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  HINDI MOVIE RELEASES EXPECTED THIS MONTH
By SHEPHALI J. RELE



After a five-year hiatus, Madhuri Dixit returns in “Aaja Nachle.”

“Aaja Nachle”: Starring Madhuri Dixit, Akshaye Khanna, Konkona Sen Sharma, Kunal Kapoor, Raghubir Yadav, Ranvir Shorey; directed by Anil Mehta; music by Salim-Sulaiman.

After a five-year break since her last release, “Devdas,” Madhuri Dixit is back to captivate her many fans with her dancing skills in this Yash-Raj production. Madhuri Dixit is Dia, a theater artist in New York. A sudden phone call with news from her hometown in India forces her to return to the place where she grew up and learned to dance, the place she left on a whim after breaking ties with her family. Her guru has passed away and his beloved theatre, once the hub of the community, is facing demolition by local officials who want the prime land. She makes it her mission to stop the theatre’s demolition and revive its former spirit. With just two months to prove her point, she must put together a theatrical production or the bulldozers will be waiting. She forms an unlikely team, including an imaginative tomboy Anokhi, played by Konkona Sen Sharma, a tough guy Imran played by Kunal Kapoor, and a chai-wallah among others to accomplish her goal. Of course, expect a foot-tapping soundtrack to go along with the fantastic dances.



Aamir Khan plays teacher in “Taare Zameen Par”

“Taare Zameen Par”: Starring Aamir Khan, Darsheel Safary, Tanay Chheda, Tisca Chopra; directed by Aamir Khan; music by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy.

First-time director Aamir Khan has said this film is dedicated to children. Even the tagline says every child is special. Khan credits his college friend Amole Gupte for this original story. Darsheel Safary plays Ishaan, an 8-year-old who loves colors and animals more than homework and school. His father, growing tired of teacher’s complaints, decides that boarding school is the best option to discipline the boy. Ishaan’s mother played by Tisca Chopra is not happy about sending her son away but hopes for the best. Unfortunately, the situation is no better for Ishaan at his new school, plus he’s upset about being separated from his family. Just then, a new art teacher Ram Shankar Nikumbh, played by Aamir Khan, arrives. He spreads delight and optimism among the students with his unorthodox methods and encourages the kids to dream and imagine. Nikumbh sir realizes Ishaan is unhappy and sets out to find out why. This film is sure to touch the hearts of children and adults.



Ajay Devgan is film actor Sameer Khan in “Halla Bol.”

“Halla Bol”: Starring Ajay Devgan, Vidya Balan, Pankaj Kapoor; directed by Rajkumar Santoshi; music by Himesh Reshammiya.

Expectations are high from the director of “Khakee” and “The Legend of Bhagat Singh.” Ajay Devgan plays Ashfaque, a small town boy with dreams of being a film star. He joins a theatre group run by a former dacoit Sidhu, played by Pankaj Kapoor. His creative struggles pay off when he lands a break in Hindi films. With a new screen name of Sameer Khan, the roles only get better and better. Sameer becomes a superstar who can portray any role with ease but somehow loses his own identity in the process. His personality takes on the traits of his various characters and confusion takes over his life. Soon, Sameer is alienated from his dear ones, including his wife Sneha, played by Vidya Balan. A shocking incident at a party changes everything. Sameer is trapped between his human side and corrupted superstar image. Will the conflict give way and allow a true hero to appear? Watch for various celebrities who play themselves in special appearances.





‘THE NAMESAKE’ NOW AVAILABLE ON DVD

An enduring story of love, courage and the struggles faced by American immigrants, “The Namesake” from Fox Home Entertainment is now available on DVD. In her most personal film to date, director Mira Nair (“Monsoon Wedding,” “Vanity Fair”) brings to screen a sophisticated and touching masterpiece based on the novel by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jhumpa Lahiri.

“The Namesake” follows two generations of the Ganguli family as they immigrate to the U.S. from India to experience a world of limitless opportunities, only to be challenged to find the links between the world they left behind and the new world that lies in front of them. Kal Penn as Gogol (“National Lampoon’s Van Wilder,” “Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle”) delivers a sharp and dedicated performance as confused and vulnerable young Indian-American.

His non-American, yet non-Indian name finds him estranged from his heritage in the midst of American culture; and he learns to tread a razor-thin line between his Bengali roots and his American birthright as he tries in vain to convince his parents – played award winning Bollywood star Irrfan Khan (“Salaam Bombay!”, “Maqbool”) and Tabu (“Maachis,” “Chandni Bar”) – to support his desire to change his name to Nikhil. Genuinely believing there could be no name more fitting for their son, they must find a way to remain faithful to their cultural traditions while coming to terms with their son’s Western outlook resulting in both comical and revelatory consequences

“The Namesake” DVD includes English Dolby Digital 5.1 with English, French and Spanish sub-titles. Bonus features include director’s commentary, deleted scenes, the anatomy of “The Namesake: A Class at Columbia University’s Graduate Film School,” Kolkata Love Poem and Photography as Inspiration.

The DVD is available for $27.98.




“THE NAMESAKE” - NOT TO BE MISSED
By SHEPHALI J. RELE

When you think about watching a movie version of a treasured book, the anticipation is mixed. You hope it remains true to the story and includes all your favorite parts. If you read and loved Jhumpa Lahiri’s “The Namesake,” you won’t be disappointed with this film. Of course, every event in the book cannot be translated on screen and some cinematic license is taken, but “The Namesake,” directed by Mira Nair, magnificently captures the essence of the poignant novel.

