Why I love the comforts of old Hindi cinema

There’s this delightful, irreverent new literary journal called AntiSerious. Which, as its name suggests, is all about not being serious. Not being serious about politics, society and its morals, the economy, literature, or whatever. When AntiSerious were starting up, they asked me if I’d like to contribute an article. They left the choice of subject matter to me, and I (gleefully, with a whoop of joy you could’ve heard in Chinchpokli) picked old Hindi cinema. (Yes, well. What did you expect?)

What emerged was this, a brief (really, compared to the usual length of my posts) essay on what it is I like about old Hindi cinema. What makes the 50s and 60s the cinematic equivalent of comfort food for me.

Click here to read on:

http://www.antiserious.com/2015/01/20/love-comforts-old-hindi-cinema/

Armaan (1966)

Comments on blog posts here tend to go off on tangents. I don’t have a problem with that (in fact, I often contribute)—and, best of all, sometimes these completely tangential comments give me ideas for other posts. The other day, commenting on my C Ramachandra post, Harini had remarked that Asha Bhonsle’s voice in Aa dil se dil mila le sounded a lot like Noorjehan’s. That reminded me of the lone Pakistani film I’d seen till then, the wonderful Dupatta (which starred Noorjehan). And I decided it was time to watch another Pakistani film. After all, Lollywood did share a lot in common with Bollywood in the early years, didn’t it?

Zeba and Waheed Murad in Armaan Continue reading

Ten of my favourite C Ramachandra songs

…specifically, songs which he composed, not just songs he sang (since C Ramachandra also lent his voice to some of his best songs).

Chitalkar Ramachandra was born 97 years ago—on January 12, 1918, in the town of Puntamba in Maharashtra. Although he’d studied music, it was as an actor that C Ramachandra joined the film industry—he debuted in a lead role in a film called Nagananda. This didn’t continue for long, though; he eventually shifted to composing songs, first for Tamil cinema, and then for Hindi. And he came like a breath of fresh air to Hindi film music: in a period dominated by classical tunes composed by the likes of Naushad, Anil Biswas and Pankaj Mullick, C Ramachandra had the guts to bring in music with distinctly Western rhythms, what with hits like Aana meri jaan Sunday ke Sunday and Mere piya gaye Rangoon. And he was brilliantly versatile: as the following selection will (hopefully) show, he could compose just about everything from peppy club songs to lullabies to ghazals (if one can expect a particular style of music for a ghazal) and lilting love songs.

Chitalkar Ramachandra, b January 12 Continue reading

Kakushi-toride no san-akunin (1958)

Known in English as The Hidden Fortress, though the literal translation is The Three Villains of the Hidden Fortress. One of Akira Kurosawa’s finest samurai films.

I’ve made it a blog tradition that, every year on my birthday, I review a film featuring someone who shares the same birthdate as me, January 8. So, over the years, I’ve reviewed films starring Nanda, Fearless Nadia, Elvis Presley and José Ferrer, among others. This year, I decided it was time for a change. Two changes, actually. For one, the film I’m reviewing is neither in English nor in Hindi: it’s Japanese. And, the person who shares my birthday in this case—Japanese actor Susumu Fujita—isn’t one of the leads. In fact, he doesn’t even appear in the film till the second half. But he is there in The Hidden Fortress, and he’s a good actor. Plus, even though his role here is fairly small, it’s a critical one. Enough reason.

Susumu Fujita as General Hyoe Tadokoro in The Hidden Fortress. Continue reading

Gustakhi Maaf (1969)

Happy New Year!

The other day, someone mentioned that after Omkara, Maqbool and Haider—based respectively on Othello, MacBeth and Hamlet—Vishal Bhardwaj was going to be making a trio of films based on Shakespeare’s comedies. The thought came into my head: had any Hindi film maker remade a Shakespearean comedy before? The very next moment, the answer popped up. Of course: Angoor. And (my brain was beginning to work overtime by now), another film based on A Comedy of Errors and also starring Sanjeev Kumar: Gustakhi Maaf.

I hadn’t heard of Gustakhi Maaf until a few years back, when I happened to find (and subsequently buy) a delightful lobby card featuring Sanjeev Kumar in this film. I went looking for the film, discovered that it was based on A Comedy of Errors and that it starred the ever-bubbly Tanuja—but I couldn’t get hold of the film anywhere. Until Harini (over at bagsbooksandmore) pointed me to it. So here goes: review #1 of 2015, of a fun, frothy film.

Tanuja as Asha and Seema/Asha in Gustakhi Maaf Continue reading

3 Godfathers (1948)

There are two traditions I’ve maintained on this blog ever since I began blogging. One is to celebrate my birthday with a pertinent post (coming up in two weeks’ time). The other is to, for Christmas, review a Christmas-themed film (of which there are examples aplenty). For once, though, the Christmas film I’ve chosen is one with a difference. It’s a Western, and – while it doesn’t have any actual blood and gore shown – there is death here. It’s not a sugary film, and even though the first half has its share of humour, the final impression is one of a bittersweet story of a world that isn’t quite black and white.

Three godfathers Continue reading

A Quick Guide to Mosque Architecture

Jama Masjid, its facade a fine example of the sawaal-jawaab.

In my not-too-recent posts about the impact of the Revolt of 1857 on Delhi’s monuments, I’d dwelt quite a bit on the mosques of the city. The many masjids, which are among Delhi’s most visible historical monuments, and which suffered … Continue reading

Book Review: Gautam Chintamani’s Dark Star: The Loneliness of Being Rajesh Khanna

I was born in an odd generation that somehow missed the Rajesh Khanna euphoria. I missed inheriting it from my parents, who had been young and film-crazy when Ashok Kumar, Shammi Kapoor and Dev Anand had been in their prime. And I missed being part of it; I was born just after Rajesh Khanna—who had one of the shortest-ever reigns of any superstar anywhere—had come to the last of his 15-in-a-row super hit films.

Yes, I admit it: I am not too much of a Rajesh Khanna fan. I like him alright; I think he’s gorgeous in films like Aradhana, and so very poignant in Anand. But I wouldn’t go out of my way to read a biography of the man. So, when I received a review copy of Gautam Chintamani’s Dark Star: The Loneliness of Being Rajesh Khanna (Harper Collins Publishers India, P-ISBN: 978-93-5029-620-2; E-ISBN: 978-93-5136-340-8; ₹499; 242 pages), I was a little ambivalent. I was not particularly interested in the life of Rajesh Khanna. On the other hand, this man had acted in some of the greatest hits of the late 60s, films that were both extremely popular as well as critically acclaimed.

Gautam Chintamani's 'Dark Star: The Loneliness of Being Rajesh Khanna'
Continue reading