Regional Star, Hindi Also-Ran: Ten Actors, Ten Songs

(With much thanks to blog reader Dr TN Subramaniam, who suggested the theme for this post, and who also supplied the first three examples of the actors that appear on this list).

I did not watch too many regional Indian films until fairly recently. True, Doordarshan did show regional cinema back when I was a child, but I was never tempted to watch (now that I think about it, I’m not even sure those films were subtitled). But in recent years, ever since I began to make a concerted effort to watch more non-Hindi films, I’ve been struck by the gap between regional cinema and Hindi cinema. A gap in many ways. For one, in the types of films made; in the production values; in the standard of acting and directing (note: I do not at all think that Bombay’s Hindi film industry outdid its regional counterparts in these areas. In a lot of cases, it was the opposite: regional cinema turned out a lot of films that were more original and generally of a higher standard than Hindi cinema, enough for Hindi remakes to be churned out).

And then there were the people who acted in these films. On the one hand, there were the many actors who confined themselves to the cinema of the region they belonged to. These were the majority, some of them even very fine, well-respected actors (think Tulsi Chakraborty, for instance) who were never seen in Hindi cinema. On the other hand, there were actors, big stars of regional cinema, who were also fairly successful in Hindi cinema. Bengalis like Suchitra Sen and Utpal Dutt; stars of Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada cinema like Padmini, Vyjyanthimala, and Waheeda Rehman: stars in their own regions, and stars familiar to Hindi filmgoers as well.

But there were some regional stars who, for some reason or the other, never could make it big in Hindi cinema. Perhaps they never felt the need to pursue a career in Hindi cinema (Soumitra Chatterjee, I know, was one of these), and never had the time; perhaps they could not be bothered with the language skills needed (though I can think of several people who did make names for themselves in Hindi cinema without being too good at Hindi). Perhaps they just didn’t have what it took to make them popular with a Hindi-speaking audience. Perhaps they were pure unlucky.

B Saroja Devi
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Ten songs picturized in famous gardens

Not too long back, I went on a trip to Kasauli, in Himachal Pradesh. It was a brief, pleasant little jaunt, and on the way back, I suggested that we stop—since it was on the way, in any case—at Pinjore Gardens. Later, back home and settled in, I posted some photos and wrote about the Pinjore Gardens on Facebook, and the post prompted fellow blogger Ava to remind me that several songs had actually been shot in the Pinjore Gardens.

That led me to think: it’s not just the Pinjore Gardens, but several other well-known gardens, that have been the settings for various songs. Some gardens—the ones in Kashmir, notably—are almost instantly recognizable, thanks to those distinct mountains and the towering chinar trees. Others are a little less obvious, but they are, too, quite obviously not just a set, not just a well-aimed, well-timed shot of flowerbeds in spring.

Here, then, are ten songs that have been picturized in well-known gardens. To make the challenge less of a sitter for myself, I added one rule: no two songs should be shot in the same garden. As always, these are all from pre-70s films that I’ve seen, and are listed in no particular order.

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Ten of my favourite ‘Give us a hug’ songs

The other day, I was thinking about some of those songs that end up featuring on every other list I make. Songs that are perennial favourites of mine, because they are those rare combinations of brilliant music and equally brilliant lyrics, singing, picturisation—everything. Songs like Aage bhi jaane na tu, Yeh duniya agar mil bhi jaaye toh kya hai, and Lag jaa gale ke phir yeh.

Lag jaa gale ke phir yeh made a thought pop into my mind: that a fair number of Hindi songs are an invitation to be hugged. That might seem fairly innocuous, but in the good old days of nodding flowers and birds putting their beaks together onscreen, an embrace was a daring enough statement: it meant you did love someone; you weren’t being frivolous. No heroine (or hero, even) worth their salt actually hugged anybody—in a romantic way—other than the love of their life. So telling someone to come on and give you a hug meant you were serious (even if the way it was said—as it is in some of the songs in this list—in a light-hearted way).

Give us a hug, now...

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