Ramesh Sippy Week: Seeta Aur Geeta Recasting/Rewriting Ideas for Modern Times! (Plus Bonus Andaz with DipVeer!)

Seeta Aur Geeta is the only Sippy film that can really be remade. Remaking Sholay is obviously impossible, and the other films fall into that fuzzy area where they are fun for what they are, and all the little character beats and stuff, but if you try to recreate it, it would all fly away and nothing special would be left. Like, I love Zamaana-Deewana, but remove the orgasm song, and Anupam Kher’s drag scene, and all you’ve got is a really weird plot about boring young lovers.

Continue reading

Ramesh Sippy Week: Seeta Aur Geeta, A Film So Memorable I Didn’t Bother Rewatching It!

This may have been a mistake. I’ve seen this movie 3 times at least, and I did a quick fastforward last night, but I didn’t rewatch it straight through. Usually no one cares/remembers enough to correct me when I make mistakes in this situation, but it’s Seeta Aur Geeta, so I have a sinking feeling that my ignorance will be apparent to many many people. Oh well, forgive me! And correct me! And understand why I am speaking in general terms about the plot instead of saying “the first time so-and-so meets such-and-such, they say…”

Continue reading

Ten Indian Films to Start Feminist Discussions!

This is NOT “Ten Feminist Films”, because that’s a wee bit subjective.  And it’s also NOT “Top Ten”, because that’s a way bit subjective.  Instead, these are just ten films that bring up interesting discussions around gender.  If you ever want to have a real downer of a movie night, you can show these and then make people discuss.  Feel free to add on your own options both for films and discussion questions in the comments!!

Continue reading

Sridevi Daily Review: Chaalbaaz! Seeta Aur Geeta, But Stronger

This is the last Sridevi daily review.  Not the last review, I am sure I will continue watching her movies, but the last special review.  As I said in my earlier post, I don’t want to feel that I am dragging this out, that her death is over-shadowing her life, and so it’s time to move back to a regular blog schedule.  But first, ChaalBaaz!

Continue reading

Hindi Film 101: Top Hits of Indian Box Office Part 3, 1971-1985

Now, FINALLY, we reach the films people know!  Which is a story in itself, the way films were ignored and forgotten during the early years, even TV only plays stuff from after 1970, let alone being able to find it streaming or on DVD or VHS.  But, setting that aside for a moment, let’s look at these new “modern” films. (part 1 here and part 2 here)

Continue reading

Zamaana-Deewana: Another Movie Only I like

So, I just put Zamaana-Deewana on my Christmas list.  I already own it (of course, I own all Shahrukh movies.  Yes, even Maya Memsaab), but I need another back-up copy for when my current copy wears out.  To which the response I got from my family was “You wore out a copy of ZAMAANA-DEEWANA?!?!?”

See, most people don’t appreciate the brilliance of this film.  If you look at it as a straight up 90s rom-com-action-family-gangster film, it’s got a super super sexy song:

and cute baby-faced Shahrukh:

(even cuter in Spanish!)

and an awesome Anupum Kehr drag number:

but otherwise it is nothing special.

But, if you look at in context of the director’s career, it is fascinating!

So, Zamaana-Deewana is the last film directed by Ramesh Sippy, director of Sholay.  Poor Ramesh Sippy, at age 28 he made not just his greatest film, but the greatest film in the history of Indian film.  Where do you go from there?  Where he went was a long descent into irrelevance, fighting it every step of the way.

To back up a moment, let’s talk about Ramesh Sippy’s childhood (if I’ve learned anything from Indian movies, it’s that all the important motivations happen in the childhood flashback).  Sippy’s Dad, G.P. Sippy was one of the first, and the few, businessman producers.  Because of the legal difficulties with making films in India (censorship, lack of industrial status prior to 1999, constant threat of civil cases against you, the mob’s protection racket, etc. etc.), most producers are also directors (or actors or writers) who get into the business for the love of film rather than simply to make money.

