Author Topic: Bondo and Kimes Do The Mumbai  (Read 24907 times)


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Bondo and Kimes Do The Mumbai
« on: May 29, 2010, 01:29:36 PM »
Steve and I should be kicking off our Bollywood marathon in the next week or so. We are going to try to do the chat transcript thing rather than individual reviews. Anyway, here is the line-up; a couple for historical context and a few contemporary films:

Pyaasa (1957) Bondo: 3/5, Steve: 4.8/5
Mughal-E-Azam (1960) Bondo: 3/5, Steve: 3.5/5
Sholay (1975) Bondo: 4/5, Steve: 3/5
Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995) Bondo: 4/5, Steve: 3.5/5
Khamoshi: The Musical (1996) Bondo: 3/5, Steve: 4/5
Kaante (2002) Bondo: 2/5, Steve: 2/5
Veer-Zaara (2004) Bondo: 5/5, Steve: 3.5/5
Swades (2004) Bondo: 5/5, Steve: 4/5
Jodhaa Akbar (2007) Bondo: 3/5, Steve: 4/5
Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi (2008) Bondo: 2/5, Steve: 3.5/5, Mercy: 4.5/5

Bonus Film: Bride and Prejudice Bondo: 5/5, Steve: 3/5, Mercy: 4/5

The Rajahs (Marathon Awards)

Best PictureVeer-ZaaraSwades
Best DirectorAshutosh Gowariker (Jodhaa Akbar)Guru Dutt (Pyaasa)
Best ActorShahrukh Khan (Swades)Guru Dutt (Pyaasa)
Best ActressPreity Zinta (Veer-Zaara)Gayatri Joshi (Swades)
Best Supporting ActorNana Patekar (Khamoshi The Musical)Amitabh Bachchan (Kaante)
Best Supporting ActressMala Sinha (Pyaasa)Kishori Balal (Swades)
Best ScreenplaySholayPyaasa
Best StoryVeer-ZaaraSwades
Best RomanceJodhaa AkbarRab Ne Bana Di Jodi
Best Set DesignMughal-E-AzamMughal-E-Azam
Best Musical SceneFilm screening scene in SwadesLodi scene in Veer-Zaara
Best Religious SceneSikh Last Rights from Veer-ZaaraAkbar Observing Jodhaa Worship from Jodhaa Akbar
Best Patriotic SceneGenerating Power Scene in SwadesIs India The Best Country Scene in Swades
Best Comedic SceneWater Tower Scene from SholayPiano scene from Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge
Best Dramatic Scene Final Train Station Scene from Dilwale Dulhania Le JayengeForgiveness Scene from Khamoshi: The Musical
« Last Edit: December 31, 2010, 01:14:48 PM by Bondo »


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Re: Bondo and Kimes Do The Mumbai
« Reply #1 on: May 29, 2010, 02:15:43 PM »
Count on me following along.

I wanted to ask if you might be able to get hold of a copy of Kaante (2002).  I would suggest including this in your marathon because...

It has an All-Star cast, including Amitabh Bachchan and Sanjay Dutt.
It was the very rare Bollywood film that was shot (mostly) in Los Angeles.
I was the First Assistant Director and could offer a lot of insight into the Bollywood way of making a movie.
It's a remake of Reservoir Dogs, with a strong helping of The Ususal Suspects and Heat.
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Re: Bondo and Kimes Do The Mumbai
« Reply #2 on: May 29, 2010, 04:12:09 PM »
I was the First Assistant Director and could offer a lot of insight into the Bollywood way of making a movie.

This would be very cool as a way to further the educational value of this marathon. I'm certainly game. We'll see what Steve wants to do (possibly add or replace) but if I don't watch it here I'll watch it outside the marathon.

I read an article on Bollywood in National Geographic that helped spark my interest in Bollywood proper, having already been interested in other Indian cinema.


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Re: Bondo and Kimes Do The Mumbai
« Reply #3 on: May 30, 2010, 11:03:07 PM »
I might be interested in it, but I think we should consider it after our current list.  I'm committed to the current list, and I might be interested in continuing, but let's see how this goes.

Now I have a question on definition: Is it really Bollywood if it doesn't have songs?
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Re: Bondo and Kimes Do The Mumbai
« Reply #4 on: June 05, 2010, 10:19:13 PM »
Without further ado, the first chat-transcript based entry into our marathon. I hope this presentation is easy enough to read. I don't dare put spaces between each line or it will go on forever.

