Monday Morning Questions: What Do You Want to Ask Me This Week?

Happy Monday!  It’s Madhuri week, and I have to do two reviews of Mahanati, so I am VERY BUSY.  I don  Oh, and also work and stuff.  Anyway, give me an excuse to take a break by asking me questions!

As always, you can ask me anything from the personal (“what movie would you watch if you could take a break from work?”) to the specific and factual (“what Hindi movie shows work scenes?”) to the general discussion (“what is the best movie to watch to forget about work?”)

The only rule is, you have to let me answer first!  And once I answer, you can leap in with your own opinions.  The discussion just goes better if I start it.

 

Now, question for you.  A simple one.

What movie/story would you like to see remade, either English to Indian, or India to India between languages?

 

My favorite American movie is Singin’ in the Rain, and I would LOVE to see that remade.  It would be an easy remake too, set it in Madras or Bombay in the great studio era, make it about a famous onscreen couple who don’t like each other off screen and how she can’t speak the language.  Be about the birth of dubbing.  It would be great!  And it can also be very self-aware if we want, something like SRK-Juhi playing the famous couple with the reveal that Juhi is horrible offscreen, and then SRK falling for young and fresh Deepika.  That’s just off the top of my head, but really any famous jodi would work, contrasted with a new talent.

Advertisements

34 thoughts on “Monday Morning Questions: What Do You Want to Ask Me This Week?

  1. Ha! For once I’ve been harboring the question I wanted to ask, and I actually remembered it till Monday! OK, it’s not really a question, it’s a suggestion for a future post, but this is it: Why do people think bad characters are more “interesting” than good characters? As a corollary, why do they think it takes better acting to play the former roles? How does the evolution of the “protagonist” into the “anti-hero” in western films compare with the idea of the “nayak” in Indian literature and films, who is not just the main character, not just the person you should be rooting for, but actually the person whom you should emulate, because s/he is a role model for ideal conduct? There are more questions that arise out of this discussion, but I’ll leave those to your ever fertile imagination.

    For your question, I would actually not want to see any remakes, but would prefer to encourage original projects in all the industries. It’s true that I once worked out quite a detailed way in which A Tale of Two Cities could be adapted to be set during the Bangladesh war, and the two cities being Dhaka and Calcutta. More recently I’ve thought that it could be adapted to present day (or at least two or three decades ago) India, set in a place with an active Naxal operations, so that the Sydney Carton character would be replacing a rich landowner who had been kidnapped by the Naxals and slated by death, and he is killed just as the frantic husband (whose name I can’t remember) manages to bring in the police after his escape.

    But as I said, I’d prefer the film producers to develop an original story by the local screenwriters.

    Like

    • What I find really fascinating is if you go back to the original texts on drama theory from India, they encourage a complex villain. Like Raavan, someone with virtues who is still ultimately evil. So your hero is supposed to be a perfect representation of everything that is correct in society, but your villain is not supposed to be necessarily pure evil, but rather a lesson as to how easy it is to slip off the path of righteousness. To put it in film terms, Naseeruddin Shah in Sarfarosh who is sympathetic and interesting while still evil, versus Aamir Khan in Sarfarosh who is the epitome of good. Versus the Pakistanis in The Ghazi Attack (I was just thinking about this because of Raazi) who are evil because they are evil because they are evil, no further thought than that. And, come to think of it, our “heroes” in The Ghazi Attack also struggle and have flaws and so on before rising to the occasion and becoming heroes.

      Maybe that’s what is happening? The roles are switched, instead of good being pure and simple good and evil being complex and layered, now evil is pure and simple evil and good has become the thing with shades of grey? This is just me spitballing here, I have honestly not thought much about it until just now.

      I’m kind of amazed A Tale of Two Cities has not been made before just because it is a double-role plot which seems perfect for Hindi film!

      On Mon, May 14, 2018 at 7:02 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

      >

      Like

      • Let me add my two cents here.Anti-heroes are sexy, especially when played by a good looking guy.Since there is a very distant possibility that he can be redeemed,you don’t feel guilty about loving him.I’ve been glomming all the Sunil Dutt movies back from his B&W era recently.Frankly his anti-hero roles have an edge that his sweet heroes don’t.A Tale of Two Cities was one of those childhood stories that I grew up hearing.Of course the way my mother disnified it, the ending had more in common with Amar Akbar Anthony than the Dickens’ original.

        Like

        • The question is *why* do you find the anti-heroes sexier vs. the sweet ones? And to what extent is this an artifact of western cultures? The choice between the good but boring and exciting but bad sexual partner has been a standard trope of western romance novels at least since Jane Austen, but not so much in Indian literature, until the present maybe (the hero whom the heroine thinks is bad, but is ultimately proven to have been good all along, is present, however).

