17 October 2017

The Divas: Hema Malini

This category – The Divas – came about because I didn’t know how to categorise the gamut of 60s heroines who, unlike their predecessors, weren’t getting as many author-backed roles – they were mostly arm candy in the candy floss films that came out of the colourful 60s. However, both Sharmila Tagore and Sadhana (my previous entries in this category) had managed to transcend their limited opportunities to make the most of the few good roles that came their way within the parameters of commercial cinema of the time. 

Actresses like Padmini, Vyjayanthimala and Waheeda had already paved the way for the influx of the twinkle-toed South brigade but the one person who broke the dam that began the deluge was a doe-eyed beauty who was packaged as the ‘Dream Girl’ in her very first film, Sapnon ka Saudagar – Hema Malini. The ‘Dream Girl’ sobriquet hasn’t been bestowed on anyone since, even if the veteran actress was gracious enough to say that she thought the tag fit Aiswarya [Rai] very well indeed.

11 October 2017

Anaarkali of Aarah (2017)

Directed by: Avinash Das
Music: Rohit Sharma
Lyrics: Avinash Das, Ram Kumar Singh
Dr Sagar, Ravindra Randhawa, 
Prashant Ingle
Starring: Swara Bhaskar, Sanjay Mishra, 
Pankaj Tripathi, Ishityak Khan, Vijay Kumar,
Mayur More
We learnt what consent means in Pink – a ‘big’ film about three working women – women like us – who face the consequences of a man not taking their ‘No’ for a final answer. Middle class women, coming from ‘respectable’ families, women who work in offices for a living. Urban, well-educated and independent. We felt for them, having had similar experiences where our reputations are scarred only because of the way we dressed, or the way we ‘talked to boys’.

But what happens when the lady in question is a folk entertainer, who dances wherever she gets a gig? Whose songs run the gamut from the raunchy to the frankly vulgar? Who, by her own admission, is no ‘Sati Savitri’ and has no qualms about exchanging sexual favours for money? Does she get to say ‘No’ and have that non-consent respected?

6 October 2017

My Favourites: Songs of Regret

Life, if lived well – ‘tis said – does not involve regrets. Because everything happens for a reason. Even if you don’t really know what that reason is, at that point of time. However, there are very few people who are that sanguine about their actions. Hindsight being perfect, we often dissect our past in the hope that we can find answers to that most frustrating of questions – ‘What if?’ What would our lives have been if we had taken the other fork in the road – the road not taken? What would our lives had been if we had chosen to do otherwise? Not having a crystal ball, no one can answer that question either. That doesn’t stop us, however, from gnawing at hypothetical scenarios. Just as much as for any other recurring life theme, Hindi films have a song to fit the occasion. Here are a few of my favourite songs of regret. 

26 September 2017

Life in the Shadows

With two book reviews prior, I decided to toe the line with fellow blogger Dustedoff’s gentle exhortations and make it a hat-trick. This book is not a really a biography; it’s the memoirs of a man which focuses on a particular decade of his life – a decade in which he, an extremely erudite writer, collaborated with a man of infinite artistic talent. It is the story of man who started his professional career as a man of many trades and became the sounding board for one of the most eminent directors of the time. It is as much about his mentor as it is about himself, an honest account of a tumultuous relationship that both fostered and festered, as well as about some of the pathbreaking cinema of the time. It is also a bitter reminder of how he was forever fated to remain in his friend’s shadow, robbed of the credit for his greatest accomplishment.

19 September 2017

To Her, With Love

Meena Kumari is one of my favourite actresses of all time, possibly the most favourite of my favourites. So, when, a few years ago, I saw a book touted to be ‘The Classic Biography of Meena Kumari’, I had to pick it up. For various reasons, I didn’t review it then. Better late than never...

Meena Kumari’s enduring image is that of a tragedienne – the role she enacted in the latter part of her career only served to enhance this image. Her loneliness in her later years, and her tragic, untimely death, of cirrhosis of the liver, brought on by her excessive drinking, only enshrined her as the living embodiment of a suffering artiste.

