Movie Review: Chori Chori

Title: Chori Chori – 2003
Director:  Milan Luthria
Starring: Ajay Devgan and (wait for iiiiiiiiiit) Rani Mukerji

First, the highly truncated, Cammy-fied summary of this film:

Rani Mukerji is surprisingly funny acting opposite stuffed monkeys.

That oughta get your attention.  Truly, this film is loosely based on the American movie Housesitter with Steve Martin and Goldie Hawn.  Orphan Khushi (Mukerji) is a happy-go-lucky nut of a gal, living on her own in Delhi and fibbing her way out of work whenever possible.  Ranbir (Devgan) is an architect who was building a dream home in the mountains for his love, Pooja….who refuses him and his house saying that he’s too much of a dreamer and not serious/financially responsible enough.  A depressed Ranbir is doodling the unfinished dream home on a party napkin on the one night when Khushi apparently decides to show up and do her job at the hotel hosting the event.  Good thing for her, too, because the next day her boss decides that her efforts at the party weren’t enough to make up for all the other days she’d made excuses not to work.  He not only fires her, but evicts her from the one room flat where she lives with her roommate and constant companion, stuffed monkey, Jonathan (no, not making that last part up.).  With the napkin sketch in hand, she sets off and takes up housekeeping in the half-finished dream home in the mountains (and if you’re thinking some of those mountains look like Switzerland, you’re right…Bollywood is obsessed with shooting stuff in the Alps, just roll with this), faking to Ranbir’s family that she’s his fiance.  He shows up, and plays along, hoping to make Pooja jealous enough to return to him.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand, it’s Bollywood romance, so you kinda know how this one ends.

So you know the plot isn’t complex.  It is, in fact, cheeZe with a Z, much like other B-wood movies I’ve reviewed.  But what about the acting?

Remember when I said that Mukerji is acting opposite stuffed monkeys?  Plural?  One of them clearly, is Jonathan, the literal stuffed monkey she totes around the entire movie.  The other is Devgan.  Totally sorry to his fans, but while the man is decent enough to look at, and seems to be good for the quiet, brooding type…he just isn’t dialed in for most of this movie.  It might be the script and an attempt to show a contrast between Ranbir and Khushi, but I’m not sure that’s all of it. I–no lie–actually recall more scenes with Khushie interacting with Jonathan than with Ranbir.  I’ve seen way worse couplings, but this pairing is not going to have the chemistry of a Shah Rukh Khan-Kajol or Rani Mukerji-Saif Ali Khan flick.

Mukerji, on the other hand, brings it pretty well.  I mean, she manages to make me adore scenes where she’s conversing with a stuffed animal enough that I went out and bought the DVD and I’ve watched the damn thing 5 times.  Khushie as a character has the potential to be so saccharine and unreal that she’s detestable (I was actually very afraid of this when I read the summary of the film), but somehow, at least for me, Mukerji manages to make the character nutty and endearing and does what I find to be a great job with her first comedic role.  Her performance makes the movie (well, her’s and Jonathan’s.  Actually, I’m giving most of the credit to Jonathan because while she’s funny enough, the fact that she’s talking to a stuffed monkey is what makes hilarious).

The film has some other problems, but I found out after watching that the producer died in the middle of the film and the final release was delayed over a year.  I can only imagine how much didn’t get done that could have been better without issues.  Smoother scene transitions, a little more build up on the romance, clarity on some of the shots (some seem fuzzy).

While not a Bollywood classic, or anything deeply meaningful, it’s a fun, easy-to-watch film.  I find it a good one for a Sunday afternoon, or as background noise while puttering around in the evening.  It’s also a really nice gateway drug to Bollycrack for westerners who may not be ready for anything too over-the-top.  At 2 hours, it’s shorter than some of the other introductory Bollywood options available, and with a simple story and lots of humor

So, to sum it up in Kristy style:

Things I liked:
-Jonathan, the stuffed monkey
-Khushie’s lonely-but-upbeat Dilwali
-Khushie’s conned meal
-Mukerji proves hands down that she’s good for more than weepy drama
-Did I mention Jonathan, the stuffed monkey?

Things I didn’t like:
-Some of the subtitles in a few places just didn’t make sense!
-Lack of build up of the romance
-Romantic lead participates less than Jonathan
-Poor scene transitions/seemingly missing background info

All told, I’ll give it 3 and a quarter jars of peanut butter.

Movie Review: Hum Tum

Title: Hum Tum (2004)
Director:  Kunal Kohli
Starring: Rani Mukerji and Saif Ali Khan

Hum Tum was one of my favorite films out of the 10-film run in my previously-mentioned period of being Netflix-stalked by Rani Mukerji.  If you are a romantic comedy fan and looking to give Bollywood a try, this is a great starter film (probably better than the usual intro-to-Bollywood film most of us get, Bride and Prejudice…because that movie wasn’t great over all).  It’s got enough Bollywood to wet your whistle without overwhelming those who may not be used to that style, and the final package is as well, or better polished and delivered than many U.S. mainstream romantic comedies.

