I dithered over this film for a long time after I’d finished watching it. Should I review it? Should I not? It wasn’t a great film, but it wasn’t terrible, either. It wasn’t as if a review was needed to warn potential viewers off it. Or vice-versa, to alert people to a film they must see.
Eventually, I decided that at least a brief review was in order, because this film had an interesting connect to another film I’ve wanted to watch for a while: Mr X.
In 1957, Nanabhai Bhatt had directed a science fiction film (borrowing from HG Wells’s novel The Invisible Man) that starred Ashok Kumar and Nalini Jaywant. According to this web page on Mike Barnum’s blog, the film is about a man who ingests a drug that makes him invisible; he uses this invisibility to go on a Robin Hood-esque spree, helping the poor by robbing the rich. The cops, baffled by the invisible man, dub him Mr X.
I’ve long wanted to watch Mr X, mostly because it features one of my favourite N Dutta songs, Laal-laal gaal. The film isn’t available online, at least, or even on DVD, from what I can tell; perhaps there are carefully guarded prints deep in some archive…
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.
After a longish hiatus, I’ve begun working on my next novel. Like my first book, The Englishman’s Cameo, this one too features the Mughal detective Muzaffar Jang, and is set during the final years of Shahjahan’s reign. I’ve been doing other bits of writing—very little of it related to history—and decided I needed something to help build up atmosphere and get me back in the mood. A historic film, set in Shahjahan’s time? Shahjehan? With Naushad’s hit score, and the chance to hear (and see) K L Saigal singing some of his best-known songs?
Alas. Alas, alas, alas. Or, to put it more bluntly: &$%@##%@!!!
Right now, I’m on a five-day visit to my parents. They’re not Beiges, but I’d probably label them Greys—the salt far surpasses the pepper in their hair. We’ve been spending quality time together, eating the best chhola bhaturas in town, catching up on the latest gossip, and watching films. We started with Living it Up and Bells are Ringing, and then my father (who generally prefers Bollywood to Hollywood, unless it’s the Marx Brothers-Laurel and Hardy-Chaplin brands of comedy) put his foot down. Let’s see something Hindi, he said. So we settled on this one, because my father likes its music a lot, and Mummy and I like Shammi Kapoor a lot.