Mughal-E-Azam (1960)

Bondo: So, I think it may be useful to start this first chat of our marathon, talking about 1960's Mughal-E-Azam, by introducing our previous exposure, if any, to Bollywood.
Steve Kimes: That's a good idea.  Well, I'm done.  I've never seen a single Bollywood film.  I've seen some other Indian filmmakers-- Mira Nair, of course-- but never a Bollywood production
Bondo: I think I've seen about a half dozen proper Bollywood and then at least that many non-Bollywood Indian films. So at this point I do have some eye for some of the standard themes but it is nice to be going back to some of the classic films and watch that development.
Steve Kimes: Is the development the main reason you want to do this marathon?
Bondo: That is a part of it, also just wanted an excuse to watch more because I have tended to enjoy my Bollywood experiences. I've had an interesting set of ties to India. I have an aunt who is married to an Indian man (well, Malay, but ethnically Indian) I've also had a couple Indian friends in the past couple years. The culture really appeals to me.
Bondo: What drove your interest?
Steve Kimes: For me, this provides me an opportunity to expose myself to a genre I've never seen and have been interested in.  And I spent about six months on the subcontinent in the 80's and have been fascinated by all things Indian since then.  I am really looking forward to investigating this aspect of Indian culture.
Bondo: I also wanted to mention, I was looking at a list of the top 100 Bollywood over at icheckmovies and #1 was Mother India, a film that came out a few years before ours and was the first nominated for an Oscar. I expect it would be part of our marathon if it were available on Netflix, however, Mughal-E-Azam was #3, and so it is certainly a prestigious place to start. Perhaps an important thing to note that this was the top box-office film, adjusting for inflation, until last year. It is the Indian equivalent of Gone With The Wind
Steve Kimes: I saw the box office myself.  I also noted that M-E-A is the most expensive Bollywood film ever made. The Cecil B. DeMille of India.

Steve Kimes: Perhaps we should begin with a brief synopsis?
Bondo: Probably good to let everyone get their bearings as we dig into it further, do you want to go ahead with that then?
Steve Kimes: I'll try
Steve Kimes: Salim is the son of Akbar the Great, the most important Mogul emperors of the 16th century.  Salim, as a boy, is a brat, acting inappropriately and without dignity, so his father sends him off to war for 14 years.  He returns a bold man and a hero, and is given a hero's welcome.
Steve Kimes: Then he falls in love with a dancing girl, whom Akbar names Anarkali.  This is the gravest of sins for the prince, for to continue the line of the Mugal rulers, he should have a wife of dignity and noble birth.  Anarkali is fearful of the union and initially refuses Salim's advances.  Salim persists, however and Anarkali is won over.  They keep their affair private, but it is discovered by Bahaar, who makes it known to the king.
Steve Kimes: The king tells Salim to end the romance, and Salim refuses, insisting that Anarkali will be his queen.  Eventually (through a number of twists and turns) it turns to rebellion, war, execution and finally Akbar has to wisely pursue justice to determine what is best for the future of India, but still remaining faithful to all of his subjects.
Steve Kimes: Anything you want to add there?
Bondo: That seems a good summary...three hours put into three paragraphs. :)
Steve Kimes: Ah, balance.
Bondo: We've mentioned Gone With The Wind and Cecil B. DeMille, and I think this film certainly fits in with those and other epics "with a cast of thousands" that were big at that point in time. What is interesting to me though is that this film at three hours is not even remotely long by Bollywood standards, yet it certainly has that epic feel.
Steve Kimes: I certainly felt that it was epic.  A lot of extras, a lot of work on the music, and magnificent settings seem to encourage that feel
Bondo: Perhaps I'd use the caveat; it is like those epics...for better and for worse, some of each, which Iím sure, we might touch on. Is there any particular detail that struck you that we should start with?
Steve Kimes: Epic details specifically?
Bondo: Well, I think the sets are certainly one thing that stands out.

