About

Before he retired, my father was a police officer. This meant being frequently transferred, so our family remained on the move, and I was brought up in places as far apart as Kumarsain and Haflong, Srinagar and Gwalior. In 1985, however, we came to Delhi, and this is where I’ve stayed ever since.

My long stint in Delhi—and my affection for the city and its considerable historical heritage—were directly responsible for my debut novel: a historical detective story called The Englishman’s Cameo. Published by Hachette India, The Englishman’s Cameo was launched in October 2009, with a French edition released in 2010 by Editions Philippe Picquier. The Englishman’s Cameo was well received, and was followed by The Eighth Guest & Other Muzaffar Jang Mysteries (a collection of short stories), and Engraved in Stone (a Muzaffar Jang novel). The fourth book in the series is expected to be released in February 2015.

I’ve been writing short stories for years now, though it wasn’t till 2001 that I summoned up the courage to submit a story to a public forum. This one was a horror story about a haunted office, and it won—to my delight (and I must admit, my surprise)—the Femina Thriller Contest, organised by the women’s magazine Femina, and published in the magazine as Silent Fear. I’ve written a lot of short stories ever since, in varied genres: humour, crime and detective, social issues, even (ahem) romance. Several of my short stories have won awards and competitions, such as the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association’s Short Story Competition in 2003 for the story A Morning Swim; and Oxfordbookstore’s e-Author version 4.0 Competition in 2006, for a collection of 5 shorts. My stories tend to have surprise endings, and more often than not, centre round crime or people being otherwise not too nice. I have a nasty feeling that reflects on me, in some ways… a sobering thought?

To balance the fiction with something else: I also do travel writing, the occasional work of humour, book reviews, essays on various topics I feel strongly about (plagiarism is one).

And I write about old cinema.

This particular site started off being a film blog, a place where I could talk about one of my passions: old films. I’m mad about old films, old music, old just about anything. Dusted Off was, for nearly six years, exclusively devoted to old cinema: it featured reviews of old films, both English and Hindi, generally ranging from the 40’s (the 30’s for Hollywood and British cinema, for which prints are more easily available) through the 60’s; reviews of some international films (again, all pre-70s); and `top ten’ lists, for my ten favourites of any topic I’ve chosen – the most beautiful women in Hindi cinema, ten of my favourite Sahir Ludhianvi songs, whatever.

In 2014, though, I decided to merge Dusted Off with my other site (on which I used to write about other things – Muzaffar Jang, history, my other writings). After all, I reasoned: just about everything I am so fond of seems to be old. Old cinema. A 17th century detective. Historical monuments. So Dusted Off becomes <i>everything</i> dusted off, not just old movies.

Enjoy!

85 thoughts on “About

  1. Love your blog. Keep up the good work, friend. Did you or will you write about ’12 Angry Men’ (Henry Fonda) or ‘The Out Of Towners’ (the original one starring Jack Lemmon) ?? Just a couple favorite picks from two different genre as one is a classic courtroom drama and other is madcap comedy…Thx!!!

  2. Thank you so much! You’ve really made my day with your encouraging comments! :-)

    I haven’t seen either of the two films you’ve recommended, though I’ve been meaning to see Twelve Angry Men ever since a friend reviewed it (and compared it to Ek Ruka Hua Faisla. Will search for it more diligently now – and for The Out of Towners. Thank you for the recommendations!

  3. Hi Human there,

    Dont know how to refer since couldnt find ur name and wont like to use google to do a backsearch on the novel(believe too much off googling will leave me with a dumb mind with big on hard disk but low on CPU). Though have seen many old movies, oh just a minute let me add might, might have seen many old movies but never have was a writer enough to express it effectively in words. So have to thank the one writing this blog And then just couldnt resist google, so thanks for the wonderful expression of thought Madhulika.(ahem i cheated actually found ur name in the copywright info).

    umm am an actor currently active in theater and if everything goes well (it has to since no godfather and too much money— a silly engineer by qualication) would be able to make a living life out of it.

    Hope we could stay in touch while the fact even the mention of an actor(of course unestablished one) is enough to keep most of the people away. But then i had my share of exceptions and believe in the unknown power.

