Dhoom Dois*

dhoom%202%20poster Dhoom Dois*

*Or “Yes, We Have No Bandanas”  

hrithik%20bandana%20hulk%20hogan Dhoom Dois*

Oh, meu Deus, there’s so much I didn’t like about this film….. the background music using cheesy  portuñol lyrics (don’t they think anyone in India will notice, never mind the overseas masses?), the overwaxed physiques of Hrithik and Uday (this, after Yuva, must be the second film where AB 2.0 insisted on keeping his hair,  and thank Heavens he did),

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the inability of anyone shooting a rifle to  hit or even come near their target, Aishwarya’s character speaking of herself only in the third person, the ubiquitous pastel-colored bandanas on Uday,

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and the product placement.  

In the 90 minutes before the Interval, I counted ten: (1) the Sony screen in the police briefing room, (2) the Sony VAIO laptop Hrithik uses in Bombay, (3) a Coca Cola can on a desk, (4) the BURP! truck for the stakeout, (5) Sony monitors in the security   room, (6) jewels of the Taj (hotels), (7) Winch 6000, (8) Cinemax cinemas,  (9) Cars, the animated film, and (10) Sugar Free Natura.   And  I’m sure I’ve missed a few.

All that said, I still thought it was quite  a fun ride, and I liked it as much as, if not more than, the original.   For a two and a half-hour film, it actually flows along at  a brisk pace, and this from someone who has very little patience for action sequences and chase scenes in Hindi movies.

hrithik%20no%20shirt%20AB%202.0 Dhoom Dois*

AB  o filho is back as Jai Dixit, the motorcycle-riding cop, and Uday Chopra returns as the goofy sidekick thief-turned-cop Ali.   Rimii Sen is also again inhabiting the  supporting role as Sweety, the now very-pregnant wife of Jai.   Then there’s the new folks.   Hrithik plays the master thief that Jai is pursuing, along with Bipasha Basu,  a fellow cop, and Ashwarrior Rye is the light-eyed partner-in-crime to Hrithik.   (Sound of record being scratched by needle)   Hang on, when did Rimi get the extra ” i ” in her name ???

Jai’s entrance, just as Ali’s about to be done in by some goondas, was quite cool: like Shamu at Sea World, he shoots  - vertically – out of the darkness of the sea riding a jetski and lands on the deck of a large boat.   Later, during Shonali Bose’s (Bips) presentation on the super talented criminal only known as ” A “, Jai does some supercomputing numerology in his head and figures out that the green-eyed chor is heading to Bombay for his next job.   After some more chases and the steamy establishment of Ash’s character, the action heads off to the Cidade Maravilhosa, Rio de Janeiro, as cop chases thief and the themes of love and trust and pairing off with someone special are all covered.

Bips does a double turn as a carioca twin sister – Monali Bose – who has lived in Brazil for many years.   This allows the director to show her striding around the beach toting a surfboard and playing volleyball, all in a bikini that looks overly modest compared to what really passes for a swimming costume on Copacabana’s beaches (original home of the  filo dental thong).   Ali is smitten with the free-spirited babe who hugs at the drop of   hat, and immediately does what he always does: picture himself and Monali married with kids.

No point in going over any more of the plot.   It’s a caper movie, so you can imagine what ensues.

Visually, the film is a treat, though it seemed to me that there’s a strong leaning – when it came to the male leads – toward a certain homoerotic aesthetic, which is not really my cup of tea.   Not to say that I’m keen on unibrows, but some body hair on a guy, please!      

homoexotic Dhoom Dois*  

And I had to laugh, at the nightclub where Hrithik does his dancing entrance, at  the greatly oversized screws hanging from the ceiling.   What is the name of this club anyway?   Piledriver?

Jokes aside, Hrithik and Ash appeared, to me, to generate more chemistry on screen than the alleged World’s Most Beautiful Woman has done so far with her not-so-secret boyfriend.   Maybe it’s because they share similar light eyes and the same highlights,

hrithik%20ash%20same%20hair Dhoom Dois*

but after  that somwhat dramatic scene the morning  of the heist,  when Hrithik actually full-on, lip-to-lip kisses the Ice Princess, I thought it was quite tingly really, and I thought it quite a remarkable feat.    Unlike the few other onscreen  filmi kisses that I’ve seen before, which had about as much va-va-va-voom as  a flu shot (I guess the actors are afraid to be labeled lascivious degenerates  if they look like they’re enjoying it too much), this one looked  authentic, and made so much more sense in that moment of the story, than if Ash had demurely looked down and  coyly turned her head, allowing  Hrithik’s lips to collide with her cheek.

