25 June 2022

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)

Directed by: Howard Hawkes
Music: Hoagy Carmichael, Harold Robinson,
Jule Styne, Leo Robin
Starring: Marilyn Monroe, Jane Russell,
Charles Coburn, Elliot Reed,
Tommy Noonan, Norma Varden,
Taylor Holmes

In a blog that celebrates films from all over, I have given short shrift to one of the biggest movie stars of all time – the legendary Marilyn Monroe. Especially since my late father and my husband were/are huge fans of the actor. So am I, having seen her in not-so-ditzy roles, well aware that her talent far superseded her stunning good looks, or the ‘dumb blonde’ roles she carried off with such panache. Let me rephrase that – it takes a lot of talent to play the ‘dumb blonde’ with conviction. And no one can deny that Marilyn Monroe was fabulous playing the ditz.

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is one of her most iconic roles in that category – who can forget the hot pink dress and Diamonds are a girl’s best friend? So, when flipping through Criterion Channel, my husband came across the film, we – including Young A – sat down to watch.

19 June 2022

My Favourites: Train Songs

There’s a romance associated with train journeys. There’s a certain nostalgia for the days of my youth when we travelled regularly by train, whether it was from (then-) Madras or Bangalore to Kerala where my grandparents lived, or whether it was elsewhere on vacations. I’m old enough to remember the first class cabins that each had its own bathroom and opened out directly onto the station. I was a wee child then. And of course, we usually travelled second-class anyway, arriving sooty and grimy at our destination. I still remember pressing my face against the window bars so I could see the engine whenever the tracks curved. I can recall the change in the sound of the railway carriages over the tracks when it went over water bodies. I remember seeing the black smoke rise from the steam engines, only to turn lighter as it dispersed against a blazing blue sky.

11 June 2022

Penn (1953)

Directed by: MV Raman
Music: R Sudarsanam
Lyrics: Papanasam Sivan,
Udumalai Narayana Kavi,
Ku. Sa. Krishnamurthy,
KP Kamakshi, V Seetharaman
Starring: Vyjayanthimala,
Anjali Devi, Gemini Ganesan,
 S Balachander, Chittor V. Nagaiah,
VK Ramasamy, PD Sambandam,
SVS Sahasranamam, K Sarangapani,
KN Kamalam, KR Chellam, Baby Radha

Penn (Girl) is a funny movie. Funny-strange, not funny-ha-ha. Set in the 1950s, it is both progressive and regressive at the same time, but with the progressive part winning hands down, I figured it was worth writing up.

4 June 2022

The Many Moods of Nutan

To me, Nutan epitomises simplicity, dignity and grace. She slipped into character like a chameleon, leaving the viewer to wonder where the person ended, and the character began – or vice-versa. There was a pleasing stillness to that face, which could, in the twinkling of an eye, express so much emotion with seemingly so little effort. Her lovely smile lit up the screen and danced merrily in the depth of her eyes. 

31 May 2022

Sharmaji Namkeen (2022)

Directed by: Hitesh Bhatia
Music: Sneha Khanwalkar
Lyrics: Gopal Datt
Starring: Rishi Kapoor, Paresh Rawal,
Juhi Chawla, Satish Kaushik,
Suhail Nayyar, Taaruk Raina,
Isha Talwar, Sheeba Chaddha

It’s been an unexpectedly long hiatus, a maddening three months of pulling in long hours at work with no time for the interesting things in life. Amidst all that, when Shalini pinged me about the release of Sharmaji Namkeen, I decided I really needed a break to refresh myself amidst work, sundry illnesses and other myriad adventures that seem to pepper my life. So we settled down on a Saturday evening to watch what seemed to be a sweet, entertaining film. 

31 March 2022

Five More Films - Five More Revisions

When I began this list, I was going to call it 'Ten Films I Would Like to Rewrite'. But the list grew so long and so cumbersome that I decided to make two separate lists. As the comments on my previous post show, we could all make plenty of such lists. The only difference is that the films on that first list were all good films. Here, most of these were successful films, not necessarily good ones. 

