Jawani Zindabad (1990), Harishchandrachi Factory (2009), and Toh Baat Pakki (2010)

Those aren't love letters, merely foundations for a script. At first glance, these films perhaps comprise an unusual list of Valentine's Day specials. But look at what we're talking about: Aamir Khan and Farha (that's Tabu's sister!) in love with each other because of their mutual love and respect for womens rights; A lover of theater and art who went on to make India's first ever feature film -- and oh, how we do love those and the city the industry is based in; and me in love with the idea of enjoying a film simply because it's Tabulicious! Plenty of heart to go around in these three films, and let's get to them, with a special bonus of 10 total Valentine's Day lessons we ought to remember.



Let's start with Jawani Zindabad (Long Live Youth), which was unlike anything I expected. It's Aamir in his typical loverboy role, but it's also Aamir in a film that's unusually specific for its era in what message it sends, how often and how -- dowry is pernicious, and ought not to be a precondition for marriage or even in any conversation surrounding it. Don't think for a moment, however, that while the film tackles gender equality head-on, it is too serious to where it compromises on the masala fun front. It's quite the opposite, and that's where it works quite well, complete with all the hallmarks of ridiculousness exhibited by early 1990s drama.

How dramatic, you ask? How about our hero singing a different Shammi Kapoor song every time he came across a pretty woman? How about a wedding that's called off last-minute because of a song full of (rightful) taunts to the groom (the lyrics go: "Everyone proclaims! The son's a looter, the father a thief!"), and a demand for dowry followed by a stroke and this wonder woman?

Tabu's sister alright!

Or a mom cleaning her room while others believe she's about to commit suicide? Or an ape giving a band of thieves the runaround, robbing them of a stolen necklace and returning to our hero in exchange for some goodies?



And making faces while at it.



How about an Asrani not recognizing his wife (Ms. Abba Dabba Jabba) in a crowded swimming pool area because he thinks she isn't capable of flaunting her bod? Or, my favorite this, a matchmaking professional and matrimonial consultant in Kader Khan, whose dialogues are the life of the film. And I haven't even talked of a very young Javed Jaffrey, whose father, a politician, doesn't let him sleep in the same room as his wife until the her dowry is delivered in full. Or that the dowry wasn't delivered in full because the girl's brother ran away with the funds the night of the wedding! Don't worry, these aren't spoilers, there's so much more in here if you're up for it!

Valentine's Day Lesson 1: There's no such thing as a wrong time or place for expressing love, and no prompt too far-fetched.


Aamir and Farha look great together (in this version of the title song, for instance), theirs is a mature relationship with the banter of "long live youth" notwithstanding.

So help me God!

Three stars for the film, then, which is a good example of a rather strong cast making much of not so much. It's over-the-top melodrama we're all familiar with, and it's much fun if you see it with some good company that's willing to celebrate this brand of cinema, not mock it. Mine was PituSultan -- and we had some great fun -- we agreed we miss Kader Khan more now than we did before watching this...



...and we agreed that whoever thought making him and Aamir perform a "qawwali and bhajan" at a wedding was a good idea deserves a spot in the masala Hall of Fame for the mere concept!



Movie rating: 3/5 (Not bad at all!)
Watch if you have a decent tolerance for dramatic comedy. If not, stay away. The cast make this a lot more fun than it would've been without them.

Music rating: 2.5/5 (Average)
Choreography in songs I cannot find online is good, we know Javed Jaffrey can dance, and my hometown South Bombay, including the roadway mentioned most often on this blog, is featured in the second version of the title song -- that can only be a win!

My classification: PG (For some violence)

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HARISHCHANDRACHI FACTORY (2009)


Before anything else, sample these fine pictures of Bombay of old, from the opening credits!





This delightful Marathi-language film is not a Bollywood film, but it has as much to do with it as can possibly be. Based on the true story of the first motion picture made in India and its visionary who went on to make nearly 100 films through his career, it's set in early twentieth-century Bombay. Its subject is Dadasaheb Phalke (Nandu Madhav) -- read more about him at this Wikipedia link -- gives up on his printing business and owns a quest to do what's never been done. He wants to make the country's first full-length feature film, which appears insurmountable and for which he must make immense sacrifices. Thankfully for him (and for us), he has complete support from his family, as his wife and children aid him at every step to help realize his dream and lay the foundations for the country that now produces the highest number of films of any country in the world.