    Regards and Cheers
    Aniel
    newkiddatown@yahoo.com

    • Aniel, thank you for stopping by my blog and leaving a comment – and such a heart-warming comment too! Thanks so much – you really made my day.

      Ah, theatre sounds much like writing/publishing – no godfather, means a lot of hard work and no certainty of success – but then it also means creativity and doing what you like, so (for someone like me, at least) I guess that is compensation to some extent…

      Why should the mention of an actor – established or not – keep people away? Certainly not. All are welcome on my blog, and I’ve made some very good friends just because of this blog. Drop by again!

      • Hi thanks for listening and actually going to the extent of inviting me…..really sorry for being so late in comment actually dropped by before but never knew what to say…….we are in pune now for our next show here…..hope everything goes fine…….any suggestions most welcome
        aniel
        newkiddatown@Yahoo.com

        • Oh, you are sweet to have come back and commented! Thank you, and I hope you’ll keep coming by and checking out the latest stuff happening on this blog (actually quite a bit, over the past few weeks).

  4. I really liked your blog, I came to your blog searching about the film Saathi of Rajendra Kumar who I like the most among Indian actors. The song Mera Pyar bhi tu hai……just awesome. Though I am a journalist I am not able to gather the guts required to write on films. I am Raj Kapur fan and love old musical hits.

    I wish all the best to you to continue writing on what I love and you too love……old films!!

    • Thank you for visiting my blog, and for leaving a comment! Do come back (by the way, since you’re a Raj Kapoor fan – you might like to read my latest review, which is for Teesri Kasam).

  5. Thank you for telling me about yourself, The Bolly Hood! I’ve had a very cursory glance at your blog – looks interesting – and will certainly go back later for a more detailed read!

  6. I have always loved your blog but, of course, been a lurker. Read your essay in The Popcorn Essayists and realised had to finally leave a comment. Great work.

    • You really do need to give more details. What memorabilia? Posters? Lobby cards? Whose, or which films? If it was a Shammi Kapoor still from Junglee or China Town, for instance, I’d be very interested. But I can think of a lot of other ‘rare’ memorabilia that wouldn’t interest me at all. Frankly, I collect for myself, not for resale – so I collect memorabilia of actors and films I really like.

      • Hi. Thanks for your reply. If you say about Junglee I have a press/film booklet which is autographed. But I think its the most costly and priced item because when me and Shammiji evaluated stuff that was one of the top things. Vintage posters include Kashmir Ki Kali, Jaane Anjaane, Evening in Paris, Manoranjan. Please follow this page – http://www.facebook.com/shammikapoor.fanpage which is the official fan club page. I am updating it with the collection for sale. Alternately add me on facebook. We can continue discussions there.

        Thanks.

  7. Hey
    I just finished reading your first book- and I must say that it was a thoroughly enjoyable read, especially for someone like me, who is a sucker for both history and mystery.

    The things I liked the best about the book were-
    It is extremely well written and the dialogues are very engaging. The main characters are really likable- in fact you have managed to create an immensely magnetic central character- which few books manage to do convincingly.
    The narrative is highly visual. While reading the book I would imagine Delhi as it would have been at that time…
    The mystery is engaging (Though I must admit I had a feeling that the guy who was the culprit would be the culprit- no overt hints or clues you have given as such- but I think it came out in the way the character was presented I guess)
    Everything is coherent and connected- The mystery is a bit complicated but everything seems to be tied up pretty nicely… And the climax is highly satisfying…
    I loved the way you have presented the relationship between Jang- his sister and his brother in law…

    I would like to make one or two suggestions, seeing that you are taking this character and the series forward-

    First. You may use certain authentic words from that time (urdu or persian to add to the effect). For instance you have used words like maid, bodyguard, pond, trade (nouns I guess)- as a reader I would have been a bit more fascinated if I would have seen the language of that time (This is one thing I loved about The White Moghul)

    Second, I was hoping that the real life events, (that actually transpired at the time), which have been mentioned in the backdrop many a times, would be connected somewhat to the plot of the book- so I was hoping that it would be a mix of fiction and history-

    But of course the purpose of the book, I think, is to entertain and to take us to a world which we are not very familiar with per say- I think the book managed to do that magnificently… I would be eager to read the sequel that is out recently…

    Cheers!!
    And glad that I am in some kind of correspondence with such a famous writer!

