Movie Looks: Taal

Taal (1999) is a bad movie. I remember seeing this movie when it was in theaters and thinking, “this is terrible.” I was 12.

I mean, it’s fine, if you like your Bollywood thinly plotted with a lot of large set pieces, long dance sequences, and a lush, layered soundtrack.

If you’re looking for consistent character development, logical and coherent character motivations, and new and refreshing plots based around class struggles, you are looking in entirely the wrong place. Luckily, this movie is heavy on the long song and dance numbers, as the title translates to “rhythm.” The plot revolves around a simple village musician and dancer as she mends her broken heart through her career, or something. Aishwarya Rai, still pretty fresh off of her Miss World win, like so many Indian beauty queens before her, used her unnaturally good looks and her classical dance training to parlay herself into a Bollywood career. Obviously playing a naïve, traditional dancer who falls in love with a wealthy man passing through the village is a great fit for her.  Akshaye Khanna (whose career is clearly because of nepotism) plays the exhausting scorned lover, who’s a little too goofy and silly to pull off the charming and suave suitor. 

Taal - hero
I mean, look at this goober.

Their short lived romance is of course followed by a romantic misunderstanding that could’ve easily been prevented by someone asking “wait, what happened?”. Anil Kapoor shows up to ham it up during the second act and he is absolutely one of the best parts of the movie, until they try to make him a villain (as all Bollywood movies need a clear villain).

Three images that sum up this movie:

Taal - rain
Aishwarya Rai being beautiful and romantic and whimsical.
Taal - dancetroupe
This extremely 90s dance troupe putting your college “movement” class to shame.
Taal - Director
This excessively long director cameo where he listens to a song and sets up some emotional product placement.

Wait, did I mention bitchy 90s bollywood Aunties feature heavily in the romantic mishap? In the 90s, you could tell a Bollywood woman was up to no good and would be a ballbusting bitch by the level of frost in her eyeshadow and lipstick. Higher amounts of shine and chrome reflected how empty and vapid her character development actually was. Bonus points if that cold woman was one of the romantic lead’s aunts, and if they were educated in England and America. Westerners, am I right?

Taal - bitchyaunts
So much dark lipstick and tight clothes. #goals
Taal - bitchyauntsdrink
You can feel the judgment through the screen.

Just because the movie is all 90s aesthetics and no substance, here’s a random shot of the Maid of the Mist that appears in the movie because Toronto = Niagara Falls because fuck it who cares? It’s not like Hollywood doesn’t pull more egregious geographical errors in their usage of ambiguously Asian nations in film.

Taal - MaidoftheMist

All of this aside, the real draw of this movie is Aishwarya Rai being beautiful and making audiences seethe with envy over her graceful and elegant dancing. It’s like watching a lower stakes A Star is Born with significantly less acting talent, but it doesn’t matter because Aishwarya is mesmerizingly watchable.

Every time Aishwarya Rai proved that she is the most glamorous woman ever:

Taal - Bashful
When she pulled off simple village girl and still was the most beautiful person ever, even while frolicking in the rain. Especially while frolicking in the rain.
Taal - sassy
When she wasn’t impressed with her love interest’s antics and then showed up to a party late and was still the biggest draw of said party.
Taal - rage
When she was full of rage but handled it with quiet dignity.
Taal - Headband
When her headband and choker were perfectly coordinated to her eyeshadow and shirt.
Taal - yoga
When she did yoga on a soundstage mountain top.
Taal - Nest
When she went through all the stages of being a butterfly: from a weird hairy caterpillar on a log…
Taal - Pupa
to a chrysalis…
Taal - Butterfly
to a final whimsical butterfly all in the course of one song.
Taal - HairandBangles
When she wasn’t the most excessive part of this still.
Taal - RamtaJogi
When she was overcompensating for the charisma void that is the dancer on her right.
Taal - Barbies
When she was sexy as hell next to a cupboard full of glammed up barbies, which makes even less sense in context.
Taal - CokeBottle
When this coke bottle made her feel all the sadness.

Taal is now on Netflix instant so you too can watch Aishwarya Rai blossom into a movie star in a lackluster movie, if you have three hours to spare.

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Karishma is a twenty-something living in New York City and is trying her hardest to live out every cliche about Millennials. This involves eating her feelings, drowning in debt and mocking infomercials. She likes sociology so much that she has two degrees in it, and is still warding off her parents' questions about a real career.

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