3 May 2016

My Favourites: 'Don't Go' Songs

What happens when you spend time with someone you love and it's just not enough? When you want them to stay longer? Not leave? As is usual with Hindi film songs, if you can think of a theme, there are songs to fit it.

Recently, I found myself humming Na ja kahin ab na ja. I'd long planned a series of posts on this theme - the 'aaja' and 'na ja' songs being complementary, while the songs exhorting the beloved to go away ('jaa') provided the third ang;e. However, both 'aaja' and 'ja' songs have been wonderfully compiled by fellow-blogger, Dustedoff. Hence, I decided I would stick to songs that plead, 'Na ja'. 

26 April 2016

Chalti ka Naam Gaadi (1958)

Directed by: Satyen Bose
Music: SD Burman
Lyrics: Majrooh Sultanpuri
Starring: Ashok Kumar, Kishore Kumar, 
Anoop Kumar, Madhubala, 
Sajjan, Veena, KN Singh, 
Sahira, Mohan Chhoti, 
Cuckoo, Helen
Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi is non-stop fun, and a perfect Sunday-evening watch. With all three Ganguly brothers joining hands in a madcap roller-coaster ride, Chalti ka Naam Gaadi is one of the best screwball comedies in Hindi. It’s not just the brothers, either. Kishore Kumar also got screen goddess Madhubala, who has certainly exercised her flair for comedy before, to let her hair down and by God! does she match his over-the-top antics?

15 April 2016

Talk of the Town (1942)

Directed by: George Stevens
Starring: Jean Arthur,Cary Grant, 
Ronald Colman,  Edgar Buchanan, 
Rex Ingram, Glenda Farrell
A beautiful school teacher, an escaped (but charming) arsonist, and a professor of law – what can be more respectable? Only, the arsonist is hiding (in plain sight) in the school teacher’s house, and the lawyer is the new tenant. 

I was going through Netflix’s collection of Cary Grant movies when I came across the name of one film that seemed vaguely familiar. Reading the summary rang no bells at all. Cary Grant is a perennial favourite, however, and I put it on my list and forgot about it. Until last week, when Netflix sent it to me in lieu of the film that was next on the queue. Since I can watch Cary Grant anytime, anywhere, I had no complaints; when I finished watching the movie, I'd laughed so much I didn't have any inclination to complain. (I'm of the firm opinion that, at this point, I could sit through Cary Grant reading a newspaper aloud.)

11 April 2016

Søndagsengler (1996)

Directed by: Berit Nesheim
Starring: Marie Thiesen, Hildegun Riise, 
Bjørn Sundquist, Sylvia Salvesen, 
Martin Dahl Garfalk, Ina Sofie Brodahl, 
Ann Kristin Rasmussen
A very long time ago, soon after we'd come to the US, my husband borrowed Søndagsengler from the local library. (For a very funny reason.)  We really had no clue what the film was about since those were the days of VHS, but since we watched anything and everything those days, we put this in as well. Suffice it to say that we thoroughly enjoyed the film.  

5 April 2016

My Favourites: Songs of Spring

Bahaar. Basant. Vasant. Spring. The loveliest of all seasons, according to some. For us in the cold climes of the North East, it usually heralds the end of a bitterly cold winter, though Spring seems to be coming later and later every year. But this year, we got lucky. Or as one acquaintance in the dog park remarked, 'We earned it!' That celebratory mood lasted until the official first day of Spring dropped 6 inches of snow on us. (Others got more.)

Then, two weeks later, after seeing temperatures soar to a balmy 600F,  when I was thinking of Spring plantings, we got another 6 inches of snow. The rest of this week is going to be as cold as an iceberg. The earth will warm up, however, and what snow we have will soon be gone. (Not before turning the ground into muddy slush.) The days are longer now, the sun is out more often, so it's brighter, and not quite as depressing as winter can be.

The colour palette is also changing the blues and greys of Winter will soon change into the pale greens and muted pastels of Spring.   

31 March 2016

Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam (1962)

Directed by: Abrar Alvi
Music: Hemant Kumar
Lyrics: Shakeel Badayuni
Starring: Rehman, Meena Kumari,
Guru Dutt, Waheeda Rehman,
DK Sapru, Protima Devi,
Harindranath Chattopadhyay,
Krishan Dhawan, Dhumal,
Nasir Hussain
Today, as I come to the end of  a month of celebrating women's films, I go back to the decade I skipped - the swinging sixties. The reason I kept this decade for later is because today is the 44th death anniversary of one of my favourite heroines, and I wanted to dedicate this post to her. (Some time soon, I will dedicate an entire month to her.) An actress par excellence, Meena Kumari attempted to live her life on her own terms, and fought - heroically, even desperately - for her personal happiness. Somewhere along the line, she failed, and died at the age of 40, a lonely, miserable woman.   
This film that I chose to represent this decade is considered her tour de force. The film's heroine dies fighting for her rights as a wife, as a woman. She dies because she has the effrontery to attempt to control her own destiny, instead of passively waiting for the men in her life to decide her path for her. And therefore, she's punished for stepping out of the lakshman rekha that is drawn to keep women confined to their place in the house and in the society at large.

