Carla left a comment here on MemsaabStory early on saying: “Helen is completely sui generis.” (I love learning new phrases, especially clever ones.) Paint It Pink puts Helen in proper perspective also in her blog’s mission statement. I have myself weighed in on the joys of Helen many times before, but I recently decided that I needed to devote some time to her again. I know there are one or two people out there who don’t care for her, but there are also one or two people out there who think Sarah Palin would make a fine VP (or P!). You know who you are, and you can go away from here (well, if it’s just a Helen thing you can stay :-) (sorry but the election is beginning to get on my last good nerve).
Enough said :-(
As you might know, I love Hindi remakes of old Hollywood films. This is a copy of Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941) which has also been remade a few times in Hollywood; the version that I’ve seen is Heaven Can Wait (1978) with Warren Beatty. The subject is perfect for a Hindi film, actually; reincarnation is a no-brainer, and since identical people who aren’t related is a common occurrence, our hero gets put into an identical body. So convenient! I would have liked this more had it starred Shammi and Asha (I know: duh) instead of Rajendra Kumar and Saira Banu (who honestly were just fine); but it’s thoroughly entertaining with lovely songs courtesy of Shankar Jaikishan, and a strong supporting cast of character actors and goofy Rajendranath.
Manmohan Desai directing, Rajesh Khanna in a double role (for which he won the Filmfare Best Actor award) with beautiful Mumtaz opposite, plus Kumari Naaz (one of my favorite actresses), a co-starring dog, and Vinod Khanna! Believe me when I say I jumped through hoops to get my hands on a working DVD of this movie. Shame on you, Shemaroo! *shakes fist in their general direction* [Begin rant: Why do they not check master DVDs before duping them a million times, why? How hard can it be? End rant.] Thank goodness for BEI.
In any case, I DID jump through hoops because…well, read the first sentence again. Was it worth it? Read on!
Sixties charm in a 1971 film! Despite the lack of Shammi (and Pran), this movie embodies just about everything I love about that decade in Hindi cinema. Lovely melodic songs, gorgeous scenery, a plot that stays on course and moves along briskly, Helen in a small part, and a feisty heroine (Asha Parekh, in one of my favorite roles of hers): ah, bliss! The best rainy day watching you can find. Navin Nischol stars alongside Asha, and though he doesn’t set the screen on fire, he is perfect here: an attractive, comfortably solid, gentle-humored guy with a good heart. Comic actor Deven Verma debuted very competently as a director with this movie.
A quick look at more antique cinema! This is the earliest Marathi film I’ve seen (okay, it’s the only Marathi film I’ve seen). It was made in both Hindi and Marathi by V. Shantaram for Prabhat Films and is the first Marathi “talkie.” No subtitles, and I have to say it kind of dragged for me. Mostly the acting was very theatrical (i.e. loud) and the setting very stagey, and there were a lot of tedious songs, badly sung. Here is a synopsis of the plot from imdb:
A big-budget mythological film telling a famous Ramayana tale. The truth-loving Harishchandra (Tembe), king of Ayodhya, is tested when the sage Vishwamitra challenges him to sacrifice his kingdom and offer alms of a thousand coins earned through his own labour. After many hardships, Harishchandra, Taramati (Khote) and their son Rohileshwara (Digambar) earn the money when the king and queen are sold as slaves in the city of Kashi. When the queen’s new owner, Ganganath (Pendharkar), tries to assault her, her son intervenes and is killed. Taramati is accused of the killing and is sentenced to be executed by her husband. The Kashi-Venkateshwara diety intervenes, brings the boy back to life, declares the king to have proved himself and returns him to his throne.
Happy ending, yay!