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1 May 2020

The Hyphen In Between

My mind is reeling. I began to write a tribute, and all I could think of were clich├ęs. If I had been writing on paper, the room would have been littered with crumpled balls of paper because I just couldn’t find the words to express what I felt. And I felt like I had to be honest about my feelings, because the man I was writing about – Rishi Raj Kapoor – was brutally so, to the point of being rude, sometimes. I felt like crying – the loss was so personal. Did I know the man? No, of course, I didn’t. But he wasn’t a stranger – I’d known him for so long. Right from my childhood, in fact.

29 April 2020

And Movies Will Never Be The Same

Death is a rude visitor. It doesn't ask you whether it's welcome. It doesn't care if it is or not. Sometimes, it appears unannounced. Sometimes, we know it's coming but we aren't prepared for it. Let me correct that – however much we know that Death is but a part of Life, we are never prepared for it. We might – rationally – know that it is better that someone dies: without pain, without suffering too much. 'They were old," we might tell ourselves. "They were ailing, in pain..." "It's better they went without suffering," we might intone in a bid to console others. Or ourselves. But in all our Life lessons, it is the hardest to learn. When to let go.  

22 April 2020

Kanoon (1960)

Directed by: BR Chopra
Music: Salil Choudhury
Starring: Ashok Kumar, Nana Palsikar, 
Rajendra Kumar, Nanda, 
Om Prakash, Shashikala,
 Jeevan, Iftekhar, 
Jagdish Raj, Mehmood, 
Shubha Khote, Manmohan Krishna
Today is the birth anniversary of one of Hindi cinema’s luminaries. He might not be as well-known as Sohrab Modi, V Shantaram, Raj Kapoor or Guru Dutt; his films may not have the colour and verve of Nasir Hussain or even his younger brother, Yash Chopra, but Baldev Raj Chopra, or BR Chopra, as he was known, made some very iconic films that were both thought-provoking and often, socialist in their messaging. One of these early films was Kanoon, the first song-less thriller in Hindi films.

Kanoon, as is self-evident from the title, deals with the law. It begins with one question – can one man be punished twice for the same crime? And then moves on to arguments about the veracity of circumstantial evidence. and ends with a very trenchant speech against capital punishment.

5 April 2020

My Favourites: Songs of Sickness

I was mindlessly trawling YouTube to take my mind off the spectre of a global pandemic, when I came across this song from Sarfarosh. It begins with a ‘poem’ that Amar (Aamir Khan) quotes: 
Arz hai...
Dawa bhi kaam na aaye koyi dua na lage
Mere khuda kisi ko pyaar ki hawa na lage. 
Of course, he was talking about love but I thought to myself how appropriate these lines were to the current situation.  I seem to suffer from attention deficit disorder these days, so my mind then skittered to how many Hindi film songs talk of khoon-e-jigar or tadapta dil – and it occurred to me the medical interpretations of some of these lyrics would make for some interesting illnesses. 

31 March 2020

Parineeta (1953)

Directed by: Bimal Roy
Music: Arun Kumar Mukherjee
Lyrics: Bharat Vyas
Starring: Ashok Kumar, Meena Kumari, 
Asit Baran, Nasir Hussain, 
Badri Prasad, Protima Devi, 
SN Bannerjee, Manorama
The other day, while flipping through films on Amazon Prime, I came across Parineeta. I’d initially listed this film for a post I intended to do one August – for a ‘Meena Kumari Month’ on this blog. That August came and went; so did the next. And August 2020 is far away – for now. And Meena Kumari being my husband’s favourite heroine, he was more inclined to sit and watch the film with me.  So, since I’d just recently watched the film, and since today is Meena Kumari's 48th death anniversary,   here we go...

26 March 2020

The Greats: Nimmi

18.02.1933 - 25.03.2020
To be honest, Nimmi is not one of my favourite heroines. That had less to do with her emoting capabilities than with the fact that she always seemed to play lachrymose characters on screen. However, despite never being talked of in the same breath as say Nargis, Meena Kumari or Madhubala (her contemporaries), Nimmi was an integral part of the movies of her day, acting opposite all the top heroes of the time.

