A little less than a week ago, on December 4, I received news that a very dear aunt had passed away. My parents, my sister and I made arrangements to travel to Kolkata for the funeral, the next day. Early in the morning, just as I was about to leave for the airport, the newspaper was delivered, and one headline sprang out at me: Shashi Kapoor had passed away, too. On the very same day as my aunt.
I suppose if Shashi Kapoor had passed away on any other day, on a day when I was not quite so swamped in sorrow of my own, I would have posted a tribute to him earlier. Later, I thought. When I am a little less distraught. My father, reading the newspaper, remarked that he and Shashi Kapoor had been born in the same year, just 6 months apart (my father in September 1938, Shashi in March 1938). My mother, looking at a lovely photo of a smiling and very handsome young Shashi, remarked that he looked uncannily like a cousin of mine (which I have to agree with; I have thought so many times). In our own ways, all of us remembered Shashi Kapoor.
I don’t recall exactly when I realized who the Hunterwali really was. Myth, fictional character, movie character: I had no idea, but—even as a child—I had vague memories of references to a feisty woman who went about cracking a whip (thus, ‘Hunterwali’—the ‘woman with the whip’). A particularly fearless, sharp-tongued woman would jokingly be referred to as Hunterwali, and I always thought it was a generic appellation. Not something derived from cinema, at any rate.
This, mind you, well into the 80s.
Then, somewhere down the line, I discovered the truth: that Hunterwali was a blockbuster hit film from the 30s, starring an actress named Fearless Nadia. The visual—I think it was a grainy photo in an old magazine or newspaper—was enough to explode all my ideas of what old Hindi film heroines (till then, for me, always sari-clad and melodramatic) were supposed to be. This one wore shorts and a clingy top. Her boots were no-nonsense ones, she wielded a whip and she generally looked super badass.
Sadly, all good things must come to an end. So, with a heavy heart, I’m having to publish this post: the last of the four-part guest posts on Edwina Lyons, written by Edwina, along with Tom Daniel. If you haven’t yet read the earlier posts, click here for the first (a mini biography), here for the second (on the actors, actresses and choreographers Edwina worked with) and here for the third, about Edwina’s fellow dancers. As in the earlier posts, in this one too Edwina’s writing is formatted in black, while Tom’s words are in blue. Over to Tom:
After three preparatory articles, we finally get to the heart of the matter – what it was like to film these movie dances fifty years ago. What was the process and how was the life of a young female dancer? Some of what will be covered in this article were among Edwina’s earliest writings to me, because these are the things about which I wanted to know the most. This early material was also later supplemented by telephone conversations which I rewrote in my own words. Ultimately, though, it all comes from Edwina.
Ever since I announced the classic Hindi cinema quiz last week, though I’ve published no new posts, I’ve had a lot of traffic on my blog – and a large amount of it to the quiz post. Thank you, everybody, who commented on it, gave up on it (!), and – very especially – sent in answers. Even if they weren’t all correct, even if they were just wild guesses. Your enthusiasm touched me and encouraged me. You’re the reason I keep this blog alive. Thank you.
Okay, we’ll get around to the winners in a little while, but first, the answers:
Q1. In the film Detective (1958), what is the profession of the character played by Pradeep Kumar? Answer: A magician. Anu was the only one who came close – she thought he might be a street entertainer. (If you listen to the song Aankhon pe bharosa mat kar, duniya jaadoo ka khel hai – “Don’t believe all you see, this world is a magical show” – it does contain a hint).
The detective in the film is actually the father of the character Mala Sinha plays.