Posts tagged ‘Jagdish Raj’

August 31, 2011

Jalte Badan (1973)

I have seen Kiran Kumar as a hero in a few films now and loved him in every single one. He has a sweetness about him, slightly clueless but kind at heart, which I find really appealing. He might not carry off “Angry Young Man” roles, but he is great in romantic and comedy films. This particular movie only falls under the comedy genre accidentally, but the role of a befuddled hayseed led astray by sophisticated evildoers is just perfect for Jeevan’s beta.

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August 6, 2011

Dhund (1973)

My mother, bless her, likes to watch Indian movies with me. Dhund has been on my short list to watch for some time now, and given our mutual love of mysteries it seemed a good pick—and so it was! We both really enjoyed it, and were mystified as to how it would end right up to the end. Based on an Agatha Christie play called “The Unexpected Guest”, it’s an atmospheric ensemble piece where everyone involved gets to shine (as much as the pervading fog will allow). Besides the main whodunit plot, there is also a charming and unusual effort to portray the police as competent and not-corrupt, one of whom is Madan Puri of all people.

Plus: a new/old mystery hotel!

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September 22, 2010

36 Ghante (1974)

By the end of this film I felt really sorry for anyone who might have been dependent on the Indian police—as portrayed here—for any kind of aid in 1974. I’m surprised that the censor board didn’t demand an upfront apology from the producers. I am almost positive that the intent was exactly opposite, too, but as the film hurtles forward, the plot increasingly unravels with sad results. It’s too bad, because otherwise it is an unusual story (apparently a remake of The Desperate Hours starring Humphrey Bogart) with a lot going for it: a psychological drama about a family of four held hostage for 36 hours (ghante) by three increasingly desperate bank robbers on the run.

36 Ghante comes *this close* to being a really good film, but is sabotaged by inattention to some important details. (Here’s my disclaimer: as with all Hindi cinema, it could be that poor editing after the fact—by the dvd manufacturer for instance—is partially responsible for the story problems, but I will probably never know for sure.)

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July 8, 2010

Chingari (1971)

Apparently this film only released in 1989, but it was made in 1971 and clearly looks it so that’s what I’m going with. It’s a pretty entertaining potboiler, but even if it weren’t there is one compelling reason to see it: a scene with uber-villain Tiwari in a bright pink and white lace negligee admitting that he gets his kicks from cross-dressing. Yes, really. And it has nothing to do with the plot, either. The story itself is in service to a criminal reform message which probably didn’t play as well in the late eighties as it might have in the early seventies. It is weak in places, but there is a plethora of lovely songs (by Ravi, with lyrics by Sahir) and an assortment of fine character actors with lashings of clever humor (no annoying CSP!). Leena¬†Chandavarkar, a feisty heroine I always love, is paired with Sanjay Khan and backed by Pran and Rehman as lifelong foes on either side of the law.

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April 6, 2010

Funtoosh (1956)

At a run-time of just over 1 hour and 45 minutes, significant portions of this film have been edited out (this is also obvious as you watch). It may have once been a good story, but the missing scenes rendered it a bit choppy (not as bad as Jaal, but not good either). It also felt to me like the filmmakers (Chetan and Dev Anand, director and producer respectively) thought they had something of great portent to say, but the messages sprinkled about struck me as childish and trite rather than very meaningful. And I found the portrayal of mentally ill people more than a little irritating. The mental institution in which we meet Funtoosh is a cartoon insane asylum, with inmates cackling uncontrollably and saluting each other; and the protagonist Funtoosh himself is a caricature and a badly drawn one at that. I think he is supposed to represent the “divine fool”—but he is mostly just a fool.

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February 4, 2010

Bhoot Bungla (1966)

This Mehmood movie is a total hoot. I can’t believe I hadn’t seen it before, although I have seen all the songs and the songs really are the film. They dominate a story which deftly blends horror and comedy, managing to be suspenseful and funny—not a combination I’d think would be easy to balance. It doesn’t always work smoothly, but is so much fun that it doesn’t matter.

I sometimes complain about the “entirely too much of Mehmood” phenomenon that blights a lot of mid-sixties Hindi cinema, but here he seems mostly content to be part of a great ensemble cast that includes the maestro behind the fabulous music, Panchamda himself. Possibly it helps that he directed as well, which may have kept him too busy to hog center stage: he clearly worked very hard on crafting this! The romance with heroine Tanuja is tepid, but again it doesn’t matter: romance is not the point. Plus she is lovely as usual, and such a good actress that it’s always a treat to see her.

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September 22, 2009

Mehboob Ki Mehndi (1971)

mehboobkimehndi

It’s widely understood that beautiful people get a pass on many things that those less favored in the looks department do not. And so it is with films too. Does it have an intelligent, spell-binding and socially relevant plot? It does not. But it is GOR-geous. Rajesh Khanna is beautiful, Leena Chandavarkar is beautiful, the costumes, the sets, the color…my god, the color! Truly only Indians and possibly the color-blind would think to combine the shades in the screen cap above (plum, scarlet and coral?) but it is spectacular. In an international beauty pageant of cinema, Muslim socials—and this one in particular—would always be a winner.

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February 5, 2009

Desh Premee (1982)

desh-premee

I would be hard-pressed to choose my favorite Manmohan Desai film were I ever forced to. But Desh Premee would be near the top of the list. I loved this film; once again the great director has given us a sprawling and complex story encompassing themes of compassion, unity, justice, patriotism, faith and love. He uses leprosy both as a metaphor for the corruption eating away at his country, and as a message of non-exclusion, and the unwavering courage and integrity of Masterji both destroys his happiness and saves his loved ones at the end. There are many moments of humor and silliness, of course, but the movie’s overall tone is quite serious as compared to some of his other work.

I think I’ve finally put my finger on why I love Desai’s films so much. Like me he has a cynic’s view of the world; and also like me, a romantic soul underlying that cynicism. That juxtaposition between often harsh reality and what we wish were real instead is present in all his work, and he always lets the “wishing” side win. Even when the ending is somewhat sad (like¬†Roti) we are still left with a sense of hope. Plus, his imagery and plots are just so FAB.

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September 18, 2008

Jhuk Gaya Aasman (1968)

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.

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