This was supposed to be about English Babu Desi Mem (1996), Sonale Bendre's first film with Shah Rukh Khan. Unfortunately, the YouTube video I watched a few months ago is gone, gone, gone, so I will have to rely on song videos and their other appearance, in Duplicate (1998). That turns out to be an awful lot of SRK (he plays a father and two of his sons in EBDM, and a goofy naif and murderous don in Duplicate.) I came away from both films feeling that there was not enough of Sonale, even though she is featured in many dance numbers (she's a wonderful dancer, and it is clear they are showcasing that talent).
If you had heard that Shah Rukh Khan was famous for his romantic roles and you only saw these two films, you would be baffled. In EBDM, his main role is a rather stuffy, officious Anglicized Indian (Vikram)who is trying to bring his orphaned nephew back to England. Sonale plays the boy's aunt, Bijuriya, who makes a living as a club dancer. Vikram is first led to believe that Bijuriya is a wealthy princess who has been raising the child (and even starts to fall in love with her), but he discovers the truth in this scene.
My recollection of the film was that it was mildly entertaining, and that I liked Vikram's happy-go-lucky but short-lived brother Hari better. He and his wife have more chemistry than Vikram and Bijuriya.
Was there more chemistry between Shah Rukh and Sonare in Duplicate? Sadly, no. As Lily, a tough-hearted club dancer (again!), she is initially paired with Shah Rukh's evil avatar, Manu, easily one of his most unattractive villains. And when she starts to fall for the the sweet, nerdy Bablu (initially thinking he is a reformed Manu), she has to complete with Bablu's sweetheart, Sonia (Juhi Chawla). Here they are going head to head:
Duplicate is over the top, juvenile entertainment, clearly aimed at the 11-year-olds in the audience, with a double dose of SRK for the moms and big sisters. In an interview at the time, Shah Rukh says that he thought he did not have enough experience yet to play double roles, and he is mostly right. His performance reminds me of Jim Carey in some of his lamer films, although there are glimpses of the actor who will mature into the double roles in Don, Rab Ni Bana Di Jodi, and Fan. (Especially when Manu and Bablu are trying to mimic each other.)
So, now the questions:
What is your first impression of Vikram? What, another annoying guy, this time with a British accent?
What is Bijuriya's/Lily's first impression of Vikram/Bablu? In EBDM, she is suspicious and fearful, knowing he wants to take the nephew away. She's trying to fool him. In Duplicate, she's the one being fooled, delighted that her menacing, violent boyfriend, Manu, is becoming more respectful and affectionate.
How would you describe their chemistry over the course of the film? Nonexistent, even in English Babu Desi Mem, where they actually end up together.
If you had a first date with Vikram or Bablu, would you go on a second? No and no. Manu is sexy in a dangerous way, but that tongue thing he does is a real turnoff. Ew.
Nest date: Karisma Kapoor in Dil To Pagal Hai (1997) Yay! a non-creepy SRK! And more Madhuri Dixit!
You may have seen the meme about living your life in such a way that the Westboro Baptist Church (correction: the Westboro UnChristian Hate Group) pickets your funeral. It looks like I won't have to wait that long! They are planning to grace the convention I'm attending next week in Ohio.
Later note: It has come to my attention that WBS thinks the name of the denomination is Unity Universalism. Oh, well. I'll wear my T-shirt so they can see the correct one.
The only "first world problem" I complain about publicly is the difficulty I have seeing Indian films, old or new. The closest theater that routinely schedules them (and runs more than one at a time) is a 90-minute drive from me. I can stream some titles on Hoopla via my local library, and between the media collection and Interlibrary Loan, I can get a few from my university. I have subscriptions to Netflix (streaming and DVD) and Eros, and a membership to Einthusan. But I can't get my eyeballs on the next film on my First Dates with SRK list, English Babu, Desi Mem. I have watched it once, via YouTube, but now it is not there anymore. (Grrrrrr!)
Instead, I am going to watch the clips available on YouTube, and also watch SRK's next film with Sonale Bendre, Duplicate, which IS available online. It's making my head spin, since Shah Rukh plays a triple role in English Babu and a double role (one of which is a master of disguises) in Duplicate.
I will be traveling to Ohio for a conference next week, but plan to post my Sonare/SRK reaction on schedule, June 27.
Because these first dates are chronological, most of them are from Shah Rukh Khan's early, pre-DDLJ, negative period. Anjaam is the darkest so far; he plays a character (spoiled brat Vijay) with absolutely no redeeming qualities. Zip. Nada. (Okay, his "I am so besotted" antics in "Badi Mushkil Hai Khoya Mera Dil Hai" are pretty adorable.)
