A little less than a week ago, on December 4, I received news that a very dear aunt had passed away. My parents, my sister and I made arrangements to travel to Kolkata for the funeral, the next day. Early in the morning, just as I was about to leave for the airport, the newspaper was delivered, and one headline sprang out at me: Shashi Kapoor had passed away, too. On the very same day as my aunt.
I suppose if Shashi Kapoor had passed away on any other day, on a day when I was not quite so swamped in sorrow of my own, I would have posted a tribute to him earlier. Later, I thought. When I am a little less distraught. My father, reading the newspaper, remarked that he and Shashi Kapoor had been born in the same year, just 6 months apart (my father in September 1938, Shashi in March 1938). My mother, looking at a lovely photo of a smiling and very handsome young Shashi, remarked that he looked uncannily like a cousin of mine (which I have to agree with; I have thought so many times). In our own ways, all of us remembered Shashi Kapoor.
I have said, time and again, that I have a lot to be grateful for to the readers of this blog. Not only do all of you keep me going by reading my posts, commenting on them and discussing them (even going off on tangents!), you also educate me, enlighten me, entertain me—and, importantly, give me recommendations now and then.
Especially over the past few months, I have seen several memorable (and, at least to me, obscure) films that came to my notice simply because readers recommended them to me. The Outrage was recommended by Hurdy Gurdy Man; Neeru told me about Leave Her to Heaven; and CP Rajagopalan mentioned The Secret of Santa Vittoria. Not once, but in two separate comments, which prompted me to hurry up and watch it. And yes, what a film this turned out to be.
The eponymous Santa Vittoria is a small town in Italy where the story opens just before dawn sometime near the end of World War II. The earnest and excited Fabio (Giancarlo Giannini) comes racing to the church, waking up the priest and insisting on ringing the church bells, because there’s such momentous news… when the dazed, sleepy and generally stoic-looking residents of Santa Vittoria gather around in the square, Fabio shares his news: Mussolini is gone. Fascism has ended!
If you’ve explored this blog beyond the rather more obvious cinema-related content, you’d probably know that I am also a writer of short stories and novels. Most people who’ve read my books so far know me as the creator of … Continue reading →
Yes, Shyama, of the dancing eyes and the gorgeous smile, passed away almost a week ago, on November 14, 2017. I could not possibly let the death of one of my favourite actresses go unmentioned on this blog, but I’d already done, some years back, a post of my favourite Shyama songs. A film review, therefore, seemed in order. But which one?
A couple of years back, in celebration of the birth anniversary of C Ramachandra, I’d posted a selection of my favourite songs from his oeuvre. In my post, I’d described C Ramachandra as ‘underrated’ (a reflection of the fact that the average person who listens to old Hindi film music—not the diehard enthusiast who knows, or tries to know, just about every detail about the songs of yesteryears—tends to talk about ‘bigger names’ like SD Burman, Naushad, OP Nayyar, etc). A couple of readers refuted that: they said C Ramachandra wasn’t underrated; among the music directors of that period who were underrated was Chitragupta.
I may not have agreed with AK and Kersi Mistry on C Ramachandra, but I do agree about Chitragupta: very talented, and oh, so overlooked when it comes to lists of great composers. Yet, when you listen to his songs, you’ll find some of the loveliest tunes, the most nuanced of compositions. Even some immensely popular songs.
Born on November 16, 1917 in Gopalganj district of Bihar, Chitragupta ended up in the film industry after an initial stint as a lecturer in Patna (interestingly enough, he held a master’s degree in both journalism as well as economics). In Bombay, Chitragupta began his career as an assistant to SN Tripathi; from about 1946 onwards, he was composing on his own. He went on to compose songs for both Hindi as well as Bhojpuri cinema, right up to 1990 (he passed away in January 1991). It’s sad that more people know of Chitragupta’s sons—Anand-Milind—than they do about the duo’s much underrated but extremely talented father.
Some weeks back, in commemoration of the birthday of Hema Malini, Anu (at Conversations Over Chai) did a post on the actress, listing some of her best roles. Reading that post, I could not help but remember some of my favourite roles of Hema Malini’s. Many, of course, were the type that Anu covered in her post: roles that showed off Hema’s skill as an actress, roles which had her portraying strong-willed, humorous, interestingly unusual, or just plain old feisty females. But to my mind came also roles that were more of Hema as eye candy. And thinking of that—and of Dharmendra, so inseparable from Hema, really—I could not help but think of Tum Haseen Main Jawaan.
