Ten of my favourite Songs addressed to Krishna

Happy Krishna Janmashtami!

I am not a Krishnabhakt (I’m not even a Hindu), but when you’re a diehard fan of old Hindi cinema, you can’t really avoid noting the many, many references to Krishna, can you? The fact is, Krishna is one Hindu deity who seems to appear in just about every other old Hindi film featuring a Hindu household. Mostly, he’s in the form that little painted/gilded idol, draped dhoti, peacock feather, and flute in his hands, that stands in the little household shrine, seen in passing. Often, when some tragedy hits (or threatens) someone (invariably female) comes and weeps before the idol. Or sings, pleading for mercy, for succor.

But Krishna as the protector, the giver of divine help, is just one of the ways in which Krishna is viewed. He is, as is obvious in songs like Mohe panghat pe Nandlal chhed gayo re or Madhuban mein Radhika naache re Giridhar ki muraliya baaje re, also an embodiment of romance: teasing the milkmaids, wooing Radha, charming them all. And there’s the Krishna who exemplifies mischievous childhood: the matka-breaking, butter-stealing infant that is alluded to in songs like Bada natkhat hai Krishna-Kanhaiyya.

He’s everywhere in old Hindi film songs.

Krishna

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Ten English-language films for lovers of Hindi cinema

Specifically, Hindi cinema of the 50s and 60s.

This post had its genesis in a post sometime back, in which blog reader and fellow blogger Rahul commented that he tended to not watch foreign films. I decided, then, to create a list of ten foreign films that might appeal to a lover of old Hindi cinema. Then, a couple of weeks down the line, when I reviewed The Woman in Question, Rahul reminded me of that promise, asking me when I’d be posting that list of English films. There had obviously been a misunderstanding somewhere; I had meant non-English films. But it gave me an idea; why not a list of English-language films too?

After all, it’s not as if the plots and themes of Hollywood and British cinema from the Golden Years were completely alien to Indian audiences. In fact, many of them would be familiar to watchers of Hindi films: a lot of films, all the way from Chori-Chori to Kati Patang, from Yahudi to Ek Ruka Hua Faislaa, from Half Ticket to Gumnaam, are based on Hollywood films, some of them to such an extent that they are not merely adaptations but outright copies. Add to that the fact that the Hays Code, which governed Hollywood between 1922 and 1945, had fairly Puritan ideas about what was permissible and what was not, and you have cinema that was relatively ‘clean’, at least as far as what was shown onscreen. You could safely watch these without fearing that you’d suddenly stumble upon nudity, profanity, or extreme violence.

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Yeh Zindagi Kitni Haseen Hai (1966)

Every now and then [with distressing frequency], I come across a film that, just by looking at its cast and crew, sounds mouthwatering enough. This was one of those. Saira Banu, when she still looked pretty. Joy Mukherji, still at the height of his career. Ashok Kumar. Motilal. Ravi as the composer. RK Nayyar as the director. Europe.

Sounds good?

Saira Banu in Yeh Zindagi Kitni Haseen Hai

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Rashōmon (1950)

Although it’s been several years since I first watched Rashōmon, I’ve always avoided reviewing it, for the simple fact that this film, one of the most highly rated works of one of the world’s greatest directors, has been dissected and written about so frequently (and by people so much more capable of doing justice to it than I am), that the idea of reviewing it was always succeeded by the thought: what could I possibly write about Rashōmon that hadn’t been already written?

But after I reviewed The Woman in Question last week, I decided it was probably high time I did review Rashōmon. I have, after all, reviewed several films of this type: not exactly based on the Rashōmon Effect, but close to it, variations on the theme of multiple narratives. To not write about the film that gave this trope its name seemed like a gap that needed filling.

Toshiro Mifune and Machiko Kyo in Rashomon

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The Woman in Question (1950)

Aka (in the US) Five Angles to Murder.

