24 February 2015

The Legends: Talat Mahmood

24.02.1924 - 09.05.1998
Long childhood hours were companionably spent with my father, he smoking one cigarette after the other, reading the latest bestseller, or re-reading Wodehouse, while I sprawled with the newest comic or Enid Blyton that he inevitably bought for us while returning from his many trips. And in the background, always, always, were songs from old films, whether it was on the gramophone that my father had picked up in France before I was born, or on the old radio that was always tuned to Vividh Bharati.  

It was on one of those smoke-filled Sunday afternoons that I was first introduced to Talat Mahmood. The song? Ye hawa ye raat ye chandni... I remember asking my father who the singer was. I cannot claim to have fallen in love with his silken voice then, but I filed the name away, alongside Mohammed Rafi's as someone whose voice held magic. My dad's collection of LPs didn't have many Talat Mahmood songs, though. And even the radio programmes of the day played more Kishore Kumar and Mohammed Rafi numbers than they did that of any other male singer. It was only after my father bought home a stereo player and a regular supply of music cassettes began making their way into our house that I became more familiar with Talat Mahmood's body of work. Sangdil, Aaram, Aarzoo, Waris, Mirza Ghalib, Taxi Driver... now when my father came home, it was not only new books that I waited for eagerly; I would hurriedly 'help' him unpack, so I could see the new cassettes he had bought to add to our collection. 

18 February 2015

Word Play: Shaam

Photo credit: imgkid.com
Many moons ago, I had begun a new category of themed lists. I titled it 'Word Play' and under that category, I began to list songs that began with a particular word. Going through my lists recently, I realised that that category has been woefully under-represented. In all these years, I've written just three posts - Raat, Piya and Chand, probably the most ubiquitous of 'words that occur frequently in Hindi films songs'.

The 'rules' for this category were frighteningly simple: the song had to begin with the chosen word. (At the most, the word could be the second one in the first line.) Preludes to songs didn't count. And two, it has to be the word itself, not its variations.

The advantage, of course, to doing so, was that the songs chosen under this rule were not restricted in terms of genre (they could be of love or heartbreak, meetings or separation, betrayal or helplessness...) or setting (urban, rural, or in-between). I didn't have to worry about the distinctions I make in my own mind, or about explaining those to my readers.

15 February 2015

Nothing But The Truth

I grew up watching films. In Malayalam, Hindi, Tamil, English, Kannada, and when television made its grand entry into our home, in many other languages as well. My first love was Amitabh Bachchan. Then I discovered Shammi Kapoor, Raj Kapoor, Dev Anand, Dilip Kumar, Gregory Peck, Cary Grant... my tastes were unapologetically commercial, and as I grew older, I continued to devour the latest Hindi film release, as well as any old re-run.

With the advent of television, a great many 'art' films entered my purview. Doordarshan used to screen sub-titled award-winning films on Sunday afternoons. That slot introduced me to films I wouldn't have watched otherwise, and to a host of actors whose names I'd only read until then (and some whose names I did not recognise) - Naseeruddin Shah, Om Puri, Smita Patil (Shabana had already 'crossed over' and done a slew of commercial films by then), MK Raina, Shafi Inamdar, Rohini Hattangadi, Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Anant Nag, Shreeram Lagoo, Pankaj Kapoor...

11 February 2015

Tamasha

1952
Directed by: Phani Majumdar
Music: Khemchand Prakash, Manna Dey
Starring: Dev Anand, Meena Kumari, Kaushalya, 
Ashok Kumar, Kishore Kumar, 
Bipin Gupta, Sunalini Devi, Shivraj
I was watching Parivar the other day, after reading Dustedoff's well-written review of the film. Now, YouTube throws up 'similar' films on the sidebar, and while scrolling through them, I came across a Dev Anand-Meena Kumari starrer called Tamasha. If I'd heard of this film before, I'd certainly forgotten about it; equally certainly, I had no clue what it was about. But Dev Anand? Meena Kumari? Worth taking a chance, I thought to myself, and I could always stop watching if it turned out to be too dreary. Well, as it turns out, it wasn't. Quite the contrary, in fact.

5 February 2015

The Masters: Khayyam

18th February 1927
This last weekend, we were at a friend's house. As is usual, when everyone is unusually mellow, the talk turned to a discussion of the latest films, and songs. And then one of us wanted us to listen to a Coke Studio recording of a woman who sang her version of Dil cheez kya hai. It wasn't the traditional rendering, but, my god! the woman could sing! I mentioned that my favourite song from Umrao Jaan was Ye kya jageh hai doston, which I thought was the best song in the film. (I must say, though, that I like every song from Umrao Jaan.) It is a song that never fails to move me to tears. That made me think of the music director of the film who, despite having given such a stellar score for this film (and for others), had not really got his due from the industry.


