Tuesday, May 19, 2009

[DVD] Billu (2009)

Hit Hit

If you're wondering why no new Hindi movie reviews here, well then you're probably not aware of the ongoing spat between film producers/distributors and the multiplexes in Bollywood with regards to profit sharing. We're not getting any new releases for what, the last 4-5 weeks now? I wonder how long this tiff will last, but no matter I'll just have to dip into my reserve DVD stash and enjoy what I've collected thus far.

I still can't fathom why Billu (now Barber dropped from its title) didn't get as much love as it should. There's a nice heartwarming story about simplicity, family and friendship, about fame, the elite and the peasants, and even though this is a remake of another Indian film, I would have imagined the star power here, with Irrfan, Shah Rukh Khan and Lara Dutta, would at least have drawn in an audience. I guess it takes a lot these days to keep audiences impressed. But I certainly was.

Watching it again reaffirmed that it's still one of my favourites of the year, and you can review my review of the movie here.

The Region Free DVD by Eros International is presented in a pristine visual transfer on an anamorphic widescreen format, and scenes whether day or night, indoors or outdoors, all come across crystal clear. At certain points in the film though, especially the songs, the translucent Eros watermark will appear at the top left hand corner.

The DVD autoplays with some pat-on-the-back Eros International promotional ad, before a relatively cheesy animated menu will appear, where songs from the film are used at various menu-optons, with Love Mera Hit Hit the song of choice for the main menu. Scene selection comes in 24 chapters, and audio is available only in its original Hindi track, either in 5.1 Dolby Digital or 2 Channel Stereo. However much is left desired in the audio department as the volume does seem to be uneven at times, and more jarringly noticed when during the songs. Subtitles are in English only, and are removable.

No Hindi DVD will be complete without a section dedicated to its Songs. Here, the DVD is designed correct, where your song selected will take you back to this submenu once it's completed instead of continuing with the movie. There are 6 songs in total in Billu, and it comes with a Play All function if you want to listen to them all in one sitting: Love Mera Hit Hit (4:34), Ae Aa O (I call this the Sahir Khan swagger song, 5:34), Billu Bayankar (4:39, the song where the villagers suck up to Billu, and interesting enough, every utterance of the word "barber" in Hindi got silenced! Is it really that degrading and offensive?), the lovely ballad Khudaya Khair (4:25), the pulsating Marjani (4:14) and Jaoon Kahan (2:30).

While the Bonus Material of "Billu" are split into its respective sections, it actually continues to the next when the option you selected finishes, so be prepared with a remote in hand to obtain some control over what you want to see. It's mostly in English and presented in a letterbox format. The main extra here is the Making of the Movie Billu (17:06) which contains the usual interviews with the cast and crew, where the production designers, DoP etc recount how they create the distinct look and feel of the different worlds presented in the film, and how the natural sets themselves became a character as well. The stars in the film (unsure if in jest though) seemed to be a little bit spoilt when they reminisce their experience in the village, and their getting used to the environment the film is set in. You can get to see very limited behind the scenes clips in this feature though.

The other "Making Of"s were of the songs featured in the movie, with Shah Rukh Khan being the constant in sharing his experience in shooting the music videos. Marjani (2:46) had Kareen Kapoor abject to share her thoughts though, in this Punjabi music influenced song. Hit Hit (4:28) had Deepika Padukone talk about her minor role, as well as a look at the miniatures used to create some of the sets in this space-aged theme video. Farah Khan, who directed Om Shanti Om, reunites with her leads SRK and Deepika to choreograph their dance steps. Khudaya Khair (5:40) seemed to have Priyanka Chopra lead the making of as she recounts shooting this soulful, R&B song, and I felt her appearance in the film was the least amongst the three ladies. This song also leads into the theme used for Billu and his wife, and had additional behind the scenes look which borrowed from the Making Of.

Deleted Scenes do not come with finished audio, nor subtitles, so non-Hindi speakers will not fully understand what's going on, nor why these scenes were removed from the final cut, if not for pace. Presented in letterbox format, a total of 3 such scenes are included, and runs 4:27.

Rounding off the Special Features are two trailers in the Now Available section for Heroes and Drona.

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