Some to-and-fro of comments on Anu’s posts ended up in a joint decision to do a simultaneous Dharam-Hema Double Bill. Anu has written up her review of another early Dharmendra-Hema entertainer (the delightful Raja Jani), which you can read over here, at her blog. Mine, also a review of a Dharmendra-Hema film that was outright entertainment (especially with both of them looking pretty much at their best), is what follows.
Here is the answer to the question I set a couple of days back. What do Aapke kamre mein koi rehta hai, Yeh jawaani hai deewaani, Pyaar deewaana hota hai and Yeh kya hua have in common, I had asked (besides the obvious: that Kishore had sung all four, and RD Burman had composed all four). Some people got the answer correct, and some came close to guessing. Yes, these songs were all copied by Burman from tunes he had composed for one film. That was a Bengali film named Rajkumari, released in 1970.
Rajkumari, starring Tanuja as the eponymous princess, is a film I came across thanks to friend and erstwhile fellow blogger, Harvey. Some weeks back, Harvey shared a link to one of the songs of Rajkumari (more about these songs, later). I liked it so much that I made up my mind I had to see it. And it turned out to be quite entertaining.
No, don’t expect a bunch of questions with a tantalizing prize to be won if you answer them correctly. This is just a teaser for an upcoming post of mine, and consists of just one question.
That being, what do these four songs have in common? (Yes, I know the majority of these are from beyond the time line my blog sticks to, but what they share in common does have something to do with 1970, which is on the cusp and therefore permissible on my blog). What do they have in common, other than that all of these were composed by RD Burman? (Edited to add: yes, all these songs are sung, even if only in part, by Kishore Kumar. But there’s something special that links these four songs of Kishore and RDB together, which is not true of any of their other collaborations).
Yeh kya hua, from Amar Prem:
Aapke kamre mein koi rehta hai, from Yaadon ki Baaraat:
Yeh jawaani hai deewaani, from Jawaani Deewaani:
Pyaar deewaana hota hai, from Kati Patang:
Happy guessing! The answer will be published this coming Saturday.
Some weeks back, I and a blog reader were reminiscing about the good old days of Doordarshan, and ended up agreeing that Doordarshan and its penchant for old Hindi cinema had an important part to play in our love for this period of cinema. For me, at least, Doordarshan was the introduction to the cinema of the 50s and 60s: by the time I was old enough to be able to really make sense of cinema, my father had been posted to Srinagar, and the sole movie hall there was too dangerous to visit: it stood in Laal Chowk, in the heart of town, where every other day there was violence of some sort or the other.
So we stayed at home and watched just about everything Doordarshan cared to show. And a lot of it was old cinema.
Shart was one of those films I first began watching on Doordarshan. Barely a few minutes into the film, the electricity went kaput, but by then something sufficiently intriguing had happened for me to want to watch it again. I remember waiting for years before this film appeared again—this time on one of those many channels that had emerged sometime during the early 90s.
I liked the film back then, but over the years I’d forgotten much of it. Time for a rewatch, I decided, if only to see whether it merited a rewatch.
Shart is aptly named, because it centres around Raj (Sanjay Khan), who is always eager to bet on just about anything. He goes about with a bunch of friends, one of whom, Kailash, is always on the lookout for opportunities to have a wager with Raj [Kailash keeps losing, so I cannot see why he continues to bet]. For instance, when the film starts, Kailash bets that Raj won’t be able to walk up to a passing girl and hug her without getting slapped in return.
Just a little over a week back, I was paying tribute to a cinema personality who played a major role in defining Hindi film music in the 1950s and 60s: Roshan. 1917 was the year Roshan was born, and in the same year, also in Asia (in Tokyo), a few months later, was born a girl who was to go on to become one of the most prominent stars of British cinema as well as Hollywood. Joan Fontaine, award-winning actress, sister to Olivia de Havilland, licensed pilot, Cordon Bleu chef, rider, champion balloonist, licensed interior designer—and scorer of 160 on an infant IQ test.
Most importantly, though, a fine very actress, and one who starred in some memorable films, in memorable roles: Rebecca, Suspicion, Jane Eyre, Ivanhoe, This Above All… her characters were often, in keeping with Ms Fontaine’s features, women of genteel fragility. Sometimes, that fragility teetered over the edge into terror (Mrs de Winter’s character in Rebecca is a fine example of this) before pulling herself together and showing the steel in her.
Rebecca I have already reviewed on this blog, but to celebrate the 100th birth anniversary of an actress I have liked since I was quite young, I decided to review another Joan Fontaine film directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Like Rebecca, this one too is about a naïve young woman who ends up married to a man who is perhaps not all he had seemed to be at first glance. Joan Fontaine’s portrayal of Lina McLaidlaw won her her only Academy Award for Best Actress.