Thursday, October 26, 2006

[1980] SHAAN: OK--I'm trying to mix in a little Bollywood with my 80s watching. (This is why I'm excited for this project. Not just this, but for trying some new films in general. God help me--I actually plan to watch all three hours and 30 minutes of Heaven's Gate.) I figure, it's the biggest cinema in the world, it can't all be bad three hour musical costume epics. But it's hard to know where to start--there's never been as many Bollywood fanboys as there has been Hong Kong deviants or Japanaphiles, so there's not a lot of information out there that I can find. And yet on the IMDB like every Indian film has at least 7 stars out of 10, so I can't really go by that either. (Apparently Indian audiences just love everything.) This movie--Shaan--was directed by Ramesh Sippy, who did Sholay in the 70s, which is like THE Bollywood movie--so I figured it was a good place to start. Where Sholay was a Leone pastiche this is more of a Bond pastiche--well, if Bond was a city policeman with two brothers and Blofeld just ran guns for a living and was just sort of sneeringly evil but not out to rule the world. But he still has his secret lair! With a crocodile pit and henchmen and a clean white suit and a control chair with a million buttons. The policeman gets killed about a third of the way in so his ne'er do well brothers (the very big star Amitabh Bachchan and Shashi Kapoor) decide to clean up their act and take revenge through a variety of shenanigans and musical numbers. Amitabh fights a crocodile in the closing reel. I liked the beginning way more than anything else--Bachchan and Kapoor are low-level conmen who get conned by an uncle-niece conmen team, and then the four of them get conned by yet another conwoman (Parveen Babi), and there's shifting alliances and cute humor and establishment of how slick everybody is (and we have our love interests and comic relief for the rest of the film.) But after their brother is killed by the Blofeld doppleganger this becomes fairly standard stuff. The effects are decent but even regular Bond movies look dated now in that regard. Yeah. It was good, but not different or distinct enough as an entertainment to get me too enchanted.

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