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.

4 June 2020

The Masters: Yogesh

19.05.1943 - 29.05. 2020
If 2020 didn’t already suck, well, it has just added to its sins. Blog reader and watchalong comrade Shalini emailed me a couple of days ago to let me know that lyricist Yogesh is no more. He was 77. I know his death may not resonate with people as much as say, Rishi Kapoor’s demise or Irrfan’s passing did – lyricists, like writers and musicians work behind the curtains. But for someone like me, for whom a song is more its melody and its lyrics than the music behind it, the loss cuts deep. I meant to post a quick tribute, but I guess I was all ‘tributed’ out. It seems like that’s all I’m doing these days. But better late than never...

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. 

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