Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Bachna Ae Haseeno, or, Payback's (Two Pushovers and) A Bitch

Bachna Ae Haseeno (Beware, O Beautiful Ones) presents a sort of conundrum as far as reviewing goes. While I have to admire the efforts to which Aditya Chopra went to break out of the Hindi plotbox, its execution leaves quite a bit to be desired. There's the miscasting of Minissha Lamba and Deepika Padukone, the weird spacing of the songs, and some total compromises in the resolutions. Then again, there's a guy who's forced to pay for his playboy wrongs (a rarity in the Hindi cinema I've seen thus far), some genuinely funny scenes, good music and standout performances by Ranbir Kapoor and Bipasha Basu. All in all, I'm glad I saw it and I'll probably see it again.

The film starts out with Raj (Ranbir) confessing his sins to the viewer. He's hurt people and now he's paying for it. Cue flashback!

First up: Mahi (Minissha), a Punjabi girl who's on kind of a senior tour on Eurorail when Raj meets her. She's about to go home and get married, although she dreams of finding DDLJ-style love in Switzerland. Raj, along with his geeky friends on the prowl for a quick hook-up, zooms in on her immediately and makes the most of his name and other similarities to DDLJ. They have a cute song, "Aahista Aahista," which means "Slowly Slowly" according to the subtitles and prompted us to note that at this point they've been acquainted about 48 hours. (Side note: I don't think Minissha can dance based on what I saw here, because they restrict her to a wavy-arm thing like when you stick your flattened palm out of a car window while you're on the freeway.) When they reconnect with their friends down the road, Raj lets his pals think that Mahi put out for him, while she's dreaming of true love. The betrayal tears her up and leaves him mildly regretful, but not regretful enough to explain himself.

There ya have it. Scummy but not entirely out of character for a callow youth. Next up comes the real kharmic doozy: Radhika (Bips). In 2002 she's Raj's live-in girlfriend. (Second side note: This movie is possibly the most open Hindi film I've seen about premarital sex and its place in Indian, not NRI, metropolitan society. I've got no idea if it's an accurate depiction but at least it's there.) Raj is a stud when it comes to game programming, and apparently is like 70% responsible for Halo 3's existence. He gets a job offer or a promotion or something to Australia and expects to dump Radhika by the wayside--after all, she's a modern girl in search of a modeling career! She'll understand! Except she doesn't, and turns out to be very traditional in terms of her goals. Instead of Prufrocking it and manning up that "that's not what I want, at all," Raj tap-dances around the truth and ends up betraying her in a truly despicable way. Not that he cares; he's too busy toasting his career on the jet to Sydney. Douchebag.


But, after a few years, then comes Gayatri (Deepika), a fascinating character who would have been better played by almost anyone else except for maybe Rakhi Sawant or something. She goes to business school by day, drives a cab by night, and works as a part-time cashier in a grocery store too. In her copious spare time she does martial arts. (Side note the third: if your hockey stick is in the trunk, you won't be able to get to it in time should it prove necessary. Apparently that business acumen doesn't extend to self-preservation acumen.) Also, she doesn't believe in marriage as an institution. It just gets in the way of everything. They lip-sync the absolutely lovely "Khuda Jaane" to each other and then Raj, unable to believe that any woman doesn't really want marriage, sticks his neck out. And finds out that having your heart broken sucks! Surprise! Filled with regret for his previous ways, he sets off on a journey of repentance.

Things that I liked about the story: Raj really is a jerk, not just a misunderstood guy who's hiding a heart of gold. We also see his development into a man with a heart instead of a lad with a black book, which is awesome. I liked how Gayatri pointed out all the disadvantages marriage presents to a modern woman with career plans, and how she took care of herself.


And I liked how Radhika really, really makes Raj pay when he shows up uninvited. I'm not into revenge usually but this was the sort I could enjoy observing. And I liked how Aditya Chopra took his Raj character and made him into the real thing instead of the filmi thing (he seems really into deconstructing Raj lately, which I think should totally be the title of his autobiography--shadow writer available right here, Aditya-ji! Call me!)--no guy who acts like that is worth having, and very few of them change like Raj in DDLJ.

Unfortunately, I can't discuss my problems with the plot without some great big

SPOILERS

so turn away now and scroll to the END SPOILERS part if you don't want to know.

I thought Mahi forgave Raj way too easily, and also held on way too long to her heartbreak over his betrayal. I mean, sure, he sucked, but who lets some dick from a 3-day acquaintance a decade ago affect their entire marriage? Kunal Kapoor, however, is absolutely adorable as her sexy Sardar spouse and made that whole interval enjoyable. (Side note the fourth: who on earth thinks Halo 3 is appropriate for an eight-year-old?)


And I also HATED, HATED that he ends up with Gayatri in the end. It was so filmi and utterly untrue to her character and the story. She should have stuck to her guns. And why should she apologize for hurting him when she was never anything but honest about her goals and beliefs? So stupid, and it made me want to throw spitwads at the screen, which is kind of my normal reaction to Deepika anyway but in this case it was the betrayal of her character that made me feel catty.