The last English-language film I reviewed on my blog was Anatomy of a Murder, which, while not strictly a multiple narrative film, was one of those that peeled back layers of a character and a story as the film progressed.

Then, last weekend, I finished Ngaio Marsh’s Died in the Wool, where the detective arrives on the scene of a gruesome murder a year after it’s been committed. He ends up learning all about the victim from those around her—and there are some very conflicting opinions there. Was she a saint, a saviour? An opportunist, a neglectful wife, what?

A few hours after I finished Died in the Wool (since it was Sunday night), I decided it was time to watch something on Youtube. I was looking for nothing more specific than ‘50s suspense films’, and The Woman in Question was among the search results. I began watching it simply because it starred Dirk Bogarde (whom I like a lot)—and then suddenly it took an interesting turn, and there I was, faced with multiple narratives, multiple perspectives, all over again.

Jean Kent in and as The Woman in Question

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Ten of my favourite songs of waiting

The idea for this post came to my mind when I’d finished writing up my review of Anirudha Bhattacharjee and Balaji Vittal’s Gaata Rahe Mera Dil: 50 Classic Hindi Film Songs. For me, one of the songs that was conspicuous by its absence from this enjoyable book was Tum pukaar lo, from Khamoshi. I love that song so much that I posted a Youtube link for it on Facebook—and found a lot of love for it among other friends and family members. A brief discussion with a friend, and we both agreed that it was one of those iconic songs of waiting. Out of that thread arose this idea: a compilation of good songs that are all about waiting.

Waiting, of course, can be of different types, and for different things. It can be a patient wait, for something one knows is coming one’s way. It can be restless, dominated by an urge to do something to alleviate one’s own suffering. Or the restlessness can be one of hopelessness, of knowing that one waits for something that can never come to be.

Aaja re main toh kabse khadi is paar, from Madhumati Continue reading

Bahaaron ke Sapne (1967)

I can blame my not having watched Bahaaron ke Sapne all these years on my father: when I first expressed an interest in the film because it had been directed by Nasir Husain (back then, a teenaged me associated Nasir Husain only with frothy and entertaining films like Dil Deke Dekho, Tumsa Nahin Dekha, and Phir Wohi Dil Laaya Hoon), my father said, ‘It’s a serious film.’

And that was that. Because, back then, I didn’t care to ask how serious. Anything that smacked of reality rather than escapism was not to be touched with a barge pole.

Rajesh Khanna in Bahaaron ke Sapne

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Sikandar (1941)

I remember my very first glimpse of a scene from Sikandar. It was years ago, probably sometime in the mid-80s, and in some Doordarshan programme or the other, a snippet appeared from Sikandar. All I recall is a closeup of Prithviraj Kapoor, dressed as an ancient Greek, plumes flowing from a gleaming helmet as he led his troops into battle. He looked startlingly like Shashi Kapoor, though with the build of Shammi. This film, I thought back then, I must see.

Prithviraj Kapoor in and as Sikandar

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Of Meditating Demonesses and Russians Far from Home

The Beas, near Manali.

When I was in my early teens, my father was in the Indo-Tibetan Border Police, and nearly all our holidays, long and short, were spent in the hills. We would accompany Papa on his tours, if he happened to be … Continue reading

Devchata (1961)

I remember watching a fair bit of Soviet cinema as a child. This was back in the late 1970s and 80s, when India and the USSR were bosom buddies. Soviet children’s literature filled our bookshelves and the occasional Soviet Film Festival meant that even before I turned 10, I’d already seen English-dubbed Russian cartoons. Later, when we got a TV, we saw several classics—Anna Karenina, War and Peace, and the like—on Doordarshan. Those, sadly (yes, literally sadly!) left me with a lasting impression of Soviet Cinema = Moroseness, Morbidity, Unrelenting Angst.

It struck me the other day that that couldn’t be all. So I set out to see what I could unearth, and I discovered several films that I liked a lot. Devchata (The Girls) is one of them.

Nadezhda Rumyantseva in Devchata Continue reading