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.

9 December 2019

The Legends: Geeta Dutt - Part 2

23.11.1930 - 20.07.1972
Despite a glorious career cut short by her untimely demise, Geeta Dutt left behind an exhaustive body of work; her swansong(s) in the 70s showed us that – even ailing and amidst her personal tragedies – she had so much more to offer us. Compared to her contemporaries, Geeta was probably the least trained, musically. But what she had was an innate ability to ‘live’ her songs, to be the emotion in the song, to make us feel that emotion. Despite stiff competition from Lata Mangeshkar (who remained a close friend throughout Geeta’s life), Geeta held her own and for the next decade. 

23 November 2019

The Legends: Geeta Dutt

23.11.1930 - 20.07.1972
This post has been a long time in the coming. Which is strange, considering she is one of my favourite singers. This was not the case when I was younger, however. I was weaned on Lata Mangeshkar. [And while my father liked a whole host of other singers, this was the one place where I remained singularly obstinate.] I still remember the day I realised that I was on the slippery slope to idol-infidelity – back in the day, Vividh Bharati on AIR had a programme known as ‘Vishesh Jayamala’ – a programme for the armed forces, presented by an actor, singer, or music director (among others), who chooses the songs they like for our listening pleasure.

Sometime in the mid-70s [or was it the late 70s? I’m not sure; I was a wee child, then], the Vishesh Jayamala was hosted by Amitabh Bachchan. One of the songs he chose, a song that was his favourite, he said, was Waqt ne kiya kya haseen sitam from Kagaz ke Phool. There was something about the song I liked – apart from the fact that it was Amitabh Bachchan’s favourite! – something I couldn’t quite explain.

Then, sometime in the eighties, Bhaskar Ghosh, then-director of Doordarshan, decided that the hoi polloi needed culture. He held retrospectives of various directors – Raj Kapoor, Guru Dutt, Alfred Hitchcock, etc., and we film lovers got a feast of good films to watch late at night. One such screening was of Guru Dutt’s Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam. Now, I’d heard several songs from the film before this, but I hadn’t yet watched the film, my father not being a fan of Guru Dutt. When the movie began, and the first notes of Koi door se awaaz de, chale aao… filled the room, I fell in love.  The song was achingly haunting, and the voice seemed to hold a wealth of pain and longing. I had never heard this song before, but that night, watching the story of Chhoti Bahu unfold on our tiny TV screen, and sensing rather than feeling the unfulfilled desires implicit in singer’s voice, I fell utterly, completely in love.

20 November 2019

Un Cœur en Hiver (1993)

A Heart in Winter
Directed by Claude Sautet
Music: Maurice Ravel
Starring: Daniel Auteuil, Emmanuelle Béart, 
 André Dussollier, Brigitte Catillon,  
Élizabeth Bourgine
I fell in love with Emmanuelle Béart when I first saw her in Un Cœur en Hiver in the time of VHS tapes. Daniel Auteuil has been a favourite forever, and I’ve been wanting to review this film ever since. It’s only recently that Netflix made the film available on DVD, and I settled down for a re-watch. I was curious to see how I would feel about the film nearly 20 years since I first watched it. More about that later.

12 November 2019

Andaz Apna Apna (1994)

Directed by: Rajkumar Santoshi
Music: Tushar Bhatia
Lyrics: Majrooh Sultanpuri
Starring: Aamir Khan, Salman Khan, 
Raveena Tandon, Karishma Kapoor, 
Paresh Rawal, Shakti Kapoor, 
Shehzad Khan, Viju Khote, 
Javed Khan, Deven Verma, 
Mehmood, Jagdeep, Tiku Talsania
When it comes to films you love – and have watched a million times (give or take a few) – you just can’t be objective. Just as, in my salad days, Amitabh Bachchan was God. He could do no wrong. And so it is with Andaz Apna Apna. It’s the only film, other than Sholay, where I can recite the dialogues before the actor delivers it onscreen. I know who’s going to say what, I know what the reaction is, and I will still laugh uncontrollably when the scene plays out. Earlier this month, Andaz Apna Apna - which was a box-office disaster when it released, but has become a much-beloved cult classic in the interim with an 8.4 rating on IMDB – turned 25. So let me chronicle my love for this Archies-inspired comedy.

6 November 2019

Bheegi Raat (1965)

Directed by: Kalidas
Music: Roshan
Lyrics: Majrooh Sultanpuri
Starring: Ashok Kumar, Meena Kumari, 
Pradeep Kumar, Shashikala, 
Kamini Kaushal, Rajendranath, 
IS Johar, Hari Shivdasani, 
Moni Chatterjee, Ulhas, Raj Mehra
There are times when I begin watching a film and know, within the first frame or so, that it’s going to be a train wreck. Despite the presence of my favourite actress. I’m adding this to my ‘films you must avoid at all cost’ list, but since I’ve taken one for the team, I figured I would ‘review’ it. With many, many asides.

31 October 2019

The Masters: SD Burman

01.10.1906 - 31.10.1975
This post has been a long time in coming. One year, to be precise. I picked the songs I wanted, badgered my husband into writing down music notes for some of them, and then… a year passed, and I posted but intermittently. A forced sabbatical ensured that the blog was the last thing on my mind. This year, too, I’d finally planned to end this sabbatical with a month-long series of posts on SD Burman. ‘The best laid plans of mice and men…’ But as Antara, an online friend and long-time reader said, ‘Der aaye durust aaye.’ So, here, on his death anniversary, an ode to the great man himself. 

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