Archive for February, 2011

February 27, 2011

Afsana Pyar Ka (1991)

*Starring Neelam’s Hair!*

When I began watching Hindi films in 2002 or so, many of the first ones I saw were from the 1990s. And yet still—I persisted! I was charmed! I guess it was all so shiny and new that I didn’t know or care how hackneyed or obnoxious the plots were and the OTT use of wind machines and light filters merely fascinated me. “Look! her hair is blowing wildly inside her house!” “Oooh! A thousand points of light!” etc. Plus the people (Aamir, Shahrukh, Kajol, Rani) were so very good-looking and the girls had such glossy, glossy long hair. But none of them were a patch on Neelam in that department.

February 26, 2011

Mini-review: The Killers (1969)

This is turning into Dara Singh month, which is essentially a constant struggle for me of no subtitles and significant amounts of missing footage. Nothing in this extra-low-budget Maruti-directed film made sense to me, and I doubt it would have even with subtitles and the 45 minutes or so that seem to have disappeared. It is essentially a bad formulaic spy film with Dara Singh as Agent Q and Sheikh Mukhtar as the secondary villain (the primary villain of course remaining unseen until the end) with the usual numbered henchmen and a lair lit primarily by red bulbs.

Most of it drags, but it contained just enough fun to keep me going and make me want to share here (this post is a *little bit* spoiler-y, although nothing significant).

February 21, 2011

Naujawan (1966)

Sadly this isn’t a film anymore, but the last gasping remnants of one: a collection of random scenes (or partial scenes) strung together incoherently with big gaping wounds of missing content (and sometimes, sound). There are barely two seconds of footage together anywhere not punctuated by a skip or a jerk. That it still manages to be kind of fun to watch is a testament to…something, although I am not sure I can pinpoint what that Something is. It might just simply be Dara. Or Ajit, Randhawa, Nishi, Helen, Madan Puri, Bela Bose, Madhumati and some perfectly scintillating songs and dancing.

Well, there you go: I have pinpointed It.

February 16, 2011

My filmi family winter holiday

It being that time of year, I am off on a skiing holiday in Switzerland with my best friend Asha P. and my something-or-other-by-marriage Babita. My friend Mike suggests I take along an inexplicably neglected friend of his whom he calls The Bomb, Praveen Choudhary. She has always seemed like good fun to me too, so: the more, the merrier!

All three of these ladies make me envious with their ability to tease up a big bouffant and their cat’s-eye makeup, perfect for setting off a fur collar or parka hood. My plan is to have them teach me these valuable life skills when they are too tired to ski any more. And while they wear themselves out on the slopes, Gemma and I will be making friends with the bartender in the nearest cozy firelit lodge. I don’t ski, myself, but I do love a good ski resort!

February 14, 2011

The Room

Help me, 1970s Hindi cinema fans!

I have seen the same ballroom or restaurant or something which I believe was not a set but an actual place—quite possibly in a hotel—in Bombay in the mid-1970s. It was used in a gazillion movies made between 1973 and 1978 or so. I call it simply “The Room” because it really defies any other kind of description; and I LOVE IT.

February 12, 2011

Maa (1976)

I don’t know if this film was made for children or not, given the number of cute baby animals etc. in it, but it is chock full of dumb messages like “Go ahead and pick up a wild baby lion cub even if its protective mother is lurking nearby!” and “If you are chased by a tiger, climb a tree because it can’t get you then!” all of which are followed by “…oh wait…ohhhhh.” Attention to detail is such that leopards are misidentified as cheetahs and the mama lioness has a mane. It is painfully stupid, over-long, harrowing to watch if you’re an animal sympathizer, and Nirupa Roy (as Dharam’s Maa) is the only sensible character in the movie!

So how and why did I make it through? Well, because I knew from the dvd cover blurb that eventually Dharmendra’s character was going to GET HIS from a mother elephant, and within the first five minutes of the film that became something I really wanted to see.

February 8, 2011

The Light of Asia (Prem Sanyas) (1925)

Oh, what a treasure this film is! It brought the light and beauty of 1920s India into my cold snowy winter, and cheered me considerably. I can only hope that it will someday soon be available in gorgeous professionally embellished dvd form like its sibling A Throw of Dice. The movie itself is more a series of staged vignettes than what we now consider a motion picture, although there is plenty of pageantry: shambling elephants, prancing horses, trotting camels, and crowds of people. And if the story is a bit over-simplified (adapted from Edwin Arnold’s 1897 epic poem by the same name about the life of Prince Gautama, the Buddha) it doesn’t really matter to me. This is a rare glimpse of history indeed, and a visual and creative feast.

February 6, 2011

Feel the love! Edwina

My little obsession with—and posts about—the fantastic filmi band Ted Lyons & His Cubs has reaped some nice rewards I never expected, the best of which is that in the past year I have become friends with Ted personally. Through him, I have discovered the amazing extent to which he and his circle of friends and family contributed to films of the 50s and 60s. His wife Lorna’s father was a bandleader in the early days (his band was called Fats Benny), and Ted, his siblings, in-laws and close friends populate the bands and dance floors in so many songs beloved from that era.

Today I want to introduce you to his sister Edwina, who specialized in the fantastic western swing-ballroom-twist types of dance numbers that I so love, and who epitomizes that most expressive Hindi word bindaas. Edwina has become very dear to me over the past year as well, and she is an utter hoot, the kind of girl who even back in those days would (and did) bum a beedi from a group of hijiras on a late night commuter train and smoke it with them.

February 1, 2011

Tasveer (1966)

With subtitles, this film might have annoyed me, but without them it is a sublimely entertaining experience from Wadia Movietone. Undistracted by the dumb plot and self-pitying dialogues, I reveled in:

  • the hirsute insanity of Nasir Hussain (he is UNABOMBER insane in this film!)
  • the drink-fuelled angsty despair of artist Sajjan
  • Helen’s fashions and scheming eyebrows
  • Feroz Khan pretending he is Shammi! (and he is so FINE, he almost succeeds)
  • Chitalkar Ramchandra’s fantastic songs
  • the plump chipmunk cheeks and flowing Kashmiri outfits (and eyeliner) of Kalpana
  • and the lovely scenic gardens and mountains of Kashmir itself

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