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

Happy Monday! Such an odd week for me, on Wednesday I see Bharat and on Thursday I see Gene Kelly’s widow! Don’t know what she’s gonna talk about or anything, I’m just excited to be in the same room and, like, touch the hem of her garment.

This is the place to bring up any topic at all, Indian cultural questions, film history, gossip about movie stars, or just fun discussion stuff you’d like to bring up like “saris or Salwars or Anarkalis-which is better?”

Now, I have a question for you! A serious one because I am trying to make decisions. I felt like Katrina’s post made Ranbir and Salman come off poorly (because I was being empathetic with Kat), so I want to give them their own 101 posts. Which do you want to read first, Ranbir or Salman? Or is there someone else you want to get the 101 treatment?

Oh, and in honor of me seeing Gene Kelly’s widow, here are a selection of Indian film songs inspired by his movies (Farah and Prabhudeva really have a thing for him):

(homage to The Pirate at 4 minutes)

(homage to Singin’ in the Rain at 3:35

(whole thing is an homage to the Judy Garland song sequence “Get Happy” from Summer Stock, choreographed by Gene Kelly and his frequent partner/wife-swapping friend Stanley Donen)

(again, whole thing is an homage to “Love is Here to Stay” from An American in Paris)

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

  1. Just a quick “hello”, Margaret…and a thank you for all your busy & interesting writing.
    Would like a 101 on Salman (you already did one on the Kapoor’s, right?)…I wonder what would have happened with Salman without the influence of his father…in the industry and on his personal life.

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    • Hello back! And that’s one vote for Salman, I’ll keep it in mind.

      On Mon, Jun 3, 2019 at 6:50 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  2. I’ve got another topic. I read an article over the weekend by Baradwaj Rangan on the “…WHY Question in Mainstream Cinema.” I found it interesting, even though the specific films he talks about are South Indian films and I haven’t yet indulged in that cinema–only so many hours in a day, and all that! I was wondering if you’d seen it and and what you might think about it. I don’t want to summarize it here but I think his main point is that mainstream cinema can’t leave too much for the audience to fill in in terms of plot and motivations of characters. Here’s a link: https://www.filmcompanion.in/ngk-ccv-kaatru-veliyidai-and-the-why-question-in-mainstream-cinema-baradwaj-rangan/

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    • That is super interesting! I’ve seen all the Ratnam movies he mentions, and Kaatru Velidiyai in particular is an interesting one. Without paying attention to the unspoken parts, you can read it as a straight romance, while to me (and to Bardwaj), it reads as a doomed unhealthy relationship.

      Anyway, translating it to Hindi, it makes me think about why JHMS worked really well for a few people, and why Zero kind of worked for a few people but not as well. JHMS was using the filmic language that told us to pay attention and read between the lines, and if you put in that work, it all made sense. Zero on the other hand was a little more wishy-washy, some things were clear and explained, some were left open to interpretation, it was confusing for the audience as to how we were supposed to watch the movie. Sometimes the characters are truly and sincerely saying their real feelings, sometimes they are lying to themselves and the audience.

      On Mon, Jun 3, 2019 at 7:31 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • But isn’t that the same in life, Margaret (what you wrote about Zero)? If one takes a movie as a story told about people and their relation between one another, it is exactly that: the “truly and sincerely saying” part and the “lying to themselves” and others. What I found the most interesting in Zero were the three layers involved…I think, FAN and Zero are the most complex movies ShahRukh ever starred in / made (followed by JHMS and Asoka)…and he chose directors who shared his visions and were able to translate them on screen (with the help of RedChillies VFX departement’s fabulous work where needed). They were like tiffin boxes…to enjoy those movies you have to be aware of what you get served in the parts below the first box (and hopefully enjoy that).

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        • Maybe it’s the combination in Zero of the magical realism and the realistic personalities? Shahrukh says that Anushka will stop him from going to the moon, declares she will love him again, all these big sweeping confident statements. In the same film in which they have those difficult real conversations where both of them are lying to each other and themselves. Versus in JHMS, when Imtiaz decided to consciously avoid the dramatic statements even when they would make sense. Remember when Shahrukh decides to go to Anushka’s wedding? He says he doesn’t know what he will say, or what will happen. In a different movie he would declare “no matter what, I shall take her home with me!” But JHMS isn’t about the big declarations and speeches to the camera, it’s about the real things people say.

          On Mon, Jun 3, 2019 at 11:27 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • Yeah, because Harry is a character much more real than Bauua…Bauua truly is a reel character (which was shown in the theatre version in the first scene already…and partly taken away in the Netflix and Chinese one (both, imo, made to counter the critic and bashing of Anushka’s character).
            The different versions giving a different tone to the movie reminded me of HNY and the focus on the reel story versus a possible focus on a more real version with the other introducing scene.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Oh yes! I forgot about the HNY opening scene. That is such a good comparison with Zero, especially since both scenes were clearly designed to drive the audience into the theaters rather than serving the story and characters.

            On Mon, Jun 3, 2019 at 12:12 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • I perceive FAN and Zero as parables told to refer to things independent of the characters in the movie. In the contrary, JHMS and Asoka are elaborated character studies of the respective persons whose evolving one follows during the movie.
            Bauua’s and Aasia’s and Babita’s character doesn’t evolve, they already have everything in them…it’s only the choice on what to focus will change.

