My 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.
I have always felt that bears have the right idea for winter and apparently this year I am joining them. I’ve been watching movies, but the writing part of my brain is AWOL. Hopefully I will be inspired by something soon, but until then I have a favor to ask all of you.
Do you have two or three favorite posts here? I am thinking of compiling the most popular ones to create a book but don’t feel I am the best judge of what the “most popular” are (not being objective in any way, shape, or form). If you do have some definite favorites please leave them in the comments—I will sort through them all and make a list with those that get the most votes!
And let me know what you think of the idea too (please be polite, but honest!). You can select more than one answer, too, but try not to contradict yourself.
Muqabla is basically Seeta Aur Geeta with Fearless Nadia as twin sisters Madhuri Aur Rani. Need I say more? Probably not, but I’ve never let lack of need stop me from doing anything. I will tell you, though, that this review has taken me longer than any other review before it to write, by which I mean it’s just taken longer; don’t expect it to be any better.
Special effects wizard Babubhai Mistry is said to have used split screen technology for the first time in India along with back screen projection to show the twins interacting and passing one in front of the other. And although it isn’t her usual “stunt” type of film, there is plenty of action for Nadia and her fists in both avatars. Probably this is better described as Geeta Aur Geeta, exponentially more awesome for not having a browbeaten helpless little mouse in it; both Rani and Madhuri are fairly kick-ass girls. There are a lot of songs which drag the film down for me (interminable love songs between two sets of lovers, sometimes two or three songs in a row with no respite between); but two songs feature Nadia dancing and that is pretty fun to watch. As a bonus, she has a clever and faithful Alsation dog named Gunboat (who I think appeared with her in other films). Plus a very very young and slender Agha plays sidekick to hero Yakub. He excels at physical comedy, and I always love seeing a young anybody I know better from his or her later career.
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.
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!