19 November 2015

My Favourites: Salilda's Malayalam Songs

Salilda with Yesudas
Photo uploaded by Shashank Chikermane
One of my first posts soon after (desultorily) beginning this blog was on Salil Choudhary, and on some of the (many) songs I liked from his compositions for Hindi films. In that post, I mentioned how I could make ten lists of ten Salilda songs and still find new ‘favourites’.  Since then, I have listened to more such old favourites, discovered ‘new’ ones, and thoroughly enjoyed being amazed by what one man could do with seven notes. And every time I hear Salilda’s Malayalam compositions while driving somewhere (the bulk of my music listening is in the car), I think – casually – of how many of his songs I really, really like, and wonder if I should make a list. But while my blog has been open to cinema from different languages and I have reviewed Malayalam films here, and mentioned a couple of Malayalam songs here and there while making themed lists, I had never made a whole list of Malayalam songs - so the thought remained a thought. Recently, however, a reader, Rahul Jain, asked if I would ever consider doing a post on Salilda’s Malayalam songs. 'It may encourage folks to look up and listen to unknown gems' is how he put it. That comment gave me the impetus to actually write this post; so here, on Salilda's 92nd birth anniversary, this is for you, Rahul – thank you.

14 November 2015

My Favourites: Children's Songs

Photo Courtesy: Tribune India
Today, the late Jawaharlal Nehru's birthday, is celebrated as Children's Day (in India). While I've happily ignored it these years past, the thought crossed my mind that I might do a post. The question was, what? Should I write about a children's movie? I haven't seen any lately that would fit the day and/or theme. I am not usually a great fan of children in movies - they are preternaturally diabetic, overly precocious, and I want to drown all of them - but there have been some good songs picturised on them, either where they are singing, or having it sung to them. Not necessarily patriotic songs, since I've already done a post on my favourites on that theme, but songs that are picturised on children. For the purposes of this post, I'm sticking to songs that are sung by children on screen. (Doing so, however, has robbed me of one of my favourite songs - Chal mere ghode tik tik tik from Chirag Kahan Roshni Kahan.)

9 November 2015

Anamika (1973)

Directed by: Raghunath Jhalani
Music: RD urman
Lyrics: Majrooh Sultanpuri
Starring: Sanjeev Kumar, Jaya Bhaduri, 
AK Hangal, Iftekhar, Rajesh Behl,  
Asrani, Helen
Anamika is a film that I haven't revisited ever since I watched it on Doordarshan so many years ago. The other day, I was listening to Baahon mein chale aao while driving my son to ballet, and it occurred to me that I had quite liked the film then. All I remembered of it is that Jaya Bhaduri's character is not quite what she appears to be, which is the reason for the Meri bheegi bheegi si song. (And for some odd reason, a snatch of dialogue - Prasad ko na nahin kehte.) Time for a rewatch then, especially when I wasn't in the mood for a film into which I had to invest my total concentration. I hadn't realised that Anamika was quite a well-made film that combined romance and suspense. It also helped that the protagonists were Sanjeev Kumar and Jaya Bhaduri, both house favourites, from whom I can reasonably expect a certain level of natural acting.

4 November 2015

My Favourites: Teasing Songs

Lalitha, a regular reader of my blog, once asked me how I think of the themes for my song lists. I hadn’t really thought deeply about it before. Generally, it is one of many ways. A) The themes are very common – ‘Patriotic Songs’, say, or ‘Rain Songs’. Or Qawwalis. B) I find patterns. ‘Oh, here’s a heroine singing about writing/receiving letters; hmm, are there more songs about letters? There should be.’ Or, ‘Ghoda-gaadi Songs! How many of those do I like?’ Usually, I remember two or three songs almost immediately. Then, it’s a question of searching for other songs that fit that theme. C) Themes are suggested by my readers: Conversational Songs, Twin Songs, a post on the same songs sung by different singers – all happened because my readers thought I could do justice to that theme. D) Posts arise because of discussions on my blog, or elsewhere.  Songs of Kings and Queens, Missing Songs in Hindi films, etc., happened thusly. 

