AoM Shorts Collection Volume 1 (1st Quarter 2005)
Various - Director / Various - Music
Various - Lyrics / Running time: Several hours lots of minutes
I'm trying something different here. Over the course of almost a year (wow!) I have addressed over a dozen Hindi movies that I have enjoyed. One of the things I have been struggling with is whether or not to go into such detail on some of the movies I think are very good. After all, each of my articles does reveal the entire plot and there are more than a few really good Hindi movies out there that I feel should be watched without any prior knowledge of the events. I've made a couple of exceptions to this idea in the past. Khakee and Dil Chahta Hai are two good movies that I've written about, but more often I find myself writing about films that have a few more problems than these two do.
So, how do I get the word out about some of the films that I feel merit watching without my usual treatment? I have decided to attempt a different type of article and present four films that I would strongly encourage anyone to watch. These are movies that have very good stories and in some cases very bold points to make in a social context.
With that being said, let's get to the recommendations.
Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995) (Own it!)
One of the longest-running films in India's history, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge is one of the modern classics of Bollywood. This is a touching romantic comedy about Simran, a quiet, traditional, studious girl (played by Kajol) on her first big trip away from home after graduation. On her travels across Europe, she meets up with Raj, a freewheeling (some might call him "spoiled") son of a wealthy businessman (played by Shah Rukh Khan) who causes her major grief along the way. The two end up having to fend for themselves on their journey, and in the course of events become quite attached to each other. As often in these films, drama sets in once they go their separate ways, and it's up to them to do what it takes to be together.
This is simply a fun movie. DDLJ was also the first film of Shah Rukh Khan's I'd seen. He is clearly in his element here and is having a ball. The chemistry between the leads is very believable, and it's a joy to watch the two of them needle each other as well as developing feelings for each other that often catch them off guard. I'd classify this as a good "starter" movie for anyone interested in getting into Bollywood films. It has great laughs, great songs, and beautiful scenery ranging from the mountains of Europe to the sights of rural India. Strongly recommended!
1942: A Love Story (1994) (Own it!)
This was a purchase based on the cast for me. Having been smitten with Manisha Koirala, I went looking for other films of hers. This movie had won quite a few awards so I thought I would check it out. I popped it in the player one Saturday morning as I did some work around the house and ended up forgetting about the laundry and watched the whole thing.
1942 is a period piece about one couple's attempt to be together during the revolutionary period known as the "Quit India" movement. Rajjo is the daughter of one of the revolutionaries, Naren (Anil Kapoor) is the son of one of the wealthy land owners who are sympathetic to the British. Yes, there are shades of "Romeo and Juliet" at play here, but that's really not the predominant theme of the movie.
There's a lot going on in this film. Don't the the title fool you - this is not some "mushy" romantic tale. The two young people are caught up in a battle they did not anticipate and must deal with their love for each other, their love for their families, and their love for their country. The last half hour had me riveted. I recommend this movie with absolutely no reservations. One of the "must see" films from India.
Lagaan (2001) (Own it!)
After watching Dil Chahta Hai I was very impressed with Aamir Khan's work. I heard good things about Lagaan and saw he was the star (and producer!) so I gave it a shot. What I saw was an outstanding piece of work. Once again we see some of the sentiment towards the British, but this time we're in 1893. The story focuses on a small farming village that is under the rule of the British government as well as a local raj. They (as well as the other villagers in the province) are required to pay part of their crops to the English each year as a tax. However the growing season was poor last year. This year has been even worse and they are barely able to feed themselves, let alone spare any food for tax. After a series of tense confrontations a wager is made. If the farmers can beat the British soldiers in a cricket match, they will have the tax waved for the next three years. If they lose, they must pay triple.
This boils down to an underdog sports movie. While that formula has been done many times, this film in particular should hold more interest than many of the others. The fact that the sport in question is cricket should provide enough interest for a lot of viewers. Add to that the outstanding music and impressive cinematography and you've got a very good movie. This one also clocks in as the longest Bollywood film I have yet watched at an impressive 3 hours and 45 minutes. This is a fun movie for the whole family, and remains one of my favorites.
Lajja (2001) (Own it!)
Let me say right off the bat that this movie made me feel like a pig. I saw Urmila Matondkar, Madhuri Dixit, Manisha Koirala, and Mahima Choudhry all in the same movie and immediately ordered it. As I watched it I learned a valuable lesson. This movie is really, really serious. In a nutshell, this film is a commentary on how women are treated in India. Now, with myself being neither a woman nor Indian, it is not for me to say how accurate this depiction is, nor to criticize any of the content within it. All I can say is what I saw hit me pretty hard. The premise involves Vaidehi, the wife (played by Manisha Koirala) of Raghu, a powerful and influential businessman (played by Jackie Shroff) who is on the run from her lecherous husband. As she makes her way across the country she encounters various other women in hard situations. Maithili (Mahima Choudhry) is about to be wed, but her father is having problems coming up with the dowry. Another is Janki (Madhuri Dixit), an unmarried woman who is pregnant and refuses to bow in shame to society. Yet another is Ramdulari (Rekha), a tough-as-nails doctor in a rural village who won't go along with the local crime lord's wishes and must suffer his wrath.
This is a powerful movie and really opened my eyes. The story is very involving and grabs your attention early on and doesn't waver. There are some outstanding musical numbers (one featuring a cameo performance by Urmila Matondkar) as well as excellent cinematography. I recommend this movie as well, but with a warning that some of the situations are very intense.
Well that wraps up my first edition of the Shorts. I hope that you enjoyed this new style. I will still do the in-depth coverage of other films, but will also add these in every so often to make some recommendations.