The story covers three decades in the life of a family starting in the late 1970s Calcutta with the arranged marriage of a young girl, Ashima (Tabu) to Ashoke Ganguli (Irfan Khan). Years before, Ashoke survived a fatal train wreck and is now studying for his Ph.D. in the United States. The newly wedded couple journey to New York to begin their life together. Soon, Ashima has a baby boy and is informed by the hospital staff they cannot leave without giving the child a name. They decide on Gogol, the name of Ashoke’s favorite Russian writer as a pet name and Nikhil as his proper name. Ashima overlooks feelings of loneliness for the promise of better opportunities for her son in their new homeland.

Years pass, they have a daughter and when Gogol/Nikhil begins school he tells his teachers to call him Gogol. This choice has significant consequences for the character as he struggles to find his identity. Those who have grown up in America will relate to many of the situations in the film, whether it’s large gatherings at home with Indian family friends or summer long trips to India as teenagers.

As a young adult Gogol, played by Kal Penn grows to resent his seemingly dumb name. Distanced from his family and now, known as Nick, Gogol has become a successful architect living in New York City with an American girlfriend. A tragic event leads him to question his identity yet again and eventually understand the significance of his name.

With the story of two generations dealing with two cultures as the backdrop, the film’s narrative, full of visual imagery, deals with many themes. City shots of New York and Calcutta are overlapped and strike a chord with anyone who has left one home to find another. A lot happens in the span of two hours but you truly feel you’ve come to understand and empathize with the main characters. Credit goes to director Nair for her rich yet intimate style aided by beautiful cinematography and a moving screenplay. Several scenes stay with you, long after you leave the theatre.

But what make the film truly satisfying are the performances. Bollywood veteran Tabu delivers a graceful yet powerful performance. Khan embodies the role of Ashoke so effortlessly that one can’t picture him playing any other character. And Penn was a surprise delight as he displayed his acting prowess in this layered dramatic role. Zuleikha Robinson gives credible support as the equally confused Bengali girl Gogol marries.

Even at the film’s conclusion, you wish to be a part of Gogol’s life for a while longer or learn how Ashima fares in the next stage of her life. I guess that would be a question for the author. And if you haven’t read the book I’m sure you’ll want to after watching the movie. I highly recommend “The Namesake” as a must-see when it opens in theatres March 23 in the Miami area and March 30 in Tampa.


RECENT HINDI MOVIE RELEASES
By SHEPHALI J. RELE



Shah Rukh Khan romances Deepika Padukone in “Om Shanti Om.”

“Om Shanti Om”: Starring Shah Rukh Khan, Deepika Padukone, Arjun Ramphal, Shreyas Talpade; directed by Farah Khan; music by Vishal-Shekhar.

After a super-hit directorial debut with “Main Hoon Na,” Farah Khan teams up with Shah Rukh Khan yet again with a much-anticipated entertainer based on reincarnation, one of two major Hindi movie releases this Diwali season. The film begins in 1977, Shah Rukh Khan plays Om, a junior artist who wants to be a superstar and Deepika Padukone plays Shantipriya, a reigning movie star who wants to be the girl next door. Om is Shanti’s biggest fan and he’s heartbroken when he finds out she loves someone else. Unfortunately, Shantipriya is deceived by the evil man she thought she loved. She is murdered and Om finds her too late. Unable to bear the grief, Om also dies. Fast forward 30 years, another Om has been born with haunting memories of a previous life. Shanti is reincarnated as Sandy and eventually Om and Sandy recognize each other and find the killer. The film’s tagline is, “For some love stories, one lifetime is not enough.” More than 30 Bollywood stars put in a guest appearance for a special song reminiscent of the “John, Jani, Janardhan,” number from “Naseeb.” Director Farah Khan choreographed the songs and wrote the screenplay. The foot-tapping soundtrack by Vishal-Shekhar is sure to be one of the year’s best.



Ranbir Kapoor and Sonam Kapoor make their debut in “Saawariya.”

“Saawariya”: Starring Ranbir Kapoor, Sonam Kapoor, Rani Mukherjee, Salman Khan; directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali; music by Monty Sharma. This young love story based on Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky’s “White Nights” introduces the son of Rishi Kapoor and daughter of Anil Kapoor as its main characters.

Reports say both the newcomers worked with director Bhansali during the filming of “Black.” Ranbir Kapoor plays Raj, a free-spirited artist who arrives in a charming scenic town. The surrounding beauty is a perfect inspiration for this dreamer. One calm starry night, he sees a mysterious girl draped in black standing alone at a bridge. Sonam Kapoor plays Sakina, the shy, melancholic girl who intrigues Raj. After this chance meeting, a friendship is formed between the two. Despite her haunting past, Raj tries to win Sakina’s heart with his charm and spirit. Rani Mukherjee and Salman Khan play important supporting roles. The makers say through Raj and Sakina’s journey we are reminded of the fragility of the human heart and the power of unconditional love. Colorful and beautiful cinematography is evident from the film’s previews. And like his previous works “Khamoshi,” “Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam” and “Devdas,” director Bhansali incorporates fabulous music as an integral element in his film with one song even composed by himself.





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