White Guy Watches Bollywood

A random white guy engages with contemporary Indian cinema... one movie at a time


Hindi Movie Review: Tiger 3 is bigger, more outrageous, and even more fun than its predecessors

Salman Khan reprises his role as the eponymous character in "Tiger 3," here reviewed by White Guy Watches Bollywood.

Over the span of just three films, the Tiger series has undergone the same level of metamorphosis that the Fast and Furious saga took seven entries to realize. The first movie, Ek Tha Tiger, was a relatively modest, romance-infused spy story that leaned into the relationship between leads Tiger (Salman Khan) and Zoya (Katrina Kaif). The second installment, Tiger Zinda Hai, replaced the freewheeling, jet-setting tone of its predecessor with a much more intense, realistic, action-packed rescue narrative set in war-torn Iraq. This third film turns the knobs on both the drama and the action up to 11, delivering something much more akin to a superhero blockbuster. Salman Khan may not do as many of his own stunts here as Tom Cruise does in the Mission: Impossible franchise, but he’s definitely aiming for something every bit as spectacular.

Such a pronounced tonal shift within a single movie series can be jarring and unwelcome when the filmmakers aren’t equipped to handle it. The main reason that the Fast and Furious movies pulled off their transformation is because the more over-the-top they got, the better made they were (peaking with Furious 7). For the most part, Tiger 3 can claim success in this regard. Especially coming after the similarly-styled Pathaan, the last entry in what is being dubbed as the “YRF Spy Universe” (of which the Tiger films are also a key part), the pivot towards a more outlandish and operatic tone seems to make logical sense. But the film is also very well executed: under the steady hand of director Maneesh Sharma (2010’s Band Baaja Baaraat, 2016’s Fan), this is arguably the most polished filmmaking we’ve seen in a Tiger movie to date.

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Hindi Movie Review: Shah Rukh Khan’s Jawan lives up to the massive hype

Shah Rukh Kahn stars in the Hindi movie "Jawan," directed by Atlee, here reviewed by White Guy Watches Bollywood.

This past January, Shah Rukh Khan returned to his first leading role following a four-year hiatus in Pathaan, which quickly became the highest-grossing Hindi film of all-time in India (not to mention a long list of international markets where the bar was lower). Less than nine months later, it looks like he’ll set that same record all over again with Jawan, which as of this writing has already claimed the title for top Hindi film opening day. Of course, these things can change quickly based on audience word-of-mouth, but I wouldn’t expect a slowdown any time soon for Jawan, as it delivers basically everything one could want from a mass appeal blockbuster. Like Pathaan, the movie boasts magnetic performances from both Khan and his costars, solid action set-pieces backed by well-earned stakes and suspense, surprising twists, and substantive but not patronizing social commentary. In other words, it’s the whole package.

Jawan’s very contemporary riff on a classic Robin Hood story makes it perhaps the biggest international blockbuster to date to tackle the global push towards social and economic populism. Khan plays the jailer Azad, who runs a women’s prison acclaimed for its rehabilitation programs. But that’s just his public-facing day job. Behind the walls of the prison – and beyond them – he also leads a covert team of six of the inmates imposing vigilante political justice in India. Early in the film, they hijack a Mumbai Metro train to extort the cash needed to pay down a slew of predatory government loans that were forced on farmers and other working-class people. In a subsequent mission, they shoot a corrupt Health Minister and rush him in for treatment at one of the government hospitals that his department deprives of proper resources. When the facility predictably doesn’t have the right surgeon or equipment, Azad demands that all government hospitals be supplied the proper inventory within five hours, before the patient can be saved.

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White Guy Watches Bollywood: An Introduction

White Guy Watches Bollywood: Seeing "Pathaan" at the Cinemark 18 at Howard Hughes Promenade in Los Angeles
White Guy Watches Bollywood: Seeing “Pathaan” at the Cinemark 18 at Howard Hughes Promenade in Los Angeles.

By nearly anyone’s definition, I’m a highly avid moviegoer. I see around 150-200 movies in theaters over the course of an average year; occasionally, I make it north of 250. This pales in comparison to my totals during college and graduate school, but my 34-year-old body can’t handle more than three theatrical viewings in a row, which used to be somewhat commonplace for me on the weekends. I subscribe to AMC A-List, Regal Unlimited, and MoviePass, because my moviegoing can’t be contained to just one chain or another. I see movies of all budget levels, genres, and languages. But even I have a big, notable blind spot at the multiplex, shared by many other frequent moviegoers: Indian cinema.

Two events last year really convinced me that I needed to be paying a lot more attention to all of the Indian films being released theatrically in the U.S. (and across other formats, but theaters are a good, reasonably contained starting point).

The first event was the smashing success of S.S. Rajamouli’s RRR among American cinephiles. Here was a Tollywood movie that made countless year-end Top 10 lists among critics and fanatical moviegoers alike (mine included), thanks in no small part to the enterprising support of Dylan Marchetti and Variance Films. And yet, a little more than a year after its initial release, RRR already seems like more of a one-off phenomenon than an attention-generator for future Indian cinema among American audiences. Surely, there must be more for us to savor.

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