Monday Morning Questions! I Remembered on Time This Week!

I remembered this week!  It’s not showing up in the afternoon or a day late or anything.  I’m so proud of me! (previous question posts are here and here and here and here and here)

Same rules as every week.  Feel to ask a question about me (what’s your favorite American movie?) or a practical question you’ve always wondered about Indian films (why are they so long?) or just a general hypothetical discussion starter (why are the Indian film industries and politics so intertwined?)

Aaaaaaaaaand……..GO!

 

 

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30 thoughts on “Monday Morning Questions! I Remembered on Time This Week!

    • What a fun question! I’ll answer it in two parts:

      1. How I built my DVD collection: I was lucky enough to get into the movies back in 2004 when DVDs were cheap and plentiful. I was going to school in Chicago, so I could just zip up to the Indian neighborhood and have my pick of 5 different DVD stores which carried basically everything between them. Plus, Eros Entertainment at that time had a direct selling DVD website, based in the US, which had amazing sales. Like, “Spend $100, get everything half-off!” kind of sales. So in my first 5 years, I bought basically every major Hindi movie. Since then, the Indian neighborhood is down to just 2 DVD stores, and Eros and a bunch of other websites closed or switched to streaming, so it is more a matter of buying the major new releases as they come out just to keep my collection up to date, and then going on a massive international internet hunt for the more obscure stuff.

      2. How I organize my collection: I have tried so many different theories! For a while I had it organized chronologically, which mostly turned into a timeline of my disposable income (big clusters 2005-2007 and 2012-2015). I also tried organizing it by star, which is how the movie stores do it. I like that organization in the store, because if I am looking for a particular movie, I am much more likely to know who the star is than the title or the year it was released. But ultimately, I discovered that if it is a movie I own, I usually know the title and just want to find it quickly, so good old alphabetical is best. A few years back, I made a minor tweak to the alphabetical system and gave Shahrukh his own shelf. So now I have a bookshelf of alphabetical DVDs, and another of Shahrukh in chronological order followed by songs DVDs. Shahrukh is the one star that my friends will say “I just want to see a Shahrukh movie”. And he is the one star that they will specify “early” or “late” Shahrukh, so chronological helps too.

      And then on a totally other shelf, I have all my other DVDs organized by country and then alphabetically. In case you were counting, yes I have 3 bookshelves in total, completely filled with DVDs.

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    • Kimberly, I haven’t built up my collection in any kind of organized way, to be honest. I’ve only been an Indian film lover for a little over 2 years, and we’re lucky that so much is available to stream on ErosNow and Netflix (and Youtube for Telugu!), But often, even if I stream something the first time, I have to own the DVD. I have a Shahrukh shelf, too, as that’s the star I own the most movies. Then I sort of have my movies separated by language, because I’ve found that Telugu, Malayalam, Tamil and Hindi films each have their own flavor. Sometimes I want the slow lovely pace of a Malayalam film, and sometimes I’m in the mood for a crazy fun Telugu action flick. I’ve taken chances on some Malayalam and Telugu films because they’re so cheap to order on DVD from MyIndiaShopping and BhavaniDVD. Devon Ave. in Chicago has the two video stores that Margaret mentioned, and if I’m up there (over an hour drive for me), which isn’t often, I stop by. I’m also lucky that I have a next door neighbor from India. When she visited her family in Chennai for a wedding last year, she asked me what she should bring back for me. DVDs was my reply! She brought me back a dozen, just picking a selection of popular Tamil films, some with stars I wasn’t previously familiar with.

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      • Thanks for your replies! I’ve had very similar methods of building my collection (Amazon marketplace, Bhavani, Induna) and I used to buy sight unseen in the first craze of my Bollywood obsession. Now, I tend to see them through streaming sites (mostly legally;) and then buy my favorites. I own over two hundred Indian films now, but I’ve been kicking myself lately about having weeded out titles over the years!

        As for organizing, I also have tried alphabetical and by stars. I’ve thought of doing chronological or by director. Now they’re by genre (epic fantasy, comedy, crime/thriller/spy, dramedy, romantic drama, romantic comedy, friendship dramas/coming of age, supernatural, historical, masala/action, and sports) But since I like to just look at the cases and reorg for fun that will change soon;) For now, the regionals are mixed in by genre, but I know what you mean moviemavengal about being in the mood for a certain region’s films.

        ~Kim (filmilibrarian on bollywhat, btw)

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Since all the big dance numbers are lip-sync’d, on the set do they just blast out the music and the actors mouth along? I would not be able to resist singing. (Or do they do the dance number first and then add the music edited to match?)

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    • The music is chosen and recorded usually either well before or well after the rest of filming. The producers will meet with the songwriters and discuss the needs of the plot in terms of songs, and maybe also the commercial needs (“we need a love song or no one will come see a Shahrukh movie” or “we need a really peppy song so Varun can show how well he can dance”). Sometimes the screenwriters, or the Stars, or other people involved with the whole look and feel of the film will also sit in. The songwriters will pull out some stuff they’ve been working on for the producers, they’ll talk about their general concept for the songs (“what about a Rock Qawwali?”), and over a series of meetings they will hammer out a track list. Most movies are a combination of tracks the composer had sitting around already and stuff that was written fresh. Every once in a while there will be a really big deal high concept thing where you can tell it is all original work (Rockstar, Rang De Basanti, Mirzya), but most of them are just a random collection of things the composers had around anyway (dance song, item song, sad song, love song).

