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.

18 June 2017

Les Demoiselles de Rochefort (1967)

The Young Girls of Rochefort
Directed by: Jacques Demy, Agnes Varda
Music: Michael Legrand
Starring: Catherine Deneuve, Françoise Dorléac, 
George Chakiris, Grover Dale, 
Danielle Darieux, Michael Piccoli,  
Jacques Riberolles, Jacques Perrin, Gene Kelly
Let it be known that I was not a great fan of Jacques Demy. When my husband ordered Les parapluies de Cherbourg (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg), I managed to sit through about 20 minutes of ‘singing’ before I gave up. When people on screen are singing every single word of their dialogues, it gets tiring. (You want to hear a man sing ‘I cannot repair the car; I have a date’?) Not to mention grating. I couldn’t relate to the plight of any of the characters because the singing irritated me so much. Expressing an emotion in song is one thing; ‘singing’ prosaic dialogue is another. Suffice it to say that my husband and I disagreed thoroughly on the artistic merits of what’s apparently a classic. I went up to bed, and probably escaped being murdered by my exasperated husband.

12 June 2017

My Favourites: Memorable Scenes From Hindi Films

Did I say I love the rain? I hate the rain. Especially when it has been days since I've seen the sun. Especially when it's June in the US and I'm shivering in the cold. The temperature today is 61oF (160C). It’s June, for heavens’ sake! As I sit here and watch the rain come interminably down, I feel like Scamper does – utterly miserable.* (Never mind that that is his perpetual expression – blast those pesky facts!)

27 May 2017

Mere Apne (1971)

Directed by: Gulzar
Music: Salil Choudhury
Lyrics: Gulzar
Starring: Meena Kumari, Vinod Khanna, 
Shatrughan Sinha, Ramesh Deo, 
Sumita Sanyal, Paintal, 
Asrani, Danny Denzongpa,
Deven Verma, Yogita Bali
In my tribute to VinodKhanna, I wrote that the song that comes to mind when I think of the late actor is Koi hota jisko apna from Mere Apne. As it happens, Mere Apne was his first film with Gulzar, who debuted as a director with this film. Mere Apne also starred one of my favourite actresses – Meena Kumari – in what would be one of her last roles. What’s more, the music was composed by Salil Choudhury. All this combined to make me revisit the film recently.

22 May 2017

Qurbani (1980)

Directed by: Feroz Khan
Music: Kalyanji-Anandji, Biddu
Lyrics: Indeevar
Starring: Feroz Khan, Vinod Khanna, 
Zeenat Aman, Amjad Khan, 
Aruna Irani, Shakti Kapoor, 
Amrish Puri, Kader Khan
Readers of my blog are aware that once in a while, I have a watchalong with friends who share my love for masala films. A couple of months ago, blog reader Shalini and I decided we should watch a film soon – Shalini picked Qurbani for the arm-candy quotient. Readers Lalitha and Sameer asked to join in, and I’m sorry to say we denied Sameer the chance. The reason was purely professional – cross my heart – we weren’t sure how Google Hangouts would work with multiple people. 

So the watchalong was restricted to Shalini, Lalitha and me. Are you ready for a testosterone filled non-stop adventure into machismo land? (Warning: Long post, with many interjections and many photographs. Read at your own peril.)
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