Tag Archives: Udaan

Streaming Video News: October 1, 2018

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with more than fifty Indian titles that are now available for streaming. Most of the new films are in Hindi (23 titles), Punjabi (22), or Tamil (7), with one new addition each in Marathi and Bengali (as well as one Urdu movie from Pakistan). The full list of titles is available in the “Newly Added” section at the top of my Netflix page. Here are all of the Bollywood films that were just added:

Supposedly, Soorma is scheduled to join Netflix in India on October 20, with Sanju set to join the catalog this month as well, so we’ll keep an eye on that. For everything else new on Netflix — Bollywood or not — check Instant Watcher.

I also update my list of Bollywood movies on Amazon Prime with one new addition to the streaming catalog: the road trip movie Karwaan, which hit in theaters back on August 3, 2018. The July, 2018 theatrical release Dhadak comes to Prime in India on October 4, so hopefully we’ll get it here in the US as well.

Update: Thanks to my Twitter pal Gaurav for letting me know that Fanney Khan debuts on Amazon Prime on October 12, and Sanju hits Netflix on October 15.

Advertisements

Movie Review: Lootera (2013)

Lootera-New-Poster14 Stars (out of 4)

Buy the DVD at Amazon
Buy the soundtrack at Amazon

Vikramaditya Motwane made his directorial debut in 2010 with the incredible movie Udaan. His sophomore effort is Lootera (“Robber”), a film that is romantic, tragic, beautiful, and damned near perfect.

The story is set in the early 1950s, not long after Great Britain abdicated its control of India. Local governments are in the process of reclaiming and redistributing the wealth gifted by the British to aristocratic families. The Zamindar of Manikpur is slow to accept that life as he knew it is about to change.

At the same time, a young archeologist named Varun (Ranveer Singh) arrives to excavate an ancient temple on the Zamindar’s estate. The handsome archeologist attracts the attention of the Zamindar’s bright daughter, Pakhi (Sonakshi Sinha). Romance blossoms under the restrained social conventions of the time. The two contrive to spend time together under the guise of Varun teaching Pakhi how to paint, even though she knows far more about the art than he does.

Varun’s assistant, Debdas, warns him to end his flirtations before he breaks Pakhi’s heart. They will leave as soon as their project ends, and besides, Varun’s uncle won’t allow him to get married.

Lootera takes its time parsing out information, allowing the audience to fall in love with the characters before hinting at the possible complications. Varun and Pakhi are both young, smart, and attractive. Her father is fond of Varun, not to mention rich. Why would Varun’s uncle object to their relationship?

When the answer is revealed, it sets off a cascade of events that set up a thrilling second half. Amit Tridevi’s score augments the film perfectly, as does the frequent absence of a background score when atmospheric sounds are more appropriate.

Overall, Lootera is a quiet movie. Varun and Pakhi speak in whispers or sit together in silence, drawing the audience into the intimacy of their relationship.

With such a tight focus on the leading couple, the success of the film depends entirely upon the performances of Singh and Sinha. Both actors are more than up to the task. Singh does some excellent work when Varun tries to heed Debdas’ advice and push Pakhi away. He speaks of not wanting to see her anymore, but his face can’t help but give Pakhi — and the audience — a hint that he’s lying.

Pakhi undergoes some major changes of the course of the movie, and Sinha is superb at adapting while keeping the core of the character intact. Even in Pakhi’s darkest moments, some small joy lights up her face in the same smile as the innocent girl introduced at the start of the film. This is undoubtedly Sinha’s finest work to date.

The pacing of the story, the gorgeous cinematography, and the tremendous acting make Lootera a movie that should have universal appeal and stand the test of time. I look forward to revisiting this many times in the years to come — and recommending it to everyone I know.

Links

Peepli Live Fails in Oscar Bid

On January 19, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced its shortlist of nine films vying to be the five nominees in the Best Foreign Language Film category at the 83rd Academy Awards. India’s submission, Peepli Live, didn’t make the list and is out of the running for the Oscar.