          Like

          • Part of what makes anti-heroes interesting is that they make mistakes and hence relatable to us ordinary mortals.Sometimes it’s possible to come back and be redeemed.But other times certain things can’t be atoned for.Then the anti-hero will have to pay the price and graduates to the noble tragic hero.Karna is the obvious example.But so is Ashoka, Ajatshatru or even Shivdattu from the good old Chandrakanta on DD.

            Like

          • Is Karna really an “anti-hero”, though? I mean it’s made pretty clear in the Mahabharata that he was definitely one of the bad guys, albeit with some good qualities. It’s like the book is saying, “Even with all these good qualities, he couldn’t conquer his one big failing”, sort of like Ravana. Again, is Asoka an “anti-hero”, or someone who was thoroughly bad, then had an epiphany, and turned into someone who was totally good? I thought an “anti-hero” is one who carries the bad traits all the way through (no reform as such) and still makes you sympathize with him?

            Sorry, I don’t know the other two characters you mention, so can’t comment about them. In any case, while a lot of people (including me) find Karna to be a noble character who was treated unfairly (and was also supposed to have been good looking and a brave warrior, so might have been “sexy”). has anyone ever thought of Asoka as “sexy”? Saintly, yes, perfect, yes, but not sexy (unless you’re thinking of SRK in his film portrayal).

            Like

      • On the villain being complex — that is because there is no concept of “evil” in Hinduism, unlike in the Abrahamic religions. There is a continuum from ignorance to knowledge, and the ones doing evil deeds have not reached the point of full knowledge, or, like Ravana, haven’t yet conquered their ego, which leads them to not realize knowledge even when they, in a way, already have it. And this leads to the further point that “good” may be “pure”, but it certainly isn’t “simple.” Since it is also on that same continuum, to be “good” means a constant struggle not to slide back, or, if one does, to recognize the error, and correct it. That is why Rama, the embodiment of the “perfect” human being, still had his flaws, which we’re still arguing over, thousands of years later! 🙂 Yeah, so continue thinking this over, and eventually a post may emerge. Also there is the whole thing of films trying to become more “western”, with people not really understanding the structure of Indian films/literature and their character definitions.* Ha! Another related topic (also fit for a post) is how the navarasa concept is not “mixing of genres”, which is the way many western viewers tend to react to their first exposure to Indian films. It’s sort of like what you wrote about earlier about how the traditional Indian film (not the present day two hour wonders) does not fit into the Hollywood three act structure (which to be honest is a relatively recent invention).

        On A Tale of Two Cities, I saw the Dirk Bogarde version, before I’d read the book, and so the ending came as a total shocker! But they had two different actors playing the two roles, and actually I think it works a little better that way. But you’re right, you’d think the double role enamored Indian film industry would grab this one. Especially because there have been at least two adaptations of Le Miserables in Telugu, as well as King Lear. I mean, they’ve adapted some fairly complex western classics, compared to which, ATOTC would be a cinch.

        *Another contributing factor could be that we’ve now had two generations of people educated primarily, or even exclusively, in English. While not all English language schools are religious, the most prestigious ones are, and even without that, I find that somehow nowadays it’s the Christian worldview that has seeped into most people’s consciousness as to how things work (I mean among Hindus, not actual Christians).

        Like

        • From the Christian philosophy side of things, one aspect I am always very aware of in our literature and media and so on is the idea of “redemption” and “martyrdom”. Both of which lend themselves to a certain kind of hero. We even use that language all the time when talking about stories, “the character redeems himself”, or “the character dies for ____”. Before I got into Indian films as much, I thought of that as just how stories were structured, the only way they could be. And then seeing how uncommon it was for that sort of moment to show up in Indian film made me go back and question Western content and wonder how much of it was due to our basic underlying invisible philosophy. Harry Potter, for instance, has all those moments of “redemption”, choosing Harry (Christ) over the Devil (Valdemort), culminating in Snape, and Harry’s final arch is a clear reference to the Christ story, dying to save others and then coming back.

          So yes, I totally get what you are saying about the Christian worldview. It’s not that people are converted or anything, but if you read Shakespeare and Dickens and other English language classics, even setting aside actual Biblical content, you will subconsciously have a changing idea of how a story is supposed to be structured and how a hero should behave and all the rest of it.

          On Mon, May 14, 2018 at 10:01 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

          >

          Like

          • And also the whole notion of the “character arc” follows from such a world view, too.

            Like

          • Yes! That you grow towards knowledge and acceptance instead of being perfect from the beginning. Even the Christian structure of multiple sacraments, Baptism and then confirmation and first communion lends itself to that.

