Aashiqui 2: A Star is Born With the Brilliance of Judy Garland Onscreen Replaced With the Brilliance of Mahesh Bhatt Offscreen

This is NOT a good movie.  But it is an amusing movie!  It wasn’t like the “wait for death” viewing experience of Azhar, or the “I am so angry I can’t function” experience of Ki & Ka.  It was a fun watch and if I had been about 20 years younger, I may have loved it.

This is just such a teeny-bopper kind of movie!  It’s like Justin Bieber and Zayn Malik and Lesley Gore and Titanic and Twilight and Romeo + Juliet all got mixed together in a big blender, and then boiled down to their hormonal and immature essence, and mashed into some kind of Indian curry.

And hey, there’s nothing wrong with that!  I own all the Twilight books and saw all the movies in theaters, I love Lesley Gore and The Shirelles and all of those people, and I was more than capable of swooning over an immature and dramatic love story when I was 13.  But see, I’m not 13 any more.  And so I watch this and think “I can see how this scene COULD work for me, but it just doesn’t.”

(Also, I now want to shake this girl and tell her to go home and do homework and write her college essay instead of waiting for some pimply boy to make her a promise he can’t possibly understand or keep)

Although it did explain why Aditya Roy Kapoor kept getting hoots at the Dear Zindagi screenings I was at!  At least, the two of them where the theater was 50% young woman.  If you are watching Dear Zindagi, I assume you can relate to the main character and her struggles as a young professional desi woman.  And if you are a young professional desi woman, I assume you saw Aashiqui 2 when it first came out, when you would have been maybe between 17 and 21.

Which could have been the right age (depending on your personal development) for the whole thing to just about give you a heart attack from the ROMANCE and TRUE LOVE and EMOTIONS THAT PARENTS JUST DON’T UNDERSTAND!  And therefore, Aditya Roy Kapoor will always have a special place in your heart.  Just like all those woman who will always love Leonardo DiCaprio in a particular way, no matter how many big fancy films he makes (for me, it’s Zac Efron and High School Musical.  Oh Zac!  Why did you cut your floppy hair?).

(Oh Zac!  I have this on DVD, with the special Karaoke version extra)

Anyway, that explains the hoots and cheers when he showed up in Dear Zindagi.  Because there was that sudden moment when all these mature professional possibly married with children women were suddenly thrown back to late nights sobbing with friends over the beauty and passion of this love story, and why can’t a perfectly sensitive and damaged alcoholic wander into their life?

I was lucky enough to be able to watch this movie in a situation kind of like that.  Well, I should say “wise” enough.  Over Christmas, my sister was in town, and she came over to my apartment for a movie and pancakes one morning while the rest of the family was still asleep.  I was thinking I would show her Patiala House or OK Kanmani or something, you know, “good”.  And then I thought “No!  This is the perfect time to finally watch Aashiqui 2!  In my PJs, eating pancakes on a Sunday morning, with my sister.”

And it was perfect!  We swooned over the moments when he looked at her and you just KNEW he was in love.  And we cheered when the poor star-crossed couple was reunited.  And we booed when the boring older people told them they shouldn’t be together, because they were too old to remember what Real True Love is like!  And then we went “wait, there’s AN HOUR LEFT?!?!”  Because unfortunately our patience for long-drawn out overly dramatic love stories featuring immature pretty people has gotten shorter over the years (you should have been there ten years ago, when we spent an entire Christmas break re-watching High School Musical and Hairspray.  Oh Zac!  I wish I still loved you that way).

(Okay, I still love him a little)

This is just the most delicious confection of stupid.  It’s like eating a donut wrapped around bacon with whipped cream topping.  Tastes sooooooooooooooo good, but there’s no actual content to it.  And in the same way a donut tastes kind of like bread but without the nutrition, so does Aashiqui 2 taste kind of like A Star is Born but without the talent.  Or Abhimaan.  Ooo!  I can do an info-graphic!!!

pink-equal-sign-2-512

 

The lack of talent is the biggest problem with this film, moviemavengal and I were just talking about that.  But in order to get into exactly what I mean by that, I have to get into SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had to watch the Judy Garland A Star is Born for a film class.  Well, “had to”.  It wasn’t like it broke my heart to do it, I love classic 50s musicals and Judy Garland and all of that.  The only reason I hadn’t watched it before was that I had heard the ending was sad, and I hate sad endings!