GP Sippy not only got into film to make money, he was really good at it!  He started funding films back in the 1950s, and by the 1960s was one of the leading producers in the industry.  Eventually, he did get into directing, but it was more from a standpoint of saving a buck and doing it himself than a deep artistic calling.

Ramesh grew up on filmsets, acting where a bit player was needed, watching his father fight with writers and directors until he got the most profitable possible version, making nice with the stars and star composers, learning all that goes into a film.

And then when he was 23, his father gifted him a film, Andaz.  It looked like the first financial miss-step of GP Sippy’s producing career-who would let their 23 year old kid direct the two biggest male stars of the day (Shammi Kapoor and Rajesh Khanna) with a recent arrival from the southern industries (Hema Malini), and a plot about widow re-marriage?

And then of course it turned into a huge hit.  Shammi gave a totally out of character performance as a sad widower, Rajesh Khanna was riding high on a string of hits and even his glorified cameo appearance gave a boost to the box office, and Hemaji was Hemaji.

This first film was notable for several reasons; the way Ramesh juggled the star cast, the slightly radical societal message, the strong female characters.  Ramesh doubled down (literally!) on the strong female characters with his next, Seeta Aur Geeta in which Hema Malini plays identical twins with very different personalities.

He also upped the star cast, having Hema be romanced by both Sanjeev Kumar and Dharmendra (side-note: this was also the beginning of Hema’s real life love triangle between the two men, although watching the film kind of spoils how it will end, as she has crazy chemistry with one of them and not so much with the other).  The film was a huge hit, especially internationally.  There is a good chance, if you grew up in the USSR during the 1980s, you saw this movie.

Most importantly, Seeta Aur Geeta confirmed the partnership between Sippy and the scriptwriters Salim-Javed.  They had worked on Andaz as well, but it was with Seeta Aud Geeta that they proved their brilliance to the Sippy father and son.

The Sippy’s put their faith in Salim-Javed and paid them to start working on their magnum-opus, a film about two crooks who go to save a village from bandits.  And thus was born Sholay.

We all know what happened when Sholay came out.  Slow start, followed by massive success, ran for 5 years, defined the careers of all who worked in it, Hema Malini married Dharmendra, etc. etc.

But what happened to Ramesh afterwords?  Well, eventually, he had to go back to work and try to make something that could compete with his own brilliance.  His next film, Shaan, was basically Sholay, but bigger!  Two more loafers with hearts of gold, another big bad villain, another noble cop.  Only this time, the villain has a remote Island hide-out, and the end fight scene involves helicopters!  And, explosions!

(I have no idea what language those subtitles are in) (Update: Romanian!  Thank you Anna!)

Basically, he was attempting to imitate his own imitators, who had taken the success of Sholay and only seen in it an epic action film, not an action film with multiple strong social messages, brilliant characterizations, perfect casting, and really, perfect everything.

So, Shaan didn’t work the way he hoped, his next film, he leaned heavily into the social message side of Sholay.  And the amazing acting/casting side, as he managed to get Amitabh Bachchan acting against Dilip Kumar (by the way, happy day after your birthday, Dilipsaab!).  Great script concept, a noble cop who fights for justice inside the law must confront his own son who fights for justice outside of it, lots of nice twists, some clever call backs to the 1950s classic Awara, it all looks great.

And it is great!  Shakti is an evergreen classic.  But it was no Sholay.  Failed to set the box office on fire, failed to truly win the hearts and minds of the Indian public.

So what’s left for Ramesh to try, as he fights his way down to the bottom?  Well, there’s always sex!  Saagar, his next, still has that Sippy touch with the casting.  He got Dimple Kapadia in her comeback film, which reunited her with her Bobby caste-mate Rishi Kapoor.  And southern genius Kamal Haasan in one of his few Hindi roles.  But it is mostly remembered because Dimple has a brief topless scene.  It was the mid-80s, after a decade of post-Sholay action movies, the audience was mostly made up of teenage boys, and that’s what they wanted.

