Today is the birth centenary of one of Hindi cinema’s greatest lyricists, the very prolific and versatile Hasrat Jaipuri. Born in Jaipur on April 15, 1922, ‘Hasrat’ was named Iqbal Hussain, and took to writing poetry fairly early in life. In 1940, not even 20 years old, Hasrat moved to Bombay, where, though he attended mushairas and wrote (and recited) a good deal of verse, he was also obliged to take up a job as bus conductor. This job helped him make ends meet for the next 8 years, when Hasrat had the good fortune to be noticed by none other than Prithviraj Kapoor at a mushaira. Kapoor was so impressed by the young poet, he recommended Hasrat to his son Raj, who was then in the midst of planning Barsaat (1949). Hasrat was taken on to write songs for the film, and that was the start of a very long association with RK Films—Hasrat wrote lyrics for all of Raj Kapoor’s films for the next two decades and more, invariably alongside fellow lyricist Shailendra.
When I posted a Lata Mangeshkar tribute to mark the passing of the singer, I had thought I’d just focus on ten songs with ten different composers; but that, as it turned out, wasn’t enough. There were too many composers, too many good songs, that fell by the wayside in compiling that first post. So I ended up compiling a second, follow-up post, with ten other composers. In the process, I wound up with more songs, more composers than could fit in that second post.
Here, then, is a third list of solos sung by Lata Mangeshkar: ten songs, ten different composers. Of course, none of these composers feature in my two earlier lists. Also, these songs do not overlap with the ones on my very first ‘Lata in Ten Moods’ song list. As always, these songs are all from pre-1970s Hindi films that I’ve watched.
I knew something connected to Doris Day long before I had even heard of her. When I was about six years old, my mother used to sing Que sera sera to me, and that song became such a favourite of mine that I ended up writing down the lyrics (misspelt, I admit: Kay sera sera is what I recall having written) and belting them out, night and day.
It was only many years later that I finally watched Alfred Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much, and got to see Doris Day sing that song onscreen, in a tense, nail-biting climax that both highlighted Doris Day’s singing ability as well as her acting prowess. By the time I watched this film, I had already seen Doris in other, more light-hearted roles, the sort of films (mostly musicals or screwball comedies, including the delightful ones which she did with good friend Rock Hudson) where she lit up the screen with the sheer joy of her presence. I had heard Wham! sing “… You make the sun shine brighter than Doris Day…” I had listened to plenty of songs Doris Day had sung, and I had fallen in love with the vivacity and good humour Doris seemed to radiate.
Over the years I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve watched hundreds of films. Some I’ve praised, some I’ve dismissed. Some films I have found just too tedious to review; they’ve not necessarily been outright atrocious films, just not films I wanted to invest the time and effort in reviewing.
Every now and then, though, especially when I’ve reviewed a film with the aim of warning people off it, someone or the other has asked me to make a list of films I wouldn’t want people to watch.
This is it. My list of ten films that I found so painful, I wouldn’t wish them on my worst enemy (well, perhaps not). They’re all, of course, from before the 1970s.
I must explain here that I have not listed films that were merely boring or predictable (as a lot of films actually end up being); even fairly mundane, humdrum stuff like the B- and C-grade action/thriller films of Dara Singh or NA Ansari may have been rather shoddy cinema, but I’ve found them mostly only a little monotonous, or at the most, unintentionally hilarious. Those are not the films I list here. In this list are not those which I merely found tedious, or not worth watching again: the films on this list are the films I actively hated.
Cinema looking at itself is not an uncommon feature; there have been several notable films, both in India (Kaagaz ke Phool, Sone ki Chidiya) as well as abroad (Cinema Paradiso, 8½, The Bad and the Beautiful, etc), which are about cinema and film-making. But this film, relatively obscure, really should be part of the annals, simply because of its sheer devotion to Hindi cinema. Not because it’s about film-making, not because there is even (as in Solvaan Saal), a single scene on the sets of a film. But because it celebrates Hindi cinema in so many ways, on so many levels.
