18 May 2016

Hey Ram (2000)

Directed by: Kamal Hassan
Music: Ilaiyaraja
Starring: Kamal Hassan, Rani Mukherjee,
Shah Rukh Khan, Om Puri,
Saurabh Shukla, Atul Kulkarni,
Vikram Gokhale, Sowcar Janaki,
Vasundhara Das, Hema Malini,
Girish Karnad, Naseeruddin Shah,
Farida Jalal
When the British left India after more than a century and a half of governing the nation, they left behind a fractured nation, weakly emerging from the privations of being ruled by foreigners, and bled dry from centuries of commercial exploitation. They also left us with a parting gift, a wound that still lies festering under our collective consciousness. In keeping with the 'Divide and Rule' policy they had followed while ruling their erstwhile colony (which, to be fair, they had forged into a nation state from disparate princely states), they split a vast nation into two bleeding halves before leaving – 'Hindu'-India and 'Muslim'-Pakistan. 

The mass migration of people during this period was the largest the modern world had ever seen. Millions of people were displaced from their homes; not all of them who were displaced chose to be so. As Hindus braved their way across the newly-drawn borders into the safe haven that was India, similar caravans of Muslims made their tortuous way towards the new 'Muslim' nation, one that they hoped, believed, would give them a place they could call home. 

This momentous event would result in scenes of extreme violence and cruelty. Generations of communities that had peacefully co-existed for centuries would rise up in arms against friends and neighbours. Sectarian violence became the order of the day. Scenes of carnage became common, the scale of which was unprecedented, and the consequences calamitous.

As nationalist leaders unsuccessfully tried to stem the tide of events, there were also people who stoked the embers, keeping alive the flame of enmity. No community was safe; no community was innocent. Massacres became common as mob frenzy took over, stoked by rumours of atrocities committed on their community by the 'other'. Men and children were murdered; women were abducted, raped, forcibly converted. Buses and trains were set on fire – with people inside. Hundreds of thousands lost their lives.

The Partition shaped the destiny of two nations – India and Pakistan. Since that date, more than seven decades ago, the erstwhile one-nation has been deeply polarised. The wounds lie deep, and fester, continuing to wreak havoc in both countries. 

13 May 2016

You Can't Take It With You (1938)

Directed by: Frank Capra
Music: Dimitri Tiomkin
Starring: Jean Arthur, Lionel Barrymore, 
James Stewart, Edward Arnold, 
Spring Byington, Mischa Auer, 
Ann Miller, Lillian Yarb
Once in a while, after a steady diet of my husband's choices in films (which I usually love, don't get me wrong!), I go onto Netflix and trawl their selections. The Netflix search algorithm is weird, by the way, and it does take some amount of time and effort to see what they have in their extensive collection. (If you're looking for a particular title, it is easier.) Anyway, long story short, I went on an extended Cary Grant / James Stewart spree, and put in a whole lot of movies that I hadn't either heard of, or hadn't watched. In order to quell rebellion within the ranks, I judiciously spread them all over our queue. So, even I'm not sure which movie will show up, when. This week was the turn of You Can't Take It With You. As always, my husband opened the envelope, looked at the title, and asked, 'Yours? Or mine?' One look at the star-cast confirmed it was my selection. But with Frank Capra directing it, he was less likely to make faces at me.

7 May 2016

Adaminte Makan Abu (2011)

Directed by: Salim Ahamed
Music: Isaac Thomas Kootukapally
Ramesh Narayan
Lyrics: Rafeeque Ahamed
Starring: Salim Kumar, Zarina Wahab, 
Mukesh, Nedumudi Venu, 
Suraj Venjiramoodu, 
Kalabhavan Mani

For the longest of time, I've had the DVD of Adaminte Makan Abu (Abu, The Son of Adam) sitting on my shelf. For an even longer time, I'd heard about this film and how moving it is, and how deserving of its National Award for Best Film. I have no idea why I hadn't watched it until now. 

Set in a little village in Kerala, seemingly cut off from the rest of a harsh world in its idyllic surroundings, Adaminte Makan Abu is the heartwarming story of a really good man, a man whose goodness reaps goodness from others. 

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.
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