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4 March 2021

Once Upon A Time

We are not very good at keeping written records. Much of our nation’s history come to us from ‘foreign’ sources, written through an outsider’s perspective. The history of our film industry is no different. Much has been lost in the mists of ages past. Even when we pay tribute to the ‘Golden Period’ of Hindi film industry, we are extremely lax in preserving that period – whether it is the songs or the films. We know next to nothing about the musicians who brought that music alive, for instance, or the background dancers who were such an important part of our films. In many cases, we do not even know their names, nor do we care to. What little has survived is through articles, features and interviews in English film magazines – that too has deteriorated into page after page of glossy photographs interspersed with gossip, innuendo and rumour. Simply put, all gloss, no substance. So, to open Yasir Abbasi’s compilation of Urdu writings by famous film personalities was like gaining access to Aladdin’s Cave.

27 February 2021

Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)

Directed by: Frank Capra
Starring: Cary Grant, Priscilla Lane
Jean Adair, Josephine Hull,
Jack Carson, Peter Lorre,
Raymond Massey, John Alexander
Edward Everett Horton

The Criterion Channel regularly throws up recommendations. Recently, it threw up That Touch of Mink, which I reviewed earlier. When this showed up in my recommendations, I remembered that Bollyviewer and I shared a love for all things Cary Grant; I am sure she will appreciate that I watched this in her memory.

22 February 2021

Alvida

Picture: Courtesy Wallpaper Cave

Death is inevitable. It comes to all of us, some time or the other. The only difference is whether it comes quickly or lingers; whether it is peaceful or filled with agony; whether it comes at the end of a long, productive life or whether it cuts short a life in its prime.

Death is inevitable. And for those whom it folds in its embrace, it is all over. They are free from the stresses, the pains, and yes, even the joys of life. For those who are left behind, however, there’s grief; there are questions; there are regrets. It is they who feel Death’s sting the most.

17 February 2021

That Touch of Mink (1962)

Directed by: Delbert Mann
Starring: Cary Grant, Doris Day,
Audrey Meadows, Gig Young,
John Astin, Alan Hewitt

What is a girl to do when all she wants is to say, ‘I do’ and all the guy wants is sex? The girl in question is Cathy Timberlake (Doris Day), and the playboy-millionaire is Philip Shane (Cary Grant – still dishy). At the crux of a wafer-thin plot is an indecent proposal. Made honestly.

Rewind to the beginning.

12 February 2021

The Greats: Pran

12.02.1920 - 12.07.2013
Where do I begin? My
conscious introduction to Pran was in Amar Akbar AnthonyOf course, I liked him, and wanted Jeevan to get his comeuppance for betraying his trust. Then, I saw him in Zanjeer. Ah, who can forget the hennaed Sher Khan and his grace when he loses? Or Yaari hai imaan, for that matter? (Director Prakash Mehra went on record to state that if it wasn't for Pran, Zanjeer would never have been made.) So far, so good. Until I watched Madhumati. As the arrogant Ugranarayan, he was chilling. 

5 February 2021

Thoovanathumbikal (1987)

Dragonflies in the Rain
Directed by: Padmarajan
Music: Raveendran
BGM: Johnson
Lyrics: Sreekurmaran Thampi
Mohanlal, Parvathi, Sumalatha,
Babu Nampoothiri, Ashokan,
Sreenath, Sukumari, Sankaradi,
Jagathi Sreekumar, Soman,
Jayalalitha, Sulakshana

When you first meet Jayakrishnan (Mohanlal), there’s nothing to distinguish him from other well-to-do young men in a Kerala village. He lives with his mother and widowed sister, works his paddy fields, and spends his time fighting with a drunk tenant (Jagathi Sreekumar). Essentially good natured, frugal, slightly entitled aristocratic man-of-the-house – in other words, he’s a ‘type’.

It’s a characterisation that quickly dissolves as we see the same man in Thrissur town. He metamorphoses into someone even a close friend like Rishi (Ashokan) can’t recognise. A happy drunk, a generous benefactor, a regular man about town. It is through Thangal (Babu Namboothiri) that Rishi (and the audience) get to know the duality of Jayakrishnan’s character.

30 January 2021

My Favourites: Songs About Gender Wars

Source: Wikipedia

Gender wars are often played out for laughs in films. Even at its most benign – say, the hero and heroine squabbling and playing a game of one upmanship before they fall in love – the film usually bows to patriarchy in that it’s the hero who wins the war. The heroine is almost always forced to capitulate.

The more egregious narratives pitch the ‘Taming of the Shrew’ narrative – portraying women as shrews and termagants who have to be ‘tamed’ by ‘her man’ as a way to show a woman her place (under the man’s feet, if you need me to spell it out).

Equally insidious are the tropes that portray or pit woman against woman – the ‘good’ daughter-in-law against the ‘bad’ one; the wicked mother-in-law, the spiteful sister-in-law, the ‘westernised’ vamp – using these tropes to teach women their place in society. In fact, so-called ‘family’ films often used their morality tales to reiterate the lessons that ‘good women’ should learn.

25 January 2021

Nayak (1966)

Directed by: Satyajit Ray
Music: Satyajit Ray
Starring: Uttam Kumar, Sharmila Tagore,  
Bireswar Sen, Soumen Bose
There are plenty of films I watch based not on who is acting in them, but on who directed them. Satyajit Ray is one such director. So, when my husband ordered Nayak from the Criterion Collection, I sat back happily enough. I’d a vague recollection of the film, having watched it as part of a Ray retrospective held by a local film club. But it’s been years and I was quite willing to reacquaint myself with it.

Nayak, or ‘hero’’, is the tale of a super star, Arindam Mukherji (Uttam Kumar). And when the film begins, we are privy to two pieces of news – one, that he’s the recipient of a very prestigious award. Two, he was involved in a brawl involving a woman. To his adoring public, he’s their hero, one whose image will face nary a smear whatever others say. To his critics, the second headline validates their opinions of actors, especially those in films, as people of loose morals and intemperate behaviour.

12 January 2021

The Masters: C Ramchandra

12.01.1918-05.01.1982

C Ramchandra. Or to give him his full name, Ramchandra Narhar Chitalkar was born on January 12th 1918 and died on January 5th 1982. It seemed apt then to do a post on the composer this month. Born in a small town named Puntambe in Maharashtra, Ramchandra was fascinated by films early on. In fact, he wanted to try his luck as an actor, and even acted as the hero in a film called Nagananda (1935). The film was never released. Bit roles in indifferent films followed, but the young lad never quite made it big.

8 January 2021

Ittefaq (1969)

Directed by: Yash Chopra
Music: Salil Choudhury
Starring: Rajesh Khanna, Nanda,
Iftekhar, Bindu,
Sujit Kumar, Jagdish Raj,
Madan Puri, Shammi, Jagirdar

I’d never been a great fan of Nanda, having been introduced to her through Jab Jab Phool Khile, where her ‘glamorous’ avatar did nothing to endear her to me. And then I saw Bhabhi (1957), where her chulbuli saccharine-sweet role did nothing to make her any more appealing. But over the years, I have come to like the sweet gentleness she brought to her roles – Hum Dono, Dhool ka Phool, Kanoon, etc. Today is her birth anniversary, and to mark it, I revisited her most iconic role, a far cry from her screen image at the time.   

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