ash%20in%20black Dhoom Dois*

The movie really belongs to the duo, as all Abhishek gets to do is scowl and be strong and silent, Bipasha looks stunning but doesn’t do much more, while  Uday seems to be trying out for a slot as  a new member of Siegfried and Roy.

sigfried Dhoom Dois*

The dance numbers are all pretty, and everyone looks tight and buff and shiny, though AB 2.0 barely dances at all, Hrithik is on a tight rein and not allowed to do anything much that would show off his ability, and the final number, set in Rio, has a plastic, antiseptic quality that’s the antithesis of the  sweaty sensuality of Brazil’s beautiful city.

Oh yes, the stunts are pretty slick too.

See it or sip it?

See it, if you’re looking for what I call a  ”Sunday afternoon” movie, that is, one that’s not too heavy or depressing and is an enjoyable way to spend  a few hours before returning to the office on Monday.

Kabul Calling

tata%20young Kabul Calling

Have a listen to this story from NPR, set in Afghanistan, and see if you can identify that ringtone in the first minute of the story.

This girl would definitely recognize it.

Pratibha Parmar interview

pratibha%202,%20v2 Pratibha Parmar interview

Pratibha Parmar, the director and producer of Nina’s Heavenly Delights, is just back from Hong Kong, where her film was selected to close  this year’s  Hong Kong Lesbian  & Gay Film Festival.   Less than a month ago, it was screened at the sixth Indo-American Arts Council’s Film Festival.   The movie will be released by Regent Releasing next year across the U.S.    Here’s what she had to say about the film:

Maria: How did it go in Hong Kong?

Pratibha:  Hong Kong was a fabulous experience.    The film was received really well.   I’ve now travelled with the film to the Chicago Film Festival, IAAC in NYC, and HK, and every city has been a very warm and enthusiastic response to the film and in each city there have been different kinds of audiences.   So it’s good to see that all kinds of different people are responding to the film as a universal story.   And also people like the upbeat feel of the movie and it makes them smile, which is a good thing in these times.    

Maria: Tell me about the Bollywood number.   How and why did you decide to include it?   How do you feel about Hindi movies?

Pratibha: The character of Bobbi, the bollywood drag queen gave me a dramatic excuse to develop one of my passions, i.e dance. I have always used dance as a story telling device in my films, even in documentaries.   I brought on board the choreographer Piers Gielgud who worked on Oliver Stone’s Alexander.   I wanted to bring together diverse dance traditions and create a mix of Bollywood and Western contemporary dance. I love the dance numbers in many Bollywood films and I particularly like Farah Khan’s choreography, which ‘borrows’ from many different modern dance styles.   The day we shot this dance finale was memorable. By the end of the day, every single person on the crew was singing Nazia Hassan’s Aap Jaise Khoi.   It was the only day I had the whole cast with me on set so it was particularly special.

I love movies from India. I like the way there is a sea change in the kinds of films coming out of India right now. Films like Omkara are quite brave and actors like Saif Ali Khan are developing in interesting ways. I loved the dance number on top of the train in Dil Se with Shah Ruk Khan.   I must have watched it a few too many times.   And Aamir Khan in Lagaan was a real discovery.   I enjoy the masala movies but I am more interested in watching some of the newer films like Rang de Basanti. I recently interviewed Kajol and Ajay Devgan on stage at the Birmingham Asian Mela at a BAFTA organised event, which was quite an experience, particularly with thousand of fans screaming for them.

Maria: How has your family and community been about your being gay and your choice of partner?

Pratibha: Lets just say, it’s not been easy sailing. It’s taken many years for them to accept my choice of partner and my sexuality. I think in the end my mum had to go with it because she could see that I was happy and that I was not going to miraculously turn around and get married to a man, even one of my own choosing.   But having said that, she is also very fond of my partner of many years and has said that she is like a ‘third’ daughter to her.   Which is all the acceptance I need.   In fact there was a recent breakthrough moment when both my partner and I were invited to my nephew’s wedding as a couple.  

Maria:  Related to that, I ask because I wonder if Nina’s Heavenly Delights is either (1) your wish for lesbian & gay  desi kids everywhere, that their Moms and families be as cool about it as this one was, or (2) your own reality, that everyone was totally with you, or (3) neither of those two and something else?

