Sanjay Jha


you oughta be on stage: Praan Jaye Paar Shaan Na Jaye

(Apologies if I spelled that wrong. I feel like every time I look at a website that mentions this movie, it's spelled differently. I know I said that the wily H would be my downfall in Hindi, but it might just be the "A" vs "AA" question. Another reason to just go ahead and learn Devanagari. Anyway.)

Oooh goody! It's time for "Bloggers Meet Director" on Bollywoodbloggers! Here is everyone else who is playing along:
Babasko
michael
Totally Basmatic
maria giovanna
mirie
oli
maria
kaddele

During almost every moment of this movie, I kept thinking "I feel like I'm watching a play." (Hey English or drama majors, is there a literary term for this phenomenon? I don't think "stagey" really captures what I mean.) I think this is the first time I've had this feeling while watching Hindi films, and PJPSNJ (can't decide between "A" and "AA"? Avoid yaar!) is unlike anything else I've watched. More on that in a sec. Some of the things that lead to this wait-am-I-suddenly-in-an-all-Indian-community-theater feeling are good or fun - for example, the narrator (I love Vijay Raaz and was so excited to see him here) speaking directly to the audience, or lots of coming-and-going in the central public space of the chawl. But some of them veer towards over-the-top - which I guess is why the term "stagey" came to mind a few sentences ago - and of course now that I'm writing this I can't remember any of those.

I really loved the setting of this movie because it let us get to know a community of people, and I'd have to say that for the average Hindi film, the characters were relatively nuanced and given some room to develop, which is sort of amazing, given how many there were. I found very few of them cartoonish, which is rare. And more importantly, I really cared for them. I really wanted them to save their home.

And of course I enjoyed all the filmy convention jokes and references to - like when the ticket scalper is raving about the big movie and he says something about it doing something to him, "kuch kuch hota hai," and a guy passes by singing KKHH's "Koi Mil Gaya." I have no idea if lots of movies do this, but they made me giggle the whole way through, even if the characters themselves drew attention to them. Genearlly I think that kind of in-joke is better done subtley, letting the viewer just catch it on their own, but I'll take what I can get.

Minor snark: it's so annoying to have us pretend we think Diya Mirza is unattractive just because she has glasses on. And only the outsider can see how pretty she really is, and all he does is make her wear revealing clothes and take off her glasses. Hollywood does this too, and it's stupid. It was stupid when Marcia Brady did it to her friend, and it's stupid now. And I was shocked that she ended up with the boy she had always loved who would never give her a second look when she was "ugly." What kind of message is that? Very disappointing - and not at all in keeping with other elements of the story that felt relatively pro-women-as-people-of-substance. (Favorite bits from this category include the father who throws out his daughter's ass of a husband and the women who stick up for the prostitute and point out to the hypocritical men whose fault prostitution really is.)

Aside to screenwriter(s): one of my Indian friends told me he thought this title is a play on a famous line from the Ramayana. If so, I'd love to know if there were allusions to the Ramayana other than the title (and I would have to say, based on my basic knowledge of the story, there's nothing particularly Sita-like about Laxmi's stunt.)

Aside to marketing people: please explain the picture on the cover of this movie.

(thanks nehaflix for the image - and for stocking the movie too of course)
I know you can't judge a book by its cover, but 1) we never see Raveena Tandon with short hair or a jean jacket, 2) the guy with the gun is not nearly as prominent in the movie as he is in the picture, and 3) Sushmita only has that razor for a teensy bit (and I know she's the winking reference to needing star power, but still - I would at least have used a more flattering picture, like maybe her dancing at the end). I feel misled and confused. Not that it really matters, I guess, but I just don't understand why this is the picture when there are so many other scenes that could have been used that are so much more evocative of the feel and story of the movie. Also, is anyone else reminded of the font of Rang De Basanti?

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