            Although it seems like Indian drama still has the related possibility of multiple views clashing without necessarily being fully right or fully wrong? Not that the hero has to “learn”, but that there can be good on both sides of an argument. That’s what I was missing in Bharat Ane Nenu, I was all right with our hero being perfect, but it was boring for him to never have an equal challenge to that perfection, a mental or physical battle between himself and someone that was his equal. Like in Bahubaali, we could (and did) debate for months over every decision that our hero made versus the decisions of others, because there were no simple answers even for a “perfect” hero.

            On Mon, May 14, 2018 at 10:21 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

            >

            Like

          • Ha, another idea for a post! Discuss how the prevailing philosophical tradition (Hinduism for India, Christianity for the west) influences the narrative tradition.

            Last year, for instance, I was writing a children’s play about Rukmini Kalyanam (the marriage of Rukmini and Krishna), and I realized that all those Telugu masala movies about the eloping couple with her family chasing them down (so excellently distilled in Chennai Express) are essentially retellings of this story. 🙂

            And, while an Indian hero might be noble and suffer for the people, I doubt that the audience would accept him dying for them (a la Christ) in the end. It is important that he be alive and emerge triumphant at the end, to show that virtue defeats vice, and to be worshiped by all.

            Like

          • I had a similar reaction when I ran across Arjun and Subhadra. Another elopement, but it was with the blessing of the brother which is what stood out to me. It’s not as common, but the trope is still there of the brother being reconciled to an elopement while the rest of the family is against it (Jackie Shroff’s Hero, Koyla, Trishul, etc.).

            On Mon, May 14, 2018 at 10:27 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

            >

            Like

          • Oh, yes, multiple viewpoints, all being “correct” in some way, can certainly exist, and in fact are the essence of determining what one’s dharma is in any given situation. In the Mahabharata, Yudhisthir is supposed to be the perfect human being (without being the one we should strive to emulate, a la Rama), but he had his fatal flaw of gambling, which is what led to the final showdown. (Hey, how about incorporating the Greek theory about the hero having a “fatal flaw” that leads to his tragedy, along with the Hindu and Christian worldviews, in how they shape different narrative traditions? Since I’m only assigning the homework, not actually doing it, I can make it as expansive and complicated as can be. :))

            In fact, this idea is shown extremely well in the Mahabharata. In particular there is this concept of “the warrior’s heaven”, i.e., one who fights bravely and according to the warrior’s dharma will end up in swarga loka ( I don’t want to say “heaven”, though this is usually translated this way, just because of the connotations that word has in Christianity), regardless of whether the cause he was fighting for was a just one or not.

            I don’t know if you’ve seen the Peter Brook version of the Mahabharata — I saw the nine hour stage version, and at the end of it all, when they’re all dead, Yudhisthir meets Duryodhana and his other cousins in heaven. As I was leaving, I heard one of the American women saying to her friend, “Wait — I thought he was the bad guy! How did he end up in heaven?” 🙂

            Like

          • Yes, and this is what I am missing from films like Bharat Ane Nenu, or even Shankar’s Indian. It’s all right to have a “perfect” hero, but there still has to be tension somewhere, a true challenge to him. Raazi did this really well, using India and Pakistan which was very gutsy. Our Indians and Indian heroine are seemingly “perfect”, but the Pakistani characters are also very nice and moral and good and you are left with a complicated feeling of understanding why each character only had one clear option of what was “right” at any given moment, and how those two concepts of “right” could conflict with each other.

            On Mon, May 14, 2018 at 10:37 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

            >

            Like

          • Purely within the spectrum of Indian films & common man audience , the idea that a negative/anti-hero/grey/villain roles are more interesting or takes better acting is maybe because of the perception that the actors/heroes are essentially good people with great moral values. So doing a ‘positive’ role doesn’t take much of an effort(because the heroes are supposedly good/perfect people in real life) while they have to really ‘act’ to portray a negative character. I think the heroes also believe in this notion which is why their anti-hero characters are publicised as something ‘different’ or ‘challenging’. Ranveer is nothing like Khilji so if the audience detested Khilji onscreen, it’s all attributed to Ranveer’s performance. I recently saw an interview of actor Arvind Swamy where he mentioned that playing a gay character in a low key movie was much more challenging to him than his much celebrated villain role in a super hit Tamil movie. He said that the gay role was so far removed from the real person that he is & made him so uncomfortable that he took it up as a challenge to prove to himself that he can do anything that is demanded of a role & not let his personal values decide his character’s actions.I don’t think the star heroes go to that extreme to prove themselves. But their anti heroes with sympathy-worthy back stories are in the same vein of proving to the audience(&themselves)that they can act & be bad and cool.

            Liked by 1 person

  2. Have you seen the Chavanprash song from Bhaven Joshi yet? They’re billing it as a male item song with Arjun Kapoor! Which makes me kind of laugh on multiple levels. First, he shows no skin (just flexes at lot), he’s not in his best shape still (though I think he’s hot no matter what, of course, no body shaming here), and there are tons of scantily clad women around him dancing sexier than he is. Aww, double standards galore.