    Regards

    • Piyush, thank you – both for your appreciation, and very especially for taking the time to list everything you liked (or didn’t!) about the book. I’m so glad you thought it an enjoyable read.

      I deliberately didn’t use too much Urdu/Persian in The Englishman’s Cameo – and, would you believe it, even with whatever Urdu I did use, one fairly prominent reviewer lambasted the book by complaining about the fact that it didn’t include a glossary! Oh, well… you can’t please everybody, I guess. :-(

      When it comes to real life events from the time, I think you’d probably like the sequel, The Eighth Guest & Other Muzaffar Jang Mysteries, more – while it may not have a direct relation to what was actually happening in the Mughal empire at the time, there are a number of references to real people, real buildings (some of which have long since disappeared) and so on. The third book in the series – which will probably be released in 2012 – has even more of that.

      Thanks again!

      • The pleasure is all mine :)

        Ya it is not easy to please everyone- prominent book reviewers usually suffer from the habit of over-criticizing- in the process may be they lose the common audience’s perspective- a lack of glossary is a shameful reason to lambast a book like this!

        Looking forward to reading the sequels as and when you are ready with them- Will order ‘The Eight Guest’ soon…

        • I suppose there’s a tendency among book reviewers to think that unless a book is Booker material, every little error in it must be pointed out and dwelled upon! I don’t mind people giving constructive criticism – it eventually does help me, so I am actually grateful to those who have pointed out both the good and the bad in my writing… but that particular tirade was just too one-sided and discouraging!

          Thank you, again, Piyush – you bolster my spirits no end. :-)

  8. Madhu – When’s the second book coming out? Need to carry back one for Greta as well. Enjoyed the first one immensely. I may have mentioned earlier, love Lindsay Davis’ Falco series on Rome and yours was right up there.

  9. I reached your blog thanks to ‘Songs of Yore’ .
    It is indeed very heartening to note that so much of passionate work is still being on those vintage – to call films of 50s and 60s as vintage seems strange – Hindi films.
    Thanks to internet, the community of those who can systematically can document the reminiscences of that era and those who would like to read about and re-live that era has been brought closer.

    • Thank you, amvaishnav. My main reason for (almost!) worshipping the Internet is that it’s made information so much easier to get. My father, who loves old movies and music, tells us how, when he was a young man in the 50s, all you could hope for was to be able to get the chance to see a film in a theatre, then maybe buy the album, or hope to hear songs on the radio. Today, my father has his own laptop and net connection, so he can go to youtube and listen to some of those really rare old gems any time he wants!

      You think calling films from the 50s and 60s ‘vintage’ is strange? I’ve actually heard people calling films from the 80s ‘vintage’! Oh, god. What next?

  10. I am a scientist by profession and inquisitive regarding old movies…accidentally found yr blog found it really nice, informative and relevant..keep it up dear…

  11. At last (an old song), i found a site that shares my passion for old movies n what more both english n hindi films! Wow, a new year gift. Tq for your site and very detailed info on the old films. Even without watching the movies, i could visualize them through your narrations and stills from the movies.

    I started liking hindi films in the 70s with Bobby but became too busy with my life until after more than 30 years. Love many of the old movies and after watching them, began to try to learn more about the stars. Unfortunately, many had passed on like Nargis, madhubala, sunil dutt. Some i missed most are Raaj Kumar, sunil, nutan. Tq very much for this site.

  12. Hi Dustedoff:

    Thanks so much for creating a site that exactly reflects my passion for old movies, both Hindi and English. I was brought to this site through an innocuous search for the name of the actress who was filmed in the song “Tum apna ranjo-gham” from Shagoon. Not only did I find the answer (Libi Rana) but I ended up spending close to an hour on your website reading your reviews of several other of my favorite old Hindi films (seen primarily for their songs).

    I was going to start a site like this for myself but I think I will have to shelve that plan now. :-) kudos to you!
    Thanks again and I look forward to returning to your website in the future !

