Sunil Dutt and Waheeda Rehman. The two names themselves conjure up a mix of everything from Pyaasa to Mother India, from Gumraah to Kaagaz ke Phool. Sunil Dutt, whom I tend to associate either with suspense films (Humraaz, Mera Saaya) or angst-ridden (or otherwise philosophical, socially relevant films like Railway Platformor Sujata. Okay, he did do Postbox No 999 and Padosan, but still… Waheeda, whose films with Guru Dutt did showcase her prowess as an actress, but which also tended to paint her as a ‘serious’ actress—although in her case, films like Solvaa Saal and 12 O’Clock showed that she could be as convincing in peppy and light-hearted roles as many of her contemporaries.
If that’s your impression of Dutt and Rehman—two actors who appeared in mostly grim films—this rom-com is worth seeing just for a different, fun, side to both of them.
I had no particular film review or song list in mind for this week, but when Anu declared August Dev Anand month over at her blog, and Harini reviewed Duniya, I saw a bandwagon that I liked—and decided to jump on to it. With a film that reminds me of Duniya in some ways: Dev Anand, late 60s, suspense.
While watching Pakeezahsome months back (and reading Meghnad Desai’s book about the film), I was struck by how fond old Hindi cinema used to be of the motif of the ‘chaste tawaif’. A paradox, seemingly, because how could a woman be a tawaif – a prostitute, to put it bluntly – and be chaste? But films like Pakeezah and Adalat did just that: they portrayed women who lived in kothas, sang (in Adalat) and danced (in Pakeezah) but were ‘good’ women, chaste and pure, women who may have been lusted after by bad men, but who – thanks to fate, good friends and relatives, kind strangers (both human and animal) – were always able to avoid the fate worse than death: of yielding their chastity to a man they were not married to, or weren’t going to eventually marry, even if only in secret.
…and a day or two in Beirut (plus an afternoon in the Lebanese countryside, masquerading as provincial France). A couple of days in Switzerland, and a grey afternoon at the Niagara Falls. Lots of Paris, of course, from the Eiffel Tower and the Champs Elysées, to the bateau mouche and pretty little cafés.
And Sharmila Tagore. And Shammi Kapoor. And pretty mad masala.
What with reading about Amar Akbar Anthony (and thinking over the lost-and-found trope), I ended up thinking, too, about An Evening in Paris, which is a good enough example of the genre. In this one, Sharmila Tagore is the one who plays the character(s) who’re lost: twin sisters, separated as children, thanks to a villain. They grow up unaware of each other’s existence, and in classic Hindi film style—ranging from Anhonee to Sharmeelee—with one sister good and the other bad, or at least not-so-good.
Frequent readers of this blog have probably realised I have a soft spot for ‘real life’ stories: Gladys Aylward, Dr Kotnis, Changez Khan, Shahjahan: I’m game. Of course, I don’t always end up with films that bear any resemblance to the life of the person in question, but there’s no harm in trying.
So, another. Afanasy Nikitin was a horse trader from Tver in Russia, who came to India in the late 15th century, having started off from Tver in 1466. His travels took him down the Volga River, through Persia, and then via dhow to India. He is believed to have disembarked in present-day Maharashtra; over the years that followed, he travelled through a large part of peninsular India, including Bidar and Vijaynagar. He died in 1472 in Smolensk, on his way home; his travelogue of India, however, endures: entitled Khozhdenie Za Tri Moray (‘The Journey Beyond Three Seas’), it describes in detail all that Nikitin saw of what was to him a wild, exotic land like nothing he knew.
My mother’s grandfather was one of those domineering patriarchs who governed everything his family did, including the films they saw. The films deemed worthy of watching were very limited; Hollywood, by virtue of producing films with a Biblical theme, managed to get some (likeQuo Vadis, The Ten Commandments and Ben Hur) past his strict censorship, but Hindi cinema didn’t have a chance. Kismet holds the distinction of being the only Hindi film he allowed his family to see. Considering it’s quite a formulaic potboiler (with an anti-hero and a girl who gets pregnant without being married), I was surprised at his choice—but then, it may have had something to do with the fact that Kismet was a huge hit that ran for 3 years in a theatre in Calcutta, where my mum’s family lived. Great-granddad must’ve thought anything that sustained so must have some merit.
Today’s Holi and much of Delhi has been busy slathering everybody else with colour. Out in the street (and in the neighbours’ yard) I saw people drenched in purple, green, yellow and red.
My husband and I don’t celebrate Holi—we’re both too fastidious and have better things to do in life than wasting hours getting colour off ourselves. So here’s my way of celebrating Holi: watching a Hindi film. And that too a colour film—yes, I’ve suddenly realised that the last Hindi colour film I reviewed was Leader, way back in June 2009. A situation pleading to be amended!
A very frank admission: I am not intellectual. I cannot summon up the brainpower to analyse a film and go deep into the philosophy of it—which is why arty films are completely lost on me. I never, after seeing a film, question it, delve into its profundities, or explore the hidden meaning of so and so scene.
I am therefore proud to announce that I have finally seen a film that has gone a long way in remedying this lamentable situation. Ek Phool Do Maali made me sit up and think. It made me ask a lot of questions. And it made me vow never to assume that just because a film had a cast I generally liked, meant that the film would be good too.
This film has melodrama and mindless self-sacrifice, two elements that invariably put me off. And Saathi really was no different: I got thoroughly put off. Oh, it starts off all right—much happiness and flowers kissing etc—but then the lives of the protagonists fall apart so completely, it’s just not on. Nobody should be subjected to so much tragedy, not even on screen.
I’ve always had a soft corner for Muslim socials—I find the tehzeeb quite beguiling. It also probably has a lot to do with the fact that Urdu has a mellifluousness that few languages possess. And most actors look great in achkans!
So, having recently re-seen some old favourites (including Mere Mehboob, Pakeezah, Chaudhvin ka Chand and Nakli Nawab), I decided it was time to watch some I hadn’t seen before. This was the first of the lot, and not bad, really.