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        • One reason I love Mere Naam Tu so much, is the way it changes meaning throughout the film, and again on repeat viewings. The first time we watch Zero, we think Bauua means it, but then it turns out he doesn’t, and we feel hurt along with Aafia. But then when we watch it again, we realize he actually does mean it, but he doesn’t know it when he sings it. And both possibilities beautifully subvert Shah Rukh’s identity as the “King of Romance”.

          Someday it would be great if the DCIB community could get together and have a 2 day film fest. Day 1 would be constructing the Shah Rukh loverboy image, and Day 2 would be deconstructing it. For Day 2, as others have pointed out, I’d pick FAN, JHMS, and Zero as Shah Rukh’s and his directors’ deliberate undoing of Shah Rukh the loverboy. Which 3 movies would we pick for Day 1? I’d suggest Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa, DDLJ, and K3G. Mostly because I really hope never to have to watch KKHH or Mohabbatein ever again in my life–outside of the songs and the gazebo scene.

          Liked by 2 people

          • I’ll let you in on a secret behind the curtain, there are now 4 regular commentators in the greater DC area. I am super tempted to do a silly trip out there just for a meet-up.

            Also, I’m stealing this idea for a discussion post!

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  3. I of course also thought of JHMS as I read it, and I interpret the reactions to it it just as you do. I remember even thinking on one of my many early viewings of it, is it fair to ask the audience to understand Harry’s or Sejal’s motivations, and their upbringing without more context? So many comments I saw about it wrote off Sejal as simply being a brat. Was it “fair” of Imtiaz to leave so much up to us to fill in about her family, background, etc.? It also made me wonder about Hollywood films, and whether the same differences apply to mainstream and “independent” or “artistic” films. Or are there differences in the audiences and their expectations?

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    • I would say there are differences. The Hindi film style is much more reliant on clearly explained motivations, even direct speeches to the camera, in a way that Hollywood films are not. In Hollywood, we always have the “best friend” character, right? The one that the hero and heroine talk to and reveal their inner motivations. It’s not breaking the fourth wall as directly as Indian film does, but it still gives us a hint as to what they are thinking. Can you imagine trying to follow the plot of When Harry Met Sally without the Carrie Fisher character? And then there’s always the voice overs when that isn’t enough.

      I would say it was fair of Imtiaz because, using Bardwaj’s argument and language, JHMS had a film “grammar” that told us how to watch it. there was an internal consistancy. The audience didn’t have to watch it like that, may have resented putting in the work, but it would have been an entirely different film if it wasn’t made in that way. It would have been Zero, wanting to be a character study but with these blunt speeches and voice overs and dramatic moments shoved in.

      On Mon, Jun 3, 2019 at 8:17 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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    • Strangely I never felt the need to ask a “why” in JHMS. Everything I needed to know was either shown or said.
      Already in her first scene, Sejal came across as haughty & insecure at the same time…not a good combination for the self-worth of a person. And through the introduction of Harry and the song Safar I got to know the dichotomy in this character due to a troubling event in his past and his job. I don’t need to know more to follow their way of learning to evolve into a person they can agree to being.

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  4. Agreed, I wouldn’t have wanted JHMS any other way. It wouldn’t have worked with up front explanations.

    And you’re right about thebdifferent “grammar” of Hollywood films.

    Glad you liked the article!

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    • I always like Bardwaj’s stuff! To the point that I save it out, like keeping a little bit of dessert until last, because it makes everything else seem flavorless.

      On Mon, Jun 3, 2019 at 9:33 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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    • Oh oh, you don’t know the Gene Kelly story? So, he’s a child prodigy once in a life time talent, by the time he is a teenager he is running his own dance studio in his home town of Philadelphia. A little girl from the neighborhood takes classes with him, gets a massive crush. He is too talented for Philly though, goes to New York. becomes a massive success and marries a girl from the chorus, Betsy Blair. She is also a talented dancer and even more talented as an actress. They have a daughter, stay in New York, and then Gene gets his Hollywood contract and moves out to LA. He is friends with Stanley Donen, brilliant choreographer who really “gets” what Gene is trying to do, they’ve known each other since Donen was just a boy in the chorus in New York, Gene handpicked him to help choreograph some of his Broadway stuff. And coincidentally, Stanley Donen is now married to that little girl from Philadelphia, Jeanne Coyne, who went on to her own Broadway career and now works as her husband’s assistant/dancing partner. For years, during the most creative and brilliant period of their career, Stanley was silently in love with Betsy Blair and Jeanne was silently in love with Gene Kelly. It all imploded, finally, when they were making It’s Always Fair Weather (darkest musical EVER, supposed to be bright and happy but somehow leaves you just wanting to die at the end of it). Betsy Blair divorced Gene and Stanley divorced Jeanne, she and Gene moved in together right away and got married a few years later. Gene’s quote on the whole thing “Jeannie’s marriage to Stanley was doomed from the start. Because every time Stanley looked at Jeannie, he saw Betsy, whom he loved; and every time Jeannie looked at Stanley, I guess she saw me. One way or another it was all pretty incestuous.”

      On Mon, Jun 3, 2019 at 10:46 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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    • Not much to say, started out as a semi-noticed actress, had a scandalous illegitimate daughter with a West Indian cricket player, struggled to regain her career, came back in a late career resurgence. Daughter is now a successful designer and friend of celebrities, Neena has returned to respectability. Choli Ke Peeche, Cotton Mary, Veer, Badhai Ho. Done!

      On Mon, Jun 3, 2019 at 10:51 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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