One of the great joys of Indian travel is going to the movies and watching Bollywood films. The films are oversized, dramatic musicals and seem to always have key phrases in English that help us to follow along. They are just plain fun.
Jab Tak Hai Jan
We wanted to watch Jab Tak Hai Jan as soon as we saw the trailer. It released on Diwali and had the marketing campaign of a huge blockbuster. We saw posters for it all over India.
Boy meets Girl.
Boy is carefree, poor, hardworking, moonlights as a street musician. Girl is rich, wealthy and engaged to a British man. They exchange music lessons for English lessons over the course of a month so that Girl can play a song for her Dad’s birthday.
Boy and Girl spend a lot of time together over the next month, or two musical montages.
Boy and Girl dance in a club. Girl and Boy are terrible dancers. Backup dancers, who can really move, give way for a musical montage to Boy and Girl who are slow and awkward. Male audience members do not notice that Girl cannot dance as they are distracted by her boobs.
Boy and Girl fall in love.
Boy gets run over by a car while riding his motorcycle and shouting “I LOVE YOU” to Girl
Girl prays to God that if Boy survives, she will not see him and be faithful to her husband to be.
Girl is faithful to her promise to God, leaves Boy.
Boy joins Indian army.
Fast forward 10 years
Boy – sullen, suicidal, angry and bitter – is now the top bomb dismantler for the Indian army. He is known as “the man who cannot die” to his colleagues for his refusal to wear armor and his blasé attitude towards death.
Boy disables bomb and goes into Himalayas to a beautiful lake to sing a song about Girl.
Boy rescues Girl #2 who is somehow drowning in lake.
Girl #2 works for the Discovery Channel and goes with Boy to film him dismantling bombs (Strangely, the enemies of India always seem to leave their highly-sophisticated bombs laying around unexploded, just waiting for them to be discovered and for Boy to come disable them. The enemies of India suck at terrorism)
Girl #2 falls in love with Boy after only 1.5 days, or one musical montage, and tells him so in English.
Girl #2 goes back to London for Discovery Channel and needs Boy to go to London to verify story.
Girl #2 calls Boy who is with army in the Himalayas, asks Boy to come to London, Boy takes off work from army and flies to London in the course of a few hours.
Girl #2 and Boy are reunited on the street.
Boy is run over by a car.
Boy wakes up from coma, asks for Girl.
Girl #2 enters hospital room, Boy does now know who she is, asks for Girl #1.
BOOM! Plot Twist!
Boy has amnesia, thinks it is 2002, has no recollection of the last 10 years.
Girl #2, distraught, finds Girl #1.
Girl #1 is still in love with Boy.
Boy goes to live with Girl #1.
Girl #1 rejects Boy for reasons only known to the people in the audience who understand Hindi.
Girl #2 now starts a documentary on Boy, the fun-loving version who sings songs, has a passion for food and a love for people.
Boy is walking through London train station, remembers his last 10 years on the bomb squad as they are evacuating the train station due to a bomb found in a train car.
Boy walks over to backpack, dispenses a few tidbits of his bomb knowledge, Police officer #1 says to Police #2, “This chap seems like he knows what he is talking about, let him take a look.” (Never mind that he looks more than vaguely Middle Eastern, his name is Samar, and speaks with a foreign accent.)
Boy dismantles bomb (as the two cops look over his shoulder) and says “I am Samar! Indian Army bomb unit!”
Boy has big fight with Girl #1. Details of fight are only known to Hindi speaking viewers.
Boy goes back to army.
Boy dismantles bomb in Himalayas as Girl #1 watches, wearing a gleaming white sari.
Boy quits army on the spot for Girl #1.
Boy and Girl #1 presumably live happily ever after; Girl #2 is last seen giving a speech about the Documentary she made about Boy.
Girl #2 says her documentary is a story about love.
Jeff’s Movie Review
The plot had so many holes it looked as if it were shredded by a bomb, one that Samar could not disable. There were loud BOOM noises whenever a plot twist emerged and there were some scenes that were so contrived and silly my eyes rolled involuntarily.
