The 3rd-i South Asian Film Festival continued at the Castro theatre on Saturday, November 15, with a fabulous blend of "Bollywood and Beyond"! (Plus, the introducing Sue Jean Halverson at her first time at the podium at the fests!)
OM SHANTI OM (dir. Farah Khan, India, 2007, 164 mins.) Oh. My. GAWD!! I LOVED THIS!! As intimidating as the nearly three hour running time may seem (including an intermission), this beautifully crafted two act musical just explodes with wit, color, energy and more buckets of charisma than any recent "Hollywood" musical! The entire cast dives into the project with such joy and talent, that any loopiness in characterization is all forgiven.
It is a near mythical story of love, reincarnation and revenge, films within films and ghost stories within ghost stories, and costume changes that happen with an editor's swipe! The music plays as well at a disco as it does on the screen. There is an obvious "dance mix" that opens the second act. However, as repetitive as it might sound, the visuals, as well as the parade of cameos (think of the final party scene in DIE FLEDERMAUS) that takes over a stanza or two each, continue to keep the extended scene fresh. I'm not that much of an authority on Bollywood stars, but the audience at the Castro was going wild with every entrance!
Of the leads, the recognizable Shahrukh Khan gives a remarkable performance in a surprising dual role! Even his physical transformation between acts is nearly unrecognizable except for his obvious charm and glint in the eye. In other words, those amazing abs just sort of popped out of nowhere! His humor, style and attractiveness reminded me of Ben Stiller. He has a special gift of elevating the madcap of the situation, without crossing the line of winking at the audience. And his chemistry with his co-stars are obvious, particularly with his leading lady.
Deepika Padukone plays the starlet-heroine with whom Khan is hopelessly in love with and will bend the powers of the universe in which to fulfill their fates. This is Padukone's debut, and she handles it with a surprising amount of poise and characterization. Her dual roles are subtly defined from each other. And she is simply gorgeous! (She seems to be a "type" as during the aforementioned party scene, I got confused between all the similar looking starlets, which are not as clearly physically defined as the men are.) Padukone and Khan play a surprisingly handsome couple, considering that it begins as a "ugly duckling" story and will resolve as a pair of star-crossed lovers.
There are also gems of supporting performances from Kiron Kher as his freaking out mother and Bindu, as his best friend, or brother, a relationship that was a bit lost in translation. (Speaking of, the first half hour was unintentionally dominated by the translating conversation a couple seated behind Jimmy and I were having, but who eventually left after Mr. Jimmy gave them the "stink eye" a few times! Thank you!!)
I might not have left humming the songs by Vishal Dadlani, Shekhar Ravjiani and Pyarelal Ramprasad Sharma, but as I visited the official website, the songs came flooding back into my memory! The bounce and joy of the score is infectious! I have found the film and score available online and at certain Amazon.com stores! GO GET IT for yourselves!!
After a break between films, Sue Jean Halverson made her presentation debut in introducing HELL'S GROUND (dir. Omar Khan, Pakistan, 2007, 77 mins.) on the Castro's BIG Screen, which "Life With Movies and Maxxxxx" was flattered and thrilled to be a "co-presenter" along with "Dead Channels", "Oddball Film and Video" and "Midnight For Maniacs", which was represented by it's producer, Jesse Hawthorne Fickes, who spoke after Ms. Halverson. Now, I have spoken repeatedly about my fondness for the film, so I will just add a couple of notes about Ms. Halverson's debut, as it were. She was QUITE prepared, if not overly so, especially for the "midnight crowd". Not to be too harsh, but we are all tired or wired, so next time, just leave the script behind and toss those one-liners at us! ;) The film was then received with an appreciative amount of "eeew"s and "ughs" to delight the hearts of any zombie fan, as it unspooled in all it's video glory on the Castro's screen!
re OM SHANTI OM: "Doobie doobie doo-ooo!"