Posts tagged ‘masala goodness’

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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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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December 31, 2008

Dharmatma (1975)

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Ah, Feroz Khan. As a producer and director, you spare nothing! I watched Dharmatma a long time ago and it was time for a rewatch in the wake of the fantabulous Apradh. I remember that I had liked it, but I was bowled over completely the second time around. 

Premnath dominates as the title character: a wealthy and powerful man who believes entirely that the end justifies the means, who has convinced himself that his bad deeds are compensated for by his good ones. Indeed, he is called “Dharmatma” (God Man) by everyone because of those good deeds. Feroz Khan plays his son, a man standing firmly on principles that are completely at odds with his father’s.

Their conflict plays out against a backdrop that includes the gorgeous Afghani landscape, crazy nightclubs (and a dwarf bartender!), opulent mansions, and all the stylish goodness you’d expect from the era (and from Feroz too). The production values are high, the camera work spectacular. Plus: Hema Malini as a gypsy dancer! Danny Denzongpa! Ranjeet and Sudhir in matching outfits! Rekha! Helen! Nadira as a gypsy fortuneteller! Faryal as a sexy nurse! Iftekhar as not a police inspector! And Kalyanji-Anandji’s music doesn’t suck either, especially the background score.

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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 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 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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September 2, 2008

Chor Sipahee (1977)

Ahhhh masala. The very very best filmi masala has at the very very least most of these twenty-one ingredients:

  1. Scenery-chewing
  2. Prodigious use of religious symbolism, preferably encompassing at least The Big Three: Hindu/Muslim/Judeo-Christian
  3. Squishy dil™ (ppcc) (aka “Oh! the humanity!”)
  4. Fabulously mod fashions
  5. Outlandish nonsensically fun plots
  6. At least one weeping mother
  7. Brothers/friends on opposite sides of the law
  8. Incredibly pretty hero(es) and heroine(s)
  9. Disguises, preferably which mock some ethnic or cultural group
  10. At least one child lost at a fair, preferably two who are childhood sweethearts
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August 12, 2008

Paapi (1977)

Filmi Girl inspired me to check out more of OP Ralhan’s films. I already liked Phool Aur Patthar and loved Talash, which I had seen a long time ago. Based on her review I also got Hulchul—an amazingly fun masala-fest which sadly doesn’t play in my computer so…no post here. I admit I didn’t love Paapi as unreservedly as I did Talash and Hulchul. It either got overly long and complicated or I’ve overdosed on this brand of masala lately. Wait, is that even possible?

I did like it though. OP really knows how to tug at your heartstrings, and I love having mine tugged. He also has a great visual aesthetic, hampered though he was by working in the seventies. (I kid! I love the seventies!) Zeenat is gorgeous, with a short crop of hair (but plenty of wigs) and Sanjeev Kumar is his usual sterling self. I always love Sunil Dutt, although he does chew up the scenery, sports a Prince Valiant haircut, and his wardrobe is a blinding eyesore. Add in more OP Ralhan ingredients: strong feminist characters, the debate over punishment vs. compassion in dealing with crime, character actors Tun Tun and Moolchand, and there is plenty to enjoy.

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August 9, 2008

Maha Chor (1976)

I never did figure out if this was an intentional parody of filmi cliches, or if it was just bad. Maybe it was a badly done parody. In any case—it was bad. The story was ridiculous with gaping plot holes, too many suspension-of-disbelief requirements, and loose ends left hanging all over the place. These things alone are not a dealbreaker; but together *shakes head*…I’m not even going to try and do a synopsis.

However, there were some good things about it. This is one reason why I love Hindi movies. You can almost always find something to appreciate!

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June 14, 2008

Tashan (2008)

I just finished watching Tashan, a movie I didn’t really expect much from. A lot has been written about how it’s an homage to the masala films of the 1970s, and it’s often been unfavorably compared to Om Shanti Om—a film that fared much better with critics and audiences alike.

But this is the thing: Tashan has the heart and the soul of a 70s masala film. Ironically, what it lacks is the style of a 70s masala film. The key ingredients for Masala Goodness are in the characters: their emotions, motivations and relationships to one another. In other words, the story! The action is kept relatively simple until the end, when we get a satisfying showdown between the hero and the villain.

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