Tag Archives: Aladin

Best Bollywood Movies of 2009

Despite losing a couple of months of releases because of a dispute with theater owners, Indian filmmakers released a number of terrific Hindi movies in 2009. (Click on the title of each movie to read my original review.)

Dramas Kurbaan and New York addressed terrorism with boldness and honesty, examining the reasons ordinary people become extremists. Delhi-6 dealt with religious differences in a manner both compelling and accessible. American audiences will enjoy the soundtrack by Oscar-winning composer A. R. Rahman.

A live-action version of Aladin was a novel update of the classic tale, appealing to adults and kids alike.

Romance was, as always, a popular theme. Amusing romantic comedies like Dil Bole Hadippa! and Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani took a light take on love. Luck By Chance and Wake Up Sid, both of which starred talented actress Konkona Sen Sharma, took a more serious approach, addressing the challenges of pursuing career goals while maintaining a healthy relationship.

The best of this year’s romances was Love Aaj Kal. Telling love stories from two different time periods, the movie embraced traditional Bollywood romance conventions while showcasing contemporary relationship issues as well. The entertaining dance numbers will make American viewers feel like they’re getting a real Bollywood experience within a Westernized story structure. The modern relationships showcased in Love Aaj Kal, Luck By Chance and Wake Up Sid represent an important advance for Indian movie makers courting success abroad.

But the Best Bollywood Movie of 2009 has to be 3 Idiots. It’s a great comedy about friendship — with just a hint of romance — that features nuanced performances by Aamir Khan, R. Madhavan and Sharman Joshi. The jokes are funny whether you’re listening to them in Hindi or reading them in English subtitles.

More importantly, 3 Idiots represents a step forward for Indian comedies. Most Hindi comedies released in recent years (excluding romantic comedies) have relied on slapstick humor: childish sound effects, comic violence and chase scenes that defy logic. There’s certainly a place for slapstick in modern cinema, but I don’t think this type of humor plays well in the international markets that Hindi filmmakers are looking to break into.

3 Idiots has its share of silliness, but it’s shown in a more subdued, realistic way that makes the characters relatable. It’s easier for the audience to cheer for the guys in 3 Idiots than for the farcical nincompoops in a movie like Do Knot Disturb (my Worst Bollywood Movie of 2009), because in 3 Idiots they seem like real people. When they succeed, despite being a bit goofy, it gives hope to the rest of us goofballs.

Previous Best Movies List

Opening November 6: Jail and Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani

Two new Hindi movies open in the Chicago area on Friday, November 6: one serious and one silly.

The serious movie is Jail, starring Neil Nitin Mukesh in a drama about the cruel treatment of inmates in Indian prisons. Jail is only opening at the AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington. It has a runtime of 2 hrs. 35 min.

Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani is the silly movie, about a boy named Prem (Ranbir Kapoor) whose efforts to please everyone go awry. It costars Katrina Kaif and has a runtime of 2 hrs. 35 min.

Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani will play at the South Barrington 30, AMC Loews Pipers Alley 4 in Chicago, AMC Cantera 30 in Warrenville and Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles.

Carrying over for a second week is London Dreams, which earned $207,964 in its first week in U.S. theaters. London Dreams continues to show at the Cantera 30, South Barrington 30 and Golf Glen 5.

Last week’s other new release, Aladin, gets a second week at the South Barrington 30.

Wake Up Sid ends its five-week run in U.S. theaters this week with $717,977 in total earnings, while Main Aurr Mrs. Khanna earned $196,203 in three weeks.

Other Indian movies playing in the Chicago area this weekend include Telugu films Ek Niranjan and Village Lo Vinayakudu and the Kannada movie Raaj — The Showman at the Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles.

