When I read the news of Soumitra Chatterjee’s passing away, my first thought was: I need to write a tribute, talk about how much I liked this actor. Then, reality crept in. It’s not as if I’ve seen too many films that starred Soumitra Chatterjee. Charulata, Kapurush, Jhinder Bondi, Aranyer Din Raatri, Sonar Kella, one of the three episodes of Teen Kanya… and that was it. I didn’t recall having seen any of his other films.
Which might sound odd; how could one like an actor so much based on only such a handful of films? But I suppose when you’re looking at quality rather than quantity, it can work. And Soumitra Chatterjee, even in the few films of his that I’ve seen, proved himself a memorable actor. Not just handsome, not just superficially charismatic, but also so very talented. His ‘coward’ of Kapurush is so very real, so flawed and believable a protagonist; his Mayurvahan in Jhinder Bondi is a deliciously evil portrayal of the flamboyant, boyishly attractive yet very wicked Rupert of Hentzau. It’s easy to see why a bored and neglected housewife would fall in love with this young man in Charulata, and he is Feluda. Sharp, intelligent, well-read (and intelligent and well-read are apt descriptions of the man in real life too, from what I gather).
But a full-fledged tribute, a run-down of all his best films: no, that was not something I thought I would be capable of. Instead, I decided to commemorate the life and career of Soumitra Chatterjee by watching one film I’d only heard of in passing, never really got down to seeing.
Serendipity: noun. plural: serendipities. The faculty of making fortunate discoveries by accident; the occurrence of such a discovery. Coined by Horace Walpole in 1754, based on a fairy tale called The Three Princes of Serendib (‘Serendib’ being present-day Sri Lanka)—the three princes in question often making such lucky discoveries.
And what does this have to do with Chaowa-Pawa (‘To Want and To Have’)? Simply that, while I had set about watching this film because I really, really like the lead pair—Uttam Kumar and Suchitra Sen—I realized, within the first half hour of the film, that it was a remake of one of my favourite old Hindi films, Chori-Chori (which, as many of you would know, was a remake of It Happened One Night). Serendipity? Absolutely.
Yes, the youngest of the three Kapoor brothers was born on March 18, 1938, in Kolkata. He is one of my favourite actors, and one of the very few whom I like also in his 70s avatar—that charm didn’t desert him with time. But. To return to the time period this blog specializes in: looking through the films I’ve reviewed till now, I realized there are only a handful of Shashi Kapoor films here. Prem Patra (another favourite), Pyaar Kiye Jaa, Pyaar ka Mausam, The Householder, Benazir.
So, this calls for another review, another Shashi Kapoor favourite of mine. Sharmeelee, which, though it was released in 1971, has enough of the feel of the 60s—in fashions, music, crew and cast involved—for me to include it in my list. Most of all, it has Shashi Kapoor at his absolutely irresistible best.
A couple of years back, I dedicated one month of blog posts to the readers of Dusted Off. Since then, many more readers have begun following this blog. Some drop by, leave a comment, or like a post. Some lurk in the background. Some become staunch friends.
It’s been a while, so I thought it was time to repeat what I’d said back then: Thank you. Thank you for reading my blog, for encouraging me, and keeping me going. It’s because of you that I blog. It’s for you that I blog.
To express some of my gratitude for my blog readers, February 2013 on Dusted Off is dedicated to you. All the posts this month will be related to blog readers: reviews of films recommended by readers, lists requested by readers, and so on. To begin with, a film that I’ve wanted to see ever since Shalini recommended it three years ago. I finally found Lala Rookh in Induna’s catalogue a few months back, and pounced on it.
I saw a mention of this film for the first time on Richard’s blog a couple of years ago. Richard had mentioned that Dupatta (or Dopatta, as it’s referred to in some places) was available for viewing online. I’d stored away that snippet of information somewhere in the back of my mind, and forgotten about it later. Then, recently, Richard published an unusual (and interesting) post on his favourite filmi nurses, and Noorjehan’s character in Dupatta topped his list.
For a lot of people of my generation – or those younger than me, who have seen Shammi Kapoor in his earlier films, this is the film that is probably representative of Shammi Kapoor: the ‘Yahoo! Kapoor’ as a friend of mine says with a sneer. Junglee is one of the major successes of Shammi Kapoor’s heyday. It is also, with Shammi’s wild whooping and crazy antics in songs like Suku suku, an important reason for him getting saddled with that ‘Yahoo! Kapoor’ epithet.
Like Love Affair/An Affair to Remember, In the Good Old Summertime is also one of those romances that’s proved very popular across time and space. This is a cheery little love story, of a man and a woman who begin corresponding with each other, fall in love through their correspondence (all without even knowing the name of the other person), and when they eventually meet, become instant enemies. Sounds familiar? Yes, that’s The Shop Around the Corner. Also You’ve Got Mail. And Sirf Tum. It’s also this film, a sweet musical remake of the original The Shop Around the Corner.
Or Ogni Porikkha, if you want to be phonetically correct.
Over the last twenty-odd years, I’ve heard countless Bengalis rave about Uttam Kumar and Suchitra Sen as the ultimate onscreen romantic couple. I’ve seen both of them act (separately) in a few (admittedly Hindi) films, and have been very impressed.
So, finally: an Uttam Kumar-Suchitra Sen film, and one that was a big hit too. Agni Pariksha: ‘trial by fire’.
When I watched Gaslighta few months back, I ended up hating Charles Boyer (which goes to prove what a fine actor he was). He was just so supremely evil in a suave sort of way that I mentally vowed to slot him among those whose films I wouldn’t be actively searching for. Thankfully for me, bollyviewer came along with a suggestion that would help me like Charles Boyer a little better. This was it.
Love Affair is an oft-repeated tale, popular both in Hollywood and Bollywood. It’s spawned nearly half a dozen remakes and ‘inspirations’ that I have seen, and who knows how many others. An Affair to Remember (1957), with Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr, is a very faithful copy of this one. Bollywood came up with Bheegi Raat (1965), more inspired by Love Affair than an exact copy, as well as Mann (1999), which was a copy, down to the setting in which the protagonists first meet.
Someone once said that Nasir Hussain came to Bombay with one story in his briefcase, and created a series of blockbusters out of it. This is one of them, and a vastly entertaining film: total paisa vasool. You get your money’s worth.
The story’s similar to that of Dil Deke Dekho, Tumsa Nahin Dekha, and Jab Pyaar Kisise Hota Hai: a couple separates, and one of them raises their only child, a son. He grows up, meets his `other’ parent (who’s wealthy), and they don’t quite hit it off—but he does fall for that parent’s adopted daughter. To complicate matters, there’s a villain who pretends to be the long-lost son, whom the parent has been yearning for all these years.