    • Neeraj, thank you so much! You just made my day – I’m so glad you enjoyed my blog. And, please – if you do decide to start a blog like this, do go ahead. There are lots of us out here doing similar blogs, and we’re always very excited to find someone else who likes the same type of movies that we do! Don’t shelve that plan. :-)

      Will be looking forward to seeing you back here!

  13. Dear Dusted off ji,

    I have your web site book marked with me, and love visiting it occasionally. I have never left a comment before, but today I do need to connect.

    There is a discussion I would appreciate to get your thoughts and inputs on, relating to a web based project on Hindi film music.

    I would appreciate for you to respond to this message offline, i.e. to my email directly, and I will share more information about this project with you.

    Looking forward to hear from you.

    Rgds
    Sudhir

  14. I have been following your blog regularly for quite some time because I also share your interest in old movies – Hindi as well as Hollywood and even more in old film songs. I intend to read your books for the same reason – I like to read mainly suspense stories only outside non-fiction genres. I wish you do more and more interesting sharing of the classic movies and music.

  15. Hi! Madhulika,

    I discovered your blog yesterday and trust me, it’s been impossible for me to put my laptop aside since then! Great reviews and good choice of movies to review. I am more of an old/classic flicks lover myself and I am making my own list of ‘movies yet to watch’ based on your blog :P

    Keep up the good work and I’ve become your ardent follower (on blog space that is)!

    Regards,

  16. Hi. Just came across your blog. What an amazing find! Thank you for all the amazing content. It’s so rare to find good content on Bollywood, especially something that focuses on old Bollywood.
    Will keep coming back. Good luck!

  17. Hey, Read a piece on TOI today on how Delhi is becoming a popular setting for books. You and your book were prominently mentioned with a pic. Was pleasantly surprised. Happy for you! Congratulations!

  18. Hi Madhulika..been a reader on your blog since a long time. Recently read your first book ‘Englishman’s cameo’..I found it quite interesting to read your historical crime story. The way you have juggled between historical references and a crime story was quite good. Maybe I thought the crime story suffered because of your attention to historical details, nevertheless writing a first book on a different genre is not a mean task.

    (One suggestion: To change the photo in your site header..It comes out as too harsh!)

    • Thank you, Shantanu – I’m glad you liked The Englishman’s Cameo. This was the first of a series, so I wanted to establish the historical background, which is why I guess (in hindsight!) the crime angle was a little patchy. Try the sequel, The Eighth Guest & Other Muzaffar Jang Mysteries; that’s more mystery, less historical detail. Most people who’ve read both books (including myself) think that’s a better one than the first.

      Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder, isn’t it? That’s why my blog header is the way it is. I don’t think of it as ‘harsh’. More like ‘drawing attention’. All completely subjective.

  19. nice blog. main Sahir Jee par pdf search kar raha tha aur aapka blog dikha. padke bahut achcha laga. mujhe bhi purani black n white fimein pasand hai. aur ab se main yaha regular aata rahunga. its like nana nani ka ghar :) best of luck :0

  20. I encountered to your blog when I was searching some lyrics of Pakeezah songs. I love old Hindi films and your blog looks awesome as you are introducing many master pieces!
    Mujhe kabhi kabhi aapki is blog ko dekhne aaungi. Aur phir film ke lie kuch comment likhungi. Mujhe aapki blog bahut accha laga.
    By Japani ladki

    • Thank you! Both for coming to my blog, and for commenting. I do hope you keep coming back – jaisa aap dekh sakti hain, mujhe bhi puraani Hindi filmon ka bahut shauk hai!

  21. Wow.
    I just wanted to say I’m really glad I stumbled onto your blog. I know absolutely nothing about Bollywood films, but after reading one of your recent film reviews I’m suddenly completely enamored. Thank you for contributing to my knowledge as a budding cinephile.

    I’m excited to go through your archives to read more of your excellent reviews. :)

  22. Hi! I stumbled on this blog by chance, and I must say- what a discovery! I love cinema and this is just such a treasure :) Thank you and please continue writing.

    Best wishes
    Anjali.