Movie Review: Aladin (2009)

AladinPoster3 Stars (out of 4)

Buy the DVD at Amazon
Buy the soundtrack at Amazon

There aren’t many kid-friendly Bollywood movies released in the United States, and those that have opened here, like Saawariya and Roadside Romeo, have disappointed. Aladin is a delightful update of the classic fairytale that will amuse the whole family.

In this live action version of the story — which differs significantly from the animated Disney film — Aladin (Ritesh Deshmukh) is a lonely college student. His parents died under mysterious circumstances when he was young, and he lives alone in the book-littered home of his deceased grandfather. Fellow students tease him because of his name, demanding that he produce a genie from a lamp like the fairytale dictates.

Aladin’s crush on Jasmine (Jacqueline Fernandez), an American exchange student, appears destined to go unrequited until she buys him a lamp from the “Ancient Thing Store” as a birthday gift. He’s goaded into rubbing the lamp which, naturally, contains a genie.

The genie, named Genius (Amitabh Bachchan) is close to retirement and is eager for Aladin to use his three wishes before his genie contract gets renewed for another million years. The duo sets about trying to woo Jasmine on Aladin’s behalf. But Genius doesn’t know that Aladin is in danger from an evil ex-genie named Ring Master (Sanjay Dutt), who’s eager to regain his powers and take over the world.

One of Aladin‘s best features is that it looks terrific. The fictional town of Khwaish is a perfect fantasy city: narrow cobblestoned streets that wind uphill through buildings made of sand-colored bricks. Dance numbers are colorful and the special effects are relatively seamless.

As for the characters and plot, writer-director-producer Sujoy Ghosh keeps the story true to tradition, while giving it his own spin. Deshmukh does a great job as Aladin, a likable guy with such simple desires that he’s incapable of misusing his new-found power.

Ring Master is also a fitting villain. His motives are clear, and he’s got a group of creepy circus-inspired henchmen to help him, including a lion tamer, a firebreather and, inexplicably, a Star Trek Klingon.

The writing in Aladin is solid, especially for a Bollywood comedy (see my review of Deshmukh’s other recent film, Do Knot Disturb). Several scenes are laugh-out-loud funny, and there are no extraneous plot threads or characters.

For parents of children who don’t understand Hindi, Aladin is a good introduction to movies with English subtitles, even if it is long at 2 hrs. 12 min. The story is familiar, so all that’s required is that the child be old enough to read English with some speed: third or fourth grade, perhaps. There’s no objectionable material, and no “gross” kissing (this is Bollywood, after all).

One note to parents who themselves aren’t familiar with Bollywood films: it’s worth telling kids that Amitabh Bachchan, who plays the genie, is one of the coolest guys in Indian cinema. He was an action star when he was younger and has always been a lady’s man. It’s the only way to explain why a man old enough to be a grandfather is rapping about “shorties.”

Opening October 30: Aladin and London Dreams

If you can’t get enough Sanjay Dutt, you’re in luck. He’s back in theaters in one of the two new Bollywood films opening in the Chicago area this weekend.

Dutt plays the villain in a live-action version of Aladin, which also stars Ritesh Deshmukh as the title character and Amitabh Bachchan as the genie. Aladin‘s runtime is listed as 2 hrs. 12 min.

This weekend’s other opening is London Dreams, starring Ajay Devgan and Salman Khan as pals whose friendship is tested by international rock stardom. London Dreams has a runtime of 2 hrs. 30 min.

Both movies will open in the Chicago area at the AMC Cantera 30 in Warrenville and AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington. London Dreams will play at the AMC Loews Pipers Alley 4 in Chicago and Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles as well.

Older Hindi movies sticking around in theaters include Blue and All The Best, both at the South Barrington 30 and Golf Glen 5. Blue will also continue showing at the Cantera 30.

Other Indian films in Chicago area theaters this weekend include the Telugu movie Ek Niranjan and the Malayalam movie Pazhassi Raja at the Golf Glen 5. Sathyam Cinemas in Downers Grove will show the Tamil movie Kanden Kadhalai.