Balaji Vittal has written several books along with Anirudha Bhattacharjee. I’d read and enjoyed their biographies of SD Burman and RD Burman, as well as their collection of top songs, Gaata Rahe Mera Dil; so when Balaji Vittal wrote to me informing me about the publication of his first solo foray into cinema writing, I was intrigued—especially as the premise of Vittal’s book sounded thoroughly entertaining. Pure Evil: The Bad Men of Bollywood explores the villains of Hindi cinema. From dacoits to smugglers to mafia dons and gangsters, from serial killers to terrorists and traitors, to small-time crooks, evil relatives, adulterous spouses, even anti-heroes: they’re all here, described in detail.
Pure Evil isn’t a book that fits completely into the time line of my blog, since a good deal of its focus ends up being on more recent cinema than Dustedoff restricts itself to. While I haven’t reviewed the book here, you can read a fairly detailed review I wrote on Goodreads, here.
And, while we’re on the topic, a piece Balaji Vittal wrote specifically to feature here as a guest post. On the unsung villains of the Hindi cinema of the 40s and 50s: nasty characters who were a little offbeat as far as villains went, in the films they featured in.
Today is the 80th birthday of my father, Andrew Verity Liddle. Papa has influenced me in many ways, but possibly the greatest influence on my life that I owe to him is my love for old Hindi cinema and its music. Ever since I was a toddler, I’ve been surrounded by the voices of the 50s and 60s—if it wasn’t our old record player and the LPs whirling on it, it was the radio, with Ameen Sayani’s voice announcing one song after another… and most of it courtesy my father, who loves the music of that period.
As I’ve mentioned on several other posts on this blog, my father had an elder brother who worked in the cinema industry. David Vernon ‘Verni’ Liddle (also known professionally as ‘David Kumar’, or ‘Kumar Sahib’), nine years older than my father, was a guitarist who played for some of the greatest hits of Hindi cinema (and yes, I have mentioned some of these before, but recent research done by my father has thrown up pleasant surprises far beyond what I’d expected).
It is sad that among the people responsible for making cinema what it is, the spotlight is invariably only on the ones whom the audience sees and hears. Actors, singers. Composers and directors, by dint of their work being most visible (or audible). We know these, we are familiar with them. We watch films for them. But how often do we stop to think who wrote the story for a film? Who wrote this dialogue that we have exulted over, who wrote this screenplay that fits so perfectly?
Rajinder Singh Bedi, the man who wrote the dialogues for so many of Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s films—from Mem-Didi to the hilarious Biwi aur Makaan, from the sensitive Anupama to Satyakam, is perhaps one of the exceptions. Not because people pay attention to who wrote the dialogues for a film (or even the story), but because his name is known as that of a literary stalwart. The man who wrote Ek Chaadar Maili Si; a winner of the Sahitya Akademi Award, the Ghalib Award, and the Padmashri. The director (and writer) of Dastak. The man on whose death Pakistani President Zia-ul-Haq offered condolences, saying that it was a loss not just for India, but for Pakistan as well.
Some days back, Nischint ‘Nishi’, who is Mr Bedi’s niece (his younger brother’s daughter) left a comment on my blog about her illustrious uncle. Me, being what I am (always eager to know more about the cinema of yesteryears) asked if she would be kind enough to write a guest post for this blog. She agreed. Click this link: Rajinder Singh Bedi – Biography to read a brief biography that she provided for her uncle, and read on for a heart-warming little insight into the man Rajinder Singh Bedi was.
Some weeks back, fellow blogger and reader Abhik Majumdar suggested an idea for a song list: songs actually sung by (not merely lip-synched by) actors. Not singer-cum-actors, but people who were known only for their acting. I couldn’t think of too many songs that would fit my criteria (and those I could think of, were more often than not, from films I hadn’t seen). It did sound like an interesting topic, though (and wouldn’t it be fun to hear the singing voices of people we invariably ‘heard’ only in the voices of playback singers?). So I took the easy way out: I asked Abhik to do a guest post. And here it is. Since this one’s a guest post (and atithi devo bhava and all that…), I allowed Abhik a bit of a free hand. No need to stick completely to my blog’s time lines, for example.
Over to Abhik:
Madhulika’s blog is what a friend calls a ‘time black-hole’ – you get completely immersed randomly browsing through, and then you’re left wondering just where all that time went. Some time I had suggested to her a ‘top-ten’ post on actors singing their own songs or singers appearing onscreen. Most generously, she responded by asking me to do a guest-post instead.
