Posts tagged ‘Protima Devi’

July 30, 2012

Daaera (1953)

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.

May 17, 2012

Naukri (1978)

This movie is what would happen if Hrishikesh Mukherjee somewhat absent-mindedly directed the first half and then handed the reins over to Brij so that he could take the film off the rails in his usual bombastic style. It started off in rare style: I was willing to live with the fact that our pre-Partition setting of 1944 looked exactly like 1978 (Gaudy Clothing, Bad Hair); I even found Raj Kapoor’s presence delightful! In fact the performances in this were quite wonderful, all of them. It’s great fun to see Nadira, Tom Alter, Protima Devi and the only thing that kept it from completely self-destructing finally was the acting.

When the Curse of the Second Half hit, it hit hard. From a tentatively sweet Capra-esque story about regret and living life to its fullest, it ballooned with over-ambitious ideas until we were left watching a hapless director and his writers grabbing at straws to wind things up. Overdone tropes and ham-fisted preaching did not accomplish the job satisfactorily, I am sad to report.

December 2, 2011

Mahal (1969)

The first hour and 45 minutes of this film are solid entertainment: an interesting suspense plot, pretty songs, beautiful Darjeeling, and plenty of sparks between Dev Anand (playing a 28-year-old and basically pulling it off at the age of 46) and Asha Parekh. Plus young Farida Jalal as a seductive nurse! But as so sadly often happens the last 45 minutes or so disappoint. This could be because there seem to be some scenes missing as the story reaches its dramatic peak which make subsequent events confusing and out of place. How edifying would it be to discover the place where all these thoughtlessly excised scenes and songs go to die a largely unmourned death?

Still and all, Mahal is a lot of fun and I’d watch it again.

November 28, 2011

My ten favorite picnic songs

When I was a kid I dreaded the words “Let’s have a picnic!”. Picnics were nothing but an ordeal to get through: weather (the Beiges never let a little cold rain stop us), poison ivy, bugs, indifferent food. My father did not know or care to know how to barbecue so it was always sandwiches, which I could have just as easily eaten indoors where ants weren’t crawling on them.

Little did I dream in those days that halfway across the world beautiful people were picnicking in STYLE—even at night!

January 23, 2010

Jailor (1958)

This is one of the most bizarre films I’ve ever seen. Some parts of it left me with rounded eyes and a “WTF” bubble over my head, and some of it just made me angry; all of it left me feeling like I had just sat through ten years’ worth of Ekta Mata serial plotting in just two hours. My impression is that Sohrab Modi had some serious personal problems at the time he made this, and brought them all on set with him. His Jailor is a deranged man in need of medication and a padded cell, for his own sake and that of those around him. It’s dark, bewildering, and messy, and made me want to run screaming.

Madan Mohan’s music is beautiful, in particular the haunting “Life is Like a Punishment” (as “Bas Ek Saza Hi To Hai Zindagi” is subtitled). And Geeta Bali eventually enters like a breath of fresh air (as she is meant to). Plus, a court ruling that is actually rational, and the Indian Stevie Wonder!

But still: bas ek saza hi to hai yeh fillum.

January 12, 2010

Dard (1947)

Hindi films are so aptly named much of the time! This one is unsubtitled but even I could tell that it is full of people paining and pining, although I am not always clear why. I don’t usually write up the unsubtitled movies I watch unless they are particularly interesting; this one is (at least to me), for several reasons. One is that Uma Devi, later known and beloved as comedienne Tun Tun, sings playback for actress Munawar Sultana. The songs were a big hit for her (composed by Naushad). The second is that it is a relatively early film for character actors who went on to have long careers in Hindi cinema: Protima Devi, Badri Prasad and one of my favorites Shyam Kumar. And also, except for Suraiya, I had not seen the lead actors—Munawar Sultana and Nusrat—so was just plain curious!

January 6, 2009

Dulari (1949)

dulari_mirror

Most Hindi films from the 1940s are pretty melodramatic. Not only is the acting theatrical and stagey, but the dialogues are overwrought and repetitive (so that you don’t miss the point, I guess) and there are 10-15 songs sprinkled throughout at the rate of one every ten minutes (or so it seems). Characters are self-sacrificing and martyred, or unreasonably demanding; and there’s often some sort of love triangle ending with at least one person’s death (usually Dilip Kumar’s character). All this can make the movie heavy going, but at least the plots tend to be fairly straightforward and easy to follow. And if you know what to expect they always have something fun to offer (like Hindi films in every decade!).

June 20, 2008

Dilli Ka Thug (1958)

I have loved the music from this film for a long time, especially the great song “C.A.T. Mane Billi.” The composer Ravi is one of my favorites anyway, and this is one of his best soundtracks (I also love “Yeh Raatein Yeh Mausam”). The plot skitters along rapidly with some very bizarre twists and turns, a great deal of comic relief—some of it quite politically incorrect, yay!—and moments of genuine suspense, as well. Kishore Kumar is at his loony best and Nutan’s sweet loveliness is the perfect foil. Throw in some great character actors in early roles (Madan Puri! Iftekhar! Tun Tun!) and what a treat it is.

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