  23. I have tried out my hand at collecting the works being carried on the blogosphere, in the form of a blog carnival on golden era of hindi film music.
    The January 2013 edition is @ http://amvaishnav.wordpress.com/2013/01/27/carnival-of-blogs-on-golden-era-of-hindi-film-music-january-2013/

    I am no way a competent writer as you are, so there shall be many gaps that would need improvement. So, I it would be my privilege to be befitted from your valuable suggestions for improvement.

  24. Hi, i just found your blog and like it :)
    I think that Old movies (B&W and a few early technicolor ones) are SOOOO much better then the movies nowdays!
    BUT here is the twist i am only 13. ;)
    please keep up the good work.

    • You’re the third 13-year old to have started visiting my blog in the past few months! Yippee – all is not lost. ;-)

      (Though, to set the record straight, even though I’m so much older than you, I do like quite a lot of colour films, too – mostly from the 60s, but still). Not just the early technicolor ones.

  25. Brilliant blog there — was introduced to this blog by a buddy who visits this quite often by the name of Oldgold –not sure if she visits here by the same name ? :-)
    Very well presented material. Must admit I know very little about old movies but am learning.. The little I’ve seen is very good.

    • Thank you so much! I do have an occasional commenter by the name of Oldgold – haven’t seen her around for a while, though. But am grateful that she thinks highly enough of my blog to recommend it. :-)

  26. Love your blog. Like you, I adore watching old noir movies of the Guru Dutt variety. Inspired by your writings, I decided to watch the old movie, CID, one more time and I am loving it, I must say. I am a writer, documentary film-maker and a teacher. I wish there were more movies of this kind being made today- I liked Johnny Gaddar, and Talash, where the new fare is considered..

    • Thank you for the appreciation, Suzy miss! And I’m so glad you like CID as much as I do. I must admit that though I’ve seen dozens of other Hindi suspense films made in the 50s and 60s, other than CID, none manages to so effectively do noir but still retain that delicious escapism that typifies Hindi cinema. It’s a fantastic film – I wish there were more of them! I liked Talaash (though of course that did bring in a somewhat different element) and Johnny Gaddaar too. And, to some extent, Ek Chalees Ki Last Local.

  27. I love your blog. I am just as obsessed with Indian cinema and Indian film music. Early on in this thread I saw a conversation about whether cinema from the 50s and 60s is vintage. Considering that until recently, I though of any music after 1975 as “new” music, I certainly agree on the “vintage” characterization. My interest in cinema is really through the music, cause the films themselves are not always watchable. But I have fast-forwarded through several films, looking for that obscure Asha or Lata song – quite the opposite of the way most people I know watch cinema.
    Discovering this blog was such a joy for me, to find somebody who seems to be just as passionate. I have recently re-discovered films because both the music and film making have dramatically improved in Indian cinema (I am staying away from the term Bollywood since I associate it only with Hindi films). The advent of composers like A R Rahman, Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, Vishal Bharadwaj, Sharath, Harris Jayaraj, etc has brought back beautiful melodies with superb orchestration. And singers like Shreya and Shankar Mahadevan just have me over the top. I hope to spend many hours catching up on your older posts and look forward to reading much more.
    One request – any way to make reading the comments easier? The current indentation makes later comments hard to read since they get skinnier and skinnier. And your posts inspire long threads of conversation.

    And I plan to pick up a copy of your book as well – books are another passion of mine. Every visit to India sees me bring back a large amount of music, film and books.

    • Sangeetbhakt (what an appropriate name!), I am so sorry to be responding after ages – I only just noticed your comment today. I do apologise.

      I’m so glad you like my blog. I admit to being utterly and unashamedly biased in favour of vintage films, whether Indian or not. And I’ve noticed that there is, both in Indian films and a lot of Western ones too, a fairly definite line of demarcation between pre-70s and post-70s films. While I do watch quite a few of the latter (and enjoy many of them too), the former have a higher rate of appeal. :-)

      I’m afraid nothing much can be done about the comments – in fact, I changed the format of the blog theme because the previous was causing even more problems in that area. Comments were ending up being only a word long per row when the thread got too long! Sadly, the current format seems to be the best WordPress can manage.

      I do hope you manage to get hold of my book(s) – and that you enjoy them!