Sadhu aur Shaitan begins by introducing us to the eponymous ‘sadhu’ of the story: Sadhuram (Om Prakash), a widower who lives with his two children Ganesh (Master Shahid) and Munni (Baby Fauzia), and the maid Ramdeyi (Dulari) who looks after home and the children. Sadhuram is a somewhat excessively ‘good and righteous’ man, the living image of piety (all a little over the top as far as I’m concerned, but at least he isn’t stuffy about his righteousness).
When I did my post on double roles in Hindi cinema, someone mentioned Ranjan as having done a double role in Chandralekha, the 1948 film which was made both in Tamil as well as in Hindi, and was a big hit. Some years ago, I would have probably filed that bit of information away and not acted on it. Ever since I saw Ranjan in Nishaan, however (and liked him), I have been open to the idea of watching other films starring this dashing actor (who, by the way, was a trained pilot as well). Besides, I remembered that Chandralekha was supposed to be a pretty big film: good production value, opulent sets and so on. Why not see it, I thought.
(By the way, Ranjan does not have a double role in this film).
The story is set in a kingdom ruled by a king with two sons. The elder son, the crown prince, is Veer Singh (MK Radha): a ‘good man’, a devoted son and an upright, just would-be ruler. The younger son, Shashank (Ranjan) is the complete opposite of Veer Singh: ambitious, greedy, demanding the throne for himself. The king keeps trying to put him off, to defy him when Shashank tries to bully him, but nothing works. Finally, the king is obliged to banish Shashank.
Those of you who’ve been following this blog for some years may know that I am passionately fond of food. For a while, I reviewed restaurants here, along with all the films I review. One year, I did an entire ‘food film’ project, where I watched many, many food films from across the world and cooked up dishes to accompany them. I devoted the month of October 2018 to food in films.
Yes, I find food just about as interesting as cinema. More, at times.
So this was bound to happen: a book on food. My first non-fiction book, part memoir, part an exploration of food history from around the world, part cookbook.
Three years ago, celebrating lyricist Majrooh Sultanpuri’s birth centenary on my blog, I wrote that it was a tough ask to select just ten songs from the more than two thousand that he wrote in the course of a film career that spanned a whopping five decades.
For a blog post, restricted (admittedly by its writer) to just ten songs, that can be a challenge; but it is also a challenge for a full-length book to do justice to a colossus of the size and stature of Majrooh. It’s not even as if, when discussing Majrooh, one could get away with just talking about the songs he wrote for Hindi cinema: to be able to portray, with any veracity, not just the poetry of Majrooh but also his personality, the man he was, the work he did, how he thought—all of this requires a lot of research, a lot of organization and careful planning.
Manek Premchand’s Majrooh Sultanpuri: The Poet for All Reasons (Blue Pencil Publishers, 2021) is an ambitious project, an attempt to capture, within the pages of a book, the life and career of one of Hindi cinema music’s greatest personalities.Continue reading
Happy birthday, Manmohan Krishna.
Today is the birth centenary of one of Hindi cinema’s best-known and most-loved character actors, the very versatile Manmohan Krishna of the beetling brows and the prominently curved lips, who could assay pretty much any kind of role film makers cared to throw his way. Usually slotted as the avuncular older gentleman—the now blind former taxi driver of Dil Tera Deewaana, the philosophical mendicant of Railway Platform, the saintly Abdul Rasheed of Dhool ka Phool, who brings up a foundling to be neither Hindu nor Musalmaan, but a human being—Manmohan Krishna did show, in the rare film where he was given a chance to act a rather less predictable character, that he was perfectly capable of that as well. He could be the evil Lalu Ustad in Sadhna; the wolf in sheep’s clothing in Bees Saal Baad, and the imperious daddy, disapproving of forbidden love, in many films.
When Lata Mangeshkar passed away earlier this month, I wrote a tribute post in which I listed ten songs, all solos, that Lata had sung for ten different composers. Naturally—given Lata’s record number of songs—there were many, many songs and many composers that didn’t get covered in the list. Blog readers helpfully suggested other great songs that could have been part of the list, or which they especially liked; some wondered why I had not listed this song or that. Or why so-and-so composer had not been included.
Even when I had been compiling that post, I’d been thinking, there really ought to be a sequel to this. A post, at least, to include some of the other great music directors for whom Lata sang some exceptional songs. As well as the music directors who may not have been very famous, but who were nevertheless very talented.Continue reading