When I did a post on food songs as part of Food and Food Movie Month on Dustedoff last year, blog reader magi posted a link to a very interesting song Vivaaha bhojanambu and told me about the film it was from. Maya Bazaar, which several others also praised as being a very entertaining mythological.
One post often leads to another on this blog. When I posted my list of jewellery songs, blog reader Afsal posted a song from the 1965 Mahabharat—so I went and watched Mahabharat, and reviewed it. And, when I mentioned in that review that I found the reduced-to-almost-nothing character of Karna very disappointing (since I think of Karna as one of the most intriguing characters of the epic), another blog reader—kayyessee—recommended a film that might be of interest, since it focused on Karna. The 1964 Tamil film, Karnan, with Sivaji Ganesan in the lead role. Kayyessee reminded me, too, that it had been a long time since I’d reviewed a regional language film.
I hadn’t heard of this version of the Mahabharat till a few days back (not, of course, that the existence of this film is surprising; given Hindi cinema’s love for mythology, there was bound to be at least one version of this epic floating about). Then, commenting on my jewellery songs post, blog reader Afsal posted a song from Mahabharat, and mentioned part of the cast: Pradeep Kumar as Arjun. Dara Singh as Bheem. Padmini as Draupadi.
And good songs.
That sounded deliciously unlike the usual B grade Hindi mythological, so I went looking for it on YouTube, and watched it.
I won’t narrate the complete story here; the Mahabharat is too well-known for that (and if you aren’t familiar with it, I’d advise checking it out first before watching the film). Suffice to say that the film begins right in the middle of some action, without setting any preliminary background in place. At the court of the blind King Dhritrashtra in Hastinapur, the entire court is watching the two cousins Bheem (Dara Singh) and Suyodhan/Duryodhan (Tiwari) engage in a wrestling match.
April 2013 has a special significance: this month marks 100 years of Indian cinema. The country’s first indigenously produced full-length feature film, Raja Harischandra, made by the legendary Dhundiraj Govind ‘Dadasaheb’ Phalke, was shown to a select audience at Bombay’s Olympia Theatre, on 21st April, 1913.
(Note: There is some controversy about this; some film historians believe that Shree Pundalik, 1912, was the first full-length feature film).
But. Celebrating the centennial of Raja Harischandra seemed good enough reason to dedicate this month to Indian cinema. Not just Hindi cinema, as I have been prone to do, but Indian regional cinema. I am painfully aware that the only regional language cinema I’ve reviewed so far has been Bengali, so this is a good place to make a start. April 2013 on Dusted Off is going to be when I set about exploring more of cinema from across the country.
I thought it appropriate to begin with Raja Harischandra itself.
I’m very fond of Bina Rai. I’m also a fan of Premnath in his pre-paunchy days. And a film that starred both of them? I didn’t even bother to try and find out what it was all about. So, when I began watching it and saw this, it made me sit up a bit: