Posts tagged ‘Rajesh Khanna’

August 7, 2012

Guest Post: Vrajendra Gaur

I enjoy celebrating the “behind the scenes” contributors to Hindi cinema history as much as I do the actors (and dancers). One such person is Vrajendra Gaur, who wrote dialogues and screenplays for such favorites of mine as Howrah Bridge, China Town, Teen Deviyan, Kati Patang, and Sharmilee. His career spanned the 1940s through the 1970s, ending with The Great Gambler in 1979. Recently his son Suneel Gaur reached out to me asking if I wanted to see a photograph of his father with Rajesh Khanna; of course I did, and of course I pestered him for more. There is always more, and indeed that is the case here. And I must just add that I think the photograph above left, of Mr. Gaur with Dilip Kumar, is one of the sweetest pictures I have ever seen. They look so young, so full of promise, and like fast friends indeed.

The prolific writer-lyricist-director-author-poet-journalist died 32 years ago on August 7th 1980, and his sons Suneel and Rajesh Gaur pay tribute to their father on his death anniversary (and all of the photographs are courtesy of them too).

July 20, 2012

Fiffty Fiffty (sic) (1981)

This is maybe not the post I should choose to write in memory of Rajesh Khanna, but it happened to already be under construction and he was so charming in the film…so why not? One shouldn’t defy kismat.

I loved this lunatic movie. It cannot by any stretch be called either well-written or even wildly original, but it is solidly entertaining if you like this sort of thing (illogical melodrama) which I do. Infants are switched at birth for nefarious purposes and spirited away for good ones; one of the villains is a bitter hunchback; we have con artists conning each other, a mute illiterate downtrodden mother trying to communicate a terrible secret (and failing) for years and years and years, divine intervention at moments of sheer despair, and the Rainbow Splendor of Disco—a mishmash that makes this one hard to forget. Laxmikant Pyarelal’s music is good fun, and I love the cast, too: even the completely age-inappropriate Rajesh Khanna-Tina Munim pairing works, maybe because Tina’s character is so worldly-wise that she doesn’t seem young. Plus Rajesh seems to be enjoying himself thoroughly, as he should, and is very handsome indeed.

July 18, 2012

The complicated superstar

I woke up to more sad news this morning: another Memsaab favorite, Rajesh Khanna, has passed away. It is not a surprise, really; anyone seeing his frail frame over the last months knew that he was very ill. But in typical Rajesh fashion, he kept the facts to himself and his loved ones and let the speculation run rampant. As a latecomer to the phenomenon that was Rajesh Khanna, with possibly a slightly more objective view of things (only possibly and slightly), I have always been struck by the frenzy—both negative and positive—around him. Even his appearance recently in an ad for Havells fans brought controversy, with many feeling that he had been mocked without being aware of it. I said it then, and I’ll say it now: I think people, even many of his fans, constantly underrated Kaka’s intelligence, sensitivity and sense of humor. I think he knew very well that the ad was playing on his lost superstardom, and I think he thought it was funny.

May 30, 2012

Disco Dancer (1982)

From a cinematic tradition overflowing with mama’s boys, by far the biggest to emerge is Disco Dancer‘s Jimmy. He only eats if Maa hand-feeds him, he dances like a girl, he sulks, he sucks his thumb, he lets women poke him in the belly, he is a failure at adult relationships with women (seriously, just ask Rita Oberoi, she’ll tell you), and he can’t go on when his mother dies while saving him from Death By Guitar. This film sends terrible messages to both women and men: you have no value, ladies, except as a downtrodden and self-sacrificing mother, and if you are lucky to have such a mama, men, you should never cut the apron strings. It is no coincidence that the bad people in it (the Oberois) have no mother figure in their household. Oh, and also: you should always carry a grudge. It will keep you going and help you succeed.

So why does this movie’s legend endure? Why does almost everyone who comes into contact with it come away a changed person?

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.

May 10, 2012

My ten favorite anipal songs

This post is dedicated to my dear friend and song blogger extraordinaire Atul, who tells hilarious and sweet stories about his own menagerie.

Most of you are familiar with the Memdogs (little scamps) and beloved Gemma before them; and many of you have animals in your own lives who are as precious to you as anyone. One of my very favorite things about Hindi movies is how so many of them contain anipals, as Todd puts it. Filmi animals are usually more intelligent and capable than the people around them (eg Khoon Bhari Maang‘s Raja the horse and Jumbo the dog, Dharam-Veer‘s Sheroo the Wonder Bird, etc.), but they generally speaking don’t have nearly their fair share of song time. I mean, have you ever seen a dacoit serenading his smart and loyal horse? (If you have, TELL ME.)

December 12, 2011

The Cat Wall-Hanging

I have now seen this particular place in four different films spanning nine years. Originally I thought it was a set, but it now seems difficult to believe that a set would remain so unchanged over that time frame. Almost nothing does change, except the dining table chairs and floor coverings! The light fixtures remain almost identical, as do the altar (?) beside the second door, the stone walls, the stairs, the ceilings—and of course the Cat Wall-Hanging.

Surely if it were a set, different art directors would have changed it from film to film and most certainly from year to year, don’t you think? Especially since the whole thing is really retro-hideous (which is why I love it so).

(left to right: Namak Haraam—1973, Chorni—1981)

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!

November 16, 2011

Chakravyuha (1978)

This is a pretty silly adaptation (by Basu Chatterjee, no less!) of Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps which nonetheless manages to be quite satisfying entertainment. Basu Sahab is a little out of his element, but that works for me since I find most of his films similar in nature to watching paint dry. Sticklers for things like continuity, context, and attention to detail might not enjoy it as much as I did; but with my dear friend Suhan translating as we went, it made for a very pleasant afternoon watch-along. There are some of the director’s finer touches here too: authentic settings, intimate and humorous interactions between people, plenty of local color.

April 28, 2011

Jaanwar (1982)

Rajesh Khanna makes a fabulous Tarzan Dara Singh hero in this tale of palace treachery which extols the moral superiority of animals over man, a message I wholeheartedly endorse. Zeenat Aman plays a wild jungle girl (yes, it is as hilarious as it sounds), the rightful heiress to her murdered father’s throne, who has been raised from infancy by a very maternal gorilla—by which I mean a guy in an ape suit.

Plus, Pran as Dr. Doolittle! Oh, how I love B-movies. I was fortunate to get this one from my dear friend and Rajesh devotee Suhan, who also watched it with me and filled me in on all the unsubtitled goings-on—and there is a lot going on.

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