Tag Archives: That Girl in Yellow Boots

Best Bollywood Movies of 2011

2011 was a standout year for Bollywood in terms both experiments with storytelling style and elevating the status of women in the film industry. Here are my picks for the best movies of the year. (Click on the title of each movie to read my original review.)

There were some good examples of familiar narratives — including the family drama Patiala House and the romantic comedy Mere Brother Ki Dulhan — but plenty of films pushed the envelope. Ra.One lead the Hindi film industry’s foray into 3D technology. Rockstar experimented with making a movie feel like an extended music video.

The most successful experiments of the year were created by Aamir Khan Productions. The company released two intriguing films — Dhobi Ghat and Delhi Belly  — with runtimes that clocked in at under two hours long, uncharacteristically brief for Indian movies. Further, the company insisted that the films show in theaters without the standard intermission break, paving the way for future success in international markets.

2011 was a tremendous year for women working in the Hindi film industry. Director Zoya Akhtar struck box office gold with Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. Actresses Vidya Balan and Kalki Koechlin played gritty, compelling main characters in The Dirty Picture and That Girl in Yellow Boots, respectively.

My favorite movie of the year also features a strong, complex woman as the lead character, in a story surprisingly macabre for Bollywood.

The Best Bollywood Movie of 2011 is 7 Khoon Maaf.

Talented director Vishal Bhardwaj puts his unique stamp on this dark comedy about a black widow and her seven husbands. In the lead role, Bhardwaj cast Priyanka Chopra, an actress who’s made a point of choosing a diverse array of characters throughout her career. Chopra manages to make the serial killer Susanna calculating yet sympathetic. Better still, the movie is often quite funny as the grim tale unfolds.

7 Khoon Maaf isn’t quite like any other Hindi movie released in recent years. Look past the dance numbers and cast of Indian A-listers, and it could easily transcend the “Bollywood” label — and instead be considered a “Foreign Film” (a genre with more critical cachet here in the US).

The movie is available for streaming on Netflix, making it accessible to an audience who may have missed it in theaters early last year. If you haven’t seen 7 Khoon Maaf, I encourage you to check it out.

Previous Best Movies Lists

In Theaters December 16, 2011

With a flurry of recent releases and Don 2‘s arrival in theaters on December 23, there are no new Bollywood movies opening in the Chicago area on Friday, December 16. Last weekend’s new release, Ladies vs. Ricky Bahl, gets a second week at the Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington and Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville.

The Golf Glen 5 and South Barrington 30 are both carrying over The Dirty Picture and Desi Boyz, which earned $1,066,167 during its first three weeks in U.S. theaters.

Beginning December 16, Facets Cinematheque in Chicago is carrying the September release That Girl in Yellow Boots for a week-long run. If you missed it the first time around, it’s worth checking out.

Other Indian movies showing at the Golf Glen 5 this week include Osthe (Tamil) and Panjaa (Telugu).

Movie Review: The Dirty Picture (2011)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Buy the DVD at Amazon
Buy the soundtrack at Amazon

2011 has been a great year for actresses in Bollywood. Relative newcomer Kalki Koechlin mesmerized in That Girl in Yellow Boots. Veteran stars Priyanka Chopra and Katrina Kaif gave some of their best performances in 7 Khoon Maaf and Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, respectively.

Now the immensely talented Vidya Balan claims the spotlight in The Dirty Picture, the story of a sexually liberated screen vamp who pays a heavy price for bucking social convention. The movie is based on the life of 1980s South Indian film star Silk Smitha, though it’s not strictly biographical.

Balan stars as Reshma, a village girl who comes to the city with dreams of movie stardom. Reshma’s voluptuous figure is regularly ogled by men, but she isn’t supermodel beautiful enough to attract the attention of casting directors.

When a movie choreographer bemoans his inability to find a proper actress to perform a raunchy dance number, Reshma seizes the opportunity. The scene — in which Reshma writhes seductively while wielding a whip — sends male audience members into a frenzy, making the movie a hit.

A filmmaker named SelvaGanesh (Rajesh Sharma) sees Reshma’s money-making potential and renames her “Silk.” SelvaGanesh casts Silk opposite the aging screen star Surya (Naseeruddin Shah), and their racy films strike box office gold. Silk’s seeming willingness to do anything is fodder for gossip columnists and irks Abraham (Emraan Hashmi), a director of serious, art house films.

Silk’s life is a fascinating study in the way mens’ attitudes shapes the lives of women. If Silk is going to be treated as a sex object when she’s doing something as mundane as washing dishes, why not get paid to be ogled? Why is her dignity diminished by dancing provocatively, while the men who leer at her suffer no consequences?

Of course, that’s not the way female honor is perceived in the real world. Silk is typecast as a vamp, never able to get serious roles. When she tries to expand her range, the industry shuns her. It seems that, in the eyes of audiences and the producers catering to them, Silk has only one thing they want.

Balan is great in The Dirty Picture. She plays Silk with swagger, charm and humor. She’s a canny opportunist who asserts herself before she can be victimized. Her only real weakness, besides falling for a user like Surya, is that her ego leads her to think she’s bigger than a system that favors men over women.

