One new Hindi film opens in the Chicago area on Friday, January 15, 2010. Chance Pe Dance features Shahid Kapoor as a struggling entertainer who makes ends meet as a dance teacher. Genelia D’Souza plays his love interest. Based on the trailer, Chance Pe Dance‘s costume budget must not have included money for shirts for Shahid:
Love abounds this Friday as two new, romantic Hindi movies open in the Chicago area. First is Dulha Mil Gaya, listed at some theaters under its English title, I Found a Groom. The film interweaves the stories of four characters, all with different takes on love. Shahrukh Khan features in approximately 50 minutes of Dulha Mil Gaya‘s 1 hr. 48 min. official runtime.
This weekend’s other new release is Pyaar Impossible, an unlikely love story about a beauty and a geek starring Priyanka Chopra and Uday Chopra (who also wrote and produced the film). It has an official runtime of 2 hrs. 20 min.
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.
There are no new Hindi movies opening in the Chicago area for the weekend beginning January 1, 2010. But 3 Idiots continues its impressive run, having earned $2,149,227 in its first five days and posting the 12th highest earnings in U.S. theaters during the Christmas holiday weekend.
The comedy film genre encompasses a wide range of styles, from slapstick to romantic comedy. Hindi comedies are frequently either mindlessly wacky or overly sentimental. 3 Idiots is funny and perfectly balanced: silly but not frantic, poignant but not sappy.
The movie begins as Farhan (R. Madhavan) and Raju (Sharman Joshi) get a lead on the whereabouts of their friend, Rancho (Aamir Khan), who vanished after their college graduation ceremony, five years earlier. The source of the lead is Rancho’s old university nemesis, Chatur — known as “The Silencer” for his chronic, quiet flatulence — who’s eager to verify that he’s become a bigger success than Rancho.
As Farhan, Raju and The Silencer hit the road, the movie flashes back to their first days at a prestigious engineering school. Rancho seems to be the only freshman not afflicted by the neuroses crippling his classmates: fear of disappointing his parents (Farhan), the burden of being the family breadwinner (Raju) and greed (Silencer). Rather, Rancho is at school because he likes creating machines.
Rancho doesn’t agree with the school director’s motto: “Life is a race. If you don’t run fast, you’ll get trampled.” This earns him the respect of Farhan and Raju, and the ire of the school director, Viru (Boman Irani), nicknamed “Virus” by his students.
During a prank, Rancho meets pretty medical student Pia (Kareena Kapoor). Unfortunately for Rancho, her father is Virus. But Pia succumbs to Rancho’s charms and helps him and his friends during a crisis.
The movie transitions between flashbacks and the modern day, as Farhan and Raju close in on their missing pal’s location. The reason behind Rancho’s disappearance — which is explained halfway through the movie — isn’t the focus, the friendship is.
3 Idiots is a smart comedy. Jokes are well-written, with plenty of call-backs to prior jokes and meticulous continuity. The material is well-acted, proving why it made sense to cast 44-year-old Aamir Khan as a college freshman.
The material is also universal, with few regional or culture-specific jokes. Non-Hindi speakers who stumble into the theater expecting an English-language film needn’t worry about not understanding the jokes. In fact, 3 Idiots is a great Bollywood starter film.
There are a few melodramatic moments, but they’re not overdone, as in typical masala movies. Those maudlin movies are lampooned, as when a trip to Raju’s family home is shown in black & white with a dramatic score, his poor mother and unwed sister slaving over dinner next to his paralyzed father’s cot.
By skipping teary-eyed speeches in favor of funny dialogues, 3 Idiots provides better insight into the nature of friendship and the importance of following your dreams than most dramas. Yet it’s funny throughout, making 3 Idiots perhaps the best Hindi comedy I’ve ever seen.
Note: The movie’s runtime is listed as 2 hrs. 15 min. It’s actually closer to 3 hours long.
Aamir Khan’s Three Idiots is the only new Hindi movie opening in the Chicago area in time for the Christmas holiday. Khan plays the free-spirited Rancho opposite Kareena Kapoor, who plays his love interest, Pia. When Rancho goes missing, his two pals, played by Madhavan and Sharman Joshi, set off on a quest to find him.
Other Indian movies showing in the Chicago area include the Malayalam movie Palery Manickyam, which runs at the Golf Glen 5 through Thursday, December 24. Opening the same day at the Golf Glen 5 is Neelathamara, also in Malayalam.
The Tamil film Vettaikaran is currently showing at Sathyam Cinemas in Downers Grove, and it will continue its run through the weekend.