  28. Dear Dustedoff
    How to get your books? Can I translate your writings in Bangla?
    My fb acctt: facebook.com/sazpa85
    SQ

  29. Your blog popped up as one of the links to my search for Joy Mukherjee hit songs … and then I spent a lot more time scanning through your posts … loved your posts, your writing style, and the topics/themes you have written about …
    Curiosity then led me to a search for more info about you, and it is quite a family you folks are … way cool!
    Awesome! ;)

  30. Hi Ma’am

    I have been an avid reader of your blog for more than 1 year now and I have run short of words to be frank. This is one of the best things on internet right now. I share your passion for old claasic bollywood as well as International Cinema and do have deep interest not just in European but also Japanese, Chinese, Latin American and Indian regional movies. I have been running a film website myself with another friend of mine. I mostly write about bollywood right now, some of the things which I would definetely love you to check are my work about Hemant Kumar, Salil da and review of year 1952. I do not write reviews yet but do plan to start on them

    I would be honored if you go through some of the posts and let me know if you have any feedback to share. Here is the website – http://philmistani.in/remembering-1952-the-coming-of-age-for-hindi-music/

    We do have some contemporary stuff too which may interest you, but frankly I do not care even if you do not cast a glance there, but do go through some of the classic stuff :)

    Regards,
    Pushpendra

    • Hi, thanks for your comment and the appreciation. I’m afraid I just don’t have the time right now to go through your site, but I’ve had a look and – from what I’ve seen of your post on 1951-2 – it sounds very good. Will bookmark it and certainly be back. Thanks!

  31. Totally Mesmerised by your blog…I love old times, old cinema, old world…I keep looking out for these old Interviews with people..How they survived..what fascinated them..I loved Edwina’s Blog…I actually became a part of that story and lived that.And I am sure that there are few people left in this world who love old cinema….Keep up your good work….Reading your Blog Page,gives so much pleasure to people like me and of course great satisfaction to you as well.

  32. I have been enjoying your blog and picking up new (old) movies to watch. Your blog name reminds me of my buying old songs cassets in Delhi. As I was searching for particular songs, the shopkeeper pulled out some old cassettes, saying ‘ aap Walachia nahiin mila, ye aur dekhiye’ the tapes were all dusty but I picked almost all of them since they were all rare to find songs. He dusted them off and my brother who was with me said, ‘inko aur bhi dhool mitti wale dikha do, sub le lengi ‘ :) So now I have those sets dusted off and still playing !
    BTW, it happens only in your lists, that my browser disconnects from the wordpress site within seconds Does not happen when I am reading other blogs. I tried the help section of wordpress, no clues. It could just be my browser. I don’t have your email otherwise I would not have questioned here in the blog.

    • Hehe! That’s a delightful anecdote. Very much the reason why I named this blog Dusted Off.

      I have no idea why your browser behaves the way it does when you access my blog… will try and check it out with WordPress Support. Thanks for drawing that to my attention.

  33. I love your blog and your books. A random discussion with a friend (incidentally also a friend of yours) at my then-workplace about your books led me to this blog. Been following it since then. Unlike most readers, I think I liked The Englishman’s cameo more for the historical details and accuracy. Looking forward to the next instalment in the Muzaffarjang series. And good to see you expanded this blog to include your historical articles (the ones on FB)… :-)

    • Thank you so much! And I’m glad you like the Muzaffar Jang series, too. :-) You have no idea how much it gladdens my heart when anybody tells me they like any part of my writing.

      (By the way, I don’t think you’re the only one who likes the historicity of the MJ books more – lots of people do, and that’s actually my focus too. People who read these books looking for hardcore detective-y thrills are probably going to be a bit disappointed. You need a keen interest in history for them to appeal to you, I think).

      • :-) Historical accuracy and details are the USP of the MJ series. Just like all that medical knowledge is the USP of Kalpana Swaminathan’s detective books. I happen to like those books too. I love history and yes that was the main reason why i picked up The Englishman’s Cameo way back in 2009 – an Indian detective in the Mughal era… Very charming – the detective-y bit wasnt all that important.

        Btw, When is your next book in this series coming out?

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