Pratibha: One of the reasons I love cinema is that it allows us to imagine different kinds of realities.   So by creating a mother on screen who is a fully rounded person, one with her own desires and dreams makes it possible to show that there are other ways of being.   Suman is a dignified woman whose life doesn’t end when her husband dies.   All she wants is for Nina to be happy and if that means accepting her sexuality then that is what she does.   And you know, it isn’t all pure fantasy.   Few years ago I was invited to a film festival called Larzish in Mumbai which looked at films around sexuality. I met quite a few Indian lesbian and gay men who came to the screenings with their parents, who were accepting of their children’s sexuality.   Things are changing and attitudes are shifting.   Culture and tradition don’t stand still forever, thankfully.  

Maria: Is it difficult to film food being cooked and make it look so yummy?

Pratibha:   Creating the yummy looking food sequences was a big challenge and very time consuming.   I wanted to capture the colours, the textures and the sensuality of Indian food on screen.   I wanted people to leave the cinema and go to their nearest Indian restaurant for a curry.   I  did most of the food shots after the main shoot during editing.   It felt as if I couldn’t have enough of these shots and I think I used up all my food shots.   There was of course a lot of cheating.   I found a chef in a Brick Lane Indian restaurant and he did most of the cooking but we shot it in a way that it looked as if Nina was cooking.   I also worked with a food stylist to create the look of the dishes and my DOP was excellent in lighting the food to make it look so sensual.

Maria: Is there a large Scots-Indian community in Glasgow?

Pratibha:   There is a significant Scottish Asian community. The majority is of Pakistani origin but there is also an Indian community.   I decided on locating the film in Glasgow because many years ago I had gone there to do a documentary on the city.   It was my first visit and I loved it.   So I went back there with this film.   I didn’t want to make a film that was representative in any sociological way about the Scots-Indian community.   I wanted to have a family and characters who are real, three dimensional characters and not stereotypes.

Maria: Were any of your lead actors not gay, and was there any uncertainty about playing a gay character?

Pratibha:   The two lead actresses who fall in love with each other are not gay but neither of them had any hesitation in playing a gay character.   They in fact relished this opportunity and were totally in to it.   In fact when it came to the kissing scenes they were offering to do more takes!   And Ronny Jhutti who plays Bobbi is not gay either but he gives a stellar performance.   I did quite a bit of rehearsals with him beforehand and he worked very hard on creating his character.   It totally pays off because he does get some of the biggest laughs in the film and he is quite unique.

Maria: One thing that struck me in the film is how well everyone deals with being of Indian origin and born and raised in Scotland.   It seems to me that a lot of our 2nd gen kids here go through more anguish, if you will, about identity, or if not anguish, at least grapple with it more.   Do you sense less of that in the UK?   If so, why do you think that is?

Pratibha:   The difference maybe due to the fact that the South Asian community in the UK overall is much ‘older’ than that in the US.   We are now moving into our 4th generation rather than the 2nd.   This longevity helps to create more of a deep seated presence here.   My generation, definitely had more angst and were much more confused about our identities, the whole caught between two cultures syndrome.   Nowadays questions of identity are construed in quite different ways.

Maria: Did Bobbi’s bus exist already, and if so, who, how and why?   And if not, who came up with the idea?   And his wardrobe… does he normally dress along those lines, or was that the work of some fabulous wardrobe person?

Pratibha: A wonderful coincidence happened during pre-production.   We found out that one of the Master truck artists from Pakistan was in Glasgow visiting for a few days. These incredible folk artists transform regular trucks into works of art using decorations and painting in elaborate designs.   I had always envisaged Bobbi who runs a Bollywood video store to have a van decorated in the colorful style of Pakistani trucks.   It would have been a challenge for the art department to duplicate, but to find the real artist, Ghulam Sarwar, amongst our midst was a heavenly gift.

As for Bobbi’s wardrobe, no he doesn’t normally dress like that.   Once again the way he dressed was so much part of his characterisation that a lot of work with a couple of different wardrobe designers went into creating his quite specific but indeed quite outrageous dress sense.   It was important to show that he wasn’t afraid of being who he is – a drag queen.

Maria: And finally, why didn’t anyone think of getting Art Malik into a kilt??

Pratibha:   Oh, trust me, I tried, but he wasn’t having any of it!

Nina’s Heavenly Delights

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The bad news – for me – was that Art Malik has  only a supporting role in this film, so he’s not  on screen enough.   (And it’s already been established that he does not don a kilt.)   Then again, the title is Nina’s Heavenly Delights, not Raj’s.

