Some of you I imagine will scratch your heads and say: “This is the dubious production she’s choosing to review after so long?”
Many more of you will say: “Well of course it is.“
To all of you I have only two words: Arjun Hingorani. I have seen a few films in the month since I last posted a review, but as nice as some of them were they simply didn’t inspire me enough to overcome the cloud of Callie-worry and work overload. I was positive that the letter ‘K’ loving Mr. Hingorani would have something up his sleeve to make my eyes pop out. And so he did. He always does.
So. I know I have been missing here for a while; I have had to travel some for work and actually pay attention to the job that helps me keep body and soul together, where people don’t understand that this is more important—but who also pay me. And Callie (my little dog with encephalitis) relapsed recently so I have had to start from square one with even more toxic medications to try and keep it under control. This depresses me as you might imagine although she seems perky enough about it, bless her.
Khair. I am very glad to have an excuse to post something short (and cheerful), and here it is: Tom has finished putting together a subtitled dvd of the 1962 film Sautela Bhai, starring Guru Dutt and Pranoti Ghosh. It’s not out anywhere else on dvd or vcd as far as I know. It is based on a story by Bengali writer Saratchandra Chattopadhyay (“Boikunter Will”), with music by Anil Biswas; it also features the likes of Bela Bose, Bipin Gupta, Kanhaiyalal and many more.
As usual, you have the option to download dvd files, or to watch the film on YouTube. Check out the links on the “Edu Productions” page link at the top here, enjoy, and don’t forget to say thanks to the team: Raja and Ava for their subtitling, Tom as the General, and Shalini for providing the source video.
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.
This gleefully patriotic and decidedly low-budget spy movie is the brainchild of the legendary (to some of us anyway) fedora-loving actor-director-producer Nisar Ahmad Ansari, and it is also Faryal’s debut film. It stars other Ansari favorites Bela Bose, Nilofar, Pradeep Kumar, Johnny Walker and a host of lurking henchpeople. I watched it without the benefit of subtitles and therefore missed any subtleties there may have been, but all anyone really needs to know is that India’s “top two Security Agents” are chasing bad guys who want to get their hands on a microphillum giving away military installations, bridge locations, and “all hamara important documents.” Plus, Ted Lyons & His Cubs back up gorgeous Bela, and it contains one of my very favorite Edwina songs: and all the music is fabulous really, from Chitalkar Ramchandra.
Like all Ansari movies and others of its ilk, this is like watching enthusiastic hormonally-charged teenaged boys playing cops and robbers, and I mean that only in a good way. Rife with silly and largely pointless disguises, beeping gadgets, guns, coded musical messages, and pretty dancing girls, it is oodles of loony fun.
I watched this with Carla (Filmigeek), who liked it more than I did possibly thanks to the dazzling spectacle that is Sharmila in a swimsuit. For me it was ruined on the mystery front by obvious red herrings thrown at me like bricks and then left unexplained; and elsewhere by the insistence of the men who supposedly “loved” Sharmila (including the hero, argggghh Shashi) threatening repeatedly to kill her if she didn’t do what they wanted. There was fun to be had in some foot-tapping Kalyanji-Anandji musical numbers (and background score) and the general gorgeous sixties ishtyle of Shashi and Sharmila (what splendid alliteration!), but it didn’t quite make up for the annoyances above and a sad lack of gadgetry, lairs or any other kind of embellishment which might have made it less predictable.
Khair. You cannot always win everything.
This is a very unusual and bittersweet film based on a Rabindranath Tagore story about the last few days of a dying boy named Amal (an unforgettable Sachin). Produced by the Children’s Film Society, I suppose it can be categorized as a children’s film, although as with most good children’s movies it is entertaining for adults too and a little bit dark. Children may not entirely understand what’s going on, although in my personal experience they understand a lot more than adults give them credit for. The movie weaves together fantasy and reality as lonely Amal—trapped inside the house by the local pandit-doctor’s (AK Hangal) orders—chatters with an assortment of passersby and villagers, and daydreams about venturing forth and seeing the world beyond his horizons. As the story unwinds fantasy gradually takes over from reality as Amal fades, much to the distress of his adoptive father Madho (Satyendra Kapoor). The sets are deliberately “stagey” and candy-colored which enhances the fairy tale effect, and the photography is lush, with lovely music by Madan Mohan (lyrics and dialogue courtesy of Kaifi Azmi).
I must above all thank Raja for subtitling this for me—if anyone has this film and would like the subtitle files, please let me know and I’ll send them to you. Thanks Raja!
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).
I love a good daku-drama, and Dara Singh makes one very satisfyingly manly dacoit (I mean, he is the guy who later carved “MARD” into his infant son’s chest). This film is surprisingly serious much of the time though, with an unexpected (at least to me) ending; it’s not his usual lighthearted type of stunt film although there is plenty of delicious fun to be had nonetheless. Director Mohammed Hussain has long been one of my more prolific and dependable favorites, having delivered the crazy likes of Faulad, Shikari, Main Hoon Aladdin, CID 909, Teesra Kaun, and on and on). For the cast he has roped in his usual stalwarts, including Helen as heroine and perpetually belligerent Shyam Kumar in a Prince Valiant wig. And of course, being a “B-movie” it has beautiful music too, with lively dances from the gorgeous Bela Bose, Madhumati and Rani, among others.
Let’s get to it, shall we?
This is one of the strangest films I’ve seen in a very long time. It clocked in at a little over 2 hours, so I am not sure if there were pivotal scenes missing or what, but I spent the entire time feeling like I was playing catch-up and losing rather badly. Certainly Kamal Amrohi had a lot he wanted to convey, but he seemed to also want to keep us guessing at whatever it was. It did strike me that it is a movie about assumptions: assumptions that the characters and the audience make are turned over and inside out one by one. That could have been interesting; but the story is excruciatingly slow and largely unrewarding, like watching paint dry in the burning sun on a hot sticky day (but slower and more agonizing) and then realizing the color has turned red instead of the blue you wanted.
One of my major issues with it is that none of the characters are terribly well-developed, so that instead of being involved with their stories I feel much more like a neutral spectator, held at arm’s length from any real emotion. That could have been intentional, but it doesn’t work for me. My favorite thing about the film is probably the music, composed by the hitherto unknown to me Jamal Sen. It is pretty mournful (the whole thing is really), but very very beautiful indeed from the opening title music to the end.