15 April 2014

The Masters: VK Murthy

26.11.1923 - 07.04.2014
This was not the post I intended to publish next. Amidst feverish work deadlines, I'd been polishing a review of a film adapted from Shakespeare. Last week, on 7th April, when I was putting the final touches to that post, news came in through my feeds - VK Murthy was dead. I had been planning a post on the veteran cinematographer for the past year and a half. It required more research than I had the time for, and I kept putting it off, only pausing to file away the articles I found for reference. Then, my laptop crashed and I lost not just my reference articles, but many drafts, lists, photographs and other important documents. VK Murthy, and my idea of a post on him, slipped into the recesses of my memory. 

10 April 2014

The Man For All Seasons


My father loved the movies. His father, my grandfather, had loved the movies. I do not know if my great-grandfather had loved the movies, but I feel sure he would have done so if there had been movies back then! I grew up hearing tales of how my father and his elder brother , the two eldest of my grandfather's six children, were often taken to the cinema by their father. Of how, while growing up in Madras, they had once gone out to see one film, found that the show was sold out, and were promptly taken to the theatre nearby and shown another new release. Of how, when they came out of that screening, my grandfather had turned to the boys and asked, 'Do you want to see ---  film (that they originally came for)?' And upon my father and uncle nodding in excited agreement, had promptly taken them both to watch that film as well. 

It was a feat that my father would repeat, many, many years later, with me. We went to watch Zanjeer on its re-release,  found out that the matinee was actually Caravan and that Zanjeer was the evening show, watched Caravan, came out, had a snack at a nearby hotel and went right back in to watch Zanjeer. (My mother was, well, not pleased, to put it mildly.) 

4 April 2014

The Mystery of the Missing Songs

A long time ago, on one of Dustedoff's posts, fellow-blogger Harvey said he had heard about a missing Hemant Kumar solo from Guru Dutt's Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam, and wondered whether anyone knew anything about it. Having read about it before, and filed it away in the trivia-loving part of my brain, I commented that it was Sahil ki taraf kashti le chal. In the ensuing discussion (I have forgotten which post it was on) of other such songs, Dustedoff commented that I should write a post about them. Well, I agreed, and there the matter stood. I did venture to make a list of the songs I knew were filmed and deleted for one reason or the other. But there it stood and as is always the case with me, I completely forgot about it.

Cut to I-don't-know-how-many-months-later, when Dustedoff put up her post for Valentine's Day. In the comments, I put in Zara si aahat hoti hai from Haqeeqat; it's a song I like very much, and I rued that it was deleted from the film. She said it was there in her copy of the film. I realised I had mixed up two songs - the one missing was another beautiful and haunting Lata solo.  Just that weekend, I had been mourning my lack of ideas for a song list. This just made me dig out my list, and decide how to make a post out of it. 'My Favourites' was out as a tag, because how do you have a list of favourite deleted songs anyway? But the songs were too good not to post, so I decided to make a stand-alone post of them. 

31 March 2014

The Reed Man

Manohari Singh
Photo source: YouTube

It was writing the post on Van Shipley that piqued my interest in writing about other background musicians.  And so, I had made a list - Manohari Singh, Sebastian D'Souza, et al. Before I got around to it,  a reader, Ashwin Panemangalore chanced upon the Van Shipley post. In the comments, he said he had interviewed some of the musicians and wondered if I would like to read his articles. I jumped at the offer, since having an interview would enhance the post I planned on these personalities who enhanced our film music. So he very generously sent me a few of his articles, without any expectations about them whatsoever other than that I read them. After I did, I wrote to him to ask if I could use the articles as a complement to my articles and he, even more generously, agreed to that as well. 

Then, I went back and re-read his articles, wondering how to use them best. I first thought I could add this interview under my article as a sort of complement to it. Then, I thought perhaps I should write a post about Manohari Singh first, and then put up this interview as the second part; again, that would have made Ashwin's article just an add-on to mine. While I still intend to write a comprehensive article on Manohari Singh to add to my The Masters category, I decided to let Ashwin's article stand as its own exclusive post. 

Without much further ado, let me present guest writer Ashwin Panemangalore to my readers. 

26 March 2014

Paheli

2005
Directed by: Amol Palekar
Music: MM Kreem
Lyrics: Gulzar
Shah Rukh Khan, Rani Mukherjee, Juhi Chawla, 
Suniel Shetty, Amitabh Bachchan, 
Dilip Prabhavalkar, Rajpal Yadav, Anupam Kher, 
Naseeruddin Shah, Ratna Pathak Shah
Just before Paheli was released, there was a great deal of interest in the project. It was the ultimate melting pot of the purely commercial, as represented by Shah Rukh Khan (incidentally, anyone remember a time when he was Shahrukh Khan?), Rani Mukherjee, and Amitabh Bachchan, and a very different type of cinema that was personified by Amol Palekar. Reactions verged from 'Amol Palekar has sold out' and 'SRK wants a National Award in his kitty' to a genuine interest in how the project would take shape. Post-release reactions were equally polarised. In fact, I have rarely seen a mainstream commercial film that garnered as many negative reactions as it did positive ones. I hadn't seen it yet, then, and I remember my younger cousin who was visiting from India telling me he hated it - 'A woman falling in love with a ghost!' were the exact words he used, in the most disparaging tones ever. I was slightly taken aback. He and I usually shared similar tastes when it came to music and movies. 

