Thursday 13 November 2014

IMDb Bottom 100 Review – Number 65 Indian Flames

Indian movies. Are they comedies? Are they dramas? Are they musicals? Why are they everything at once? These questions have no doubt puzzled movie scholars for generations. And tonight we will dive headfirst into that very debate. Indian films – why the fuck? Because surely hitting every demographic segment is damn near impossible. Particularly with a billion people to please. But they still try it, because 1 billion people also means close to unlimited funds, it seems. Perhaps this all makes sense if you're an Indian. If you're me, however, it's super confusing. So to clear things up, we'll try to unravel the mysteries of Bollywood once again. Please join me in taking a look at...

Take one look at this picture and you don't need to read the rest of this review. Do it anyway. But you don't have to. 

Ram Gopal Varma's Ki Aag aka Ram Gopal Varma's Indian Flames (2007)

Tees Maar Khan. Do you guys remember that one? I'm sure you do, what with being diligent readers and what not. In case you've just joined us, or your mind is ridiculously feeble, you can refresh that mind here. Tees Maar Khan was the first Indian flick on this list, and was found all the way up at like 98 or something. I could check, but after watching Indian Flames just now, all my surplus energy is expended trying to string words together for this review. Because Tees Maar Khan, it seems, was higher on the list (or lower if you want. Whatever) than this for a reason. Now, you won't get me to say Tees Maar Khan was a good flick. Not without copious amounts of waterboarding. But by comparison? Yes. Definitely a step up from Indian Flames. Whereas Tees Maar Khan was kind of stumbling along the crude line between action and comedy, this movie tonight seems to be strictly drama. Or thriller. Or action. No definitely drama. With action? Oh boy. It was a drama. With some action and then the usual awkward lame Indian attempts at funny slapsticky comedy that just falls completely flat. Make no mistake, nothing didn't fall flat in this movie, but at least the drama was a genuine attempt at drama. The comedy was a lame attempt at something I can't quite figure out what was. And then there was the singing and dancing. We'll deal with that shit later.

This guy was possibly comic relief? It seems no Indian movie is complete without singing, dancing and at least one sexually ambiguous character with a ridiculous voice. 

The plot is relatively complicated, in the sense of a lot of back and forth seemed to happen with characters being good guys, then bad guys, then recruited by good guys to take down bad guys, then arrested in the course of that and jailed, then out to be bad guys again and then finally good guys. I lost track several times, mostly because I really couldn't muster a fuck to give. Essentially it was a cop trying to bring down bad guys, recruiting the two main characters to help. While they were in jail, said cop got his family murdered and his hands/arms chopped off. He also grew a full beard, possibly because shaving proved complicated with no arms. His sadness for the rest of the movie really annoyed me. It was way overplayed. Anyway, the two guys are released, and he recruits them immediately to help bring down the kingpin character that murdered his family. Why he would recruit these two fuck ups is anybody's guess. They set about bringing down the crime lord in the most haphazard and lame way imaginable. Nobody is surprised. Along the way, they both fall in love. One with a rickshaw driver (woman) and the other with the widow of somebody I couldn't really figure out who. It didn't seem super important. Several clashes happen between these two dudes and the crime lord Babban. They have each other at gunpoint several times, and of course nothing comes of it, because if it did, the movie would be over in 30 minutes (excluding musical highlights).

Both hands cut off, and still nobody helps him hold his tea. Common people. It's common decency!

I wish I could say a lot more about the plot, but besides these aforementioned highlights, it's mostly just ridiculous dialogue that tries to move the love stories along with the drama plot. It seems horribly forced. Everything does. But the love stories in particular. This movie is from 2007, so relatively new, and yet the values exhibited by characters still seem like they are from the 50s. Both in terms of wooing women and how the genders interact. I realize it should be chalked up to cultural differences, because where I'm from, this behavior would be viewed as quaint and weird. Nobody asks the parents for permission to date and/or marry anybody. It's not a thing. And you can kiss in public too. Also, getting married without having dated probably isn't a thing either. But hey, we're a godless people, so there's that. Shiva would roll her eyes and Ganesh would blow that trunk of a nose if they knew. The rickshaw driver, Ghungroo is an independent fast talking smartassy lady that rebuffs Heero's (the main character) attempts at gaining her favor, yet as soon as the proclaims undying love, she is won over, because going straight from “hey you're hot, we should do it” to “I love you now and always” is a panty dropper for sure. You know what I think did it? The shared choreographed musical scene. I've used this technique myself a few times. It's guaranteed to yield results. So she falls in love with him, the widow falls in love with Raj, who, sadly, snuffs it relatively quickly after. In the final battle with Babban. Yes, just when love was totally in the air, he has to go and kick the bucket. Babban ends up killed, and the armless dude has avenged his family. And Heero has prevailed with Ghungroo. Everybody but Raj wins.

