Archive for ‘Hindi film history’

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.

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!

July 22, 2015

Happy Birthday to Edwina!

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Finally, someone has done what really needed to be done: written a book about my talented and gorgeous Indian mother Edwina and her background dancer friends, who appeared in pretty much every film from the 50s throughout the 1960s. She worked with all the greats from that era. Here’s a message from the author, Professor Surjit Singh, an avid film historian whose website I discovered early on as a treasure trove of information.

Dear Edu fans:

As you know today (July 22) is her birthday. You will be pleased to know that on this occasion a biography of Edu has been published. The book is ‘Edwina: An Unsung Bollywood Dancer of the Golden Era’ by Professor Surjit Singh.

For more information, please visit my website.

For buying in US dollars, please visit:

Amazon US

Amazon UK

If buying in Rupees, go to Pothi.com.

Thank you!

Surjit Singh

I have read the book, and he begins with some really interesting information about the history of music and dance in Hindi cinema, and about the Anglo-Indians who worked in the industry from early on. He has included a lot of stories in Edu’s own words, and she as many of you know is very funny indeed. It’s a treat.

Have a very very happy birthday, dearest Edu!

March 19, 2013

Two more Noor Jehan films…

mirza_sahibanThank goodness for Tom, Muz, and Pacifist and the Edu Productions team!

They have just made available two more Noor Jehan films, one a Pakistani film from 1959 called Koel; and 1947’s Mirza Sahiban starring Noor Jehan and Trilok Kapoor (fun to see him in a hero role, na?). Karan Bali over at Upperstall has reviewed Koel (link is included in listing) and although he feels it is a less than stellar movie the songs are worth the price (which by the way is FREE). Pacifist’s opinion of Mirza Sahiban is that it’s a much better film than the later Shammi Kapoor outing by the same name, which is actually not that hard but makes me look forward to seeing it.

Download them from the links on the Edu Productions page, enjoy, and give props to the team for their hard work and generosity!

January 23, 2013

Guest post: Parshuram, a forgotten gem

parshuramMy friend and film encyclopedia Arunkumar Deshmukh contacted me a few days ago with the news that he had met family members of “yesteryears” actor and singer Parshuram. He was offering to write a guest post about this largely forgotten but long-time contributor to Indian cinema, who began his career in 1937, in V. Shantaram’s Duniya Na Maane (and Kunku, the Marathi version) and worked steadily for three more decades plus.

Naturally I jumped at this generosity! A big thank you to the family of Parshuram, and of course to Arunji.

September 3, 2012

Labor of love

It’s Labor Day here in the US and Canada, and let me tell you something: I have really labored for you guys. I recently got my hands on a very fragile and worn copy of Baburao and Sushila Rani Patel’s 1952 book called “Stars of the Indian Screen.” It features 36 actors and actresses, with a short biography of each accompanied by a gorgeous colored plate like the ones above. And though the book is credited as written by Sushila Rani Patel and edited by Baburao, the bios have Baburao’s trademark snark all over them, by which I mean they are awesome.

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).

June 22, 2012

Miss Frontier Mail (1936)

It seems fitting that this is the post to celebrate my five years of blogging! I never dreamed on June 22, 2007 when I created Memsaabstory that it would become such a big part of my life and be the catalyst for so much learning and so many wonderful and rewarding friendships. I never dreamed that people would embrace the insanity that leads me to do things like this and this and this (and this, okay I’m stopping now), and I certainly had no idea how generously people would share their treasures with me. This is one such gift.

Miss Frontier Mail is utterly charming, made with the usual Wadia enthusiasm and attention to loony detail. The “Indian Pearl White” is certainly the focus, but she is more than ably supported by gangsters who balk at being dastardly, a fearsome spy-movie “Boss” precursor and his go-getter female assistant, futuristic gadgets, thrilling fights and chases, a banana-loving buffoon and so much more. It often feels very much like a silent movie, starting off with only music and no dialogue until seven or eight minutes in; title pages are interspersed throughout, the acting is exaggerated, and you can often hear the camera whirring. Like the Frontier Mail train itself, it picks up speed quickly and we’re off on a rollicking good ride as Fearless Nadia battles comic-book villains between dainty sips of tea in her fabulous Art Deco house. It is a literal and figurative rush of trains, motorcars, motorcycles and even an airplane!

May 26, 2012

Kaliya Mardan (1919)

This Dadasaheb Phalke silent film may be the first start-to-finish ADORABLE movie ever made. I in no way mean that condescendingly: I loved every frame of this and was wowed by some of the special effects (the much talked-about battle between young Krishna and the Kaliya serpent at the end particularly). Phalke’s seven-year-old daughter Mandakini plays young Shree Krishna as a hyperactive mischief-maker who gleefully torments the local villagers with the help of his friends, and she is brilliant—when she’s onscreen, you don’t want to look at anybody else. It is also absolutely hilarious in places, worthy company for the likes of Buster Keaton.

April 23, 2012

Kismet (1943)

Oh my.

I love you, Kismet. I can see why, for 32 years until Sholay, you held the record for longest run at the box office. I love your story, I love ten-year-old Mehmood, I love VH Desai (whom Saadat Hasan Manto called “God’s Clown”), I simply adore Ashok Kumar in all his youthful kind-hearted con-man glory. I love your unwed pregnant girl, your runaway son; I even love your songs, which is sometimes hard for me with movies as aged as you are. I can’t wait to see you with subtitles (thanks Raja!) but even without them you are enthralling, you dear old progressive masala template of a film, you.

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