Early in 2013, to mark hundred years of Indian cinema, I dedicated an entire month to regional Indian cinema. I reviewed several films of different languages, and realized, in the process, just how difficult it is to get hold of old regional films that have subtitles. Even when they’re blockbuster hits, National Award-winning films, films that must have been subtitled at some stage to enable a jury to judge them worthy of a prestigious award.
Among the films that I came across, but which wasn’t subbed, was this extremely popular Punjabi film, which won the National Award for Best Feature Film in Punjabi, as well as the National Film Award for Best Music Direction. My husband’s a Punjabi but speaks the language very rarely, and that too when he has no other option (as a result, his Punjabi is pretty shaky). As for me, the less said about my Punjabi, the better. But I had this film bookmarked from 2013, and when I discovered last year that Nanak Naam Jahaaz Hai had been digitally restored and re-released, I thought I may as well take the plunge.
The first time I began watching this film was on Doordarshan, many years ago. It surprised me, largely because it featured Waheeda Rehman in a very Westernised avatar I had never seen before. It also had an intriguing story. And Dharmendra, always one of my favourites. And Helen. And Johnny Walker.
One day in August, I checked my blog roll and discovered that not one, but two, of my favourite bloggers had posted reviews of films based (even if only in spirit) on The Arabian Nights. Anu had reviewed Ali Baba aur 40 Chor, and Ira (aka Bollyviewer) had reviewed The Thief of Baghdad. Coincidence? Planned? If the latter, then why hadn’t I, the third of the three soul sisters, been included in the plan?
It turned out to have been sheer coincidence, but Anu, Ira and I decided it would be a good idea to actually do a themed set of posts. And what better theme than the one Ira suggested: long-lost siblings, such a favourite trope in Hindi cinema.
By some strange oversight, despite the fact that Waqt is one of my favourite masala films, I’ve never reviewed it on this blog. And I’m wishing I didn’t have to end up writing about it on such a sad occasion—because Achla Sachdev, the actress who played the self-sacrificing, long-suffering mother and wife in this film, passed away on April 30, 2012.
I watched two old Hindi films last week, both with a love triangle—of sorts—as a central plot element. The first film, Saheli (Pradeep Kumar-Kalpana-Vijaya Choudhary) was an indifferent, predictable, forgettable flick which crescendoed into high melodrama. This one, a rewatch, makes for more satisfying reviewing, since the story is more interesting, the cast is better—barring one glaring and painful exception—and the music is out of this world. Humraaz is a BR Films production and a fine example of the high entertainment value that characterises BR Chopra’s best films. Total paisa vasool.
9 years before he made the superb suspense thriller Ittefaq, B R Chopra produced and directed this film. It too starred Nanda (though not in as pivotal a role as in Ittefaq). It too didn’t have a single song—though it did have a ballet performance. And, like Ittefaq, it hinged on a murder.
But Kanoon wasn’t by any means a precursor to Ittefaq. Ittefaq is mainstream murder mystery; Kanoon straddles with consummate skill the line between crime detection and social issues. It’s an excellent, unusual and gripping film that merits viewing.
This is one of those films that have a very interesting—and unexpected—twist that can come totally as a bolt out of the blue if you’re watching it for the first time. Subsequent watchings, no matter how far apart, tend to dilute the suspense a good deal because (unless you have a really frightful memory) you know what’s coming. And somehow, unlike films like Teesri Manzil or Mera Saaya or Woh Kaun Thi?, Jewel Thief lacks other elements that could encourage repeated viewings.
My post on how similar classic Hollywood actually is to classic Bollywood omitted a popular cliché: amnesia. So, if Greer Garson’s character could fall in love with a soldier who’d lost his memory in Random Harvest, Sadhana can do so too, in Ek Musafir Ek Haseena.
Two years after they both debuted in the generally-enjoyable Love in Simla, Joy Mukherji and Sadhana acted together again in this film. It has lots to recommend it: a very beautiful lead actress (I personally think Sadhana looks her best in this film), a superb musical score by O P Nayyar, Raj Khosla’s direction—then why, at the end of two and a half hours, do I feel a sense of dissatisfaction?
Much as I do not like like Dev Anand in his post-60’s avatar (the too-black hair, the bandanna and the cap don’t make him look any younger; they just bash home the fact that he’s aging most disgracefully)—I do like him in a lot of the films he did in the 50’s and early 60’s. There are some great suspense films here (CID, Baat ek Raat ki, Kaala Paani, Jewel Thief) and some great drama/thriller/romance/whatever (Jaal, Hum Dono, Paying Guest, Solvaan Saal, Guide, the very unusual Ferry)—and this, a simple story of a thief who finds himself impersonating the long-lost son of a village zamindar.
If I have one major failing when it comes to selecting films to watch, it is the stubborn (naive?) belief that any film which has good songs and a good cast must also necessarily be good. This has been proven to be a completely baseless criterion for film selection, but I plod on optimistically, buying and renting films that have superb music but fall absolutely flat on other fronts: House No. 44, for example, a Dev Anand starrer that tries to be noir but doesn’t quite make it.