April 7, 2017

Parwana (1971)

parwanaThe tagline on the DVD cover caught my eye first: “A Murder Plan That Forced Indian Railways To Change Their Train Timing!” I am not sure that Indian Railways actually did worry that much about murders galore being unleashed on the Indian public, but it was enough to attract me. The film stars a very young Amitabh Bachchan, Yogita Bali, Navin Nischol and Shatrughan Sinha, and is directed by Jyoti Swaroop, who directed two of my favorite films (Padosan and Chorni). It was billed as a thriller of sorts, although there is no effort made to disguise “whodunit”—it’s marginally more of a “howdunit”.

It is a very stylish and nicely-paced production, however, and showcases the soon-to-be overwhelming charisma of its anti-hero Bachchan to great effect (especially compared to milquetoast-y “hero” Navin Nischol).

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February 23, 2017

April Fool (1964)

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Lord I love Indian spy films from the 1960s, but make no mistake about it: this is a bad movie. Since I expected that going in, I was not disappointed, and in fact was delighted to find a decent level of (possibly inadvertent) hilarity. I will share those gems here so that you can give the painfully awkward and sparkless Biswajeet/Saira Banu pairing, the boring songs, and the disaster that is the plot(s), a miss.

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July 18, 2016

Roop Tera Mastana (1972) (mini-review)

I quickly grew tired of the plot (Pran evil, Mumtaz helpless, Jeetendra clueless, I.S. Johar painful), but remained riveted to Mumtaz’s Disney princess wardrobe and accessories.

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May 28, 2016

The old cowhand…

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This week, two days before he would have turned 14, I said goodbye to one of the most entertaining and endearing characters to ever cross my path. Bandit came to me just over three years ago, right before his 11th birthday. His rescuer and foster dad, Eric, posted the following on my Facebook page the next day, and I think his words and pictures describe Bandit’s backstory (as he calls them, Acts I and II) so eloquently and beautifully that with his permission I am sharing them with you.

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April 12, 2016

Prem Kahani (1937)

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I love the elegance of the Art Deco era of the Twenties and Thirties. Of course my mother points out that I would have probably been at the back of a bread line dressed in rags, but I prefer to picture myself draped in chiffon and pearls, languidly smoking from a long cigarette holder and lounging in a posh Park Avenue mansion. Thanks to Prem Kahani, that vision has been altered slightly to one of gold-edged sarees and cocktail shakers; a quartet of musicians playing in my Marine Drive home as friends and I rehearse for a benefit we’re holding for the poor and needy (the people actually standing in that bread line of Mom’s).

But I am getting ahead of myself.

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March 23, 2016

Lalkar (1972)

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The film’s title is actually Lalkar (The Challenge) but I never did figure out what the Challenge was, other than getting through the Comic Side Plot interruptions and tepid romantic interludes which kept intruding on the otherwise fun espionage plot. Rajendra Kumar and Mala Sinha get top billing, so I was hoping to collect some Nahiiin Face additions for the Gallery but they were fairly restrained. They are supported by a stellar cast of character actors led by the inestimable Shyam Kumar as the eye-patch wearing Japanese villain, Dharmendra at his peak, saucy Kum Kum, some really special special effects, and a host of small details that made it eminently watchable.

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February 29, 2016

Alibaba (1977)

alibaba1977Even with subtitles, I probably would have fast-forwarded through vast stretches of this film; without them I spent much of my time bewildered by the plot and bored by its meandering. I might not have bothered to write it up either except for there’s an absolute dearth of material about it out there, and it does have some very redeeming qualities. It seems to have had a decent budget: there are a lot of well-known character and comic actors; the costumes and sets are lush and colorful; Helen and Laxmi Chhaya each have dances. I suspect though I can’t confirm that none of the money lavished on it went to a script writer, however. Mohammed Hussain is a director whose name I am always happy to see in the credits, but he might have been rather worn out or bored himself by the time this was made. It lacks his trademark lunacy, and that craziness is sorely missed.

Khair. Enough quibbling, let’s talk about the good stuff.  Continue reading

February 16, 2016

Guest Post: Indurani, a star of the 1930s

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This article is written by my friend and film historian Arunkumar Deshmukh, who previously has shared here his knowledge on actors Parshuram and Bhudo Advani. I am very honored that he asked me to publish this here, and I am thrilled to find out more about the beautiful actress Indurani of 1930s and 40s fame, her family (including her sister, actress Sarojini, and niece Azra—always a favorite of mine), her career and her life. I know you will be too!

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August 28, 2015

(I am not out of my mind, I am a) Rajput (1982)

So proclaims Bhanu Singh (Vinod Khanna) in English at about two hours into this epic, leading me to reflect that if I’ve learned nothing else from Hindi movies, I do know that an unhinged mind and a Rajput heritage are not as mutually exclusive as he thinks. Still, this is possibly my favorite line ever spoken in the history of movies, with the bonus of an unnecessary but hilarious subtitle: “I am not insane, I am a Rajput!”

Actually, the subtitles are one of my favorite things about this movie, and there are a lot of favorite things.

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August 20, 2015

Aurat (1967)

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As many of you know, I tend to avoid films with titles like “Woman” or “Daughter-in-Law” or “Sister” or “Bride” like the plague they generally are. But after my dear friend and devoted Rajesh fan Suhan sent me a link to one of the songs from this, I investigated further and discovered that, besides a very young Rajesh, the cast included a very young Feroz Khan, the lovely Nazima, PRAN! and a host of other stalwarts (Padmini, Lalita Pawar, Leela Chitnis, Mohan Chhoti, OP Ralhan, Baby Rani—OH Baby Rani. How I love/hate you). I figured with these people and the lovely music by Ravi maybe I could survive the Red Mist that I would likely be afflicted with, and I am so glad I took the chance.

I found it unexpectedly sweet and funny, and if the story went a bit overboard in places…well, such is life. Plus, no Red Mist at all! Or hardly at all. While it is certainly true that Padmini sacrifices early and often, her actions make sense and she is no weeping helpless pushover.

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