Archive for August, 2007

August 29, 2007

Karz (1980)

Karz was a smash hit in India when it was released. It has those ever-popular elements of reincarnation, deep spiritual connection to one’s mother, revenge and bad disco music. It also has a grandiose plot very characteristic of its director, Subhash Ghai. You might think from these comments that I did not care for the film, but I found it strangely enthralling. It veers crazily from one genre to another — is it a disco movie? a romance? a murder mystery? a supernatural thriller? — the answer of course is yes, all that and more besides!

The story begins with a courtroom judgment being delivered in favor of Ravi Verma (Raj Kiran) and against a mute sinister figure (Premnath), whose name is referred to variously throughout as

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August 24, 2007

Shammi Kapoor

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Everyone who knows me knows that I love Shammi Kapoor more than any other actor, even SRK. Many people don’t get it, and I can understand why, because I did have to see a few of his movies before it clicked. But once it clicked — it really clicked. I would rather watch Shammi in a bad movie than many other actors in good movies. I am not saying that Shammi didn’t make good movies — he did! he did! but even his bad ones enthrall me.

August 21, 2007

The Blue Umbrella (2005)

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Vishal Bhardwaj is a genius. He writes lovely music, compelling screenplays and makes wonderful movies. So I was thrilled to see that a movie he made in 2005 (before Omkara) was finally out on DVD. It is based on a novella by Ruskin Bond, and takes place in a small village in Himachal Pradesh—the scenery is breathtaking and of course the cinematography does it full justice. And the music doesn’t suck either. The film has been billed somewhat as a children’s story but it’s really for anyone who enjoys a good story and a beautiful film.

August 17, 2007

Madhumati (1958)

This is a perfect rainy-day movie about true love and reincarnation. Bimal Roy uses weather to great effect in this film, setting the mood and atmosphere for each plot development, and enhancing the emotional impact of the story.

It begins in the pouring rain with a car wending its way along a dark, steep, winding road. Inside the car, Devendra (Dilip Kumar) and a friend are on their way to the railway station to meet Devendra’s wife and child, who have cabled to say they are on the way. Although Devendra is clearly anxious to get there, they are forced to stop by a landslide which has blocked the road. The driver goes for help, and tells them to go to a nearby haveli for shelter.

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The haveli has been long abandoned and is full of dust and cobwebs; but Devendra feels he has been there before. As the rain continues pelting down and thunder rolls outside, he asks the old caretaker about things the house used to contain. He finds a portrait that he remembers painting himself in a former lifetime (not as crazy in the movie as it sounds here). He begins to tell the story of his former life there…

August 11, 2007

Chhupa Rustam (1973)

A visual feast of a movie—another Vijay Anand fun-filled frolic, with beautiful scenery, fabulous fashions and an engaging plot that moves along at a good clip. It has Hema Malini at her gorgeous best, Dev Anand as smooth as ever, and—best of all—Vijay himself in a role he clearly relished. Bad guys Ajit, Prem Chopra and Premnath are as baaaad as only they can be. It’s obvious that a good time was had by all in the making of this film.

It was filmed in Himachal Pradesh, and the landscapes are breathtaking:

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August 8, 2007

“King of Bollywood”

In the end, I had to choose the new SRK biography over the new Harry Potter (sorry, beloved sister)…

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Anupama Chopra’s book is not just a biography of Shah Rukh Khan. It is an interesting look at the world of Hindi cinema and India’s emergence into the industrialized world as mirrored by Shah Rukh’s career. She draws parallels between the changing Indian economy and culture and Shah Rukh’s film characters, who usually exemplified the best of both East and West—western “cool” with traditional Indian values. It’s an interesting behind-the-scenes look at how the movie industry changed as India’s economy grew and the film-going audience became increasingly urbanized and international in character. Shah Rukh was really the right man in the right place at the right time.

August 7, 2007

Parichay (1972)

I’ve recently had myself a little Gulzar festival. I started with Koshish two weeks ago, and continued with Palkon Ki Chhaon Mein (directed by Gulzar’s assistant Mr. Meraj) and Parichay this weekend. All three movies are sweet, simple, wholesome entertainment. I have a few more of his movies in my stack to watch (and he’s still working!) but it’s time for another post for the two or three people who read this blog.

Parichay is The Sound of Music meets Hindi cinema, with Pran as Captain Von Trapp and Jeetendra as Maria Ravi the tutor hired to tame five wayward children. Pran is actually the children’s grandfather in this Indianized version, who was alienated from his son (Sanjeev Kumar) but took in the children when his son died. He gives a very good performance as a man whose rigid pride and code of ethics has caused a lot of suffering, to himself most of all.

He doesn’t exactly bond with the children:

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August 3, 2007

Saadat Hasan Manto

Found a site with four letters written by the great Urdu short story/screenplay writer Saadat Hasan Manto (and translated by Khalid Hasan). They are the first four of a series of nine letters written by Manto to “Uncle Sam” in the 1950’s before he died of alcoholism at the age of 42 in 1955, and they are hysterically funny. He talks about America’s plan to provide military assistance to the fledgling nation of Pakistan*, being tried on pornography charges, his alcoholic tendencies, plastic surgery, American casual wear shirts, Packards, Buicks and Max Factor cosmetics. The letters are sharp, sarcastic, and very very witty.

I have a book which he wrote called “Stars From Another Sky” about the Bombay film world in the 1940’s. It’s a great read too, if you can find it (I had to go all the way to India for my copy). So are his short stories about Partition (you can find them on Amazon or online used bookshops).

Among the funny lines in these letters:

“Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru is a Kashmiri, so you should send him a gun which should go off when it is placed in the sun. I am a Kashmiri too, but a Muslim which is why I have asked for a tiny atom bomb for myself.”

About Gregory Peck’s visit with the Indian movie star Suraiya he wrote:

“Have all Pakistani actresses croaked that they should be ignored! We have Gulshan Ara. She may be black as a pot but she has appeared as the lead in many movies. She also is said to have a big heart. As for Sahiba, while it is true that she is slightly cross-eyed, a little attention from you can take care of that.”

Now I need to track down the last five letters. I’ll let you know if I find them.

*India at that time was leaning towards communism and the Soviet Union for support—as anyone who has watched Hindi films from the late 40’s/early 50’s knows!

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August 1, 2007

Johny Mera Naam (1970)

I finally had the requisite 3 spare hours it takes to get through a Hindi movie Monday evening, and it was time SO well spent! I love Vijay Anand’s movies, especially his captivatingly convoluted crime capers (including Teesri Manzil and Jewel Thief). And my undying devotion to Shammi notwithstanding, Dev Anand is particularly suited for the genre. This entertaining story about two brothers separated in childhood after the murder of their father features an absolutely stellar cast. One brother, Sohan (Dev Anand), grows up to become an undercover policeman, while the other, Mohan (Pran), becomes a criminal working unknowingly for the very man (Premnath) who ordered the murder of his father. As our story begins, Sohan is starting an undercover job working as a small-time thief and smuggler named Johny. He infiltrates the gang headed by Mohan (now called Moti) with the help of a beauty named Rekha (Hema Malini), who has her own motives for being part of the gang.

What follows is an engrossing tale with twists and turns, double-crosses, and multiple nefarious activities set against the breathtaking backdrop of Nepal. I can never resist Pran. He is in disguise heaven here, even for him:

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