This blog focuses almost exclusively on films from before the 1970s. Very occasionally, though, I make exceptions. For films that are pretty much on the cusp, and which evoke more a sense of 60s cinema than 70s, which were made mostly during the 60s (or even earlier, as in the case of Pakeezah) but were released only later, but basically for films that, when I watch them, seem as if they were made in the 60s. Because of the people who star in them, because of the costumes, the songs, the feel of them.
When Vinod Khanna passed away last week, I wanted very much to review one of his films as a way of paying tribute. There are a couple of 60s’ films of Vinod Khanna’s that I’ve seen—the forgettable Man ka Meet, for instance—but I settled on a rewatch of Mera Gaon Mera Desh, not just because it features Vinod Khanna in one of his most memorable outings as a villain, but also because it is an interesting example of a film that may have only been moderately successful, but is the very obvious inspiration for one of the biggest hits ever in the history of Hindi cinema: Sholay.
Some of my favourite films are those that cleverly combine crime with humour. Hitchcock’s The Trouble with Harry, for instance, a witty story about a man whom everybody seems to have been wanting to get rid of. Or—one of my favourite films, regardless of time and language and genre—I Soliti Ignoti, about a bunch of horribly inept thieves. Charade, How to Steal a Million… and, the latest to join the ranks, the Russian film Brilliantovaya Ruka (The Diamond Arm), which is about a man with an arm wrapped about with diamonds. And other gemstones, and gold.
This work calls itself a ‘screen novel’ and consists, as do so many novels, of not just the main body of the novel, but a prologue and an epilogue as well.
The prologue is a brief one. In a narrow street in Istanbul, two dodgy-looking guys stand in the doorway of an apothecary, and hand over a cane with an ornate handle to a man in a car. This man we see next sitting down in a public area, placing the cane carefully beside him—from where it is swiftly and surreptitiously switched for a replica by another, who rushes off with it.
In Rajinder Singh Bedi’s Dastak, there is a scene well into the film which offers a glimpse of both what this film is about and what its tone is like, how it conveys its messages.
Hamid Ahmed (Sanjeev Kumar) is about to leave home for office. His wife Salma (Rehana Sultan) brings him a cup of tea. In a large cage that sits in their room is a mynah which has been mimicking Salma’s voice so perfectly that Hamid has mistaken something it’s said for his wife’s words. Salma, smiling mischievously, points out his error and tells Hamid about a so-called brother of hers from her village.
Salma: ‘… woh kaha karte thhe, “Pinjre mein panchhi ko band karne se bada paap lagta hai”.’ (He used to say, ‘It is a great sin to imprison a bird in a cage.’)
Hamid (smiling): ‘Chhod dene se bhi toh lagta hai.’ (‘Releasing it too can be a sin.’)
Salma: ‘Woh kaise?’ (‘How is that?’)
Hamid: ‘Baahar sainkaron baaz, shikre… koi bhi khaa jaaye.’ (‘There are so many birds of prey outside. Any of them might eat this one up.’)
That’s what’s been flooding my timeline on Facebook, that’s what’s coming my way on text messages, in e-mails from family, friends, even banks and online stores. And yes, don’t we all wish for a happier 365 days ahead? Don’t we all wish that this year to come will be full of good health and joy and realized dreams for ourselves and those we love?
The last thing one wants in the first week of January is a reminder of death, especially that of someone we love. Even if that someone was not friend or family, or even acquaintance—someone we only knew through their work. Sadly, though, this has become an almost-given, come December: yet another film star I loved passes away. A year ago, it was the beautiful Sadhana; in 2013, Joan Fontaine, Peter O’Toole, and one of my absolute favourites, Eleanor Parker. Rod Taylor, Suchitra Sen, Nalini Jaywant, Dev Anand… all gone in December or January. And this year, Debbie Reynolds passed away, just the day after her daughter Carrie Fisher died.
A couple of weeks back, I wrote a post on how to write better: some basic tips on grammar, on punctuation, on dos and don’ts that help create a more polished manuscript. It drew a lot of attention, and several … Continue reading →
By which I mean writing that doesn’t make an editor wince. Let me provide the context to this. Every now and then, I am approached by a wannabe writer who wants me to have a look at their manuscript and … Continue reading →
Blog regulars will probably know that I am the creator of a series of historical detective fiction books. Featuring Muzaffar Jang, a 17th century nobleman who lives in Shahjahanabad during the tumultuous last years of Shahjahan’s reign, the series now … Continue reading →
I have firmly believed, for the past few years, that Hollywood would have been a lot poorer had it not been for its Europeans. All the way from writers and composers to directors—and, of course, the most visible, actors. Charles Boyer, Ingrid Bergman, Hedy Lamarr, Rossano Brazzi, Greta Garbo, Cary Grant, Michael Caine, Curt Jurgens… and, one of my absolute favourites, the very handsome Louis Jourdan. I remember, as a young teenager, being completely bowled over by him in Decameron Nights, Three Coins in the Fountain, and The Swan. And this film, the quintessential Louis Jourdan one, about a wealthy young man who finds love in an unlikely place.
One of my favourite places to eat—irrespective of cuisine—in Delhi is the fabulous Yum Yum Tree. My husband and I discovered it the day after it opened, when we happened to be in New Friends Colony Community Centre. We ate … Continue reading →
Last year, when I was attending the Bangalore Literary Festival, I heard an interesting fact at one of the sessions (about literary festivals): at last count—in autumn 2013—India boasted of 63 literary festivals. That’s quite a whopper of a figure, isn’t it? I have only been to the literary festivals in Bangalore, Pune, and Delhi (no, as unbelievable as it may sound, I actually haven’t ventured till Jaipur yet). And, earlier this week, I participated in another lit fest—a rather different one from the type I’ve frequented so far. This was a lit fest organized and hosted by a school, the Lycée Français de Delhi, for its students. 2014 was the second year the school organized the lit fest, and this year’s schedule featured workshops and lectures by various writers: Anupam Arunachalam (Comics on Delhi, followed by workshops on comics); Priya Kuriyan (Illustrations on Delhi); Nilanjana Roy (Delhi, A City of Inspiration); and Rana Dasgupta (21st Century Delhi).