Wednesday Watching Post: What Are You Reading and Watching and Thinking and Listening to on Hema Malini’s Birthday Week?

Happy Wednesday! I’m not actually doing much for Hemaji this week, but I like keeping her ever present in our minds.

I’ll start!

Reading: I’ve started alternating between Thirkell (soothing stories of English village life and romance), and Terry Pratchett’s Vimes books (cynical action packed stories of a fantasy version of London). You would think they wouldn’t go together, but they are a nice balance, and I know picture London when Thirkell’s characters mention it as exactly like Vimes Ankh-Morpakh.

Watching: Showed my parents Cargo on Sunday, they couldn’t understand it either. Last night my Mom had us watch Late Night, which I might write a thing about because I found it interesting and it has a desi maker/star. Oh, and we’ve been watching a lot of The Yorkshire Vet, on Prime, which is a reality show based on All Creatures Great and Small. So, you just watch some rural vets go about their day with calving and dogs who need eye surgery and so on.

Thinking: Today’s the day I leave my parents and go back to my place, and then come back again on Sunday night. It’s so exciting! I always feel like it’s the start of the weekend somehow. And my parents are always nicely depressed to see me go, which makes me feel good.

Listening: I wrote a brand new full review of Don yesterday and no one read it, but it did get me thinking about the soundtrack. SO GOOD!!!!

Question for you: It’s Mira Nair’s birthday tomorrow, and I just watched a Mindy Kaling movie last night, so here’s my question: What is your favorite not-Indian Indian film/TV Show? Meaning, movies like Monsoon Wedding, The Namesake, Bend it Like Beckham, anything Mindy Kaling? Not produced out of the Bombay industry, but about desi characters.

Loins of Punjab! All the way. I know it’s not as technically good maybe as Monsoon Wedding, and not as tightly written as Bend it Like Beckham, but I just love it so much. Such a sweet film.

34 thoughts on “Wednesday Watching Post: What Are You Reading and Watching and Thinking and Listening to on Hema Malini’s Birthday Week?

  1. I really enjoyed The Wedding Guest, that’s really the only non-Indian thing I can think of.

    I watched Ginny and Sunny because I wanted something light after a week of nothing but silent films and I HAAAAAAATED it. Vikrant Massey really is the new Shashi Kapoor, because like with many 60s Shashi Kapoor movies, you think you’re going to get something sugary and stupid, and instead it’s regressive and nasty. His character is pushy in a way that gives me murderous rage and there is a way to make lying/manipulating/conspiring someone into loving you okay, but not only does that not happen, everyone dumps on the heroine for getting angry at him for it. Also, his hair was terrible (you wouldn’t get that in a Shashi Kapoor movie).

    I’m going to need to get spoiled for every modern movie, because I WILL NOT watch another recent thing where the moral is “women just need to go what their parents/(future) husbands tell them to do because it’s just better for them”. The silent films I’ve been watching were more progressive, and most of them were over 100 years old.


  2. Thinking about Gangubai Kathiawadi.The cast has a number of actors with impressive acting.Not just Alia,but even the rest of the cast is very young,in their 20s.Part of me is optimistic that it could be more on the lines of Malaal than rest of Bhansali(was Malaal a test drive in a way?).The scriptwriters are well versed in gritty stuff not melodrama,even the promotion of the film is more in line with rustic gangster style rather than “we are building a massive set with a squillion diyas.”There is nothing with the film that Bhansali is notorious for.Romance also doesn’t seem like an option in a film about exploitation of prostitutes.Maybe finally a film by Bhansali that I can like since the past decade was obnoxious?
    I don’t know if it bothered anyone else,but there is not a single actor in the ensemble of Takht.Not even actors who can “act” Muslim(like Aditi,Richa,Jim Sarbh,Manoj Bajpayee,Tripti Dimri,Madhuri,or even Vidya)but very Punjabi actors(Kapoors,Kaushal,Singh)with a very different persona.Not saying that they are not elegant,but their body language is very wide,carefree and the dialogue delivery is very Hinglish.Especially Anil and Kareena(her dialogue delivery is just not right for Urdu,and it failed in some previous films of her).The shooting was supposed to start this year and they obviously didn’t take any diction classes,and their previous works takes my hopes down in an abyss.Vicky will probably work with soft dialogues,but Ranveer didn’t excite me with his previous attempts at Persian accent.Mughal courts were very much about court etiquette,and feminine(from a 21st century perspective)elegance for everyone,including men.Like 18th century France-men adorned in lace and embroidery and heeled buckle shoes-that was their way of showing authority.The cast just doesn’t have that.I am not saying that all Muslims would ace that-Salman would be a disaster for that elegant composure.But they could have tried harder with the casting.
    Another thing I find weird is a lack of young Muslim actors.I am not saying there is discrimination but that it is weird because there are Muslim scriptwriters,lyricists,dialogue writers,choreographers,editors,cinematographers,stunt directors etc.And there are a LOT of brilliant Muslim actors in theatre and soap operas.As leads,supporting casts,recurring casts,public figures with dedicated fan-following.But the ones from theatre backgrounds(Nawaz,Ali Fazl and Irrfan)obviously take a backseat from the mainstream stuff which is understandable.Maybe like a lot of film actors right now started from TV background,there can be a passing-the-baton with more Muslim actors right now in TV entering the mainstream films in near future.


