As many of you know already, I am bewildered by the fact that this charming and beautiful woman never made it big as a heroine. The closest she came was in Mere Gaon Mere Desh, where she absolutely shines as dacoit Vinod Khanna’s spy who falls in love with the object of her assignment—Dharmendra. I’ve loved her since I saw Gumnaam years ago and she tore up the dance floor with Herman and company. Like her contemporary Helen, she is able to dance to any kind of song: tawaif, night club, village entertainment. Her most captivating feature in my opinion is her smile—it lights up the screen with joy, and there’s no mistaking it for anyone else’s. Plus, nobody dances like she does—it gives me whiplash just watching her sometimes, but she comes through unscathed!
Or: Life Goes On…And On…And On…
Oh so unfair! This film beguiled me at the beginning with its humor, pretty songs, and lovely characters, and then sucker-punched me: ka-POW! It turns dark and depressing, full of tragic misunderstandings and a fatal lack of communication. The final message that I got out of it made me want to stick needles in my eyes (there are spoilers towards the end), although I’m pretty sure that’s not what the makers intended.
Memsaab favorite Feroz Khan has died. I’m glad he was in Bangalore at his farm with his beloved animals.
I should start out by saying that while I am far from perfect, and do not require anybody else in my life to be perfect either, there are certain types of people that I just try to keep at a distance. These are:
- The Drama Queen: not happy unless she is the center of attention, and willing to do whatever messed-up, selfish, childish thing it takes to stay there. A perfect narcissist!
- The Jackass: never thinks much about the repercussions his thoughtless and (usually stupid) actions and decisions (or lack thereof) may bring until it’s far too late. A total idiot, and a coward too!
- The Martyr: often weepy, and always long-suffering, this person refuses to do anything to help herself and also enables people around her to do all the wrong things as well. Self-sacrifice is so overrated!
If ever a film really really really (really) wanted to be a Shammi film, it’s this one. It has:
- Feisty Asha Parekh as the reluctant heroine (eventually won over after being stalked relentlessly by the hero)
- A gaggle of girlfriends around her (chief amongst them Laxmi Chhaya!)
- Sidekick Rajendranath (complete with loony antics)
- Pran in an orange wig
- Lovely lovely songs by OP Nayyar (sung beautifully by Rafi and Asha B.)
- Kashmir, gorgeous Kashmir (and quite a few plot elements lifted directly from Kashmir Ki Kali)
All it really lacks is Shammi himself. Instead, we are given…Biswajeet. Poor Biswajeet. However, he does his best to imitate Shammi and mostly it’s a fun-packed and stylish delectation; it does go a bit off the rails at the end into kidnapping and murder territory (oh, Pran. Pran, Pran, Pran). The DVD picture quality is pretty bad too: someone should restore this one for sure! A very young Mumtaz graces the screen with her presence briefly, and there is the usual assortment of character actors and rotund funnymen adding to the entertainment. And I simply LOVE the songs.
My favorite band Ted Lyons & His Cubs have been spotted two more times now (film numbers five and six!) by dustedoff (thank you for letting me know).
They accompany a shimmying Laxmi Chhaya (and some guy with a lampshade on his head) in 1967′s Raat Aur Din which I am dying to see but cannot find anywhere *sob*:
And here they are in 1965′s Mere Sanam (review coming up!):
Incidentally, this guy shows up in the same scene, dancing with Asha. I need to know who he is! Pompadour Man! I see him everywhere.
Someone said once that he might be Vijay or Oscar from the choreographer duo, but I can’t find much about them either.
So many questions, so few answers. Hindi film history is so murky and veiled in mystery. Sigh.
Edited to update: He is in fact Oscar! One mystery solved.
So now I’ve watched two predictable films in a row, but I really enjoyed this one. A mostly affectionate behind-the-scenes look at Hindi cinema, it’s a fairly standard “follow your dreams/be true to yourself” kind of film but close attention is paid to details, and it is blessed with wonderful performances, snappy dialogue and lots of humorous little moments. It’s colorful, lively, and full of things to take notice of (like, doesn’t Farhan Akhtar look just like his dad in profile?).
When I found this DVD I was puzzled as to how it had not registered before on my radar: Raj Khosla directed, Salim-Javed wrote the dialogues, and it stars Amitabh Bachchan, Shatrughan Sinha, Zeenat Aman, Prem Chopra, Amrish Puri, Helen AND PRAN along with a serious array of character actors (KN Singh, Iftekhar, Sudhir, MacMohan, Birbal, Paintal, Trilok Kapoor, Jagdish Raj and more!). How could that possibly go wrong?
And it didn’t, really, at least not terribly…but it is dull and predictable; and there is no chemistry whatsoever between Zeenat and AB or SS, or—more importantly, actually—between AB and SS. It is also a little sloppy at times: Pran has a young son who doesn’t age at all, for instance, although Pran himself does (going from dark hair in a flashback to completely gray hair in the present), and Prem Chopra fires a number of bullets from a gun inside his pocket—but somehow said pocket remains intact, without holes. These are just minor issues though, and if the story had been better, with actors not just going through the motions, they would hardly warrant a mention (at least from me).
A man can justify an act of murder if he is protecting any of three things, the saying goes: land, gold, and women (zan, zar, zameen in Urdu). Last week in Bombay I went to a preview screening of this movie, and despite its grim subject I am glad I did. Honor killing is a practice that continues today—crossing borders, culture and religion—and this is a compelling watch if you get the chance to see it (more on that later). Most people’s views (including mine) of honor killing have been skewed by misconceptions which the film takes pains to clear.
The concept of honor killing has its roots in the tribal code above which predates religions and cultures, but has been adopted by societies where the idea of woman as man’s property is embraced. This conceit is of course nothing new, not even in American society (where women are often part of an equation alongside fast cars and big houses as a sign of a man’s success). The belief that honor killing stems from Islamic tenets is simply not true; in fact honor killings take place in Latin America and other places where male-dominated culture also prevails. It is chilling to me sometimes what a very thin line separates “us” from “them.”
In so many ways it feels like I was gone for a long time, and yet the time in India sped by too. It was a wonderful trip thanks to Raju, who facilitated my movie adventures and is in the midst of making a film which I just can’t wait to see; and my new Bengali “family”—Suhan, her friend Gautam, and their relatives, who all showed me that incredibly warm hospitality that Indians are justly famous for. I made new friends and met old ones; explored more of India’s rich history in Hyderabad, Delhi and Calcutta; and discovered the unspoiled beauty of the Sundarbans forest. And of course one of my fondest dreams came true!