Mahal (1949)

Since my last post was about my uncle, the guitarist David Vernon Kumar, it seemed appropriate to devote this post to one of the films for which he played. Mahal, made when my uncle was about 20 years old, featured the hauntingly melodious Aayega aanewaala, the song that shot Lata Mangeshkar into the limelight – also a song, which, if you listen carefully, has some beautiful guitar notes. Played by my Vernie tau.

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Introducing ‘Kumar Sahib’

After having waxed so long and eloquent about my parents, my sister, my cousin, and a couple of other relatives (not to mention servants!) in the context of our love for cinema – it’s time to focus on the one link my family does have to cinema. The one person from our family who made it to the Hindi cinema industry in Bombay, back in the golden years.

David Vernon Liddle, who called himself David Vernon Kumar. People in the industry used to call him ‘Kumar Sahib’, and he was my father’s elder brother.

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Ten of my favourite patriotic filmi songs

I am very proud to be Indian, but I guess in a way that wouldn’t make me terribly popular with some people. I do not agree, for instance, that everything about India is top class, or that everything about the countries we have political, social, economic or other differences with is necessarily evil through and through. I love India, but I do not feel that means I must hate other countries.
But one thing I will concede: nobody does “I love India” songs as well as Bollywood. Of course. We have so many different forms of patriotism onscreen: the soldierly bravery of Haqeeqat; the dignified, subdued yet exceptionally poignant love for country of a native far from home in Kabuliwaala; the militant, do-or-die fervour of Bhagat Singh in Shaheed; the urge to take the country forward into a new age of progress, in Hum Hindustani...

So here are my ten favourite patriotic songs, all from 50’s and 60’s (occasionally 40’s) films that I’ve seen. Happy Independence Day!

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Mujrim (1958)

Right now, I’m on a five-day visit to my parents. They’re not Beiges, but I’d probably label them Greys—the salt far surpasses the pepper in their hair. We’ve been spending quality time together, eating the best chhola bhaturas in town, catching up on the latest gossip, and watching films. We started with Living it Up and Bells are Ringing, and then my father (who generally prefers Bollywood to Hollywood, unless it’s the Marx Brothers-Laurel and Hardy-Chaplin brands of comedy) put his foot down. Let’s see something Hindi, he said. So we settled on this one, because my father likes its music a lot, and Mummy and I like Shammi Kapoor a lot.

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River of No Return (1954)

This review is, of course, a tribute to Mitchum; it is also a tribute to my uncle, David Vernon Kumar. In the good old days, my uncle was a guitarist with the Hindi film company Filmistan. He was very talented, and though he passed away when I was a child, I remember him as having a great sense of humour and of regaling us with tales of his days in Bombay and the film world.
The connection: one of Vernie Uncle’s favourite tunes was the theme song of River of No Return. It’s a lovely song, and this is a lovely film.

Robert Mitchum and Tommy Rettig in River of No Return

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