Parineeta (1953)

Sometime during the 1990s, I pretty much stopped watching contemporary films. By then, there were a few channels on TV that regularly aired old films, and that was enough for me—in any case, I was in a job so time-consuming that I barely got time to sleep, let alone watch films. For several years, I watched a handful of films that were the current rage. As it was, the songs rarely appealed to me; I didn’t much care for a lot of the people who seemed to be the hottest stars; and some of the biggest films—or so I gathered—were action blockbusters, not really my idea of fun.

And then I watched Parineeta. The 2005 one, which marked the Hindi film debut of one of my favourite present-day actresses. It also proved a turning point for me with reference to Saif Ali Khan, whom I didn’t like before, but began to like (in some roles) after this one. It’s one of the few films in which I’ve not minded Sanjay Dutt. Plus, it has perhaps my favourite score of any film from the 2000s so far.

It wasn’t till much after I’d seen Parineeta—perhaps a few years—that I discovered that there had been an earlier Parineeta as well. Made by Bimal Roy, and starring Meena Kumari and Ashok Kumar. Just those three names in themselves are enough to make me watch a film. And a film based on a novel by Sarat Chandra, no less? I realized it was high time I watched this.

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Ten of my favourite songs from films I haven’t watched

… and which I am not likely to get around to watching, at least not in the foreseeable future.

Because today is the tenth birthday of my blog, and this is my way of wishing my blog a happy birthday.

Ten years ago, when I launched Dustedoff (with this post), I had imagined it to mostly be a collection of reviews—Hindi and Hollywood films—and some song lists. Dustedoff evolved down the line. A cousin who commented on one of my earliest posts asked if I would review foreign language films, and when blog reader Bawa, visiting Delhi, she gifted me a DVD of a Spanish film, which became the first non-Hindi, non-English film I reviewed on this blog. Still later, a friend suggested I combine my website (which was all about my fiction writing—my books, articles, and short stories) with my blog, so that happened, expanding the scope of Dustedoff. What you see today is still primarily a blog about old cinema (the period of cinema I focus on is one thing that’s remained consistent), but it’s now also about travel and food and history and other things that interest me.

Of all that I write about on this blog, the most popular posts—by a very, very great margin—are the ones that feature song lists. When I compiled my first song list, one restriction I imposed on myself (and how controversial that has turned out to be!) was that I would feature songs only from pre-70s films I’d already watched. People asked me why this was so; some urged me to rethink that decision; some thought I was dumb to limit myself so. But I took that decision (partly because there are some songs, I realize, that need to be understood in context, partly because it helps make compiling lists more challenging for me, and partly because it encourages me to watch more cinema, including obscure stuff). And that is a decision I’ve stayed with.

But. Today is Dustedoff’s 10th birthday. A celebration is in order, I think. And my way of celebrating is to let my hair down a bit—with ten songs I really like but which I’m unlikely to ever get to post, because it’s equally unlikely that I’ll ever get to watch these films. In most cases, the films seem to have completely disappeared off the radar; I have spent years looking for them, both in DVD/VCD format, and on the Internet, but they seem to have vanished. Rare films, or lost films. Perhaps some of these will emerge someday and I’ll be able to watch them, but for now, that seems like a remote possibility. (Note: These are not songs that were originally part of a film but were later deleted—so CID’s Jaata kahaan hai deewaane, or Shikast’s Chaand madham hai don’t qualify, since I have seen the film in question; it was just that the song was missing).

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Ten memorable food scenes from Hindi cinema

While ‘food songs’ are not utterly unknown in old Hindi cinema, it’s rather more difficult to track down memorable scenes featuring food. Talk about new cinema, and it’s easier—and when I talk of ‘new’ cinema, I don’t just mean very recent films like Stanley ka Dabba, The Lunchbox, Cheeni Kum, or Chef: I even mean films from the 70s and 80s.

There was Bawarchi, where Rajesh Khanna’s eponymous bawarchi promised Harindranath Chattopadhyay’s character shukto and some three hundred or so types of chutney (he also made kababs out of elephant yams). There was Amitabh Bachchan, surreptitiously stuffing himself on a thali full of puris and other goodies in Do aur Do Paanch, only to be stuffed all over again by a stream of little kids, all instigated by a wily rival (Shashi Kapoor). In Sau Din Saas Ke, Lalita Pawar played an evil mother-in-law, so vicious that she tried to poison her bahu with kheer simmered with gecko.

Pre-70s cinema is a little less easily remembered for its food scenes.

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The Food and Food Movie Project, Part 4

If you’ve been following this series of posts, you’d know that sometime in May this year, I launched on a spree of watching food movies, in order to do some research for an article I had to write. As I … Continue reading

Onscreen Chefs: The Myth and the Reality

(This is a longer  version of an article I wrote for Cuisine Digest, a hospitality industry magazine. Cuisine Digest does have an online presence, in the form of a Facebook page, but does not offer the option of reading the magazine online. The article I wrote for Cuisine Digest was the cover story for the August-September 2018 issue; bound by strict word counts, it was a heavily truncated version of what follows).

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The Food and Food Movie Project, Part 3

(This is preceded by Part 1—here—and Part 2—here, describing a challenge I set myself, of watching food movies from around the world and cooking dishes or meals that I associated with the movies. Read on for a list of ten … Continue reading

Ten of my favourite food songs

This blog has been in existence for nearly ten years now, and every now and then, someone suggests a theme for a song list. Some theme requests keep cropping up repeatedly (lullabies and bhajans being popular ones), because these are topics people know would have a large number of songs to choose from.

One topic which has cropped up perhaps only once or twice is that of food songs. Not even songs in praise of food, but which just mention food, in some context or the other. I remember friend and erstwhile fellow blogger Harvey remarking that while there are several songs that do mention food, the food mentioned is rarely the type that makes you salivate at the very thought of it (that’s probably changed somewhat in more recent films—chicken fry appeals to me, as do potato-filled samosas, though the songs in which they feature are appalling).

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The Food and Food Movie Project, Part 2

(This is a sequel to Part 1, where I introduced this challenge I set myself. It’s about five months, May-September 2018, during which I watched sixty-odd films and cooked 30-odd dishes or meals to go with those films. In Part … Continue reading

Le Grand Restaurant (1966)

Or, in English, The Restaurant. Though, personally, I think the ‘grand’ of the original French title suits this film better, because the very grandness and importance of Septime—the eponymous ‘grand (or great) restaurant’—is what makes it the site of a very high-profile abduction…

I watched this film because I found it in a list of ‘food films’ and got very excited at the thought of an old food film. As it happened, there’s not that much food in Le Grand Restaurant, after all. Despite that, it’s a film worth watching.

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The Food and Food Movie Project, Part 1

Do you like watching food movies?

I do. And, back in May this year, having been approached by a food magazine to contribute an article on food movies (in particular movies about chefs and professional cookery), I went on a food movie binge. I’d watched loads of food movies before—everything from relatively ‘arty’ movies like Eat Drink Man Woman to popular hits like Chocolat, Julie & Julia and even the animated Ratatouille. But since this time round I wanted to look at the details of every film, at the nuances, I had to sit and watch them more closely, more at leisure.

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