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.
A couple of months ago, I got a call from Seventymm (the video rental service I’d subscribed to), letting me know that they were shutting down rentals and becoming retail-only. Since I’d paid up in advance for a year’s subscription, I had Rs 800 worth of unused vouchers—which, they said, I could use to pick products from the store. I ordered seven DVDs. They (or, rather, the five Seventymm were able to deliver—the rest went out of stock) arrived last week. Reporter Raju was one of them.
Also, last week, I finished a writing assignment for which the research involved watching a diverse set of films. A lot of them, though, had one thing in common: a newspaper office and/or a reporter as an important character. This one was on the to-watch list, but didn’t arrive in time for me to see it before submitting my article. Just as well, actually, because despite the name, it doesn’t exactly show the reporter doing much any newspaper work. Unless beating up goons is part of the job description.
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.
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: &$%@##%@!!!
I’m always on the lookout for old, offbeat Hindi films. Something without the hackneyed romances, the clashes between rich/poor, urban/rural, good/evil, the sudden breaking into song and the neat tying up of all loose ends once the regulation three hours are up. Don’t get me wrong; I have nothing against masala films—some of my favourite old films are masala to the spice-sodden core. But somehow a film like Kanoon, Ittefaq, Anokhi Raat, Kabuliwala or Dekh Kabira Roya, each unusual in its own way, has a certain je ne sais quoi. So does this, Nargis’s last film. There’s something a little hat ke about a film in which the romance is really quite minimal, and the strange light-and-shadow personality of a schizophrenic woman is the main focus of the plot.
I’ve been on a Dharmendra-Mala Sinha spree, and it’s been a disaster. Baharein Phir Bhi Aayengi started off promisingly, but deteriorated; and Neela Akash was an even bigger disappointment. I had grave doubts about Pooja ke Phool, and sadly, it proved even worse than Neela Akash. I’m not sure I want to watch any more Dharmendra-Mala Sinha starrers. I’ve had enough.
The film begins in a village where a poor blacksmith called Hansraj (Nana Palsikar) is slogging his butt off trying to scrape together money to pay for a college education for his younger brother Balraj `Raj’ (Dharmendra). The only other member of the family is Hansraj’s daughter Vijay (Sandhya Roy).