Posts tagged ‘JBH Wadia’

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!

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February 1, 2011

Tasveer (1966)

With subtitles, this film might have annoyed me, but without them it is a sublimely entertaining experience from Wadia Movietone. Undistracted by the dumb plot and self-pitying dialogues, I reveled in:

  • the hirsute insanity of Nasir Hussain (he is UNABOMBER insane in this film!)
  • the drink-fuelled angsty despair of artist Sajjan
  • Helen’s fashions and scheming eyebrows
  • Feroz Khan pretending he is Shammi! (and he is so FINE, he almost succeeds)
  • Chitalkar Ramchandra’s fantastic songs
  • the plump chipmunk cheeks and flowing Kashmiri outfits (and eyeliner) of Kalpana
  • and the lovely scenic gardens and mountains of Kashmir itself

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January 20, 2011

Madhosh (1951)

Call me shallow, but I have trouble taking a hero who wears more makeup than the heroine and vamp together seriously (except Shammi in Junglee, because he is just so handsome despite the blue eyeshadow and coral lipstick). As much as I adore the Wadias’ output, they seem particularly fond of making heroes look girly: Mahipal in everything, and now Manhar Desai in this, although most of the time Manhar doesn’t look like a girl so much as a really creepy doll. Ironic that they also gave us the fabulously kick-ass Fearless Nadia; I guess perhaps I should rejoice in the gender reversal tactics, but a pancaked hero just doesn’t really work for me.

It doesn’t help at all that the character is a gutless wonder with the logic of a two year old. With a story aspiring to be a Romeo and Juliet style tragedy, an obnoxious immature mime-hero doesn’t provide the necessary viewer investment in the romance to make it work.

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July 16, 2009

Daku (1955)

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I am sure no regular reader of these pages will have any trouble imagining my great joy at receiving this treasure from my new friend Shalini.

Shammi + Wadia Brothers + Babubhai Mistry—it’s like a miracle!

*dies and goes straight to heaven*

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Add in Shashikala as Shammi’s heroine, and the redoubtable Kuldip Kaur (dictionaries should all have her picture next to the word “haughty”), plus a hunchback, a band of gypsies, and royal intrigue!…words fail me. Really. And it doesn’t matter, because I couldn’t tell you honestly what the plot is, only that I love this film. LOVE. Of all the early Shammi films I’ve seen, this is the first one in which he actually pretty much resembles the Shammi of his heyday. He looks like he’s having a ball—and why not? It’s oodles of swashbuckling fun.

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March 17, 2009

Char Dervesh (1964)

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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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November 25, 2008

Reporter Raju (1962)

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Produced by Homi Wadia, and written by JBH Wadia, this film surprised me. It lacks their usual emphasis on stunts and crazy special effects, which I always enjoy; but is a solidly entertaining filmi noir more along the lines of Howrah Bridge and C.I.D. (although not nearly as competently done) than of Aladdin. Dwarka Khosla (any relation to Raj?) directed, and the plot is interesting (in spite of the many holes), with good performances and—best of all—spectacular music.

Feroz Khan stars in one of his first roles; as Todd pointed out in a comment elsewhere, he seems to have started off his film career as a poor man’s Shammi Kapoor. If that was his brief from the filmmakers, he certainly lived up to it during the songs at least. I will say that if Shammi and, say, Madhubala or Asha P. had starred, it would have probably taken the film to a whole other level; but as it is Feroz and Chitra deliver consistently if not spectactularly. 

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January 28, 2008

Fearless Nadia

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In India—to my great excitement!—I got to meet Vinci Wadia, the son of JBH Wadia and nephew of Homi Wadia. JBH and Homi Wadia are the brothers who founded the Wadia Movietone studio in the 1930’s, and launched the career of Fearless Nadia the stunt queen. Homi Wadia also eventually married Nadia in 1961. Vinci Wadia spent a couple of hours with me talking about films, life, and Nadia, and generally charming my socks off (as a boy he met Frank Capra on Capra’s visit to Bombay!).

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