    I do like how it’s intercut with a cool scenes from the film in an underground fight club kind of place and Harshvardhan looks pretty cool. And reading more about the song, they were going for a Blade Runner, futuristic thing with Arjun’s look. He just looks a little sleazy and gangstery, not futuristic cool. What a lost opportunity!

    Still love that he’s supporting his bro cousin.

    Like

    • Also, it’s a smart call on Arjun’s part to show up in guest appearances like this because it makes him seem like an even more established star to grant favors like this.

      Like

      • And, yet again, Harshvardhan is showing himself to be a tool on social media. Someone challenged how him on how the song doesn’t fit with the feel of the film and he was quick to point out how it’s just a promotional song. Oh no, he’d hate to look so commercial!

        Like

      • Yep! And it also keeps him in people’s minds, especially now when he has a lot of movies filming but not necessarily any coming out any time soon.

        On Mon, May 14, 2018 at 9:14 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

        >

        Like

    • Haven’t seen it, and now I am at work so I can’t see it (boo!).

      Love that he is supporting his bro cousin too, and I guess they are expanding the definition of “item song” to be “any time a major star shows up for just a song” instead of “sexualizing the lead dancer”.

      On Mon, May 14, 2018 at 9:13 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

      >

      Like

  3. My question is about Cannes. Why are so many Indian actresses flown to Cannes, especially when they’re in no way connected to the movies? I know they’re all ambassadors for Loreal but why so many actresses?

    Like

    • This is just a guess, but I know Cannes in general feeds on beautiful young woman. There are tons of models and starlets and others flown in to the festival as window dressing (and maybe more) for fancy parties and events. Cannes likes it’s pretty ladies. I doubt Sonam is being passed around to woo producers at parties, but unfortunately I wouldn’t be surprised if that is why Malaika was there the past few years.

      Oh, and for the other part of it, Cannes is also just a huge business convention, the same as like a hardware manufacturers association. Every film industry is represented and has a booth and is trying to sell, Indian film is just a little late to the game. And I am sure bringing in beautiful young women in fancy clothes helps them to get noticed and sell more overseas distribution rights and all those other boring business reasons that people go to Cannes.

      On Mon, May 14, 2018 at 11:52 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

      >

      Like

  4. Hey Margaret its also Shiney Ahuja’s birthday today and I know that hes your favorite actor will you be doing a special bday post on him 😀

    Like

    • Oh, you’re mean! Well, I have been thinking about a “me too” related post, it’s too late now for me to pull together something worthy, but that would be the most appropriate birthday present I could think of for Shiney.

      Like

  5. Maybe this already exists and I haven’t seen it yet, but I’d love to see movies with women protagonists in the “going home” mold, especially city sophisticate or NRI going to a small town and grappling with family roles and community expectations. Something along the lines of One True Thing, where the woman has a career and children and has to go back to her parents’ house to assume a caretaking role, without the protections of wealth or privilege. Not Swades-style return to the true homeland, but the kind of story where real dilemma of separation vs. freedom are weighed. Or a Home for the Holidays or Pieces of April, messy multigenerational family stories where everyone is forced to face their own prejudices and no one gets to be right about everything.

    Like

    • Well, if that does exist, it feels like it would most likely exist in the Malayalam industry. Hmm. I’m thinking of several things that have that same feel, without the same specifics. Delhi 6 is a good one, ABCD Abhishek returning to Delhi with his grandmother and getting to know the people of her neighborhood. 2 States also a little bit, Alia as the modern potential daughter-in-law who has to make her peace with her old-fashioned mother-in-law. English Vinglish of course, again not quite the same, but similar idea of multiple generations none of whom are wrong or right. Oh oh!!!!! Aaja Nachle! That comes really close, successful NRI woman returns to her small town and finds her new place in it. Laaga Chunari Main Daag also, sort of. Patiala House, if you only look at Anushka’s storyline. And I am sure there are other things I’m not thinking of.

      Oh, from the Malayalam side, the new movie Mayanadhi comes really close to what you are looking for.

      On Mon, May 14, 2018 at 10:20 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

      >

      Like

        • There’s a Malayalam movie called ‘Molly Aunty Rocks’ which is about a middle aged NRI woman coming back to Kerala for a land deal that takes forever to complete while her husband & kids are in US. She has to stay back, deal with her in-laws(who are warm but don’t like her free spirited ways), inquisitive neighbours, colleagues(she starts working in a bank)who can’t get her point about working efficiently & finally with some income tax officials whom she rubs the wrong way. It’s a super fun movie & one where the lead is a 45 year old woman-something of a rarity in Indian films.

          Like

          • I knew Malayalam film would have something wonderful!

            On Wed, May 16, 2018 at 10:55 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

            >

            Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s