      Once the music is recorded, the choreographer and director (and sometimes the star) start having meetings coming up with the visual concepts for the songs. If it is a big deal movie and a big deal star and a big deal director, they all work together and come up with some massive concept, like “Gerua” in Iceland for Dilwale. But if it is the standard sort of film, the director and/or choreographer will just throw together some concept like “Walking the streets of Dublin”, or “Dancing in a nightclub with a bird theme”, set aside about 3 days to film the thing, pull together some random steps that work well with the music and the stars can handle, and shoot that sucker. It’s really fast to shoot a song now, since the standard edit length is only 10-20 seconds, so basically you just need the stars and chorus to handle 10 seconds of dancing, and then you can cut before they make any mistakes. The music will be blasting the whole time for people to dance along, but there may be some slight changes in editing in terms of the order in which the chorus comes or something, just to make the visuals pop more. You can see that sometimes, the album version of a song will be slightly different than the film version.

      So far as singing along goes, it’s up to the stars. Ranbir Kapoor said in an interview that he never used to sing, because his voice is terrible and he didn’t want to punish his co-stars. But when he was working on Rockstar, where he really had to look like a singer, his father passed on the tip that really yelling and going for it instead of mouthing along makes it look a lot more real, and he’s done that ever since. I don’t know if other stars do this, but it really works for Ranbir! If you look at his songs, they look super real. He’s playing a singer again in ADHM, so I am sure he will be following the same policy and actually singing.

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  2. Why do action scenes in Indian action films are usually so ridiculous?
    Especially in the South (but, I think, for example, the Bollywood remake of Singam was almost equally horrible in terms of action). Not in every movie of course. I remember, I didn’t want to watch Ghajini (2008) at first because I had those “unbelievably over the top action scenes” in mind. Eventually I watched the film and was very impressed by it (including the action scenes that was really good). Therefore, I felt like watching the original too. I simply couldn’t. The story was almost the same, I liked the actors, but the action! I couldn’t even feel for the characters, because the “facepalm” feeling was too distractive. From most of the action films I know about, a totally unrealistic and highly boosted action seems like a filming tradition which is popular even now.

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    • My understanding is that action scenes and action films developed differently in the Hindi industry versus the other industries. In Hindi films, action sequences took a huge leap forward in the 70s, especially with Amitabh Bachchan movies, when his fight scenes became central to exploring his character. It was more about a visual metaphor, the way he would throw people around the room, or use his height to dominate, helped explore the way his character in the film was “greater” than everyone else, and ready to destroy the world in order to improve it.

      Of course, the fighting techniques aren’t what you might be used to from Hollywood films. There were camera limitations for one thing, while Hollywood was able to change to moveable cameras for fight scenes, which really let you feel part of the action, by the 1960s-70s, Indian film was still using heavy stationary cameras and long takes. Which meant you could really sit there and watch all the ways in which these fights were unrealistic and unbelievable, instead of only seeing small parts of them, like in Hollywood movies.

      Plus, India has a tradition of wrestling and throwing fights, rather than punching. To me personally, boxing and punching type of fights end up looking a lot better onscreen than wrestling ones. They are a lot faster and easier to fake. Not that I necessarily want India to switch to more punching type fights, when they’ve tried it, it just turns out terribly have the time (all those punches that clearly don’t land). Even today, a lot of the Hindi fight scenes just follow the 1970s Amitabh template, more about working out internal angst, with a lot of focus on one man against dozens.

      But the Telugu films are a whole other thing. I don’t know anything about the history of it or how it happened, but clearly by the 2000s, if not earlier, Telugu films had become known for their fight scenes. I think of the fight scenes in Telugu films as the same as the songs. They are moments of pure fantastical artistic expression, removed from yet laying the emotional underpinnings for the rest of the film. When you watch a hero throw a car at the villain, or leap tall buildings, it’s not about “believing” he is really doing this, it’s about, first, appreciating the technique and “whoa!” factor of the visuals, and secondly, creating the relationship to the hero.

      It seems like Telugu films have two kinds of fights. First, the kind of “hero introduction” fight, which is just to show how cool and special and awesome he is. Very similar purpose to the “hero introduction” song. It also gives the audience a high, because they get to relate to this hero and feel powerful and awesome themselves.

      But second is the fight scene that’s closer to the 1970s Amitabh kind of fights, which is supposed to show some kind of moral superiority, some kind of deep emotion or inner struggle. It can seem kind of silly, you can have a hero who effortlessly defeats dozens of enemies, and then suddenly at the end one guy (his father/her father/the big bad/whoever) can fight him to a standstill. But it makes emotional sense, the earlier fights didn’t matter, so they were easy for him to win. But when there is an emotional struggle, then it is made visual through the physical struggle onscreen.

