Posted by Stephen on January 28th, 2007
RANGEELA (1995, d. Ram Gopal Varma)
Remember when Ram Gopal Varma used to make good movies? Yes, back when he wasn’t churning out bad remakes of his own films and desperately trying to salvage his ‘retelling’ of Sholay dream project, Bollywood’s answer to Quentin Tarantino actually produced some of the most fresh, slick and unique cinema in mainstream Hindi films. In fact, there was even a time when he veered away from his usual violent gangster fare and directed fluffy romantic comedies, such as here in this light-hearted spoof of Bollywood itself.
Actress Urmila Matondkar became an overnight sensation thanks to her role of Mili, an aspiring film heroine discovered by the famous action star Kamal (a likeable Jackie Shroff), who falls head over heels in love with the sprightly young girl. As she hits the bigtime however, she finds herself growing further apart from her best friend Munna (Aamir Khan, taking a backseat from the spotlight for once), a poor black market ticket seller whose heart also belongs to Mili. Rangeela (’Colourful’) is not amongst the very best work of RGV, but the film’s warm-heartedness, toe-tapping score from A.R. Rahman and mind-meltingly sexy histrionics from Urmila Matondkar all add up to an enjoyable romp that makes for a worthy addition to any collection.
A young Urmila Matondkar sexes it up in Rangeela
A multitude of DVD releases of Rangeela are available, most of which only offer an average presentation of the film. The best of these is the Indian version from distributor Shemaroo which boasts rich, deep, natural-looking colours and decent detail, though the image is cropped from 2.35:1 to 1.85:1 and is not anamorphically enhanced. Well-translated English subtitles are also included.
Posted by Stephen on January 14th, 2007
DIL CHAHTA HAI (2001, d. Farhan Akhtar)
2001 was a big year for Hindi cinema. For the first time in over a decade, an Indian film had secured an increasingly-elusive acknowledgement at the Oscars in the form of a nomination in the ‘Best Foreign Feature’ category for Ashutosh Gowariker’s cricketing extravaganza Lagaan. In the same year, Santosh Sivan’s fictionalised account of the life of Asoka made tremendous waves at international film festivals and secured a worldwide distribution deal in the process. And while these two period epics had enough arthouse-esque elements to rise above the usual Bollywood fare and please the Western critics, 2001 also produced another stunning breakthrough film that not only was hip and modern while still being unashamedly filmi, but was also the best of the lot.
Dil Chahta Hai (’The Heart Desires’) is the story of Akash, Sameer and Siddarth - three inseparable college buddies with three distinct personalities. Akash (Aamir Khan), the wise-cracking slacker; happy to carry on with his two-week flings and to put off getting a job for as long as possible. Sameer (Saif Ali Khan), the dim-witted hopeless romantic; desperate to find love and settle down. And Sid (Akshaye Khanna), the misunderstood dreamer; a painter in love with a divorced mother battling a drink problem. All three graduates are entirely clueless where life will now lead them and as their lives take the next step towards an unsure future, so too does their friendship.
Writer/director Farhan Akhtar certainly broke the mould in terms of mainstream Bollywood filmmaking with this refreshingly contemporary, heart-warming film that is distinctly Hollywood in execution and Indian in spirit. His debut effort adapts the standard filmi conventions of musical interludes and family melodrama seamlessly to a Westernised narrative, eliminating just enough needless masala elements to please just about everybody. This truly is one Bollywood movie that can appeal to one and all with no cultural or stylistic stumbling blocks. Technically, ’DCH’ also just happens to be one of the most understatedly well-made and well-written Indian films ever produced. Direction, scripting, editing and cinematography are all first rate, while the performances from the three leads all deservedly went on to become award-winning. Viewing such a superlative piece of work like Dil Chahta Hai makes it all the more bewildering that Farhan Akhtar subsequently has since gone on to squander his reputation with two wholly uninspired and dull follow-ups; namely 2004’s dire war drama Lakshya (’Objective’) and 2006’s entirely pointless (but nonetheless box office-friendly) remake of the 1978 adventure classic Don. Topping ‘DCH’ will always be a difficult task, but these two didn’t even come close. Here’s hoping Ahktar manages to rediscover his filmmaking talents in the near future.
Cool dudes: Aamir Khan, Akshaye Khanna and Saif Ali Khan
Dil Chahta Hai is available as a bare-bones release on DVD from Elite Films in the Unites States. Picture and sound quality are both excellent, while the English subtitles are well-translated. Avoid the U.K. release from Spark Worldwide, which features an inferior print and numerous MPEG compression problems.
Posted by Stephen on January 1st, 2007
Well, not quite. But in the bare scalp-inducing world of Bollywood DVD releases, it can be a close call at times. Take this instance of Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge - a classic film reviewed elsewhere in this blog that has just recently seen its fourth incarnation on our versatile friend’s format and for a fourth time disappoints.
The fab(ulously awful) four.
Shrugging, I assumed it probably wouldn’t be until the next generation of HD discs take off (whenever that’ll be) until we see DDLJ actually looking like the splendid film it is. Then I discovered a cheap, no-frills VCD from India that bewilderingly looked far superior to any version I had previously seen on a home video format. Gorgeous colour and splendid contrast; if this had been a DVD, I’d forgive the cropped video, bog-standard mono and lack of English subs. But as it is, this is still a VCD and while it would look amazing over at YouTube, on your telly it still can’t cut it. Nonetheless, hope for the future that Raj and Simran will one day shine on a TV screen as they did and continue to do in theatres.
(For more info on these releases, have a gander at the screenshot comparison review found at my new site BollywoodOnDVD.com, which has geeky technical info aplenty.)