To Each His Own (1946)

RIP, Olivia de Havilland.

If there’s one person whom I regarded as the last of the great stars of the glory days of Hollywood, it’s the beautiful and very talented Olivia de Havilland. I’ve watched several of de Havilland’s films, and have invariably found her very watchable—she brought a dignity and grace to her roles that made her stand out. Plus, she was a very good (and very versatile) actress, seemingly effortlessly playing standard ‘damsel in distress’ roles (especially in the eight films she did with Errol Flynn), as well as much more nuanced characters, like the immortal Melanie of Gone With the Wind, the mentally tormented Virginia Cunningham of The Snake Pit, and the naïve, gullible Catherine Sloper, the eponymous heiress of The Heiress.

Over a career spanning five decades, Olivia de Havilland won two Oscars (for The Heiress and To Each His Own), and was nominated for many other awards, including various national medals and awards by France, the US and the UK.

Although she had her share of controversy (especially regarding her supposedly strained relationship with her sister, actress Joan Fontaine), de Havilland was in some ways a pioneer too. It was because of her refusal to go on playing ‘sweet young thing’ roles that she ended up suing Warner Bros. —and winning, a landmark decision which led to the law now known by her name. She also went on to be the first female president of the jury at the Cannes Film Festival.

Continue reading

The King and I (1956)

Happy hundredth birthday, Yul Brynner!

Yes, one of my favourite actors was born on this day a hundred years ago.  Named Yuli Borisovich Bryner, ‘Yul’ Brynner was born in Vladivostok on July 11, 1920 and ended up moving first to Harbin (in China) and then to Paris, along with his mother and his sister Vera after their father abandoned them. Yul’s musical and dramatic abilities came to the fore in Paris, where he became a guitarist and later a trapeze and theatre artiste. In 1941, having travelled to America, he debuted on stage in Twelfth Night. That was the start of Yul Brynner’s career in the US, debuting onscreen eight years later in Port of New York (1949).

Yul Brynner’s decidedly exotic features meant that he, like contemporary Omar Sharif, ended up playing several different nationalities in films. Russian, of course; German; Mexican; Japanese…

… and Thai.

In what proved to be his only Oscar-winning role in a career spanning almost three decades, Yul Brynner played a historical figure: the Thai ruler King Mongkut.

Continue reading

Dil Ne Phir Yaad Kiya (1966)

It took me five days to watch this film: I couldn’t bear to watch more than fifteen minutes of it at a time, and I couldn’t do more than two sessions in a day.

That’s what Dil Ne Phir Yaad Kiya is like. Despite starring Dharmendra, Nutan, and Rehman. Despite being picturized in some very pretty locales. And despite having a couple of not-too-bad songs. By the time this travesty of a film ended, I was wanting to tear my hair out. I thought I wouldn’t review it, but then decided this did need to be reviewed, so that other potential viewers could be warned.

This is going to be a shortish review, since I can’t bring myself to explain every fiddly little detail along the way in what is a convoluted (but pointlessly convoluted) plot.

Ashok (Dharmendra) and Amjad (Rehman) are best friends. They live in the same pokey little flat (for which they haven’t paid the rent in a long time), they work in the same toy store, and they spend all their free time telling each other about their respective girlfriends. Ashok’s sweetheart is Ashu (Nutan), who lives back in the village and is constantly being plagued by Ashok’s nasty stepbrother Bhagat (Jeevan)…

Continue reading

Ten of my favourite Hemant songs – as a composer

There is already a ‘Ten of my favourite Hemant songs’ list on this blog, compiled in the very early days of my blogging. Those songs were of Hemant singing; songs like Tum pukaar lo, where the haunting beauty of Hemant’s voice immortalized a song for me.

This list, to differentiate it from that one, is of songs composed by Hemant—since Hemant, besides possessing a beautiful voice, was also a very talented composer. And today being the birth centenary of Hemant, it would be unforgivable for me to not post a tribute to one of my favourites from Hindi film music.

Continue reading

Ten of my favourite Bharat Bhushan songs

Over the years this blog has been in existence, several people have asked me to compile a list of songs that are beautiful to listen to, but which are terribly picturized—songs which I don’t like to watch, only listen to. Every time I’ve started to compile a list, I’ve given up quickly, because I’ve found myself listing almost all of Bharat Bhushan’s songs.

Bharat Bhushan, while he lip-synced to some truly memorable songs, has never been one of my favourite actors. But one thing is undeniable: this man was at one time hugely successful, working opposite some of Hindi cinema’s leading ladies—from Madhubala to Meena Kumari, Nimmi to Mala Sinha—and commanding among the highest fees of his time. Bharat Bhushan, in his heyday, was not to be scoffed at (it’s a different—and very sad—story that he went from rags to riches, being reduced to acting as an extra, and being spotted by Amitabh Bachchan waiting in line at a bus stop).

