Posts tagged ‘Manmohan Desai’

November 9, 2010

Chacha Bhatija (1977)

Regular readers here know that by and large I adore Manmohan Desai and his films and can mostly forgive him for anything except Ganga Jamuna Saraswati. It has long been my great sorrow that two of his movies, Shararat and this one, are not available with subtitles. Manmohan Desai’s complicated plotting has always seemed daunting without them and though I have had both films for a long time I never quite had the courage to watch them. So imagine my great joy when I finally sat down with this one and (despite no doubt missing many nuances) could actually follow what was going on. There is a lot going on!

As is usual for him, he sets up the many characters and plot threads masterfully. Creating a web of relationships torn apart by misunderstandings and loss, he carries us along breathlessly rooting for our protagonists to *just stop already* missing each other by mere inches and find their way back to the lives they should be leading. As is also usual for him, the last 45 minutes or so go completely and a tad disappointingly off the rails into Crazy-land, taking the focus away from the pure emotional joy of the reunion(s), but never mind.

I still love this film.

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December 3, 2009

Bluff Master (1963)

For all the Manmohan Desai and Shammi films I’ve written up, it’s kind of criminal that I’m only now getting to one of their collaborations. Better late than never, right? And this is a much better film than their second venture together, Budtameez (1966). In fact, this is a film to which Shammi brought his acting “A” game. He is just great in it, giving a realistic and three-dimensional portrayal of a slick and charming con man who has some hard lessons to learn. Saira Banu is his love interest, and although she’s not my favorite, she is lovely to look at here and, as with Junglee, a good foil for Shammi. Mr Desai himself shows little sign of the unrestrained lunacy he was to bring to cinema in the 70s, and has directed a movie with brisk pacing, interesting characters and an entertaining—if predictable—story. The songs, by Kalyanji Anandji with the able assistance of Laxmikant Pyarelal, are just fabulous too.

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May 11, 2009

Gangaa Jamuna Saraswathi (1988)

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I sometimes think of Manmohan Desai’s films as being like a rodeo saddle bronc ride: as they erupt from the gate, the rider (i.e. director) is in control of the horse (i.e. story), and excitement builds until the rider is either tossed off or jumps off after his 8 seconds are up. Either way it ends with an out-of-control animal loose in the arena and the cowboy sprawled in the dust. In Gangaa Jamuna Saraswathi the rider is tossed off about halfway through his 8 seconds. Up to that point, the movie entertains with its twists and turns and stunning visuals; but the second half goes haywire until it tires itself out and limps to its conclusion. Too bad! because it had real potential.

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February 5, 2009

Desh Premee (1982)

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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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January 25, 2009

Bhai Ho To Aisa (1972)

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Manmohan Desai! How I adore you. And this sort-of-medieval swashbuckler with snake gods, sword-fights, dacoit Ranjeet, Bela Bose as a greedy courtesan, and Jeetendra and Shatrughan Sinha as brothers on opposite sides of that pesky line between good and evil has not changed my mind one little bit. The setting is gorgeous too, as the movie was shot on location at the spectactular Laxmi Vilas Palace belonging to the Maharajah of Baroda. It’s much less loony than the film it vaguely reminded me of (Dharam-Veer); I guess, my dear Manmohan, you hadn’t quite reached your full masala stride yet. Still, it’s an entertainer in your trademark style, with lots of action and well-drawn characters.

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December 11, 2008

Raampur Ka Lakshman (1972)

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My latest Manmohan Desai kick (triggered by the insanity of Mard) continues with this film, and it’s oodles of fun too although not nearly as unpredictable. I didn’t even mind the innocent rustic Raj Kapoor-type character, mostly because it was enacted by his son Randhir, who is much more believable in the role (not sure if that’s really a compliment or not, but I mean it as one). Rekha and her sarees and hairdos were spectacular, and Shatrughan Sinha had plenty of style—and youth—on his side as well. Ranjeet and Padma Khanna (and Faryal) also made brief but gorgeous appearances, and the plot contained plenty of separated family members and coincidences.

So: lots of eye candy and a fast-paced action-packed story equals solid Desai-style entertainment, which is only enhanced by RD Burman’s lovely songs! Plus, removable snake tattooes!

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December 9, 2008

Movie Mahal: Manmohan Desai

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My friend Asli Jat has done it again! He has sent me this episode of a 1987 series aired on Channel 4 in the UK called Movie Mahal (produced and directed by Nasreen Munni Kabir) and what a treat it is! It’s all about the “Miracle Man” Manmohan Desai—one of my favorite filmmakers, as anybody who’s spent any time here probably knows. He is interviewed, as is Amitabh Bachchan, and the interviews are interspersed with song clips from many of his films. I thought I’d put together a post with audio clips and screen shots since people enjoyed that format for the Bombay Superstar documentary so much. Manmohan Desai is a great deal of fun to listen to; he’s as intense and enthusiastic about his work as you could ever hope for! He calls himself a “dream merchant”—and breaks into song every now and again as well.

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December 2, 2008

Mard (1985)

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I sometimes have very vivid and detailed but thoroughly crazy dreams; I wake up and think: “What on earth?” and worry for a minute that there’s something wrong with me, then go about my day and forget about it. Now I know that Manmohan Desai had those kinds of dreams too, except that in the case of at least one of them, he woke up and thought: “That should be a movie!” And so he made Mard.

It’s a trip through a demented sort of Disneyland, populated with characters from about a hundred different movie genres and policed by animals who are smarter than all the people around them combined. If you surrender yourself to the journey (and the film demands that you do) there’s a kind of lyricism and rhythm about it that’s hypnotic: it’s impossible to look away, but there’s an emotional detachment about it as well. You are just a spectator—so no worries!—but kya baat hai.

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October 31, 2008

Kismat (1968)

Here is a 1968 James Bond-meets-Chitty Chitty Bang Bang cheesefest from the Master of Masala himself, Manmohan Desai. While I haven’t seen all his films, I’ve seen most of them, and this is the first one that’s been devoid of any message (well, except: “betraying your country is wrong”). There’s no religious symbolism, or paeans to the poor and downtrodden, not even a single tearful Ma; just a villain named Scorpion, an unwitting hero, his beloved, his friend, his friend’s clever car, and some microdots hidden in a guitar. Sounds good, right? Wrong. Better editing (and possibly a higher kitsch budget) could have made it entertaining; but as it is, it’s an unfocused, meandering, silly film.

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October 6, 2008

Coolie (1983)

Somewhere on the world wide web it says: “Coolie was the biggest grocer of 1983!” Heh heh. That is probably due to the fact that its star Amitabh Bachchan was seriously injured on the sets and almost died—everyone knows that story by now. Many people write the film off now as the same old hackneyed Manmohan Desai story with an aging Big B who was no longer hero material, but I really liked it. Sure, it has now-familiar Desai themes, and it is predictable. Predictably good!!!

Plus, this film is a little less crazed than some of his others. It sticks mostly with the main story, weaving in the side plots more neatly than usual. It’s also a bit lighter on the religious symbolism (most of the characters are Muslim, and secularism is waved at only in passing) and on the usual heavy-handed preaching and long-winded speeches.

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