27 March 2016

Astitva (2000)

Poster: Courtesy Wikipedia
Directed by: Mahesh Manjrekar
Music: Rahul Ranade, Sukhwinder Singh
Starring: Tabu, Sachin Khedekar, 
Sunil Barve, Namrata Shirodkar, 
Mohnish Behl. Smita Jayakar, 
Ravindra Mankani

Astitva. Self-identity. The core of any individual's sense of being. Made simultaneously in Marathi and Hindi, Astitva deals with a woman's discovery that she too has an identity; she is her own being, a woman before she is daughter/wife/mother. This could be anyone's story. Here, in this film made at the cusp of two millennia, it is the story of Aditi, who happens to be a woman. And in telling this story, 'Aditi' becomes the reflection of many such other Aditis, who abound in our society. Women who have lost their identities within their familial systems, within marital relationships, within societal boundaries of what they should say or feel or do. From the noughts, then, Astitva.

23 March 2016

Mrityudand (1997)

Directed by: Prakash Jha
Music: Anand Milind
Lyrics: Javed Akhtar
Starring: Madhuri Dixit, Shabana Azmi, 
Om Puri, Mohan Agashe, 
Shilpa Shirodkar, Mohan Joshi, 
Ayub Khan
Following the relatively restrained story of a woman's hard-won emancipation comes a slightly more melodramatic version of what it means to be the fairer sex in a society that deems them less valuable than cattle. Towards the late 90s, 'middle cinema' vanished - again, but mainstream films began to get more interesting. Stories became important once again, and stars, greedy for a chance to sink their teeth into a good role, began to take a greater interest in acting in 'offbeat' films. Films which, within the framework of the usual masala tropes, still demanded a strong script and excellent performances. Mrityu Dand (Death Sentence) was one such.

19 March 2016

Arth (1982)

India Bollywood Press Book 1982 ARTH Shabana Azmi, Smita Patil photo IndiaBollywoodPressBook1982ARTHShabanaAzmiSmitaPatil1.jpg
Directed by: Mahesh Bhatt
Music:  Chitra Singh, Jagjit Singh
Lyrics: Kaifi Azmi, Rajinder Nath 'Rehbar', 
Iftikhar Imam Siddiqui
Starring:  Shabana Azmi, Smita Patil, Kulbhushan Kharbanda,
Raj Kiran, Rohini Hattangadi, Dina Pathak, Om Shivpuri,
Kiran Vairale, Chand Usmani, Shammi, Geeta Siddharth,
Siddharth Kak, Mazhar Khan, Dalip Tahil, Gulshan Grover
The eighties were the nadir where Hindi films were concerned. It was the era of bare story-lines (or none at all) padded with mindless action, numerous glycerine bottles, cacophony in the name of music, garish sets, weird costumes, blow-dried hair, heavily-caked makeup, and eyelashes that impaled one at six hundred yards. It was also the era when 'middle cinema' made a comeback; smaller films with actors instead of stars ('stars' signed these films to prove their acting 'creds'), better story lines, and a small bunch of producers-directors who bankrolled these oases of realism amidst the over-the-top excesses of the pure commercial film. Names like Kundan Shah, Shyam Benegal, Saeed and Aziz Mirza, Sai Paranjpye, Aparna Sen, Govind Nihalani, Shekhar Kapur, all made some definitive films during this decade. Amongst them was another name - Mahesh Bhatt. He had made films before, half a dozen of them, none of them very great, all sinking without a trace. Then, he had a brainwave. He wrote a story based on incidents in his own life, added a soupçon of drama, and delivered his first major hit. 

14 March 2016

Mausam (1975)

Directed by: Gulzar
Music: Madan Mohan/Salil Choudhary
Lyrics: Gulzar
Starring: Sanjeev Kumar, Sharmila Tagore, 
Om Shivpuri, Dina Pathak, Agha
More than four decades ago, Gulzar wrote the story, screenplay and dialogues of a story adapted from The Judas Tree by AJ Cronin. With a fine eye for nuance, he scripted a tangled tale of a curmudgeonly bachelor and a foul-mouthed young prostitute, and fine-tuned it into a delicate film filled with myriad shades of emotions. Despite the occasional flashes of humour, there is an underlying melancholy as we watch the story of three characters unfold; Mausam is a film about lost opportunities, gentle regrets, and redemption.
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