10 January 2017

My Favourites: 'Kaun Aaya?' Songs

Hindi films are full of rhetorical questions to which everyone, including the people asking those questions, know the answer, and I find them amusing. Sometime back, I wrote a post on what I called ‘Where are you?songs, in a bid to answer one such question. It struck me that there were a few other existential questions that need answers. One such question is ‘Kaun aaya?’ The answer is obvious, of course (and the characters on screen know who has stolen their heart, resided in their soul, made them laugh…), but they ask (sing) the questions anyway.  

Well, I thought it might make sense to explain these songs to my readers [patting my own halo] so I began my research, my quest for the rhetorical, the unanswerable, the inexplicable...

6 January 2017

My Favourites: Songs of Promises

This time last year, inspired by blog-reader Neeru who provided me with the impetus, I wrote a post on Songs of Hope and Encouragement. At the time, I wrote that we had just come through a year of disaster. Very presciently, or so it seems in hindsight, I also wrote that it seemed things could only get worse. Because those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first turn mad. It appears to have come to pass, and we are teetering on the edge of the apocalypse. In less than three weeks, we will have handed over the reins of the free world to a narcissist who thinks governing one of the largest democracies in the world is something that can be done in 140 characters. If that's not a disaster of epic proportions, I don't know what else can compete. As John F Kennedy once said, ‘The ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all.’ Or as Simon and Garfunkel so pithily sang (The Boxer):
All lies and jests
Till a man hears
What he wants to hear
And disregards the rest... 

In the meantime, I'm also sickened by almost-daily reports of terror attacks targeting many hundreds of innocent lives all over the globe; the rise in racism, homophobia, intolerance, bigotry, misogyny and sexism, all given validation, even normalised here in the US by a man who will soon hold the highest office in the land. Under the circumstances, you will forgive me for the utter despondency that washes over me, the complete absence of hope that anything will be better in the new year.
“And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said;
"For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"*
As always, I turn to the movies for succour, and seek refuge in the embrace of songs, old and new, to ease my pain, or at least make it bearable. My initial phase lay in soaking in songs of hopelessness, and while it proved cathartic, a longer dose of those songs would only have increased my feeling of despondency. Not a good start to the year. Instead, I decided to focus on the promise of a better tomorrow. There has to be one, right?

28 December 2016

The Year That Was

It's been a momentous year - any which way you look at it. Much of which I either wish hadn't happened, or that I could forget that it did. So in a bid to drown my sorrows, I fell back on my long-time solace, films. So I was thinking this year has seen some good films come out of the Hindi film industry. True blue superstars playing characters instead of themselves, films where the story was king, films that made us think, that made us love or hate them with equal intensity. Perhaps this is a good way to end the year, to list the films that I liked very much.

23 December 2016

Manichitrathazhu (1993)

Directed by: Fazil
Music: MG Radhakrishnan
Starring: Shobhana, Mohanlal, 
Suresh Gopi, Vinaya Prasad, 
Nedumudi Venu, Thilakan, 
Innocent, KPAC Lalitha, 
It’s been a long time since I reviewed a Malayalam film. I was dithering over one cult classic from the late eighties but if there’s one Malayalam film that came to define the cinematic sensibilities of a generation, it is Fazil’s Manichitrathazhu. Released in 1993, the film was both commercially and critically successful, and even today, more than two decades after its initial release, retains its magic when broadcast on television. There are few Malayalees who will not remember Nagavalli, or perk their ears up when they hear ‘Vidamaate?’ (You won’t let me go?!) A very unusual film that was part suspense, part horror, part psychological thriller, Manichitrathazhu became a touchstone for Malayali cinegoers, even if they were used to good movies. 

19 December 2016

The Legends: Asha Bhosle – Part 2

When a singer has had a career stretching over more than half a century, it follows that she will have an exhaustive body of work. Her ability to stay relevant was partly because she was open to experimentation. From exploring non-film albums with RD Burman, to recording ghazals with Jagjit Singh and Ghulam Ali, to exploring western genres with Boy George, the Kronos Quartet, and pop and disco, Asha not only carved a niche for herself in a field dominated by her elder sister, Lata, and populated with other well-established singers like Geeta Dutt and Shamshad Begum, but also withstood the influx of newer singers and the changing trends in music 

13 December 2016

The Legends: Asha Bhosle

08.09.1933 -
This post has been a long time coming. First, it was because I was waiting for an ‘occasion’; then, it was because I didn’t have the time to pick the songs I wanted. Finally, I decided not to wait for that perfect moment, and did some quick research into which songs I didn't want. The rest of it was mostly, 'I like this and this and this... and perhaps, this... so here, help me choose!' to my husband who, muttering under his breath, looked at my list and helped me hone it down to a manageable number. 

