Browsing "film/tv reviews"
Feb 3, 2009 - film/tv reviews    3 Comments

Slumdog Millionaire Review

I watched this last night. I’ve been dying to see it since I first heard about it months ago!! There’s so much buzz around it and the premise just seemed so unique and interesting.

It’s a great film, very powerful. It brings home a lot of issues specific to india and the third world like poverty, orphans, slums, prostitution rings, child labour, gangsters, human trafficking, child begging rings, stealing, ripping off tourists, torture. Brought out all these ugly things that should really make this a depressing movie, but somehow the story is actually uplifting. All the actors were excellent as well. Especially the one’s who played the kids.  It’s not exactly a comfortable movie but it is one that will open your point of view and stay with you for a long time.

Some of the things I didn’t like: There’s a lot of bad language that I think they could have toned down. (Understanding the bad language in both English or Hindi probably made it worse for me. Kind of like double expletives.) There were some torture/violence/brutality/vulgar type scenes but I’ve seen much worse and the point is to show how horrible it is over there. Overall it’s still worth seeing if you’re into these types of films. It’s definitely not for everyone. I think people who would like it are those independent film buffs who watch a lot of crazy stuff. It showed quite a lot of India’s ugly underbelly of the abject millions of poor and reminded me a lot of films like Salaam! Bombay and Shadows of Time.


One thing that I really disliked was that they showed his brother, who is a bad/shady character that works for a gangster praying on a janemaz in a kufi at some random point (probably before going off to kill someone) and then he raises his hands and makes dua like ‘oh God forgive me for my sins’ and in another place he’s like ‘God is great!’ uhhhhhhhhhhhh guess we cant have any type of indian movie without the muslim sterotyping.

I didn’t understand his whole thoughts on his mother’s death? He blamed both “Allah and Ram”? I didn’t really understand the brother’s character until I read some more things about it. I felt the ending was really open ended. Like what happens now?? Would the gangster find them? What would he do with the money? Maybe it just doesn’t matter? And the whole bollywood song at the end…cute but is it in character or out of character…seemed weird. I like how they did it in Bend it Like Beckham, kind of as a joke and funny bloopers thing.

Anyway over all excellent, I’m still thinking about it now and will probably watch it again for the nuances!!

Aug 25, 2008 - film/tv reviews    Comments Off

Jodhaa Akbar Film Review

I saw this film twice, once at home and once in the movie theater and loved it. I don’t know much about the “real history” although it seems quite disputed. However, my father is from India and quite scholarly about that stuff so I asked him quite a bit about it. We also visited a number of the famous Mughal sites in India such as Fatepur Sikri etc and learned about it when we were younger. So, sure a lot of stuff was made up, and liberal license was definitely taken into making the movie. (Like those whole made up conditions? Sorry women didn’t have a say in anything back then! and ignoring the whole fact that she had converted to Islam and never had a temple in her quarters!) It’s a true Bollywood style movie with romance, intrigue, betrayal, praying to hindu gods, huge songs, even elephants! etc.

They do show some subtle anti-Islamic things like he’s only cured once she worships her god and how the only hijab wearing ‘religious’ wet nurse is evil, along with the self-righteous ulema. But I don’t think they were obviously ‘anti-islam’. It was more like they were trying to push secularism across.

In the end, I think the movie showed what the director wanted to show and got the message he wanted to get across. He wanted to show that the Moghuls weren’t evil conquerors. He wanted to show that Akbar was a truly great man, a humanist who had the vision and guts to unite India, and truly do what his forefathers weren’t able to do — position himself as an ‘Indian’ ruler and not a foreigner and subsequently conquer all of India. Many people say this deen-e-ilahi was just a half way thing that the hindus could be brought to accept until they could be eventually ready for Islam. It was just a different name for islam/tawheed after all it means ‘religion of God’. If he had been harsh and pushed islam down peoples throats, he would never have ‘won’ the people, let alone have legitimacy of reign. If you are a smart ruler you make alliances, you arrange marriages with the enemies and conquered, you do all these things to bring peace to your empire. You respect the traditions, you incorporate the culture and traditions of the land while keeping ur religion, you make it your own. This is the way Islam spread across the world so quickly and peacefully.

[I think there's truly a lesson for us to learn here. As Islam spread, it spread as principles and practice, it incorporated the local culture. It didn't change who people were. It created a new culture that adhered to Islamic principles and kept their own traditions. Their societies were intact culturally. People were given freedom in what they wanted to believe. Today, we have like this black and white mentality. It's like something is either completely wrong if it isn't one certain way. Wearing ethnic dress: Haram. Wearing a black jilbab: Halal must do, only way to do. Being harsh to enemies and beheading them: Halal. It's like?? The world is not so black and white. We've truly somehow lost the Islam in there being like this you know what I mean?]

