Monday Morning Questions! 2 Weeks Worth!

Sorry!  Forgot to put this up last Monday!  Oh well, maybe that means I’ll have an extra extra lot of questions this time.  If you’re curious how this works, the past posts are here and here and here.

Feel free to ask anything at all from, personal things you want to ask me (“what’s your favorite movie?”) to newbie questions about specifics in the films (“are Ranbir and Sonam Kapoor related?”) to more sort of discussion questions (“should Indian film actors engage with politics?”).  I really enjoy the challenge of trying to think of reasons behind anything you ask me and stretching my knowledge muscles.

You can also come back to this post at any point over the week if you think of something new you want to ask, and you can ask follow-up questions on other people’s questions, really it’s an open forum!  So long as you let me answer the question first, obviously (otherwise it’s no fun for me!).


43 thoughts on “Monday Morning Questions! 2 Weeks Worth!

  1. In your post, “Fawad Khan (and Mahira Khan) Issues a Statement” you have a picture of Mahira Khan pointing at a sign. I don’t get it. I tried to translate the sign but it didn’t fit what I expected.


  2. Are you planning to watch the Telugu Premam? It’s in theaters right now with subtitles and the ticket was $12.99. I enjoyed it a lot! I still haven’t seen the original but my friends that have said that this is a good remake though some things have been changed. Apparently the Telugu version is shorter than the original too.


    • I’m debating! I love the original Premam so so much, I kind of don’t want to spoil it by watching a remake. Plus, I’ve got limited movie watching time (especially in a theater, where I have to drive 40 minutes there and back in addition to seeing the movie), so it feels kind of “wasteful” to use up a movie slot on something I’ve already seen, just in a different language.

      But, on the other hand, I do really like Premam and it would be kind of fun to see it on the big screen in some version, and there are no big releases coming out next weekend, so I could just use my regular Friday night movie theater slot for Premam.


      • 40 minutes, that’s rough. I get what you mean about not wanting to spoil the original by watching a remake. There’s only a handful of remake movies that I thought lived up to the original versions.
        I think you will still have a couple of weeks if you want to watch it in the theater though. There aren’t any Telugu releases until October 21 and that’s not a big movie either.


  3. 1.which is your favourite indian action film and favourite fight scene?
    2.if there is an indian version for james bond series,who will be the best choice for bond?


    • What fun questions!

      1. For straight up crowd pleasing action film, I think I’m going to have to break it into regions. Hindi: Dabangg, I love how it combines over the top action sequences with moral ambiguity in the characters. Telugu: Bujjigadu! The action sequences are awesome, love the clever fight scenes with the editing and camera angles and stuff. But also love the almost tongue in cheek way it treats standard action movie tropes. Tamil: I haven’t seen many straight up action movies in Tamil, but right now I would say Kabali. I like how the action sequences are reasonable for what an older man could do, while still being inventive and exciting. And of course the message is really interesting. Malayalam: Kali. The fight scenes are more realistic and reasonable, and it does a really good job interrogating what violence means and when it is justified.

      Favorite fight scene: Agneepath! The “Hrithik kills Rishi” scene. I watched it every night before I went to sleep for weeks and weeks after I saw the movie, and it is still one of my favorites. I love how it remains so emotionally grounded at the same time it is incredibly bloody. And a close second would be the water-pump scene in Gadar, for the same reason.

      2. Hmm. It depends what kind of Bond you are looking for. If you want the completely untouched by human emotions cool guy in a fight Sean Connery type, I would say maybe Shahrukh in Don mode? If you want the more handsome scoundrel type like Pierce Brosnan, than maybe John Abraham or Hrithik. If you want the modern Bond, the gritty and damaged Daniel Craig type, maybe Ajay Devgan? What I would really like to see, now that I think about it, is Sanjay’s take on the character. As someone who is older and a little over the hill, and haunted by his past, but still more capable in any situation than anyone younger than him. I definitely wouldn’t want any of the new younger heroes to try it, you need a certain amount of age and gravitas to pull it off.

      Liked by 1 person

      • thanks for the reply… i meight be the only one prefering abhishek bachan as bond…. or tamil actor ajith will be a good choice(if u dont know him watch ‘mankatha’)..
        i prefer realistic fight scenes like in kali(malayalam)


        • If I had a time machine, I would go back to about 1978 and have Amitabh start a Bond-esque series. I don’t think he could do it now, but I think back in the Don-Trishul-Deewar era, he would have been really interesting as a government agent with a smooth cosmopolitan attitude, a way with the ladies, and vicious fighting skills.


