Hindi cinema has, for many decades (much of its existence?) been stereotyped. Mush, melodrama, music. The usual plot of countless films over the years has been dominated by a few given elements, even when the film’s main story may straddle other genres, such as thriller or comedy. You can’t have a Hindi film without romance, song and dance, and melodrama, seems to be the rule followed by most film makers.
Which is why the exceptions to the rule come as such a breath of fresh air. Majhli Didi, Dekh Kabira Roya, Kaanoon, Ittefaq… and this touching, tragic yet heartwarming story of a toddler wandering through the streets of big, bad Bombay.
For many years now, I’ve been fascinated by what I call the ‘supernatural’ subgenre of Indian suspense films. Offhand, I can’t recall too many [any?] non-Indian films that used a supposedly supernatural theme to veil what was a definitely corporeal, criminal deed. Yeh Raat Phir Na Aayegi, Mahal, Woh Kaun Thi?, Bees Saal Baad, Poonam ki Raat, Anita—all of these (and plenty more) used tropes such as spooky songs, ‘ghosts’ (invariably women in white), mysteriously creaking doors, swinging lampshades and seemingly haunted havelis, all forming part of a grand plan to convince someone that they were surrounded by bhoots when in reality they were surrounded by crooks.
I can blame my not having watched Bahaaron ke Sapne all these years on my father: when I first expressed an interest in the film because it had been directed by Nasir Husain (back then, a teenaged me associated Nasir Husain only with frothy and entertaining films like Dil Deke Dekho, Tumsa Nahin Dekha, and Phir Wohi Dil Laaya Hoon), my father said, ‘It’s a serious film.’
And that was that. Because, back then, I didn’t care to ask how serious. Anything that smacked of reality rather than escapism was not to be touched with a barge pole.
I was born in an odd generation that somehow missed the Rajesh Khanna euphoria. I missed inheriting it from my parents, who had been young and film-crazy when Ashok Kumar, Shammi Kapoor and Dev Anand had been in their prime. And I missed being part of it; I was born just after Rajesh Khanna—who had one of the shortest-ever reigns of any superstar anywhere—had come to the last of his 15-in-a-row super hit films.
Yes, I admit it: I am not too much of a Rajesh Khanna fan. I like him alright; I think he’s gorgeous in films like Aradhana, and so very poignant in Anand. But I wouldn’t go out of my way to read a biography of the man. So, when I received a review copy of Gautam Chintamani’s Dark Star: The Loneliness of Being Rajesh Khanna (Harper Collins Publishers India, P-ISBN: 978-93-5029-620-2; E-ISBN: 978-93-5136-340-8; ₹499; 242 pages), I was a little ambivalent. I was not particularly interested in the life of Rajesh Khanna. On the other hand, this man had acted in some of the greatest hits of the late 60s, films that were both extremely popular as well as critically acclaimed.
I saw very few films till I was about ten years old. Till then, my father had been posted in small towns that had rather dreadful cinema halls. Then, in late 1982, we acquired a TV. And suddenly, though there wasn’t a spate of films to see (Doordarshan’s Sunday 5:45 PM film was the highlight of our week), there were some films to see. And, thankfully, I was old enough to understand what was happening onscreen.
One of my earliest recollections of that period is of watching Anand. For me—exposed till then to the usual Hindi film, where the hero always had a love interest, and where there were few (and mostly pretty melodramatic) moments of tragedy—Anand was different.
There was never any doubt that Rajesh Khanna’s character was the hero. He was ebullient, full of life, charming, friendly, yet (in those moments of solitude) sensitive. I kept waiting for a heroine to pop up.
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].
I first watched Khamoshi when I was a child (and too immature to really understand it). I last watched it as a teenager, more able to appreciate the film—which left a handful of clear, sharp images burnt into my memory: Dharmendra, looking out over a balcony and singing Tum pukaar lo; Dharmendra flinging a glass of water at Waheeda Rehman and then watching, half-bemused, half-shy, as she laughingly wipes her face against the front of his shirt. Waheeda Rehman, clinging to Rajesh Khanna but thinking of Dharmendra.
So, considering that this last week saw Dharmendra’s 74th birthday (on December 8th), and having read some veryenjoyableposts by fellow bloggers: I decided it was time to re-view and review Khamoshi. It came as a bit of a surprise to realise that Dharmendra actually appears onscreen for just over 5 minutes (and that includes a song). The male lead is Rajesh Khanna. And the film belongs to Waheeda Rehman.
Sabrina Mathew’s recent post on cinema’s most beautiful women reminded me that it was time for me to do the second of my eye candy posts. Men again, but this time it’s good old Hindi cinema. As a reader pointed out, early Hindi cinema—the 30’s and 40’s—doesn’t seem to have had too many men who could be classified as hunks, but by the 50’s and 60’s (the period I concentrate upon) we had them in deliciously large numbers. Here goes, more or less in order, with my top ten:
Fact 1: Today, January 8, is Nanda’s birthday (mine too, but that’s a different matter).
Fact 2: Since one of Nanda’s finest performances is in Ittefaq, I’d decided I’d review Ittefaq today, as a tribute. Nanda deserves it!
Fact 3: Bollyviewer yesterday did an interesting post: a link to a youtube clip of the launch party of Ittefaq.