Ten of my favourite Songs addressed to Krishna

Happy Krishna Janmashtami!

I am not a Krishnabhakt (I’m not even a Hindu), but when you’re a diehard fan of old Hindi cinema, you can’t really avoid noting the many, many references to Krishna, can you? The fact is, Krishna is one Hindu deity who seems to appear in just about every other old Hindi film featuring a Hindu household. Mostly, he’s in the form that little painted/gilded idol, draped dhoti, peacock feather, and flute in his hands, that stands in the little household shrine, seen in passing. Often, when some tragedy hits (or threatens) someone (invariably female) comes and weeps before the idol. Or sings, pleading for mercy, for succor.

But Krishna as the protector, the giver of divine help, is just one of the ways in which Krishna is viewed. He is, as is obvious in songs like Mohe panghat pe Nandlal chhed gayo re or Madhuban mein Radhika naache re Giridhar ki muraliya baaje re, also an embodiment of romance: teasing the milkmaids, wooing Radha, charming them all. And there’s the Krishna who exemplifies mischievous childhood: the matka-breaking, butter-stealing infant that is alluded to in songs like Bada natkhat hai Krishna-Kanhaiyya.

He’s everywhere in old Hindi film songs.

Krishna

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There you are!: The ‘lost and found’ trope in Hindi cinema

I suppose I should have dedicated this blog post to fellow blogger Anu Warrier, since the uncanny coincidences that dog our two respective lives and blogs seem straight out of a Hindi masala flick. There is also the fact that Anu and I got slightly acquainted with each other online years ago, then lost touch—until ‘meeting’ again on a film blog a couple of years ago, and realising that yes, this was the same person.

But no, this post is dedicated not to Anu, but to Sidharth Bhatia, whose delightful book Amar Akbar Anthony: Masala, Madness and Manmohan Desai, I’ve been reading.  Here, by the way, is my review of Sidharth’s book—if you like Amar Akbar Anthony (and I, despite my love for 50s and 60s cinema, have to admit that I do, wholeheartedly), do get hold of Sidharth’s book. It’s a very satisfying read.

Sidharth Bhatia's book: Amar Akbar Anthony: Masala, Madness, and Manmohan Desai Continue reading

Songs for all times: Celebrating 100 years of Hindi film music

Late last year, an editor from ForbesLife India wrote to me, telling me they’d be doing special ‘100 years of Indian cinema’ editions this year. Would I be interested in contributing an article? That was a no-brainer (or so it seemed), but when I got over my initial excitement and began to think, I realised that:
(a) I know virtually nothing about Indian cinema in general. Hindi cinema, yes; other Indian cinema, almost negligible.
(b) It was too vast a canvas. What would I write?

Much thought later, I offered to write about something I know something about: Hindi film music. What follows is a version of the article that appeared in the April-June 2013 issue of ForbesLife India. Do buy yourself a copy to read the final article—and to read some more interesting writing on a century of Indian cinema.

Jaan-pehchaan ho, from Gumnaam

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Ten of my favourite patriotic filmi songs

I am very proud to be Indian, but I guess in a way that wouldn’t make me terribly popular with some people. I do not agree, for instance, that everything about India is top class, or that everything about the countries we have political, social, economic or other differences with is necessarily evil through and through. I love India, but I do not feel that means I must hate other countries.
But one thing I will concede: nobody does “I love India” songs as well as Bollywood. Of course. We have so many different forms of patriotism onscreen: the soldierly bravery of Haqeeqat; the dignified, subdued yet exceptionally poignant love for country of a native far from home in Kabuliwaala; the militant, do-or-die fervour of Bhagat Singh in Shaheed; the urge to take the country forward into a new age of progress, in Hum Hindustani...

So here are my ten favourite patriotic songs, all from 50’s and 60’s (occasionally 40’s) films that I’ve seen. Happy Independence Day!

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Kismet (1943)

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 (like Quo 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.

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