    • For a while I started doing a “Are there any Muslims?” watch on films. Especially those like Takht where it is such an integral part of the plot and makes the lack of Muslims stand out even more. Obviously it’s not the fault of the producers or anyone in particular, it is a reflection of the dangers of modern Indian filmmaking. A film like Takht is going to garner protests and violence no matter what, adding a Muslim actor to the mix would just make it worse and perhaps stop release entirely. And it is a reflection of the daily micro-aggressions, as you say, a lot of Muslim actors come up through TV and so on. That means they have to be offered those TV roles before they are offered the film roles. Or modeling jobs or whatever. And even those lessor jobs are not going to Muslims any more, meaning they never reach the point where they can come up for a film job. “Nepotism” (ooooo, evil!!!!) was the natural defense of the Hindi film industry against social prejudice, once one minority got in, they would make sure to help their fellow minorities. That’s obviously a big part of why “nepotism” is now bad, it’s a way to prevent existing minorities in the film industry from helping others and make sure all new actors are clean pure Hindus.

      Anyway, Takht I am not so worried about because the announced dialogue writer is AMAZING!!! And writes in “Hindustani”, that Urdu/Hindi mix kind of language. So if the plan is for slightly modernized but still different sounding dialogue, written by an actual for real poet, I think it will be fine.

      On Wed, Oct 14, 2020 at 11:40 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:



      • I am always up for such dialogue writers,but it irks that the delivery of dialogues can be disastrous.
        And weirdly,Muslims in TV industry are flourishing.It seems like a compromise-lots of Punjabi and Delhi actors (not even from other specific states,but these particular regions that have emerged as centres of entertainment and communication industries)in Bollywood(Kapoor,Kaushal,Singh,Sadh,Shorey,Kumar,Khurrana,Massey,Sippy,Dhawan,Mehrotra,Malhotra,Gupta,Bahl,Khanna and similar surnames)and Muslims in creative teams and the TV industry(with the advent of social media in India in Jio,TV industry has really grown in terms of popularity,revenue,public influence etc).I don’t think it will be right to say that only Muslims should play Muslims,but the quality of performance in some specific roles can suffer.In that regard,I bow to to the hard work of Amitabh Bachhan whose enunciation in Lucknow’s Urdu-esque Hindi was chef’s kiss.I rewinded his scenes to find faults,but he was gosh darn flawless and put his emotions in every word.I don’t think anyone impressed me like that in recent times.


        • Dialogue training is something that seems to have really fallen by the wayside in general. When I look at the early big stars, like 1950s early, they tended to be from Urdu speaking regions partly because in order to be a Hindi movie star, you were expected to have beautiful dialogue delivery. Not just slangy Bombay Hindi, but really high quietly poetic ability to deliver dialogue. Dilip Kumar used to rehearse for scenes by saying his lines in Hindi, Urdu, and English, translating on the fly, in order to feel like he fully grasped the meaning of every word before he delivered them. Shahrukh Khan has the same ability, I can’t speak to accent and dialect, but even I can hear the way he delivers a monologue, hitting each word just right. But then you have actors like Alia Bhatt who just sort of races and slurs through what she is saying, it’s not the same at all. I can’t think of a new young actor who has that sort of trained dialogue delivery ability and ear for accent. Hrithik is the youngest I can think of, and that was kind of an unintentional side effect of his speech impediment, that he delivers dialogue so carefully and perfectly.

          On Wed, Oct 14, 2020 at 12:31 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:



    • A tragic prostitute romance seems 150% Bhansali, though. It’s weird because sometimes he’s so much about extravagance and weird gender things, sometimes he gets super into making men seem manly for modern eyes. Did another trailer come out or something?


      • Alia had started shooting,rest are on board since last week.
        Gangubai is not a tragic prostitute-a Haji Mastan level of powerful gangster and brothel manager.Her life was devoid of love and full of murders.I didn’t clarify it,the Hussain Zaini novel it is adapted from is a slightly contemporary 1960s crime gangster novel,an excellent read.And set in the alleys of Mumbai-the Agneepath type setting,not historical tawaif of North India(which will be a signal for me not to watch Bhansali even through piracy,thankfully GK doesn’t have scope for it.And no love interest was named,a relief).


          • And a suicide! Don’t forget an artistic glorified suicide.