22 March 2014

Phir Subah Hogi

1958
Directed by: Ramesh Saigal
Music: Khayyam
Lyrics: Sahir Ludhianvi
Starring: Raj Kapoor, Mala Sinha, Rehman, 
Mubarak, Leela Chitnis, Nana Palsikar
Loosely based on Fyodor Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment,  and adapted by actor Mubarak (who also plays a strong role in the film), Phir Subah Hogi deals with social injustice and inequality, unemployment and disillusionment, hope and despair. It makes a strong case for the average man who hoped for a better tomorrow after we attained our freedom from our colonial masters.

18 March 2014

My Cousin Vinny


1992
Directed by: Jonathan Lynn
Starring: Joe Pesci, Marisa Tomei, Fred Gwynne, Lane Smith, 
Austin Pendleton, Bruce McGill, Ralph Macchio, Mitchell Whitfield
This is one movie that I can watch on a continuous loop and not tire. It is hysterically funny, not because of slapstick, but because of bravura performances from Marisa Tomei and Joe Pesci, not to mention Fred Gwynne as Judge Chamberlain Haller.  He must take the cake, the bakery, and the icing for saying the most comical lines in the most taciturn and deadpan manner, ever.  I have been meaning to review this film for the longest of time, but have been putting it off, for no particular reason that I can think of. As one of my go-to movies when I'm feeling blue (I defy anyone to watch this and continue to feel blue!), it absolutely deserves a post of its own. A cult classic here, it is a shame that it is not better known, or appreciated than it is. 

13 March 2014

La Tête en friche

2010 
My Afternoons with Margueritte
Directed by:  Jean Becker
Music: Laurent Voulzy
Starring: Gérard Depardieu, Gisèle Casadesus, Claire Maurier, 
Sophie Guillemin, François-Xavier Demaison, Maurane, 
Florian Yven, Patrick Bouchitey, Régis Laspalès, 
Jean-François Stévenin, Lyes Salem, Matthieu Dahan,
Bruno Ricci, Mélanie Bernier
What happens when a chance encounter with a stranger changes your life in ways that are unfathomable? What are the odds that you will discover a connection between the two of you that cannot be explained? When you talk about 'love' between two people, is there a definition that fits all relationships? Director Jean Becker (son of the great French noir director Jacques Becker) makes a movie that has a will-'o-the-wisp quality about it. Yet, the simple tale is grounded in the commonplace, everyday life of an semi-literate villager and the strange-but-not-quite experiences that befall him during his lunchtimes at a nearby park.

8 March 2014

My Favourites: Songs in Disguise

No, I do not mean the songs are masquerading as something else (what?); it's just that it made for a catchy title. On the other hand, the idea for this post came from when I was writing the post on tropes in Hindi cinema. I did make fun of the hero disguising himself to get into the villain's lair, but I also recorded that it gave us some splendid songs, and therefore that was one trope I didn't mind having around. As tropes went, that wasn't egregious at all.  

The next step, of course, was to write a post on songs sung by the hero in disguise. The question of course, was, should I limit myself to what one of my readers, Subodh, calls my 'autocratic and dictatorial' rules? Should I, for instance, restrict it to just that trope - the disguised hero in the villain's den? Or should I, would I, could I widen the scope of the theme? After all, our heroes are known to disguise themselves to woo their beloveds in front of their disapproving fathers. They also disguise themselves just to woo the disapproving heroine, who will fall in love with them soon after. Hmm... after a long time spent debating the pros and cons (all of 3.6 minutes), I decided I would, could, and should leave the theme wide open - 'why' doesn't matter.  

4 March 2014

Many Faces, Many Moods

Bharat Gopy

02.11.1937 - 29.01.2008
Sometime in September last year, I was contacted by fellow-blogger Cinematters, who had been given the enormous task of making an official website on the late Gopy, the extremely talented Malayalam actor, by the latter's son, Murli Gopy, an actor and scriptwriter himself. When Cinematters mentioned the project to me, informing me that he was in possession of a huge trunk of the late actor's diaries, photographs, handwritten scripts (including that of Govind Nihalani's Aaghaat in the director's own handwriting), he did it with the sole purpose of turning me blue, green and purple with envy. Ever so often, he would send me emails about some treasure he had unearthed again - Gopy's poems, his notes about the character he was playing on his copy of the script, his letters to his wife, etc. I turned greener, bluer, and more purple as each email came in. 

But Cinematters was so enthusiastic about this mega-project that it was hard not to be infected with the same enthusiasm. So when he wondered if I would write him an article, to be featured on the late actor's website, I jumped at the offer. While I have reviewed Malayalam films on this blog, I have never before written an in-depth article about any of the industry's stellar artistes. Thanks to Cinematters who provided me with an excuse and the platform, I wrote - from my heart - about Gopy. (This article was originally published on bharatgopy.com under the 'In Memoriam' label.)
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