While Edwina was staying with me last October and November, she told me many fun stories about her days as a dancer. None was better than this one about Mehmood, although she was hesitant to share it until she saw all the comments she received on the articles about her over at Madhu’s blog. Now she’s ready to spill all, beginning with the reasons she held back, in her own inimitable voice! (My mother asked her why she capitalized words so randomly, and Edwina replied that she capitalized anything she thought important. I love that. We still don’t know why she eschews punctuation but we’re glad she does.)
Anybody who comes here regularly will not be surprised that I could not resist a film called Big Pigeon. And I’m so glad I didn’t—it is oodles of fun, with a talented ensemble cast, nice RD Burman songs, and lots of laughs. And *wow* I love Rehana Sultan. What a shame she got pigeon-holed (yes pun intended, my bad) and her career fizzled. Deven Verma wrote, produced, directed and starred in this comic crime caper; the internet appears to believe that Amitabh Bachchan and Helen star in it, but Helen has just one cabaret dance and Amitabh is nowhere to be seen (nor is he credited, as imdb claims). It’s possible that he had an uncredited guest appearance but if so, it’s gone.
I didn’t miss him: Ashok Kumar, Leela Mishra, Rehana Sultan, Deven Verma, Pinchoo Kapoor and a little butterball toddler billed as “Golu (A Wonder Child)” kept me enthralled and in stitches.
I really wanted to like this movie—Faryal as a heroine! The Shash as her hero! Lalita Pawar! Pran!—but I was forced to ponder these things instead:
- Why is Faryal the heroine so much less likable than Faryal the vamp?
- Is it possible for Prithviraj Kapoor’s sons to pull off being “poor”? (no)
- How many wimpy roles did Shashi play in the Sixties anyway?
- Is it better to ignore psychological issues than to completely eff them up?
- Is there anything funnier than absolutely literal subtitles?
- Is Lalita Pawar Awesome No Matter What? (yes)
- Is Pran the Most Suave Villain Ever? (yes again)
- Have I really seen two movies in a row where Lots of Mehmood wasn’t Too Much?
*Sigh* So much goodness squandered on a story full of trite saccharine platitudes (if you are rich, be kind to the poor; they are people too!) which descends finally into that melodrama I so dread, where the females in the story are either blamed or worshipped and lose any bit of individuality and humanity they might have had.
Just when I fear that I may have seen all the crazy Indian spy films that there are to see, another one appears. This one is not quite as loony as my beloved Spy In Rome or Puraskar, but that is probably because it also had a larger budget and A-list stars (Waheeda Rehman and Rajendra Kumar). Still and all it is satisfyingly filled with many of the same tropes: an enemy country never called by its actual name, but whose denizens all have names like Comrades Ping and Chang and Shin Cho. They are led by an angry man we only ever see in silhouette until the end, who kills his loyal henchmen at the slightest provocation with weapons like machine guns mounted on turrets (and marvelous dying theatrics on the part of those men, although there is a sad lack of blood and gore). AND IT HAS SUBTITLES, hooray!
Plus, all the usual suspects—Madan Puri, Rajan Haksar, Ratan Gaurang—are present, sporting Fu Manchu moustaches and squinty eyes. Seriously satisfying.
It being that time of year, I am off on a skiing holiday in Switzerland with my best friend Asha P. and my something-or-other-by-marriage Babita. My friend Mike suggests I take along an inexplicably neglected friend of his whom he calls The Bomb, Praveen Choudhary. She has always seemed like good fun to me too, so: the more, the merrier!
All three of these ladies make me envious with their ability to tease up a big bouffant and their cat’s-eye makeup, perfect for setting off a fur collar or parka hood. My plan is to have them teach me these valuable life skills when they are too tired to ski any more. And while they wear themselves out on the slopes, Gemma and I will be making friends with the bartender in the nearest cozy firelit lodge. I don’t ski, myself, but I do love a good ski resort!
Help me, 1970s Hindi cinema fans!
I have seen the same ballroom or restaurant or something which I believe was not a set but an actual place—quite possibly in a hotel—in Bombay in the mid-1970s. It was used in a gazillion movies made between 1973 and 1978 or so. I call it simply “The Room” because it really defies any other kind of description; and I LOVE IT.
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.
Mumtaz simply cannot be contained in a list of ten songs only: she had the good fortune to work in an era—and in films—with such great music, that I just find it impossible. Not only that, but because she was often the heroine (first mostly in so-called B-movies of the sixties, then as an A-list star in the seventies) she usually had three or four songs per film, unlike women who were confined mostly to dances or small supporting roles.
I spent the entire running time of this film with a big angry WTF bubble above my head. It’s not that I shouldn’t have known: packaging which advertises Bindu as a nymphomaniac is pretty fair warning. Sadly, it is also irresistible enticement for someone belonging to the “How bad can it be?” school of risk management.
It’s bad. It’s REAL bad. It’s Haseena Atom Bomb bad.