And then there was Zameen, which hardly made a blip on the film scene (even wikipedia doesn’t have an entry for it), and marked one of the few entries of southern star Rajnikanth in Hindi cinema.  The 80s were the era of southern films, as audience turned increasingly to their raunch and action and excess (similar to how they do now), and Sippy tried to live with that.  His next film starred Mithun Chakroborty, another southern import.

And then he reached a turning point.  Much like one of his own heroes, he shook his fist to the sky and swore he would stop living this life of lies!  Or at least, that’s how I picture it.  His next film, Akayla, not only starred Amitabh, it was written by Salim-Javed and revolved around twins.  It even has a reference to Seeta Aur Geeta built into it!  Anyway, this last desperate attempt to reclaim his destiny failed horribly, both critically and at the box office.

(yes, that is Amrita Singh, Saif Ali Khan’s first wife)

And then, finally, 4 years later, we have Zamaana-Deewana.  Think of Thakur Sahib patiently watching Ramlaal pound the nails into his shoes.  He is methodically and outwardly calm, but inside he is on fire! He wants to destroy, piece by piece, that which took his dreams from him.  This is how I picture Ramesh approaching his first 1990s Rom-Com.

So, it opens with a meeting of the police department as they struggle to deal with the gang war going on in their city.  A classic set-up for a 70s film exploring the connections between order and disorder, crime and criminals.  But it is interrupted!  By Anupum Kehr, wacky top-cop, who’s solution for this crime spree is simple: A Love Story!!!

Which leads directly into a 20 minute sequence of Shahrukh Khan and Raveena Tandon falling into picture perfect, saccharine sweet, love.  If you watch it straight, it is kind of boring and by the numbers love song.

But it isn’t not straight at all.  After it is over, Anupum Kehr admits that it was all his fantasy of how young people will behave and he is promptly shouted down by others, because of course that is a ridiculous fantasy.

To see what Ramesh is getting, compare this:

With this:

Or this:

 

That is some epic shade, right there!  I mean, I love Maine Pyar Kiya and QSQT, but they really do have the most ridiculously sweet and innocent characters.  I can see Ramesh Sippy, with his complex character with adult problems, like widow remarriage or violent criminals or the divide between law and justice, just spitting on these puppy-eyed twerps taking over his films.

His point just becomes clearer once we are actually introduced to our hero and heroine as they really are, not as they are imagined.  The 90s directors saw Indian youth as pure and innocent, blank slates for emotions, or to put it another way, stupid. Sippy sees them as crazy conmen, full of energy, power, and no direction.  Remember, this is our hero:

(still cute in Greek and German!)

The film really peaks in the first half hour, with that awesome fantasy sequence take-down, but there are other delights in store for the viewer who watches it with an eye to the 90s tropes. The ending takes the “interrupted wedding” idea to the extreme, with fathers and other authority figures changing their tunes second by second depending on the perceived marital status of the heroine:

(I also like when she is going to commit suicide by using the ceremonial fire to burn her wedding sari.  So the metaphors are just too rich to swallow!)

And of course, we have the extremely literal take on the “oh my goodness, now I know what love is!” moment.  The super sexy song above comes about because the hero and heroine’s eyes meet, in the rain, and then they have to be force ably separated and locked in separate rooms, or else they will have sex, right there, and nothing can stop it!  Even though, mere hours earlier, they were actually handcuffed together and locked in a bedroom, and nothing happened:

(Because they aren’t in luuuuurrrrv yet.)

Anyway, if you watch this film as a straight up 90s Rom-com-gangster-action film, it ricochets wildly between being super boring (all the set-up for the gangster feud and evil plotting!  Get to the point already!), and super strange (why does Anupum Kehr have a ten minute drag scene?).  But if you watch it as bitter, angry Ramesh Sippy shouting to the world “See!  See what you have reduced me too!”, then it is brilliant.