The recent comedy Tees Maar Khan jokingly referenced the perception that movies about poor Indians are guaranteed Oscar winners. Considering the subject matter of awards show success Slumdog Millionaire and India’s most recent Best Foreign Language Film nominee, 2001’s Lagaan, there’s a degree of truth to that belief. Unfortunately, that belief seemed to guide the decision to submit Peepli Live, even though it’s nowhere near Lagaan in terms of quality.

Peepli Live suffers from the same structural flaw as Taare Zameen Par, the Film Federation of India‘s unsuccessful submission to the 81st Academy Awards. Both movies — creations of Aamir Khan Productions — feature a main character in the first half of the movie who’s pushed out of the spotlight in the second half of the film.

The lead character in both films is an underdog: a poor farmer in Peepli Live and a dyslexic child in Taare Zameen Par. The first half of each movie establishes the dire circumstances that surround the very likable hero.

In the second half of each movie, both heroes largely disappear. The farmer wanders around in the background while TV news outlets fight over a story and an aspiring journalist tries to get a break. The dyslexic child cries in his room while his art teacher fights on his student’s behalf.

In both cases, the hero’s story arc is not resolved through his own actions, but through the actions of others. The hero only retakes an active role in his destiny at the very end of the film.

What’s disappointing about the Film Federation of India’s selection of an “issue” picture like Peepli Live is that it prioritizes subject matter over craft. There were a number of other Hindi movies more worthy of submission. The pool widens considerably when Indian movies of all languages are considered.

Movies eligible for selection needed to be released between October 1, 2009 and September 30, 2010 and complete a seven-day run in theaters. The primary language spoken in the film must not be English. The language rule likely eliminated The Japanese Wife from consideration. The same rule may doom Dhobi Ghat‘s chance for submission to the 84th Academy Awards.

Better candidates for nomination would’ve been Raavan, Ishqiya or the 2011 Star Screen Best Film award winner: Udaan. My personal choice would’ve been Road, Movie, which was the best movie I saw last year — Indian or American.

Best Bollywood Movies of 2010

After reviewing my lists of the best Hindi movies for 2008 and 2009, I’m convinced that 2010 was Bollywood’s best year among the three. Of the approximately fifty Hindi movies I reviewed this year, here are my picks for the top films of the year. (Click on the title of each movie to read my original review.)

Some movies are worth seeing just for the stunning visuals, like the updated epic Raavan — which takes place primarily outdoors amid stunning natural beauty — and Guzaarish, which paints a personal struggle in super-saturated blues.

Politics set the stage for many of the strongest dramas, including the action-packed Aakrosh, the historical epic Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey and dynastic thriller Raajneeti.

Other, grittier dramas like Udaan and Striker featured smaller stories personal growth under the direst of circumstances.

2010’s best romantic comedies also had an earnest tone, featuring complex, realistic female leads in Anjaana Anjaani and Break Ke Baad.

Another romance, The Japanese Wife, deserves an honorable mention. It tells the story of two pen pals — one a Japanese woman and the other a man from Bengal — who fall in love through letters written in beginner’s English. Because it’s not in Hindi, it’s not in the running for best Bollywood movie, but I heartily recommend it.

The two best Hindi movies of 2010 defy easy classification. Part drama, part comedy, part romance and part adventure, they represent cinematic storytelling at its most complete. Both movies are less than two-hours long, emphasizing that it’s the quality of the story, not the length of its runtime, that makes a fulfilling cinematic experience.

Ishqiya features memorable performances by Vidya Balan, Arshad Warsi and Naseeruddin Shah as a widow and a pair of petty thieves trying to pull off a heist. The story is simple but compelling, and the performances make it shine. It’s a remarkable effort from debutant director Abhishek Chaubey.

The movie that has stuck with me more than any other is Road, Movie. After playing at international festivals in 2009, it opened in limited release in the U.S. in May of 2010. I caught it during its short run on On Demand. It tells the story of a city guy who drives a dilapidated truck across the desert, meeting strange companions along the way and learning the secret history of the truck: it was once a mobile movie theater.

Road, Movie is so charming and engaging that it briefly made me believe that I could make a career of driving a truck though rural India, projecting old movies onto the sides of buildings for grateful villagers (never mind that there are few things in the world I’m less qualified to do, and the need for the service is shrinking). The film embodies the escapism that cinema provides and inspires us to dream improbable dreams.