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The good news for all of us is Nina’s Heavenly Delights gives us  a chance to see a cross-section of the Indian  diaspora (Scots desi !) not portrayed onscreen before, as far as I know.   In fact, the only desi in the UK with any Scottish roots that I’ve encountered before is  Raj Dhanda on the BBC Asian Network’s Film Cafe.

This first full-length feature – or, self-proclaimed urban fairytale – directed and produced by Pratibha Parmar is set in Glasgow and shows Nina Shah (Shelley Conn), the rebel child in the family, returning late for her father’s funeral.   It’s her first time back in three years, after she bolted and left her groom-to-be at the altar.   Her father was the owner and chef of The New Taj restaurant, which he left deep in  debt and is now about to be sold.  

Nina learned to cook at her  father’s knee, and twice in the past they  won the Best in the West  curry  competition.  

Before allowing her family (mother, brother, and sister) to throw in the towel, she convinces them to hold off selling the restaurant until she can compete in  the upcoming Best in the West competition one more time, and try for the  hat trick  her late Dad always dreamed of winning.  

As the story progresses towards the final cook-off (televised on the local Korma TV channel and hosted by a lively British Asian man in a kilt), there is much cooking, eating and talk of love and following your heart in between.  

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Bobby and his bevvy of hunky Scots and Asian dancers prepare to try-out for the casting of the film Love in a Wet Climate, hurtling around town in his fabulously, colorfully illustrated van.   Nina realizes awakening feelings toward Lisa, who seems permanently joined at the hip to her brother, and who Nina  assumes is involved with him.

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Concerned about causing her family any more grief, after having already abandoned  a groom, Nina tries to tamp down any stirrings she has, and bumping into the object of her affections while cooking makes that more and more difficult.   In fact, every Shah has secrets they’re keeping in order to spare family members’ feelings.  

(Oh, and did I mention Nina’s teenage sister who loves highland dancing?)

NHD%202 Ninas Heavenly Delights

Shelley Conn is delicious as  Nina and has a glow about her that suits the sensuality of the film well.   Ronny Jhutti’s Bobbi is such an engaging  character on screen (as well as smart, sassy and  supportive), that I would love to see a movie  centred around him and his story.   Same too for the understated Veena Sood as Nina’s mother.   If there were a good vehicle for a story centred around a woman in her 40s, she would hold my interest for 90 minutes or more.   As written for Parmar’s film, she is a nuanced woman who steers clear of the Sexy Aunty and Rhona Dhona, Hai-Hai-What-Did-I-Do-in-My-Past-Life Maa roles that woman are often squeezed into in  other movies.

NHD%20hot%20hot%20hot%20finale%202 Ninas Heavenly Delights      

Even way up in grey and damp Glasgow, Bollywood’s emphasis is  felt.   Nina’s mother watches Mughal-e-Azam as the very fitting “Pyar Kiya to Darna Kiya” plays, Bobbi frolics to “Ina Mina Dika” in his video shop before an equally rapt audience of desi and non-desi toddlers, and there’s a big musical finale set to “Aap jaisa koi”.

See it or skip it?

See it.   This is a perfect date movie, but be sure to have a favorite Indian restaurant in mind for dinner afterward, for, just as with Moonstruck, you’ll exit the theater  ravenous for a meal like you’ve just seen prepared onscreen.

It’s sweet to see a film potray familial and community (Asian or otherwise) reaction to gay characters and interracial relationships so lovingly.    

This film was screened Friday, November 3rd 2006 at the Indo-American Arts Council’s sixth film festival.

Pria

pria%202 Pria  

This Canadian short film shows the lengths that Pria (Natasha Chandel), a 15-year-old  South Asian  girl goes to in an  effort to lose her accent, mainly by mimicking lines from favorite movies.   She does this because she fancies a boy she sees every week at a local coffee shop, and she’s convinced he’ll run away if he hears how she speaks.

But she may  be in for a suprise…  

Funniest line from the movie, son replies to father who wonders what the daughter is up to: “She wants to talk like a man.”

You can see this short film here.

This film was screened Friday November 3rd, 2006 at the Indo-American Arts Council’s sixth film festival.

Still to come

Pria, Twins of Mankala, Davy and Stu, Nina’s Heavenly Delights, 0:0pm, Sirah, 1001 Auditions, My Bollywood Bride.