What better way to launch a new year than with a post on one of my favourite actresses? That too on her birthday?
Yes, today, January 1, is the 78th birthday of the beautiful Shakila. Star of my all-time favourite ‘Bollywood noir’ suspense film, CID. Star of one of my favourite Shammi Kapoor films, China Town. Star of one of my favourite Muslim socials, Nakli Nawab. Luminously lovely. Friendly (as Edwina Lyons can probably testify). And a good actress.
We’ve mourned the passing of a favourite star, but now—in the yin and yang way of zindagi and maut that Anand would possibly have appreciated—it’s time to celebrate a birthday. Today, July 21st, is the 77th birthday of a very lovely lady who began a career in cinema, appeared in some landmark films, and then bagged her biggest offscreen role: as the wife of possibly India’s best-loved comedian ever. This is Noor, the beautiful Mrs Johnny Walker.
Sadly, all good things must come to an end. So, with a heavy heart, I’m having to publish this post: the last of the four-part guest posts on Edwina Lyons, written by Edwina, along with Tom Daniel. If you haven’t yet read the earlier posts, click here for the first (a mini biography), here for the second (on the actors, actresses and choreographers Edwina worked with) and here for the third, about Edwina’s fellow dancers. As in the earlier posts, in this one too Edwina’s writing is formatted in black, while Tom’s words are in blue. Over to Tom:
After three preparatory articles, we finally get to the heart of the matter – what it was like to film these movie dances fifty years ago. What was the process and how was the life of a young female dancer? Some of what will be covered in this article were among Edwina’s earliest writings to me, because these are the things about which I wanted to know the most. This early material was also later supplemented by telephone conversations which I rewrote in my own words. Ultimately, though, it all comes from Edwina.
Tom and Edwina’s fabulous guest posts on Edwina’s career as a dancer in the Hindi film industry of the 50s and 60s: part 3, about the people whom Edwina danced with. If you haven’t already read the first two posts, click here to read post 1 (a short biography of Edwina) and here for Edwina’s reminiscences on the actors, actresses and choreographers of Hindi cinema’s Golden Age.
(As before, Tom’s words in this article are formatted in blue; Edwina’s words remain in black). Over to Tom:
In this article we’ll get to know the people with whom Edwina worked, we’ll see what they looked like, and we’ll view videos that feature each of them. If you enjoy the films of the 1950’s and 60’s, then you’ve seen these people before. By now you should already be able to pick Edwina out from the crowd. By the time this article is done you should also be able to do the same for such people as Oscar, Pamela, Herman, Teresa, and many others. These are the people that livened up the dances and made them ‘zing’. Without them the dances wouldn’t have been nearly as successful as they were. In addition to being in the songs and dances, they often were also used in a dance setting where there might not be a song associated with it, but the plot was being developed. I’m referring to dances set in clubs and homes where Edwina’s group provided the background to the hero meeting the heroine, or maybe where some nefarious plot was being hatched.
Continuing from where we left off in the last post: the second instalment of the four-part guest posts by Tom Daniel and Edwina Lyons about Edwina’s life in the Hindi film industry of the late 50s and the 60s… (as before, Tom’s writing is in blue, Edwina’s in regular black font).
Where the first article was about Edwina’s life so far, this one and the next will cover the people she encountered during her nearly ten year career in the movies. Of course, the first thing I wanted to know when I began asking questions was what she could tell me of the famous stars with whom she danced. In spite of my frequent requests, she refused to make anything up just to suit me and always said that she didn’t know anyone. Apparently there was a very real hierarchy within the movie business and stars didn’t mingle much with dancers and dancers didn’t mingle much with extras. In addition, our convent educated young miss (and later mrs.) was painfully shy and never dared push herself on anyone, famous or not. So this first part will consist mostly of random observations she gave me when I asked about various well known stars after seeing her in dances with them.
A few months back, I got an e-mail from Tom Daniel, the man who’s been the brains, the initiative and most of the work behind some of the most wonderfulsong compilations I’ve come across, ever. Tom wondered if I would like to host a series of guest posts about Edwina Lyons, the dancer who was there, smiling and pretty, in so many films from the 60s.
I leaped at the offer, of course. We’d have liked to publish the posts to coincide with Edwina’s birthday in July, but that couldn’t happen because this blog was in the middle of a complicated linked-posts project. But better late than never, right? So, a belated happy birthday to a very lovely lady (and, as you’ll see in this and the next three posts, an amazingly vibrant, lively and strong person too).