10 February 2020

Jeet (1949)

Directed by: Mohan Sinha
Music: Anil Biswas, Shyam Babu Pathak
Lyrics: Prem Dhawan
Starring: Suraiya, Dev Anand, 
Madan Puri, Suraiya Choudhury, 
Durga Khote, Kanhaiyalal
After watching Railway Platform and being so disappointed with the female characters’ arc in a supposedly progressive film, I wasn’t looking forward to Jeet as a film. The 40s did have some great female characters but I’d been burnt once too often. However, I was very pleasantly surprised. Jeet, like Railway Platform wears its socialist heart on its sleeve. It’s set a couple of years after independence, and the optimism on display is heart-warming. The women characters have gumption, and no, it’s not the fiery rhetoric-flourishing kind. But… l get ahead of myself. More about that later.

28 January 2020

The Masters: OP Nayyar

16.01.1926 – 28.01.2007
OP Nayyar is the composer I turn to when I want happy songs. There's something about his compositions that makes me smile and sing along. It was when I was searching for songs for my long-in-the-writing Geeta Dutt-Mohammed Rafi duets that I realised just how many of those duets were composed by OP Nayyar. Since today is his 13th death anniversary, I decided to do a post on this maverick composer instead. 

21 January 2020

Railway Platform (1955)

Directed by: Ramesh Saigal
Music: Madan Mohan
Lyrics: Sahir Ludhianvi
Starring: Nalini Jaywant, Sheila Ramani, 
Sunil Dutt, Johnny Walker, 
Leela Misra, Manmohan Krishna, 
Raj Mehra, Nishi Kohli, Nana Palsikar
Renu Maker 
I had watched Railway Platform earlier and remembered it as a good film. So, when Tom (Daniels) asked if I would sub-title the film, I was looking forward to watching it again. Since I’d forgotten most of the movie, the anticipation was keener. Did the film stand up to a subsequent watch? More about that later, but first, a quick recap of the plot.

16 January 2020

Flawed Genius

Like many avid readers, I buy more books than I can read. Each year, when I go to India, there’s a list of titles by Indian authors that I order beforehand, so it will be there waiting for me when I land. And each year, I bring back at least a dozen books, of which I may have had the time to read two. The rest? Well, what are book shelves for? And after all, I will eventually read them. Or at least, that’s how I justify my recurrent expenditure. Alas, what with one thing and the other, many of them languish unread on those very same book shelves. I console myself with the thought that my retirement will give me enough time to eventually read every single one of them.

Last week, however, I was dusting and tidying my bookshelves – which, if you have seen them, is – or should be – one of Hercules’s labours. And, of the many books that are neatly arranged alphabetically according to genre and author is one that stared accusingly at me. Call myself a lover of poetry? And ignore a book on a great poet-cum-lyricist? One of my favourite lyricists, in fact?  In fact, in my post on Sahir, I had written: My instinctive reaction to a song is not to its music, though that matters a lot, but to its lyrics. It is the sentiments that the words express that call to me. So, it seemed a shame that I’d shelved this book and forgotten about it.
I have to confess that I initially opened the book – Akshay Manwani’s Sahir Ludhianvi: The People’s Poet (Harper Collins Publishers India; ISBN: 978-93-5029-733-9; Rs.399; 320 pages) - with trepidation. Biographies – especially celebrity biographies – tend to be hagiographies. One is never satisfied unless the subject is anointed with a halo, and placed on a pedestal far above mere hoi polloi. Not for them the common frailties of humanity; no flaws shall besmirch their pristine reputations; and they shall, above all, be worshipped as much for the 'goodness' of their souls as for their genius.

Fortunately for me – and the book – I’d already read Manwani’s Music Masti Modernity –The Cinema of Nasir Hussain. While I had my reservations over some of the fan-boying over the subject, I’d found the book to be a satisfying read overall. It was well-researched and well-written, and whatever flaws there were, were minor. I sat back, prepared to enjoy reading about a well-known, well-loved poet-lyricist.  So, wishing all my readers a belated Happy New Year, here’s a belated review of a… well, read on, and you shall see what I think of it.
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