The director also showed the awesome scale of the Moghul power and pageantry, their love for arts, architecture, poetry. The main moral seems to be in the last words of the film: that only through respecting each other’s traditions and religions will India ever have true peace and happiness. And that is definitely a very Islamic principle. Muslims ruled India for 800 years as a minority and you see that they were always allowed to keep their traditions and religions.

I loved the clothes and jewelery and to see Fatepur Sikri like that was like a vision come true. Truly beautifully filmed. Even the battle scenes, while gory were well choreographed and shot. The songs were poetry. And I also liked that they showed Akbar as a principled man, and spiritual with his Sufism stuff. And I also liked the whole playing out of an arranged marriage to good end, I thought the whole love story was done very well.

I hope Indians watch this in droves because there is no doubt it shows Muslims in a good light even if it doesn’t seem like it to us. Extreme hindu groups in India are calling for banning it and bombing theaters because they think it shows Mughals in too good a light. Muslims say there’s not enough strict “Islam” in it and of course that the whole love story/keeping her hinduism is fiction not to mention there are a number of loveydovey scenes in it during the love story and are protesting it. And then in Rajasthan it’s banned because they don’t like how it portrays their Rajput history. For a film that’s trying to get across the message of religious harmony, it’s sadly ironic.

PS.  I wouldn’t really recommend this film for Muslims to watch because it’s a straight out bollywood movie, but I would recommend for all of us to learn more about the history of this time period and think about the lessons for us maybe.

Feb 7, 2008 - film/tv reviews    Comments Off

Miss A Regrets?

So I watched Miss Austen Regrets this past Sunday on PBS. It’s a new biopic on Jane Austen’s life. Set towards the end of her life (she died at the young age of 41), it was definitely a much darker and more complex characterization of her life.

I really like Jane Austen for so many reasons and feel a connection to her. First, she’s given us all these great books and heroines and heros to look up to, to admire, to sigh over. Secondly, I think her personal life parallels mine.

Most poeple think that traditional, courtship culture doesn’t exist nowadays, but I’m here to tell you it does!!! Yes! Among Muslim cultures. Ours is the most relentless marriage culture that ever existed. Like Jane we cannot have pre-marital relations or ‘date’. Somehow we have to find husbands before we are considered spinsters and like in Jane’s era we have our own balls that are conferences, conventions, private dinner parties and so on. Guys rate girls on their beauty, families, and so on and girls rate guys on their wealth/family. Come on, admit that you do it too. For certain the mothers do. Our line would be: It is truth universally acknowledged that as soon as a Muslim guy graduates from med school, he’s in need of a wife! And we definitely do have our own matchmaking mamas and the usual struggle of marrying as per our parent’s wishes for establishment versus holding out to marry for love.

In Miss Austen Regrets it seems that Jane held out and ended up living a pretty miserable life, worried about continuing financial problems of her whole family, being shuttled between brothers who had their own difficulties, having a sister who lost her fiancee and selfishly didn’t want Jane to marry either, a mother who continually harped on past refusals of Jane. Someone said in a review that it probably wasn’t realistic that her mother was like that. Well news to you, every desi mother is like that, and she reminds her daughter everyday about her unmarried status. So I can see it as very likely. It’s in a benevolent way of course, mothers want the best for their daughters. You can’t blame them for trying to stay within societal norms.

Many times in the film you find a melancholy Jane looking out at the water or staring at nothing, showing perhaps her regrets. The film shows a few of her ‘lost loves’. The first being her wealthy ‘tall and awkward’ neighbor whose proposal she accepted only to change her mind the next day. Then there’s her sister in law’s brother who she refused and he went on to marry someone else. And a few others. But I have to say, I don’t think she regretted anything. Looking back on my own life, I can’t say I regret refusing anyone or making certain choices. Even though like Jane, I ended up alone. Those were the tough choices I had to make, I couldn’t have made any other. Watching these films, you might think, oh she should have just married the neighbor what was the harm. Easy for you to say! How would you like a forced marriage with a Mr. Collins or even a slimy John Thorpe. Not so appealing now huh. They’re not even possibilities you know?

So Jane had her tumultuous life and had a niece she tried to advise like I have my niece (but she’s a little too young for marriage advice yet). Jane wrote on and off during her life, as I try to be creative here and there. Her birthday is the same as mine. Her father was bookish and scholarly, mine is a professor. She is humorous, yet dark at times like I am mostly. Like Jane if I had a family or children I doubt I would have been creative or been able to do the things I’ve so far done in my life.

In the end Jane says she ‘lived the life that God intended for her.’ And I believe the same for me.