30 January 2015

Unveiling The Chaudhvin ka Chand

I grew up watching her on screen in dusty theatres that showed re-runs of black and white films. I sat in awe as her perfection filled the screen, her beauty so natural, her acting so effortless that often, I quite forgot I was only watching a film unfold. Along with Meena Kumari and Nutan, Waheeda Rehman remains one of my favourite heroines of all time. So when I heard that she'd finally agreed to a book about her life, I was thrilled. The author was Nasreen Munni Kabir, whose Conversations with Lata was a wonderful addition to my collection of movie lore. I'd also previously liked her Talking Films, a conversation with Javed Akhtar. So I promptly put the book on 'my list of books to order before I go to India'. 

24 January 2015

My Fair Lady

1964
Directed by: GeorgeCukor
Music: Frederick Loewe
Lyrics: Alan Jay Lerner
Starring: Audrey Hepburn, Rex Harrison,
Wilfrid Hyde-White, Stanley Holloway,
 Gladys Cooper, Jeremy Brett, 
Christopher Hewett
I watched this film in Lido (or was it Rex?) in Bangalore, on the eve of my Maths board exams. My mother was appalled. My father, who had bought the tickets for the re-run of this film, was of the opinion that if I hadn't learnt any Maths during the year, I certainly wasn't going to make up for it in the few hours before the examination. Besides, the film wasn't going to be playing a week later. We watched the film, my father and I. (And I scored 97% in my Boards, thereby taking away from my mother the pleasure of saying 'I told you so'.)

My Fair Lady is one of those films that are satisfyingly complete. When Hollywood does a musical well, they do it very well indeed. Of course, it helps that the source material is George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion, and that it was adapted into a very successful Broadway nearly eight years earlier. With Rex Harrison reprising his role from stage, and Audrey Hepburn stepping in for Julie Andrews, this was a film which had excellent dialogue (adapted from the original by Alan Lerner), wonderful songs, and leads who could, and did, spar wittily and intelligently, adding their own sparkle to Shaw's/Lerner's pithy dialogues.

21 January 2015

The Lady of the Lift

Photo credit: homelift.com
We spent most of our time in India on this trip, in Bombay. Once the wedding and its associated madness was over, S and I found ourselves busy with a lot of other stuff that needed to be taken care of - housing society woes, bank issues, insurance policies... It meant that we had to move from Thane to the western suburbs (praise be to whichever higher power is up there!) where we had originally lived. 

Even though we owned a flat there, it was given out on rent. And so, we found ourselves having to rent a flat ourselves. Talk about life's ironies. Now, taking young A with us everywhere we went meant that we would be slowed down, and unable to finish at least 75% of the tasks we had set ourselves. 

It was then that our niece came to our rescue. She lives in Bandra, and even before we had moved back into the suburbs, called to find out when she could come and kidnap young A. Talk about blessings! After I made the usual noises about not wanting to disturb her, and her avowals that she wouldn't be disturbed and, on the contrary, looked forward to having him spend the days with her, we decided that he would be dropped off at her house in the mornings before we began our frantic running around, and pick him up in the evening after we were done.  Of course, I enquired about whether it was okay with her every single day before we dropped him off. (I guess I couldn't fathom someone who was so eager for young A's company that she would willingly offer to keep him there - day after day.

In any case, that is the background. 

15 January 2015

From A Movie Lover's Diary

Long time blog readers know I'm passionate about films - I love watching them, talking about them, discussing them, and it doesn't matter if it is the latest commercial potboiler or a small, independent movie, or European arthouse, or well, anything else for that matter. I know what I like and what I don't, even if I cannot always tell you the whys of the matter.

I have often thought it would be wonderful if someone paid me to watch films and write about them. But I'm not a 'reviewer' or a critic. I only write what I like, about the films that I like, and mostly, my posts are an exercise in introducing (or re-introducing) those films, actors, directors, to my readers who may or may not have watched them. 

12 January 2015

Daag

1973
Directed by: Yash Chopra
Music: Laxmikant-Pyarelal
Lyrics: Sahir Ludhianvi
Starring: Rajesh Khanna, Sharmila Tagore, Raakhee
Prem Chopra, Madan Puri, Achala Sachdev, Manmohan Krishna
Iftekhar, Master Raju, Baby Pinky
I first watched Daag when they showed it on Doordarshan. I've watched it a couple of times since then, and most recently, watched it before my visit to India. At that time, I took a few screencaps and forgot about it. Coming back and having reviewed Parinayam, I felt the need to write up a film that is all fluff. Not serious, not depressing, just entertaining. Daag fit the bill. (If I had the time to watch it again, I probably would have, but since I didn't, I have to rely on my memory and the few notes I had jotted down while watching it to reconstruct the story.)

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