Taught me that Indian movies apparently should just be ignored, as ratings apparently tell you absolutely nothing about the quality of a film. This is perhaps the worst acting I've ever seen - Plan 9 from Outer Space included - with post-production dubbed voices to boot! Add to that the most cringey, cartoonish pathetic storyline, and you're seriously wondering if this is all a joke. No, SERIOUSLY wondering. I considered I might keep watching for the laughs (I was laughing from the very first scene with the lip surgery receiving evil white woman sitting in the jungle in the 1920s surrounded by kneeling indigenous worshippers and a terribly-dubbed studio recording of a little girl singing, with the girl not even remote knowing the lyrics and making all the wrong mouth movements to pretend it's actually her doing the singing). But then I realized at 3h5m, the cringey OMG-it's-so-bad-it's-funny laughs definitely wouldn't last that long. Holy graboid on a blind horse, Batman, this is so bad! No more Indian movies for me. Lesson learned.
The Cinemark near me has started to show Indian movies. Not feeling like sitting home tonight, I decided to catch this one, and luck was with me. My image of Indian movies, I confess, was that they were mostly musicals centering around a love story involving a very beautiful young woman and a very handsome young man, with lots of elaborate, high-energy dance numbers to keep things going. There is a love story here, but it's not the focus of the film. There are also a few large and very impressive dance numbers, but only a few. (The men's dancing, extremely athletic, astounded me.) Rather, this movie focuses on the story of two young men in 1920s India who, each in his own way, are fighting against the English occupiers. The English are portrayed as inhuman monsters. Very often, they made me think of the worst atrocities committed by the Germans in France during World War II, or the most rabid racists in the American South. The first time we see the two male leads dancing, a link is indeed made between the Indians and what appear to be Black American musicians. Every time the Indians manage to take revenge on the English for their inhuman abuse of the Indians, you cheer - but at times I wondered if I would have cheered watching a parallel movie about Blacks taking revenge on white racists who had mistreated them in the American South, especially if I had been in a movie theater where, like tonight, I was the only audience member who did not belong to the oppressed population. Imagine Spike Lee, for example, able to make a movie in which he did not have to worry about selling tickets to whites as well as Blacks, and you have some idea of how anti-British colonials this movie is. It is the difference between a society in which the oppressor was a small minority of the population vs. Here, where Blacks are a minority of the American population. I don't want to push this comparison too far. The movie only makes the connection in one scene. But this is very definitely a movie that focuses on the story of a brutally oppressed people seeking freedom from an inhuman oppressor, rather than just a series of dance numbers. I don't speak any of the Indian languages used in the movie, but I had no problem following what was going on with the subtitles, which were almost always easy to read. I'm sure there were cultural references I didn't catch, however, especially at the end in the final big dance number, which seemed to be presenting India as a nation of different regions and cultures all united in one. The director and cinematographer definitely deserve praise. There was one very striking visual image after the next, especially during the battle scenes. Ram Charan, dressed as a "native warrior"-if that term means anything anymore-flying through flames was breathtaking. So, if you've even been curious about Indian movies, give this one a try. Yes, it's three hours long, but trust me, the time goes flying by. This is truly an action movie, a mixture of visual fantasy and often very graphic realism that held my interest to the end.
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