Today is the birth centenary of one of Hindi cinema’s most familiar character actors, the very well-known Nasir Hussain (or Nazir Hussain, or Nazir Hussein, or Nazir/Nasir Husein, whatever; Hindi cinema credits are famous for being inconsistent). Not the same man as the film maker of the same name, but an important personality in his own right. Born in Usia (Uttar Pradesh) on May 15, 1922, Nasir Hussain came to cinema in a roundabout sort of way. Having worked briefly in the railways (where his father too was employed), Nasir had ended up joining the British Army, and was posted overseas—in Malaya—during World War II. Taken captive, he was freed and subsequently went oj to join Subhash Chandra Bose’s Indian National Army, the INA.
After his INA experience, Hussain could not find an alternate career and wound up doing bit parts in theatre. From here, a chance meeting with Bimal Roy finally brought him into cinema. Their very first film together (they were to go on to make several more films, with Nasir Hussain in front of the camera and Roy behind, such as Parakh, Do Bigha Zameen, and Devdas) was this one: Pehla Aadmi, in which Nasir Hussain was not just an actor, but also assistant to the director—as well as the writer of the story and the dialogues.
I’ve been very busy the last couple of days, and the busy-ness doesn’t look like it’ll come to an end soon. My husband, therefore (and what a model of husbandly devotion!) offered to write the review of Abe-Hayat for me. This, mind you, without having seen the film, just on the basis of a very sketchy gist I’d narrated of the first half while we were on our evening walk. Tarun said he’d do a 3-sentence review:
Once there was an evil jaadugar named Saamri. There was a prince, and a princess. The prince killed Saamri, and then he and the princess lived happily ever after.
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.
As I’d mentioned in my last post, I’m not much of a Raj Kapoor fan. I have seen most of his films, but I like very few of them. Jaagte Raho, a flop when it was first released (even though it won an award at Karlovy Vary) is one of the exceptions: an RK film that I found engrossing and worth the watch. Part of it probably is the fact that it features a veritable who’s who of 50’s Hindi cinema character actors. Part of it is due to Salil Choudhary’s superb music. And more than that, it’s because this is a well-scripted story, socially relevant in a tongue-in-cheek way.