And then, it can also happen this way. I come up with a theme, and my readers post songs they think fit that theme. Now, one of my regular readers, Subodh, calls my ‘rules’ for my posts rather arbitrary; perhaps, but those arbitrary distinctions make it easy to select the songs that fit that theme according to me! So, when they post a song, somehow the pesky definition of the theme (in my mind) makes me say, ‘Oh, no, this doesn’t fit very well because…!’ (Which makes Subodh grumble some more.) But sometimes, the song they added makes me think of another theme where their addition would fit perfectly.  

31 October 2015

An Ideal Husband (1999)

Directed by: Oliver Parker
Starring: Jeremy Northam, Rupert Everett, 
Cate Blanchett, Minnie Driver, 
Julianna Moore
I first saw Rupert Everett in My Best Friend's Wedding. I promptly fell in love with him. He was jaw-droppingly good looking, carried off a swagger without seeming conceited, and most importantly, had a rapier sharp intellect that translated well on screen. In a film where I cared so little whether the heroine won the (insipid) hero or not, it seemed a shame that she didn't seem to notice her much more interesting friend. Of course, he was gay, so that precluded any attraction between them, but I remember thinking - from a straight woman's point of view -  'What a waste of such a good man!' (That reaction only solidified when I later learnt that Everett had come out as a homosexual in real life.)
My husband viewed my transports with amusement. And I looked forward to watching Rupert Everett in any, and all, films I could find, however short his role. When I confess to watching Inspector Gadget and Dunston Checks In (one post, and one pre- the movie I'm reviewing) only so I could watch Rupert Everett on screen - he did the villainous turn so well - it's a measure of how much I liked the actor. 

So, of course, when  An Ideal Husband was released, I had to see it. Especially when it was based on an Oscar Wilde play - one that I had read in college. (The Importance of Being Earnest  was a college textbook. I ended up reading the collected works of Oscar Wilde at one sitting.) It was interesting that Everett did not play the 'hero'. It made sense. Lord Goring was definitely the more interesting character. (I am not too fond of the stuffed shirts.

26 October 2015

My Favourites: Songs of Cool Breezes

Sometime in the past month, without my knowledge, our extremely brief summer passed me by. It was only towards the end of August that we actually had three or four consecutive 'hot' days at all. Mostly, it was rather cool, even wet, with incessant rain which was met with continuous griping from me. Didn't Mother Nature know that Spring was over? And that Summer was supposed to be an endless run of glorious, sunny,  hot days? Well, Summer, such as it was, slipped away, and Fall, glorious, colourful, vibrant Fall has already put in its appearance. 
© Anuradha Warrier
The trees are beginning to change into their autumnal wardrobes and here in the North East, these range from the palest of creams to the richest of reds - with many, many different shades of yellow, orange and russet in between - all, often, on the same tree. These colours are all the more vibrant against the dark green of the evergreens. Pine needles lie soft and brown underfoot, releasing the fragrance of the pines when you step on them. The yard is beginning to be carpeted in varying shades of red, speckled with yellow and orange and brown as the trees shed leaves in preparation for Old Man Winter. 

The days are glorious - sunny and bright, without being too hot, and the nights are beginning to get chilly, to remind us that Winter is just around the corner. (As if we need reminding!) Yesterday was a cool, crisp day and I was out walking my dog - who's a lovely pup who answers to the name of Scamper - when the autumn leaves dancing in the wind sent the silly pup into paroxysms of barking as he tried to jump higher than them. He seemed to take it as a personal insult that they brushed against his nose and then flew away aided by the wind, before he could bite them into pieces. The wind itself was cold enough for me to be thankful I had a jacket on, even though the sun was out. Suddenly, 'Uff, kitni thandi hai yeh rut' came unbidden to mind. (Yeah, I think in terms of Hindi film songs all the time.)

21 October 2015

Shammi Kapoor - In Perpetual Motion

The late Shammi Kapoor loved to narrate an anecdote of how incensed he was with director Shakti Samanta because the latter had recorded Aasman se aaya farishta  from An Evening in Paris, in Shammi's absence. Shammi liked sitting in on the rehearsals and recordings of his songs, and had told Samanta to wait until he came back from one of his outdoor schedules. However, the recording theatre having already been booked, Samanta went ahead with the recording.

