17 September 2018

More Adventures... and Some Misadventures

Photo: Young A
We were back in our hometown, and Dad’s birthday was looming. The head count was beginning to go out of control. At one point, my cousin had enough – ‘I think we should stop inviting people,’ he said. In principle, we all agreed. But we were stuck – if we called these relatives, then surely, we should call those relatives too? But finally, even we gave up – the guest list was the size of a small wedding.

My sister and I diligently worked our way through the list; in some cases, having to call to invite someone and then ask for someone else’s telephone number. My sister, sotto voce: If we don’t even have their telephone number, why are we inviting them? Well, apparently, ‘because’… By the second day of cold calling people, my sister and I had our delivery pat: ‘Hello, is this …? I am ….' 'Who?' 'Oh, elder/younger daughter of Mr and Mrs…' Still no idea who we are? 'Oh, we belong to this family; we are ….’s granddaughter. No, I’m not in Bombay/US; that’s my sister…. We would like to invite you to our father’s 84th birthday.' Who’s our father? Well, he is …. Through all of this, my mother sat like a sphinx. (That’s her usual expression.)

11 September 2018

My Indian Adventures – Kerala

Photograph: Young A

Soon, too soon it seemed, we were winging our way back to our hometown. My sister and S’s brother joined us, and sundry cousins made their way home in a couple of days. We were all in town to celebrate my father’s 84th birthday, which had morphed from a small, intimate family occasion to a big, messy, extended family celebration in a manner that only fellow Indians will understand. Dad’s only request when we had talked to him last year was that his children be there, and that we invite his only surviving sister and her children. Turned out mom wanted to call some of her closest relatives – her ‘girl gang’ so to speak – and it seemed odd, then, that we wouldn’t invite my dad’s other nephews and nieces. Or even others from my mom’s extended family – I mean, you could hardly call one sibling and not the other.  You can see where this is going. Right?

7 September 2018

My Indian Adventures – Bombay

Whew! It seems like I’ve been gone ages. Certainly, it’s been a while since I last tended to my blog. Usually, I tend to pile up a stock of articles with which to keep my blog going while I’m away. This time, I didn’t get a chance to do so. Of course, there were plenty of drafts. But, as they say about the plans of mice and men, I didn’t have a good Internet connection. After initially trying to muddle through however I could, I happily gave up the attempt. It was nice to be disconnected for a change. Not having a smartphone meant I was completely free. I had an ordinary flip phone, and initially, I found it irritating I couldn’t look up a link or figure out the address. Slowly, I began to enjoy the freedom. You don’t realise just how much you’re bound to your devices until they aren’t there anymore.

25 June 2018

Jogan (1950)

Directed by: Kidar Sharma
Music: Bulo C Rani
Lyrics: Kabir (bhajan), 
Meera Bai (bhajans), 
Pandit Indra, Butaram Sharma, 
Himmat Rai Sharma
Starring: Nargis, Dilip Kumar, 
Baby Tabassum, 
Protima Devi, Poornima, 
Rajendra Kumar
My Nargis retrospective continues with one of the finest films made during the period. Kidar Sharma’s Jogan. Based on a one-line idea told to him by producer Chandulal Shah (who had been inspired  by an English film in which a man falls in love with a nun), Kidar Sharma took on the challenge of shooting the entire film in 29 days with stars like Nargis and Dilip Kumar. This was one of Nargis’s finest roles, and she – as usual – rose to the occasion.

20 June 2018

Barsaat (1949)

Directed by Raj Kapoor
Music: Shankar Jaikishan
Lyrics: Hasrat Jaipuri, Shailendra, 
Ramesh Shastri, Jalal Malihabadi
Starring: Nargis, Raj Kapoor, 
Premnath, Nimmi, 
KN Singh, Cuckoo
It is hard to talk about Nargis without mentioning Raj Kapoor a full third of Nargis’s filmography had her co-starring with him. She's been a part of his films since his directorial debut, Aag. Besides, Barsaat is important for another reason – it immortalised Nargis as an integral part of RK films –  in its iconic logo. 

