21 October 2014

Musical Shammi Kapoor

Photo credit: Indianexpress.com
Three years ago, I wrote an unexpected (and posthumous) tribute to Shammi Kapoor, a man who, in dark theatres and small television screens, had laughed and cried and danced and romanced various beautiful heroines across verdant hills and vales. He is the man who turned my wayward heart away from my first love, Amitabh Bachchan. (That was the slippery slope of cinematic infidelity, I'm afraid, since I fell for Raj Kapoor, Dilip Kumar and Dev Anand in quick succession after that. Not to mention Cary Grant, Gregory Peck and James Stewart.) His films were filled with an innocence, a zest for life, and a sense of fun. Whatever else he was, or wasn't, he thoroughly enjoyed being on screen. And that enjoyment seeped out of the screen, both big and small, and infected the audience. He changed the face of the Hindi film hero. He was a winsome brat, a macho rebel, a debonair, and swaggering, lover.

17 October 2014

Naya Daur

1957
Directed by: BR Chopra
Music: OP Nayyar
Lyrics: Sahir Ludhianvi
Starring: Dilip Kumar, Vyjayanthimala, Ajit, Chand Usmani, 
 Johnny Walker, Jeevan, Nasir Hussain, Manmohan Krishna
It was when I was looking for back-to-back songs for my Twin Songs post that I took out my DVD of Naya Daur again. Watching the scene that comes before the song piqued my interest in watching the film once again. It's been a long time since I watched it. What impresses me is how well the film has aged. Man vs. the machine is as relevant today as it was more than half a century ago. Perhaps not so much a tanga vs. a bus, but when businesses are downsizing, and automation is shutting down factories and putting people out of jobs, the basic plot point still remains a relevant point of discussion. Even so, I watched the film and, like many of my ideas for posts, filed it away as a 'Hmm, I should probably review this some time.'

But I never did put the DVD away, and so, when we had overnight guests shortly after that post was published, it was still lying around on the couch in the living room. One of them asked if I was going to review it, and I said, 'Oh, yes', still not sure just when I would. But it did give me the impetus to decide that it had to be sooner than later.  As you can see, it took another couple of months to actually get around to doing so. By which time, I'd completely forgotten the the sequence of plot, and in any case, hadn't taken screenshots, so I had to watch the film again. Long story short, I needed to find time to actually watch the film, and take screenshots, and write notes - and I cannot, just cannot do the last two when I'm watching the film because, hey, when I'm watching, I want to watch! Fun!

13 October 2014

Classmates

2006
Directed by: Lal Jose
Starring: Prithviraj, Kavya Madhavan, Narain, Jayasurya, Radhika, 
Indrajith, Anoop Chandran, Balachandra Menon, 
Jagathy Sreekumar, Suraj Venjiramoodu, Shobha Menon
When Classmates released, I wasn't very enthused about watching it, even though it starred Prithviraj, whom I have liked ever since I saw his debut film, Nandanam. Another campus romance, I thought, and it's been years since I've been able to watch a teenybopper romance without cringing. Besides, much though I liked Prithviraj, how could they reinvent the wheel? We'd already had some excellent 'college' films in Malayalam - Chamaram, Sarvakalasala, Ulkadal, Shalini Ente Kootukaari... However, my DVD-wala was insistent I take it - 'It's different,' he said, as he pushed a DVD into the already-tottering pile in my hands, 'it's the sort of movie you'll like.' Since I've been buying movies from him for years now, and he had a good idea of the sort of films that I liked to watch, I added that to my purchases. 

I was glad I did. Since then, I have happily recommended this film to non-Malayali friends, even bought copies to distribute to them. So when I was shelving some DVDs and came across this film, I realised with surprise that I hadn't yet reviewed it on my blog. That gave me the impetus to watch it again last week.

