Posts tagged ‘good Hindi movie’

March 2, 2010

Call Girl (1974)

I watched this film years ago as part of my early obsession with Helen, and didn’t fully appreciate then how very unusual it is for its time. It must be one of the earlier examples of the 1970s resurgence into “parallel” cinema and hard-hitting social commentary directed at the country’s youth. As you may have guessed from the title, the story revolves around a woman named Kamini (Zahira) who has been forced into a life of “high-class” prostitution by a society which offers few choices to a girl—on her own in the world, trying to support herself—who is raped by her wealthy employer. I would assume that in 1974 India it was considered (and probably criticized for being) “titillating” but to my western eyes thirty-six years later it is compellingly and realistically tawdry and sad, and an excellent attempt to illuminate the injustice inherent in a woman being made to pay an ongoing price for her own victimization. It is a film that has stuck in my memory—and revisiting it for this blog is long overdue (it’s not a movie I want to see over and over again, though: it is pretty grim).

September 10, 2009

Jeet (1949)

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One of the best things about Hindi movies for me is that they are a window into the growing pains—and hopes and joys—of a brand new nation. (I’m talking mostly about north India only since I don’t watch south Indian movies yet, but still. It’s there, in front of you.) Most cinema is reflective of its origins and time to some extent of course; but the timing of India’s independence, and the fledgling country’s tenacious adherence to specifically Indian traditions and issues, makes Hindi cinema particularly so (this is also true of the pre-independence period, although in a more veiled way). For this reason, I try to slog my way through the 1940s, although I find films from the era sometimes a little too melodramatic and preachy, and a little too song-saturated, to make it easy.

But I really enjoyed this one! It’s feminist! Chock-full of woman power, seriously! Sure, it’s heavy-handed (and laughably idealistic if one is a wee bit cynical), but it has such charm and youthful optimism (that same unknown cynic might call it naivete) that I got sucked right in. Plus, the incredibly young Dev Anand and Madan Puri are so…incredibly young!

September 9, 2009

Ziddi (1964)

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In the wake of my post espousing the awesomeness that is Asha P, several people recommended that I watch this. And indeed, I’m glad they did: Asha is at her feisty, gun-totin’ best. And the songs—my God, the songs! They are made of beautiful, all of them, and the film is worth watching just for them alone.

My quibble with the movie is that things slow to a crawl in the middle as the combative courtship between Asha and Joy Mukherjee drags on—and it turns them into cruel and thoughtless people, too. The last half hour picks up again, luckily, but the middle hour or so really could have used some editing (and an animal activist or two). The Comic Side Plot is also far too intrusive: Mehmood again, given lots of screen time to compensate for his hefty compensation, I guess. A little of him goes a long way (and a lot of him can bring the main plot to a halt) especially when it’s the same exact CSP every time.

April 21, 2009

Luck By Chance (2009)

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So now I’ve watched two predictable films in a row, but I really enjoyed this one. A mostly affectionate behind-the-scenes look at Hindi cinema, it’s a fairly standard “follow your dreams/be true to yourself” kind of film but close attention is paid to details, and it is blessed with wonderful performances, snappy dialogue and lots of humorous little moments. It’s colorful, lively, and full of things to take notice of (like, doesn’t Farhan Akhtar look just like his dad in profile?).

March 4, 2009

Mere Mehboob (1963)

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This is one of the most romantic films I’ve ever seen, with absolutely sublime music by Naushad. It’s a Muslim social drama set in Lucknow, with all the attendant grace and beauty you would expect. Elaborate sets and costumes are de rigueur! Love blooms for Sadhana and Rajendra Kumar, and there is also a lovely romance between the so handsome Ashok Kumar and pretty Nimmi. Obstacles and misunderstandings abound, seasoned with (mostly) funny-man Johnny Walker’s antics, and made compelling by the people and relationships you can’t help but root for—this is my favorite kind of movie. Even the fairly poor condition of the color print only adds to the old-fashioned and elegant ambiance of it all.

Almost-graduate Anwar Hussain (Rajendra Kumar) has seen a girl’s eyes through her burkha, and fallen hard for them. When he despairs of finding her before school ends, his best friend Ghayal (Johnny Walker) encourages him to write a poem for her for the shair competition that Anwar has won every year. He does so, and performs the lovely, haunting “Mere Mehboob Tujhe”—instantly winning the adoration of the girl he seeks, Husna (Sadhana).

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She attempts to meet him afterwards, but is scared off by other students crowding around to congratulate him. Poor Anwar has no other opportunity to meet her before he boards a train home to Lucknow with Ghayal. Unbeknownst to him she is in the ladies compartment of the same train and her brother the Nawab (Ashok Kumar) ends up in the same carriage as Anwar and Ghayal—who knows him, and introduces him to Anwar.

