Parineeta (1953)

Sometime during the 1990s, I pretty much stopped watching contemporary films. By then, there were a few channels on TV that regularly aired old films, and that was enough for me—in any case, I was in a job so time-consuming that I barely got time to sleep, let alone watch films. For several years, I watched a handful of films that were the current rage. As it was, the songs rarely appealed to me; I didn’t much care for a lot of the people who seemed to be the hottest stars; and some of the biggest films—or so I gathered—were action blockbusters, not really my idea of fun.

And then I watched Parineeta. The 2005 one, which marked the Hindi film debut of one of my favourite present-day actresses. It also proved a turning point for me with reference to Saif Ali Khan, whom I didn’t like before, but began to like (in some roles) after this one. It’s one of the few films in which I’ve not minded Sanjay Dutt. Plus, it has perhaps my favourite score of any film from the 2000s so far.

It wasn’t till much after I’d seen Parineeta—perhaps a few years—that I discovered that there had been an earlier Parineeta as well. Made by Bimal Roy, and starring Meena Kumari and Ashok Kumar. Just those three names in themselves are enough to make me watch a film. And a film based on a novel by Sarat Chandra, no less? I realized it was high time I watched this.

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Mohabbat Zindagi Hai (1966)

Considering ‘arranged marriages’ were—and still are—so common in India, the fact that old Hindi cinema tended to focus mostly on ‘love marriages’ seems rather odd to me. It’s more romantic, I suppose, to imagine that one will fall in love and end up, after various trials and tribulations and having encountered sundry obstacles, married to one’s sweetheart.

There were exceptions, though, the occasional film about people getting married first, and falling in love later. There was Ghoonghat, Saanjh aur Savera, Blackmail, or those examples of child marriages, Chhoti si Mulaqat and Ji Chaahta Hai. Most of them about people who are forced—because of their own submissiveness, and because they can’t pluck up the courage to say no to bossy elders—into getting married to near or complete strangers.

Unlike this one. Mohabbat Zindagi Hai is one of the few examples (Mr & Mrs 55 was another) of someone getting married for a very mercenary reason. And, as in Mr & Mrs 55, the heroine here is an heiress who needs to get married in a hurry in order to inherit. No husband, no money. But, unlike Mr & Mrs 55, the heroine here doesn’t marry because she thinks she can easily divorce her unwanted husband soon after; she marries him because he’s on death row. He won’t be alive three days after their wedding.

Dharmendra and Rajshree in Mohabba Zindagi Hai Continue reading

Rustom Sohrab (1963)

Who would’ve thought that the Ramsay Brothers’ first production was a historical worthy of a Sohrab Modi [granted, it does have two far-too-chubby leading men and its fair share of violence, but still; Rustom Sohrab is no horror film, not by a long shot]? But yes, Ramsay Productions—famous for its B grade horror films of the 80s and 90s—did make this rather surprising debut, a film based on the Persian epic poem Rostam and Sohrab (part of the famous Shahnameh).

Prithviraj Kapoor and Premnath in and as Rustom Sohrab. Continue reading

Bahurani (1963)

Inspirations to watch (and review) films come to me from all over. Friends and relatives are occasionally badgered to suggest genres; blog readers’ requests and recommendations (some of them, alas, long-pending) are taken into consideration. And, sometimes, I get inspired by the most outlandish of things. For instance, this film—which I first watched years ago, on TV—jumped to the top of my to-watch list because one day, while washing up in my kitchen, I was reminded of Mala Sinha.

[And no, not because I happened to be scrubbing a colander].

Mala Sinha in and as the Bahurani Continue reading

Rattan (1944)

In an interview, while reminiscing about his first few years in the Hindi cinema industry, Naushad mentioned how, after he had moved to Bombay and become a music director, his parents arranged his wedding. “We have told your future in-laws that you are a tailor,” his mother said. “If we’d said you were into music, you’d never have gotten married!” The irony of the whole thing was, recalled Naushad, that at the wedding, the band that came along was playing all the latest hits – all of which happened to be from Naushad’s first big score.

Which, as you’ve probably guessed by now, was from this film. Naushad came to Bombay from Lucknow in 1937, and though he did get some work over the next few years, it was not until Rattan that he got a chance to compose the sort of music that catapulted him to the top.

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Chhoti Bahen (1959)

This blog’s been on a Hollywood roll long enough (two films in succession? Too long). So we’re back to good old Bollywood, and with a film that somewhat repeats the cast of the deplorable Bhabhi: Balraj Sahni (again as the long-suffering, self-sacrificing eldest brother), Nanda (again simpering and whimpering), even Shyama, again as the daughter-in-law who starts off being nice but changes into a screechy harridan. And, like Bhabhi, this too is about a loving family split asunder.

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Samadhi (1950)

Two confessions, to start with. Firstly, although I am very fond of Ashok Kumar—I think he was a great actor—I find it difficult to envisage him as the dashing hero of a spy thriller. Secondly, I think 50’s and 60’s Hindi cinema (with the notable exception of Haqeeqat) never quite manages to depict war properly. Battlefields are too often obviously sets or, at the most, a bunch of extras letting off firecrackers in a patch of woodland.
So Samadhi, despite being 1950’s top-grossing Hindi film and starring the beautiful Nalini Jaywant—was a film that I approached with trepidation. Which was perhaps just as well, because if I’d begun watching it with expectations way up there, I’d probably have been disappointed. As it was, by the end, I decided it wasn’t bad; in fact, pretty watchable.

Ashok Kumar and Nalini Jaywant in Samadhi

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Chhoti si Mulaqat (1967)

Considering my mother’s part Bengali, I suppose I should be feeling a little ashamed that I don’t know the language. The only time it’s bothered me, though, is when it means I can’t see Uttam Kumar’s Bengali movies without subtitles. Chhoti si Mulaqat is one of the few Hindi movies the Bengali superstar ever made, and luckily for me, this is (unlike Anand Ashram or Amanush) in his pre-pudgy days. Sneak peek:

Uttam Kumar in Chhoti si Mulaqat

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