            On Wed, Oct 14, 2020 at 12:22 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:



          • Fun fact-she didn’t die.Wasn’t even arrested.She owned race cars and even met Jawaharlal Nehru.Maybe more like showing Alia choosing money over love.Besides,Bhansali killing off Deepika each time was frustrating,I doubt Alia would even sign such a role after Kalank.
            The novel(precisely,a super detailed chapter)ends with an ambiguous “so now,this woman is powerful”tone.


  3. Reading: The Sign of the Four

    Watching: Panchayat, first time. Really liking it.

    Listening: Some nice music

    Thinking: Why people wish to slot Sherlock Holmes into a particular sexuality when the man claims to be aromantic and quite away from the notions of love and romance. Is it because we are unable to handle the ambiguousness or a tendency to justify/normalise this impossible human? Wish to know yourand other commentators thoughts on this.


    • I know just what you mean about Holmes! I think part of it is also this need to add sex to older fictional stories, like say they were lying and just pretending to be like that, really the past was a sea of sexuality.

      I think Holmes was a gentleman, in the best sense. He would not approach a lady romantically without intending marriage, and he did not want to be married, so he never considered approaching a lady romantically. That doesn’t necessarily mean he was gay or even asexual, it just means the other parts of his life had a greater appeal for him than marriage would. Unlike Watson, who was very happy living with Holmes, but easily ready to give it up for marriage. And along those same lines, I think any need to put a label on the Watson-Holmes relationship beyond “friendship” is sort sighted. At the time, close male friendships and house sharing was common, you couldn’t get married unless you had a certain amount of stability, so men and women formed pseudo households together with two incomes to create the feeling of family. My feeling is not so much that they were all gay households, but more that there were so many non-gay ones they provided a handy cover for the gay ones. Again, we are judging by modern eyes, were two grown men setting up a household together means something different.


  4. I’ve mentioned Nina’s Heavenly Delights before: a cheap lesbian rom-com about Desis with Scottish accents entering a curry competition, and featuring a gay Bollywood dance troupe. Yeah!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Watching: this weekend was The Queen of Spain, on Prime, kind of randomly after having it in the queue for a while. It’s an odd duck, but I mention it because it feels like one that some here might like. I don’t know the story behind it, but it’s a Spanish director and starring a lot of big Spanish actors (Penelope Cruz, Antonio Resines, Javier Cámara, Ana Belén), and ALSO somehow Mandy Patinkin and Cary Elwes, feeling just a tiny bit like a Princess Bride reunion. Mandy is a blacklisted Hollywood screenwriter in Spain because he got a job on a co-produced historical based on Ferdinand and Isabel, directed by a big shot John Ford-type director on his last legs, and financed by the Franco regime. Cary is the American star playing Ferdinand to Penelope Cruz’s Isabel. Cruz is a Spanish actress turned Hollywood star. Antonio Resines, former star director, returns after having been believed dead for ten years because he was taken prisoner during the Spanish Civil War. He shows up on set, hijinks ensue SPOILERS after he’s taken prisoner again by the Spanish authorities and the ragged troupe of film folks band together to rescue him. Nothing terrible happens and the ending is more or less happy. END SPOILERS It’s not a perfect film, and particularly I had an issue with some of the scenes featuring gay characters, but the mix of history and Hollywood and showing what a 50s era film set looked like, plus playing with the same techniques they used in the story and direction…like I said, an odd duck but might be worthwhile if you’re looking for something escapist and different.

    And I finally watched Haider. Getting to movies on my list for a long time because there is nothing new that seems tempting and I’m starving for good things to watch. Which always feels odd in a world of a billion streaming options. And then went back to bits of Zindagi Gulzar Hai to lighten things up before bed. Anyway, Tabu was as great as I expected, Shahid was a bit better than I expected, the story was way different and pared down. Shraddha was a surprise, I liked her, actually more than Kate Winslet maybe (no one holds a candle to Helena Bonham Carter).

    For your question, sticking with Bend It Like Beckham, just love that movie.


    • Queen of Spain does sound exactly like the sort of thing people here would enjoy! Thanks for the rec.

      I still haven’t seen Haider, so grateful for your report. I would have expected Shahid and Tabu to be great, but surprised to hear that Shraddha did a good job too. Good for her!

      And of course, Bend it Like Beckham is timeless.

      On Wed, Oct 14, 2020 at 11:22 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:



  6. Are you planning to watch Putham Pudhu Kaalai? One of the shorts stories is directed by GVM, the other by Rajiv Menon. I’m not a fan of anthology films, but this one looks tempting.


  7. Bhanu Athaiyya,an eminent costume designer passed away on 15th October.She had worked in Lamhe,Gandhi,Amrapali,Sahib bibi aur Ghulam,Lagaan and famously,Mumtaz’s orange saree from Brahmachari.Unfortunate that news channels clouted the demise of such an esteemed personality with their cacophony.


    • Yeah, I saw a headline “India’s first Oscar winner” and knew it must be her.

      On Sat, Oct 17, 2020 at 12:59 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:



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