Ghayal is the son of the richest man in Lucknow, a moneylender. He wants Binda (Ghayal’s real name) to join the family business but Ghayal prefers to dabble in poetry. On one of his first days home, he is riding his bike in the time-honored “Look Ma! No hands!” tradition when he loses his balance and crashes into the girl who becomes the object of his affections.

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This and the ongoing arguments with his father at home make up the Comic Side Plot, and that’s all I’m going to say on the subject. Johnny Walker is one of my favorite comedians, and he makes me laugh during this film; thus, I find it easy to forgive the CSP interruptions and the fact that Praveen Paul and Sunder (who play his parents) don’t look any older than he does, and nor does Johnny himself look even close to the same age as Rajendra Kumar and Sadhana.

So on with the main plot: Anwar’s education and support has been provided by his older sister Najma (Nimmi). When the two of them were orphaned at an early age, greedy relatives mistreated them and stole their inheritance. To survive, Najma took Anwar away and started working as a dancer in the theater. They are extremely close, and I love their bhai-bahen relationship.

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Najma’s dancing is not respectable work, and in fact she doesn’t want anyone to know that she is Anwar’s sister for fear of tainting his reputation and prospects. For his part, Anwar longs to acknowledge her, dancer or not, and now that his education is complete he wants her to give up the profession that she so dislikes and which so shames her. He can’t bear to see her on stage, although I think she’s lovely!

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Someone else who finds her lovely is the Nawab: he is in love with her and as her official “protector” has saved her from the advances of other men, but he won’t marry her because he feels an obligation to maintain his old and respected family’s name.

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Anwar knows nothing about their relationship, although the Nawab has confided in Husna about his love for Najma. Theirs is also a close brother-sister relationship (I love those, since I’m lucky to have one myself). He refuses to get married at all, since the woman he loves:

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The Nawab sits around smoking his hookah all day, and their house is absolutely over-the-top grand. It’s Mughal-palace-meets-1950s-Hollywood-set-decoration:

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Anyway, Anwar needs a job and Ghayal suggests he ask the Nawab for assistance (it’s not what you know, but who!). The Nawab is thrilled to see the young men again, and happily recommends Anwar for an editor’s job at a local newspaper. He asks Anwar for a favor in return: his sister writes poetry, and could use some tutoring.

Husna can’t stop thinking about the handsome poet from college, and has confided in her best friend Naseem (Ameeta, in a lovely role). Naseem happens to live next door to the house that Anwar has rented—his balcony overlooks her back window and garden.

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At their first poetry tutoring session, Anwar asks Husna (who sits on the other side of a screen from him—purdah is observed rather erratically in the film, but quite possibly is in real life too) to recite a favorite poem so he can gauge her taste. She astonishes him by reciting his own song back at him.

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Ecstatic but shy, each pretends that his or her “friend” has feelings for the other, and then they rush off to share the joy of finding their beloveds with their best friends. At Naseem’s house, Husna sings the “Mere Mehboob” song, and Anwar overhears. Going out on his balcony, he spots Naseem at the window and mistakes her for his newfound love. For her part, Naseem sees the handsome young man staring at her and is smitten. This misunderstanding leads to a happy evening spent gazing across the narrow street at each other. 

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It doesn’t take long for Husna and Anwar to discover that their “friends” are in fact each other, though. The Nawab calls Anwar by name in Husna’s hearing, and then tells Anwar that Husna herself—not her “friend”—went to college in Aligarh where she heard him sing.

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Anwar realizes that he’s made a mistake with his neighbor, but forgets about her quickly (after all, he has no idea who she is). He advances boldly beyond the screen at the next tutoring session—not much tutoring is getting done, I can tell you!—and finally gets to see Husna’s face. He murmurs “Subhan Allah!” reverently. I melt into a puddle.

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Meanwhile, the Nawab has been thinking about getting Husna married and discusses it with Najma. He has had offers from people with lots of money, but he has a boy in mind who is educated and of good character, although he doesn’t know much about his family. Najma unwittingly supports Anwar’s case by pointing out gently that an education is as good as money.

Their relationship is fun to watch too. Clearly they genuinely love each other, and though both agree that marriage is not possible they share a happy companionship together. Of course I think they should get married despite societal disapproval, and I pray that the Nawab will wake up one day and smell the coffee!

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At least it looks like a happy ending in store for our Anwar and our Husna, but there is a lot of stuff in the way! First of all, Naseem still loves Anwar and thinks he loves her.

