Archive for May, 2012

May 30, 2012

Disco Dancer (1982)

From a cinematic tradition overflowing with mama’s boys, by far the biggest to emerge is Disco Dancer‘s Jimmy. He only eats if Maa hand-feeds him, he dances like a girl, he sulks, he sucks his thumb, he lets women poke him in the belly, he is a failure at adult relationships with women (seriously, just ask Rita Oberoi, she’ll tell you), and he can’t go on when his mother dies while saving him from Death By Guitar. This film sends terrible messages to both women and men: you have no value, ladies, except as a downtrodden and self-sacrificing mother, and if you are lucky to have such a mama, men, you should never cut the apron strings. It is no coincidence that the bad people in it (the Oberois) have no mother figure in their household. Oh, and also: you should always carry a grudge. It will keep you going and help you succeed.

So why does this movie’s legend endure? Why does almost everyone who comes into contact with it come away a changed person?

May 26, 2012

Kaliya Mardan (1919)

This Dadasaheb Phalke silent film may be the first start-to-finish ADORABLE movie ever made. I in no way mean that condescendingly: I loved every frame of this and was wowed by some of the special effects (the much talked-about battle between young Krishna and the Kaliya serpent at the end particularly). Phalke’s seven-year-old daughter Mandakini plays young Shree Krishna as a hyperactive mischief-maker who gleefully torments the local villagers with the help of his friends, and she is brilliant—when she’s onscreen, you don’t want to look at anybody else. It is also absolutely hilarious in places, worthy company for the likes of Buster Keaton.

May 21, 2012

Dil Apna Aur Preet Parai (1960)

This post is dedicated to dearest Edwina, whose husband of 52 years passed away this morning. She and Keith were married the year this film was released, and she has a small speaking part in addition to her song appearances. It is also the newest in the Edu Productions catalog, named in her honor. I have the Sky dvd, and this has about 15 minutes more footage than that, much better subtitles, and video that doesn’t jump around in such a manner as to make me nauseous. Details for watching it online or downloading it are on the Edu Productions page.

I adore this full-on 1940s Hollywood-style soap opera romance, with it’s thwarted love, stylish villainess, crashing ocean waves mirroring internal turmoil, and bonus bakwas filmi medicine. Even though Meena Kumari spends the whole movie dressed like the Flying Nun, you can practically taste the chemistry between her and Raaj Kumar (still blessed with his own hair and very handsome indeed), and Nadira makes a perfect Joan Crawford in a sari. Plus the songs are pure gems, including the one that would be my ring-tone if I had a cell phone (“Ajeeb Dastan Hai Yeh”). From an era when plots like this often devolved into ridiculous melodrama and pointless self-sacrifice this one stays relatively on point and the people in it remain relatively sane. Also woven into the main story is a simply delightful sub-plot about three patients, led by Om Prakash.

May 17, 2012

Naukri (1978)

This movie is what would happen if Hrishikesh Mukherjee somewhat absent-mindedly directed the first half and then handed the reins over to Brij so that he could take the film off the rails in his usual bombastic style. It started off in rare style: I was willing to live with the fact that our pre-Partition setting of 1944 looked exactly like 1978 (Gaudy Clothing, Bad Hair); I even found Raj Kapoor’s presence delightful! In fact the performances in this were quite wonderful, all of them. It’s great fun to see Nadira, Tom Alter, Protima Devi and the only thing that kept it from completely self-destructing finally was the acting.

When the Curse of the Second Half hit, it hit hard. From a tentatively sweet Capra-esque story about regret and living life to its fullest, it ballooned with over-ambitious ideas until we were left watching a hapless director and his writers grabbing at straws to wind things up. Overdone tropes and ham-fisted preaching did not accomplish the job satisfactorily, I am sad to report.

May 15, 2012

Lovely Lalita Pawar

Just to let you know that I’ve made lots of updates to the Galleries above, including the Nahiiin! Face one. It still cracks me up to look at it, every time :)

And in that spirit, I thought I’d share this lovely photo of Memsaab favorite Lalita Pawar, probably from sometime in the late 1930s (before the accident resulting in a wonky eye), courtesy of my friend Sudhir via the most excellent “Filmography of Silent Cinema: 1913-1934″ by Dr. R.K. Verma (it’s honestly more like an encyclopedia of silent Indian cinema).

May 10, 2012

My ten favorite anipal songs

This post is dedicated to my dear friend and song blogger extraordinaire Atul, who tells hilarious and sweet stories about his own menagerie.

Most of you are familiar with the Memdogs (little scamps) and beloved Gemma before them; and many of you have animals in your own lives who are as precious to you as anyone. One of my very favorite things about Hindi movies is how so many of them contain anipals, as Todd puts it. Filmi animals are usually more intelligent and capable than the people around them (eg Khoon Bhari Maang‘s Raja the horse and Jumbo the dog, Dharam-Veer‘s Sheroo the Wonder Bird, etc.), but they generally speaking don’t have nearly their fair share of song time. I mean, have you ever seen a dacoit serenading his smart and loyal horse? (If you have, TELL ME.)

May 7, 2012

Zorro (1975)

“Zorro” doesn’t even begin to cover it. “Zorro meets Robin Hood meets the Wild Wild West meets Arabian Nights meets Ugly Bridesmaid Dresses and everybody’s last name is Singh!” is a fair start. Dharam-Veer wasn’t this much of a potluck! My friend Mike, who watched some of it with me, remarked that it looks like the wardrobe and set people went crazy in a bunch of studio warehouses and used every single item they found in them. While they were doing that, I think the writers were combing through as much world literature as they could find for their own influences. I’m also pretty sure a lot of the original film is edited out or lost, because transitions between scenes are very abrupt and the whole thing quite choppy, so Lord only knows what other cultural and historical references have gone missing along with that footage.

Almost everything is also very weirdly played for laughs, even atrocities being meted out to villagers. This sort of defeats the whole purpose of atrocities. But never mind: there is just so much to look at, much of it shiny.

May 3, 2012

Trishna (1978)

In which Shashi is a zombie and everybody is stupider than stupid.

Given the caliber of the main players (Sanjeev Kumar, Raakhee, Shashi Kapoor), I might have had hopes that this would be a decent film at least, but having read the Post-Punk Cinema Club’s review some time ago I knew better. Still, I expected some bright spots. But there weren’t any, unless you like pork. Everytime I thought the film could not possibly get any dumber or the acting worse, it got dumber and the acting got worse. I guess when a plot is this moronic with characters this poorly drawn, there is nothing much else to do except ham it up—and ham it up they all did. My God.

May 1, 2012

Kahani Kismet Ki (1973)

I am a pretty big fan of director-producer-writer-actor Arjun Hingorani’s work. His listing on imdb is probably incomplete, but the films he made that I’ve seen (four of them now), I have really enjoyed despite some issues. Those issues are very small in the face of his laboriously tangled—but coherent—storylines, stylish camera work, fabulous music, and the people he loves to cast: Dharmendra, Ashoo, Hiralal, Shetty, Jankidas, Keshav Rana and more. I also appreciate his penchant for casting himself in his films, not always in a heroic light but always in a terrible wig. In essence, his movies are solidly entertaining and a real delight to sit through if you are willing to overlook a certain glossing-over of logic and moderate level of preachy melodrama (which I am).

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