Road, Movie isn’t the easiest film to find in the U.S. — it’s not yet available on Netflix or Amazon (though my local public library has three copies) — so seize the chance to watch it when you can. It’s one of the best movies I’ve ever seen.

Previous Best Movies Lists

Movie Review: Udaan (2010)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Buy or rent the movie at iTunes
Buy the DVD at Amazon
Buy the soundtrack at Amazon

A character in Udaan (“Flight”) says that fathers always want their sons to grow into men just like themselves. When the father is an abusive alcoholic, he’d better hope his wish doesn’t come true. Someday, his son will be bigger and stronger than him.

The father in Udaan (played menacingly by Ronit Roy) is about as mean as a character can be without veering into cackling super-villain territory. He doesn’t have any grand evil plan; he’s just convinced that he’s right and that everyone should obey him. He forces his children to call him “Sir,” correcting them when they accidentally call him “Papa.”

Udaan‘s protagonist is Sir’s 17-year-old son, Rohan (Rajat Barmecha). He’s a smart kid and a gifted writer, but a poor student. He takes reckless chances despite knowing the consequences. He’s expelled from boarding school when he and three friends sneak off campus to watch dirty movies. His friends return to their wealthy families in Mumbai, while Rohan returns to the industrial town Jamshedpur and the father he hasn’t seen in the eight years since Rohan’s mother’s death.

Rohan finds a six-year-old boy living in his childhood bedroom, the product of a second marriage that his father said “didn’t work out” and that he didn’t bother to tell Rohan about. The half-brother, Arjun (the impossibly cute Aayan Boradia), already mimics their father’s verbal abuse but casually mentions that Sir hits him sometimes.

Sir refuses to entertain the possibility of Rohan becoming a professional writer and puts his eldest son to work in the factory he owns. Rohan attends engineering college in the afternoon, with the expectation that he will one day inherit the factory. At night, Rohan acts out, taking the family car on joyrides to drink and smoke at a local bar.

Rohan is shaken from his drudgery when Arjun winds up in the hospital. Sir claims the boy fell down the stairs, but Rohan suspects child abuse. Sir leaves town for a few days, giving the brothers time to bond. Rohan entertains Arjun and other people in the hospital ward with his original stories until his father returns, once again crushing his Rohan’s chances for happiness.

Udaan is the rare movie that actually justifies a runtime of more than two hours. The plot unfolds at a pace appropriate for its teen protagonist. He’s in an impossible situation: he can’t live his own life under his father’s rule, but he has no adult to turn to for guidance. His uncle, while compassionate, is himself subject to Sir’s abuse. When I wanted to scream, “Just run away!” I had to remind myself that Rohan is supposed to be a real teenager, not some cinematic creation wise beyond his years.

The movie also strives for realism in the relationship between father and son. A lesser movie would aim for a sentimental conclusion espousing the belief that there’s good inside everyone. Sir is a jerk, and Rohan himself is far from perfect. The movie is more about protecting what you love, be it a dream or a vulnerable sibling. Udaan isn’t about redemption. It’s about self-respect.

Links

Opening July 30: Once Upon a Time in Mumbai

One new Hindi movie opens in the Chicago area on Friday, July 30, 2010. Once Upon a Time in Mumbai is loosely based on two real life gangsters who fought to control Mumbai’s criminal underworld in the 1970s. It stars Ajay Devgan, Emraan Hashmi and Kangana Ranaut.

Once Upon a Time in Mumbai opens at the Big Cinemas Golf Glen 5 in Niles and AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 5 min.

Also new at the Golf Glen 5 this Friday is Udaan, which opened in just two U.S. theaters two weeks ago. The drama chronicles a teenage boy’s struggle to follow his dreams against his father’s wishes.

The deplorable comedy Khatta Meetha, which earned $309,211 in its opening weekend in U.S. theaters, gets a second week at the Golf Glen 5, South Barrington 30 and Regal Cantera Stadium 30 in Warrenville. The Golf Glen 5 is holding over Hotel Hollywood through Saturday only.

Other Indian movies showing near Chicago this weekend include Maryada Ramana (Telugu) and Mel Karade Rabba (Punjabi) at the Golf Glen 5.