23 October 2016

Ae Dil Hai Mushkil Jeena Yahan

Sometime ago, we were having a spirited discussion on another blog about stalking in cinema influencing impressionable youth. At the time, apologists for the trope came up with several reasons why it wasn’t ‘all that’ problematic. One of the reasons frequently brought up as a rationalization was that cinema reflected society, and therefore couldn’t (shouldn’t?) be held solely responsible for young women being attacked, abducted, molested or even murdered. Never mind that no one asking to hold filmmakers responsible was saying that films were the only reason for these incidents, or even that they were the most important. All we were saying is that change needs to come from somewhere, and since cinema has such a huge reach and is an even bigger influence than most media, filmmakers and actors need to be a bit more responsible in what they show and how they show it. Pat came the response(s) that films and actors were a ‘soft target’; they were easy to blame, so ‘others’ could avoid blame. We were quick to deny that. Out of that denial came our petition that Iswarya, a post-doc student turned activist, is single-handedly pushing through. While she fights the good fight, other issues have begun roiling up, once again involving films.  

20 October 2016

Arabesque (1966)

Directed by: Stanley Donen
Music: Henry Mancini
Starring: Gregory Peck, Sophia Loren, 
Harold Kasket, John Merivale, 
Keiron Moore, Carl Duering
Stanley Donen (Charade, Two For The Road) is one of my favourite directors. Gregory Peck, one of the Hollywood triad (others being Cary Grant and James Stewart) whom I like very much. So, when I saw Arabesque online, it seemed serendipitous. Especially since I'd just reviewed a Cary Grant movie last week, and this film, like Roman Holiday, had been written especially for Grant. [Like Charade, Grant had refused Arabesque as well, citing the same reason – he was too old. Unlike Charade, where he was persuaded to take on the role opposite Audrey Hepburn, Stanley Donen couldn't persuade him to star opposite Sophia Loren.] I'd watched the re-run of Arabesque in Lido in Bangalore when I was a child, and it had thrilled my masala-loving heart. From the opening credits (Maurice Binder), blindingly psychedelic, and complemented by spooky music (Henry Mancini) it had me hooked. I wanted to see if the film could still hold my interest. 

16 October 2016

Operation Petticoat (1959)

Directed by: Blake Edwards
Music: David Rose, Henry Mancini
Starring: Cary Grant, Tony Curtis, Arthur O'Connell, Dina Merill,  
Gavin McLeod, Joan O'Brien, Virginia Griggs,  Clarence Lung
After some intensely stressful weeks at work, I was in the mood for some light-hearted relief, and it was with a sense of anticipation that I welcomed Operation Petticoat. I had put it on my Netflix queue simply because it starred Cary Grant, and also because it was directed by Blake Edwards. I'm sure I'd read the synopsis then, but by the time the DVD arrived, my sieve of a memory had forgotten anything to do with the film. But there it stayed, still in its sleeve, for a week, because my husband sniffed at my love for 'malodorous long-dead white men' – for some reason, I didn't feel like watching it alone. A week later, he was exhorting me to 'watch it, or send it back', so over a rained-out weekend, I decided to watch it. [And since my husband was at a loose end, he sat down to watch it as well, 'long-dead white men' notwithstanding.]

11 October 2016

Majboor (1974)

Directed by: Ravi Tandon
Music: Laxmikant-Pyarelal
Lyrics: Anand Bakshi
Starring: Amitabh Bachchan, Parveen Babi, 
Iftekhar, Farida Jalal,  
Master Alankar, Satyen Kapoo,  
Madan Puri, MacMohan
Today is Amitabh Bachchan's 74th birthday. The 'Angry Young Man' of the 70s is celebrating yet another success one in which he is playing yet another sort of 'angry'. He's a senior statesman in the industry now, and has successfully reinvented himself (multiple times) to carve out a different kind of space for himself in an increasingly youth-oriented industry. Film-makers who were toddlers when he was at his peak, are itching to work with him. Scripts are written with him in mind, and he seems to be more relaxed now that the fate of the film does not rest on his slightly-stooped shoulders; so relaxed, in fact, that he doesn't care if he's constipated or bipolar. So, on his birthday, a review of one of his 'lesser-known' films.

3 October 2016

Holding Our Films Accountable

I’m on record as being an inveterate lover of masala films. I cut my eyeteeth on them, and I’ve grown up with a long-lasting love for commercial films. As I grew older and my world grew with me, my interest broadened to ‘cinema’ of different kinds. Despite that, masala films were like comfort food — I went back to them, again and again and again. Over the years, when popular media decried the influence of films or actors on society, I vociferously protested. No, I argued, our films reflect society, they are not responsible for it. Where’s the personal responsibility, I questioned; why are we holding a film responsible for whatever an individual chooses to do, operative word being ‘choose’. Why blame cinema alone? 

20 September 2016

My Favourites: Picnic Songs

I have a sad tale to relate. (All my recent tales seem to be sad.) My cup of woe is full to the brim, and in danger of overflowing. I mentioned in an earlier post how my laptop decided to give up its ghost while I was in India. Well, I've been attaching a keyboard and making do with it all this while. It is certainly not a 'laptop' any more, but it's sufficient unto the evil thereof, and hey, into each life some rain must fall, and all that tosh. (Besides, we need the rain; the North East is going through a drought.) 