15 September 2017

No Holds Barred

HarperCollins Publishers India
Pages: 270
Rishi Kapoor was an indispensable part of my childhood. His debut as ‘hero’ coincided with the early part of my initiation to movies. I was far too young to understand teenage love/rebellion, and Rishi really didn’t come into my ken as an idol. He was just one more actor among many, and he looked like a kid himself. Besides, a couple of years later, I would lose my heart to a saturnine man with sad eyes. My childhood idol was always Amitabh Bachchan.

Yet, Rishi Kapoor has had an interesting innings in the industry he chose to call home – he debuted at a time when the Rajesh Khanna craze was nearly over; the latter's place as a romantic hero overtaken by the juggernaut that was Amitabh Bachchan. It was the era of the Angry Young Man. However, Rishi – who today describes himself as the ‘Son of a famous father, the father of a famous son; I’m the hyphen in between’ – not only withstood that onslaught that saw several others ruefully step back, but held his own.

29 August 2017

Baharon ki Manzil (1968)

Directed by: Yaqub Rizvi
Music: Laxmikant Pyarelal
Lyrics: Majrooh Sultanpuri
Starring: Meena Kumari
Dharmendra, Rehman,
Farida Jalal, Tun Tun, Wasti
Meena Kumari figures high on my list of favourite actresses. Dharmendra was always easy on the eye, and made for very pleasant viewing onscreen. However, my earlier experiences of the Meena-Dharam pairing had made me very wary of watching anything with the two of them. So when Shalini, who has become my regular partner in crime, suggested Baharon ki Manzili for a watchalong, I was not very enthused. Shalini, however, insisted it was 'different', and since I have a great respect for her love of old Hindi cinema, and since we generally have fun watching together, I acquiesced. 

May I say, at the outset, how grateful I am to her that she persisted?

22 August 2017

To the Movies Born

I have never been a great fan of Asha Parekh. I mean, she was pleasant enough, and starred in some rather decent 60s entertainers, traipsing over hill and vale, romancing some of the biggest heroes of her time, getting to lip sync to some memorable songs... I did enjoy her presence when I watched these films. However, I didn't miss her when she wasn't on screen, nor did I watch a contemporary actress and sigh, 'I wish Asha Parekh had done this role.' She was, well, rather bland in my opinion and I could take her or leave her without overthinking the issue.

So, on a recent sojourn to India, when I was buying my usual quota of books I brought back a whole suitcase of them I dithered over buying her autobiography. Was I really interested enough to want to know more about her? I wasn't sure. Yet, she was one of the most successful actresses of her time, responsible for many pleasant hours I spent at the cinema, and what's one more book, after all? Even if it had a rather weird title? I succumbed to temptation and bought it.

Was it worth it?

20 July 2017

Dar bāre-ye Elly (2009)

Directed by: Asghar Farhadi
Starring Taraneh Alidoosti, Golshifteh Farahani,  
Ahmad Mehranfar, Mani Haghighi, 
Marila Zare'i, Peyman Moadi, 
Ra'na Azadivar, Shahab Hosseini

In a scene in the film, Elly (Taraneh Alidoosti) is flying a kite. She has taken the string from little  Morvarid who has asked her for help, and she rushes back and forth on the beach to get the wind to lift the kite.  The camera focuses on her face; there is exhilaration and laughter as she gets the kite to lift. Suddenly, her face clouds over; she tells Morvarid  to hold the kite, she has to go. That is the last we see of her alive.

This vanishing act sets up the rest of the film.

25 June 2017

The Masters: Madan Mohan

25.06.1924 14.07.1975
The radio was a ubiquitous presence in our home when I was growing up, and weekends were rather special – there were hours of Hindi film music to savour, as I sat on the floor reading comics or the latest book. My father was an avid listener of old Hindi songs, and his favourite composers were Shankar-Jaikishen and SD Burman, followed by Madan Mohan. 

Composers didn’t come into my ken, however, though I was steeped in the songs of my father’s youth. Songs were identified by films and singers. Then, I got married – and listening to music was never the same again.

With his ability to recognise a composer by his ‘style’, my husband introduced me to the music behind the songs that I liked, and to his favourite trio, Salil Choudhury, Sajjad Hussain and… Madan Mohan. There’s also a personal connection there – Madan Mohan was a close friend of my husband’s maternal uncles; they went to the races together.

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