What is it about Bengali directors—Bimal Roy, for instance, or Hrishikesh Mukherjee, or (if one steps out of the realm of just Hindi cinema, Satyajit Ray)—that they manage to bring so vividly to life the everyday happenings in the lives of everyday people? Not the escapist fare that most people tend to equate Hindi cinema with, but stories about real people, people one can relate to? Films like Majhli Didi, Parivaar, Parakh, Sujata, Anand: not larger than life, not without a shred of reality. Not art films, not angst-riddled, songless films about the search for the meaning of life, but everyday stories. Songs and all, still very much commercial cinema, but easy to relate to.
Add to that list Dulal Guha, who while he also went on to make films like Mere Humsafar, began his career as a director in Hindi cinema with this charming little film about a sleepy village named Chandangaon, that’s jolted by the arrival of a new doctor…
As frequent visitors to this blog would know by now, one of my weaknesses is good music—and there have been, over the years, dozens of films that I’ve watched primarily because they had good scores. In some instances, just one song that I really liked. More often than not, my luck’s been pretty shoddy and I’ve ended up sitting through frightful films like Akashdeep, Saaranga, and Akeli Mat Jaiyo.
With Waaris, which I watched mostly because of Raahi matwaale, I had hopes [cautious, considering my track record, but hopes nevertheless]. It stars Suraiya and Talat Mahmood, both favourites of mine, and it was produced by Sohrab Modi, who even if (when acting) had a penchant for ‘declaiming to the skies’, did make some good films.
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.
Hindi cinema’s fascination for the Mughals is – well, fascinating. Even before independence, we were busy churning out semi-historicals such as Humayun (1945) and Shahjehan (1946); then, in the 50s and 60s, there followed a spate of rather more big-budget extravaganzas, complete with big names, vast armies, glittering palaces and superb music: Mughal-e-Azam,Taj Mahal and Anarkali (Note: As a character, Anarkali seemed to be especially popular. Besides the Bina Rai-Pradeep Kumar version, there were Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam versions of her story; even a Pakistani version starring Noor Jehan. And that list neither includes the two versions made in 1928, nor a 1935 film starring Ruby Myers. Note that Mughal-e-Azam is also about Anarkali).
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.
It just so happened that the last film I reviewed on this blog was Sone ki Chidiya, which starred Talat Mahmood—better known as a singer, a man with one of those heartrendingly beautiful voices that can turn even a so-so tune into something sublime.
Today is the birth anniversary of Talat Mahmood: he was born on February 24th, 1924. Had he been alive, today would have been his 86th birthday. And so, to celebrate: a listing of ten of my favourite tunes sung by the Sultan of the Soulful Song (my appellation for Mr Mahmood). All from the 1950’s and 60’s, and all from films I’ve seen. These are in no particular order, though my absolute favourites are towards the top of the list.
In Sone ki Chidiya, a poet tells a film actress why poor people go to the cinema: “For five annas’ worth of false dreams. And the glow of your beauty.”
On the surface, this may seem as cynical a comment on the Hindi film industry as Kaagaz ke Phool, but it isn’t, really. It’s a much more mainstream commercial film, with all the trappings of melodrama, dewy-eyed romance and oppressed heroine. I saw it because it stars one of my favourite actresses—Nutan—and one actor whom I’m very fond of: Balraj Sahni. And (this came as a surprise to me) the cast also includes someone whom I count among my favourite singers: Talat Mahmood.