26 March 2022

Five Classics I would Like to Rewrite

This list grew out of the discussion that Shalini and I had at the end of Luck by Chance. Of how even ‘sensitive’ directors and writers do an injustice to their female characters. “If only we could rewrite endings,” sighed Shalini, and we both, independently picked Bimal Roy’s Bandini to begin with. As we threshed out what made Kalyani’s arc so problematic, I was reminded of other films that had the same issue – some great films, some good ones, some pet peeves. Rashly, I said, “Oh, that could be the subject of a post, right?” Quite forgetting that it was Shalini I was talking to… She threw herself with great enthusiasm into the task. This post is the result of our deliberations. 

Then, in a comment on one of my posts, Madhulika of Dustedoff, mentioned how she was thinking of a post of abysmal films; films that, on my blog, I tend to lump into the "Avoid, yaar" category. So I quipped that my post would complement hers. After all, she was writing about really bad films with no mitigating factor to recommend them; I was writing about (at least in the first part of my post) really great films with problematic endings. We both agreed to post on the same day.

So here, in the first of a two-part post, I discuss five great films and why, despite strong women characters in them, the all-pervasive male gaze made their endings problematic, if not a complete cop-out. [For Madhulika's companion post, click here.]

Warning: Long post. Also? Spoilers galore. So, if you haven’t watched any or all of these films and would wish to do so, stop reading right now. 

20 March 2022

Gehraiyaan (2022)

Directed by: Shakun Batra
Music: Kabir Kathpalia
Starring: Deepika Padukone, Siddhant Chaturvedi
Ananya Pandey, Dhairya Karwe,
Rajat Kapoor, Naseeruddin Shah

I like all things Deepika Padukone. (If that sentence does not make any sense, it is because Deepika turns my brains into mush.) But my favourite actor has been missing from screen for far too long (and no, a cameo in 83 does not count). So, when Shakun Batra’s Gehraiyaan released, I was thrilled. The trailer looked promising. Besides, I liked both of Shakun’s previous films – Kapoor & Sons, and Ek Main aur Ek Tu. That’s to say, I liked his take on dysfunctional families. And because I wanted to chew on this film while I watched it, I asked Shalini if she wanted to watch it with me. Now, that’s a mixed blessing. Watching with Shalini is always fun, but she doesn’t like Deepika (she’s nuts!). But, out of sheer love for me (huh!), she agreed, on condition that she would be allowed to snark. Deciding that I could always ignore her snark (it’s on chat after all, not verbal), I gladly said yes. Did Shalini hate the movie? Did she snark so much I had to stick a voodoo doll with pins to hex her? Read on…

15 March 2022

Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham (2001)

Directed by: Karan Johar
Music: Babloo Chakravarty,
Jatin–Lalit, Sandesh Shandilya
Aadesh Shrivastava
Lyrics: Sameer, Anil Pandey
Starring: Amitabh Bachchan, Jaya Bachchan,
Shah Rukh Khan, Kajol, Hrithik Roshan,
Kareena Kapoor, Farida Jalal,
Rani Mukherjee, Alok Nath,
 Sushma Seth, Achla Sachdev,
Simone Singh, Johnny Lever,
Himani Shivpuri

Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham is just a 'pretty people doing pretty things' movie. The film became a cult favourite, and even if you have not watched it, you have seen enough memes and jokes about it to know that it is all about loving your family. I wasn't even sure I would write a review. Then, I thought, why not? Our masala loving hearts had thoroughly enjoyed this candy floss of a film, so here's a long review with plenty of quips and even more screenshots.

11 March 2022

Luck by Chance (2009)

Directed by: Zoya Akhtar
Music: Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy
Lyrics: Javed Akhtar
Starring: Farhan Akhtar, Konkona Sen Sharma
Rishi Kapoor, Dimple Kapadia,
Juhi Chawla, Sanjay Kapoor,
Isha Sharvani, Alyy Khan,
Arjun Mathur

Continuing my saga of ‘Watchalong Reviews’, I go from one film which showcased the Who’s Who of the film industry to another in which everyone who is anyone makes an appearance. It’s as different from Naseeb as chalk from cheese, but every bit as entertaining, even if the humour is dark and the tone more serious. Perhaps this is why this film doesn’t have as much of our banter as usual.

The credits show us the ‘unseen people’ – the light men, the makeup artistes, the spot boys, the canteen workers, the tailors, the extras – everyone, without whom the industry would not function. But soon, we are playing ‘spot the star’, with actors, directors, musicians all playing a version of themselves. We even spot ‘Maganlal Dresswallah’, who used to be a famous costume supplier for films in the 70s.
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