Steve Kimes: That is certainly true.  The one that stands out specifically is the mirror palace.  Light everywhere, and every movement is magnified a hundred times
Steve Kimes: And there is also the garden where the lovers have their meetings, sometimes through messages down a man-made river
Bondo: I liked the telescoping nature of some of the hallways, framed in very elaborate shapes. A lot of the aspects seem to be meant to give an uncertain, but generally large sense of scale. A bit disorienting in a good way.
Steve Kimes: Another epic detail that really stood out to me is the language used.  Of course, I can't know exactly how the language feels in the original, but it was very flowery and poetic.  And there were a number of places that brief philosophic statements were made, proclaiming the importance of the themes.  It made the whole movie feel super-important.
Bondo: I believe there is even a reference to Omar Kayyam and the importance of maintaining poetry even in the face of war.
Steve Kimes: Yes, that's right.  Almost self-referential there.
Steve Kimes: Another area that seemed epic is the mixing of genres.  This is a romance/war/musical/father-son/heavy idea film.  They were trying to put everything in a single movie experience.  No wonder they needed three hours to do it.
Bondo: Yeah. Of course, in Bollywood, it is hard to separate the dialogue and the songs when it comes to meaning. Two songs especially struck me: one was a sung debate between two of the dancers, pondering the nature of love. The second is the bold declaration of love. I'm not sure if the songs were "catchy" here like in some musicals, but their weight as part of the story was more than your typical musical song.

Steve Kimes: Every song seemed really significant, and they only came in places where it seemed appropriate.  Most musicals open with a song, or have one right at the beginning.  I was surprised with the first song started a half-hour in the film.  By the way, there's an interesting fact I found out.  One song, "Pyar Kiya To Darna Kiya", sung in the mirrored palace, was re-written 105 times by the composer.
Bondo: Maybe a bit of a perfectionist ;)
Steve Kimes: Okay, Bondo.  Let's get to the nitty gritty.  You are known for not liking a lot of movies.  What did you think of this one and how did it compare to other Bollywood films you've seen?
Bondo: Well, like a lot of epics, but unlike some even longer Bollywood films, I felt like this could be tightened up a bit. It did feel a bit slow to me, even though they were trying to fit a lot in. One thing that shocked me is the ending. Bollywood films are very much about romance; especially romance that has long odds. But I'm used to love winning out in the end. The film has kind of an odd "see, it's a happy ending" that doesn't really feel at all happy. I'm not sure whether to be disappointed for it not living up to future convention or appreciative of its boldness.
Steve Kimes: It could use some tightening, especially around the middle.  Maybe the film needs a diet
Steve Kimes: But you're right, I was shocked at the end!  Possibly my favorite part.
Bondo: And the songs here are meaningful, but they aren't bold by modern comparison where the songs would be much more energetic and there would be huge choreographed dances with dozens and dozens of people. Those may be designed as mere entertainment, but they are entertaining. There is something quite impressive about MEA, but I'm not sure I'll be as anxious to rewatch it as some of the newer ones I've seen.
Steve Kimes: I was generally bored by the songs, although the drumming was exquisite.  The singing debate was interesting, but for the most part, I felt, they just made the movie longer.  Or feel longer, which is more to the point.
Bondo: Yeah. I had another thing that interests me. It seems there is some magic involving the sculptor, who we meet the love interest by way of her posing as an unfinished sculpture. Somehow she is such that he falls instantly for her without any reason beyond, apparently physical. I wonder if this ability to write off broader bonds is a product of an arranged marriage culture where one learns to love after they are coupled.

Steve Kimes: I was initially interested, but the love story didn't make a lot of sense to me.  Akbar's response to the couple really confused me, as well.  At first I thought he objected because Anarkali didn't have enough dignity to carry out being a queen.  After it was clear that she had plenty of dignity and boldness on her own to carry off being a queen, Akbar's objection seems to have more to do with her birth.  But the movie never really caught me until the final section, where the father and son really stood against each other.  Then it turned specifically political and it was clear that the movie had more to do with how to dispense justice in a difficult situation than about love and honor.  So the turn at the end made sense, but not in a normal plot about humans conflicting with other humans.  It all seemed to be about an internal struggle Akbar was having between being a father and being a king.
Bondo: I think the caste system in India, historically, is a relevant side-note to the unthinkable aspect of the relationship, but I agree that seems incapable of driving the drama as long as it seems to and it is more about competing notions of justice or propriety needed to lead the great empire.
Steve Kimes: I think the sculptor has a pretty important role in the movie, actually.  Let me elaborate a bit:
Steve Kimes: I heard a lecture about Indian philosophy and literature, and the professor was elaborating about three stages of life for the traditional Indian man.  The first stage is all about pleasure, and this is boyhood and the lover.  The second stage is all about building, and this is the father.  The third stage is where the man sets aside worldly passions and focuses on wisdom, philosophy and religion.
Steve Kimes: In this movie, there are three characters that exemplify these stages: Salim, the lover, is the one focused on pleasure.  Akbar, the king, is the builder, and he is also the father-- he wants to create not only an empire, but also his son.  And the sculptor, who has set aside all worldly goals and focuses on the Truth, represents the third stage.
Steve Kimes: So it is fascinating to me that even though the sculptor-- the Truth-seeker-- sides with Salim, it is Akbar who is the "hero" here, kind of.
Bondo: I think of the scene where the sculptor talks about how his work is not appreciated because he isn't just creating an image but speaking to insights beyond the obvious. I actually saw parallels here to the jester in Ran. My HS philosophy teacher showed that film and talked about how the jester, by talking to entertain, is able to say a truth that would not be permitted if it were said straight.
Steve Kimes: I saw a number of parallels between Mughal-e-Azam and Ran, and actually the whole Lear story.  A father who doesn't understand his son, his son rebelling against him, innocents caught in the fray.  The sculptor fits in that well.