  4. Your real name?
    Twitter handle?
    Favorite indian movie after DDLJ?
    Favorite ever movie?
    Told you hold two degrees in movies. What are those?
    Why don’t you have a star “system” like moviemavengal? (Have to read your whole article and “read between the lines” to know if you really liked a movie or not.
    To be continued…


    • If you look in the side-bar, you should see a link to my twitter stream. And if you click on the “Buy my Book” link, my real name is there.

      Favorite movie after DDLJ is constantly changing! Half the time I don’t even have one, it’s DDLJ and then about 30 other movies I like equally well right below. The other half of the time, there will be a movie I just watched recently that I fall completely in love with for a few weeks, before moving on. Most recently, it was Ohm Shanti Oshaana. Right now, there isn’t anything I really love like that, but I’ll probably feel that way about something else soon.

      Favorite ever movie, I’ve got 3 movies that are tied, instead of one replacing the other, I just love them all equally. Singin’ in the Rain, since I was 7 years old. Spider-Man since I saw it in theaters in 2002. And then DDLJ since I saw it in theaters in 2005.

      As an undergrad, I minored in Moving Image Arts at the University of Illinois at Chicago. And then a couple years back I got my Masters in Media and Cinema Studies at DePaul University. Combined, it means that I have seen and written about and read about a lot of film classics and film theory in addition to the India stuff that I do just for fun in my own time as well as for school.

      I debate about star systems. Partly, I don’t use them because I do want to force people to read the whole thing carefully, not just take a quick look at the rating. Partly because I don’t want to limit you to my perspective on what makes a film “good”. It’s all subjective and dependent on taste. Read the whole review, if the things I mention about the film make you interested, then go see it. If it doesn’t sound like it is for you, then don’t.

      The biggest thing (which you have probably noticed if you’ve compared non-spoiler and spoiler reviews), is that sometimes I change my mind about a movie. I don’t want to slap up some star rating on my first review, scribbled at midnight after returning home from the movie, and then put up a completely different star rating a week later after I’ve thought about it and finished my second review. The same thing would be true about, for instance, a regional film that I might not like at first glance, and then after watching other movies by the same director or in the same language, I come to appreciate it more. I don’t like the idea of being locked into a formal judgement on the film as a whole.


      • Thanks for your detailed response…
        Appreciate your in-depth knowledge of bollywood and Indian films in general.
        Last question – why “don’t call it bollywood”? The way I see it, it doesn’t look anything like “INDIAN films”, and most of them are indeed weak imitations of Hollywood…


        • My concern with “Bollywood” comes from how I have seen it used in America. Everyone I talk to, from teachers and classmates in my film program to my family and friends, when I said that my focus was Indian film, would respond “Oh, you mean Bollywood?” and then would do some fake Bhangra move and make a joke about song sequences. I was just at a conference this weekend where I saw a talk about Go Goa Gone by someone who admitted this was literally the only Indian film he had ever seen. And yet he felt comfortable saying that it was a unique film because it didn’t have classical Indian dancing and an arranged marriage. Because Americans have been so brainwashed to just assume every Indian film is exactly like Lagaan/K3G/Devdas.

          Anyway, rather than giving people that whole rant about “don’t just assume every Indian movie is a romance with a Bhangra dance number and a fantastical plot!”, I’ve discovered it’s much simpler to correct them from “Bollywood” to “Indian film”. It immediately makes them question their assumptions and think a little bit about their prejudices.

          Part of this is also that people in America honestly don’t realize that the Hindi film industry is only a subset of Indian film. So while you and I may understand that Bollywood=Hindi Bombay Industry Films, and Satyajit Ray and Malayalam and Parallel Cinema and everything else are something else entirely, for Americans they are unthinkingly lumping all of the entire history of Indian film under the “Bollywood” umbrella. So, while I try not to use “Bollywood” in general, I’m not that worried about it when I’m talking to a desi or someone who is really really into the movies, because we both know it is shorthand for Karan Johar 1990s romance style movies. But I don’t want to use the term with anyone who doesn’t understand that, or in any published work that may be read by someone who doesn’t realize how specific the term really is.

          Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh, I was hoping the Monday Q&A sessions would be up again soon!