      And both Hindi and Telugu films are of course coming out of the same story tradition in which strength is considered a sign of purity or nobility. Ram breaking the bow, all the stuff the Pandavas did, etc. etc. I know the more important point lesson is that they are pure or noble, but the way the narrative shows their purity is through their strength. Just like part of Sita and Draupadi’s purity is in their beauty. So these fight scenes in which strength is tested are about inner strength being proven, or displayed, through outer strength as well. Which also explains why some twiggy little hero actor can beat up so many clearly larger and stronger opponents! He had the inner strength advantage!

      One other thing, just in terms of filmic technique for these fights, they really are something special! Just like song sequences are as good or better than what is offered by pop culture from other countries. I’m not really an action movie person, I mean I can enjoy them, but I don’t watch them obsessively and really think about how they are put together. So I don’t trust my judgement for the actual techniques used for these fights, or how impressive they might be for people who come to the movies just for that. But when I was researching my Masters thesis, I spoke with a couple of people who are action movie folks. And they looooooooved these movies, because the fight scenes are just so impressive. Not “realistic”, but imaginative and inventive and outside of the box thinking. That’s why they watch Indian movies instead of American, just like all the other people I spoke with who came from a musical background and switched to Indian films because there was so much more experimenting and excitement in their musical sequences versus Western products.

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        • Yeah, but see how it establishes Salman’s character? As super super awesome, but also kind of a joker? He would rather enjoy himself in the fight than end it quickly, even though he is so much better than the rest of them.

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          • Exactly — “Hero Introduction Fight”

            (For bonus points, what’s the song on the ring tone?)

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          • The song on the ring tone is Salman’s “hero introduction song” from Wanted — Yaha bhi hoga waha bhi hoga”, more popularly known as “Jalwa” (“magic”). That was the “inside joke” of him saying to the crook, “That’s a very good caller tune — forward it to my phone.” 🙂

            Here’s the link to the Jalwa song:

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        • Sorry, I didn’t see the phrase, “for bonus points”, on my first reading, which makes it seem the question was addressed specifically to Margaret. I thought it was a general request for information, and responded. So sorry, Margaret. Maybe you should look into having a button for people to delete their comment.

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  4. Since you saw Manam, what would be your ideal cast if there was to be a hindi remake? Also, what director do you think can pull it off?

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    • It would have to be Shammi, Rishi, and Ranbir. And they would have to film it ASAP, because I don’t know how much longer Shammi can last. And they’d have to make Neetu Rishi’s love interest. And for Ranbir, whoever he hasn’t offended at the moment! Maybe Deepika again?

      For the director, I’d want someone who could create that really warm comfortable feeling. I’d almost be tempted to use some kind of journeyman guy like Aziz Mirza. The big names are all getting so cold and intellectual, or else so action-y and over the top. Maybe Imtiaz Ali, just because I like how he did Love Aaj Kal.

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      • Both of your answers are interesting, but I thought Shammi Kapoor died? But yes, the Kapoor family is like the obvious choice i feel. I do really like your idea of three women instead of three men though!

        If I wanted to go with a cast that is not family then I would go with Shahrukh, Kajal, Varun, Alia and Rishi Kapoor. But do you think that the movie would be the same if the cast wasn’t related?

        I read somewhere that Sanjay Leela Bhansali bought the remake rights, and I even saw some rumors that he was planning to direct the remake himself. I don’t think that SLB can make a movie that is so lighthearted. Aren’t his movies more melodramatic. I feel that someone like Mohit Suri would be able to direct Manam well.

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        • Oh right, I didn’t mean Shammi, I was thinking of Shashi. I would love SRKajol (well, I always love SRKajol as a couple!) especially because the whole reincarnation angle would fit in well with how by this point they seem almost destined to be together as soon as they show up onscreen. But I think I might like Shahrukh-Juhi almost as much, they have a same level of instant comfort with each other, and I think I could believe them as a parent pair a little more (aren’t they parents in the Bhootnath movie?). Oh! Or Shahrukh-Tabu! I was just re-watching Saathiya in my head, and her hesitancy and his care for her felt really similar to the relationship in Manam.

          But on the other hand, I really don’t think the movie would be the same if they weren’t related. There was just something special about that, about knowing it was a family film in every sense.

          And Bhansali would be maybe the WORST possible director! The beauty of the film is in the simplicity and the sort of home-y feel to it. Bhansali would just stomp all over that and make it all dramatic and crazy. Look at what he did to Devdas!

          But Mohit Suri is a really interesting idea. Especially since he is part of such a tight family. What about Alia as the mother, Emraan as the son, and Mahesh Bhatt making his film debut as the elderly person? Or, Alia, Emraan, Pooja, and Mahesh? I don’t know who Pooja would play, maybe we could make the Nagarjuna character into siblings, Pooja and Emraan? And then Emraan’s love interest could be Esha Gupta, and it would be a 100% family film!

          Oh, I am kind of in love with this now! And it would be the perfect film to use as Alia’s first home production!

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