Wouldn't it be cool to go into a tent theater?!

Oh what a sheer joy this film written and directed by Paresh Mokashi is from start to finish! We see the practice of filmmaking come to life as Phalke, a fast decision-maker, goes from learning to use filming equipment to selling off almost everything he has to visit England to buy his own equipment.


He films his children playing. He films a plant growing. He films himself massaging his wife's feet, in what he says is a subservient act that needs to be popularized as one women deserve. He plots a Raja Harishchandra play-turned-film, and goes through every step of the filmmaking supply chain, from writing to casting, directing, learning and teaching, taking notes of his discoveries along the way, ensuring those close to him are bitten by the film bug.


Valentine's Day Lesson 2: If you're in India of the 1910s and cuddling your spouse when your kids are around...


...don't be surprised by this reaction!


Motion pictures are new to Phalke and to his family. Heck, they're new to India. All that's new must face its share of resistance, and this is no different. So they toil with unwavering commitment, and find support from the least likely sources, as they also counter struggles in public perception the industry in India faces to this day.

Western words/styles garner more attention. Hmm...


It's full of some fine actors and simple characters with surprisingly nuanced approaches to their work. It employs a narrative style which offers a fair reflection of that of the majority of the films originating from the country, films we love. It has more than its share of humor, when making it more of a documentary could have been tempting. Its unsung hero is its background score. And it's hardly fiction. *What* else do we need, as we pay tribute to the "Father of Indian Cinema"? How beautiful a film, indeed!


Four stars and then some for Harishchandrachi Factory! See it the first chance you get, no second thoughts in an unconditional recommendation. For those in the U.S., it's available via Netflix instant viewing.

Movie rating: 4.5/5 (Excellent!)
Don't miss it for anything else on TV or your DVD shelf. I haven't smiled this much while consuming a film in a long time.

My classification: G (Family-friendly)

Official website:
http://www.harishchandrachifactory.utvnet.com/




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TOH BAAT PAKKI (2010)

As Rajeshwari (Tabu) searches for a match for her sister, Rahul (Sharman Joshi) lives as a paying guest at her and her husband's (Ayub Khan, seen in Dil Chahta Hai (2001)) house. She's meddlesome, she's rude, and she's an obsessive-compulsive gossipmonger, just waiting to plot her sister's future with who she thinks is the best possible (read: wealthiest) match. And so, after setting her sister Nisha (Yuvika Chaudhary) up with Rahul and preparing for their wedding, she plots to get her married to another who's much wealthier. She even almost manages to get Rahul out of the picture. But is it too late?

My fondness of Tabu is well-known, and she's just fine in here. While her character works really well -- it's Tabu in the kind of role she's seldom done, and she's simply splendid -- the Kedar Shinde-directed film she's in could have been a lot more special. It has its moments, yes, but I'm afraid its strong made-for-TV undertone keeps the drama *and* the comedy rather subdued, which means it's neither too engaging nor too funny.

That's not to say Toh Baat Pakki (Done Deal) is a bad film. It's not. Not at all. Perhaps even a tad better than what we use for lukewarm responses -- a decent "timepass" film, mostly for a rather good first half, and some good Valentine's Day lessons, as follows:

Valentine's Day Lesson 3: Teaching how the solar system works can be sexy if just the right rotations and the right Physics terms are used.



Valentine's Day Lesson 4: Yes, the world is very selfish. Use that to your advantage.



Valentine's Day Lesson 5: Don't fall in love with your lender.



Valentine's Day Lesson 6: If she doesn't like buts, they must be bad. Avoid.



Valentine's Day Lesson 7:
Don't *always* offer advice to those you love. You're a lover, not a parent.



Valentine's Day Lesson 8:
Ms. Abba Dabba Jabba is still around! :D



Valentine's Day Lesson 9:
She's so humble, she refuses to see the connection between Tabuliciousness and chocolate. 0:)



Valentine's Day Lesson 10:
India: Just rid yourself of the dowry pandemic. Just do it. For love of Tabu and Aamir!



