I'm still getting up to speed on Bollywood films. I didn't start watching them until recently, so I don't have extensive background knowledge that would enable me to connect the dots as I can with other films when it comes to Bollywood-oriented references, influences and the like, although it's frequent enough that Bollywood films reference American and other films for which I can connect the dots. But for all of the Bollywood films I've watched so far, I keep encountering reviews wherein the film is criticized for being clichéd, recycling plots, and so on. Andaaz is no exception. However, with the films I've watched so far, I haven't noticed anything yet that I'd call a recycled or rip-off plot. I'm starting to wonder if people are not looking at the films from a very "distant", generalized perspective, where they're seeing similarities because most Bollywood films involve romances that aren't exactly smooth sailing, conflicts with cultural traditions, and so on. That's not a factor of clichés or recycling plots, it's related to cultural facts and desires, and at "worst", it's a factor of defining the "Bollywood" genre. But even assuming Andaaz was recycling the plot of some famous precursor, so that it would be something like an uncredited remake, I don't agree that we should subtract points for that. What matters is how well the film does what it does. On those terms, Andaaz is excellent. It came extremely close to getting a 10 from me--only a few bits of stylistic awkwardness, mostly related to editing, lowered my score to a 9, but I'm tempted to overlook those flaws and go ahead with the 10. The story is centered on Raj (Akshay Kumar) and Kajal (Lara Dutta), who begin their relationship as childhood friends, when Kajal encouraged Raj to overcome a handicap--he had an accident and was wearing a leg brace. In a scene right out of Forrest Gump (1994), Kajal pushes Raj to skate like a pro, so that his brace pops right off and he's "cured". We jump ahead to Raj as a young adult when he's a local star footballer. He and Kajal are still close--but he's in love with her and she doesn't notice; she thinks they're just great friends. Raj goes off to the air force--primarily because Kajal has loved airplanes ever since she was a kid, and Raj wants to learn to fly for her. When he returns home, things have not gone quite as planned. Raj loses Kajal and becomes alienated and a bit bitter. Even when another beautiful woman, Jiya (Priyanka Chopra), tries to court him, he is not interested. There are a couple twists during the last hour or so, and the film ends up emphasizing important "messages" through its climax. Kumar is a very fine actor. The script requires him to go through a wide range of difficult emotional transformations, which he does with ease. The two female leads are also good, even if their performances are less wide-ranging, but both also have to undergo at least one important emotional/attitudinal transformation by the end of the film. There is also a number of entertaining support performances, including an amusing turn by Indian comedian Johnny Lever as "G.I. Joe". Of course as a mainstream Bollywood film, Andaaz is also a musical. The songs here are some of my favorites from a modern Bollywood film so far, although that may be partially because they've had more time to "stew"--I've owned the soundtrack on CD since it first came out in 2003. More than most other Bollywood films I've seen, director Raj Kanwar shoots the musical numbers in a strong western music video mode. This works most of the time, although one of the slight flaws in my opinion was an early musical number, "Shalala Shalala", with more of a disco feel and a 1980s look. But some of the later songs and accompanying visual sequences are breathtaking--especially the landscape stuff shot in South Africa, such as for "Rabba Ishq Na Hove". But Kanwar gives us pleasant cinematography throughout the film. Also interesting and unusual are some of the air force scenes, which at times resemble a cross between Top Gun (1986) and U.S. Armed Forces television commercials (which usually had admirable technical qualities). Even with such disparate elements, Kanwar keeps the story tight and focused, which isn't easy to do while meeting the typical range of Bollywood moods and stretching them out to about 2 and a half hours. There are a couple weird or corny editing effects and transitions, but these are relatively minor gaffes. The core of the film, though, is the heart-wrenching romantic material and the important themes/subtexts. Kanwar, who also wrote the story upon which the script was based, stresses that one must express one's feelings when one has them. A couple major plot points hinge on Raj avoiding communicating his feelings, but he's not the only person who has that problem in the film. There is also a very important theme and subtext about challenging cultural traditions, but Kanwar is careful to stress that such challenges shouldn't be done arbitrarily or across the board, just for their own sake. Jiya has problems with Raj because she's challenging traditions in a way that may be undesirable, but the climax hinges on the necessity of challenging traditions when it comes to "true love". Also during the climax, the emotional/attitudinal transformations that have been occurring throughout the film with all three principal characters (as well as some minor ones) reach their apex--everyone finally matures, emotionally and ethically.
Drama / Musical / Romance
Drama / Musical / Romance
Loyalty, Respect, commitment and love. What is Love? Loyalty, respect, commitment and friendship. Friendship and Love... Love and Friendship... So much in common, yet so different in emotion!
October 27, 2020