Yes, this post is a little late as a tribute to one of Hindi cinema’s loveliest actresses—Shakila passed away, aged 82, on September 21—but that was because I was travelling. I heard the news, was saddened and upset, and vowed that as soon as I got back, I’d post something about Shakila. Not a songs list, because I’d already done that. A review of one of her more popular films, then, I decided.
In the early 1940s, my mother (then a toddler) and her family lived in Amritsar. My grandfather used to work in Lahore: he was the sound engineer at the HMV recording studios there. Nana would commute everyday between Amritsar and Lahore, and one day, when he got back home in the evening, he told my Nani, “Today I heard a very young man with a wonderful voice. He will go places.”
My grandfather was the one who recorded the first song sung for cinema by that young man. A few years later, Nana could proudly say that he had heard Mohammed Rafi sing that day in the studio, and that he had recorded the song.
Mohammed Rafi. Rafi of the golden voice, Rafi of whom it was said (by many of his contemporaries) that he had a voice given by God himself. While I love the voices of Hemant and Manna Dey and Kishore Kumar and Talat (and many others of that period), and while I cannot imagine anybody but Hemant singing Tum pukaar lo or anybody but Mukesh singing Woh subaah kabhi toh aayegi… Rafi is special for me. If pushed to the wall and made to name one singer who’s my favourite, I would have to concede that it’s Rafi.
This is why I got pretty excited when I saw Sujata Dev’s Mohammed Rafi: Golden Voice of the Silver Screen (ISBN: 9789380070971; Om Books International; Rs 595; 238 pages). A biography of Rafi? It was worth a try.
I have learnt a lot from blog readers and fellow bloggers over the years I’ve been blogging. One thing for which I am especially grateful is recommendations: I’ve had bloggers mention films they like, and more often than not, I’ve ended up at least going and checking it out. Sometimes, I give it a miss (an actor I don’t like?). Sometimes, I watch the film but—perhaps because my expectations might have been too high to start with—end up being too underwhelmed to even want to go through the trouble of reviewing it.
Not this time. Fellow blogger and blog reader Neeru recommended Leave Her to Heaven, and I didn’t just watch it, I watched it pretty much sitting on the edge of my seat, waiting to see what would happen next.
A harried-looking young man (Cornel Wilde) has just returned to his home town after two years in prison. He is met at a lakeside dock by a lawyer named Robie (Ray Collins), who greets him with genuine affection and hands over a boat. The young man gets into the boat, thanks his friend, and moves off across the lake.
In which Joy Mukherji single-handedly (with some help from the snow-clad Himalayas) defeats an invading army of Chinese guerrillas, thus lending a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘humsaaya aasmaan ka’.
The other day, after weeks of should I—should I not, I finally decided I should watch the 2017 The Mummy. I’ll admit I had low expectations, but The Mummy succeeded in showing me that even those expectations had been too high. This was a crazy mix-up of everything from an ancient mummy come alive to some medieval Crusaders, to Dr Jekyll, trying desperately to keep his evil alter-ego in check. There were crows, there were rats and spiders swarming all over the place, there was dust and sand and pools of mercury. There were gibbering skeletons racing madly about, pursuing our hero and his lady love left, right and centre.
About time, I thought, that I finally saw why a lot of film buffs rate these newer versions (I’m also referring to the 1999 Brendan Fraser-Rachel Weisz-Arnold Vosloo The Mummy) as pale copies of the original The Mummy.
No, this song list isn’t the result of a dear relative landing up in jail or anything of the sort. It just popped into my head one day when I was looking up a song on Youtube and saw Lapak-jhapak in the side panel. It occurred to me: Hindi cinema has its fair share of people who are in prison, at times in really dire straits (not the case with Lapak-jhapak, where David’s character is really quite comfortable), but still being able to summon up the energy to sing. As a character writes in Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, Why do tired people sing?… Too tired to do anything else. Maybe that’s the case with film characters in prison: lots of time on their hands and too depressed to do anything else.
Years ago, in the good old days when the single channel on Doordarshan was our main source of entertainment and we therefore watched everything that was telecast, I watched 12 O’Clock. I’d already seen Guru Dutt’s big films—Pyaasa, Sahib Biwi aur Ghulam, Kaagaz ke Phool, Chaudhvin ka Chaand. I assumed, based on those (I had yet to watch Bahurani or Saanjh aur Savera, and had thought Mr & Mrs 55 a flash in the pan), that 12 O’Clock would be along the lines of the serious stuff Guru Dutt churned out.
… which this is not. Because this is one of a handful of the films Guru Dutt acted in but did not direct.
I have been wanting to watch this film since 1985.
That was the year, while watching Chitrahaar on Doordarshan, that I first heard (and saw) Chaand bhi koi deewaana hai. My sister and I, who loved old Hindi film songs even back then, used to keep a blank VHS permanently cued to record every time Chitrahaar came on, so we recorded this song—and over the years, I watched it so often that I memorized the entire song without ever having heard it anywhere else. When the Internet became easily accessible, I spent ages looking for the song (and finally found it, audio only, a few years back). Since then, I’ve been looking for the film. VCD, DVD, even a grainy version on Youtube would do.
And finally, after countless tries, I got to see the film. When I sat down to watch Apna Ghar Apni Kahaani, I kept reminding myself: most of the films that I’ve watched just because of one good song (or more) have turned out to be duds. I shouldn’t expect much.
Surprise, surprise. Not only did Apna Ghar Apni Kahaani have some good music and a lovely Mumtaz, it was also quite a good film.
Exactly a week back, this blog was celebrating the birthday of a favourite of mine: the gorgeous Mumtaz turned 70. Today, Dusted Off celebrates the birth anniversary—the centenary, in fact—of another favourite of mine: Robert Mitchum.
Born on August 6, 1917, Mitchum first began appearing in cinema during the early 40s (having already worked in an eclectic range of jobs, from ditch-digging, professional boxing, theatre actor and writer, to a machine operator at Lockheed). Although he is today best known for noir films (think Cape Fear and The Night of the Hunter), Mitchum acted in varied roles and genres. From one of the best submarine war films ever (The Enemy Below) to an unusual—and endearing—love story in Heaven Knows, Mr Allison; from the angsty medical drama Not as a Stranger to the hard-hitting expression against anti-Semitism, Crossfire… Mitchum was in films of all types.
To commemorate Mitchum’s birth centenary, I found myself in a dilemma. I’ve already reviewed several of his best-known films (not to mention several that are barely known). I’ve even devoted an entire week on Dusted Off to Mitchum. It seemed appropriate to review a Mitchum film: one of the classic noirs? Blog reader Hurdy Gurdy Man suggested Out of the Past or The Big Steal. I decided, instead, to review an unusual film, a sort of cusp between the Westerns that marked Mitchum’s early career and the noirs that marked his later years as an actor. Pursued is a noir Western.
I have gone through phases when I’ve been very fond of a certain actor, only to later start disliking them. Or vice-versa. Dev Anand, for a while, I could watch in anything (until I discovered his post-Johny Mera Naam films, and began disliking him even in some of his earlier films). Mehmood I was fond of as a child; now, it’s only the rare film where I like him. Balraj Sahni I found boring when I was a kid: for many years now, he’s been an actor I admire immensely.
Mumtaz (born in Bombay, on July 31, 1947) is one of the exceptions. I have adored Mumu ever since I can remember. From that gorgeous smile to that cute little button nose, to those dancing eyes: I have never not loved Mumtaz. Initially, I remember loving her just for the fact that she was so very pretty and vivacious; later, when I saw films like Khilona, I realized just how good an actress she is, too.