Dastak (1970)

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.’)

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The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964)

Happy New Year, Happy New Year, Happy New Year.

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.

Debbie Reynolds as Molly Brown

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The Muzaffar Jang Walk, Version #2

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

Gigi (1958)

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.

Louis Jourdan as Gaston Lachaille in Gigi Continue reading

And another Lit Fest!

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).

The Lit Fest at the Lycee Francais de Delhi Continue reading

Sagarika (1956)

Every now and then, when I’ve reviewed a Hindi film (Mamta, Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam, Kabuliwaalah, Khamoshi) or even mentioned one (Devdas, Chori Chori), someone or the other has popped up and either informed me (or reminded me) that this film was originally made in Bengali.

It was a little different with Sagarika. This film nobody told me about. I happened to be trawling IMDB checking out the synopses of all of Suchitra Sen and Uttam Kumar’s films, and realized—even as I read the plot of Sagarika—that this was exactly the same story as one of my favourite Hindi films, Bimal Roy’s lovely Prem Patra. Could I resist the temptation to watch it? No.

Uttam Kumar and Suchitra Sen in Sagarika Continue reading