Yasmin (1955)

Fellow blogger and soul sister Anu, at Conversations Over Chai, watched Bahaar for two reasons: one, that it starred Vyjyanthimala; two, that it featured the delightful Saiyyaan dil mein aana re. As it happened (and both Anu and I agreed this was nothing new) she—as I have been, countless times—found herself a victim of the somewhat irrational logic that good music + an actor we like = good film.

But, to get down to this week’s post. A film I watched because, one, it stars Vyjyanthimala; and two, because it has great music. I had steeled myself for something pretty irritating, so perhaps the fact that I began this film with low expectations had much to do with my eventual enjoyment of it. Yasmin isn’t  a masterpiece, but I still liked it, predictability and all.

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Baradari (1955)

When I did my post on ‘unusual  singers’—actors and actresses who are familiar to movie-watchers, but have very few songs to which they’ve lip-synced—a couple of people suggested Ajit as a possible candidate for the list.  For those who associate Ajit only with the leering villain of films like Yaadon ki Baaraat, the man of classic (not to mention corny) dialogues like “Lily, don’t be silly” and “Ise liquid oxygen mein daal do. Liquid ise jeene nahin dega aur oxygen ise marne nahin dega”—all delivered, of course, in classic Ajit style—the idea of Ajit ‘singing’ was novel enough.

But the Ajit I first knew in cinema was the Ajit of the old black-and-white Hindi films: the hot-headed rival -and-friend of Dilip Kumar’s character in Naya Daur. The embittered cynic in Nastik. The quiet, handsome and very dependable Durjan Singh of Mughal-e-Azam. Meena Shorey’s friend-enemy-accomplice from the hilarious Dholak. Yes, before he slipped into middle age and the villain roles, Ajit acted the hero in plenty of films (and, more to the point when it came to the ‘unusual singers’ post, lip-synced to many songs, including some big hits).

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Do Behnen (1959)

RIP, Shyama.

Yes, Shyama, of the dancing eyes and the gorgeous smile, passed away almost a week ago, on November 14, 2017. I could not possibly let the death of one of my favourite actresses go unmentioned on this blog, but I’d already done, some years back, a post of my favourite Shyama songs. A film review, therefore, seemed in order. But which one?

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Ek Phool Chaar Kaante (1960)

Sunil Dutt and Waheeda Rehman. The two names themselves conjure up a mix of everything from Pyaasa to Mother India, from Gumraah to Kaagaz ke Phool. Sunil Dutt, whom I tend to associate either with suspense films (Humraaz, Mera Saaya) or angst-ridden (or otherwise philosophical, socially relevant films like Railway Platform or Sujata. Okay, he did do Postbox No 999 and Padosan, but still… Waheeda, whose films with Guru Dutt did showcase her prowess as an actress, but which also tended to paint her as a ‘serious’ actress—although in her case, films like Solvaa Saal and 12 O’Clock showed that she could be as convincing in peppy and light-hearted roles as many of her contemporaries.

If that’s your impression of Dutt and Rehman—two actors who appeared in mostly grim films—this rom-com is worth seeing just for a different, fun, side to both of them.

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New Delhi (1956)

Over the years, I have heard and read much praise for this relatively little-known film. Its songs, which various people have introduced to me over the years, are good, and Anu—whose taste and opinion usually match my own—had good things to say about New Delhi in her review of the film. I decided it was time to watch it for myself.

New Delhi is set, of course, in New Delhi (though a bit of Old Delhi intrudes now and then, even as it does in everyday life in Delhi today). The film begins outside New Delhi Railway Station, where Anand Kumar (Kishore Kumar) has just arrived from Jalandhar, to study radio engineering. Anand hails a passing taxi at the same time that Janaki (Vyjyantimala), who is standing a few steps further along the road, does too. One taxi draws up; both Anand and Janaki get into it, and then start arguing over whose taxi this is.

Anand meets Janaki in a taxi

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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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The Train (1970)

While, in the world of Hindi films, songs are often sung on trains, alas – trains too are occasionally dangerous places to be in. And I’m not simply talking about a train in which a heartbroken and lonely hero or heroine is travelling [such trains invariably have frightful accidents in which the hero(ine) is about the only person left alive and whole, though he/she has lost his/her memory, leading to interesting complications].

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Abe-Hayat (1955)

I’ve been very busy the last couple of days, and the busy-ness doesn’t look like it’ll come to an end soon. My husband, therefore (and what a model of husbandly devotion!) offered to write the review of Abe-Hayat for me. This, mind you, without having seen the film, just on the basis of a very sketchy gist I’d narrated of the first half while we were on our evening walk. Tarun said he’d do a 3-sentence review:
Once there was an evil jaadugar named Saamri. There was a prince, and a princess. The prince killed Saamri, and then he and the princess lived happily ever after.

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Dahej (1950)

I’ve lost count of the number of Hindi films I’ve seen in which a bride is left at the mandap just because her family hasn’t been able to provide a massive dowry. I have no idea which was the first such film to be made, but V Shantaram’s Dahej is one of the early ones. And to be expected too, from a film-maker who was deeply sensitive to the many shortcomings in the society of his time.

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Ek Sapera Ek Lutera (1965)

And besides that ‘one snake charmer, one bandit’ (and not a single snake, mind you)—there’s also one pretty lady, a nasty patricidal king, a ghost (who appears for all of one very short scene) and a trio of comic courtiers who go bananas trying to differentiate between their crown prince and an impostor. There’s also, to add to the fun, a variety of disguises. And a decent enough score by Usha Khanna, including the depressing hit song Hum tumse judaa hoke.

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