    This time I am curious about promotion.
    How is it important for a film? I am asking because I don’t really see a pattern here.
    There are films with massive promotions which anyway result as flops or poor. There are films with very little promotion which emerge hits, BB. There are films with solid promotion and solid collections. What would be your examples of unusual/interesting promotional strategies? As I’ve herad, The Slam Tour was pretty original. Can a good film do less if promoted in a wrong way and vice versa? Is there such thing as “over-promotion” or is it never too much when it come to promoting a film? Well, technically, it is a one questing about promotion. )))


    • The biggest element of Indian film promotion is the stars and the songs. And this has been true for decades. The song rights were always sold in advance of the film, you could buy the records or listen to them on the radio, and excitement would build for seeing them in the theater. Since the late 80s-early 90s there is the addition of the formal “music launch” and “trailer launch” for each song individually, turning it into this whole months long series of events. People talk about songs as affecting a film narrative, some directors really like using them and some directors really hate them, but the biggest reason you will always have songs in a movie, is because of the promotion affect. Heck, look at Fan! No songs at all in the finished product, but they still did a huge push revolving around “Jabra Fan”, just so they could keep that song piece of the promotion strategy.

      Songs are kind of the building block of the promotions, but what makes it work or fail is if there is a star involved. To promote Dhoom 3, Aamir literally just wore a hat. He wore the distinctive bowler he had in the film for a few months before the release, and because Aamir is photographed dozens of times a day and reported on every time he steps outside of his house, that was all that was needed. To promote Jab Tak Hain Jaan, Shahrukh tweeted a request to his followers to translate the title poem into as many languages as possible, and then just sat back as the submissions rolled in for days and days.

      Everything a star does is free publicity, but they are also really really clever about tying what they do into their particular personality. I don’t know if it is them alone coming up with these ideas, or working with a team, but I could believe either way. What Aamir or Salman or Shahrukh or Ranveer or John Abraham or Akshay or Ajay does to promote a movie is distinctly different from what anyone else would do, including their fellow stars. When you get a big name in your movie, you aren’t just getting someone to act, and show up for a few promotional interviews (the way you do in America), you are getting someone who will be involved every step of the way in crafting the release strategy.

      This kind of promotion is fairly new, and related to shift to wide releases in the late 90s. The current promotional strategies, both in India and in America, are based around the idea of building excitement to a peak on the day of release. Back in the day in India, when only about 2% of the population could actually watch a movie the day it released and the rest of them would have to wait until one of the limited number of prints traveled to their town, there was no big promotional “push”. The songs would release, and hopefully would be so popular that they would play for months and months. And the star would hopefully stay popular and in the public eye for years. So whenever this particular film happened to make it to your town, you would still be interested.

      Currently, those stupid corporate studios I am always railing about are trying to break free of the star promotional structure. From the little bit of budget information that leaks out, they are spending more and more money on promoting their films. Aamir wearing a hat, that’s free and easy. Even Shahrukh doing a massive Jabra Fan launch at his university in Delhi is pretty cheap. But buying TV spots and billboards and internet ads and all of that costs real money. This is a big place that the corporate studios have just been hemorrhaging money, they get a finished product and see it is no good, so rather than writing off the money they already spent, they pour more and more into promotions, thinking they can “trick” the audience into seeing it if there is just enough buzz around it. This is also the strategy that is bankrupting Hollywood, something like Suicide Squad or Batman Vs Superman made a really big box office but a very small profit, because they had to spend so much money on ads to get people to actually come in and see it.

      In India, they are spending tons and tons of money on these ad buy type promotions, and it is having no affect on the audience. Partly because the Indian audience is so much more dedicated, you do have a large number of people who will show up First Day First Show for every single release no matter the promotions. And they are the ones who control the box office more than anyone else. They will warn their friends away from heavily promoted movies like Fitoor and Mirzya and Bombay Velvet. And they will tell people to come see the better movies that were barely promoted. This year we have seen time and time again how quality and word of mouth triumphs over any promotion. Pink, Airlift, Neerja, Rustom, Dhoni, they all did fantastic business. And then you have Mohenjo Daro, Fan, Fitoor, Mirzya, with massive promotional campaigns that translated into no tickets.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you for your extended and very interesting answer!!!

        >some directors really like using them and some directors really hate them, but the biggest reason you will always have songs in a movie, is because of the promotion affect.

