Ten of my favourite ‘Songs in praise of Sadhana’

When Sadhana passed away at Christmas and I finally got down to thinking what tribute I’d post, the first thing that came to my mind was: a list of Sadhana songs. My favourite ten songs. Then, I realized that I had too much other work to get through (besides being none too well), and that a short piece requiring more heart and less research might be more doable. So that was what I did.

Sadhana

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In Tribute: Sadhana (1941-2015)

A strange series of Sadhana-centric coincidences happened over the past fortnight or so. A new reader—a die-hard Sadhana fan—suddenly arrived on my blog, and commented enthusiastically on just about each of the Sadhana film reviews I’d posted. Then in an e-mail exchange with blog reader Neeru, I mentioned to her that my mother used to look astonishingly like Sadhana in her younger days. Sufficiently like Sadhana, in fact, to invite the complete unwelcome attentions of neighbourhood loiterers who would call out, “Sadhana! Sadhana!” when my mother would emerge from her home in Calcutta. Enough, too, for my father (then only my mum’s fiancé, not her husband yet) to be asked by a cousin—who had never seen my mother but saw her photo on my father’s desk—to remark, “I didn’t know you were such a fan of Sadhana’s.

Then Anu reviewed Aarzoo, and I couldn’t help but recount an incident related to that film and to my mother’s resemblance to the actress.

So much Sadhana. And I thought: I really must do a list of Sadhana songs someday. After all, she’s one of my absolute favourite actresses. This is long overdue.

Instead, on Christmas morning, I heard the news that Sadhana had passed away.

Sadhana in Aarzoo

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Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

christmas-clip-art-free-downloads-174203I am a creature of habit. And a lot of habits of mine kick in around Christmastime every year. One is the daily posting, on Facebook, of a favourite Christmas carol. Another is this: the reviewing of a film that centres round Christmas. Over the years this blog has been in existence (I began it in November 2008), I’ve reviewed several films, some well-known, others not. This one, according to several polls, is listed as one of the very top Christmas films ever made.

It begins at Thanksgiving in New York City. The huge department store, Macy’s, at 34th Street, is holding its annual Thanksgiving Day Parade, and the employee in charge of managing much of the parade is Mrs Doris Walker (Maureen O’Hara). Doris is very harassed, what with the large number of people she has to juggle and instruct; thus, when she discovers that her Santa Claus has been drinking and is now tipsy, she nearly loses it.

Doris receives a shock

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Ferry (1954)

Earlier this year, commenting on a post, reader Shalini recommended Ferry to me. I admitted that I’d seen the film—years ago—on Doordarshan, and had liked it, though over the intervening years I’d forgotten what exactly it was all about. I did remember this much: that it featured a child, and that it was very different from the usual (mainly romantic or noir) films of Dev Anand that I’d seen till then. I decided it was time for a rewatch.

Geeta Bali and Babu in Ferry

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Hua Mu-Lan (1964)

Aka (in its English translation) Lady General Hua Mu-Lan.

I must admit to my ignorance: till a couple of months back, I had only heard of Mu-Lan (or Mulan). I’d no idea who Mu-Lan was, whether her character was fictitious or not—or, well, anything. Then a relative came visiting and brought my little daughter a gift: a soft doll, one of the Disney Princesses: Mulan. Ah, East Asian, I realized (yes, so ignorant). But that piqued my interest; at least watch the Disney animation film, if nothing else, I decided. So I watched it—then discovered (and watched) the 2009 Chinese film, Mulan: Rise of a Warrior. And then, stepping back into one of my favourite periods of cinema history, watched this Chinese opera version of the legend of Mulan.

Ivy Ling Po as Hua Mu-Lan

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Jab Pyaar Kisise Hota Hai (1961)

Nasir Hussain, as someone (he himself?) once remarked, came to Bombay with one story in his briefcase, and made out of it one blockbuster after another. The story of a son, separated by circumstances from one parent and going through various ups and downs (including falling for the distant parent’s foster offspring, being impersonated by a crook, etc) before the happy ending, was one that was played out in Tumsa Nahin Dekha, Dil Deke Dekho, Phir Wohi Dil Laaya and Pyaar ka Mausam.

But, contrary to popular belief, Nasir Hussain was by no means a one-trick pony. He had other plot elements up his sleeve as well, and they appear now and then sporadically in various films. The ‘couple promised to each other as children’ trope is one [which always ends up with the couple—completely unaware of having been ‘betrothed’ in childhood, even sight unseen—falling in love with each other]. Another was the hero being [mistakenly, of course] believed to have killed a sister [or sister figure] of the heroine’s, after having played fast and loose with her—this, naturally, causing serious heartache and betrayal for the heroine until she realizes that her beloved couldn’t possibly do something so heinous.

Asha Parekh and Dev Anand in Jab Pyaar Kisise Hota Hai

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Ten of my favourite ‘Aaja’ songs

Or, to put that better: Hindi film songs that begin with the word “Aaja”.

Let me give the background for this. My daughter, ever since she was a baby, has always had an ear for music. All you had to do was turn on the music (or start singing) and she’d start wiggling her shoulders. When she began walking, the dancing became rather more vigorous—and the first song she totally fell in love with was Aaja aaja main hoon pyaar tera. The very first time she heard it (and she hadn’t even started talking coherently yet), she joined in at the end: “Aaja, aaja!” After that, every time she’d do a little wriggle and say “Aaja, aaja!” we knew she wanted to listen to some dance music.

So, Aaja. Literally, ‘Come!’ Though I’ve always puzzled over why aaja—which combines aa and jaa, and should create a paradox—and not simply aa? Does the imperativeness, the urgency (which is invariably a part of Hindi love songs that use aaja in the lyrics) come through more when the word is aaja and not aa?

Aaja songs

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Sangdil (1952)

Hindi cinema has, over the years, borrowed liberally from English literature. Shakespeare (Hamlet, and in more recent years, Angoor, Omkara, Maqbool, and Haider), Agatha Christie (Gumnaam), Arthur Conan Doyle (Bees Saal Baad), AJ Cronin (Tere Mere Sapne): Hindi cinema seems to have drawn inspiration from a lot of authors, whether or not that inspiration has always been acknowledged or not.

Here, then, is another film derived from a literary work by a writer in the English language. Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, published in 1847, has spawned a number of cinematic adaptations (one of the first I ever saw starred Orson Welles and featured a very young Elizabeth Taylor as Helen Burns; one of my favourites stars the brilliant Toby Stephens as Rochester). In Hindi cinema, too, Jane Eyre was made into a film: Sangdil. I’ve been wanting to watch this for a while, and when recently I finally got around to reading the complete, unabridged version of Jane Eyre, I decided it was also time to watch the film.

Dilip Kumar and Madhubala in Sangdil

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Notes from the Chandigarh Literary Festival, 2015

Long-time readers of this blog probably know by now that I’m a writer. Those who’ve been reading this blog for a couple of winters may also remember that, come autumn, and when India’s 70-odd literary festivals swing into action, I generally end up going to one of these dos. I must admit to being no good when it comes to networking, and I’m usually so busy with my writing that I can’t spare the time to frequent lit fests. But if I’m invited, I will go.

This year, it was Literati, the Chandigarh Literary Society’s literary festival. 2015 was the third year the society organised the function, and I was invited for two sessions, both on the 7th of November, which was the second day of the festival (which was inaugurated on the 6th and ended on the 8th).

A view of the Sukhna Lake club grounds and the lit fest stalls .

A view of the Sukhna Lake club grounds and the lit fest stalls .

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