Steve Kimes: Only Akbar, in the end, is "the greatest king of India" and finds the fine road of justice that Lear wasn't able to find.
Bondo: I also think the fact that we start with the son being unsympathetic, but coming back from war, in dealing with his son's love, the father seems to become the unsympathetic one. There is this flip, and then it seems maybe at the end there is finally a sort of leveling and order is secured for the kingdom. This film maybe has a more conservative message than Lear.
Steve Kimes: I think it certainly does.  In the end, it is trying to present a conservative idea of history-- that India's creation is dependent on the greatness of Akbar (which means "great" in Arabic, which is interesting), and even though Akbar is attempting to bring down the lifestyle of his son in the first stage of manhood, it is all for the good of India, so that's all right.
Bondo: I've got one more thing to discuss, other than that the extras seem to be taken from the World Beard and Moustache Championship, and that is the battle scene, just briefly.
Steve Kimes: Go for it

Bondo: I'm not sure Ridley Scott feels threatened here, as I wouldn't say the battle feels intense, even though it is big. The thing that caught my attention is that it seems one key moment is not the actors on horses but on horse puppets of sorts. It is almost comical how the horses rear up on their hind legs and then spin.
Steve Kimes: I didn't notice that.  Are you talking about the sword fight?
Bondo: I think so, it may be just me but that didn't look like an effect that aged well. Ultimately though, do you think the battle scene was necessary or could it have been implied?
Steve Kimes: The scene itself wasn't absolutely necessary, but I think it was important so that the film didn't just feel like a "chick flick", but had action for the men as well.  So the action sucked.  At least they tried.
Bondo: Heh, ok.
Steve Kimes: So, in summary, Bondo, would you recommend this film?
Bondo: I came into the chat having the film at a 2/5 but I think I would move it up to a 3/5. However, I'm not sure I'd really recommend it outside someone who was really eager to dig into the history of Bollywood (roujin). Just a bit heavy for my tastes.
Steve Kimes: I certainly wouldn't recommend it to those who fear long movies, because this is the kind of bloated movie that would encourage that fear.  However, the final third of the movie made it all worthwhile for me, and the turns of the plot make it interesting.  I'd give it a 3.5/5 and only recommend it to my friends who like idea films.
Bondo: Well, there we have it. Next we move on to 1975's Sholay, the film that unseated MEA in the non-adjusted box-office chart.
« Last Edit: June 06, 2010, 12:10:12 AM by Bondo »


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Re: Bondo and Kimes Do The Mumbai
« Reply #5 on: June 05, 2010, 10:59:11 PM »
Maybe you can break up the huge block of text with a screenshot or clip from the film. For some dumb reason, they always help to get me excited about watching certain films.

Great discussion.


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Re: Bondo and Kimes Do The Mumbai
« Reply #6 on: June 05, 2010, 11:02:14 PM »
Maybe you can break up the huge block of text with a screenshot or clip from the film. For some dumb reason, they always help to get me excited about watching certain films.

Great discussion.

Great idea.  We'll work on it.
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Re: Bondo and Kimes Do The Mumbai
« Reply #7 on: June 05, 2010, 11:03:59 PM »


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Re: Bondo and Kimes Do The Mumbai
« Reply #8 on: June 06, 2010, 12:11:55 AM »
Maybe you can break up the huge block of text with a screenshot or clip from the film. For some dumb reason, they always help to get me excited about watching certain films.

We now pack the value added. :)


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Re: Bondo and Kimes Do The Mumbai
« Reply #9 on: June 10, 2010, 01:51:52 PM »
I put Kaante on my queue, and we'll see how I feel about it at the end.

I was also looking for Mother India, but I can't get it in my most reliable sources (Netflix and Library).  So I saved it at Netflix, but who knows when-- or if-- they ever get it.
"It's not art unless it has the potential to be a disaster." Bansky