Book Review: Anirudha Bhattacharjee and Balaji Vittal’s ‘R.D. Burman: The Man, The Music’

People who know this blog focuses on pre-70s cinema would possibly be surprised to find a review here of a book about RD Burman—who, to most people, is more associated with Dum maaro dum and all those very peppy Rishi Kapoor songs of the 70s, than the music of the 60s. The fact, however, remains that RD Burman had actually made his debut as an independent composer (not merely as an assistant to his father, SD Burman) as far back as 1961, with the Mehmood production Chhote Nawab. And that he composed the chartbusting music for what is possibly my favourite Hindi suspense film (and one, too, which doesn’t have a single song I don’t like): Teesri Manzil.

This review, therefore, of a book about a man I knew little about except through his music—which has always appealed to me, not just because so much of it was there, all around me, playing on LPs in our house and blaring from radios wherever we went when I was growing up, but because it was so infectious, so full of life. (It was only later that an older, more informed me realized just how versatile RDB was, what softly melodious songs he could compose).

Anirudha Bhattacharjee and Balaji Vittal's 'RD Burman: The Man, The Music'

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Baat ek Raat ki (1962)

Anu had started this month with a Dev Anand film—and I, following suit, decided I would review a relatively little-known Dev Anand film too, to begin August. But, while Anu’s kept up the Dev Anand theme all through August, I’ve meandered off in different directions, all the way from The Rickshaw Man to jeep songs. But solidarity among friends counts for something, doesn’t it? So here I am back again, with another Dev Anand film. The sort of film that, on the surface, looks like it’s got everything going for it: a suave Dev Anand opposite a very beautiful Waheeda Rehman (who, along with Nutan, was, I feel, one of Dev Anand’s best co-stars as far as chemistry is concerned). SD Burman’s music. Suspense. Some good cinematography.

Waheeda Rehman and Dev Anand in Baat ek Raat ki

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Mahal (1969)

I had no particular film review or song list in mind for this week, but when Anu declared August Dev Anand month over at her blog, and Harini reviewed Duniya, I saw a bandwagon that I liked—and decided to jump on to it. With a film that reminds me of Duniya in some ways: Dev Anand, late 60s, suspense.

Asha Parekh and Dev Anand in Mahal

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Mahabharat (1965)

I hadn’t heard of this version of the Mahabharat till a few days back (not, of course, that the existence of this film is surprising; given Hindi cinema’s love for mythology, there was bound to be at least one version of this epic floating about). Then, commenting on my jewellery songs post, blog reader Afsal posted a song from Mahabharat, and mentioned part of the cast: Pradeep Kumar as Arjun. Dara Singh as Bheem. Padmini as Draupadi.
And good songs.

That sounded deliciously unlike the usual B grade Hindi mythological, so I went looking for it on YouTube, and watched it.

I won’t narrate the complete story here; the Mahabharat is too well-known for that (and if you aren’t familiar with it, I’d advise checking it out first before watching the film). Suffice to say that the film begins right in the middle of some action, without setting any preliminary background in place. At the court of the blind King Dhritrashtra in Hastinapur, the entire court is watching the two cousins Bheem (Dara Singh) and Suyodhan/Duryodhan (Tiwari) engage in a wrestling match.

The wrestling match at Dhritrashtra's court

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Ganga ki Lehren (1964)

Ganga ki LehrenWho, in case you’re curious, include Dharmendra, Kishore Kumar, Nasir Hussain, Kumkum, Hari Shivdasani, Rehman, Asit Sen, Azra, and Aruna Irani, besides Telugu star Savitri. With, in smaller roles, everybody from Tuntun, Brahm Bhardwaj, Mridula Rani, Manorama and Jankidas, to child star Master Shahid. [All that was missing was wonder dog Tommy]. Continue reading

Majhli Didi (1967)

Let me begin this review with a quick confession: I don’t cry easily while watching films.

I didn’t sob my heart out while watching Majhli Didi either. But I had a lump in my throat during several scenes, and I wiped away more than a couple of tears.

Meena Kumari in and as Majhli Didi.

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Ten of my favourite Shashi Kapoor songs

Of the three Kapoor brothers—Raj, Shammi and Shashi—Shashi Kapoor is the one who falls in the middle when it comes to my personal preferences. Raj Kapoor I tend to not like (except in the occasional film now and then, like Chori-Chori or Teesri Kasam). Shammi Kapoor I am nuts about and will gladly watch in just about any film from his heyday. And Shashi Kapoor—well, he did act in some films I don’t like at all (Bombay Talkie, Benazir, Satyam Shivam Sundaram, Aa Gale Lag Jaa, Raja Sahib…), but he also acted in some of my favourite films. In Prem Patra, for instance. And Waqt. And Pyaar Kiye Jaa. And my guilty pleasure, Sharmeelee.

He was wonderfully handsome in a boyish sort of way, he was a versatile actor (compare, for instance, his hot-headed young Hindu radical of Dharmputra with the madcap of Pyaar Kiye Jaa), he was extremely watchable. (And, to his credit—or his wife, Jennifer Kendall’s?—remained relatively well-preserved until quite late. Of the three brothers, Shashi had the longest innings as a believable leading man, all the way from the start of the 60s to the early 80s).

Shashi Kapoor

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Aankhen (1968)

I spent part of last week reading fellow blogger Todd Stadtman’s book, Funky Bollywood: The Wild World of 1970s Indian Action Cinema (more on that, along with a link to my review of it, at the end of this post). Todd’s book discusses, in affectionate detail, all the iconic action films—spy thrillers included—of the 70s. In a fit of enthusiasm, brought on by Todd’s book, I told my husband, “I want to see Gunmaster G-9”. To which he replied, “I didn’t like that. What I really liked was Aankhen. That was fun.”

Dharmendra in Aankhen Continue reading

Taqdeer (1967)

Taqdeer—a remake of the Konkani film Nirmonn (1966, directed by A Salaam, who also directed Taqdeer)—wouldn’t have been a film I’d have watched had it not been for one particular song that I like a lot: Jab-jab bahaar aayi aur phool muskuraaye. I noticed the film was up on Youtube (incidentally, this is a surprisingly good print, and with seemingly no arbitrary snipping off of sections). So I settled down one night to watch. For the song. And discovered that the film wasn’t bad—and was somewhat different from the usual.

Bharat Bhushan and Shalini Madolkar in Taqdeer Continue reading

Baazi (1968)

The first time I began watching this film was on Doordarshan, many years ago. It surprised me, largely because it featured Waheeda Rehman in a very Westernised avatar I had never seen before. It also had an intriguing story. And Dharmendra, always one of my favourites. And Helen. And Johnny Walker.

Waheeda Rehman in Baazi Continue reading