Close to three stars for Tabu and a decent Sharman Joshi performance. If you're a fan of the cast, the plot, or if you'll settle for at least a decent timepass flick, it might be worth a shot.

Movie rating: 2.75/5
I'm probably being harsher because it stars Tabu, but this is at best a decent attempt, and could've been much more entertaining.

Music rating: 2.75/5 (Above average)
'Phir Se' by Sonu Nigam (YouTube link here) and by Rahat Fateh Ali Khan (YouTube link here) in two different tracks is the one outstanding song in this album composed by Pritam Chakrobarty. Rest are average fare.

My classification: G (Family-friendly)


20 comments:

Suja said...

Thank you for the reviews, I have seen none of the films you mention and you have made me want to see them all!
Suja

theBollywoodFan said...

Hi Suja: Thank you for your visit and comment. Happy film watching! Do report back when you've seen any of these. Harishchandrachi Factory is in a different league from among these three at least, but it also has the most intriguing and unique storyline to it.

Nice blog you have there -- have added you to the blog roll and shall visit soon! Cheers!

Arjavi said...

Hi TBWF, I have never seen a Marathi movie in the past, your review of Harishchandra Factory makes me want to see it like NOW. It looks very interesting. Thank you for a great post again!!!!

theBollywoodFan said...

Thank *you* Arjavi. Language ought not to be a barrier to appreciating good music and cinema, right? This would've been great in any language, but I, of course, have a special affinity to Bombay/Mumbai, so it was even better.

This was my first Marathi film in a very very long time. In fact, in such a very long time that I can't even remember the title of the ones I saw before.

Oh well. Do report back after you've seen Harishchandrachi Factory, I hope you enjoy it!

joss said...

I've been trying to get hold of Harishchandrachi Factory for ages now, but it seems impossible here in the UK. Might have to explore alternatives... I want to see it even more now that you've reviewed it. I'd also like to see Sharman Joshi in a hero role. He has been soooo sweeet when I've seen him in Aamir's films. I'll give this one a try. Thanks for this tip.

theBollywoodFan said...

Joss! It'll be worth the wait and the effort when you finally do get your hands on Harishchandrachi Factory. I think you'll enjoy the role the British play in helping Phalke big time along the way -- given the period it's set in, it's nice to see them largely stay away from the political and establish a relationship of professional trust and respect. Really showcases the 'art transcends all' argument in a good light.

As for Sharman J, Toh Baat Pakki gives him a lot of time on screen, and he's done well. Better than this other film I saw with him in a lead, Raqeeb it was, I think. But he has another great actor in Tabu working alongside him here, and the two make it all pretty believable in the context of small-town India. Enjoy! And as always, thanks for your comment. :)

Dolce and Namak said...

Aaah, damn you!! I've been looking for Harishchandrachi Factory for ever... and now I want to see it even more... and then you have to be cruel and add that "if you're in the US, it's available on netflix" note... Sniffle sniffle... :( No fair!

Sigh... And after wiping my tears, I see I seem to be missing Jawani Zindabad from my Aamir shelf, and that shocks me... Since it comes so highly recommended (and since I suppose I should eventually get to the last 5 films I haven't seen from his portfolio), I shall rectify that right away!

Which brings me to Toh Baat Pakki which happily, I have! Yay! Not for any of the reasons you listed (ahem tabulicious is more of a con than a pro for me when evaluating a movie), but for Sharman and for Dil Le Jaa :) So there, one I can proceed to watching with your blessings, and I have noted your rating *despite* it being a Tabu film, so my expectometer will be adjusted accordingly. :)

Thank you for the Valentine gifts/lessons :) And Happy Belated Valentine's day to you!

theBollywoodFan said...

Hello hello! I hope you are able to get your hands on Harishchandrachi Factory soon! (Do you subscribe to Netflix? I hear they've invested significantly in their streaming product catalog for Canada...) Can't believe it took me this long to finally see it, after Darshit gave me the tip last year. I believe it was also screened at the Indian Film Festival of L.A. last year.

Anyway...I'd say Jawani Zindabad would definitely be in the top third of the bottom tier of Aamir's films from the 1990s :) Which are the others you haven't seen?