I believe this version actually follows that one pretty closely.  There is an initial meeting, he promises her the moon, then there is an accident and he is unable to follow through on his promise at first, and she waits for him as her life gets progressively worse.  He finally, joyfully, finds her again.  And then convinces his producers to listen to her, they immediately give her a chance, and with his loving support her career takes off.  And he finally admits his love and they decide to get married.  She quickly becomes super successful, while he is happy for her, but has an increasingly hard time filling his days and feeling useful.  He turns more and more to drink, which has been a problem for him from the start.  Finally, she announces that she is giving up everything in order to help him get better and stop drinking.  He realizes that this means she will be depriving the world of her talent, and walks into the ocean and dies.  She retreats to solitude and misery at first, but is then convinced by an old friend that nourishing her talent is the best thing Aditya/James Mason ever did, and it is better to honor him by continuing her career.

Now, there are two big changes the Bhatts made when they teeny-boppered this plot.  I’m not even going to say “Indianized”, which is what they usually do.  Because A Star is Born was already pretty Indian, big dramatic emotions, big song numbers, etc. etc.  But the Judy Garland A Star is Born (not necessarily the original Janet Gaynor version) is also a very adult film.

That’s part of what makes it such a classic, Hollywood is so afraid of emotions and melodrama, here is a rare high budget high quality film that is about human drama, and doesn’t shy away from the tragedy and the ecstasy of it.  And it does it in an adult way.  This isn’t A Summer Place or Rebel Without a Cause.  These are big emotions in a big way between two adults.

(This was another movie my sister and I watched together.  Except, even as teenagers, it was too teenager for us to enjoy.  She gave up halfway through, I stuck it out to the bitter end because I can’t leave a film half-finished.  But believe me, the theme song is the best part)

Judy had been around by this point.  She was a good 20 years into her movie stardom, and a lifetime into her career.  And James Mason was similar, although less famous and familiar to the audience.  And that’s what they are playing in the film.  She isn’t some timid young newcomer.  She is a band singer and a chorus girl and a Hollywood hanger on whose done everything and seen everything.  And it’s just made her better than an newcomer could ever be.  In Aashiqui 2, Shraddha has to be “polished” and “trained” before she can become a star.  In A Star is Born, Judy has already been trained and polished, she just needs someone to see her.

And James Mason isn’t some lost little boy.  He is a grown man, more than grown, who has lived a life of indulgence and experience and had thought he would never feel that spark of excitement again, until he met Judy.

And what really makes the difference, is how amazing phenomenally impossible to ignore Judy’s talent is.  In any performance at any time, but especially in this movie!  We don’t need the script to tell us that she is something special, that James Mason is in awe of her talent.  We can see that for ourselves!

 

The age of the characters makes the performing ability more believable and remarkable, but it makes the love story something special too.  It’s not about two kids swept up in the glow of first love.  It’s about to adults, who have had many love stories before this, finding that “little kid” feeling again and slowly giving in to it.

 

So, that’s why it’s special.  The one sentence description of the plot, “Guy helps girl become star while his star fades, then kills himself” doesn’t even come close to it.  And it is just that one sentence version that this film is able to grasp.  Aditya and Shraddha don’t feel like real complicated people grasping for happiness, their problems don’t seem grounded and tragic, and most of all, their “talent” doesn’t seem all that unusual.

I like Shreya Goshal’s voice, she’s fine, has a definite “Lata” sound, which makes sense she is Lataji’s niece (I think?  Or cousin or something).  But it’s not dropdead remarkable, like Judy’s voice was.

You know who does kind of have that voice?  Aditya!  Or rather, Arjit Singh.  It’s rougher and deeper than the usual voice, and so powerful.  And you don’t need me to tell you that, out of everyone involved in Aashiqui 2, Arjit Singh was the clear break out star of the film, the one who’s career was pretty much made from then on.

 

When moviemavengal and I were talking about the film, we bounced around the idea of a gender-reversed plot.  What if it had been Aditya/Arjit who had the amazing world-changing talent and Shraddha/Shreya who was just kind of okay? I’d have loved to see Shraddha stumbling around drunk and getting into fights and having all of that kind of juicy stuff, while Aditya had to suffer in silence and sacrifice!  And it would have made a lot more sense of things, for everyone in the film to acknowledge that Aditya was the once in a lifetime talent. (wait, that’s Khoya Khoya Chand, isn’t it?  And also, Mahesh Bhatt’s real life!)

