Archive for January, 2011

January 30, 2011

Yakeen (1969)

Why yes, Dharamji, I will. I don’t even care what you want me to do.

I don’t know what it is about him, but for me watching a Dharmendra starrer is like getting a big warm hug. He is just so…comforting and solid, somehow (it’s no wonder he’s my fake-pretend bodyguard). So on a recent snowy night, missing my Dad and needing a sustaining presence, I rewatched Yakeen, one of my early favorite forays into 1960s Hindi cinema. It must be universally acknowledged that two Dharmendras are always better than one, even if one of them has blue eyes and orange hair.

January 28, 2011

Cobra Girl (1963)

Also known as Naag Rani, this movie is a perfect example of how the so-called “B movie” genre contains gems (no Naag Mani pun intended, or not much) of movie history which really need to be treated with more respect. I would rather watch this and others of its ilk a hundred times over than watch Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam or Mother India more than once or twice. Sure, those are great films; but they aren’t exactly uplifting entertainment! Why is such pure uplifting entertainment as this so frowned upon and discarded? Very often the zany trappings overlay genuine emotional content and messages which are far more palatable to me than the stifling conservatism of mainstream Hindi cinema.

January 26, 2011

Kashmakash (1973)

I got this film for three main reasons: Feroz Khan, Ranjeet and the title. Kashmakash. What a word! It just rolls off the tongue, na? I am informed by my friend Raja—who also subtitled it for me, more on that later—that it means troubles or problems. The people in this have plenty of them, not the least of which is putting up with IS Johar’s endless pompous and pointless pontificating (a problem for us too). Mitigating that, though, are the aforementioned Feroz and Ranjeet; cracktastic Seventies costuming and set decorations; a young plump Rekha (the best kind), a less insufferable than usual Shatrughan Sinha, and Memsaab favorite Rehman; very cool music by Kalyanji Anandji including a fab dance by Padma Khanna; plus an engaging murder mystery.

January 24, 2011

Hanste Zakhm (1973)

I am very happy that this was not the first Chetan Anand film I saw, because it then may well have been my last, robbing me of films I really love (notably Aakhri Khat and Taxi Driver, but also HaqeeqatAandhiyan and Kudrat). I have only ever seen Priya Rajvansh in Kudrat and Haqeeqat, and although I liked her fine in both of those I gathered from comments that her reputation as an actress is…well. Let’s just say I understand those comments perfectly now. She pretty much single-handedly destroys this film with her nails-on-a-chalkboard performance. I have never been so irritated by someone’s voice and demeanor in my whole life.

Having said that, I will also add that even without her I would have found Hanste Zakhm disappointing. The story had potential to be path-breaking—I loved the beginning, and it could have developed into something truly thoughtful and interesting; but instead it took the safe (ie ultra-conservative) road and fell flat on its face.

January 20, 2011

Madhosh (1951)

Call me shallow, but I have trouble taking a hero who wears more makeup than the heroine and vamp together seriously (except Shammi in Junglee, because he is just so handsome despite the blue eyeshadow and coral lipstick). As much as I adore the Wadias’ output, they seem particularly fond of making heroes look girly: Mahipal in everything, and now Manhar Desai in this, although most of the time Manhar doesn’t look like a girl so much as a really creepy doll. Ironic that they also gave us the fabulously kick-ass Fearless Nadia; I guess perhaps I should rejoice in the gender reversal tactics, but a pancaked hero just doesn’t really work for me.

It doesn’t help at all that the character is a gutless wonder with the logic of a two year old. With a story aspiring to be a Romeo and Juliet style tragedy, an obnoxious immature mime-hero doesn’t provide the necessary viewer investment in the romance to make it work.

January 16, 2011

Baadshah (1999)

We all have our guilty pleasures (if you don’t, I recommend you get some)…and Baadshah is one of mine. Shah Rukh Khan is the first Indian actor that I truly fell head over heels for, and although I have hardly written about any of his movies here it’s not because I haven’t seen them all. I saw this film very early on in my pyaar and what stuck in my head was that although it struck me as incredibly stupid, it was also immensely fun; there was a ridiculous eye-transplant side plot that I found ludicrous at the time which—given what I know now—barely registered on this watch. There is a fair amount of painful hamming and silly slapstick (yes, someone even slips on a banana peel at one point) which puzzled me more than anything (“Does anyone actually find this funny?”), although now of course I realize that it has its roots in a very rich (if mostly unloved by me) CSP tradition.

It is amazing what a mere eight years of devotion to Hindi cinema can teach a person.

January 13, 2011

The National Film Archive of India

In the wake of my father’s death and trying to get back to my regular routine and caught up at work, I am not finding the time and energy yet for regular reviews and so forth; but with his kind permission I wanted to share a little excursion to the Film Archive in Pune which my friend Ed took recently. He was given a nice tour of the place with his buddies and bandmates Suba and Dylan, and they took some wonderful photographs which Ed has organized into a gallery with his signature witty commentary. I am so encouraged by what people who work there had to say about their work and their plans, and to see their dedication.

January 2, 2011

Aaj Aur Kal (1963)

This movie is a real treat despite its occasionally heavy-handed preaching (and at least it is preaching I can agree with!). First, it has lovely music by Ravi with lyrics by Sahir Ludhianvi (including one of my first favorite Hindi film songs, the Rafi classic “Yeh Wadiyan Yeh Fizayen”); second, it has a young and *very sparkly* Tanuja; and third, it is set against an historic backdrop —the annexation of individual princely states by the new Indian government. It’s a film typical of star Sunil Dutt in its idealism and progressive message, and if Nanda is a little weepy for my taste in it she is balanced out by Tanuja. Ashok Kumar is the Maharajah their father, a strict and conservative man who is determined to keep his kingdom and privileged lifestyle intact.

Somehow the internet got the idea that Raaj Kumar is in it too, but he is nowhere to be seen although someone named Rajkumar appears in the lesser credits.

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