When I watched the 1949 Nishaan last week on Youtube, the topmost recommendation in the side panel was what was billed as another copy of the same film. Just for the heck of it, I clicked on the link, and arrived at a completely different film: Nishaan, yes; but a Nishaan made 16 years after the 1949 one, and a Nishaan too which is important for one major reason: it marks Sanjeev Kumar’s debut in a lead role (and that too a double role).
Sanjeev Kumar had already played small parts in two films—Hum Hindustani and Aao Pyaar Karein, but this film, with ‘Introducing Sanjeev Kumar’, was his first big role(s). He didn’t soar to success immediately, and most of his films over the next couple of years were fairly forgettable (as Nishaan is, to some extent). But despite the general unimpressiveness of this film, what stands out is the very natural acting of its leading man.
The Three Musketeers meets Hamlet meets Azaad meets general swashbuckling mayhem.
I will admit I watched this film mainly for two reasons: for Sanjeev Kumar, who is deliciously handsome in his early roles; and for the song Nain bedaardi chhalia ke sang lad gaye, which is total eye candy. [I am shallow, that way].
But then, ten minutes into the film, I sat up and began getting my hopes up. Because this was taking the route of one of those classic novels that I’ve always wished Hindi cinema had adapted for the screen: Dumas’s The Three Musketeers.
In Rajinder Singh Bedi’s Dastak, there is a scene well into the film which offers a glimpse of both what this film is about and what its tone is like, how it conveys its messages.
Hamid Ahmed (Sanjeev Kumar) is about to leave home for office. His wife Salma (Rehana Sultan) brings him a cup of tea. In a large cage that sits in their room is a mynah which has been mimicking Salma’s voice so perfectly that Hamid has mistaken something it’s said for his wife’s words. Salma, smiling mischievously, points out his error and tells Hamid about a so-called brother of hers from her village.
Salma: ‘… woh kaha karte thhe, “Pinjre mein panchhi ko band karne se bada paap lagta hai”.’ (He used to say, ‘It is a great sin to imprison a bird in a cage.’)
Hamid (smiling): ‘Chhod dene se bhi toh lagta hai.’ (‘Releasing it too can be a sin.’)
Salma: ‘Woh kaise?’ (‘How is that?’)
Hamid: ‘Baahar sainkaron baaz, shikre… koi bhi khaa jaaye.’ (‘There are so many birds of prey outside. Any of them might eat this one up.’)
This week’s film came about after several false starts. A new blog reader and I have been waxing eloquent about our shared love for Sanjeev Kumar, not just one of Hindi cinema’s finest actors, but also, in his younger days (as far as I am concerned), also exceptionally dishy. After some false starts—Husn aur Ishq, Gunehgaar, Insaan aur Shaitaan—I ended up watching Priya, one of several films in which Sanjeev Kumar co-starred with Tanuja.
The other day, someone mentioned that after Omkara, Maqbool and Haider—based respectively on Othello, MacBeth and Hamlet—Vishal Bhardwaj was going to be making a trio of films based on Shakespeare’s comedies. The thought came into my head: had any Hindi film maker remade a Shakespearean comedy before? The very next moment, the answer popped up. Of course: Angoor. And (my brain was beginning to work overtime by now), another film based on A Comedy of Errors and also starring Sanjeev Kumar: Gustakhi Maaf.
I hadn’t heard of Gustakhi Maaf until a few years back, when I happened to find (and subsequently buy) a delightful lobby card featuring Sanjeev Kumar in this film. I went looking for the film, discovered that it was based on A Comedy of Errors and that it starred the ever-bubbly Tanuja—but I couldn’t get hold of the film anywhere. Until Harini (over at bagsbooksandmore) pointed me to it. So here goes: review #1 of 2015, of a fun, frothy film.
I’ve had a very enjoyable weekend. I watched two films, The Green Hornet and Anne of the Indies (the former better than reviews made it out to be). I dined at one of Delhi’s best French restaurants. And I bought birthday gifts for myself. Before you start thinking I’m woefully unloved, let me clarify: my relatives often gift me money. On Diwali, Karva Chauth, Christmas, my birthday, etc—I am often given an envelope and told to ‘buy something for yourself’. Since I’m not much of a shopper for clothes and jewellery, and since I already have a huge collection of unwatched DVDs and unread books, this seemed the best alternative. Old lobby cards and film stills. I visited two shops in Delhi, and spent all that money on a handful of lovely old Bollywood photos.
It’ll take me a while to write the review of Anne of the Indies; in the meantime, here’s something for you to feast your eyes upon: scans of the stuff I bought.
First, this one. This is the only one that’s just a still, not a lobby card—so it doesn’t have the name of the film on it. I have no idea which film this is, and though I think the actress is Shashikala, my husband (who, by his own admission, doesn’t know much about old Hindi cinema), doesn’t agree. Any other ideas? If anybody knows which film this is from, I’d welcome that too.
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:
After all the melodrama of the recent Hindi films I’ve been watching, I decided it was time to sit back and enjoy one of my favourite genres: the thriller. And a thriller the way only the Bollywood of the 1950’s and 60’s could manage: with lots of romance thrown in, a gorgeously vampish Helen, hummable songs, a comic side plot starring none other than the inimitable Johnny Walker—and, interestingly enough, a supporting actor who manages to steal the limelight from the hero.
This film has melodrama and mindless self-sacrifice, two elements that invariably put me off. And Saathi really was no different: I got thoroughly put off. Oh, it starts off all right—much happiness and flowers kissing etc—but then the lives of the protagonists fall apart so completely, it’s just not on. Nobody should be subjected to so much tragedy, not even on screen.
Asit Sen directed some of my favourite films, including Mamta and Safar. I’ve just added another to the list: Anokhi Raat. I’d wanted to see this film for two reasons: one, it stars Sanjeev Kumar, who’s one of my favourite actors. Two, it features the classic Oh re taal mile nadi ke jal mein: a beautifully lyrical song in more ways than one. By the end, I had plenty more reasons to label it a great film. Read on.