24 November 2020

Of Radios and Cigarette Smoke

 (This article was first published on Baradwaj Rangan's blog.)

Lying in bed with the radio on
Moonlight falls like rain
Soft summer nights spent thinking of you
When will I see you again?”

So sang England Dan and John Ford Coley in Nights are forever without you.

I grew up at a time when a radio had pride of place in many middle-class homes. From the news to music and even plays, the radio provided hours of entertainment. I’ve certainly spent many nights with the radio on, and many a day as well. Long, lazy summer afternoons where I would lie on the sofa or with a pillow on the floor; the latest book purchase to read; fried snacks or pastries if we were lucky, raw mangoes with a red chilli paste if we were less lucky to stave off mid-afternoon hunger pangs – and the radio on. Always. From Aap ki Farmaaish to Manoranjan to Jayamala, there were hours of Hindi film songs to listen to, with persons writing in with unerring regularity from a place called Jhumri Telaiya.

We pondered over whether it was a real place, my sister and I; we wondered about the people who lived there, who apparently loved Hindi film songs so much that they took the time to send in requests day after day. It was funny the things we thought of, then. We squabbled amicably over our favourite singers – mine was Mohammed Rafi; my sister’s – inexplicably to me – was Mukesh. I’m not sure she actually liked him the best or was just saying so to be contrarian. She was like that sometimes, my sis.

19 November 2020

The Divas: Zeenat Aman

Zeenat Aman was no ordinary Hindi film heroine – she heralded the spirit of freedom and a certain comfort with being herself. Not for her the coyness of the regulation Hindi film heroine of those days. She exemplified the ‘western’ woman; not the ‘bad’ woman of earlier morality tales, but the bad-good woman who could be both modern and heroine – in other words, she could drink, smoke, wear western clothes, and still get to have a happy ending. She was the woman who didn’t play by the rules. If she did, she made them up as she went along. 

15 November 2020

Bidding Adieu to a Colossus

19.01.1935 - 15.11.2020

He was Apu. He was Feluda. He was Amal. He was the handsome star with the gentle smile. He was my introduction to Satyajit Ray. And he was the reason that I began to explore Bengali cinema. Watching him in black & white on a grainy 16” television introduced me to sub-titled films – Apur Sansar (1959), Devi (1960), Charulata (1964), Aranyer Din Ratri (1970), Ghare Baire (1984), Kapurush (1965)

31 October 2020

Shaken. And Stirred.


Another icon leaves us. That's the news I woke up to, this morning. And I’m both shaken and stirred. (Will I ever stop writing tributes this year?) 

I watched very few English movies growing up. For one, they took a long time to release in India. Secondly, I didn’t really understand the accents. And third, they really weren’t as entertaining as the ‘masala’ films I grew up watching.

16 October 2020

En man som heter Ove (2015)

Directed by Hannes Holm
Music: Gaute Storas
Rolf Lassgård, Bahar Pars, Börje Lundberg,
Zozan Akgün, Viktor Baagøe,  Filip Berg,
Ida Engyoll, Chatarina Larsson,
Börje Lundberg, Nellie Jamarani,
Zozan Akgün
In the book on which this film is based, Fredrik Backman writes:We always think there's enough time to do things with other people. Time to say things to them. And then something happens and then we stand there holding on to words like 'if'.”

I relate to that. 

But... I needed a film that would make me feel better about the world we live in, a reminder that love and compassion have not become anachronistic ideals; that humans don't exist in isolation. We need social contact.

10 October 2020

The Divas: Rekha

If the word ‘Diva’ was coined for anyone, it has to be for Bhanurekha Ganesan. Her metamorphosis from a dark gawky teenager with puppy fat – she was barely 15 when she debuted in Sawan Bhadon (1970) – to the svelte, polished, sophisticated ‘Rekha’ who straddled crass commercial cinema and artistic parallel cinema is a story in itself. 

5 October 2020

Jaali Note (1960)

Directed by Shakti Samanta
Music: OP Nayyar
Lyrics: Raja Mehdi Ali Khan
Starring: Dev Anand, Madhubala, Helen,
Om Prakash, Madan Puri,
Bipin Gupta, Brahm Bhardwaj,
Uma Dutt, Kundan, Krishnakant, Mridula Rani

I’d never watched Jaali note before, but I have loved the songs, especially Gustakh nazar. So, in a case of ‘following a song into a movie’ as fellow blogger Dustedoff puts it, I decided to finally remedy the lapse. If ever a movie should have come with explanatory notes, it is this one.

1 October 2020

The Master of Simplicity

Antara Mondal had been kind enough to send a copy over to my sister's before I visited in September, but she inexplicably misplaced it. So I ordered another copy for myself, but had to wait until my husband visited in December before I could get my hands on it. At the very outset, let me confess that inexplicably, I still haven't read the book! But my husband did, and when he kindly offered to review it, I was happy to let him. Without further ado...  

27 September 2020

Remembering a Gentle Giant

04.06.1946 - 25.09.2020

Source: Twitter/airnewsalerts

I have never met SP Balasubrahmanyam. Yet, when I woke up to the news of his passing on the 25th of this month, the news hit me hard. I am still grieving a very personal loss, and the doyen’s death – on top of everything else – seemed to be the universe’s way of giving me the middle finger.

8 June 2020

The Masters: Basu Chatterjee

10.01.1927 - 04.06.2020
Source: Indian Express Archives
It’s a never-ending stream of bad news. If a global pandemic is devastating our lives in one corner, destructive forces are out in another; everywhere you look, there’s only negativity and hate; lies and deceit are rampant. And in these past two months, there has been death after death in quick succession. And perhaps, because these deaths are personal, and/or of those connected to my childhood, it seems like the grief is never-ending.  

I was just dealing with the grief of losing my aunt when Irrfan passed away; even before I could come to terms with that, than it was Rishi Kapoor’s turn. Less than a month later, Yogesh was no more, and while I was mourning that loss came the news of Basu Chatterjee’s demise.

Back to TOP