Archive for ‘Hindi film history’

March 19, 2013

Two more Noor Jehan films…

mirza_sahibanThank goodness for Tom, Muz, and Pacifist and the Edu Productions team!

They have just made available two more Noor Jehan films, one a Pakistani film from 1959 called Koel; and 1947’s Mirza Sahiban starring Noor Jehan and Trilok Kapoor (fun to see him in a hero role, na?). Karan Bali over at Upperstall has reviewed Koel (link is included in listing) and although he feels it is a less than stellar movie the songs are worth the price (which by the way is FREE). Pacifist’s opinion of Mirza Sahiban is that it’s a much better film than the later Shammi Kapoor outing by the same name, which is actually not that hard but makes me look forward to seeing it.

Download them from the links on the Edu Productions page, enjoy, and give props to the team for their hard work and generosity!

January 23, 2013

Guest post: Parshuram, a forgotten gem

parshuramMy friend and film encyclopedia Arunkumar Deshmukh contacted me a few days ago with the news that he had met family members of “yesteryears” actor and singer Parshuram. He was offering to write a guest post about this largely forgotten but long-time contributor to Indian cinema, who began his career in 1937, in V. Shantaram’s Duniya Na Maane (and Kunku, the Marathi version) and worked steadily for three more decades plus.

Naturally I jumped at this generosity! A big thank you to the family of Parshuram, and of course to Arunji.

September 3, 2012

Labor of love

It’s Labor Day here in the US and Canada, and let me tell you something: I have really labored for you guys. I recently got my hands on a very fragile and worn copy of Baburao and Sushila Rani Patel’s 1952 book called “Stars of the Indian Screen.” It features 36 actors and actresses, with a short biography of each accompanied by a gorgeous colored plate like the ones above. And though the book is credited as written by Sushila Rani Patel and edited by Baburao, the bios have Baburao’s trademark snark all over them, by which I mean they are awesome.

August 7, 2012

Guest Post: Vrajendra Gaur

I enjoy celebrating the “behind the scenes” contributors to Hindi cinema history as much as I do the actors (and dancers). One such person is Vrajendra Gaur, who wrote dialogues and screenplays for such favorites of mine as Howrah Bridge, China Town, Teen Deviyan, Kati Patang, and Sharmilee. His career spanned the 1940s through the 1970s, ending with The Great Gambler in 1979. Recently his son Suneel Gaur reached out to me asking if I wanted to see a photograph of his father with Rajesh Khanna; of course I did, and of course I pestered him for more. There is always more, and indeed that is the case here. And I must just add that I think the photograph above left, of Mr. Gaur with Dilip Kumar, is one of the sweetest pictures I have ever seen. They look so young, so full of promise, and like fast friends indeed.

The prolific writer-lyricist-director-author-poet-journalist died 32 years ago on August 7th 1980, and his sons Suneel and Rajesh Gaur pay tribute to their father on his death anniversary (and all of the photographs are courtesy of them too).

June 22, 2012

Miss Frontier Mail (1936)

It seems fitting that this is the post to celebrate my five years of blogging! I never dreamed on June 22, 2007 when I created Memsaabstory that it would become such a big part of my life and be the catalyst for so much learning and so many wonderful and rewarding friendships. I never dreamed that people would embrace the insanity that leads me to do things like this and this and this (and this, okay I’m stopping now), and I certainly had no idea how generously people would share their treasures with me. This is one such gift.

Miss Frontier Mail is utterly charming, made with the usual Wadia enthusiasm and attention to loony detail. The “Indian Pearl White” is certainly the focus, but she is more than ably supported by gangsters who balk at being dastardly, a fearsome spy-movie “Boss” precursor and his go-getter female assistant, futuristic gadgets, thrilling fights and chases, a banana-loving buffoon and so much more. It often feels very much like a silent movie, starting off with only music and no dialogue until seven or eight minutes in; title pages are interspersed throughout, the acting is exaggerated, and you can often hear the camera whirring. Like the Frontier Mail train itself, it picks up speed quickly and we’re off on a rollicking good ride as Fearless Nadia battles comic-book villains between dainty sips of tea in her fabulous Art Deco house. It is a literal and figurative rush of trains, motorcars, motorcycles and even an airplane!

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.

April 23, 2012

Kismet (1943)

Oh my.

I love you, Kismet. I can see why, for 32 years until Sholay, you held the record for longest run at the box office. I love your story, I love ten-year-old Mehmood, I love VH Desai (whom Saadat Hasan Manto called “God’s Clown”), I simply adore Ashok Kumar in all his youthful kind-hearted con-man glory. I love your unwed pregnant girl, your runaway son; I even love your songs, which is sometimes hard for me with movies as aged as you are. I can’t wait to see you with subtitles (thanks Raja!) but even without them you are enthralling, you dear old progressive masala template of a film, you.

February 26, 2012

The Jungle Princess (1942)

As one of the first—and still one of the few—women to specialize in onscreen kick-assery, it’s no secret that Fearless Nadia is one of my idols (and I’m not alone in that by any means). So when she is set down in the heart of the Dark Continent with ooga-booga natives, pith-helmeted villains, handsome big game hunter John Cawas, and a loyal and clever lion named Shankar, the little African heart of this Memsaab goes pitter-patter. It’s also The Big Muscle Tussle month over at this site, where I am a rather unproductive member but whose other more participatory writers I cannot recommend highly enough.

There is quite a lot of muscle on display in this, and not all of it belongs to Nadia!

February 16, 2012

From the archives: even more more

This week has been quite harrowing: my sweet little Callie had four seizures on Sunday and was admitted to the hospital for three days while doctors tried to figure out what was going on. The good news is that she appears to be in really good health, especially given her age and puppy mill past, except of course for the seizures (“Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?”). The veterinary neurologist (#firstworldproblems) has diagnosed her with idiopathic epilepsy encephalitis, which I think means they have no idea what’s wrong but have to say something because I’ve essentially just donated a new wing to the hospital. She’s now on two anti-convulsant medications a boatload of medications and home, staggering around like a drunken sailor and twitchy. It takes a little time for the meds to kick in (or to get the right dosage), but I am very hopeful that these partial seizures will stop soon.

UPDATE: She has been re-diagnosed with encephalitis (GME—autoimmune encephalitis). This makes me very sad, but it is treatable with a LOT of meds (including injections which I get to learn how to give) and very careful management. Luckily the neurologist I have is one of the best in the world at treating this, so I remain hopeful.

I do know for sure that both Gilda and I are very very happy to have her back with us, bobbling head and all. But I have not had the time nor the inclination to watch any films so you’ll just have to make do with more gorgeous Filmindia scans. I know, I know: they are no kind of substitute for my deeply analytic and scholarly reviews, but there you have it! Try to manage.

February 13, 2012

From the archives: more filmindia

The beauty bounty continues with color plates of Madhubala:

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