Tabuliciousness counts for SO much for me. (Have you seen Meenaxi, by the way?) It's only a good thing that we tend to hold our favorite actors to a higher standard. At least fans of Tabu/Aamir ought to. 0:)

Thanks for your visit and comment, as always. Cheers!

Dolce and Namak said...

Let's see, according to imdb, I have not seen the following: Isi Ka Naam Zindagi, Daulat ki Jung, Parampara, Tum Mere Ho and Raakh. I have the first 3, and I know the 4th one is easy to get. Raakh will have to wait until my Hindi gets to a decent enough level to understand it without subs. I confess I got to a point sometime last summer where I felt that if I had to watch another 5 seconds of Aamir with red lipstick and heroines with big hair I will poke my own eyes out, so that's why some of these DVDs have been sitting there for over a year :P I might be ok with going back to one or two now, but I reserve the right to pull the plug :) So, what order do you recommend?

Oh, re: Meenaxi - seen it (a few times), loved it, blogged about it, pushed it on people every chance I got :D Haven't had tremendous success with the latter, but oh well... Some people just don't get it. :( I actually didn't mind Tabu in Meenaxi, the role suited her. And, credit where it's due, the costumes suited her even more ;-)

theBollywoodFan said...

Ooh, cool. Let's see...

Daulat Ki Jung is one of the most amazingly zany adventure movies I have ever seen. It's not very good, but it is unusually entertaining. Or entertaining in some of the most unusual ways. For that alone, I'd put it at 1 of 4. It also has Kader Khan! (Review here)

Parampara isn't all bad either, although the comedy is almost non-existent. (Review here)

Have yet to see 'Isi Ka Naam Zindagi' and 'Tum Mere Ho' in my adult life, so hope to change that. I tried playing 'Isi Ka Naam' and couldn't tolerate it after 10 minutes, so definitely need to revisit when I'm feeling patient! But in the mean time, by default, I'd say make this 4 of 4. :)

Of course you've seen Meenaxi! My bad. 0:) Just read your review and comments here. Yes, for some reason, it's a much harder sell than it ought to be, but then, the brand/genre as a whole is probably not the easiest to sell, especially when we're talking Hindi cinema. As for the costumes, their designers ought to be thankful Tabu graced them. ;D

Madhuri looked great in Gaja Gamini too. You know who else would fit well in a M.F. Hussain film? Vidya Balan. Someone convince her, please!

Dolce and Namak said...

Sigh... I read your reviews: how do you manage to make 90s films seem so... harmless??? Even with the mentions of ridiculousness, they still seem pretty entertaining, interesting even, when you talk about them. I should know better, but all right, I'll give them a shot. I'll start with Parampara just because of young Saifu, and I'll be sure to let you know how it goes :)

Did you just say Vidya in an MF Hussain film?? Oh my, that would indeed be WONDERFUL! :) Is he still making films though? And wasn't there something about a painting at one point with Vidya? Not sure if it was just a rumour or if it was actually happening. :-/

And I have to apologize, I totally derailed your post, so please don't hesitate to cut me off when I do this. :)

Geeta said...

I love your insight, song lyrics & translations - so of course I had to add you to my "The Taj Mahal of Blogs" list :) Keep it up!

dunkdaft said...

VIdya vidya vidya ! what 'jhakaas' combination that would make. VIdya+MF !

M So happy you watched Harishchandra's Factory- as you said "I haven't smiled this much while consuming a film in a long time". That exactly was my feeling too. Such a charming execution of the story.

Toh Baat Pakki - was on TV and ofcourse glued to it because of Tabu only. But later it couldn't hold my attention because of the storyline, both Sharman and Tabu are the only saving grace of it.

Jawani Zindabaad : kahaan se laate ho tum yeh pracheen movies ? ;) yaar Aamir ki achchi achchi movies ke baare mein likho na. I hardly can remember much abt the movie though. But was unfair the Farha did not get much work later.

theBollywoodFan said...

