Archive for October, 2009

October 30, 2009

Achhut Kanya (1936)

achhut_kanya

First of all, I would like to thank Muz for sending this to me. He has also provided me with Pukar, Sikandar and Raj Nartaki (review upcoming), and thank goodness people like him appreciate Hindi cinema history enough to preserve it when they can. I appreciate his sharing these films with me more than words can ever express, and the same goes for the other friends I’ve made here who share their rare treasures with me too. Bless all of you!

This film from Bombay Talkies is widely written about as an early classic. It was a huge hit, and launched Ashok Kumar into stardom (albeit a bit reluctantly!). It’s also my first look at Devika Rani onscreen. Unfortunately there aren’t subtitles, and I think a lot of this film’s impact comes from its dialogues; they went way over my head. The basic plot is easy to follow, but there is a lot of “room talk” (or maybe “porch talk” is better here) which drives the action. Even without understanding the dialogues, though, I found this film ineffably sad. Though it is 73 years old, it is unfortunately just as relevant today with its portrayal of prejudice and intolerance. Will we never learn anything from our mistakes?

October 26, 2009

A Matter of Innocence (1967)

amoi_kiss2

I know this is not an Indian film! But it stars Shashi Kapoor alongside the lovely Hayley Mills and the legendary Trevor Howard. I have been looking for it forever, and finally—finally!—got my grubby little paws on a copy. Hayley Mills made some of my favorite childhood movies: The Parent Trap, That Darn Cat! and Pollyanna, all for Disney, and then moved on to making films like this one in an effort to shake up her good-girl image. So this is an excellent blend of my childhood movie favorites and my relatively new obsession with Hindi cinema.

This one (also called Pretty Polly) is based on a story by Noel Coward, and while it meanders a bit, there is plenty of good fun in it. It is set in swinging mid-1960s Singapore, with riotously colorful characters, wonderfully witty dialogues, and a sublime soundtrack. There is a lot of British “colonial” ambience if you like that sort of thing, which I do (I can’t help myself, sorry); and the transformation of Polly over the course of two days and two nights in the company of handsome wheeler-dealer Amaz is both hilarious and touching.

October 22, 2009

Bari Behen (1949)

bari_behen

Had this been the first Hindi movie I ever watched, I would have slit my wrists before I ever let anyone convince me to watch another. It’s that bad. It’s bad in the worst possible sense, my worst nightmare: a Red Mist movie. It is characterized by that maudlin, useless self-sacrifice which makes even its recipients unhappy: “For the love of God, didi, please don’t sacrifice for me!” “I will I will I will, and you can’t stop me!” “But I don’t want you to, it’s making both of us miserable!” “I don’t care, it’s my duty and my karma!” “But it’s not necessary!” “I am sacrificing because I’m noble, it’s what I do! You can’t stop me!” “But you aren’t helping anything…” “It’s my sacrifice! I’ll cry if I want to!” and on and on and on and on.

The only bright spots in this—and they should have joined hands and said “RUN!” and gone off to make a different movie together—are Geeta Bali, Rehman and Ulhas. I couldn’t even like Pran (although of course that was his objective, as usual).

October 19, 2009

A memsaab in the making

baby_greta

I haven’t watched any films in the past week or so because I’ve been busy scanning old family photos. It’s been on my to-do list forever (or would be if I had one). A lot of the photos are faded and discolored (my baby pictures are getting close to 50 years old! *yikes*) and I want to preserve them before they get worse. I rant on about neglected Hindi cinema history so I’d best not neglect my own! Of course it may not be of much interest to most of you (although there is something strangely compelling about family albums, isn’t there?) so forgive me for this small digression (I won’t be offended if you skip it altogether).

October 16, 2009

Mohabbat Zindagi Hai (1966)

mohabbatzindagihai

Garam Dharam in shorts! Mehmood in a loin cloth (and a skimpy one at that)! A feisty heroine who doesn’t want to get married! What’s not to love? (Okay, besides for Mehmood in a skimpy loin cloth. Nobody needs to see that.)

This is “Taming of the Shrew” with retro charm, pretty people, and lovely songs by OP Nayyar. I liked it especially for the heroine who sticks up for herself, although of course societal norms win at the end: all girls really want to get married, even if they don’t know it. What else is there for them? But she puts up a good fight, and the chemistry between Rajshree and Dharmendra is sweet if not crackling. Able support from a host of reliable character actors, and a gang of college students twisting away just add to the fun.

