Doli (1969)

The Hindi film industry has always been an upholder of patriarchy. Its male stars attract ridiculously high prices in comparison to their female colleagues, and have disproportionately longer careers than them (plus a much longer time as leads). Sexism is rampant, ranging all the way from sexual discrimination to violence. And, though more women directors, scriptwriters, lyricists etc are around now, it’s still pretty much a male-dominated industry.

Hardly surprising, then, that most of our films tend to look at things (at best) from a male point of view. At worst, they uphold patriarchy in its most virulent forms, reducing women to a cypher, expected to devote their lives to the service of men. Ever-forgiving Sati Savitris, wrapped in saris and simpering prettily every time their lord and master deigns to be kind. Or unkind, it doesn’t matter; he is still her devta.

Doli is one such film, steeped in patriarchy and regressive in the extreme.

It begins in a college, where Amar (Rajesh Khanna) and Prem (Prem Chopra) have just graduated. Amar is the star athlete, Prem the star pupil who has topped the college and won a scholarship for higher studies in America. Later, in their dorm, both Prem and Amar receive letters from home, informing them that their weddings have been fixed. On the same day, in the same town, Nasik. Neither of them is happy about this, but Prem, having known already that a match had been found for him, is rather more resigned.

Continue reading

Seema (1955)

Every now and then, I am reminded of a film which I’ve seen—often, many years ago—and which would be a good fit for this blog. Right time period, a cast I like, music I like. Some of these (like Pyaasa, Mughal-e-Azam or Kaagaz ke Phool) have been analyzed and reviewed so often and by so many stalwarts infinitely more knowledgeable than me that I feel a certain trepidation approaching them. Others are a little less in the ‘cult classic’ range, but good films nevertheless.

Like Seema. I remembered this film a few weeks back when I reviewed Naunihaal (also starring Balraj Sahni). At the end of that post, I’d inserted a very striking photo I’d found, of a young Balraj Sahni standing in front of a portrait of Pandit Nehru. Both on my blog and elsewhere on social media, some people remarked upon that photo: how young and handsome Balraj Sahni was looking in it. And I mentioned Seema, as an example of a film where Balraj Sahni appears as the hero. A hero of a different style than the type he played in Black Cat, but a hero nevertheless.

Continue reading

Vachan (1955)

I started my first draft of this post by writing that “I watch some films because of the people who made them”. Then it struck me that that, almost invariably, is the only reason I do watch a film. After all, everybody—the director, the music director, the lyricist, and of course the cast (besides the many hundreds of other, often unnamed, people) who work on a film are those who made them. Sometimes, it’s the cast that appeals to me: give me people like Shammi Kapoor, Dev Anand, Sadhana, Waheeda Rehman—oh, and many more—and I will happily begin watching any film they’re in (whether or not that experience will end up being as rewarding a one I’d hoped for is another matter). Sometimes, it’s just the name of a well-loved and much-respected director—Bimal Roy, Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Vijay Anand among them—that’s enough.

Sometimes, it’s the music. Sometimes, it’s just one song.

In this case, it was just one song. I was singing Chanda mama door ke to the LO the other day, and I thought: that’s a nice song, and Geeta Bali looks so pretty; I wonder what the film’s like.

Continue reading

Insaan Jaag Utha (1959)

The main reason I rented this film was that the credits were so absolutely mouthwatering. A cast that included Sunil Dutt, Madhubala, Minoo Mumtaz, Madan Puri and Nishi Kohli. Music by S D Burman. Shakti Samanta as director. A winner, I’d have thought.

Alas, no. While it’s not a dud, Insaan Jaag Utha isn’t more than the sum of its otherwise stellar parts.  The story is a mishmash of tropes. It doesn’t seem to know where it’s going, the plot has a lot of holes, and  it’s not really too interesting.

Continue reading

Rustom-e-Hind (1965)

Mumtaz, as I mentioned in my last post, was one of the best things that happened to Mere Sanam. She may not have had much screen time in the film, but she certainly left her mark – more than she’d been doing in the B-grade films she’d mostly appeared in till then.
Rustom-e-Hind, made in the same year as Mere Sanam, is an example of that type of film. It’s basically a Dara Singh showcase – so there’s lots of showing off of wrestling – but Mumtaz gets to smile prettily and flutter her eyelashes, if nothing else.

Continue reading

Dillagi (1966)

This was what I call a ‘shot in the dark’ film—I noticed it on Induna and decided I’d give it a try, even though I hadn’t heard of it before. The decision was arbitrary, and mainly because the picture of the DVD cover appealed to me. I should probably have had a look at the plot summary on imdb but I didn’t, and ended up with a film that I actually rather liked, even apart from the fact that the lead pair looked yum.

Sanjay Khan and Mala Sinha in Dillagi

Continue reading

Dekh Kabira Roya (1957)

Rewatching this film after donkey’s years, I was struck by the similarity in basics with How to Marry a Millionaire. Here too are three beautiful girls, each of whom falls in love with a man she meets—but doesn’t realise is not quite the sort of man she’d hoped to end up marrying.
That’s where the resemblance ends. Our girls, like good bharatiya naaris, aren’t mercenary gold-diggers. Which, of course, is good news for the three men whom they fall for, since their heroes aren’t exactly rolling in wealth either.

Shbuha Khote, Anita Guha and Ameeta in Dekh Kabira Roya

Continue reading

Usne Kaha Tha (1960)

I am occasionally inclined to see a film simply because I adore one particular song of the film. Unfortunately, I score more hits than misses using this criterion. Saranga (1960) is a case in point—it has the classic Saranga teri yaad mein nain hue bechain (one of the few hit songs of Anu Malik’s father, Sardar Malik), but not much else. With Usne Kaha Tha, I had better luck. The lovely Aha rimjhim ke yeh pyaare-pyaare geet liye is a wonderful song, and the film itself is an interesting one.

Sunil Dutt and Nanda in Usne Kaha Tha

Continue reading

Ek Phool Do Maali (1969)

A very frank admission: I am not intellectual. I cannot summon up the brainpower to analyse a film and go deep into the philosophy of it—which is why arty films are completely lost on me. I never, after seeing a film, question it, delve into its profundities, or explore the hidden meaning of so and so scene.

I am therefore proud to announce that I have finally seen a film that has gone a long way in remedying this lamentable situation. Ek Phool Do Maali made me sit up and think. It made me ask a lot of questions. And it made me vow never to assume that just because a film had a cast I generally liked, meant that the film would be good too.

Sanjay Khan, Bobby and Sadhana in Ek Phool Do Maali

Continue reading

Chhoti si Mulaqat (1967)

Considering my mother’s part Bengali, I suppose I should be feeling a little ashamed that I don’t know the language. The only time it’s bothered me, though, is when it means I can’t see Uttam Kumar’s Bengali movies without subtitles. Chhoti si Mulaqat is one of the few Hindi movies the Bengali superstar ever made, and luckily for me, this is (unlike Anand Ashram or Amanush) in his pre-pudgy days. Sneak peek:

Uttam Kumar in Chhoti si Mulaqat

Continue reading