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the film criticism aspect of cyber | by maryann johanson

trailer break: ‘Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi’

Take a break from work: watch a movie trailer…


One day last week I was working in a Starbucks, and — as has happened more than once before — the person sitting next to me noticed the work I was doing and engaged me in conversation about movies. The guy turned out to be Indian, and we ended up talking about how missing from the radar Bollywood movies are in the U.S.: they’re certainly not marketed to non-Indian audiences at all, and he agreed that he hardly ever saw non-Indians at showings of Bollywood movies in New York.

And coincidentally, we have a new Bollywood phenomenon: Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, which was not just the top limited release in the U.K. last weekend but also the No. 5 movie overall. It was the No. 15 movie in the U.S. last weekend, with one of the best per-screen averages of the weekend: $10,985 on each of 83 screens, which is better that all the 14 movies above it in the ranking except Slumdog Millionaire (also, coincidentally, an Indian-themed movie, though not a product of Bollywood).

Now, Rab was not screened for critics in New York, as far as I know. It has no reviews at all on Rotten Tomatoes. And Alex von Tunzelmann at the Guardian’s Film Blog says the situation is the same in the U.K. What’s more, we — critics and non-Indian moviegoers alike — are missing something special:

Like most Bollywood movies, Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi (RNBDJ) has hardly been reviewed in Britain. Reviews in the Indian media have been average. It is striking, then, that the average rating given to it by female reviewers on IMDb is 10 out of 10.

The critics have missed a treat. RNBDJ is a remarkable movie: not just for its great charm and warmth, but also for its clever twist on sexual politics. The plot is something like Dirty Dancing, with the gender roles reversed. It’s the resolute female lead who lives her life behind a tough, unemotional shell, and the shy male lead who gets a makeover and learns how to dance.

If Hollywood wants to lure women back to the box office, perhaps it should check out why Indian women go in droves to see films like Dostana or RNBDJ. If you’re looking for something sweet, engaging and uplifting over the holidays, you could do worse than check them out, too.

The Indian guy I met at Starbucks wondered if I cover any Bollywood movies, and I had to admit that I generally can’t manage it: without press screenings, without even notice of and information about these films from publicists, I never even hear about them, never mind actually having time to squeeze them in. But I’m more intrigued all the time by them… especially by the prospect of one movie my Starbucks companion told me about: Roadside Romeo, an animated film that’s a joint production of Bollywood and Walt Disney. Not necessarily the movie itself, though it looks cute, but the idea of more joint productions of Hollywood and Bollywood. It looks like Romeo got a limited release in the U.S. in October, but I’d never even heard of it before last week. (And hey, I never had a chance to see Dostana, which was a hit in limited release last month.)

I’m very intrigued by the increasingly global nature of film production and film audiences, and I’m gonna starting keeping an eye — if I can find the info to do so — on Bollywood movies in the U.S. I’m starting by ordering some DVDs of Bollywood movies (two that von Tunzelmann mentioned at the Guardian sound interesting: Veer-Zaara and Fanaa), and see where I can take it from there.

Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi is now playing in the U.S. and the U.K.



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  • apunkah

    I am of Indian-ancestry, and just want to thank you for your review. I believe if more non-Indian audiences become interested in Bollywood films, we will begin to see a higher caliber of Bollywood films being produced.

    Often, I am frustrated by the triteness and superficiality of the films that come out of Bollywood.

    If I may do so, I’d like to recommend a few movies for you as well.

    Bombay (1995) – An amazing film set against the Bombay riots of 1992-1993. This film is about a Hindu man who falls in love with a Muslim woman.

    Khamoshi (1996)– This film is about two deaf parents raising their hearing-able children. This was a revolutionary film for Bollywood because Indian culture often does not acknowledge its disabled, let alone have four major film stars play that sort of part with sincerity.

    Umrao Jaan (1981) – a classic film of similar status to “Gone with the Wind” in Indian culture. This film is about a young girl who is a victim of revenge and kidnapped. She is sold into a brothel, and follows her struggle with her fate.