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Secondly, one of Naseem’s uncles—a wealthy but characterless man played by Pran!—has gotten a look at Husna himself, and he wants to marry her.

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When Naseem’s aunt (Mumtaz Begum) brings his proposal to the Nawab and is rejected, we discover that the Nawab himself has some big problems.

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And of course, Anwar doesn’t know anything about the Nawab’s relationship with his sister. Worst of all, the Nawab is about to find out that the man he has chosen for his sister is the brother of the woman whom society—and he—have deemed unfit for marriage into his family!

Can our lovers survive the onslaught of scheming by Pran and Mumtaz Begum? They are no slouches at evildoing! What will Naseem do when she discovers that the man she dreams of loves her best friend? And finally, can the Nawab choose happiness for his sister over the family’s honor? What about happiness for himself and Najma?

It’s a heart-rending and suspenseful trip along the thorny path of love, but a trip I highly recommend. Naushad’s songs for this film are deservedly famous; my favorite besides “Mere Mehboob Tujhe” is the lively dance number “Jaaneman Ek Nazar Dekhle” performed by Ameeta. I need to see more of her! The ambiance is of a time and culture now gone—if romance and history are your thing, you will love this.

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March 2, 2009

Dus Lakh (1966)

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I usually approach comedies with some trepidation: humor doesn’t always translate well (literally or figuratively), and slapstick wears me down after a while. However, my Sanjay Khan experience has been sadly lacking and this film also offers up Pran and Helen—and Kashmir!—which I can never resist. And lucky me! Dus Lakh turned out to be a lot of fun. It’s an ensemble film which mostly revolves around Om Prakash, Pran and Manorama; the Sanjay-Babita (in her debut) jodi is almost a side plot. The trio at the center are hilarious, though, and it’s also chock-full of excellent songs by one of my favorites, Ravi. Solid support from Helen, Ramesh Deo (who has way more charisma than Sanjay Khan), Seema Deo and Brahmchari add to the delight.

January 22, 2009

Raaste Ka Patthar (1972)

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This was a pretty good movie until the last half hour, when a different bad film was tacked onto it. Such is life. At least the bad one was only half an hour long. Until then, I was enjoying an interesting story with eye-searing ’70s style and the yummy goodness of young Amitabh, Shatrughan Sinha and our homegirl, Laxmi Chhaya. She got third billing after those two, and although strictly speaking she wasn’t the heroine, she had a central role and she was fantastic. Why was she not a star, why? Sigh.

The makers of Life…In A Metro apparently saw this film at some point, because one of the story threads in that was lifted from this (either that, or lending your boss the key to your apartment so he can cheat on his wife is a common practice in India—please say it isn’t so!).

January 5, 2009

Amar Shakti (1978)

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I was inspired by Antarra’s review to see this film—so many thanks, Antarra! It’s essentially an hommage to Dharam-Veer with some pointed differences, which may make it a better film or a worse one, depending on your point of view. I loved Dharam-Veer (of course!) but I also really enjoyed this movie, maybe because my philosophy is if one of something is good, then two of it is better.

What Dharam-Veer has that Amar Shakti doesn’t:

  • Manmohan Desai’s lunatic sensibilities and larger-than-life scope
  • Dharmendra in a leather mini-skirt
  • Pran

What Amar Shakti has that Dharam-Veer doesn’t:

  • Shashi
  • Shashi’s curls
  • Shashi’s eyelashes
  • A Trojan elephant

December 3, 2008

Badal (1951)

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Robin Hood meets Hindi cinema! How can that possibly be a bad thing? I thoroughly enjoyed this film. It stars a young and handsome Premnath and the beautiful Madhubala (in fact they began a real-life romance during the filming of this, according to her biographer), and are very nicely supported by Purnima (in my opinion just as lovely as Madhubala) and Agha (so young! and cute! and funny too).

September 18, 2008

Jhuk Gaya Aasman (1968)

As you might know, I love Hindi remakes of old Hollywood films. This is a copy of Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941) which has also been remade a few times in Hollywood; the version that I’ve seen is Heaven Can Wait (1978) with Warren Beatty. The subject is perfect for a Hindi film, actually; reincarnation is a no-brainer, and since identical people who aren’t related is a common occurrence, our hero gets put into an identical body. So convenient! I would have liked this more had it starred Shammi and Asha (I know: duh) instead of Rajendra Kumar and Saira Banu (who honestly were just fine); but it’s thoroughly entertaining with lovely songs courtesy of Shankar Jaikishan, and a strong supporting cast of character actors and goofy Rajendranath.

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