END SPOILERS

Bipasha and Ranbir are stellar in their roles, and they have great chemistry together. That scene in the elevator practically made me pass out. The scene in "Small-Town Girl" when she makes him dance is definitely worth watching even if you hate the movie. Raj's friend, whose name I can't find, was also a treat--very funny without being overly campy. The music is outstanding and I love all the songs.

However, Minissha, despite being only in her early 20's, has a very mature face (she reminds me of young Susan Sarandon) and was utterly unconvincing as an 18-year-old. She looked way better as the mom in her 30's. Also, though this isn't her fault, her clothes don't help--they're pretty fugly. And, of course... Deepika. Oh, Deepika Deepikadeepika. Her idea of acting is to choose a slide from a PowerPoint presentation of emotional expressions and superimpose it on her face. That probably works well for modeling, not so much for acting. And I HATE that one of the most interesting characters in the film was wasted on her. Amrita Rao would've been better suited to it; it's a pity she turned it down.

Still, the fact that I cared enough about the film to recast it in my head means that I ended up liking it better than I expected. It's worth a shot if you're looking for a very modern timepass. (Thanks, Nicki, for giving it to me!)

16 comments:

  1. Art imitating life, perhaps? (I'm trying to be cryptic and not spoil anyone who skipped that section.)

    The only movie in which I've seen Deepika "act" was her "real" debut, the Kannada movie Aishwarya. I thought she did fine, considering her role didn't require any real acting chops. Or perhaps I was so blindsided by her alien-esque beauty that I didn't really pay attention ;) Anyway...I still want to watch Om Shanti Om and this one, just for her. However, I'm not sure I want to pay more than $7 for each flick since I'm not a fan of either SRK or Ranbir(although I do kinda want to see Sawaariya for the bare butt shot).

    Oh, and welcome back :) Glad you made it home safely.

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  2. I kind of felt the same way with this. My least fav story of the 3 was definitely Deepika's, but I enjoyed the theory of callous rogue sent to make up for his misdeeds. I thought the music was fantastic - for the most part, and I loved Jogi Mahi the most - it's in my top 10 on my ipod. Definitely a valiant effort!

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  3. I love the songs too! "Khuda Jaane" is a classic, I keep turning back to it every now and again.

    I love the screenshot you've chosen for Bips and Ranbir; that scene where he has to zip her dress up was killer...said so much in so little time, didn't it?

    Welcome back dost!

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  4. I found Bachna Ae Haseeno very mediocre. But there were a few enjoyable parts. I loved Bipasha's drame-baazi in the second half..lol. And the song, Small Town Girl, rocks! The others songs were good as well, especially Khuda Jaane and Lucky Boy.

    PS Welcome back! We missed you here :-)

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  5. I agree with what you've siad, i totally love this movie, i think i would call it more than a timepass though, its beautifully shot and the songs are superb

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  6. Wow... I love this review because you've put into words so expressively what I liked and did not like about BAH. I did like seeing Radhika get her own back (Bipasha was very good in this film), and I thought Deepika did a really poor job and was just too plastic for words. I didn't know Amrita Rao turned this role down - she would have been much better. And I did not like the ending - it was silly and did a disservice to all the interesting and thought-provoking things about this film.

    And I LOVE this paragraph from your review:

    "I thought Mahi forgave Raj way too easily, and also held on way too long to her heartbreak over his betrayal. I mean, sure, he sucked, but who lets some dick from a 3-day acquaintance a decade ago affect their entire marriage? Kunal Kapoor, however, is absolutely adorable as her sexy Sardar spouse and made that whole interval enjoyable."

    SO TRUE!!! Well said!

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  7. Great rundown of the film! I agree 100% with everything - including the fact that I kind of want to watch it again (even though I'll be skipping the final reunion with Gayatri).

    The one thing that kept this from being amazing was... Deepika Padukone and her terrible acting skills. I feel like a different actress - like maybe Kangana or Konkona - would also have been able to get into the head of an independent woman more than the (let's face it) model-not-yet-turned-actress Deepika. It infuriated me so much that she gave in to him. I would so much rather Raj end up with Bipasha's character.

    And LOL! to Minnisha Lamba - her career is almost done, I think. She's taken to doing "sexy" bikini photo shoots. And re: her face - I think it's the awful nose job she had done a few years ago that makes her look old.

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  8. I haven't seen this yet but your review (and I read the spoilers too, I can't help myself) makes me think I won't run screaming from it :) And I was SO rewarded by RNBDJ that I trust you!

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  9. Ajnabi, I couldn't agree more with your overall assessment of BAH. I do disagree with a few details, though.