And I was thinking I was the only person who appreciated it, but based on the only youtube clips I was able to find, it is only India that doesn’t appreciate Sippy, the rest of the world loves him!

 

 

 

 

The 4 Kinds of Fanvids

So, I am a huge huge sucker for a good fanvid, have been for years.  Going all the way back to when I was in college and I would take a break from studying to browse around and try to dig up a new SRKajol vid.

After over a decade of loving these things, I think I have figured out 3 categories of fanvids, specific to Indian fandom.

First, there is fanvid that expands on the themes of an existing artwork, for instance this fabulous one from Alina Yuvvraaj:

Or these, from lalilly:

Then there are the fanvids that expand on the particular awesomeness of a particular star.  Like this, my all time favorite from Zizi K:

Or this one from Alina Yuvvraaj again:

So, both of those kinds of videos, based on a particular movie or a particular star, you can find in any fandom.  Where I think it starts to get unique, is in the next two categories.

 

First, there are the videos based on a particular mood.  Since Indian film follows the Rasa theory, where the goal is to evoke a particular mood at a particular moment, rather than a cohesive mood through out one narrative, a wide variety of films might have particular scenes that flow seamlessly between the borders of their individual movies.

Like this, the moment when you are in love without realizing it yet and happy (from half a dozen different movies with the same moment).  By Zizi K again:

Or this, which evokes the specific mood of “young and drunk at a club”, by MRSEMRAAN:

Or this, which has the very specific-to-Indian-film emotion described right there in the title.  Women who are sad, and the men who love them from MRSEMRAAN again:

 

And then finally, there is my favorite category, the totally made up full narratives that go across multiple films and, occasionally, all the way into real life footage.  This is really unique to Indian film, because Indian film is uniquely cohesive film to film.  The same jodis play the same characters going through the same narrative beats over the over again.  And even into real life, in interviews and publicity tours, they interact the same way.  And who knows, maybe it is even related to the reincarnation in Hinduism!  According to some versions, even Ram and Sita were reborn multiple times and lived out their story over and over.

Anyway, one of my favorites, which seamlessly moves between real life and film.  Almost convinces me that Kajol really is eating her heart out, from MissCinemaObsessive:

and then I watch this from lalilly and feel better:

(see, they’re just friends after all!)

Or this one, where she actually does get him, even though he is himself and she is village-Kajol, from Zizi K:

Or this, where it’s not just SRKajol, but SRKajol vs Kajol/Salman and Kajol/Saif, from LUANSU (LUANSU was also the first fanvid maker I found, back in college):

It’s not just SRKajol, I literally screamed with delight when I found this one, hitting up the scandals old school!  And using all film footage to tell a real life story, very impressive! From TheMelicrazyy:

And this leads into the bonus subcategory, fake storylines pulling together multiple films, but with stars who never actually acted together!  Because actors and their characters are so consistent across films, and all films are so consistant with the kind of scenes they include, you can actually craft a narrative revolving around people who have never been onscreen together (my favorite of these is the Abhishek/Kajol/Rani “Teardrops on My Guitar” that was briefly posted like 6 years ago by Nouf89, and then pulled down.  My white whale!  If someone out there has it, please send me a copy!).  But these are nice too.  From rmskch:

(this is so impressive!  Remember they have only been onscreen together for less than ten seconds in her friendly appearance in KANK)

And I had never even considered these options, from 3bit89:

(none of these three has ever costarred with each other in anything!)

So, did I do this right?  Are there the same number of categories as promised in the post-title?  I think so:

  1. Fanvids expanding on one particular film
  2. Fanvids expanding on one particular star
  3. Fanvids combining multiple films with the same mood
  4. Fanvids combining multiple films with the same moods/stars into a narrative
    1. Fanvids combining multiple films with the same moods/stars into a narrative even if the stars never acted opposite each other