But yesterday, I wrote a very good post (if I do say so myself) and was very pleased with myself indeed. Until, I hit 'Save', and pouf! the whole thing just vanished before my eyes. There was nothing I could do to bring it back; S tried his level best as well, but Blogger did not cough up the entrails. I tried to rewrite the post - after all, I'd just finished writing it, hadn't I? No luck. While I remembered the gist of the post, the words just didn't flow as well, and the writing seemed flat. I scrapped the post, nearly threw my busted laptop out of the window, vented to Dustedoff, and went to sleep in a huff. 

14 September 2016

My Favourites: Zulfein

Greek and Roman cultures prized long hair as a symbol of wealth and power. (And sometimes, hair was quite literally the source of 'power' - viz., Samson.) The Old Testament advocated that 'good' women cover their hair. Hindu scriptures demanded that married women cover their hair when in the presence of men other than those of their household; widows had to shave their hair as well. All this, ostensibly, to ‘protect’ the women from the lascivious gaze of men who, apparently, couldn’t control their libido when faced with the erotic sight of a woman’s hair. All hail patriarchy!

History, mythology and fairy tales are replete with hairy tales. Rapunzel's hair was so long and thick, her foster mother, a witch, used it as a ladder to ascend to the turret where Rapunzel was imprisoned. Medusa, twice punished (raped by Poseidon and cursed by Athena), uses her snake-hair to wreak revenge on anyone who looks at her. Draupadi, dragged to the Kuru court by her long, open hair, refused to tie up her tresses until she had bathed them in Dushashana’s blood. Kannagi, angered by the murder of her husband, untied her hair, and set fire to Madurai in revenge. 

31 August 2016

The Many Moods of Meena Kumari

As I've remarked before, I'd had such plans for the summer. I would post this review, and that song list; I'd even decided which ones. August had been earmarked for a month-long celebration of one of my favourite actresses. Alas! If you want the Gods to laugh, tell them your plans, says one proverb. Closer to earth, John Lennon said 'Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans.' Long way short of saying 'Nothing worked!' I've chronicled the reasons in another post but suffice it to say that I did not deliver on a self-promise. 

August is Meena Kumari's 'birth' month - she was born on the 1st. I could not let the month end without a post to mark my respect to an actress who has given me hours and hours of enjoyment. Before she became synonymous with tragedy, however, before she let her kohl-lined eyes fill with tears, and her husky voice drip pathos on screen, Meena Kumari performed a gamut of roles that made one realise how unfair it was to slot her as 'tragedy queen'. 

24 August 2016

Dishoom (2016)

Directed by: Rohit Dhawan
Music: Pritam
Starring: John Abraham, Varun Dhawan, 
Jacqueline Fernandez, Akshay Khanna, 
Saquib Saleem, Rahul Dev, 
Nargis Fakhri, Akshay Kumar
I swear that's the name of the film! We stroll in late one night to a multiplex close to where my sister lives, umbrellas in tow; the monsoons were showering Bombay with much love after all. We feel rather silly saying 'Four tickets! Dishoom' to the chap behind the ticket window, but he takes it in stride, shoving a seating chart at us. S peers over the window, trying hard to look interested in where we could sit to watch a film named Dishoom in all its glory. He gestures vaguely at some point on the chart.

Tickets in hand, we walk through a metal detector, and my sister I move aside to where a female security guard checks us desultorily, and waves us through. My sister and I look at each other; 'Perhaps we don't look like terrorists?' she says sotto voce. S is half asleep on his feet. 'Who's Jacqueline Fernandez?' he asks abruptly, as we stuff ourselves into a glass elevator. 'She's a Sri Lankan beauty queen,' says my sister, knowledgeably. S snorts. 'Not with a name like Fernandez, she isn't.' But despite S's disbelief, she is, indeed.

19 August 2016

Pukar (1939)

Directed by: Sohrab Modi
Music: Mir Saheb, S Fernandes
Lyrics: Kamal Amrohi
Starring: Chandramohan, Naseem Banu, 
Sohrab Modi, Sheila, Sadiq Ali, Sardar Akhtar
Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and Doordarshan was the only television channel available, they used to regularly telecast Hindi films on Sundays. We didn't have a television then, and so, when invited to do so, would make our way to a friend's house to watch the films, irrespective of whether they were meant for children or not. My parents didn't come, but it always seemed to me that the whole neighbourhood was present there, the children happily sitting on mats on the floor, while the adults occupied every single chair in the house. Looking back, I wonder what Mamta's parents thought of the wholesale invasion of their house every Sunday evening.

DD, at the time, used to go through phases where they felt that they had to show 'uplifting' films, as opposed to mere 'entertainers'. Hence, we got regularly scheduled doses of Shantaram, Mehboob Khan and... Sohrab Modi. I remember watching Sikander, Jailor, and Pukar in subsequent weeks. Mamta and I decided that someone up in the DD echelons had a sadistic temperament, inflicting these old black and white films on us, while what we wanted was our dose of fluffy entertainment.
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