A Weekend in Amritsar

A couple of weeks back, we were going past Gurudwara Bangla Sahib in Delhi, and our daughter, the Little One or LO, looking out, said, “Someday I want to go there” (the LO says that about every five minutes when she’s in the car; the place in question could range from a park to a temple to a medieval tomb). I looked at the glittering domes of Bangla Sahib and said that if she wanted to see a beautiful gurudwara, she should see the Golden Temple. That got the LO excited (she loves anything golden—she’s loved it ever since she was a tiny tot, barely even walking, but exulting over what she called ‘gongong’). And, there and then, we decided we had to go to Amritsar.

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Songs ‘sung’ by people with disabilities: my favourites

Today is International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Since 1992, this day has been promoted by the United Nations in an effort to promote the rights and well-being of people with disabilities, and to increase awareness ‘of the situation of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life’.

I must confess that as a child, while I didn’t ever laugh at anybody who was disabled, I rarely felt anything other than pity for them. I wanted to help, but always felt awkward. I wondered what disabled people would do if they didn’t have family members to help them out. I used to think that to be disabled meant that you basically sat about and waited for people to do most things for you.

Thankfully, I’ve grown up and now know better.  I acknowledge that there are different types of disabilities, from the completely crippling to the type that can, at first glance, go unnoticed. I acknowledge that a physical disability can have absolutely nothing to do with the mental or other abilities of a person (think Stephen Hawking). I deeply and truly appreciate Indian corporates like Lemon Tree Hotels, Pantaloons and Costa Coffee, at all of whose stores or properties I have been served by people with disabilities. I wish for a world that is more accepting of the abilities of those with disabilities.

That said, how about a post on Hindi film songs lip-synced by characters with disabilities? Blog reader John suggested this idea way back in February this year, and I was immediately drawn to it. Partly because I did want to observe this particular day on my blog, and partly because Hindi cinema has some superb songs ‘sung’ by people with disabilities. Hindi cinema, especially back in the 50s and 60s, may have used disability—especially blindness—in a convenient way to complicate the lives of already-suffering characters (and restoring their sight/other ability even more conveniently), but at least nearly all of them got a chance to sing. Mournful songs at times, philosophical ones at others, but songs, all right.

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Imitation of Life (1959)

When I reviewed the 1934 version of this film, I’d been under the impression that I’d never heard of either of these films before. But, when I started watching this film, I realized that I had heard of this. As part of the filmography of Douglas Sirk, whose work I’ve seen too little of, and have been meaning to catch up on. So my viewing of the 1959 Imitation of Life served two purposes: watching another Sirk film, and seeing how it compared to an earlier film I’d already watched.

Like the 1934 Imitation of Life, this version too begins with a harried single mother and her young daughter. Lora Meredith (Lana Turner) is a widow with a six year old daughter called Susie (Terry Burnham). When the film opens, Lora is rushing about frantically on a very crowded beachfront, searching for Susie, who’s vanished.

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Imitation of Life (1934)

I have a confession to make: I hadn’t heard of this film, or its (supposedly much better-known) 1959 remake until blog reader Kenneth J Narde mentioned it in a comment regarding my introductory post for Food and Food Movie month on Dustedoff. Kenneth wrote of pancakes—and I was immediately sold. I am a pancake fan, you see. I love pancakes in all their many avatars, from crepes to those buttery, maple-syrup laden stacks…

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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