Archive for April, 2010

April 27, 2010

Farishta Ya Qatil (1977)

Though this is only available (to my knowledge) without subtitles, I figured since my current blog header features images of Shashi and Bindu from the film I ought to watch it. And it’s pretty entertaining, maybe even more so if you don’t know what’s going on. I don’t need subtitles to know that there is a lot of patriotic fervor and anti-smuggling-corruption-greed preaching in the story, but there are lots of subplots woven together too and without subtitles I have no idea if the subsequent story fabric is a sturdy khadi or fraying and full of large holes; I don’t care, either. Shashi is beginning to show his age (well, so am I) but he is still worthy eye-candy (see above), and Rekha is at her delightfully plump and imperious best. A huge cast of character actors—many of whom I need help identifying—are decked out in dizzying full-on seventies fashions, bad wigs, and huge sideburns, all in aesthetic competition with the beautiful Rajasthan desert.

April 21, 2010

Pancham Unmixed: Mujhe Chalte Jaana Hai (2009)

This documentary on the late great RD Burman is a bit of a mixed bag (pun fully intended! sorry!!), but it is well worth watching. At its very best it is a primer for film music dilettantes (ie, me) in understanding Burman’s musical brilliance, and a rare chance to listen in on conversations of those involved in the industry then. Director Brahmanand Singh gives us insight into Burman as a man and a musician through lengthy interviews with his colleagues and peers (Manna Dey, Gulzar, Asha Bhosle, Shammi and Rishi Kapoor, and many others), and complements it with discussions on his long-term legacy from contemporary composers like Shantanu Moitra, Shankar Ehsaan Loy and Vishal Bhardwaj.

April 18, 2010

Mem-Didi (1961)

Is this film famous and I the only person who was unaware of it until now? Amazing performances and great direction from Hrishikesh Mukherjee place it far above the usual, and the story is told with such exquisite economy of effort that it flies along, yet you feel at the end as if you have known and loved the characters for an entire lifetime. David and Jayant play Bahadur and Shera respectively—a pair of goondas strongly reminiscent of Munna and Circuit with their warm-hearted, funny and sometimes misguided largesse—who befriend an older woman (Lalita Pawar) whose life has been one of hardship and toil, but whose spirit has remained strong and pure. Add a very young and pretty Tanuja to the mix, along with Salil Chowdhury’s sparkling songs (including a hilarious duet between Tanuja and a stray dog!) and the result is a heartwarming and comic tour de force.

April 14, 2010

Suraj (1966)

If you are in the mood for a cleverly plotted swashbuckler a la mode indienne, reach for this one. The dialogues are written by Abrar Alvi, always a good sign, and the screenplay by Javar Sitaraman; the story is intricate, entertaining and witty. If Rajendra Kumar and Ajit are a *little* too old to be playing men in their twenties, it doesn’t really matter and they look just fine opposite Vijayanthimala. She is beautiful, even sharing lots of scenes with the younger and equally gorgeous Mumtaz, and she shows us all once again that GIRL CAN DANCE. Amazing. Shankar Jaikishan’s music is catchy and pretty, and the host of supporting character actors all seem to be having fun—Jagirdar especially, as the dacoit Ram Singh. Plus, a loyal horse and clever elephant companions: what’s not to love, really?

April 11, 2010

Mirza Sahiban (1957)

If you think your parents could have done better by you, at least be grateful that you aren’t poor Mirza or Sahiba. Sahiba’s family are all nasty pieces of work, with the sole exception of her father who is an ineffectual panty-waist. Her mother is an abusive shrew, and her spoiled and arrogant brothers are murdering bullies. And Mirza’s mother leaves her young son in the “care” of that same family, despite being at the receiving end of their ill-treatment herself and knowing that they dislike Mirza equally. With this sort of beginning, the only hope one can really have is that things will look up eventually…but as we all know, in this sad tale they never do. The only things that kept me going were Beloved Shammi and the really lovely music by Punjabi music director Sardul Kwatra (who also produced it).

April 10, 2010

LOL with Baburao Patel

*Memsaab falls off her chair laughing and is unable to continue*

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April 9, 2010

Mera Saaya (1966)

I have long been meaning to watch this Raj Khosla film again. I saw it a few years ago but remembered little about it except one Sadhana dance which is spectacular: “Jhumka Gira Re Bareilly Ki Bazaar Mein” and a vague feeling that it was pretty good. And it is pretty good—really good in fact! I was riveted and (thanks to my dismal memory) not completely sure I had the mystery figured out until the very end. The performances from Sunil Dutt and Sadhana are wonderful, and the competently plotted story moves along briskly with tension building ever so gradually: the direction and editing are masterful. It’s also beautifully photographed and just chock-full of pretty, especially the locations in Udaipur (and Sunil and Sadhana!). Any quibbles I have are minor: the end is a bit flat after the marvellous buildup, and I got tired of the title song after the umpteenth time hearing it—pretty as it is—but that’s about it.

April 6, 2010

Funtoosh (1956)

At a run-time of just over 1 hour and 45 minutes, significant portions of this film have been edited out (this is also obvious as you watch). It may have once been a good story, but the missing scenes rendered it a bit choppy (not as bad as Jaal, but not good either). It also felt to me like the filmmakers (Chetan and Dev Anand, director and producer respectively) thought they had something of great portent to say, but the messages sprinkled about struck me as childish and trite rather than very meaningful. And I found the portrayal of mentally ill people more than a little irritating. The mental institution in which we meet Funtoosh is a cartoon insane asylum, with inmates cackling uncontrollably and saluting each other; and the protagonist Funtoosh himself is a caricature and a badly drawn one at that. I think he is supposed to represent the “divine fool”—but he is mostly just a fool.

April 5, 2010

Trivia time #40

Can anyone tell me who this actress is? This is a film still from 1940; by this time she was already well-established (she had begun acting in the silent era) and she went on to have a long and illustrious career in Hindi cinema.

April 4, 2010

Weekend with the Beiges

As I sorted through a gazillion books and dvds, unpacked boxes, put things away, and found room when it seemed there was no more room to be found, it struck me that instead of doing all that at my parents’ new apartment in the Old Folks’ Home, I should be doing it in MY home. I have 1400+ dvds (yes, mostly Hindi) plus twelve million books (I am not exaggerating), mostly stacked in unruly piles which threaten to kill Gemma should they topple over on her. Obviously, I realized, I have come by my dvd/book habits honestly. But somehow the organizing and putting-away gene escaped me (except when Mom is cracking the whip).

While I moved furniture and flattened boxes, Gemma panted in sympathy for me in the 150-degree temperature which people over 70 always seem to maintain in their homes. She also refused to go to sleep, I think afraid that I might leave her there to slowly roast.

Once when I took her outside I saw a little old man arguing furiously with the large (but very polite) head chef about the gravy served in the dining room. The chef was pointing out nicely that he feeds a lot of people every day and nobody else has complained about his gravy, but his diminutive foe remained vociferous in his antipathy for it (especially on turkey, I gathered). Next time I go, I will be ordering something with gravy for sure.

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