Sunday, July 06, 2008


The Village Voice is carrying a review of the latest collection of reels to bear the name of Kunal Kohli as director, Thoda Pyaar Thoda Magic. This in itself isn't shocking/alarming/heartening (depends on how you want to look at it); journalists and film writers in various rags have been carrying capsules dedicated to the big Bollywood releases in major cities in the USA (The New York Times is an example of one such bearer of said reviews). Unfortunately, these journos (barring people like Anupama Chopra) don't strike me as the kind of people who've had enough exposure to Bollywood. As a passing curio, Bollywood flicks work fine: the surreal mix of non sequitur song and dance sequences, high melodrama (nothing mellow about it mate), tacky costumes, misplaced technique and the world's most convenient coincidences would have made Buñuel proud had it been an created with the intent of being surreal). And if you're a PIO living in the USA, chances are that the flicks you'll catch, if at all, are the big banner releases with big names, the flicks that seem to promise some profits to the local distributors.

So unless you're really following Bollywood films in totality and finding ways to fill the gaps for the smaller films (or, for that matter, for the other big flicks that didn't make the cut abroad), you're likely to really off down the wrong road as far as reading the Bollywood flicks you watch, especially when you attempt to evaluate them in the context of Bollywood (I really have no problems with you going Lacan on the films or comparing them to oeuvres you're more familiar with). The aforementioned review seems guilty enough, given fragments like the following:

Yes, the film is glossy and colorful, and yes it features a dancing velociraptor, but Kohli’s film stands out from the glittering Bollywood oeuvre for its refusal to capitalize on America’s caste-fascination and its conspicuous paucity of glitzy song-and-dance numbers.

Promos for Bollywood flicks continue to focus only on the songs. Be it a murder mystery, a romantic comedy, an intense drama about communal tensions or an action spectacular, you're going to get the same bland overexposed dissolve-montage of frames featuring people in costumes and poses. The promos for Kohli's flick (some of which feature that velociraptor -- a poorly animated creature too) are enough evidence that there's no paucity.

Instead, the bulk of the movie consists of inscrutable character psychology in (dis)service of a messy plot, all layered with a less-than-subtle comic critique of American cultural dominance.
Kohli is clearly jostling for a slot as a serious filmmaker—eschewing airier Bollywood themes for (often implausible) knotty emotional entanglements[...]

Sigh. Are we talking about the same movie here? Is this the movie featuring that shot of Rani Mukherjee riding a bicycle looking like Medusa after an appointment at the beauty clinic or are we talking about a special version released only for journalists? Serious filmmaker my fundament! airier Bollywood themes? Is that a euphemism for hot air and ballast? I wouldn't know. I'm not on the same wavelength here. Very very tragic.

PS: That title's not exactly Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, but you get the idea.

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