30 September 2014

Bhabhi ki Chudiyan

1961
Directed by: Sadashiv J. Row Kavi
Music: Sudhir Phadke
Lyrics: Pandit Narendra Sharma
Starring: Meena Kumari, Balraj Sahni, 
Master Aziz, Seema Deo,  
 Durga Khote, Om Prakash, 
Sailesh Kumar
I watched Bhabhi ki Chudiyan a long time ago, when a friend of mine recommended it as 'another film in which Meena Kumari doesn't cry'. Since that recommendation came just after I had watched Miss Mary and Kohinoor, I was more than willing to watch anything with Meena Kumari in it. It wasn't a comedy or a raja-rani romance like the others, but the film didn't disappoint at all. And when I watched it again, recently, I found that I still liked it very much. 

26 September 2014

Rachida

2002
Directed by Yasmina Bachir
Starring: Ibitessim Djouadi,Abdelkader Belmokadem, 
Amel Choukh, Bahia Rachedi, Hamid Remas,  
Rachida Messaoui En, Zaki Boulenafed
 The Algerian Civil War was primarily an armed conflict between the National Liberation Front, the incumbent ruling party, and the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) that was gaining in popularity; the protracted battle that began in 1991, claimed somewhere between 44,000 to 1,50,000 lives until 2002 when the FIS laid down its arms. In that interim period, the government banned the FIS and cancelled the general elections, and this led not only to the imposition of military rule in Algiers, but also to the rise of Islamist rebels who resorted to guerrilla warfare against the government and its supporters. The Algerian army began a crackdown on the FIS that resulted in a constant conflict between the Islamic activists and the government. Armed groups targetted the army and the police in the mountains of Algiers and its towns, but soon the violence turned, as it always does, against its own, and countless civilians lost their lives in the eleven years before a special amnesty disbanded the rebel forces. *

Rachida, however, is not about the conflict at all, inasmuch as it is the story of an ordinary woman during that fraught period. It is about the effects of civil war and domestic terrorism on an individual's life. How is it like to live under the shadow of death? Do you become inured to it as long as it doesn't directly affect you? What does it take to change that detachment? Does becoming the target of one deliberate act of violence affect you for the rest of your life? Rachida (Ibitessim Djouadi) becomes the face of those questions.

20 September 2014

My Favourites: Songs of Yearning

Somewhere, some time, as we grow up, we become aware of the possibilities of love. Not just the love we share with our parents and siblings, or even friends, but the very real possibility that out there in the world, someone exists just for us - to love, and be loved. Someone whose very existence makes us thankful to be alive; someone whose presence in our life makes it much more vibrant; someone to laugh with, to cry with, to share in life's vicissitudes, its joys, its sorrows, its worries. 

This 'someone' is a very hazy concept. We don't usually know who, or how or when or where we will meet this particular person; we don't even know that we will meet that special someone. And we do, perhaps - through choice, through circumstance, through fate. Or the someone we find becomes special. But in the meanwhile, we have our own hopes, dreams and expectations of finding that glorious love.

15 September 2014

Yaadon ki Baraat

1973
Directed by: Nasir Hussain
Music: RD Burman
Lyrics: Majrooh Sultanpuri
Starring: Ajit, Dharmendra, Zeenat Aman, Vijay Arora, Tariq Khan, 
Anamika, Neetu Singh, Nazir Khan, Shivraj, Murad

Last month, fellow-blogger Ira (Bollyviewer of Masala Punch) and I posted our reviews of 'kind of' 'sort of' 'Arabian Nights' films on the same day. It was one of those merry coincidences that have followed me around in Blogland - I have written about it extensively before. When Madhu (Dustedoff) read our reviews, she said she wished she had known that the two of us were going to review the same genre of films, so she could have joined in. Well, that we reviewed the same type of film at the same time was coincidental, but Ira had the bright idea that we should celebrate our masala twin-ness (or should that be a masala trio?) with a linked or common-themed post. (Long before Madhu and I realised we thought and wrote uncannily like each other, Ira and I had realised we were masala twins. In fact, we were this close to standing on opposite sides of the Niagara Falls and shouting 'Behanaa...'  to each other.) Ira then had the even-more-brilliant-idea that the theme should, appropriately enough, be 'lost-and-found' siblings. Of course Madhu and I jumped at the idea. It was perfect!