    I'm not sure Deepika should be blamed for her performance in a role that requires her character in the last five minutes of the movie to completely repudiate every everything she said, thought and did in the first half. I liked her very much in the first half (although it has to be said that I may not be perfectly objective when it comes to Deepika). And while Minissha does have a mature-looking face, I thought her naive manner in the first half made her quite believable as an 18-year-old. She was the only actor of the three who seemed to me to have aged 12 years between the first and second halves.

    But yes--BAH wound up as a decent timepass with lots of eye-candy in the song picturizations, when it could have been so much more.

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  10. Agree with all Deepika cribs. :) Her part was concluded so badly. Her act is so bad. And I am surprised why Amrita Rao turned this down?? Thats a news to me. I think she would perfect this role.

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  11. Welcome back!

    I honestly wasn't interested in this movie because the director's last two films make my skin crawl (Salaam Namaste not so much but TRRP? puke!). But your note that the bastard has to pay for being a douchebag made me keen again ... and then I read the spoilers and don't really want to see it now.

    So now I'm just kind of torn. It seems like a fluffy neat YRF pastel fare I usually enjoy at least a little. But also possibly aggravating. Hmmm. Maybe if it lands on my door step or from the heavens for free, but I won't make an investment on buying it.

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  12. Hi everybody! Thank you so much for dropping by, commenting, and giving me such a nice welcome home!

    lapetitediva: Do you live in the U.S.? Netflix has both of those available. If not, I don't blame you for not wanting to shell out $7 for the curiosity factor. I'm curious about Aishwarya, though. I might have to see if I can find it, especially now that Induna's carrying non-Hindi Indian movies.

    Shell: I feel it's a pity the film flopped, despite its flaws, since it might have opened up a way for more 3-dimensional female characters. I feel the same way about Tashan.

    Nida: That moment was SO in his face, I just loved it. Especially since she waited till he was in his server uniform to dish it out. "Khuda Jaane" is sooo beautiful, I've been listening to the whole soundtrack on replay!

    Bhargav: you're right, IMO, the movie *is* mediocre but I admire it for the concept. And of course the great soundtrack, like you said. I joked with my husband that I'll be setting my personal ringtone on his phone to "Lucky Boy," but for some reason he isn't too fond of the idea. ;-)

    bollywooddeewana: I really can't classify it as more than a timepass in my own book. The plot flaws irk me too badly. But I'm glad it worked better for you! And you're right, the cinematography is absolutely lovely, from start to finish.

    Anonymous: *preens* Wow, thank you so much for your kind words! You're very good for my ego, so feel free to stop by any time. LOL (Mom? Is that you?) And, after everybody mentioning they didn't know Amrita turned the role down I'm questioning where I read that. I hope I didn't just pull it out of thin air! Okay, I just checked it, and it's from an old IndiaFM report. By Taran Adarsh, so hopefully it's more reliable than his reviews!

    Filmi Girl: Hmm, it's good to know you felt the same way about BAH that I did. That gives me hope that I'll like Kambakkht Ishq. I don't know if it's Minissha's nose job or the awful lightening streaks--she looks soooo much younger with black hair. Either way, it's a bad look for her. And yeah, I noticed that ALL the photos I've seen of her for the past four months have been barely clothed, except for a few of the Kidnap promos. :-/

    memsaab: Oooh, me being a pandit for THE pandit-ji is a little scary. ;-) I hope you'll post about it when you end up watching--it didn't get a whole lot of attention from what I've seen.

    Pessimisissimo: you know, you make a valid point about the impossibility of portraying a character whose entire motivation is destroyed in the final ten minutes of a film. I wonder if that's the reason Amrita opted out? Anyway, I understand about lack of objectivity: my fondness for Shahid has led to me making excuses for tripe like Chup Chup Ke, which is practically inexcusable. ;-)

    Darshit: I think she took a look at the script and knew it was too contradictory! LOL Either that, or, I *think* I remember some rumors about too much kissing in the movie or something. But I could be wrong about that.

    veracious: S/N and TRRP are two of my least favorite films (Saif is just so great at acting like a jerk, it's too convincing), the latter so much so that I didn't bother to finish or review it. I think you might enjoy it more than those two. I know I certainly did! But it does have some fundamental flaws that make me hesitant to recommend you go ahead and buy it anyway since renting isn't an option for you...

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  13. Hahaha girl!!!! Looooved the review. Glad you enjoyed it...overall. Bips rule though. Did you know that? LOL

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  14. Cant believe I missed your come-back! :-) Well, a very belated welcome back.

    Glad to see that everyone agrees on BAH. I too, thought that the Bips storyline was the best and the two of them looked great together. And someone finally noticed that Minissha Lamba looks like a 30+ - I was beginning to feel that it was just me! Like you, I would re-watch this one too - just for the satisfaction of seeing a jerk pay for his sins.

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  15. Nicki--Of course I know that! And if I didn't you would MAKE me know that. LOL

    bollyviewer: Thank you! And yeah, I definitely re-watched it since I wrote the review. It could have been *so good* and instead it's just barely okay. :-/ Oh well, such is life.

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  16. i love flim which covers hot pictures and hot actors

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