As with most unsubtitled, murky films with missing key scenes and transitions—and likely some reel mix-ups—I early on tossed any attempt to understand the plot by the wayside. But Jaal contains some highly entertaining elements like good songs, including a beach romp with Helen, Johnny Walker, and a host of emaciated goris in bikinis; Nirupa Roy in her element as the disturbed, bereaved Aunty; Tarun Bose as her creepy butler; and miniature boats and flashing lighthouse lights. Mala Sinha is given full scope for the things she does best: looking terribly chic in 1960s outfits, and going berserk in her own inimitable style.
My little obsession with—and posts about—the fantastic filmi band Ted Lyons & His Cubs has reaped some nice rewards I never expected, the best of which is that in the past year I have become friends with Ted personally. Through him, I have discovered the amazing extent to which he and his circle of friends and family contributed to films of the 50s and 60s. His wife Lorna’s father was a bandleader in the early days (his band was called Fats Benny), and Ted, his siblings, in-laws and close friends populate the bands and dance floors in so many songs beloved from that era.
Today I want to introduce you to his sister Edwina, who specialized in the fantastic western swing-ballroom-twist types of dance numbers that I so love, and who epitomizes that most expressive Hindi word bindaas. Edwina has become very dear to me over the past year as well, and she is an utter hoot, the kind of girl who even back in those days would (and did) bum a beedi from a group of hijiras on a late night commuter train and smoke it with them.
By the end of this film I felt really sorry for anyone who might have been dependent on the Indian police—as portrayed here—for any kind of aid in 1974. I’m surprised that the censor board didn’t demand an upfront apology from the producers. I am almost positive that the intent was exactly opposite, too, but as the film hurtles forward, the plot increasingly unravels with sad results. It’s too bad, because otherwise it is an unusual story (apparently a remake of The Desperate Hours starring Humphrey Bogart) with a lot going for it: a psychological drama about a family of four held hostage for 36 hours (ghante) by three increasingly desperate bank robbers on the run.
36 Ghante comes *this close* to being a really good film, but is sabotaged by inattention to some important details. (Here’s my disclaimer: as with all Hindi cinema, it could be that poor editing after the fact—by the dvd manufacturer for instance—is partially responsible for the story problems, but I will probably never know for sure.)
My father began his career in films with Mala Sinha and Abhi Bhattacharya. Abhi Bhattacharya was a very nice man: in fact, a thorough gentleman. He had an interesting trait. He had the ability to fall asleep anytime, almost anywhere and under any circumstances. Once dad observed that Bhattacharya wanted to take a nap but could not find a pillow; finding a brick instead, he just went ahead and laid his head on the brick and instantly fell asleep. Dad shared a warm relationship with him and they acted together in a number of films.
First, let me give you a brief history of the Memsaab’s relationship with this movie: “Ooh! Piece of candy! Ooh! Piece of candy! Ooh! Piece of candy!” I own about five copies of it—it has always struck me as a movie I really HAVE to see, but somehow I always manage to forget that I already have it, and I’ve seen it too. I start watching my new copy, and I’m all like: “Oh, this film again.” And I shelve it right next to all my other Ankhen dvds. This is my typically verbose way of saying that it is neither a cracktastically great film nor a terrible film, but one that seems like it ought to be one or the other. Instead it is a competently made spy film with fantastic songs (Ravi) and some eye-popping fashions but little else apparently for my memory cells at least to latch onto.
The Raaj Kumar love continues here with this lovely Muslim social drama about marriage and gender relations. A big thank-you to my friend Raja and his friend Bharat for getting the dvd all the way from India to my doorstep! Films about women’s status in society and the choices they are given (or not) often disturb me or just plain make me angry. This one disappointed me—it came this close to being a true winner, and then failed—but was better than most from this era all the same (I’ll talk more about it with spoilers at the end).
Mere Huzoor is justly famed for its songs by Shankar Jaikishan, and happily were also subtitled as the lyrics (Hasrat Jaipuri) are lovely too. A big reason I love Muslim socials are the sets and costumes, and they don’t let me down here either! Mala is pretty good until she lets it all hang out at the end (which is highly entertaining all the same), Jeetendra is handsome although bland; it is Raaj Kumar who makes this worth watching though. He is wonderful as the misunderstood and melancholic Nawab who lives life on his own terms. He is such a strangely attractive man, odd wig and all!
I hold a definite opinion about judging Hindi cinema against western cinema, which is that it is basically unfair. And by unfair I do not at all mean that Hindi cinema cannot hold its own, but that it is an apples to oranges comparison and therefore pointless. Even so, there are two genres where I find it difficult not to judge: film noir and horror. Many of you know that I hate horror films, because they scare me (!) so Hindi movie “failure” on that front doesn’t bother me at all (in fact, I prefer it). However, I am a big fan of old 40s and 50s detective films and I generally feel a bit let down by Bombay’s counterparts. There is compensation in other areas (songs and general gorgeousness, e.g.) but I am hardly ever mystified; and even when I am, the plot holes and ham-fisted red herrings annoy me. I won’t even talk about dramatic expositions which come out of nowhere.
What IS it about Raaj Kumar? What? His acting is theatrical, he is not very handsome really (and was apparently quite weird in real life) and yet I love to watch him onscreen. Not in a “look at that godawful wig!” kind of way either, but in a “he is strangely interesting, I cannot look away” kind of way. Throw in Pran (speaking of godawful wigs), a very handsome in-his-prime Rajesh Khanna and a Helen song, and I’m in! This movie is very “masala” with its separated twins, scheming villains (Pran!), a truncated wedding, glorification of the poor and downtrodden, and plenty of Nahiiin Face. I would not call it a good movie exactly, but it is pretty solidly entertaining.
I’m slowly working my way through these magazines. This is the April 1958 issue.
I think this blog needs some color! And I know I do.
Baburao’s caption reads:
What an upholstery! After this how dare we call ourselves a starving people? And why do we at all need the American loan for our Five-Year Plan when the design is already so perfect and so complete? What we seem to need is a Ramzan every alternate month. Mala Sinha brings new tension to the screen in “Phir Subha Hogi”, a sensational theme produced and directed by Ramesh Saigal.