Archive for March, 2009

March 21, 2009

A Memsaab in India

memsahib

I won’t be watching many—or writing about any—films over the next few weeks. I’ll be traveling around in India with my friend Suhan, although hopefully nobody will have to carry me.

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March 20, 2009

Waqt (1965)

waqt_shashi

Beth and I rewatched this the other night in honor of her Shashi Week 2009 (everyone should have his or her own week, I think, at least once a year). To be honest, Beth rewatched it; I thought I had seen it before, but if so all memory of it had been crowded out by something else—Dara Singh trivia maybe, who knows? I can’t see how I wouldn’t remember it though. It’s a really really good movie.

To use Beth’s turn of phrase, it is completely proto-masala in that it has a family separated by circumstance and all the attendant near-misses, filmi irony, etc. along with fabulous sixties (and occasionally fifties) style. The screenplay choreographs the events as smoothly as the film’s title would imply; and what a cast! Balraj Sahni, Achala Sachdev, Raaj Kumar, Sunil Dutt, Shashi Kapoor, Sharmila Tagore, Sadhana, Shashikala, Madan Puri. Wah! At least I retained memory of the songs, since they are composed by one of my favorite (underrated) music directors, Ravi, with lyrics by Sahir; they are just gorgeous.

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March 17, 2009

Char Dervesh (1964)

char_dervesh

When a film’s credits list Homi Wadia as director and producer; JBH Wadia as screenplay writer; John Cawas (Nadia’s frequent co-star) as assistant director; Babubhai Mistry as art director; and a cast which includes Feroz Khan, Kumari Naaz, and Dog Romer—I am guaranteed to love it. When Todd reviewed it over at D4k I felt actual despair at not having it myself. Luckily I have since fixed that, and this weekend was able to wallow in the sumptuous, colorful, cracktastic goodness that is Char Dervesh.

Feroz looks like he is about 18 years old, and he is faced with seemingly insurmountable obstacles: a two-headed monster, a lecherous sorcerer, greedy brothers and a lazy genie (with full support from the Genie’s Union), among others. He is aided by the love of two beautiful princesses, a diminutive sidekick and his clever canine in a rollicking, humorous Arabian Nights tale with really lovely songs by GS Kohli throughout.

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March 12, 2009

Vaasna (1968)

vaasna

This film’s stern message is pretty much summed up in my “Effects of Alcohol” poster, although the poster is more efficient in delivering it. But the poster does not have Raaj Kumar and his gravelly voice, Padmini emoting as a put-upon wife and mother, a Comic Side Plot (Laxmi Chhaya being romanced by Rajendranath), lovely songs by Chitragupta with lyrics by Sahir Ludhianvi, Memsaab’s favorite victim Biswajeet, or—most importantly—a Helen dance.

In short: if you have a few hours to spend being bashed over the head with examples of the ruination alcohol will bring to you and your melodramatic loved ones, the film offers some worthy extras. If you are pressed for time, just read the poster.

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March 10, 2009

Forgiveness

vinod

I forgive you, Vinod.

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March 9, 2009

Are you a Shammi Kapoor fan?

The Institute for Near Eastern and African Studies (INEAS) is producing a documentary film called “Professor Shammi & Lady Asha.” The Insititute’s Founding Director, with whom I’ve become acquainted (see her interviews with Shammi here and here), is directing this film about him and Asha Parekh, and is looking for volunteers to participate.

She has also met Asha, and you can read accounts of her travels in India on her blog here

If you love Shammi (or Asha, or both!), and are interested in talking to her you can leave a comment here or send her an email: INEAS at aol dot com. Some volunteers will participate in a discussion that will be incorporated in the film. Please respond to INEAS by March 16.

March 7, 2009

Jawan Mohabbat (1971)

jm_dvdWhenever a “new” old Shammi film finally appears (with subtitles) on DVD there is much joy and celebration in the Memsaab household, tail-wagging (Gemma) and jumping up and down (me) and so on. If Asha Parekh is his co-star along with Pran, the celebration is even more prolonged. Sadly, there is no Helen; and despite her looming presence on the DVD cover (and in the cast list) no Mumtaz either, but these are minor issues in the face of heretofore unseen Shammi. Shammi, Shammi, Shammi!

And happily, the first half of this film is quintessential early sixties Shammi-style frothy fun, as he bombards a reluctant and feisty Asha with his mischievous charm and romantic songs. But then everything turns suddenly dark, with death and blackmail looming large, and levels of gloom, self-pity and self-sacrifice rarely seen even by the most devoted Hindi cinema fan (me again). If you don’t mind a little movie multiple personality disorder, then you can probably tolerate it. If you prefer a logical narrative without completely over-the-top dramatics…then you probably aren’t reading this anyway.

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March 5, 2009

It’s always good to have backup

memsaab_title

If I didn’t already have a theme song, this could fill the gap.

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March 4, 2009

Mere Mehboob (1963)

mere_mehboob

This is one of the most romantic films I’ve ever seen, with absolutely sublime music by Naushad. It’s a Muslim social drama set in Lucknow, with all the attendant grace and beauty you would expect. Elaborate sets and costumes are de rigueur! Love blooms for Sadhana and Rajendra Kumar, and there is also a lovely romance between the so handsome Ashok Kumar and pretty Nimmi. Obstacles and misunderstandings abound, seasoned with (mostly) funny-man Johnny Walker’s antics, and made compelling by the people and relationships you can’t help but root for—this is my favorite kind of movie. Even the fairly poor condition of the color print only adds to the old-fashioned and elegant ambiance of it all.

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March 2, 2009

Dus Lakh (1966)

dus_lakh

I usually approach comedies with some trepidation: humor doesn’t always translate well (literally or figuratively), and slapstick wears me down after a while. However, my Sanjay Khan experience has been sadly lacking and this film also offers up Pran and Helen—and Kashmir!—which I can never resist. And lucky me! Dus Lakh turned out to be a lot of fun. It’s an ensemble film which mostly revolves around Om Prakash, Pran and Manorama; the Sanjay-Babita (in her debut) jodi is almost a side plot. The trio at the center are hilarious, though, and it’s also chock-full of excellent songs by one of my favorites, Ravi. Solid support from Helen, Ramesh Deo (who has way more charisma than Sanjay Khan), Seema Deo and Brahmchari add to the delight.

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