So many videos while I was gone! Oh well, I will try to catch up with them all now, plus 5 Weddings because filmilibrarian asked for it.
Dhadak is the big news today, just came out, all the celebs are tweeting compliments about it and so on and Karan is re-tweeting them. Before I say what I think, I will just let you watch it for yourself.
I still haven’t seen the original Sairat, so I am not as qualified to discuss this as those of you who have seen it. But from what I understand, the power of Sairat was how everyday it was. Everyday love between two average kids is still magical. And them being separated is still tragic. It doesn’t have to be perfect and beautiful and like a movie to make us care. And it was also a reminder that this isn’t a perfect beautiful romantic movie problem, this is an every day problem. 10,000 honor killings a year in India (according to NGO estimates). A boy and girl falling in love across caste lines and being forbidden from seeing each other isn’t just a thing from movies.
But this trailer makes it feel like a movie just a little more. The most powerful moments, to me, are the ones that don’t feel like a movie, the way Ishaan’s voice cracks when he sings, the shy way they exchange Holi powder, like that. But Jhanvi’s perfect pale skin and flowing hair, the big dramatic pronouncements, even the big songs, that kind of kills it.
The other thing that occurs to me is that Shashank Khaitan really has a familiar way of handling a romance. Which is okay, according to auteur theory it is even good. But it feels wrong here. This isn’t Varun and Alia, this is another pair of actors, the boy shouldn’t have to play a stubborn and strong on the inside but slow thinking charmer and the girl shouldn’t have to play almost too clever for her own good and confident and flirty. And this isn’t that kind of story either, this should be a story about two real average people who fall in love, not a sparkling beautiful rich girl and the noble brave poor boy who wins her over.
On the other hand, both the leads seem to be doing a decent job, Ishaan more than Jhanvi just based on what we see here. And it’s been a while since we had an out and out young romance. And the trailer hints at least one big song sequence. So that’s all good, it probably won’t be torture to watch it.
Now, Sanju!!!! Two songs came out, and I have two very different problems with both of them. And also things I like.
First the young love song. I like that it shows Sanju/Ranbir’s charm, why people would be friends with him. And I like that it presents Sonam/Tina as a sweet innocent young woman in love. I do NOT like that it feels as though Sanju’s charm is lost in Ranbir’s charm somehow. I had to really struggle to see the Sanju in this performance instead of the Ranbir.
Next song! The rehab and recovery song. I like how it shows Nargis as part of his journey, the way it shows his family just patiently enduring and waiting for him to save himself. I do NOT like the way it changes Sanjay’s story. Unless there is something I missed in all the research I did, he never lived on the streets, not like this. He got high in Bombay and was brought home days later when his family didn’t even know where he was. And later he was in rehab in America. But he didn’t wander the streets of the world begging for food. It makes me very nervous because I don’t want the story to be Sanjay’s sufferings of homelessness etc. as an addict, both because that minimizes Sanjay’s real sufferings that did not happen to involve homelessness and because it insults actual homeless people. And I really really don’t want them to pretend you can recover just by trying really really hard and having visions of your dead mother, without getting into rehab too. Heck, Sanjay himself knows that! He is trying to open rehab centers in India for exactly this reason. I kept waiting in this song for the scene in a group therapy session, or talking to an addiction counselor, or anything like that, and NOPE.
Okay, now 5 Weddings! Filmilibrarian is right, it is super cute. Mostly because Rajkummar Rao is just scrumptious. And it is an interesting general concept, ABCD reporter Nargis is sent to do a story on Indian weddings because India is “hot” right now. She is assigned a police escort, cute cute Rajkummar. And then finds her real story, the Hijra’s who come to the weddings. But it causes issues between her and Rajkummar just as she is getting the story.
Some of it feels perfectly specific to me. The way Nargis is wearing the wrong clothes to the wedding because she borrowed from her hippy mother, that is perfect. And the way she pushes for the Punjabi word for “reception” which is completely puzzling because there isn’t one, perfect! Essentially the conflict between the outsider American view of India, the ABCD struggle to fit in and understand, and the reality that India (like anywhere else in the world) moves on and changes constantly and there is no one way of being.
But then other parts just don’t work. Nargis, for instance, acts no better in English than she does in Hindi. So I guess it isn’t just a language barrier. She was slightly better in the scenes with Rajkummar, but I think that is just because he makes everyone better. I would have really loved to see Hannah Simone from New Girl in this role, or Mindy Kaling (although it’s kind of beneath her) or any other of the American born desis who must be capable of handling this sort of performance better than Nargis.
I am also kind of “over” Hijras. I mean, they’ve been known about in the West at least since I was in college when we studied them as one of the alternate genders specific to various cultures. And it feels kind of oddly tone-deaf for even an American desi not to know about them, I mean, I’ve been told that they show up at weddings in the American suburbs just like they do in India. Not told by journalists and so on, but by people who were at American weddings in the suburbs and were irritated because they had to have money ready to pay off the Hijras. It feels like there was a strong idea of the ABCD journalist struggling in India to use her “heritage” because her ignorant editor thinks it will help, and of the romance with patient Rajkumar, and then for the plot to move forward they had to throw in something substantive and picked on the Hijra story. If you need a plot device at that point to give her a “real” story, then dowry demands, or wedding gauging (caterers charging higher prices and then bringing cheaper food, something like that), or a look at shaadi.com and others and the new era of arranged marriages would all be a little fresher. And still let her find a fresh take and prove herself as a person of substance, and drive a wedge between her and Rajkummar.