Kalpana (1960)

Though I’d heard of this film – and loved one of its songs (As-salaam-aaleikum babu) – I’d not been too keen on watching it. Firstly, Ashok Kumar is not really my idea of a dashing leading man. Secondly, I’m not a great one for the Travancore Sisters. At the risk of being labelled an iconoclast, I’m going to admit that dance is not generally a big thing for me – I’m awful at any sort of dancing myself, and I don’t have much of an eye for watching it, either. Plus, there’s the fact that both Padmini and Ragini have horrid Hindi accents, which means that when they’re playing Hindi-speaking characters, they are not exactly very believable.

Then Richard reviewed Kalpana, and I got to know a bit more about the film. And then, to add to it all, Tom Daniel praised it too. So, I ended up watching Kalpana. It turned out to be – surprise, surprise – much more engrossing than I’d expected it to be.

Ashok Kumar and Padmini in Kalpana

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Mai Baap (1957)

Today is the 100th birth anniversary of one of my favourite Hindi film actors, the extremely talented, very versatile Balraj Sahni. Born on May 1, 1913 (an interesting coincidence, considering he went on to become the first president of the leftist All India Youth Federation), Balraj Sahni became a prominent writer—first in English, later in Punjabi—and, of course, a brilliant, much-respected actor, with a dignity and screen presence that made him stand apart in films as different as Do Bigha Zameen, Waqt, Kabuliwaala, Haqeeqat, Anuradha, and Sone ki Chidiya.

Balraj Sahni in Anuradha

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Introducing another guitarist: Sammy Daula

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.

Samuel Naseeruddin 'Sammy' Daula

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Ten of my favourite filmi qawwalis

I have been meaning to write this post for a long time now—I love qawwalis—but I’ve kept putting it off, because I’ve always thought that it would be impossible to create a list of just ten filmi qawwalis that are my favourites. (Barsaat ki Raat itself features at least three qawwalis that completely bowl me over).

But. I’ve finally decided to take up the challenge, and do it. These are ten fabulous qawwalis from pre-70s films that I’ve seen (though I must confess that I like the qawwalis of some 70s films—especially Rishi Kapoor ones). To make this post a little more challenging, I decided not to include more than one qawwali per film.

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Ten of my favourite ghoda-gaadi songs

This post is dedicated not just to music directors like O P Nayyar and Naushad (who made ‘tonga beats’ an important musical style), but also to friend and blog reader pacifist, who came up with the idea. Writing to me some weeks back, pacifist made a request: that I do a list of horse-drawn vehicle songs.

So: here’s the list, pacifist. Ten of my favourite ghoda-gaadi songs, from pre-70s films that I’ve seen. Other than that, my requisites for the selected songs were:
1. That the person singing (on screen, that is) remains in the ghoda-gaadi through at least 80% of the song (which is why Ae dil hai mushkil doesn’t feature in this list).
2. Horse-drawn vehicles of all types qualify: tongas, Victorias, phaetons, even chariots. Horseback is out.
3. And, no two songs from the same film are allowed.

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Ten of my favourite Mahendra Kapoor songs

A little over a month ago, when I reviewed Humraaz, one thing (among the many) that I liked about the film was the music, one of the few soundtracks dominated by Mahendra Kapoor. Praise for Mahendra Kapoor drew mixed reactions: he’s underrated, he shouts, he’s good only for Punjabi songs, he’s versatile… therefore, this post, on Mr Kapoor’s birthday, to celebrate one of Hindi cinema’s uncelebrated singers. Born on January 9th, 1934, Mahendra Kapoor recorded (supposedly) more than 25,000 songs and is believed to be the first Indian singer to have recorded a song in English.

Anyway, without further ado, my top ten list of Mahendra Kapoor’s songs. All from 50’s and 60’s films that I’ve seen, and (to make it a little more interesting for myself) no two songs from the same film. These are in no particular order.

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Chhoomantar (1956)

Unlike Madhumati and Aar Paar, where he was just a supporting actor (though, in my opinion, his contribution to both films far surpassed the actual screen time of the characters he played), in Chhoomantar Johhny Walker is not just the funny man, but also the hero. He gets to sing and dance (the latter even in drag!). He gets to woo a pretty heroine, be brother to another lovely lady, and he gets to kick some serious ass.

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Ek Musafir Ek Haseena (1962)

My post on how similar classic Hollywood actually is to classic Bollywood omitted a popular cliché: amnesia. So, if Greer Garson’s character could fall in love with a soldier who’d lost his memory in Random Harvest, Sadhana can do so too, in Ek Musafir Ek Haseena.
Two years after they both debuted in the generally-enjoyable Love in Simla, Joy Mukherji and Sadhana acted together again in this film. It has lots to recommend it: a very beautiful lead actress (I personally think Sadhana looks her best in this film), a superb musical score by O P Nayyar, Raj Khosla’s direction—then why, at the end of two and a half hours, do I feel a sense of dissatisfaction?

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Sone ki Chidiya (1958)

In Sone ki Chidiya, a poet tells a film actress why poor people go to the cinema: “For five annas’ worth of false dreams. And the glow of your beauty.”
On the surface, this may seem as cynical a comment on the Hindi film industry as Kaagaz ke Phool, but it isn’t, really. It’s a much more mainstream commercial film, with all the trappings of melodrama, dewy-eyed romance and oppressed heroine. I saw it because it stars one of my favourite actresses—Nutan—and one actor whom I’m very fond of: Balraj Sahni. And (this came as a surprise to me) the cast also includes someone whom I count among my favourite singers: Talat Mahmood.

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Mujrim (1958)

Right now, I’m on a five-day visit to my parents. They’re not Beiges, but I’d probably label them Greys—the salt far surpasses the pepper in their hair. We’ve been spending quality time together, eating the best chhola bhaturas in town, catching up on the latest gossip, and watching films. We started with Living it Up and Bells are Ringing, and then my father (who generally prefers Bollywood to Hollywood, unless it’s the Marx Brothers-Laurel and Hardy-Chaplin brands of comedy) put his foot down. Let’s see something Hindi, he said. So we settled on this one, because my father likes its music a lot, and Mummy and I like Shammi Kapoor a lot.

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