11 September 2014

The Great Gambler

1979
Directed by: Shakti Samanta
Music: RD Burman
Lyrics:
Starring: Amitabh Bachchan, Zeenat Aman, Neetu Singh,  
Utpal Dutt, Madan Puri, Prem Chopra, 
Roopesh Kumar, Sujit Kumar
While watching Alibaba aur 40 Chor, I realised that it'd been a long time since I had immersed myself in pure masala films. It is all very well to watch and review 'good' films, but there is a certain joy in watching the masala films that Hindi cinema did so well during a certain period. So, flipping through my films, I also decided that I had ignored Amitabh Bachchan for too long. At his peak, it seemed there was nothing he could do wrong. Funnily enough, the film I chose, The Great Gambler, is a lesser-known AB film and, while it did comfortable business in Bombay, did not achieve the super success that his other films did. But the suspense thriller, with its fast-paced plot, tight screenplay, excellent production values (for the time), high-octane action, and deft direction by Shakti Samanta (he of the Shammi Kapoor and Rajesh Khanna fame), led to this film attaining cult status in following years. 

6 September 2014

Festival Songs

Work has been rather hectic these past months, but it was with chagrin that I realised that I had completely missed celebrating both Ashtami Rohini (Janmashtami) and Ganesh Chaturthi  this year. That got me feeling very nostalgic about my childhood when my friends and I celebrated everything that we could celebrate, whether those festivals were ours to celebrate or not. I grew up in Bangalore. Well, in Madras as well, but we had moved to Bangalore when I was 7, and so, for the longest of time, Bangalore was 'home'. (Until I moved to Bombay after my marriage, and that became 'home' forever more.)

I always associate Indian festivals with their legends and myths and the food rather than their rituals. So if I ate Sakkarai pongal and vadai with gusto for the festival of Pongal (Harvest Festival, Thai maadham - Mid-January to Mid-February) as a small child in Madras, Bangalore introduced me to Yugadi (Kannada New Year, Chaitra - Mid-March to Mid-April), and Obbattu. It was also Bangalore that introduced me to Lohri (Harvest/Winter Solstice, Paush - Mid-January to Mid-February), Teej (and kheer in the month of Sawan - Mid-July to Mid-August) apart from Diwali (and Kala Jamun), courtesy my Punjabi friends, Asha and Ashwin. 

I became acquainted with the softest, squeakiest Rosogollas and the creamiest Sondesh in Bangalore as well, thanks to Nikhil, whose Bengali roots meant we celebrated Durga Puja (in the month of Ashvin (Mid-September to Mid-October) with great fervour. Basically, I don't think there was a single festival that we left 'un'-celebrated! Christmas and Easter meant Lucy (well, her 'real' name was Chloe, so I don't know why we called her Lucy, but we did) and hot cross buns with oodles of currants, and the sort of dark, fruity, melt-in-the-mouth Christmas cake that (I insist) only the Indian Christians can bake. Eid meant crowding into Nusrat's house for seiviyaan and sheermal. (I didn't eat meat even then, so the wonderful kebabs were wasted on me, but our other friends pigged out.) For Onam and Vishu (the Malayali New Year), of course, I badgered my mother into making semiya payasam or paal payasam for us.

1 September 2014

Kaliyattam

1997
Directed by: Jayaraj
Music: Kaithapram
Lyrics: Kaithapram
Starring: Suresh Gopi, Manju Warrier, Lal, 
Biju Menon, Narendra Prasad, Bindu Panicker
Shakespeare has been adapted - multiple times - for the theatre and the big screen. In Hindi, long before Gulzar adapted the bard's The Comedy of Errors, it had been adapted as Do Dooni Chaar. Then, Gulzar's protege, Vishal Bhardwaj, took on the bard's tragedies, adapting Macbeth (Maqbool) and Othello (Omkara) and is now in the process of completing a trilogy of Shakepearean tragedies with his adaptation of Hamlet (Haider). But nearly a decade before Bhardwaj shot, and released, Omkara, Malayalam film-maker Jayaraj loosely adapted the bard's tale about a man's jealousy destroying his own life. Instead of the hinterlands of north India, Jayaraj would set his tale of love and hate against the backdrop of the folk art, and artistes. 

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