Saturday, November 12, 2011

dil chahta hai - review of sorts

I started watching movies from India to get ready for my October trip, and while I can't understand a word of Hindi (OK, I understand 3 or 4 now), with legible English subtitles I can get by well enough to enjoy, or understand enough to experience a portion of what Indians get. I'm continuing to watch DVDs through Netflix, or Instant Watch, that were in my queue, or that my friends have suggested/insisted I watch. The SCNotties awards have given me yet another list of films I never heard of before.

The most recent one I finished is "Dil Chahta Hai" (from the song of the same title I figured out I should pronounce "Hai" as "Hey" not "Hah" or "Hi" as I probably have done). My friends wanted a review, or my comments about the movie, so here goes.

It seems to be a almost mandatory requirement of Bollywood movies to have musical numbers, and while I can and have fast forward through many of them, I listen and watch enough to get the general idea. The primary influence seems to be music videos as originally popularized by MTV years ago, by the likes of Michael Jackson, Madonna, and their pop descendents like Brittany Spears, Spice Girls, etc. Dil Chahta Hai had its share, but they were not too much over the top, and I could tolerate them well enough. I'd be interested to know how faithfully the lyrics are translated in the subtitles.

The script was above the stock Peyton Place-like soap operas I have seen in other romantic comedy/dramas from India, with the characters having good depth, and the performances deeper than shallow. One well-written and acted scene was the "art critic" analysis of one of the main character's painting, where she pointed out the symbolism he displayed indicating he had secrets others would not be shown. She took a risk sharing this with him, per the plot, and he reacted as if someone had opened a door on him.

I thought the character Pooja was quite the catch, and while you could likely predict who she would end up with, the twists and turns were not too cliched. The scenes in Sydney took me back to a visit there earlier this year, and included a real opera (though I only saw the outside of the Opera House). The flashbacks during the "close your eyes" sequence were technically excellent, and the hesitation in the resolution was not quite what I expected (though for a 3 hour movie, the finale can't happen until the last reel). I could swear I heard a didgeridoo playing during some of the Australian scenes. I checked out the back story of Troilus and Cressida (the opera within the movie) and it's not just a somewhat obscure yet insightful and intelligent Shakespeare plays, it's a fairly modern production. Funny that Wikipedia doesn't reference the movie.

The last comment I have is on the younger man/older woman romance, if one could call it that. I'm not completely aware of the traditions in India about divorced or widowed women, but it seems there is more of a stigma than we know "in the West." In the movie, that status difference was a bigger deal than the age, with both the male's friends and his relatives being appalled by his desires, not to mention the woman herself. I was left puzzled by the resolution of this in the plot, with their final scene together being interwoven throughout the movie, and a subsequent scene just before the credits apparently bowing to convention (and perhaps the censors).

I sent the DVD back to Netflix, and the US Postal Service replaced it in my mailbox with the 3 Idiots. How they stuffed all 3 in that small receptacle I have no idea.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Another Innocent Abroad

Downloaded Mark Twain's Innocents Abroad to read on the way home from India. I thought I had read it before, and probably did, but I've forgotten much of the humor. Twain's dry wit is impeccable once again, skewering his fellow travelers, himself, and with special glee, the tour guide industry.

I have taken small tours of places like San Franscico with a several hour guided tour, which included narration, stops at points of interest, and detours to shops not advertised on the primary itinerary advertisements. Twain's experience is dead-on mirroring of the modern guides I met in my just-concluding trip to India, including non-stop prattle, steerage into French textile shops, and the kind of whoopers they grow in Calveras County. I can't possibly match his razor-sharp insights into the alleged innocents, and for this trip I had the advantage of being solo and not needing to succumb to the whims of the majority. But I was subject to the preplanned routes and rigamarole, and was only able to escape at my peril.

One advantage I had over Twain's experience was an occasional 5 or 10 minute respite from the package deal, by most of my guides. They would say, Ok, you go explore this space and meet me back here, or I can't climb all those stairs again, I will wait here.

So far, I am about 25% into Twain's book, where they've reached Italy. I know the "Holy Land" is ahead, and can't wait for the comparative religion discusiion the irascible steamboat pilot will surely get into to.

I should be boarding the flight to Detroit soon... More later!