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20 April 2024

The Masters: Shakeel Badayuni

My love for old Hindi film songs is familiar to all those who have read my previous posts. And those who are familiar with my writing know that lyrics play a very important part in that liking. While the melody might initially draw me in, it is always the emotions that the words express that appeal to me, and make the song worth listening to, repeatedly. In the past, I have written about other wordsmiths - Sahir, Shailendra, Majrooh, Hasrat... today, on his 54th death anniversary, I pay my tributes to one of the finest romantic poets who worked in Hindi cinema.

17 April 2024

Char Dil Char Raahein (1959)

Directed by: KA Abbas
Music: Anil Biswas
Lyrics: Sahir Ludhianvi
Starring: Raj Kapoor, Meena Kumari,
Nimmi, Ajit, Shammi Kapoor,
Kumkum, P Jairaj, Anwar Hussain,
David, Nana Palsikar, Achala Sachdev,
Jagdish Kanwal, Vishwas Mehra,
Badri Prasad

After watching Pakeezah and feeling sad at how old Meena Kumari looked and how ill, I wanted to watch a film in which she was neither. I’d been sitting on subtitling Char Dil Char Rahen for Tom for over a year now. Tom was remarkably patient, and when I finally completed the subbing, I decided I might as well review it. After all, apart from Meena, it had Nimmi, Raj Kapoor, Ajit, Kumkum and… Shammi Kapoor! Char Dil Char Raahen is an interesting film. Like many films of that period, it does have a socialist messaging, but nation-building was popular then and film-makers who believed in it were not loath to tell stories that advanced their ideology. What makes this film interesting is that it was one of the few films in the Hindi cinema of the time to weave parallel narratives that converged into one. 

07 April 2024

The Teller of Middle-Class Tales

Films have always been defined by the periods in which they were made. Though, initially, films borrowed from stage plays and were, therefore, adaptations of literary works, or told us stories from religious texts or mythology, filmmakers and storytellers soon began to understand the reach of this new medium. Film-makers with a social consciousness began to make movies based on societal ills, harnessing the power of the medium to take their point of view across to audiences. With the birth of a new nation, stories began to express the aspirations of a populace long accustomed to being second-class citizens in their own country, and the hopes and dreams of a young nation as it set forth to become the master of its own destiny. This continued through the 50s.

31 March 2024

Pakeezah (1972)

Directed by Kamal Amrohi
Music: Ghulam Mohammed, Naushad
Lyrics: Kamal Amrohi, Kaifi Azmi,
Majrooh Sultanpuri, Kaif Bhopali
Starring: Meena Kumari, Ashok Kumar,
Raj Kumar, Veena, Nadira, Sapru
Today is the 52nd death anniversary of one of India’s finest actors (and my favourite heroine) – Meena Kumari. I have reviewed many of Meena’s films on this blog before – Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam,Azaad, Kohinoor, Yahudi, Mem Sahib, Miss Mary, Chitralekha, Dushman, Mere Apne,Parineeta, Baharon ke Manzil, Bheegi Raat Yet, when I was looking for a film that would be a tribute to Meena’s talent, I was spoiled for choice. Should I review Ek Hi Rasta? Or Aarti? The songs are wonderful! Why not Pakeezah? After all, I have only been sitting on that review for the last ten years or more. I had almost settled for Ardhangini (only because I hadn’t watched it in a long while) but decided that a tribute to the beautiful actress deserved a far better film. 

Pic courtesy: Filmfare

So, Pakeezah it is.

25 March 2024

The Divas: Nanda


Truthfully, I have never been a great fan of Nanda’s. Perhaps it’s because I first saw her in regressive weepfests like Bhabhi and Chhoti Bahen – where she was saccharine sweet – or in regressive melodramas like Jab Jab Phool Khile, where her western avatar did her no great favours. However, now that I am older and have been exposed to more of her work, I have begun to have a sneaking liking for her vulnerable sweetness.

14 March 2024

Forgotten Composers: SN Tripathi


For every 'great' music director, there are those who were no less talented but whose circumstances did not allow them to rise to the heights their more successful contemporaries did. Yet, their music lives on after them.

I begin this section with Shri Nath Tripathi – or SN Tripathi, as he was popularly known. Except for music aficionados, few people remember the composer even though the songs he composed continue to be popular. But SN Tripathi was not just a composer; he was a musician, a music director, a singer, an actor, a writer and a director. For a man who wore so many hats, and quite successfully at that, his name still does not figure among the pantheon of the greats.  Perhaps it was because much of his work was for the looked-down-upon genres of mythologicals and historicals that he was never considered ‘top-rung’? The question is moot but SN Tripathi’s melodies elevated the films he composed for, and several have overcome changing times and tastes.

07 March 2024

My Favourites: Songs by Ravi

It is strange that when you think of the names of the great composers of the golden period, music director Ravi Shankar Sharma (who went by the mononym Ravi) is not one that comes readily to mind. However, Ravi had a very successful career both in Bombay and in Kerala, where he came to be known as ‘Bombay Ravi’.

19 July 2023

Nora Inu (1949)

Stray Dogs
Directed by: Akiro Kurosawa
Music: Fumio Hayasaka
Starring: Toshiro Mifune, Takashi Shimura,
Keiko Awaji, Isao Kimura, Eiko Miyoshi,
Masao Shimizu, Noriko Sengoku,
Noriko Honma, Hajime Izu, Ichiro Sugai,
Minoru Chiaki, Eijirō Tōno, Yasushi Nagata,
Teruko Kishi, Iida Chōko, Kan Yanagiya,
Reizaburô Yamamoto, Reikichi Kawamura

I have been away from my blog for far too long. My sincere apologies to my readers, several of whom have sent me private messages asking me why. Since circumstances are still not conducive to my writing or posting, my husband has generously stepped into the breach to keep the blog running. This is his review of one of his favourite Kurosawa films.

05 March 2023

Kishore Kumar's Comic Songs

I am not a great fan of Kishore Kumar, the actor, except in rare circumstances. But his physical comedy is absolutely fantastic, especially when restrained by the firm hand of the director. He seems almost ‘boneless’ at times, and can dance like a dream, albeit in the most comical fashion ever. His yodelling skills, the almost-farcical facial expressions, the uninhibited-ness that he portrayed on screen – together, the combination was lethal. So, the songs picturized on him inevitably become an avenue for him to express his comic side. One can only imagine that he must choreograph them himself. They are tailor made for his brand of physical comedy, and while I don’t usually enjoy his over-the-top comic antics on screen, I find that I can take them in the small doses that songs entail. Not just ‘take’ it, but I quite enjoy them. Here are some of my favourite Kishore Kumar songs where the singer’s vocal calisthenics complement the actor’s clowning. 

28 February 2023

My Favourites: Comic Songs

I have not always been a fan of ‘comedy’ in old Hindi films. They are usually stereotypical, loud, and at least to me, not at all funny. Even the songs that are picturised on these comic side plots are sometimes more irritating than comic. [Especially if they featured Mehmood.] Except, of course, for Johnny Walker, whose songs were as iconic as him. But if you look closely at Johnny Walker's songs, not all of them are ‘funny’ except for the fact that one just has to see him on screen to smile. Many of them were rather philosophical musings, albeit in a funny way – Sar jo tera chakraaye, for example, or even the satirical Ae dil hai mushkil.

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