The story construction of The Dirty Picture betrays Silk in the same way the men in her life do. The movie is sporadically narrated by Abraham, a character who doesn’t play enough of a role in Silk’s life to merit being its narrator. He’s present at the beginning of the film, but then disappears until the final act. His box office showdown with Silk is awkwardly inserted into the story just to elevate his importance.

Surya — who’s sleazy and comical in Shah’s hands — is the most important person in Silk’s personal life, but his self-involvement precludes him from narrating her story. Likewise, Surya’s brother, Ramakanth (Tusshar Kapoor),  doesn’t understand Silk well enough to be narrator, mistakenly believing he can make an “honest woman” out of her.

If Silk’s story must be framed using a man’s voice, that honor should have gone to SelvaGanesh. He’s the only man who looks at Silk without desire. Her cooperation and ingenuity is required in order for both of them to profit financially, so he treats her as a peer. He’s the only person who sees all of her potential and is willing to take a chance on her.

But I’m not sure that Silk’s story needs a narrator. I understand that it provides a point of view on a life cut short, but I think it distracts attention from the main character. Silk is larger than life. She’s both a product of male fantasy and the architect of that fantasy. A narrator just seems like another confining frame put on a spirit too big to be contained.

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Opening September 9: Mere Brother Ki Dulhan

The hits keep coming to the Chicago area with the release of Yash Raj Films’ Mere Brother Ki Dulhan (“My Brother’s Bride) on Friday, September 9. The wacky rom-com stars Katrina Kaif, Imran Khan and Ali Zafar.

Mere Brother Ki Dulhan opens on Friday at the Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington and Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville. Check here for a complete U.S. theater list. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 25 min.

All three theaters are understandably carrying over Bodyguard after it made $1,361,790 during its first six days in the U.S.  Bol, which earned a much more modest $105,354 in its first six days, is sticking around at the Golf Glen 5 and South Barrington 30.

Last week’s other new release, the compelling but dark That Girl in Yellow Boots, leaves area theaters on Thursday.

The Golf Glen 5 will also carry over the Tamil movie Mankatha for another week.

Movie Review: That Girl in Yellow Boots (2011)

3.5 Stars (out of 4)

Buy the DVD at Amazon

Note: This movie has no MPAA rating, but it is most definitely for adults only.

Ruth, the title character in That Girl in Yellow Boots, is a puzzle. She’s brave and forthright, yet she subjects herself to conditions unimaginably grim — embarking on a humiliating, painful quest in search of a goal that, were it not so personal, would hardly seem worth pursuing.

Ruth (Kalki Koechlin) leaves England for India to search for her father, a man she doesn’t remember and who her mother has painstakingly erased from their lives. A letter written to Ruth by her father expressing a desire to meet her proves unusually difficult to trace.

Unable to get an official Indian work permit, Ruth works in a disreputable massage parlor performing sex acts, using the proceeds to bribe officials to extend her travel visa. Being a white woman alone in India makes Ruth both a novelty and an object of desire. Her growing knowledge of Hindi puts her in the odd position of being neither a local nor a tourist.

The lone bright spot in Ruth’s life is not her druggie boyfriend, Prashant (Prashant Prakash), but Diwakar (Naseeruddin Shah), the only client who actually comes to Ruth just for the massage. He’s the father figure she’s been looking for, if only she could put aside her quest.

As the conditions of Ruth’s life go from bad to worse, it’s hard not to ask: Why? Why not give up the search? Why not go home, make some money doing something more dignified and resume the search later? But by the time we meet Ruth, she’s sacrificed so much that she seems unable to stop.

There’s also the question of why her father hasn’t made more of an effort than just writing a letter. If Ruth succeeds in finding him, can he possibly be worth the effort it took?

Koechlin is amazing as Ruth. The camera (behind which sits her real-life husband, director Anurag Kashyap) lingers on Ruth’s face, her blank expression showing the price she’s chosen to pay, shutting off her emotions while she seeks the one person she believes will love her without wanting anything in return.

Koechlin co-wrote the screenplay with Kashyap and used experiences from her own life to flavor Ruth’s world. Raised in India by French parents, Koechlin says she remembers being treated at times as though her skin color indicated an amoral character. Note that, in the movie, the other masseuses at the parlor are blonde.

That Girl in Yellow Boots is not fun, but Koechlin’s performance and Kashyap’s tense and thoughtful directing make watching it a worthwhile experience.

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Opening August 31: Bodyguard and Bol

There are a flurry of new releases this week in honor of the Eid holiday, and Chicago theaters are getting in on the action starting on Wednesday. The marquee title is Bodyguard, starring Salman Khan and Kareena Kapoor.

Bodyguard opens on August 31, 2011, at the Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington and Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 15 min.

Also opening in the same three theaters on Wednesday is the Pakistani film Bol. I’ve seen its language listed variously as Hindi and Urdu. It has a runtime of 2 hrs. 45 min.

These aren’t the only new films opening in the Chicago area this week. On Friday, September 2, the Hindi movie That Girl in Yellow Boots opens at the Golf Glen 5 and South Barrington 30. It’s runtime is listed as 1 hr. 43 min.

Other Indian movies showing at the Golf Glen 5 this week include Kandireega (Telugu), Mankatha (Tamil) and Teja Bhai & Family (Malayalam).