What better way to launch a new year than with a post on one of my favourite actresses? That too on her birthday?
Yes, today, January 1, is the 78th birthday of the beautiful Shakila. Star of my all-time favourite ‘Bollywood noir’ suspense film, CID. Star of one of my favourite Shammi Kapoor films, China Town. Star of one of my favourite Muslim socials, Nakli Nawab. Luminously lovely. Friendly (as Edwina Lyons can probably testify). And a good actress.
Do you recognise this tune? (The clip’s only a few seconds long, so it won’t take much time to listen to it). I’m sure most of you who like old Hindi film music will be able to guess this one.
O P Nayyar’s favourite guitarist was a man named Hazara Singh, but occasionally, he’d let another guitarist play a piece. As in this case. The man who played the guitar here was my father’s cousin, Samuel Naseeruddin ‘Sammy’ Daula.
Those of you who’ve been frequenting this blog for a year or more probably came across this earlier post, on my uncle David Vernon Liddle. Vernie Tau (tau is the Hindi word for a father’s older brother) was my father’s elder brother. He was born on October 12, 1929, and passed away when I was barely 9 years old. I do not remember much of Vernie Tau except for the fact that he was a witty, fun-loving man with (as a cousin of mine puts it) “a terrific sense of humour”. And he was a guitarist who played in some of Hindi cinema’s greatest hits from the early 50s.
We’ve mourned the passing of a favourite star, but now—in the yin and yang way of zindagi and maut that Anand would possibly have appreciated—it’s time to celebrate a birthday. Today, July 21st, is the 77th birthday of a very lovely lady who began a career in cinema, appeared in some landmark films, and then bagged her biggest offscreen role: as the wife of possibly India’s best-loved comedian ever. This is Noor, the beautiful Mrs Johnny Walker.
Sadly, all good things must come to an end. So, with a heavy heart, I’m having to publish this post: the last of the four-part guest posts on Edwina Lyons, written by Edwina, along with Tom Daniel. If you haven’t yet read the earlier posts, click here for the first (a mini biography), here for the second (on the actors, actresses and choreographers Edwina worked with) and here for the third, about Edwina’s fellow dancers. As in the earlier posts, in this one too Edwina’s writing is formatted in black, while Tom’s words are in blue. Over to Tom:
After three preparatory articles, we finally get to the heart of the matter – what it was like to film these movie dances fifty years ago. What was the process and how was the life of a young female dancer? Some of what will be covered in this article were among Edwina’s earliest writings to me, because these are the things about which I wanted to know the most. This early material was also later supplemented by telephone conversations which I rewrote in my own words. Ultimately, though, it all comes from Edwina.
Tom and Edwina’s fabulous guest posts on Edwina’s career as a dancer in the Hindi film industry of the 50s and 60s: part 3, about the people whom Edwina danced with. If you haven’t already read the first two posts, click here to read post 1 (a short biography of Edwina) and here for Edwina’s reminiscences on the actors, actresses and choreographers of Hindi cinema’s Golden Age.
(As before, Tom’s words in this article are formatted in blue; Edwina’s words remain in black). Over to Tom:
In this article we’ll get to know the people with whom Edwina worked, we’ll see what they looked like, and we’ll view videos that feature each of them. If you enjoy the films of the 1950’s and 60’s, then you’ve seen these people before. By now you should already be able to pick Edwina out from the crowd. By the time this article is done you should also be able to do the same for such people as Oscar, Pamela, Herman, Teresa, and many others. These are the people that livened up the dances and made them ‘zing’. Without them the dances wouldn’t have been nearly as successful as they were. In addition to being in the songs and dances, they often were also used in a dance setting where there might not be a song associated with it, but the plot was being developed. I’m referring to dances set in clubs and homes where Edwina’s group provided the background to the hero meeting the heroine, or maybe where some nefarious plot was being hatched.
Continuing from where we left off in the last post: the second instalment of the four-part guest posts by Tom Daniel and Edwina Lyons about Edwina’s life in the Hindi film industry of the late 50s and the 60s… (as before, Tom’s writing is in blue, Edwina’s in regular black font).
Where the first article was about Edwina’s life so far, this one and the next will cover the people she encountered during her nearly ten year career in the movies. Of course, the first thing I wanted to know when I began asking questions was what she could tell me of the famous stars with whom she danced. In spite of my frequent requests, she refused to make anything up just to suit me and always said that she didn’t know anyone. Apparently there was a very real hierarchy within the movie business and stars didn’t mingle much with dancers and dancers didn’t mingle much with extras. In addition, our convent educated young miss (and later mrs.) was painfully shy and never dared push herself on anyone, famous or not. So this first part will consist mostly of random observations she gave me when I asked about various well known stars after seeing her in dances with them.
A few months back, I got an e-mail from Tom Daniel, the man who’s been the brains, the initiative and most of the work behind some of the most wonderfulsong compilations I’ve come across, ever. Tom wondered if I would like to host a series of guest posts about Edwina Lyons, the dancer who was there, smiling and pretty, in so many films from the 60s.
I leaped at the offer, of course. We’d have liked to publish the posts to coincide with Edwina’s birthday in July, but that couldn’t happen because this blog was in the middle of a complicated linked-posts project. But better late than never, right? So, a belated happy birthday to a very lovely lady (and, as you’ll see in this and the next three posts, an amazingly vibrant, lively and strong person too).
After having waxed so long and eloquent about my parents, my sister, my cousin, and a couple of other relatives (not to mention servants!) in the context of our love for cinema – it’s time to focus on the one link my family does have to cinema. The one person from our family who made it to the Hindi cinema industry in Bombay, back in the golden years.
David Vernon Liddle, who called himself David Vernon Kumar. People in the industry used to call him ‘Kumar Sahib’, and he was my father’s elder brother.