(Too bad Shiny Ahuja’s in this so I will never ever be able to watch it)

That’s the thing with the A Star is Born story, it only works if the argument that “the best thing he ever did was help you become a star” is actually true.  For James Mason and Judy Garland, it certainly was.  James had some decent screen presence and was fairly handsome.  But you could tell that his character, just like himself in real life, was nothing special when compared to the huge bundle of talent that was Judy Garland.  Same goes for Kris Kristofferson and Barbra Streisand in Star.  And maybe Janet Gaynor and Fredric March in the original?  I don’t know, I haven’t seen it, and Janet Gaynor is pretty great, but so is Fredric March.  And also, hopefully, for Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper in the new one.

Of course, it also only works if the film isn’t UNUTTERABLY STUPID.  Starting with the tagline, “Love Makes Life Live”.  What does that even mean??????  It’s right up there with “Love means never having to say you’re sorry”.

And then, right at the start they tell you their expectation for the audience when they refer to Goa as a “small venue” and warn our hero not to travel the streets alone because it’s not safe here.  You know, those rough streets of small town Goa.  This is the level of realism and common sense present through out the film.  Our heroine goes vegetable shopping in the middle of the night.  Our hero disguises himself by putting on sunglasses and a hat.  And not only does he wear a stupid disguise, his disguise works!  Because all the other people in this world are too stupid to see through it.

It’s a stupid world, and also a cheap world.  Cheap cheap cheap cheap cheap.  My favorite is when there is supposed to be a big confrontation in front of a crowd at a fancy party.  And it is clearly just some random extras wearing whatever they had in their closet (no costume budget) standing in the lobby of an office building with a few tables scattered around.  But, you know, white extras!  So you can tell the party is fancy!

Oh!  And there’s also all the big concert scenes, that are carefully framed so you can only see the stage, not the crowd, because there’s no budget for crowd scenes.  Or the luxury apartment that frankly doesn’t look that luxurious.  Or the fancy bar that is conveniently closed, so they don’t need to spend a lot on decorations or fancy looking extras (only so much money in the budget for white people!).

So, why doesn’t this bother me?  Why don’t I find this movie infuriating, the way I do Azhar?  Well, because it feels like they all KNOW they are making a stupid cheap movie!

Aditya and Shraddha are working hard and doing their best, but they aren’t exactly trying to put in the most sensitive and subtle performances of their careers here.

(Hopefully they are saving that for OK Jaanu.  Full soundtrack now available on Saavn, by the way!)

Mohit Suri is a skilled director, he knows how to frame a shot and convey a story, but he isn’t bothering to do much more than that.  The script is pretty reliant on a few punchlines and the rest of the dialogue is filler.  The plotting, of course, is basically lifted straight from the Hollywood version, nothing terribly wrong there.  Well, except that in the Hollywood version it felt like everything unfolded naturally based on the character flaws and strengths.  Whereas here it feels like it unfolded unnaturally based on the need to fill 2+ hours of screen time.

These are a bunch of fairly talented people capable of putting together a much better film than this, but they chose to make a movie for the “kids”, as it were.  One of the things I found really interesting when I did my little research on this film is how it was released.  It had a very very specific audience in mind.  No overseas release, limited urban release in India.  And, my sister who is better than I with languages pointed out, lots and lots of Marathi touches.

This is a movie for the sappy young people of urban India, especially around Bombay.  It doesn’t care about any one else because it’s not here for you.  Like it, hate it, who cares, the Bhatts will still make money and the audience will still be happy.

The biggest thing that made it feel “young” to me is the attitude towards marriage.  Why AREN’T they married????  They are living together, they are committed, but no marriage?  It really feels like that is just because marriage isn’t “romantic” enough for the swoony teenage audience, it’s something their grown up parents and aunties and uncles do.

This also means they miss out the famous final line from both the Janet Gaynor and the Judy Garland version, “This is Mrs. Norman Maine.”  Taking her husband’s identity forever as part of hers, giving him the fame that he helped her achieve.  Instead we get some sappy “our love will go on” scene on a beach.

There’s another big change earlier, right before the suicide, in the original version Judy/Janet has sworn to give up her career to devote herself to taking care of her husband, and he overhears her and decides to kill herself to free him.  Okay, I guess two big changes.  In the original, since this is a grown up old guy, it feels like he knows he is never going to get better, change is not possible, this is a slow inevitable slide to death as she wastes her life.  In this one, Aditya is young!  Really really young!  How does he know he can never possibly get better?  The suicide feels random and impulsive, instead of regretful and considered.