And who can blame him? Madhuri Dixit is captivating, as always. (She is my very, very favorite SRK costar; sorry, Kajol.) Loved them in Dil To Pagal Hai; adored them in Koyla and Devdas. In this scene, watch as Vijay's infatuation turns to smoldering jealousy while he watches her dance, having just met her actual beloved, Ashok (Deepak Tijori -- the happy dude playing the drum).
You might think that a dark story filled with violence and revenge wouldn't offer much in the way of sexy, romantic moments, but you would be WRONG! After seeing this scene, you can almost believe that Madhuri's dancing can work medical miracles. (Not to mention the emotion SRK conveys with only his face and hands; for more of this, see Koyla, where his character is mute for most of the film.)
So, now the questions:
What is your first impression of Vijay? What an entitled child!
What is Shivani's first impression of Vijay? As an airline hostess, you get the feeling she deals with his ilk all. day. long. Just another jerk, but she has to be pleasant because that's her job.
How would you describe their chemistry over the course of the film? Despite the fact that she does not return his affection, Shivani and Vijay are intimately connected as closely as lovers. It is the chemistry between SRK and Madhuri as actors that makes this so compelling and believable.
If you had a first date with Vijay, would you go on a second? Hell no. This is Shah Rukh Khan's most unappealing character so far. I might not push him off a cliff, but he'd never get a foot in the door.
Side note: the music (songs and background score) is fabulous!
I had a pressing deadline in my professor life last week, so it took me longer than I'd planned to watch and react to "Baazigar". If you haven't seen it, you should. it is available on Amazon Prime; if anyone knows another source, please let me know in the comments. Margaret Redlich, Hindi film blogger extraordinaire, has an excellent eight-part re-cap, with dance videos, if you just want the high points and don't mind spoilers. Shah Rukh Khan woos two girls in this film, each in a different character, which is why I consider this a double date. (This will happen again. and again.) Each character has his own song/dance video, and you can see their differences pretty well in them.)
It's hard to summarize the plot without completely spoiling the film for anyone who wants to experience it as a complete newbie, but let's say that Seema comes to a tragic end, and Vicky and Priya's relationship blossoms into romance and engagement.
The audience knows everything Priya doesn't -- that Vicky is not to be trusted. But this stupendous dance scene foreshadows her discovery that he is not what -- or who -- she thought he was. He is sexy and seductive, irresistible to her...and to the audience, even though we know the truth about Vicky! Margaret Redlich notes that Shah Rukh is "a little bit dark and scary. And Kajol is enjoying it a lot, but also has some gut feeling that something is wrong, which she has to keep ignoring in order to enjoy herself."
For me, the contrast between Shah Rukh Khan's chemistry with Juhi Chawla in "Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman", Shilpa Shetty and Kajol in "Baazigar" is striking. I know it is all acting, but it feels more like acting with Shilpa (maybe because Ajay is acting with her?). With Juhi, SRK moved from acquaintance to friendship and beyond in a nicely-paced arc. With Kajol, it was an instant click, and they are so at ease together that their connection is totally believable.
So, to the questions (I am answering only for the Priya/Vicky pairing, since we don't see Ajay and Seema's introduction):
What is your first impression of Vicky? Charming and smooth like a panther, only sweaty and with dimples.
What is Priya's first impression of Vicky? From a normal heart rate to thumpa-thumpa-thumpa in about 20 seconds.
How would you describe their chemistry over the course of the film? A steadily growing flame from the first flicker. No wonder audiences wanted to see more of them!
If you had a first date with Vicky, would you go on a second? Mmmm. Yes. Charming and smooth, with dimples and -- one hopes -- showered and squeaky clean.
Question for you: Does anyone out there want to date Ajay?
Next up: Anjaam (SRK's first date with Madhuri Dixit, 1994) Full schedule here. So far I have only been able to find it on YouTube, and the subtitles are out of sync. If you have another source, please let me know!!
Reposted from Allan Showalter:
Leonard Cohen particularly admired boxing legend and activist, Muhammad Ali, who died June 3, 2016. In I'm Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen, author Sylvie Simmons reports that when she asked Leonard who his hero was, he immediately named “poets and spiritual leaders – Roshi, Ramesh Balsekar, Lorca, Yeats – adding the caveat, ‘I admire many men and women but it’s the designation ‘hero’ I have difficulty with, because it implies some kind of reverence that is alien to my nature.'” The next day, however, Sylvie received the following email from Leonard:
my hero is muhammad ali
as they say about the Timex in their ads
takes a lickin’
keeps on tickin’"
And, Adam Cohen (Leonard's son) named his own son, Cassius, after his (Adam’s) hero Cassius Clay aka Muhammad Ali. He’s named Cassius, Adam explained to Brigit Grant in 2012, because "I don’t think the rabbi would have appreciated Muhammad Cohen"
Showalter credits the information and quote to Being Leonard Cohen’s son – it’s not all hallelujahs by Brigit Grant. The Jewish Chronicle Online: March 29, 2012.
