Saturday, January 9, 2016

Favorites of 2015: Bollywood song picturizations

In this coda to my "Favorites of 2015" series I'm going to count down my five favorite Bollywood song picturizations from films released in 2015. This is a little bit different from a list of my favorite songs, although of course a good picturization needs to start with a good song. It's also definitely not a list of songs from my favorite films. I've only seen two of the films on this list: one (Tanu Weds Manu Returns) was distinctly lacking and the other (Dilwale) was almost wholly misconceived. But these are the picturizations that best combined inventive or spectacular settings, appealing actors, and, yes, good tunes:

5. "Ghani Bawri," Tanu Weds Manu Returns (starring Kangana Ranaut, R. Madhavan, and Kangana Ranaut, directed by Anand Rai, music by Krsna Solo, lyrics by Raj Shekhar, sung by Jyoti Nooran)

In "Favorites of 2015: Bollywood" I named TWMR as "the sequel most in need of a sequel." But "Ghani Bawri," powered by Jyoti Nooran's vocals and Kangana Ranaut's compelling performance(s), is a song I never tire of watching. To set the scene, Tanu (Ranaut) is crashing the wedding of her ex-husband Manu (Madhavan) and his new bride Kusum (a much younger woman who looks suspiciously similar to Tanu—does this seem like a good idea?):

4. "Gulaabo," Shaandaar (Fabulous, starring Alia Bhatt, Sanah Kapoor, and Shahid Kapoor, directed by Vikas Bahl, music and lyrics by Amit Trivedi, sung by Vishal Dadlani and Anusha Mani)

I have no idea how or whether the carnival/smugglers setting and Alia Bhatt's very cute drag king act fit into the plot of Shaandaar, but of course, it doesn't matter—"Gulaabo" is offbeat and lots of fun:

3. "Prem Ratan Dhan Payo," Prem Ratan Dhan Payo (A treasure called Prem (Love), starring Salman Khan and Sonam Kapoor, directed by Sooraj Barjatya, music by Himesh Reshammiya, lyrics by Irshad Kamil, sung by Palak Muchhal)

On Namaste America's survey of most-requested songs from 2015 this morning (the program which inspired this post), host Obaid Kadwani could barely contain his sneer at this "throwback to the 90's." Sorry, but if "throwback" means beautiful settings and costumes, spectacular dancing (surprisingly well executed by Sonam Kapoor, who is not known for her grace on the dance floor), and the traditionally-flavored music by Reshammiya (with vocalist Palak Muchhal uncannily channeling Shreya Ghoshal), then I say bring on more throwbacks:

2. "Pinga," Bajirao Mastani (starring Priyanka Chopra, Deepika Padukone, and Ranveer Singh, directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, music by Bhansali, lyrics by Siddharth–Garima, sung by Shreya Ghoshal and Vaishali Made)

Okay, this song really is a throwback—to the astonishing "Dola Re Dola" from Devdas (2002). But who cares? While neither Chopra nor Padukone may quite be at the level of Madhuri Dixit or Aishwarya Rai in Bhansali's earlier film, they are two of the best dancing actresses in Bollywood, filmed in the sweeping style that Bhansali has made his trademark. A song as gorgeous as this one is all the justification needed for self-borrowing:

1. "Gerua," Dilwale (Brave Heart, starring Kajol and Shah Rukh Khan, directed by Rohit Shetty, music by Pritam Chakraborty, lyrics by Amitabh Bhattacharya, sung by Antara Mitra and Arijit Singh)

The movie is a loud, violent, incoherent mess. DIrector Rohit Shetty and writer Yunus Sajawal should be ashamed for providing a such a weak platform for the reunion of SRK and Kajol (the movie could easily lose every scene in which they don't appear together). But this song offers breathtaking—and scary, because there's little or no bluescreen CGI involved (as you can see in the "making of" video linked below)—natural settings, lush music, and the legendary chemistry between the two stars:

This song also has the best "making of" video ever; too bad the gentle humor and emotional warmth so evident in this short were not used as a model for the rest of the film.

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