Oh, but the bigger change is why Shraddha is going to give up her career.  I guess staying home and keeping him company and trying to stop his drinking and take care of him is too “grown-up” and unromantic.  So instead they go the passionate self-destructive route, and she announces that she is going to join him in his drinking!  Just like Meena Kumari in Sahib Biwi Aur Ghulam!  If he is living a life of intoxication, so will she, and perhaps she can find some form of joy in this.  By the way, if there is any young woman dating an alcoholic, THIS IS NOT A GOOD IDEA.  DON’T DO THIS!  Be unromantic and sign him into rehab instead.

The only thing that made it break out of that audience group is, firstly, the soundtrack.  And secondly, the brilliance of Mahesh Bhatt.

I love the soundtrack, I’ve been listening to Arjit Singh’s “Tum Hi Ho” since it first came out.  Heck, that song was so good, even Shahrukh sang it!

 

I don’t know if they decided to throw all their energy and money into a really good soundtrack, or if it was just a coincidence, but either way, these songs are so much better than the movie and helped bring it to worldwide notice.

Secondly, Mahesh Bhatt!  He put together Aashiqui 1 back in 1990, similarly sappy and silly and specific, and with two unknowns in the lead.  But he gave it the heart, the love story of himself and his first wife back when they were so young and so innocent that their love felt like the most amazing thing that had ever in the world.  And that is the spirit and ethos that carries through to Aashiqui 2.  Even if his only involvement was supporting his nephew the director, and lending his voice as Aditya’s “father” in phone calls.

(The coat thing, that’s so swoony I’m gonna DIE.  And of course, it is the element that came most directly from Bhatt sahib’s original)

 

(I’m not counting the focus on alcohol as part of his involvement, because Mahesh’s version of alcoholism onscreen is way way more realistic than this!  Check out Daddy sometime if you want to see a real story of alcohol and art and love)

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10 thoughts on “Aashiqui 2: A Star is Born With the Brilliance of Judy Garland Onscreen Replaced With the Brilliance of Mahesh Bhatt Offscreen

  1. This was great fun to read! I’m thinking that I should probably watch both the Judy Garland and Barbara Streisand versions of A Star is Born at some point. I think that I would enjoy either of those a lot more than this. I have so many Hindi and regional movies to watch, though, I won’t be in a rush to delve back into this tragic, severe, booze-soaked world any time soon.

    I was actually more intrigued by your mention of the movie Daddy. After reading its very basic Wiki page, it seems like a really interesting story. I would love to see Anupam Kher in a serious, meatier role. Do you know of any way to see it? It’s not on any of my usual haunts or even Einthusan.

    Like

    • It is really really hard to find. I had a similar reaction after first reading about it, and then it took me a few years to hunt down a DVD. At one point I think there might have been a grainy youtube version available. It’s a brilliant movie, up there with his work on Arth, but unfortunately I think it was originally a TV broadcast, so the rights are funky and it never really got a big home video release.

      On Fri, Jan 6, 2017 at 11:02 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      Like

    • There’s just something about the first cute non-threatening male actor that makes you feel all swoony, you know? Did you see all of the obits when “Gilbert” died from the Canadian TV version? All of these intelligent educated women getting all nostalgic for their youth.

      On Fri, Jan 6, 2017 at 12:01 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      Liked by 1 person

  2. I was 15 when I first saw Aashiqui 2 so that’s maybe why my friends and I liked it so much 🙂

    I haven’t seen it again since though I love the songs. I wonder if my opinion of the movie would change if I rewatch it again.

    Like

  3. Sharaddha and Aditya come across as rather dull to me…they are simply not charismatic enough. And completely agree – Arjit Singh is an amazing singer! His version of Sun Raha Hai Na is better than Shreyas which just comes across as a little screechy.
    Zac Efron 😍 Have you seen 17 again? I saw it when I was 17 and thought he was gorgeous.
    If you ever decide to watch a Shiney Ahuja movie, please let it be Gangster. Kangana is amazing…but I can’t look at Shiney in the same way ever again.

    Like

    • I OWN 17 Again! And I was strongly tempted to put up this youtube video in the post, and then I decided 3 Zac Efron videos in a completely unrelated film review were probably enough:

      I’ve been wanting to watch Gangster! I remember when it came out, my roommate came back from a weekend at her parents all abuzz about it. And then I never got around to it, and now ugh. Something about Shiney, it’s not a moral judgement type thing or a boycott, it’s that I just feel kind of sick everytime I see him, you know?

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Silly Sunday Speculative Post: In Honor of Veeram, Shakespeare! – dontcallitbollywood

  5. Pingback: I’m Going To See Arjit Singh Tonight and You Aren’t!!!! – dontcallitbollywood

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