Dolce and Namak: I think I'd have to go back in time to explain my tendencies to not hate some of these early-to-mid-1990s films. They seemed to be the only brand of cinema around to my kiddie brain at the time, and all I needed around 1995 was the SRK romantic drama revolution, if I may call it that, to turn me away completely from Bollywood. (Lagaan then brought me back single-handedly.) Now, I don't mind the occasional revisit to that era. It's as much about how I react to these films now versus how I reacted to them at the time, and since I saw most of Aamir's films back then too, it's a fair exercise. This applies mostly to his hit films, none of these qualifies as one, of course. Oh, well.

I don't know if MFH (haha, could that be the title to an arthouse equivalent of...FHM? :D) is making films any more. His son (Owais, I think) has worked with him on his previous films, and I wouldn't mind that at all, as long as Vidya Balan is in there! She's the only active actress I can think of who would be a perfect fit. And yes, we never really know about all the crazy gossip that seems to come out of the Indian press, most of it is far from the truth, but I suppose we can at least just appreciate what Vidya and MFH would offer.

No apologies needed, there's never a wrong time to talk of Vidya or Tabu, is there? ;) Thanks again, until next time!

theBollywoodFan said...

Geeta! Thank you, thank you! It's always good when the translations are mentioned specifically, appreciate your comments. Please keep up your visits, and I hope you continue to enjoy the blog. :)

theBollywoodFan said...

Darshit: It would be the best thing since Tabu and MFH, wouldn't it?

Yes, that's the thing about Harischandrachi Factory. Look, I was watching it on a day I was really stressed out (my newest four month-old computer died, and I just barely recovered all the data before losing it to a repair center for at least a couple weeks -- that can be *very* disappointing, trust me 0:), yet I liked it SO much it was able to enjoy it so much, I almost want to say that PC incident didn't ruin my day! :) Thank you for the recommendation, as always.

You said it about Toh Baat Pakki, could've been so much more. Oh well.

As for Aamir's movies ... thanks for keeping me honest. You're right, next, I'll have to discuss Aamir's better movies from the era, yeh waada raha. And yeah dude, whatever happened to Farha? She looked to be a real good actress in this one at least. Until next time. Cheers!

Kannan said...

Hi there bollywoodfan
Stumbled upon your blog when I searched for hits on Harischandra factory. I originally stumbled on Harischandra factory when Netflix spat it out as a choice based on the fact I had watched motorcycle diaries. I am glad both these turned out to be good stumbles. I like your blogs- like the fact you like cinema and like Indian cinema despite your coordiantes. I am from Bengaluru, grew up in that city way before your time and live in the US now. It is great to see a young man like you with writing knacks taking time to quote Guru Dutt.
Harischandra Factory - love it for one reason more than any other - retelling an important legacy that lead to the true factory of Bollywood.
Will keep looking out for your posts.
Jai Hind and God Bless America ( I have used that line before in sevral settings and was amused to see that pop up in your signature)

Kannan



Kannan

Prateek said...

Aamir Khan nominated in 2011 TIME 100 Most Influential People of the world:

http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,2058044_2060338_2060165,00.html

theBollywoodFan said...

Hello Kannan and a very warm (albeit belated) welcome to the blog!

Thank you for your comment, and thank you for the appreciation, too. Guru Dutt's films are splendid in almost every way imaginable, certainly one of those artists who drew me to Bollywood more so than I'd ever imagined.

Hope to be back to posting soon enough. My absence started around the time the World Cup of cricket did, and part of me still hasn't recovered from a month and a half of not sleeping! :)

Apologies for the late reply here. Do stop by again. And yes, Jai Hind, and God bless America!

Cheers.

Peter said...

Thank you!

I don't know where to start, so I'll start from the beginning. I'm Chinese American, and am a huge fan of Bollywood. When I was in med school, I was lucky enough to have friends who introduced me to Bollywood films. Lagaan was my first and still holds a special place in my heart. I managed to watch a few more since, but had dwindled as the years went by. I just didn't know what to watch.

Last night, I happened across 3 Idiots and I loved it! It brought back memories of the great times I had back in school. Afterwards, I wanted to find out more about the films, the music, and my internet searches brought me to your website. Wow! I am seriously impressed with your work. Now that I've found your blog, I'll be checking in regularly.

Please keep on doing what you're doing, I'll be hanging on to every word!

Peter