Faced with his angry hero, Samanta calmed him down by suggesting that Shammi hear the song before deciding whether to re-record the song or not. When he did, Shammi realised that there was not a single note that he would have wanted sung differently. When he asked Samanta how they managed it, the latter replied that before recording the song, Mohammed Rafi had enquired on whom it was to be picturised. When told it was on Shammi Kapoor, Rafisaab nodded quietly saying, 'Oh, Then, he will shake his head at this point; and move his hands and legs this way - that man doesn't know how to stand still! I'll have to sing it this way..." 

It is not just that Shammi Kapoor didn't know how to stand still; it is that he seemed to have an inordinate number of songs that were picturised in/on some mode of transport or the other. Last year, on this same date, I had done a post on Shammi Kapoor and various musical instruments. Now it is time to chronicle his trysts with travel, whether in vehicles or on animals. In any case, whether they moved or not, Shammi definitely did. 

16 October 2015

Aasra (1966)

Directed by: Satyen Bose
Music: Laxmikant-Pyarelal
Lyrics: Anand Bakshi
Starring: Mala Sinha, Biswajeet, 
Balraj Sahni, Nirupa Roy,  
Ameeta, David, 
Praveen Paul, Jagdeesh
I'm not a great fan of Mala Sinha. Even less do I like Biswajeet. So when YouTube threw Aasra - a film that starred the two, on the side bar as a 'recommendation', I was flummoxed. What had I done to deserve this? Since my insomnia had resurfaced, and I was rifling through to find a movie to watch, I decided to see if there was a synopsis somewhere. Well, there was. Only, it wasn't - shall we say? - particularly attractive. Long, melodramatic, 'suffering women' films aren't really my cup of tea, since I'm more likely to wish they stopped sniffing and did something about their fates. However, I'd already spent an hour or so looking at, and rejecting, most of the films on YouTube. It was past 1 a.m, and I decided that I might as well watch this film; perhaps it would put me to sleep? 

The funny thing is, it didn't. It was an unexpectedly decent film, with several progressive characters, a heroine who didn't resemble a wet dish rag (nor was she a doormat), a reasonably cohesive story with flawed - not evil - characters and, what was a bonus (for me, at least), very little of Biswajeet. Of course, it was only the morning after that I realised the film was directed by Satyen Bose. That explained a lot. 

11 October 2015

Das Leben der Anderen (2006)

The Lives Of Others
Directed by: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
Music: Gabriel Yared, Stéphane Moucha
Starring: Ulrich Mühe, Martina Gedeck,
Sebastian Koch, Ulrich Tukur,
Thomas Thieme, Hans-Uwe Bauer,
Volkmar Kleinert, Matthias Brenner,
Charly Hübner, Herbert Knaup
My husband often brings home DVDs of 'interesting' films from our local library. My initial reaction, when we sit to watch them on a Saturday or Sunday night, is to look with deep (and utmost) distrust at the synopsis and presume that I wouldn't want to watch this particular film because it is 'too violent' or 'too depressing' or 'too...'. Inevitably, I not only end up watching the film, I also end up liking, well, at least 90% of these films. My reaction to Das Leben der Anderen was slightly different - my husband said it was more in the nature of a 'thriller' (well, in his defence, the DVD said so). I was definitely in the mood for a well-made thriller, and it didn't mean anything that I hadn't heard of this film before. So we put it on. Well, once again, my initial presumptions were wrong - this film certainly wasn't a 'thriller' in the accepted sense of the word. Equally certainly, however, it was thrilling. 

6 October 2015

Unvoiced Emotions, Expressed Feelings

Some days ago, I'd one of my frequent bouts of insomnia and was trawling the 'Net trying to find something, anything, to watch that would take the frustration out of lying in bed, unable to sleep. As I did, YouTube helpfully threw up 'recommended for you' films based on what I'd watched before. One of them starred Dharmendra and Mala Sinha, and I'd just watched a Mala Sinha film where I was pleasantly surprised to find that I liked her, so... But having already been burnt one too many times before,  I decided to see if anyone knew what Akashdeep was all about before I began watching. I was glad I did. 

Not only because Dustedoff's hilarious treatise on how this film came to be made suddenly made my insomnia bearable (you can't laugh and fret over not sleeping at the same time), it also stopped me from wasting my time, even if the stated goal was to fall sleep. More importantly, it gave me the seed for a new post. 
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