Archive for Aamir Khan

Why I Have Nothing to Say on Dangal

Posted in the good with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 18, 2017 by Qalandar



I more than enjoyed Dangal: it was fantastically well-made, uniformly well-acted, and pulled off the difficult feat of making wrestling interesting, even deeply engrossing – that’s creditable, when you consider that most sports movies rely on the built-in appeal of sports that are already popular, with great cultural resonance. Heck, to even make a sports film – i.e. a film in one of the most hackneyed genres – half decent, let alone excellent, is pretty darn impressive.

And yet, when I (more than once, and over a period of a few months) sat down to write a review of Dangal, I found I had nothing to say. Which might make this piece nothing more than a narcissistic exercise in my writer’s block, but I’d like to believe there’s more going on here. The “nothing” is symptomatic of a wider issue, namely that Dangal is a very impressive film – just not a very interesting one. Continue reading

A quick note on PK…

Posted in the good with tags , , , , , on January 10, 2015 by Qalandar


The biggest intellectual issue I take with PK is one I often have with very many “well-intentioned” Hindi films, namely that it re-characterizes a straightforward political position into notions of fact/falsehood, even more so sincerity/insincerity. Thus the trope of the two-faced politician is a common one in Hindi films, but also in Indian society (I couldn’t even begin to count the number of times people have told me that communal statements by politicians don’t matter because what these chaps are “really” interested in is making money); the resulting cynicism has the virtue of not accepting the authority of those in power as a given, but is associated with the vice of paralyzing any kind of political thinking — since the practice of politics ends up viewed as essentially the deployment of a kind of hypocrisy. PK’s godmen suffer from the same problem: although the narrative arc initially seems to target the un-reasonableness of religious practice (and, delightfully, its complete relativism: the wine that is the blood of Christ itself becomes disgusting when transposed to a Muslim context), by the end it muddles into questions of fraud, and these take over the film. Any number of other issues are also loaded onto the charlatan (played with trademark comical nastiness by Saurabh Shukla), and before too long we also find in him the Muslim-baiter, the media manipulator — in short, he becomes the very bete noire of the (imagined?) liberal audience. But Continue reading

Qalandar Reviews 3 IDIOTS (Hindi; 2009)

Posted in the good with tags , , , , , , on December 27, 2009 by Qalandar

Midway through 3 Idiots, there’s a sequence where the ultra-irritating Chatur, the epitome of the learn-by-rote student that principal Viru Sahastrabuddhe (Boman Irani) delights in producing at the Imperial College of Engineering (“ICE”), has to deliver a speech at a college function, before the student body and its chief guest, an education minister. Chatur Ramalingam, a Tamilian by way of Uganda, doesn’t know very much Hindi, and has memorized a Hindi speech that he has (unethically) had ICE’s librarian write for him — another reminder (in a film that doesn’t lack for them) about the petty meanness of a system where everyone’s looking out for No. 1. Continue reading