It's a long time until Shah Rukh Khan's next release, so I am filling the void by watching as many of his films as I can between now and then. My Twitter friend Ashley suggested a themed series exploring the chemistry between SRK and his leading ladies, and so First Dates with SRK was born! For those who want to play along, here is the schedule for my reaction posts. Get these films in your queue now!
June 3: Juhi Chawla - Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman (1992)
June 10: Kajol - Baazigar (1993)
June 17: Madhuri Dixit - Anjaam (1994)
June 24: Sonale Bendre - English Babu Desi Mem (1996 -videos only) and Duplicate (1998)
July 1: Karisma Kapoor - Dil To Pagal Hai (1997)
July 8: Preity Zinta - Dil Se (1998)
July 15: Rani Mukerji - Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998)
July 22: Aishwarya Rai - Mohabbatein (2000)
July 29: Karina Kapoor - Asoka (2001)
August 5: Priyanka Chopra - Don (2006)
August 12: Deepika Padukone - Om Shanti Om (2007)
August 19: Anushka Sharma - Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi (2008)
As you can tell, these are not all of the actresses he has wooed; just the ones who appeared in more than one film as his love interest. I was uncertain about including Karisma Kapoor, but decided that at the very least it's a good excuse to watch Dil To Pagal Hai.
Another giant of my life is gone. Muhammed Ali was 7 years my senior; I remember watching the young and glorious Cassius Clay in the 1960 Olympics when I was not yet in my teens. My dad loved boxing. I do not, and never have. (I turn away from the screen during Shah Rukh Khan's more brutal fight scenes, and I refuse to watch "Raging Bull", despite my tremendous admiration for Robert DiNiro.)
But Muhammed Ali was more than a boxer and a celebrity. He was a principled person who used his fame to work for positive change in the world. He was a courageous person who could walk away from a lucrative career at his peak by taking a controversial stand on the most contentious issue of our generation. As the sister of a draft resister, who risked much less for the same reason, I know how hard it can be to be true to your own principles.
His appearance at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics -- his body trembling as he lit the Olympic flame -- broke my heart and yet raised my spirits. Still alive, still fighting. Still witnessing.
The fact that the world is plagued by people who use the power of celebrity to make themselves bigger and wealthier, while belittling and crushing others makes the loss of Muhammed Ali even sadder. Every empty-souled celebrity on the planet needs to look in the mirror today and measure the distance between their lives and his.
As promised, here is my reaction to Juhi Chawla's "first date" with Shah Rukh Khan in the 1992 film "Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman". It is a coming-of-age story at its heart, as the ambitious but naive Raj (Shar Rukh) comes to Bombay to seek his fortune as civil engineer. He finds success and falls in love, but nearly sabotages both in his urgency to "become a gentleman" by climbing the corporate ladder.
Because I am focusing on the relationship between Raj and Renu, I will not recap the whole film, but on their romance. Frankly, even after Loveria Hua, it hard to see the chemistry between them as anything more than friendship or puppy love. They clearly like each other, but everything about their body language tells me that their affection is creating cozy warmth, not heat.
Then this happens. Raj buys Renu a sexy new dress and insists she put it on. The wind!!! Thanks to Margaret Redlich's wonderful new book, I know this symbolizes the emotional rush of true love. Enjoy.
So to answer my own questions:
What is your first impression of Raj? Manic Pixie Dream Boy; fun to watch, but potentially exhausting to keep up with.
What is Renu's first impression of Raj? Kind of cute, but rude and arrogant. Needs to be taken down a peg. She is right, of course!
How would you describe their chemistry over the course of the film? Annoyance, friendship, that cute couple, BURSTING INTO FLAMES, disappointment, separation, redemption, (finally) grown-up love.
If you had a first date with Raj, would you go on a second? When I was 17, in a heartbeat. At 67, I couldn't take my eyes off Jai (Nana Patekar).
I will post the rest of my reaction within a day or so, to give fellow-watchers a chance to see the film (available on Einsthusan for free, and ad-free for a very reasonable one-time payment). Questions to ponder: What is your first impression of Raj? What is Renu's first impression? How would you describe their chemistry over the course of the film? If you had a first date with Raj, would you go on a second? Feel free to add your own questions, of course!