"Enough with buying and selling guns. It's time for a motherfucking dance off!"

So song and dance routines. Ever an integral part of any Indian movie. To the point, where I've had to find specific lists of movies that did not feature gratuitously choreographed musical segments. This movie had three. One at 30 minutes in, between Heero and Ghungroo. The next one was during the flashback in which Babban killed armless' family. The dance celebrated his caputre of Babban (who later escaped prison to exact revenge) and happened and hour and 9 minutes in. The final segment was the weirdest, and happened during a gun purchase deal. Babban and his cronies show up in some sort of interestingly lit cave, where a gun merchant had his wares in display. During the exchange, music and dancing broke out. 50 women prancing about, and even Babban himself got jiggy with it. It sort of undermines the premise of a drama, that people break out in elaborate dancing. I don't get why it needs to happen. Make a movie that is trying to be kind of serious, and then throw in dancing and singing so people remember it's not real. That may be necessary in India. I don't know. The thing is, however, that there is no way anything happening in this movie could be real. In any sense of the word. If only the action was as keenly choreographed as the dance routines, it might be something. But it just looked amateurish. Guns were handled as if by junior high schoolers were in charge. Fighting was over the top like a Bud Spencer movie. No way that could be taken seriously. The drama, which I guess is the most apt category for this movie, was drawn out to the point where it just got silly. Particularly Babban gave it as an Indian Al Pacino, trying to harbor a lot of emotion in just a look or a movement, that just never really seemed to hit the chord. He looked sleepy a lot, and we were even treated to a classic 'crime lord needs to punish his failed subordinates and laughs instead making everybody else laugh before suddenly striking viciously' routine. Except when he was supposed to strike viciously, he didn't. He pulled some weird spin the gun thing, where he could end up dead himself but didn't because he just shot the 3 guys instead. It was like a 10 minute segment and it was completely pointless.

She gives Heero a hard time, but is she really harboring feelings for him underneath the cold exterior? No. Not until those three magic words drop. 

It's hard to properly research the people behind these movies, because I had no idea what I'm looking for in terms of quality and other movies these guys have been in. The dude who played Babban has 198 credits to his name, so I'm assuming he's quite popular. He really does look like a watered down version of Al Pacino. I was never a Pacino fan, as attested in my Gigli review, but Babban is just a lame rip off. Like most other Indian flicks, this whole thing plays out like a music video. Tees Maar Khan even more so, with all too many fast cuts and colors. Here we're just treated to some of that, but still things only make sense when viewed as individual segments. As a whole, it loses every illusion of coherence. Above all, however, and I fear this is a problem with most of these movies, if not all, this is just extremely boring. Like yawn my jaws off their hinges dull. I usually watch movies laying on my bed, and in cases like this, that's a dangerous setup. Because nothing keeps my attention focused on screen. No characters are interesting, no plot elements create suspension, no dialogue is enticing. Also I had added fun of subtitles being fucked after the third musical feat. So with about an hour to go, of this 148 life draining minutes long travesty, subtitles were about 2 seconds off the dialogue. Unsurprisingly this did not constitute much of a problem, since everything was simplistic to a fault already. There isn't enough going on, for lack of understanding dialogue to be a thing. The final amusing thing about this, and seemingly all other Indian flicks, is the excessive use of English phrases littered throughout. India used to be a British colony, fair enough, but it's just weird to hear so many English words in the middle of everything for no reason what so ever. Perhaps it is used as a plotpoint sometimes? Here, anyway, Heero (the name alone is... yes) was considered for marriage by Ghungroo partly because he spoke English so well. So that's a thing.

His sense of dread with it all shines through. As if to say he can't believe this is happening. I can't believe he went an entire movie and that headband stayed on. 

I fear there are more Indian movies on the list for me to go through, and I'm none too pleased about it, tell you the truth. One of the few redeeming points about all these Bottom 100 flicks are the fact, that they usually aren't more than 70-90 minutes. And really, with the amount of stuff happening in them (hint: very very little) it's really hard to maintain even a hint of enthusiasm and interest past the 80 minute mark. In this one, there was a mind numbing 18 minutes of setup even before opening credits rolled. So 148 minutes is just down right ridiculous. Tees Maar Khan suffered from the same shit. All the singing and dancing as well as scenes drawn out for absolutely no reason makes for a difficult watch. I did it. For you guys. I really hope I can claim invalid benefits after this is over, because I may be permanently damaged. Nightmares are kicking up again. Cold sweats. Also I've noticed a weird tendency to crash movie sets and shout obscenely at everybody there. I'll report back with further development.

How I felt from the opening scene until the end credits, only interrupted by very brief moments of REM sleep. 


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