5 December 2016

My Favourites: Heroes – 1 (40s-70s)

I had earlier made a list of favourite heroines from the 40s-70s, based on an idea that Ava of The Pink Bee had. At that time, I had mentally decided I would also do a 'favourite heroes' list, along the same lines. 

Like the heroines, the heroes from this period have given me hours of entertainment and enjoyment an enjoyment, in fact, that continues, because I blog about films from that period (generally), and that gives me an excuse to keep watching their films. These are the actors with whom I grew up; they were my reference points for films. As with the heroines, many of these actors of my childhood (and my father's youth) have left us bereft. What lives on is their legacy, their body of work, their youth, middle age and even old age captured on crackly celluloid, and our love for them enshrined forever in our memories of them.

30 November 2016

Satte pe Satta (1982)

Directed by: Raj Sippy
Music: RD Burman
Lyrics: Gulshan Bawra
Starring: Amitabh Bachchan, Hema Malini, 
Amjad Khan, Kalpana Iyer,
 Sachin, Sudhir, Indrajeet, 
Paintal, Shakti Kapoor, 
Kanwaljeet, Sachin, Ranjeeta
Blog reader Shalini and I had once watched a film together apart. Recently, on my review of Majboor, we talked about the possibility of watching a nice masala movie together again to defuse our pre-election stress. We seriously needed the detoxification. Our first pick was Shaan but in her bid to continue the indoctrination of her son in Amitabh-love, Shalini had already watched the film. So we settled on Satte pe Satta. We needed a ‘full on masala diversion’ said Shalini, and I agreed.

So, after settling in bachchoos and bidding husbands to go away and not trouble us, we sat back to watch the film. (Warning: the ‘review’ is going to be interspersed with many, many comments, exclamations, irrelevant musings, spoilers, screenshots and the like. Only our comments in parentheses are going to be colour-coded, Shalini’s comments in green, mine in some shade of brown.)

25 November 2016

My Favourites: Heroines – 1 (40s-70s)

I have long wanted to make a list of my favourite actors and actresses, both in Hindi cinema and from Hollywood, but I put the idea on the backburner. Until recently, when Ava, over at The Pink Beedecided to do a list of her friends’ favourite heroines with a decided twist – she mentioned their career arc, some of their more important roles, and then picked a song that she liked about each of them. Since I’ve only one working brain cell at the best of times, and am now brain-dead following recent tumultuous events here in my adopted land, I decided I needed some candyfloss to clear my brain. So I decided – unashamedly – to poach Ava’s idea. (I did ask – and get – permission, however.) 

13 November 2016

The Day of the Jackal (1973)

Directed by: Fred Zinneman
Starring: Edward Fox, Michel Lonsdale,
Tony Britton, Alan Badel, 
Olga Georges-Picot, Cyril Cusack
Adrian Cayla-Legrand, Eric Porter,
Delphine Seyrig, Jean Martin
When The Day of the Jackal first released in India, I was too young to watch the film. When it returned as a re-run, my father, who had been in France during the period in which the film is set, wanted to share the film with me. I don't know who was more disappointed when we weren't allowed in – the film was certified 'A', and I was still too young. (He ended up taking my brother and sister for it the next day.)

A couple of years later, I was rummaging through my father's bookshelves looking for something to read. My father travelled extensively for work, and usually brought back two bestsellers for himself each time (one on his flight out, one on his return flight), and a book apiece for each of his children. I had finished reading my book, and unable to wait any longer for my brother and sister to finish theirs, I decided to see if my father's book case held anything of interest. Just in my early teens, I'd recently graduated from Agatha Christie, PG Wodehouse and Leslie Charteris to James Hadley Chase, Alistair McLean and Louis L'Amour. Among the Ludlums and Haileys, my eye was caught by the name, The Day of the Jackal. Hmm, Frederick Forsyth. I hadn't read him before, but I remembered the movie that I hadn't been allowed to watch. So I grabbed the book out of the bookcase and began to read. I ended up reading it in one sitting. (That isn't saying much – those days, I read most books in one stretch unless such inconvenient things such as my mother, school and chores interfered.)

Then, years later (I was in my final year of college), my brother borrowed The Day of the Jackal from the local video cassette library – a grainy, not-very-clear print, but I still remember how thrilling it was. Recently, my husband and I were discussing movies and this film came up in conversation. Both of us agreed that we had to watch the film again. No sooner said than done – S was online checking to see if Netflix had the film they did, and so the deed was done, as they say.

The DVD arrived on Friday, but it wasn't until Sunday night, when both of us were so disgusted with the way Gerald Durrell's Corfu trilogy was shaping up that we looked at each other and said simultaneously: S: "I can't see any more of this rubbish!" Me: "Let's watch 'The Day of the Jackal'."

So. Here we are.  

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