But it was entertaining, especially the first 2.5 hours, before I got movie fatigue and was ready to go. Have you ever went to watch a niece’s or nephew’s little league basketball game and it went into double overtime? It is fun and exciting and special at first, but when the score is tied 14-14 towards the end of 2nd overtime you are hoping, praying that someone on either team will make a damn basket so that you can leave? That was Jab Taak Hai Jan.
The lead male role is played by aging star Shahrukh Kahn who is 47-years-old. The two females are 28 and 24 years old, so this whole thing was a bit of a stretch to begin with.
But if one can suspend disbelief for a second and forget about the age and hotness gaps of the stars, the gaping plot holes, the bad acting and the silliness of the amnesia, then this is a fun movie.
In the end, I give it 4 out of 5 stars. I give it that only because the music was good, the girls were hot, and I am grading on the Bollywood curve. If this were an American film with Tom Cruise, Emma Stone and Miley Cyrus, I’d probably give it 2 stars. Actually, I’d have never seen it, so, there’s that.
Note: The movie title translates into “I will never forget, as long as I live.” I think it should have been “I will never forget, as long as I live, provided that I do not get amnesia.”
Student of the Year
Combine a Telenovela, Glee and soft-core gay porn, and you have Student of the Year.
The movie is about two high school aged boys, with square jaws, 1% body fat and perma-five-o’clock shadows who begin as rivals but then have a steamy “bromance.” The one problem, as if we couldn’t see it coming all the way from the movie poster, is they both are in love with Shania, a long-legged beautiful classmate.
The weak plot takes a strange turn when the entire cast all goes to Thailand for a wedding, which is really just an excuse to show the hot, hard-bodied stars emerging in slow-motion from swimming pools in tiny swimsuits. There are a lot of gratuitous T and A shots in the movie, but most of them are for the female viewers, as the boy co-leads always have their shirts half buttoned.
As the movie title suggests, the focus of the movie is a Student of the Year Competition at the high school with the winner getting a scholarship to an Ivey League American University.
Below is the format
Round 1 – Intelligence test
Top 16 move on
Round 2 – Scavenger hunt
Top 8 move on
Round 3 – Dance competition
Top 4 move on
Round 4 – Triathlon
I remember submitting my college applications with transcripts, video of dance moves and triathlon times. I really think I could have gotten into Yale had it not been for the Scavenger hunt. That always befuddled me.
The fierce competition pits the friends against each other, tears them apart in a swirl of dancing, sports and drama. The end of the competition comes down to the two rival co-stars sprinting stride for stride towards the finish line, and one of them (in the middle of a full out sprint mind you) looks into the stands, sees an expression on the face of someone and decides to pull up to let his freinemy win. Just plain bad.
I give it only 1 out of 5 stars, even grading on the Bollywood curve. I am sure that Indian teenage boys and girls loved it and will have many tormented fantasies over the film, spending many long nights tortured by raging hormones after the sexual images of the stars. But teenagers in the states love the Twilight series also, so this does not get a free pass here.
A middle-aged mother of two living in India feels a little self-conscious because her husband, kids and friends can speak English, but she cannot. She goes to New York 4-weeks in advance of her niece’s wedding to help with preparations, gets humiliated at a coffee shop because she cannot order, goes outside crying, and sees an advert on a bus that says: “Learn English in 4-weeks.” Convenient.
The movie is very cute and filled with numerous funny bits, even though it is formulaic and predictable. Her English class is taught by a funny, overtly homosexual British man and the class is made up of people from all over the globe, including a comical Pakistani cab driver and a fellow Indian, so there is some excuse to use Hindi.
A Frenchman in the class falls in love with her and there is a near kiss before she runs away. I asked Kristi, “Will she end up with the French guy?” Kristi responded, “In an American movie, yes. In a Bollywood move, no.” She was right.
This movie for us was enhanced by the experience, watching it in a raucous theater in Jaipur where the crowd cheered and oohed throughout the movie. There were many funny parts and interesting insights as to what Indians think of America.
Overall this is a competent, feel-good story. We want to watch it again with subtitles so we can catch the parts we missed the first time.
If this were an American movie, it would get 4 out of 5 stars by this reviewer. By this is Bollywood and as a result of the curve, it gets 5 out of 5! Yeah for you English Vinglish. I am sure my review will really boost revenue and give you a wider, international audience.