Continue reading

Shaarey Chuattar (1953)

Bengali cinema is one of the few regional language cinema industries for which it’s relatively easy to find subtitled copies. Even when the film in question is an old one.

Over the years, several Bengali readers have recommended Shaarey Chuattar to me. I had been under the impression that I should watch this film for the Uttam Kumar-Suchitra Sen pairing (it was the their first film together, the first of many films in which they were co-stars). But, now that I’ve seen it, I can safely say that this is a film you should watch not for these two, but for the film itself. True, Suchitra Sen and Uttam Kumar provide some eye candy and are a likable romantic couple, but the romance in Shaarey Chuattar is not the main thing.

Continue reading

Saqi (1952)

I still remember my first glimpse of Premnath in a different persona than the fat, balding, beetle-browed villain of so many ‘70s films.

This was in the mid-80s. My sister and I (I was then not even in my teens) were watching Chitrahaar, and Thandi hawaayein lehraake aayein came on. It was proceeding fine, with Nalini Jaywant flitting across the screen, when suddenly a strikingly handsome man, tall and broad-shouldered, sprang up by her side, danced with her, and then disappeared. Who was that? We asked each other, and couldn’t supply an answer. We turned to our father, our source of information for all things old Hindi cinema. Papa said that Naujawan starred Premnath. Who Premnath, we asked in disbelief. That paunchy and somewhat repellant man in Johnny Mera Naam?

It took a watching (incomplete, sadly, because the electricity went) of the 1951 film Sagaai to convince us that yes, Premnath was indeed quite a hottie in his heyday.

If you think so too (or if you haven’t seen Premnath in the early 50s, when he was paid more than Raj Kapoor and several other leading actors), you should watch Saqi.

Continue reading

Ten of my favourite ‘multiple version songs: one voice, two solo versions

After last week’s post of multiple version songs featuring one male voice and one female voice singing the same song, I decided I should do another post of ‘multiple version’ songs. Also solos, and also (as in the previous post), songs which appear within the same film.

Usually, when one singer (invariably singing for one character) ends up singing two versions of the same song, it’s because the story has changed circumstances for the character. It could be—in most cases—that happy days have given way to sad; or ennui has made room for a sense of purpose. In some (relatively rare) cases, the same singer sings two different versions of the same song for two different characters.

Continue reading

Ten of my favourite ‘multiple version’ songs – male/female solo versions

There are times I’ve watched a film (like Daag, or Pyaar ka Mausam, or Taqdeer) and got the distinct feeling that the music director composed one especially good tune in the film, and that was a fact acknowledged by the film maker too, who decided to use that tune in different versions throughout the film. Therefore we have Ae mere dil kahin aur chal in several versions, and the same with Tum bin jaaoon kahaan or Jab-jab bahaar aayi aur phool muskuraaye. The tune, at least in essence is the same (the tempo may change); the singer(s) may be different, the actors who lip-sync to it may be different, and there may be other differences as well.

‘Multiple version’ songs can be of different types. The most common (from what I can tell; I haven’t researched this) is the differentiation of tone: the happy version/sad version scenario. One version of the song (usually the one that appears earlier in the film) is an upbeat, happy one; the other uses the same tune, but often different lyrics that reflect two different situations.

Then there are songs where different versions may be only sung by different playback singers—which might include (as in the case of Jab-jab bahaar aayi) one version sung as a solo, another as a duet or even by a trio. There are also versions (overlapping with regional language cinema) where the same tune is used in songs in films of different languages, for instance the Bengali song Ei raat tomaar aamaar (from Deep Jwele Jaai) appears as the lovely Yeh nayan dare-dare in the Hindi film Kohraa.

Those are versions for other, later song lists. For this post, I’m going to confine myself to one particular type of ‘multiple version’ song: the solo male singer/female singer song.

Continue reading

Chanda aur Bijli (1969)

Chanda aur Bijli is one of those films I’ve known about for a long time—because of a family anecdote that is centred around a song from this film. My sister, a toddler when Chanda aur Bijli was released, quickly fell in love with Bijli hoon main toh bijli. Her version of it, though, was somewhat different (and suggests a mind that dwelt rather heavily on food):

Bijli hoon main toh bijli
Bun khaake jab bhi nikli
Logon ke dil mein machhli
(And here she’d add a little line completely off her own bat: ‘Wohi machhli jo Baby ne khaayi thhi!’)

For those who don’t understand Hindi, that means:

Lightning; I am lightning,
When I went out after eating a bun,
There was a fish in people’s hearts
That same fish that Baby ate!

The original, of course, is a rather more predictable Hindi film song:

Bijli hoon main toh bijli
Bal khaake jab bhi nikli
Logon ke dil mein machli

(Lightning; I am lightning,
Every time I went out, tripping along,
I made people’s hearts trip)

Continue reading