16 June 2018

Raat aur Din (1967)

Directed by: Satyen Bose
Music: Shankar-Jaikishan
Lyrics: Shailendra, Hasrat Jaipuri
Starring: Nargis, Pradeep Kumar, 
Feroz Khan, Harindranath Chattopadhyay, 
Anwar Hussain, Anoop Kumar, 
KN Singh, Leela Misra, 
SN Bannerjee, Laxmi Chhaya
The Nargis saga continues. This time, it’s her last film, a psychological drama about a  woman suffering from multiple personality disorder (or Disassociative Identity Disorder, as it is known today). It seems apt that in the late 60s when garish Eastman colour was the order of the day, this film should be shot in black and white – a reflection of the shades of darkness and light that plague the protagonist’s mind. This is mirrored in the title song as well – Raat aur din diya jale, Phir bhi mere man mein andhiyaara hai…

12 June 2018

Lajwanti (1958)

Directed by: Narendra Suri
Music: SD Burman
Lyrics: Majrooh Sultanpuri
Starring: Nargis, Balraj Sahni, 
Baby Naaz, Prabhu Dayal, 
Leela Misra, Radhekrishan, 
Manorama, Parveen Paul
I had only vague recollections of Lajwanti. I remember being inordinately annoyed at Balraj Sahni’s character. I also remembered this as one of Nargis’s ‘trials and tribulations’ films – so I never revisited it. Once was enough, I thought. However, every time I ended up watching a Nargis movie (invariably her films with Raj Kapoor – as Madhu posted, it is very rarely that I watched a film for Nargis), I was amazed at her mastery over her craft. I marvelled at how natural she was, how charming. Therefore, it’s with a newfound appreciation of her genuine – and overwhelming – talent that I decided to make reparations for ignoring her all these years. When I was revisiting her songs for the previous post I stumbled upon Lajwanti again – this time, I was curious enough for a re-watch. Did it confirm my recollections? Read on.

6 June 2018

The Many Moods of Nargis

As I mentioned earlier, I hadn’t really thought of Nargis as one of my ‘favourite’ actresses, until I realised that whenever I saw her on screen, I loved how natural she was, how charming, and how effortless her performances. Now, I can better understand why she was my father’s favourite heroine. (The fact that he adored Raj Kapoor could also have had something to do with it, so closely associated is Nargis with RK, man and films.) In any case, I have a new favourite actress. To make reparations for having neglected her for so long, June will be 'Nargis Month' here at Conversations over Chai. (To pre-empt Shalini who will remind me that I’ve never had a ‘Meena Kumari month’ yet or a ‘Waheeda Rehman month’, I offer 15 posts (ten films) for the former and 11 posts (8 films) for the latter, not to mention countless appearances in my many song lists.)  

1 June 2018

The Greats: Nargis

01. 06. 1929 – 03. 05. 1981
When I’m asked about my favourite Hindi film heroines, I usually have Meena Kumari top the list, followed by Waheeda Rehman and Nutan. But then, I also adore Madhubala. And Geeta Bali. Funnily enough, if you’d asked me about Nargis, my response would have been ambivalent. She was my father’s favourite heroine, but I kept thinking I'd never warmed to her. Until I actually began watching her on screen. Which is when I realised just how expressive a performer she really was. How charming.  How her smile lit up the screen. And how I liked her very, very much indeed.
Nargis may not have been classically beautiful like Waheeda Rehman or had that scintillating charisma that Madhubala possessed in abundance, but she definitely had a screen presence. And, while I may not like some of the roles she did (Mother India, Adalat), I can safely say I have never seen a bad Nargis performance. Not even when she was a gauche teenager.

27 May 2018

Adl-e-Jehangir (1955)

When my partner-in-masala-watching-crime gave me a homework assignment – erm, sorry, ‘encouraged’ me – to ‘watch Adl-e-Jehangir and write a review’ (she thoughtfully provided me with a link as well), I was only half interested (because – Meena Kumari). The story was somewhat similar to that of Sohrab Modi’s Pukar which I had reviewed some time ago. Much to my surprise, I didn’t recognise any of the songs either. And then of course, I completely forgot about it. Recently, Shalini gently (relative, that) took me to task for forgetting Meena Kumari in my new-found love for the likes of Deepika, Alia, Parvathi, et al. My head hung in shame, I owned up to my slippery slope of cinematic infidelity and promised to make reparations.

First of all, you have to like a movie that starts like this. 
Secondly, this is nothing like Pukar! Now that we’ve established that, onwards…

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