Immature cartoonist Karan tries to impress serious Rhea on their flights from India to Amsterdam to New York…and fails.  While on layover in Amsterdam,  they seem to be calling a truce, until Karan crosses the line and plants a kiss on her.  Over the years that follow, Karan and Rhea meet and part several times.  They develop a friendship based predominantly on mutual harassment and Rhea ordering him to “Shut up, Karan!”  Since I’ve already told you it’s a romantic comedy, it should be no surprise that the conflict comes in these two trying to transition from friends to lovers.  The plot is heavily inspired by When Harry Met Sally, a fact openly admitted by the director. Since I only know the one scene from When Harry Met Sally (we all know the one), and that’s not in this version, I can’t really speak to how similar they really are.
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Stalked By A Bollywood Star

Normally, when you think about celebrity stalking, it’s the crazy fan stalking the celebrity.  In my case, celebrity stalking has turned the tables on me.  I’m the one being stalked.  By a Bollywood star, no less.

And it’s all happening via Netflix.

I had watched a serious  period piece set in India called Water–not like anything you’d normally think of in association with the term “Bollywood” (no songs, no dances, no wackiness).  But it prompted Netflix to suggest a whole slough of Bollywood titles.  At that point, the only name I knew in Bollywood was Aishwarya Rai (from Bride and Prejudice, which I consider “Intro to Bollywood for Stupid Westerners”, and one historic-epic  called Jodhaa Akbar from the local library).  I thought I would start exploring Bollywood in earnest by looking for something else with her in it, just to start out. But the list Netflix had me looking through didn’t seem to have any of her movies.  I was forced to forgo stepping stones of the familiar, and strike out on my own–daunting for a girl who is no fan of change and gets edgy stepping out of her comfort zone….

Deep breath.  Big girl pants?  Check!

I skimmed through the suggestions and narrowed it down a comedy about a female cricket player who dresses as a man to make the team, and a kids movie with a magical nanny.  I chose the kid-type film, Thoda Pyaar, Thoda Magic.  It was actually good if you’re a kid movie fan (which I am).  The kids were cute. The songs were catchy and I thought the two adult leads were funny–very good with the kind of comedic acting I enjoy.

Since I’d been so successful with that first choice even though I didn’t know any names, I decided to continue being brave and pick at random again.  I chose something that looked like a standard romantic comedy, Hum Tum.  I was relieved when my second choice had both of the same lead actress and actor as the first film (did I mention I like my comfort zone?).  Again, I really enjoyed it.  As with the first, the musical numbers were catchy, and they didn’t completely throw me–something I’d been expecting from Bollywood based on everything I’d heard.  In fact, one of the songs wound up so firmly embedded in my brain I wound up going to Amazon to download it.

So my Bollywood appreciation grew and I thought my random-choice methods were doing me a service.

My next choice was supposed to be an epic romance, Veer-Zaara.  The little image on the screen did not appear to be either of the two leads with whom I was familiar, so I thought I was really breaking out!  Being brave!  Trying something new!  Until the female lead from the previous two movies showed up again.  She was the lead on the B-plot frame story, which it turned out, was really my favorite part of the film (it was about a young attorney, how could I not like that?).
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Sick from Superstition.

While I had planned a completely different post topic for tonight, I found that this, like all my other plans for what was supposed to have been my Friday off, was derailed.

I’m sick.

Fever, achy, snot and cough sick.

While I don’t really consider myself a superstitious person, at times like this I find myself slipping into some non-modern, old-world-thinking and blaming my encounter with this infectious bug on the fact that just last week I was commenting on how I hadn’t been sick in a while.  Clearly I jinxed that one all to Hades.

The part of my brain still being ruled by logic, education and good sense, knows the reality is that numerous people at work have had some form or other of the galloping crud over the past two weeks, and this, along with my lack of sleep the past two weeks, along with statistics and epidemiology result in a perfectly logical explanation for my illness.

But the monkey-brain in the corner is convinced that somehow karma decided to kick my ass.  I’m sick because noting my lack of illness was a kind of pride which could only lead to a downfall.  Snot.  Fever.  Cosmic balance restored and Cammy suitably humbled.

It kinda macht’s nichts right now as I sit here in the recliner huddled under a quilt, cuddling the box of goodies I received today (completely unrelated to my illness, but fortuitously timed…perhaps karma felt bad about my fever being 101?) and drifting in and out of consciousness while watching Bollywood movies*….

And by the time this has cleared out, I’ll be back to reminding myself to use more hand-sanitizer…and I’ll probably forget to avoid talking about how long I’ve been without a bad cold.

*Side note:  Dude.  Watching Bollywood flicks when you’re in and out of reality?    Whole new kinda wacky, lemme just tell you.