    Satyam Shivum Sundaram (1978) – The title translates as “Truth, Godliness, and Beauty.” This film examines what each of those things mean. A young girl is deformed after an accident. She remains hidden in her village, but not unheard. She has a beautiful singing voice, and a man falls in love with her sight unseen.

  • Marsha

    I have to warn you that Romeo, unfortunately, wasn’t very good.

    RNBDJ was, however, delightful — funny and refreshing, and actually romantic. I am a non-Indian person who likes Bollywood movies, and I am often pleased by how female-oriented they seem to be (not just in themes, but in catering to the female gaze). But it’s true, they are largely unknown in the US outside of the Indian community. Whenever I go see one, I am always one of the very few non-Indians in the audience.

  • ashok kumar

    this movie is very…..good. very nice acting for Anushka ji & SRK

  • Rosemary

    I too am a big fan of the Hindi film industry and am not of Indian descent (Mexican American) it would be great if the Hindi movies could be screened and reviewed for the critics so that this way they can gain popularity in the US. Fortunately I live in an area where Hindi movies are shown and I have taken advantage but I do wish more people had the opportunity to see great movies like RNBJ which is a type of movie that unfortuneately you would never seen done in Hollywood.

  • veynz

    You’ve been recommended the wrong movies.
    Please don’t watch over the top melodramatic ,ovies like Rab Ne…Veer Zara, Fanaa and stupid copmedies like Dostana. They may represent mainstream Bollywood, but you’ll lose any respect you have for Bollywood if you see them.

    instead, watch Aamir khan’s directorial debut ‘Taare Zameen Par’, Sriram raghavan’s “Johnny Gaddaar’, Vishal Bharadwaj’s “Omkara”, and if you still want to see something totally mainstream, yet sensible, watch Imtiaz Ali’s “Jab We Met”.

  • MaryAnn

    I’m not recommending any of these movies. I haven’t seen them, so I can’t recommend them.

    Thanks for the tips on the other films. I’ll look out for them on DVD.

  • Maha

    I’m actually Egyptian and a huge fan of Bollywood

    at least in America hindi movies are shown in certain theaters and you can find Dvds or even order them online

    Here in Egypt the situation is pretty dire in that respect no theaters no Dvds, internet is a life saver

    Anyway i have some movie recommendations

    usually Shahrukh khan is a good place to start if you are new to Bollywood for him i would highly recommend

    Paheli – a very sweet but a very underrated movie

    Koyla a fairly old movie but very interesting

    Kal Ho Naa Ho – very beautiful and not too indian good if you take things gradually

    Devdas

    Veer-Zaara i really encourage you to get it

    Dil Se – unbelievable from the acting to the mise en scene to the story A.R Rahman the man behind the wonderful music of Slumdog millionare is the composer for this movie

    Dilwale Dulhanya Le Jayenge or DDLJ a Bollywood Classic ask any indian about it they will tell you so featuring the powerful Duo Srk and Kajol

    Main Hoon Naa and Om Shanti Om both are the work of director Farah Khan you’ll notice that her movies have a certain taste and very fun oriented

    and of course Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham also a bollywood classic featuring Amitabh Bachchan A must see

    and Kabhie Alvida Naa Kehna a beautiful movie by director Karan Johar also has a very distinctive style

    also Rab ne bana di Jodi is vert fun and very refreshing indeed

    as for non SRK films i would highly recommend

    Eklavya the Royal Guard
    Baabul
    OmKara – Saif Ali khan really Stands out in this one
    Black (tissue boxes are a necessity when watching Hindi Films especially this one :D )

    also if you are in the mood for a light comedy there is Bunty Aur Babli

    i think that’s enough for one post, I’m really Glad to have found your Blog Keep the good work

    Cheers

  • I watched the movie recently.It was not bad.I liked the ending of the movie.

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