I think this film was subtitled by someone with narcolepsy who kept suddenly falling asleep and upon awakening would simply continue working without going back to see what he had missed. Only about a third to half of the dialogue is subtitled, so I am not sure if my finding the plot difficult to follow was my fault, the narcoleptic subtitler’s fault, or the filmmaker’s fault. In any case, despite this handicap I found this highly entertaining. First of all, the Shankar Jaikishan songs are beautiful (although much of the background music is from Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf—which is not a bad thing); secondly, it’s one of Nutan’s first films and she is lovely; and her hero is Nasir Khan (Dilip Kumar’s brother) in the first leading role I have seen him in. It also succeeds pretty well as an atmospheric mystery-suspense-thriller (it was given an “A” certificate by the censors).
I have covered her contemporaries (and frequent colleagues) Helen and Laxmi Chhaya; now it is beautiful Bela’s turn! Many of my favorite Bela musical moments are not part of an actual film song. CID 909, a film that makes Excellent Use of Bela, has a perfect example of that in a scene where she is teaching a dance class. Cha Cha Cha is another—she and Helen dance together in several scenes (one, two—can you spot a very young Mac Mohan grooving along?) but not to an actual song included in the movie’s official soundtrack. Those are often some of the best moments in her films, although she is no slouch at item numbers either. She clearly just loves to be moving and has a wonderfully natural sense of rhythm. Her beauty is exotic: high cheekbones to die for, slanting eyes and full lips, plus a figure to kill for make her unforgettable (she sometimes reminds me of Sophia Loren).
There is a lot to appreciate in this Bimal Roy production (Moni Bhattacharjee directs), but for me anyway not a lot to LOVE. It is meticulously crafted; I enjoyed the settings and portrayal of life in small-town India, but everything is so picture-postcard perfect that it began to get on my nerves (I like a bit of “messy”). Even the war scenes in the second half feel far too carefully arranged. In the long run, it somehow lacks the heart to really be a classic although it certainly looks like one; but it’s more a coffee-table book of pretty photographs than an engrossing movie. It didn’t help that the painstaking care taken over the characterizations, photography, songs and script was all in service of a complete downer of a plot! But I didn’t mind the gloomy story as much as I missed that intangible sense of life—it just wasn’t there.
About the only thing this dreadful movie has going for it is the Bizarro World subtitles—subtitles so strange but enthusiastic that I pictured a crowd of manic little elves shouting and arguing about the best word or phrase to use, none of which probably made any sense, let alone the one they finally settled upon. But I thank Bhagwan above for the weird subs, because there was not much else to like.
I confess that I have never shared the fervent Rishi love that so many of my fellow Hindi film lovers do, although I do pretty much adore Noughties Rishi who has stolen the show in films like Hum Tum, Luck By Chance and Chintuji. He stars here with his real-life lady love Neetu Singh (whom I DO totally share the appreciation for usually) and my recent acquaintance Zahira, with Pran as his military father figure Major Sharma. The story is an exercise in dysfunctional parenting with lots of overacting (Roopesh Kumar I am looking at YOU) and that sacrificial-lamb theme that I so despise, although at least this time it’s mostly the men who wallow in stupid pointless suffering: equal opportunity martyrdom is the order of the day.
As I find the time to watch a few films (I have been going through some serious withdrawal!) and the energy to write them up, please visit Nivedita Ramakrishnan’s blog at Passion For Cinema, in particular her recent write up of the 1933 English-language film Karma with Devika Rani and her husband Himansu Rai (the only film apparently in which they co-starred—with a steamy kiss!—and his last as an actor). She has uploaded a couple of videos from the film, my favorite being the first one where Himansu discusses the whereabouts of his lady love (hiding nearby) with a squirrel (I’m planning to show it to Gemma)! Her YouTube channel is one of my favorites too.
Lovers of antique Hindi cinema zindabad!!!
For the next week or so I am traveling not only over distances, but through time. As many of you know, I grew up in southern Africa, in what was then Rhodesia, now called Zimbabwe. When I started at Belvedere School in Salisbury (Harare) in early 1972, my family had just moved into our fourth home in the span of two years—homes that were in four different places on two different continents. We had also lived mostly out in the bush and my mother had taught me and my brother at home. So with all the moving, not having gone to school with other kids much, and my painful (okay, neurotic) shyness, it was not an easy time for me. When a cheerful, outgoing, sports-loving classmate named Jillian befriended me I was both astonished and thrilled. Jill and I hung out at each other’s houses for hours on end talking and giggling. She was the first true friend I ever had, and her friendship brought me out of my shell a bit and helped me to find the confidence to make friends with other classmates as well.
Who would have ever thought that B. Subhash—maker of such spectacularly trashy fare as Disco Dancer, Kasam Paida Karne Wale Ki, Dance Dance, and on and on—and Aamir Khan—now justifiably renowned for his perfectionism and serious approach to filmmaking—ever teamed up to make a film? Well, probably a lot of you guys did know that, but it was a bit of a shock to me.
Of course, I could not resist the lure of such a clash of sensibilities, especially since Aamir is paired with Juhi Chawla, with whom he always had great chemistry. So how did it go?
I watched this film years ago as part of my early obsession with Helen, and didn’t fully appreciate then how very unusual it is for its time. It must be one of the earlier examples of the 1970s resurgence into “parallel” cinema and hard-hitting social commentary directed at the country’s youth. As you may have guessed from the title, the story revolves around a woman named Kamini (Zahira) who has been forced into a life of “high-class” prostitution by a society which offers few choices to a girl—on her own in the world, trying to support herself—who is raped by her wealthy employer. I would assume that in 1974 India it was considered (and probably criticized for being) “titillating” but to my western eyes thirty-six years later it is compellingly and realistically tawdry and sad, and an excellent attempt to illuminate the injustice inherent in a woman being made to pay an ongoing price for her own victimization. It is a film that has stuck in my memory—and revisiting it for this blog is long overdue (it’s not a movie I want to see over and over again, though: it is pretty grim).