Sunday, March 20, 2005

Taal - Overlooked?


[Pic Courtesy Roger Ebert's Website]

Roger Ebert, arguably America's most well-known movie critic, conducts an annual Overlooked Film Festival that, in his own words, "showcases overlooked films, formats and genres". This year's edition of the festival includes Taal, Subash Ghai's film starring Aishwarya Rai, Anil Kapoor and Akshaye Khanna.

I found Taal to be a strictly by-the-numbers, predictable love triangle set against the backdrop of music. It employed well-worn cliches(the heroine's father being insulted by the hero's family, to name one) in its treatment of the poor girl-rich boy love story in the first half while the second half was marginally better as it showcased an eccentric music director's love for the heroine. Its ending, in keeping with the rest of the movie, was cinematic and predictable too. On the positive side were a gorgeous Aishwarya Rai, a blockbuster soundtrack by A.R.Rehman and an energetic performance by Anil Kapoor.

While Ebert's review of the movie is scathingly funny, his liking for the movie and his appreciation for Indian movies in general, comes through (after all, he gives it 3 1/2 stars). Taal has a story with an abundance of sentiments, an ending respecting 'Indian' values, a sanitized, Bollywood-style romance, a universally acknowledged beauty as heroine, extravagant song sequences and is mounted on a grand scale. For Ebert, these elements are representative of today's Indian films, and so these factors, rather than absolute quality, seem to have been behind his selection of Taal for his festival. But even with those same parameters, me thinks he could have come up with a better choice. IMO, Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam would have been a much better replacement. It includes all those qualities that Ebert is looking for but puts them together in a much better package.

13 Comments:

At 1:16 AM, Anonymous ram said...

What a coincidence! I wrote to Ebert's "AnswerMan" asking him whether he was amused by the movie or whether he truly admired it! You've given me the answer:) I'd be curious to see if Ebert answers my question in his fortnightly column.
Yes, HDDCS was much better. What would be a good Tamil movie equivalent? Some Dharani movie?!

 
At 10:38 AM, Anonymous victor said...

bj, I think you are overlooking the key point…

ebert’s hitchcokian obsession with ash : D

and afterall it was after watching ‘taal’ when ebert gave his famous line.. “the most beautiful woman in the world”

as for his choice of film, I think his intention is to showcase a ‘bollywood musical extravaganza’ , and if that is the case then one film is as good as the other

though I am glad he picked ‘taal’, akshaye khanna imo is the greatest Indian actor of his generation and hopefully he gets some recognition after this (though it clearly is not his best work)…

he has been overlooked long enough for ‘commercial stars’ such as srk

and like you said, the always dependable anil is an added treat…

though not taking anything away from ‘hddcs’, as ajay and salman were equally as good a one-two pair

the only downside I see to this whole thing is that idiot ghai might come away with some recognition after this, esp considering he is going to be there himself.. and the last thing we need is losers like ghai getting any recognition

 
At 9:26 PM, Anonymous rekhs said...

i thot ishq bina kya jeena by anuradha sriram was sung well
...she sounds v sweet,goes to prove anu is good at melody as well as randy numbers!
if not better!:)
rekhs

 
At 11:12 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

ram, i think there was a bit of both amusement and admiration in Ebert's review of Taal. A tamil movie for the overlooked festival? Hmmm... thats a good question. Gotta think about that one...

 
At 11:14 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

vic, yes, ebert has definitely been bowled over by ash and i'm sure she was responsible for a big part of those 3 1/2 stars!

 
At 1:09 AM, Anonymous vic said...

I was reading the review again and it is hilarious…

‘She makes that distinctive Indian head movement that is not a shake nor a nod, but a sort of circular combination of both. I have learned that it means, "Yes, probably, but one never knows."’

So funny, yet so true : )

victor

 
At 11:05 AM, Anonymous ram said...

If the definition of an 'overlooked film' was "an interesting film that failed at the box-office" here're some of my Tamil movie picks:

Raja Paarvai, Johnny, Unaal Mudiyum Thambi, Oru Veedu Iru Vaasal, Nee Paathi Naan Paathi, Rhythm, En Uyir Thozhan, Sigaram, Housefull, Kudaikkull Mazhai...

 
At 1:31 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

ram, nice choices. I would definitely second selection of Rajapaarvai, Johny, Rhythm and Kudaikkul Mazhai among those... Its definitely an interesting enuf topic to deserve a separate post :)

 
At 5:23 AM, Anonymous Gopi Rajaseharan said...

Ebert took the time to travel to India. That is something. Here is what most other people think of a recent Indian production http://movies.yahoo.com/shop?d=hv&id=1808573929&cf=critic&intl=us. Somehow, I instinctively knew there wouldn't be a lot of positive reviews for Bride & Prejudice. I had a strong feeling Gurindher was banking on style and visual extravaganza and I was right. One of my American buddies said he thought Mounam Pesiyadhae was funny and classy but found the song sequences unnerving (although I thought the songs in that movie were okay and sometimes novel). IMO, the main problem with today's movies are the timing of the songs and their actual picturization. Sometimes I am embarassed. One critic in the Boston area remarked that Bollywood movies were an "acquired taste" and that they did nothing for him. I can see where he is coming from. Now don't get me wrong. I do want to keep songs in our movies. But the obligatory opening song plus the use of foreign locales (and individuals) practically make me cringe. It is also unfortunate that non-Indians interpret Bollywood as all movies Indian.

 
At 4:56 AM, Blogger Zero said...

another (as one Mr. Ram has claimed one already!) coincidence!!

I too was ROFLing after reading an unsuspecting Ebert's review on Taal (thru his overlooked filmfest link) and made a mention on my blog sometime ago.

 
At 12:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

ishq bina kya jina was sung by Sujata,not Anuradha Sriram

 
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