Early in 2013, to mark hundred years of Indian cinema, I dedicated an entire month to regional Indian cinema. I reviewed several films of different languages, and realized, in the process, just how difficult it is to get hold of old regional films that have subtitles. Even when they’re blockbuster hits, National Award-winning films, films that must have been subtitled at some stage to enable a jury to judge them worthy of a prestigious award.
Among the films that I came across, but which wasn’t subbed, was this extremely popular Punjabi film, which won the National Award for Best Feature Film in Punjabi, as well as the National Film Award for Best Music Direction. My husband’s a Punjabi but speaks the language very rarely, and that too when he has no other option (as a result, his Punjabi is pretty shaky). As for me, the less said about my Punjabi, the better. But I had this film bookmarked from 2013, and when I discovered last year that Nanak Naam Jahaaz Hai had been digitally restored and re-released, I thought I may as well take the plunge.
Give me a period film, and I’m willing to give it a shot. If it happens to be set in Mughal India, so much the better. If the cast features people like Meena Kumari, Pradeep Kumar, Rehman, Veena, Lalita Pawar and Nighar Sultana: well, there’s hope that the acting will be passable. And when I realize that the music composer is Roshan: then I’m certainly on for it.
Noorjehan, of course (though Richard would probably question that ‘of course’) is about the noblewoman who married the fourth of the Great Mughals, Jahangir. Born in May 1577 and named Mehrunissa, she was the daughter of a man who rose to great prominence in the Mughal court: Itmad-ud-Daulah (‘Pillar of the State’) was the title given to him, and the marriage of Mehrunissa to Jahangir made of Mehrunissa a powerful woman, too. Initially given the title Noormahal (‘Light of the Palace’) by her doting husband, she was subsequently given the title of Noorjehan (‘Light of the World’) and went on to become probably the most influential of imperial consorts in the Mughal dynasty, a wealthy woman in her own right, as well as a woman who exercised a good deal of power from beyond the purdah.
After I’d done my piano song posts, I began to think of other musical instruments that appear in the picturisation of songs. Songs where it’s not an orchestra (Ted Lyons and His Cubs, anyone? Or The Monkees?), but a hero or heroine, not a professional musician, being the one ‘playing’ an instrument? Guitars, I thought, would be a good place to start. A ‘guitar songs’ post. I tried by listing, off the cuff, all the songs I could remember as having a guitar-playing actor or actress. Then I went and checked on Youtube—and discovered that several of the songs I’d remembered as featuring a guitar actually featured a different string instrument: a mandolin, for example (in Tum bin jaaoon kahaan), or some even more unusual and exotic instruments.
Whenever people ask me what my movie blog is about, I say pre-70s cinema. Pre-70s, yes, but with a few (very few) exceptions, and those are films released in the very early 70s, but with a distinctly 60s feel to them. Pakeezah is the example I invariably give: a film released in 1972, but with an aura that’s recognisably of an earlier period about it, whether it’s in the fashions, the actors, or the overall look of the film.
Since I generally steer clear of reviewing very well-known films, the format of this review is going to be slightly different from my usual film review. I’ll begin with a much briefer synopsis than usual, then go on to discussing—in far greater detail than I normally do—what I liked about the film, what I didn’t like, and sundry other musings regarding Pakeezah.
One of the main characters in Prince of Foxes was a man who actually existed in history: Cesare Borgia (1475 (?) – 1507 AD). This post is about a film that features one of Cesare Borgia’s contemporaries, a man born halfway across the world, seven or eight years after Cesare Borgia was born. A man as ambitious as Borgia, and a man who had as marked an impact on the history of India as Cesare Borgia did on Italy. This was Babur, the founder of the Mughal dynasty – without which we wouldn’t have had the Taj Mahal, Fatehpur Sikri, murgh musallam, and who knows howmany Hindi films.
Humayun is (as the name suggests) more about Babur’s son and successor Humayun (who, coincidentally, was born almost exactly a year after Cesare Borgia died – Borgia died on March 12, 1507; Humayun was born on March 7, 1508). But the film begins with Babur (Shah Nawaz) invading India, so Babur does play quite an important role in the scheme of things.
This blog’s been on a Hollywood roll long enough (two films in succession? Too long). So we’re back to good old Bollywood, and with a film that somewhat repeats the cast of the deplorable Bhabhi: Balraj Sahni (again as the long-suffering, self-sacrificing eldest brother), Nanda (again simpering and whimpering), even Shyama, again as the daughter-in-law who starts off being nice but changes into a screechy harridan. And, like Bhabhi, this too is about a loving family split asunder.
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.
Considering my mother’s part Bengali, I suppose I should be feeling a little ashamed that I don’t know the language. The only time it’s bothered me, though, is when it means I can’t see Uttam Kumar’s Bengali movies without subtitles. Chhoti si Mulaqat is one of the few Hindi movies the Bengali superstar ever made, and luckily for me, this is (unlike Anand Ashram or Amanush) in his pre-pudgy days. Sneak peek:
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.