It’s not as if I’ve not done a Manna Dey song list before (I have, several years back). But today, when Manna Dey would have turned a hundred years old, cannot pass without my doing a tribute to the beautiful voice and the versatility of one of my favourite singers.
The title of this post will probably require some explanation before I launch into the list itself.
Several years back, I did a post on female duets. Commenting on that, fellow blogger and blog reader Carla wondered about the rationale or thought behind songs like Reshmi salwar kurta jaali ka, where a dance performance featuring two women dancers has one woman dressed as a man, supposedly romancing the other (who’s dressed as a woman). I had no explanation to offer, and over the years, while I’ve mulled over this plenty of times, I’ve still not figured out why this became popular.
You know the type of song: there’s a fairly conventional love song, often teasing and playful, being sung—and the two people onscreen, while both women, are dressed as man and woman. The woman dressed as a man isn’t (unlike Geeta Bali in Rangeen Raatein), however, actually pretending to be a man: it’s very obvious that she is a woman, and that she’s supposed to be a woman (even the playback singer is a woman).
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.
When I posted my list of ‘background songs’ (songs that form part of the film, but to which nobody lip-synchs), I made one stipulation: that they wouldn’t include ‘credits songs’, or songs that play while the credits roll. Not all of these, as you’ll see from my list below, are necessarily ‘background songs’ as well: some of them are ‘sung’ by people onscreen. And they run the gamut from songs that introduce the film’s ethos or primary theme, to—well, just another song to add to a list of songs the film already boasts of. And they are all sorts, from romantic to philosophical to patriotic.
Though I’d heard of this film – and loved one of its songs (As-salaam-aaleikum babu) – I’d not been too keen on watching it. Firstly, Ashok Kumar is not really my idea of a dashing leading man. Secondly, I’m not a great one for the Travancore Sisters. At the risk of being labelled an iconoclast, I’m going to admit that dance is not generally a big thing for me – I’m awful at any sort of dancing myself, and I don’t have much of an eye for watching it, either. Plus, there’s the fact that both Padmini and Ragini have horrid Hindi accents, which means that when they’re playing Hindi-speaking characters, they are not exactly very believable.
Then Richard reviewed Kalpana, and I got to know a bit more about the film. And then, to add to it all, Tom Daniel praised it too. So, I ended up watching Kalpana. It turned out to be – surprise, surprise – much more engrossing than I’d expected it to be.
Some of you may have noticed my recent hiatus. Some of you may even know the reason for that—a trip to Kashmir (or, to be more specific, Srinagar). I lived in Srinagar for 3 years, beginning with when I was about 9 years old. I loved Srinagar. It was a beautiful place, and the beauty of it changed with the seasons: from the golds and reds of the chinars in autumn to the billowy white of winter (winter also meant teeth-chattering cold and long power cuts and occasionally no water, but never mind). From the masses of narcissi and daffodils, and the flowering fruit trees in spring, to the gardens bursting with poppies, roses and pansies in summer.
This post is two weeks late. Late, because it’s a tribute to the actress Kalpana, who passed away on January 4 this year. I didn’t get to know about her death till the 8th, and then – though I did want to do a tribute post – I couldn’t think of a film I hadn’t reviewed, and liked well enough to want to review. (Two of my favourite films – Professor and Pyaar Kiye Jaa – starred Kalpana, but I’ve already reviewed them. And other Kalpana films I’ve seen include Naughty Boy and Saheli – both of which I found almost impossible to sit through). Last weekend, in desperation, I watched Teesra Kaun, thinking I’d review that; but that was a disappointment too. So, finally: an old classic. Not a great film, but very pretty. And a good Kalpana showcase.
The first time I watched this film was on TV, back in the mid-80s. Luckily enough, our TV was hooked up to a VCR, and a blank tape was in the VCR – so we recorded Professor. I loved the film so much, I rewatched that tape again and again over the next 15 years. By that time, VCDs had come to India and I’d just gotten married. My husband and I bought a VCD player. And guess which was the first VCD I bought?
Now I have the DVD, and I have seen Professor so many times that I know each scene. I remember a lot of the dialogues, and I still love the film as much as I did way back then the first time, as a starry-eyed, Shammi Kapoor-loving 12 year old.
Continuing with my plan to link every post to the previous one… well, what next? (Harvey: you were close when it came to guessing!)
My last post, North-West Frontier, was set mostly in a train – and that too a train in the Indian subcontinent. So it seemed appropriate to do a list of my favourite songs set in what seems to have been one of Hindi cinema’s much-loved settings. From this lovely old song by Pankaj Mullick (thank you, AK, for introducing me to that), to newer songs – from Teri hai zameen teri aasmaan, to the much later Chhaiya chhaiya.
But: I’m restricting myself to pre-70s songs, and those too from films I’ve seen. What’s more, these are songs where the person on whom the song is picturised is on the train throughout the song. That’s why, no Mere sapnon ki raani kab aayegi tu (for me, that’s a jeep song; I’ll do it in another post) and no Jab pyaar kisi se hota hai.
I’d planned to watch (and review) something quite different this week, but when Beth announced Shashi Fest, I couldn’t resist the temptation to participate. That resolve was strengthened when I realised that in a year and a half of blogging about cinema, I’ve never once reviewed a Shashi Kapoor starrer. For shame! This, therefore: a farcical and fun film that never lets itself slip into seriousness. It features some of Hindi comedy’s greatest stalwarts, has superb music, and—of course—stars Shashi Kapoor, showing how good he is at comedy.