Tag Archives: Black & White

India Out of Oscar Race

Taare Zameen Par, India’s official entry into the Oscars’ Best Foreign Language Film category, wasn’t chosen as one of the final five nominees. I’m not surprised. By selecting Aamir Khan’s domestically popular film about dyslexia, India’s selection board passed on two other films that would’ve had a better chance at being nominated by the overwhelmingly American Academy.

The problem with Taare Zameen Par is that it’s not as socially or emotionally relevant to audiences in the United States as it is to audiences in India. While the film may have drawn much needed attention to the disservice still being done to students with learning disabilities in the Indian educational system, public schools in the U.S. have been offering customized learning opportunities for special needs students for decades.

As a product of the U.S. public school system, I recognized little Ishaan’s reading disability within the first thirty minutes of the movie. I then had to wait another hour before any of the characters in the movie did. I imagine many of the Academy voters watching Taare Zameen Par were as frustrated by the slow pace as I was.

Considering the cultural background of the Academy Award voters who nominate movies in the Best Foreign Language Film category, here are my suggestions for two films that would’ve had a better chance of earning a nomination:

Jodhaa Akbar — A beautiful epic with gorgeous music, this seemed like the most obvious choice to represent India, especially since director Ashutosh Gowariker’s equally accessible Lagaan was nominated in 2002.

Black & White — This might’ve been the boldest movie to come out of India in 2008. Its sensitive handling of the issue of Islamic terrorism would’ve given Academy members an opportunity to show that Americans have a more nuanced understanding of terrorism than the “destroy the evildoers” mentality that our government has exhibited for most of this decade.

Here are links to my reviews of Taare Zameen Par, Jodhaa Akbar and Black & White.

Best Bollywood Movies of 2008

In 2008, the Indian film industry proved that it’s still the most reliable source for romantic comedies. International settings made Dostana and Kismat Konnection stand out from the crowd, while Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi closed the year on a high note.

Taking a slightly more serious tone, U Me Aur Hum effectively combined comedic and dramatic elements in a touching story about love and responsibility.

Beyond the romantic comedy genre, historical epic Jodhaa Akbar featured gorgeous cinematography. Rock On!! took the movie musical format in an exciting new direction. And Black & White thoughtfully addressed the subject of terrorism. I only wish it had been India’s official entry into the Oscar competition for Best Foreign Film, instead of Taare Zameen Par.

But the most accomplished, satisfying and entertaining Hindi-language movie of 2008 was another romantic comedy: Bachna Ae Haseeno. The high quality of the acting, cinematography and story-telling gave the film universal appeal. Actor Ranbir Kapoor redeemed himself after an awkward debut in Saawariya, and Deepika Padukone’s charming performance demonstrated that she might be Bollywood’s best young actress.

Movie Review: Yuvvraaj (2008)

1 Star (out of 4)

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In this bastardization of Rain Man, chorus singer Deven Yuvvraaj (Salman Khan) tries to trick his autistic older brother Gyanesh (Anil Kapoor) out of his inheritance. The inevitable reconciliation between the brothers would be more believable if Khan’s character wasn’t so unrepentantly rotten during the first two-thirds of the movie, especially the revelation that Deven was disowned by his father after twice beating Gyanesh. And yet Deven is the brother we’re supposed to feel sorry for. After Black & White, Subhash Ghai’s compelling exploration of terrorism from early 2008, Yuvvraaj is a disappointment.

Movie Review: Black & White (2008)

3 Stars (out of 4)

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Suicide bomber Numair (Anurag Sinha) questions his destructive plans after finding corruption among his fellow jihadists and compassion among his would-be victims, particularly a caring professor (Anil Kapoor) and his family. Numair is cruel and unsympathetic, but he’s not a mindless killer. Terrorism is more complex than good vs. evil, and with Black & White writer-director Subhash Ghai challenges audiences to look at its root causes for ways to steer potential murderers away from violence and toward peace.

No Rating (violence); 134 minutes