Mumtaz simply cannot be contained in a list of ten songs only: she had the good fortune to work in an era—and in films—with such great music, that I just find it impossible. Not only that, but because she was often the heroine (first mostly in so-called B-movies of the sixties, then as an A-list star in the seventies) she usually had three or four songs per film, unlike women who were confined mostly to dances or small supporting roles.
Manmohan Desai has been often imitated but rarely matched in his ability to pull heartstrings while conveying indelible (if occasionally incoherent) messages. What a lovely surprise to find a hitherto unknown (to me anyway) film that at least engages the heart in much the same way, if not the soul. There are plot holes and loose threads and I cannot in all conscience call it a good film; but I was quickly engaged by a story whose loony details and characters are easy to grow fond of. Laxmikant Pyarelal provided some nice tunes for it too, and if the message is simplistic—“Love your mother, do an honest day’s work, and don’t sell out your country”—at least it makes good sense!
Here, daughter Shilpi reveals the real man behind the villains Tarun Bose played so convincingly!
The soft-hearted villain: that is what I call dad, soft-hearted being the literal translation of the Hindi ‘Naram Dil’.
He was a very affectionate man; he bestowed fatherly affection on everybody without discrimination. I once asked him, “What kind of role do you like playing the most?” “The villain; a villain’s role provides you with a greater scope to perform”, he said. But given his nature, it was not surprising that although he loved playing the villain, he hated roughing up his female co-stars or any of the child actors.
Way back when I wrote my “ten favorite qawwalis” post, someone pointed me to the one from this film (only available on vcd at the time) which features Shammi and Shashi Kapoor plus Bhagwan, Om Prakash, Kumkum and Shyama in guest appearances. So when the movie finally appeared on a dvd with subtitles I jumped at it. Of course one should perhaps be wary when the dvd cover expends much of its available space advertising the “Star Studded Qawwali” but never mind. I cannot resist Shammi.
Though this is only available (to my knowledge) without subtitles, I figured since my current blog header features images of Shashi and Bindu from the film I ought to watch it. And it’s pretty entertaining, maybe even more so if you don’t know what’s going on. I don’t need subtitles to know that there is a lot of patriotic fervor and anti-smuggling-corruption-greed preaching in the story, but there are lots of subplots woven together too and without subtitles I have no idea if the subsequent story fabric is a sturdy khadi or fraying and full of large holes; I don’t care, either. Shashi is beginning to show his age (well, so am I) but he is still worthy eye-candy (see above), and Rekha is at her delightfully plump and imperious best. A huge cast of character actors—many of whom I need help identifying—are decked out in dizzying full-on seventies fashions, bad wigs, and huge sideburns, all in aesthetic competition with the beautiful Rajasthan desert.
I have covered her contemporaries (and frequent colleagues) Helen and Laxmi Chhaya; now it is beautiful Bela’s turn! Many of my favorite Bela musical moments are not part of an actual film song. CID 909, a film that makes Excellent Use of Bela, has a perfect example of that in a scene where she is teaching a dance class. Cha Cha Cha is another—she and Helen dance together in several scenes (one, two—can you spot a very young Mac Mohan grooving along?) but not to an actual song included in the movie’s official soundtrack. Those are often some of the best moments in her films, although she is no slouch at item numbers either. She clearly just loves to be moving and has a wonderfully natural sense of rhythm. Her beauty is exotic: high cheekbones to die for, slanting eyes and full lips, plus a figure to kill for make her unforgettable (she sometimes reminds me of Sophia Loren).
(Image above is the back cover.)
Here are four more goodies from the “Best of” Stardust issue. The first is an expose (in her own words) of Nutan’s war with her mother Shobhana Samarth over money, and her wrath with Sanjeev Kumar when she discovers that he is behind the persistent rumors of her affair with him (she gives him a tight slap! Go girl!). Then we have an interesting short article speculating on the “Mangeshkar Monopoly” and whether Lata and Asha are sabotaging the careers of other singers. In the third, Rajesh Khanna and Anju Mahendru air their relationship dirty laundry (bit-ter!); and finally, Shashi Kapoor’s secretary accuses him of all sorts of shenanigans and loyal wife Jennifer leaps to his defense.
I know this is not an Indian film! But it stars Shashi Kapoor alongside the lovely Hayley Mills and the legendary Trevor Howard. I have been looking for it forever, and finally—finally!—got my grubby little paws on a copy. Hayley Mills made some of my favorite childhood movies: The Parent Trap, That Darn Cat! and Pollyanna, all for Disney, and then moved on to making films like this one in an effort to shake up her good-girl image. So this is an excellent blend of my childhood movie favorites and my relatively new obsession with Hindi cinema.
This one (also called Pretty Polly) is based on a story by Noel Coward, and while it meanders a bit, there is plenty of good fun in it. It is set in swinging mid-1960s Singapore, with riotously colorful characters, wonderfully witty dialogues, and a sublime soundtrack. There is a lot of British “colonial” ambience if you like that sort of thing, which I do (I can’t help myself, sorry); and the transformation of Polly over the course of two days and two nights in the company of handsome wheeler-dealer Amaz is both hilarious and touching.
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.
I normally would not bother writing about this film since Beth and the PPCC have already covered it in their usual stellar and thorough fashion. But they mostly liked this, and I hated it. Part of the reason is that it was *almost* good. It should have been, could have been! It had a great cast and good songs! But even the goodness of Shashi+Amitabh is not adequate compensation for being smashed over the head with a sermon that I disagree with, especially when it’s done largely to compensate for the lack of a real script (by Salim-Javed, no less). “Clutch your [Bible, Quran, Gita, other] and trust in your blind faith!” it trumpets. Just the kind of pablum that a world overrun with corruption, greed and poverty needs, right?