        Is it the same with films that do not have songs (as items numbers or plot connected)?
        There are plenty of Indian films now with background music/songs only. Like Kahaani, for example.
        Or do they just make additional songs like it was done in Fan?

        > To promote Dhoom 3, Aamir literally just wore a hat.

        I remember that! The promotional hat! )))
        This is kind of cool – a film gets wide attention with just a bowler hat worth a couple of bucks and the star presence.

        >Back in the day in India, when only about 2% of the population could actually watch a movie

        Which reminds me… I’ve heard, nowadays only 3%-5% of India population actually watch films in theatres (but many more watch them later on TV) . Is this true? Indian film industry (all B-T-K-M-woods and regional cinema included) seems so LARGE. Also, nowadays there are many more screens as it used to be. I understand, that considering total Indian population these 3%-5% is still an impressive number, but anyway, such low percentage seems almost unbelievable.

        >because they had to spend so much money on ads to get people to actually come in and see it.

        Ah, so it’s not like “over-promotion”, it’s more like you just spend too much money to advertise your film, which has very little potential to collect much.

        > This year we have seen time and time again how quality and word of mouth triumphs over any promotion.

        Yes, those films are great example of it!


        • I was just looking for a Kahaani song, I think for a Navratri post. And yep, it has a soundtrack with 6 songs, they edited together music videos for most of them from various scenes in the movie, they had a song launch and the music videos played all over TV and the soundtrack was on the radio, and all the normal promotional stuff. And then you see the actual movie, and the songs just kind of disappear into the narrative and don’t make an impression.

          It’s also becoming increasingly common to pick out a super catchy song to do a super good video of, use it in the promotions, and then never put it in the movie. “Let’s Nacho” from Kapoor & Sons, “High Heels” from Ki and Ka, etc. etc. Or, if it is in the movie, just use it over the ending credits, not bother finding a way to include it in the narrative, like “Lungi Dance”.

          For the percentage, my 2% was really just a guess, I know it would be maybe one theater in all the major cities that would get films on opening weekend. Maybe two in the really large cities. Of course, that’s also when you are talking about real movie palaces, so one theater would be able to sell a couple hundred tickets for every show, not like now where only playing in a couple theaters means only selling a few dozen tickets.

          I did actually do all the addition and division to figure out the number of tickets sold for Gadar for a talk I did a few years ago. Allowing for inflation and, even more importantly, for the price difference between single-screens where Gadar did well and multiplexes where most films make their profit, Gadar probably sold more tickets than any film in the history of India. And I came up with about 10% of the population seeing it. So yeah, 3-5% for a regular successful release sounds about right!


          • >And then you see the actual movie, and the songs just kind of disappear into the narrative and don’t make an impression.

            As I remember it was similar with Talaash too. Ahthough they did have a promotional song (like an item one featuring Kareena) which later was included in the opening credits of the film.

            >So yeah, 3-5% for a regular successful release sounds about right!

            Thanks again for your answer!!!


    • I want to add another question to the topic of promotions. So what/why do you think that actors complain so much about promotions? When they are asked what they don’t like about their jobs, most of them say that they don’t like promotions. I think only Varun Dhawan has actually said that he likes promotions, and it always seems like Shahrukh Khan enjoys doing promotions.

      Liked by 1 person

      • As always with these public statements, there’s 2 answers, the answer for why they might think people want to hear it, and the answer for if it is actually true.

        1. Why they might think it is a good PR move to say it: It kind of paints them as a sensitive artistic soul who just wants to do their “real” work of acting. Also, if the question is “what don’t you like about your job?”, if you say anything about what you do in a movie (love scenes, dancing, action scenes), then the audience might be turned off the next time they see one of your films because they have it in their head that you aren’t enjoying yourself.

        2. Why it might be sincere: Promotions, at least the way they are done now in the age of wide release, sound horrible! Weeks and weeks of constant travel and interviews and interactions with the public. However, I also think a sincere enjoyment of promotions is something you need to have if you are going to be a big star. Like, a top top top star. Or, to put it another way, you have to be smart enough to find the promotion strategy that will work for you and really go for it. Like Aamir doesn’t seem to like public appearances or interviews, but he really enjoys coming up with unusual challenges for himself (like learning to rap for a special song for Dangal) and using those to create buzz for a film. Or Ranveer with his odd sort of viral videos. Shahrukh is lucky enough to seem to really shine in interviews, and of course he started in live theater and gets a charge from an audience, so the standard promotional strategies of interviews and public appearances work great for him.


