Yeh Zindagi Kitni Haseen Hai (1966)

Every now and then [with distressing frequency], I come across a film that, just by looking at its cast and crew, sounds mouthwatering enough. This was one of those. Saira Banu, when she still looked pretty. Joy Mukherji, still at the height of his career. Ashok Kumar. Motilal. Ravi as the composer. RK Nayyar as the director. Europe.

Sounds good?

Saira Banu in Yeh Zindagi Kitni Haseen Hai

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The Woman in Question (1950)

Aka (in the US) Five Angles to Murder.

The last English-language film I reviewed on my blog was Anatomy of a Murder, which, while not strictly a multiple narrative film, was one of those that peeled back layers of a character and a story as the film progressed.

Then, last weekend, I finished Ngaio Marsh’s Died in the Wool, where the detective arrives on the scene of a gruesome murder a year after it’s been committed. He ends up learning all about the victim from those around her—and there are some very conflicting opinions there. Was she a saint, a saviour? An opportunist, a neglectful wife, what?

A few hours after I finished Died in the Wool (since it was Sunday night), I decided it was time to watch something on Youtube. I was looking for nothing more specific than ‘50s suspense films’, and The Woman in Question was among the search results. I began watching it simply because it starred Dirk Bogarde (whom I like a lot)—and then suddenly it took an interesting turn, and there I was, faced with multiple narratives, multiple perspectives, all over again.

Jean Kent in and as The Woman in Question

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Anatomy of a Murder (1959)

A couple of months back, I was invited to an interesting series of sessions focusing on building creativity. This was part of a venture by an organization where I once worked, and the creativity-building exercises take unconventional routes to help employees think out of the box: by watching films and analyzing them, for instance. One of the sessions I attended was presented by a team which used the theme of ‘multiple narratives’ to examine four films. The classic Kurosawa film Rashomon was (of course) on the list; so was the excellent South Korean film, Memories of Murder. The other two films—which I hadn’t seen, though I’d heard of them—were Talwar and Anatomy of a Murder.

The description and brief discussion of Anatomy of a Murder that followed got me interested, and I made a mental note to get the DVD. Then, a week or so back, friend and ex-fellow blogger Harvey recommended the film to me, too, so I decided it was high time I watched it. And what a film it turned out to be.

A scene from Anatomy of a Murder

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Fahrenheit 451 (1966)

I’ve just finished reading what’s considered to be the finest work by one of science fiction’s greatest writers: Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. Set in a dystopian future where literature is outlawed, this is a classic novel of tyranny, insecurity, and yet defiance and hope. In 1966, more than a decade after Bradbury wrote his novel, Francois Truffaut adapted it for the screen.

The firehouse

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Hamlet (1954)

Today, April 23, 2016, marks the 400th death anniversary of one of English literature’s greatest writers, a man who had a huge hand in making English what it is today. Though William Shakespeare’s date of birth is unknown, he died on this day, nearly 52 years after he was baptized. In less than half a century, he created a corpus of work that has endured—and continues to spawn adaptations by the dozen in popular culture—ever since.

Shakespeare, died April 23, 1616

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Abhilasha (1968)

A lot of my memories of 50s and 60s cinema date back to the 1980s, when almost all the films I watched were those shown on Doordarshan. In the early years, with Doordarshan being the sole channel, my sister and I (our parents were rather more discerning) watched every single Hindi film that was telecast, down to painful stuff like Jai Santoshi Ma and the thoroughly obscure Fauji, with Joginder Singh (who, if I remember correctly, also produced and directed it) in the lead role.

But, to get around to the topic of this post: Abhilasha, not a very well-known film but one which made an impression on me because of two songs I liked a lot. And because it depicted a mother-son relationship that was a little different from the usual.

Meena Kumari and Sanjay Khan in Abhilasha

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Dil Hi Toh Hai (1963)

Some months back, I watched two relatively new Muslim socials: Daawat-e-Ishq and Bobby Jasoos. Both were an interesting reflection on the way the Muslim social has changed over the years (after close to disappearing during the 90s). The Muslim social of the 1950s was, more often than not, a film that, even when set amongst the wealthy upper class—the nawabs and their kin—came heavily burdened with all the stereotypical trappings of what was perceived as ‘Muslim’: the qawwalis and mushairas, the shararas and sherwanis. (I’ll write about all of those, and more, in a post to follow).

Bobby Jasoos and Daawat-e-Ishq had shed those to quite an extent. But that process had begun in earlier films, even as far back as the 60s. In Neend Hamaari Khwaab Tumhaare, for example, where Nanda’s character—the daughter of a nawab, no less—doesn’t merely have a Western education, but spends most of her time in skirts and dresses. And this film, where Nutan’s Jameela is a firebrand, giving as good as she gets, and by no means the simpering and demure Muslim girl exemplified by her contemporaries in films like Mere Mehboob, Mere Huzoor, and Chandni Chowk.

Nutan as Jameela in Dil Hi Toh Hai

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Rawhide (1951)

The other day, a blog reader, Dr Pradeep Prahlad, commented on one of my reviews of a Tyrone Power film, Witness for the Prosecution. It reminded me that a few years back, I went through a longish spell of complete and utter Power fandom.  I watched, over the space of a few months, just about every Tyrone Power film I could lay my hands on. Some were good, some were forgettable. Some I reviewed. Some I thought I’d review—and then forgot about them.

So here is one film that I liked, but ended up not having the time to review back then. I rewatched Rawhide a couple of weeks back, saw flaws in it I hadn’t noticed the first time round, and decided it merited a review. Even if only to keep the Power love alive, and even if only to draw attention to a Western that generally tends to get overlooked.

Tyrone Power as Tom Owens in Rawhide

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Biwi aur Makaan (1966)

I’m reading Jai Arjun Singh’s The World of Hrishikesh Mukherjee: The Filmmaker Everyone Loves these days (yes; a review will be posted sometime this month). A few pages into the book, and I came across a mention—followed by more interesting stuff—about a film I’d run into once, about ten years back. Biwi aur Makaan, of which I’d happened to find a VCD and had happily bought, guessing (from the synopsis on the VCD cover) that this might be fun.

That VCD turned out a dud: the first disc was fine, the second refused to play. So I set Biwi aur Makaan aside (regretfully), and ended up forgetting about it. Until earlier this week, when, reading Jai’s book, I was reminded of it, and on a whim, decided to see if I could find it on YouTube. Sure enough, there it was. And here is my review.

Biswajeet, Keshto Mukherjee, Kalpana and Shabnam in Biwi aur Makaan

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Pathlaag (1964)

Some years back, a comments thread on a blog post sparked off a discussion, the net result of which was that I learnt about Pathlaag, the Marathi original of Mera Saaya.

Suspense is one of my favourite genres, and when it comes to 60’s Hindi cinema, Mera Saaya remains one of my favourite suspense films. And I am always eager to see the originals or the remakes—even in different languages—of films I particularly like. So I quickly put Pathlaag on my list, and set about trying to find a subtitled version. Some hectic trying, and I realized just how difficult this was going to be. I found VCDs aplenty; I even found a version—uploaded in five parts—on Youtube. None had subtitles. Then, Pathlaag again cropped up in conversations when I posted my review of Mera Saaya, I decided to give it another try. This time, I found an English subtitles file of Pathlaag. With much jugglery and some tech work, I managed to fit film to subs, and watch it.

Appropriate, perhaps, considering—as Harvey and Milind’s discussion indicated—‘pathlaag’ can mean ‘chase’ or ‘follow’. I really had to chase this film down.

Bhavna and Kashinath Ghanekar in Pathlaag

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