that required a young Hrithik, and this one was the best--you can't tell me that kid in K3G grew up to be Hrithik. Master Moshin still didn't resemble Hrithik too much, but at least he had the right complexion. This is the second movie I've seen that required a young Preity, and both had great little girls to fill the role. This one had Preity's attitude and her teeth (before she had them straightened). There are some definite plot flaws, but after reading Maximum City, I understand why. Also, although the last scene of the movie is pure Bollywood, it bears thinking about what the movie could have been without it--much better, much more ambiguous, without that last scene.

Chori Chori Chupke Chupke--Huh. This is the first Bollywood movie I've seen that lifted a Hollywood script scene for scene (Pretty Woman). Unfortunately, the stealing didn't really contribute anything to plot of the movie, although my wife did enjoy watching Preity Zinta interpretation of Julia Roberts' interpretation of a prostitute. Seriously, a movie about a surrogate mother in India has so much potential, but the "screenwriters" screwed the entire thing up. I think the cast should have felt really ripped off, having to work with that material. I'm not a huge Salman Khan fan, but at least his character really loved his creepily cheerful wife. The most (perhaps only) beautiful thing about this movie was the PZ South Asain head wobble. She seriously looked like a bobble-head doll, her head was was wobbling 24/7 in this one, a thing of beauty. Trust me.

Asoka--Decent movie, especially given that no one seemed to have a script in hand when they started producing the damn thing. Everyone knows I'm not a Kareena fan which is, quite frankly, puzzling. She has exactly the kind of body I wish I had, but I just don't find her alluring. She would make a great warrior if they dressed her properly, though. I don't think most people go to war with bare midriffs, but that's just my own speculation. Amazingly, even though this is an epic, Johnny Lever still shows up. The music is really nice even if not exactly suited to the movie (good to watch afterward, but really quite superfluous to the plot). Master Sooraj Balaji was a little cutie during the entire tale. SRK did a better job than I thought he would, although it was hard to get past his "I am SRK" look. Catherine really liked this movie. I went to bed about 30 minutes from the finish but she stayed up and watched the end even though it was already hours past her bedtime. I finished it the next day. We both agree that it would have been a better movie if they had moved to his point of enlightenment a little more quickly so they could share at least part of his Buddhist life with us.

Yeh Raaste Hain Pyaar Ke--Meh. Not much to say about this movie, other than it was pretty stupid. Oh, and also I find Ajay Devgan not at all attractive or interesting. What did Neha/Sakshi see in Vicky or Rohit? Nothing going on upstairs, I think. Also, the "bad guys" were stupid and laughable, as was the evil aunt. And what was that whole thing about speaking in rhyme? Crazy people, I tell you. I liked the bhang song, but it really just seemed like an interruption to the story. And honestly, how did they get from the Bangalore Turf Club to Manali in, like, two seconds? Do they think I don't know my India geography? Anyway, if I had slept through this movie, that would have been okay, despite Madhuri Dixit's beauty and Preity Zinta's smile.

Baghban--God, what a horrible movie. If I typed for 30 minutes, I still wouldn't be able to cover everything I didn't like about it. It's easier to say what I did like: Mr. Bachchan's singing, and the man-wife relationship as played by Mr. Bachchan and Hema Malini. There's nothing else good to say about the movie. I'm listening to the soundtrack, and it's quite nice, too bad it was attached to such a rotten bit of cinema. Heinous children, saintly parents (yet still incapable of offering forgiveness), implausible plots, blaming the girl for the male's bad sexual behavior, all of it makes it a bad movie. And seriously, what was up with the Salman Khan character? First, do you think his parents would really forget to tell him that they were moving out of the family home? Get real. What is the likelihood of the parents stumbling into a Ford dealership in Vijaynagar w/out knowing that it was owned by their son? Get real. And would he really sleep at the foot of their bed? Get real. And his speech at the end completely creeped me out--he sounded as if he was auditioning for a speaking role in "Night of the Living Dead." If that guy started sleeping in my bedroom, I'd make sure I had a wooden stake and silver bullet on the nightstand.

Dil Ne Jise Apna Kahaa--And speaking of creepy...I know this was supposed to be a love story, but my god, sleeping with the woman who ended up with your former's wife heart? That's disgusting. Wouldn't you look at the scar on her chest and think, "Hmm...she's alive because my wife died in a car accident last year." Too weird. I'm just not a Salman Khan fan, although he was better in this movie than in any other I've seen him in, mainly because he was only half-dressed most of the time. His upper body is much nicer than Hrithik Roshan's. Still, those short shorts and bold print shirts? Gotta go. Everybody did an adequate job, but I thought the character played Bhoomika Chawla was a bit blah. I will say Preity had a brilliant acting moment when she got to die mid-breath. Those "I'm dead" eyes were seriously disturbing.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Kind of an odd weekend. Sophia said she didn't have any homework this week, so after I got over my feelings of disgust and envy, I made good on my promise to teach her how to skate. We went to the rink on both Saturday and Sunday (three days in a row at the rink for me, as I went to the UIUC-NDU hockey game Friday night). On one hand, it was a nice time and gave my confidence a boost. It's good to know there is ONE THING on this planet that I do better than most of the adult population. And Sophia really seemed to enjoy learning, so that made it more fun as well. On the other hand, socializing is horribly stressful for me, I hate the process of negotiating new friendships. I made the mistake of actually being honest once, only to be met with a blank stare and a "That's ridiculous, I don't understand that at all" reply. I remembered why I don't go out with other people as often as I could. I'm basically alone much of the time, and though I do get lonely, overall it seems less painful to be by myself than to have to explain myself to other people.