October 13, 2009

My favorite 60′s “western” songs

twist_waqt2

Lately I’ve had my iPod repeating a playlist that I put together of songs from 1960s films that are just bubbling over with western charm: guitars, trumpets, double basses, and the odd ukelele or two are used in what still remain quintessentially Hindi film songs. These are songs that have gotten stuck in my head time after time: I quite simply love them! It’s hard to pin down what makes them a collection, but picture doing the twist on a picnic with chums, or curled up with a martini on pleather space-age furniture in Daddy’s mansion. If I had to categorize them, I would probably settle on “Bollywood Lounge” although I’m not sure that quite covers it.

October 11, 2009

Char Dil Char Rahen (1959)

cdcr_shammi

A new “old” Shammi film release with subtitles always gives rise to many huzzahs in this household. And when it’s a good film—well, my glee is almost uncontainable. There is nothing unique in the theme of this one (it’s a standard 1950s plea for a socialist Indian society: sharing and equality good, capitalism and greed bad), but the story is given an interesting treatment in its three separate stories which overlap, fittingly enough, at a crossroad. Each story is like the leg of a relay race, with the protagonist of one passing the baton to the next in a brief meeting at that crossing, until finally at the end all three converge. And what a cast: Raj Kapoor, Meena Kumari, Ajit, Nimmi, Kumkum and *ahem* Shammi!

My main problem with the movie is the choppy, facile ending. I am not sure if the original screenplay was written badly or if it is the result of poor editing, or deteriorating film stock, or what (possibly a combination of all of those things); but it’s jarring and more than a bit disappointing in the payoff. Of course, the payoff wouldn’t matter had the stories and characters leading up to it not been so engaging, and there’s the rub. It’s a good ride, until we get thrown off at the end!

October 9, 2009

Do Gaz Zameen Ke Neeche (1972)

ramsay_films

Hooray! A Hindi horror film that isn’t horr-ible! And it’s even a teeny bit suspenseful in parts (although I am easy to scare, admittedly). It contains all the elements essential for the genre: a cast of unknowns (except Helen! in one song, and Imtiaz, and Satyen Kappu) (oh! and Dhumal) (okay so not that many unknowns, except for the leads), some gratuitous sleaze, a large mansion, a careless if not mad scientist, creepy background noises, and a graveyard. The latter leads me to speculate that perhaps the dearth of horror films in Hindi cinema stems from the Hindu tradition of cremation, leaving only a minority of the population in India available to become zombies. There are also a few lovely songs which don’t intrude at inappropriate moments and a mostly coherent story with pretty minimal CSP interruptions. And the fashions and sets are Early Seventies Candy Floss at its most eye-popping.

So Yay! Ramsay Brothers! Yay! (Why didn’t you quit while you were ahead?)

October 7, 2009

Help me!

Who in the world is Nazir Kashmiri? Does anybody have a photo of him? Or screen cap? Or ANYTHING? He is in every single Hindi film I have ever seen. And I have no clue who he is!

I must know! I’m losing sleep over it. I can’t afford to lose my beauty sleep.

website statistics

October 5, 2009

Rustom Sohrab (1963)

rustom_sohrab

Oh, how I loved this film—right up to the sad, sad end. It’s a tragedy drawn from a story in the Shahnameh epic of Persia, and it vividly portrays the disastrous consequences that lies and deception (not to mention violence, war, vengeance) can bring. Now, I am not a fan of tragedies generally (although I’m totally on board with the message), but the story is not what I loved this film for anyhow. True confession: Prithviraj Kapoor, in his mid-fifties here, is amazingly sexy. His romance with Suraiya is sweet and touching, and he towers literally and figuratively as the legendary larger-than-life strong-man of the Persian emperors. Plus, he looks like Shammi, never ever a bad thing!.

Besides the formidable charisma of Prithviraj, there is a cracktastic assortment of villains populating a region where even table servants wear helmets to protect themselves from their cruel masters. Premnath, also aging, somehow also manages to pull off a hero act opposite a very young and gorgeous Mumtaz; and the film features some absolutely sublime songs from music director Sajjad Hussain. These include one of my all-time favorites: “Phir Tumhaari Yaad Aayi.” All these things, combined with wonderful sets and costumes, make for total full-on paisa vasool.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 813 other followers