While reading Shilpi’s first post about her father Tarun Bose I realized that I had never yet seen Kohraa, a remake of Daphne Du Maurier’s “Rebecca.” One of the benefits of my poor memory is that although I’ve read the book and seen the Hollywood film version, I couldn’t really remember how it all ended. This helped keep me attentive, although honestly this version too is so well done that I would have been anyway. From the opening scene until the screen went black at the end, I was positively riveted. It’s a faithful (if uncredited) adaptation of a story well-suited for an Indian setting. The wealthy Maxim de Winter is easily transformed into Raja Amit Singh (Biswajeet even sports Laurence Olivier’s pencil-thin mouche) and his mansion Manderley into a sprawling seaside haveli full of wind-swept rooms. Waheeda Rehman is absolutely perfect as the timid orphaned bride who finds herself up against a formidable enemy in housekeeper Dai Maa (Lalita Pawar at her awesome best!).
Is this film famous and I the only person who was unaware of it until now? Amazing performances and great direction from Hrishikesh Mukherjee place it far above the usual, and the story is told with such exquisite economy of effort that it flies along, yet you feel at the end as if you have known and loved the characters for an entire lifetime. David and Jayant play Bahadur and Shera respectively—a pair of goondas strongly reminiscent of Munna and Circuit with their warm-hearted, funny and sometimes misguided largesse—who befriend an older woman (Lalita Pawar) whose life has been one of hardship and toil, but whose spirit has remained strong and pure. Add a very young and pretty Tanuja to the mix, along with Salil Chowdhury’s sparkling songs (including a hilarious duet between Tanuja and a stray dog!) and the result is a heartwarming and comic tour de force.
Oh, how I loved this film. It is an absolutely riveting and heartwrenching story, with fine performances and stunningly beautiful songs (Roshan’s last—the film is dedicated to him). The background music is superb too, by Salil Chowdhury; and the black and white cinematography is lush and gorgeous, with richly patterned detail and stunning closeups of the characters. I am running short of superlatives! The message is nothing new (see screenshot above) but the treatment—nuanced, balanced—is unusual.
It is interesting to see actors I am less familiar with, too. Zaheeda, the heroine, is a niece of Nargis and Anwar Hussain (also in this), and she looks so much like Nargis sometimes that it’s startling. And Parikshat Sahni (son of Balraj, whom I just saw as Farhan’s father in 3 Idiots) made his debut with a central role here: such a natural actor, and so handsome too! Tarun Bose, Aruna Irani, Anwar Hussain, Badri Prasad and Mukri add able support as well. But the film really belongs to Sanjeev Kumar as a simple and sweet villager who is transformed by events into a dacoit with a big price on his head.
This is one of my favorite films: I love it unconditionally and without reservation and, needless to say, without a shred of objectivity. I will never forget the joy with which I first watched it, a joy that has never diminished, and the love it gave me for Shammi (also undiminished). Shammi Shammi Shammi! I had seen him in a few other films and liked him okay; but this—this sent me tumbling head over heels, never to recover. His charm and chemistry with Asha Parekh stunned me (and so did she). This is also the first Vijay Anand film I saw, and of course I’ve gone on to love a lot more of his work, too. And can I say any more at this point about my Helen worship? I think not.
This amazing film by Chetan Anand is one of the most unusual movies I’ve ever seen, and maybe the most heart-wrenching. It’s a masterpiece of story-telling; shot largely with a hand-held camera on the streets of Bombay, it follows a 15-month old toddler (Master Bunty—who is so chubby and endearing that he melted even my sticky black heart of non-maternal tar) as he wends his unsteady way in search of his mother, who has died. How Mr. Anand managed to direct a toddler so perfectly I’ll never know (and Bunty gets top billing in the film’s credits, most appropriately)!
It is also Rajesh Khanna’s first or second film, and he is superb, endowing his not entirely likable character with a humanity that makes you root for him, despite his flaws. The film is an indictment on a societal level of the indifference bred by modern urban life, and on a personal level of the wrongs inflicted by selfishness and pride. These points are hammered home by the focus on a little boy who can only say “Mama” and “milk” as he perseveres in his hopeless search.
I watched a lot of films early on because they were on lists of Hindi film “classics” that one should watch. Some I remember well, some I do not. This is one that I didn’t think I remembered, until I began to watch it again and realized: “Oh this is where I saw that!” Turns out that a lot of my memories from “some movie” are all from this one. I’m hoping that the memories got fragmented because Hindi cinema was all so new to me back then—I was absorbing so many things, many of which I can take for granted now so they don’t distract me. Otherwise, I need to worry about my brain, because this is a great movie. The script and the performances are pure gold. If I had to put it simply I’d say it’s a story about choices, and the things that influence those choices and shape a human being, and it is done with such finesse that I am left speechless (okay, not really; this is a long post, even for me). It is a brilliantly crafted psychological portrait of the damaged Vijay in particular, supported by simply stunning performances from Amitabh Bachchan and Alankar Joshi, who plays Vijay as a boy. There is nothing wasted—not a word, not a look, not a nuance, not a scene.
What a delightful story this is! And so well done too, on every level—direction, writing, acting, cinematography. It’s a tightly plotted comedy, romance, mystery and lost-and-found tale all in one, starring Kishore Kumar and Pran, and a heroine who sticks up for herself (in 1963!). Even Lalita Pawar (how I love her) is smiley and beautiful in it, and the songs by Chitragupta are lovely, too. All in all it’s a treat for anyone who appreciates good solid entertainment—a total winner!
Now and then a film comes along that gives the viewer true insight into the time and place in which it is set. I’m not talking about flowered go-go boots or violently patterned wallpaper here, but about a look at the generation that is passing and the one taking its place; about moving forward and looking back, and setting a course for the future. Most of the tributes to Feroz Khan that I’ve read in the week since his death have mentioned Oonche Log as the movie that established him in his career, and I can certainly see why. He holds his own with ease opposite two established and charismatic actors, Ashok Kumar and Raaj Kumar, in a complex and layered story requiring skillful, nuanced performances (there are very few characters).
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.