Friday, January 20, 2006

I should just set up a file of stock phrases that I can cut and paste into this journal. "Today I went to school and it was rainy." "Today I went to school and it was cold." "Today I went to school and it was frustrating." "Today I went to school and broke a bone." Those kinds of things.

Really, my hand isn't broken, just sprained, proving my assertion that if you have to ask "is it broken?" it's not. You know when a bone is broken. There's no guesswork involved.

One week down, fourteen more to go. Trying to fight the panicky "too many classes!" feeling. Trying to fight the "why the fuck can't the Linguistics Department get its act together and design a *real* Hindi program?" feeling. Trying to fight the "god, I'm the only one in this room who doesn't understand!" feeling. Trying to fight the "my body hates me and I hate my body" feeling.

On the plus side, I heard someone refer to me this week as "[her] Ph.D. student." This is the first time anyone has ever taken ownership of me, so that seems like a good thing. Also, the same person recommended me as a blind peer reviewer for a journal she co-edits. And also on the (possibly) plus side, another professor recognized me, remembered my name, and didn't seem obviously disappointed to find me in her seminar this semester. I don't understand more than half of what she says, but hopefully by the end of the year...

There are too many quotation marks on this page. Really.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Just in case I come back to this in five years and wonder what the hell that last post was about: all the slicing and dicing took place on the shoulder blade this time, not the collar bone, so most of what I wrote last week was one big lie.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

And in other news, tomorrow I go in for another shoulder operation, a second "distal clavicle excision." Looking on the bright side, I'm having arthropscopic rather than open surgery this time, and the surgeon should only be taking of a centimeter or so of bone. And no ligament detachment/relocation, so that's all to the good. On the other hand, bone is bone, so I'm not looking forward to it because, basically, I'm a wuss. This is all pretty unexpected (I found out on December 19th, *after* I planned my work schedule for the semester break), so I'm trying to cram in a bunch of work, mostly unsuccessfully. I've only crossed two things off my to do list today:

Post Office
Sahara Mart
Catherine's birthday present
Book review
Finish bibliography
Finish Christmas cards
Disassemble drums
Catherine's birthday cake
Grocery store
Dinner w/Erika and Henry

Obviously, many people are not going to get Christmas cards after all this (last) year. The rough draft of the book review is almost done. Four of these tasks can't be accomplished until after 5 p.m., if you can call dining out a task, that is. And don't think I haven't considered telling my advisor, "You know, I did work on the bibliography, but there was this bit of unscheduled shoulder surgery, and you know...I just couldn't get it done," accompanied by a look of "I'm so ashamed, really, and it will never happen again." But I'm not that much of a player, so I guess I'd better get to work.
Are my professors nuts? I avoided taking one class this semester because the students last semester told me the course packet alone cost $313 (no one had added up the price of the textbooks, they probably couldn't bear the pain). I've only looked up two of my classes, but so far I'm looking at $707.90 for books. If they add a course packet to that...I might throw up. I'm not even in engineering! All I can say is there had better be a healthy collection of books on reserve, although having met one professor...I'd say that's probably a wish that will go unfulfilled. Doesn't seem the type to get that done. I don't have the nerve to look up my landscape class--I have a feeling that the price of those books may kill me.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Wow. My first present of the New Year was an incredibly kind e-mail from an old high school friend. But then I looked at the date and time it was sent, and had to conclude that he was probably drunk when he sent it. Still, even if it was thoroughly soaked with alcohol, and even if he probably doesn't remember that he wrote it, it was very nice to read.
I doubt that I'm the only one who gave a New Year's toast that sounded more like a plea and less like a celebration: Please, please, please let 2006 be better than 2005. Not that last year was all bad, but there were more than a few moments when I thought Father Time was doing his best to kick me in the teeth.

In the interest of getting this year started on a more positive note than the last one ended (couldn't let New Year's Eve just slip by, could you FT, without one last right-left combination?), we went for a walk at Green's Bluff this morning. Very pretty, nice views, not for anyone suffering from vertigo or fear of heights. As we passed the last farm before the parking area, four dogs ran out and started chasing our car, following us to the trailhead. You know me, afraid of dogs, but I eventually opened my door to the biggest one and he jumped all over me, wagging his tail. A large yellow-red sort of dog, accompanied by an old beagle, a puppy beagle, and a black pomeranian. I think the Nature Preserve rules state that you're supposed to only have dogs in the area if they're leashed, but since they weren't our dogs...what were we supposed to do? The small dogs were really funny, anyway, and the large dog was the smart one, and since they didn't eat us, I liked having them with us. Didn't much like smelling like dog afterward, and I wouldn't want to have to take care of them all the time, but for an hour, I guess dogs are okay.

Did a little work in the afternoon, then sat in my chair and finished Catherine's Christmas present. I only made one present this year (a significant decline in workshop production), and that was an afghan for Catherine. Obviously, I didn't finish it on time, but it's done now. I think that's my last afghan, I'm not really good with the yarn. We re-watched Fire while I was working. Why was this movie in English? Probably so people like me can crochet while watching it. One of these days we'll see the rest of the trilogy.

I did make one resolution this year. It's long and drawn out, but to paraphrase, it is to "be nicer to myself." One day down, 364 more to go. We'll see how this works out.