        • Yeah, I guess that makes sense.
          What do you think about Karan Johar’s tweets about Dangal? I think Shabana Azmi also said that she loved Dangal. Do you think Aamir has started promotions early for his movie or is this just some genuine love for the film?


          • According to rumors, Aamir showed Dangal a little early because Shabana asked to see it for her birthday. Don’t know if that’s true, but I’d like to think it is.

            Either way, with these early shows to celebrity promotions, I think the understanding is that it is a “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all!” kind of situation. To tweet something mean after your friend has graciously invited you to see their film would just be rude.

            With Dangal in particular, I could see a couple of reasons for starting promotions early. First, it has to counter the suspicion that it is just the same as Sultan, so they are trying to start a buzz about how it is “different” way in advance. Second, it’s not a film that fits into the usual definitions, not exactly a romance or a family film or a sports film, so maybe Aamir is trying to gently ease the audience into understanding what he is doing?


          • It’s one thing to say that a movie is awesome or amazing but these people are calling the best film in a decade. You’re probably right about wanting to make the film seem different from Sultan. But I was wondering if this was a way to counteract potential boycott’s or protests regarding Aamir’s intolerance comments. Make the film seem as if it is so good that you can’t afford to miss it.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Ooo, interesting theory! Aamir’s been keeping such a low profile, he managed to make me forget about that. But this would be the first release since his statement.


          • Shahrukh got the short end of the stick since Dilwale released right after the whole thing blew up while Dangal’s coming out a year later. I am curious to see how Dangal will be received in general. No matter what, I still feel that there will be comparisons to Sultan and also I wonder if the intolerance remarks will affect the film.


          • I’ve read extremely positive reviews (well, more like opinions) about Dangal.
            First from Shabana, than from Karan and a couple of day ago Javed Akhtar said that “Dangal is by any standard the best film our film industry has made in the last decade and a half” and Vinay Shulkla called the film “the first classic of mainstream Hindi cinema in the present century”. It’s one thing when you tweet nicely in return of a screening invitation, but giving a film such a high praise seem like a genuine response.

            As for early screenings, some old interview of Aamir comes to my mind.
            He said that he likes to arrange special screenings for his films to be sure the story connects with the audience the way it is meant to be. And there were cases (with Lagaan or TZP, for exemple) when they decided to make editing/plot changes, because after discussing the film with the test audience, they realized, the films had specific drawback, they couldn’t see before.


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  7. Okay, since i could not find an appropriate place, I’m here. Pawan Kalyan has completed a 20-year-stint as an actor recently. I am sure that you are not very much aware of his work. If interested, you can watch his 2013 release Attarintiki Daredi (Which is the path leading to my aunt’s house?) with subtitles on YouTube for free. I dont say it is a classic material and you need not watch it asap. But, it is a sensible film with some really deep dialogues amid some really comic and silly things around. It is also fun watching Kalyan be a subtle and grounded performer and a Rajinikanth-type-of larger-than-life hero at the same time.

    The link


      • Shall keep it in mind next time. Very soon, my coloumn on Premam’s Telugu remake will be available at

        That may help you in judging the remake (read understanding it better), but I doubt whether many would agree with me. Will provide the link once it is published. 🙂


      • I think Attarintiki Daredi is a good intro to Pawan Kalyan. You should add Tholi Prema into your list too. This was Pawan Kalyan’s first hit and it is a nice, sensible love story.


        • Just watched Attarintiki Daredi! It was perfect, I am home sick with a 100 degree fever right now (thus only two pre-scheduled posts today), and Attarintiki didn’t exactly strain my mental facilities to follow. It was a lot more “ooo, look at the pretty colors and chug more cough syrup!” then “let me focus closely to follow this complex plot and subtle acting.”


          • I hope you get better soon!

            I’m glad you enjoyed Attarintiki Daredi 🙂 The plot isn’t anything new but what I really like about this movie is that it’s entertaining. Plus the dialogues in the climax are pretty good. Trivikram Srinivas used to be my favorite director but he’s lost his touch lately. I think I have recommended most of his older movies already. Athadu and Khaleja starring Mahesh, Julayi with Allu Arjun, and also Jalsa with Pawan Kalyan.


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