Recalling: Bollywood that’s hardy known in today’s WTF generation
This is an attempt to alphabetically archive all the movie write-ups that I do here. I have included mini-snippets of the write-ups as well as the links to the same- will keep on updating the post every week.It’s quite a treatise on lesser known Hindi cinema now. ENJOY!
LATEST POST: ANAND ASHRAM (1977)
Angst. Anger, Aggression…. Govind Nihalani’s Aakrosh (1980) is a dark and disturbing film set in the heartlands of our country where there is little regard for law and order and the men in power have all the powers of the world in the true sense. Based on actual events, Aakrosh tells the story Bhiku (Om Puri in one of the most acclaimed roles of his career) who is accused of killing his own wife (played by Smita Patil), and how he remains silent-suppressing his cry of outrage due to his distrust and disbelief in the system. For people who like their cinema all grim and true to life (that too the dark side of life), this is a truly a mandatory viewing.
ACHANAK, starring Vinod Khanna in the principal role, is an exhibition of supreme skill and dexterity by Gulzar in attempting to unravel an unconventional plot in an extremely unconventional fashion. Every good movie has an inherent purpose attached to it. And this one basically aims at seeking an answer to the dilemmas faced by doctors when they are asked to treat and cure wounded inmates who would anyways be subject to capital punishment in few months’ time. Achanak is a completely different movie experience that was quite ahead of its times. People who like to watch unconventional stories on celluloid will certainly enjoy it.
A light-hearted suspense drama, with some crackling romantic moments between the lead pair and some wonderful songs. Now this may sound like one of those movies that attempt a mishmash of all genres in the garb of producing an entertaining product, but this one has a strong story at its core too that holds everything together. And if I may add, it is one of the most entertaining movies I have seen from the 1970s. I guess can be categorized as ‘intelligent-popcorn cinema’ (if people don’t find it an ‘Oxymoron’ish phrasing). And it has been peppered with some delectable songs!
ANAND ASHRAM (1977)
A young doctor marries his childhood companion without his father’s consent. The father, a rich and respected landlord with a legacy he is very proud of, is terribly disappointed by his son’s decision to marry a girl from a different religious background. The confrontation leads to the son abandoning his father’s house and giving up on all his inherited wealth. He, along with his wife, then proceeds to fulfil his life’s objective of providing medical services to the underprivileged villages, which lack healthcare infrastructure. A chance encounter with a wannabe do-gooder enables him to open a village dispensary, which he starts to run with his wife supporting him wholeheartedly. Then in a curious turn of fate, his allegiance to the oath of selfless service is put to test.
Shyam Benegal’s first feature- ‘Ankur’ is an exception to the norm. It is the stark reality that a part of us knows about, but refuses accept. It is an award winning movie that opened the doors for independent thought in Indian cinema- one that is uninhibited, courageous, and bold. Suitably lauded at that time, Ankur won a lot of awards, and more importantly opened the doors for many directors to progress their vision without looking for commercial acceptance, and caring for footfalls in cinemas. Shyam Benegal himself followed up this movie with Nishant and Manthan- equally powerful movies that were made with similar fearlessness and clarity of purpose.
This is very relevant movie from the 1980s when unemployment was rampant in urban cities and lacs of youngsters were wasting away their lives. Even today its relevance has not diminished, although there have been some drastic changes in society. It deserves to be seen by people who like realistic cinema- as it paints a very accurate picture of the society in the 1980s. The story is set in a Mumbai ‘Chawl’ and takes a realistic look at how people with minimum means lead their lives in the busy city that Mumbai is. On the surface they all are busy in their own worlds. But in reality their lives are interconnected and from their hearts they all care for each other.
Many of our old Hindi movies have messages that have not lost their relevance over the years. In fact some of them seem to have been written with a crystal ball in tow, for the incipience of the issues they reflected on at that time has turned into a chronic persistence in the modern world of today. Annadata, one such film made by Asit Senalmost forty years ago, is a film that moots the breeding selfishness in the modern materialistic world and questions whether there is any good left in the world deafened by the rumble of avarice and ambition.
Bandini is a remarkable movie that is different from anything else that has been seen in Hindi cinema. It is one of Bimal Roy’s most noted works and most certainly deserves the tag of a ‘classic’. Of course, it is not spoken in the same breath as Pyaasa/Mother India/Devdas/Mughl-e-Azam, but those conversant with the cinema from that era do recall this film as one of the finest to have been made in India. The movie is set in pre-independence era when young revolutionary men were making huge sacrifices for the cause of their motherland.
On the surface this one looks like a regular romantic love triangle, but is actually slightly more complex than that. However it still has an uncomplicated story-line with no sub-plots whatsoever. The superb production values are eye-catching and the outdoor scenes are mounted beautifully. But this aside, Blackmail is remembered and cherished by lovers of Hindi cinema predominantly because of the song- ‘Pal Pal Dil Ke Paas’ One of the most memorable romantic number from that era, the song is used more than once in the movie to a breathtaking effect. This song is also one of the finest by Kishore Kumar, arguable the most emotive voice heard on the Indian silver screen.
BUDDHA MIL GAYA (1971)
Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Salim-Javed never collaborated on a movie. In the 1970s, these were two institutions of the Hindi film industry that operated in different spaces altogether- and yet were able to enthrall the same audience with their distinct approaches to telling a story on screen. Both were prolific, and both were big brands. At the start of the decade Hrishikesh Mukherjee directed Buddha Mil Gaya’, comedy-thriller that is funnier than most out and out comedies of that time, and also has more thrills than most out and out thrillers of the period. And the striking thing about the movie is its almost ‘Salim-Javed’ian plot treated by Mukherjee in his own trademark manner. Also, it is one of those rare non-art-house Hindi movies in which the hero of the show is an old man- essayed by the inimitable Om Prakash. And what makes it more unique is that the old man here is not shown as frail or dependent on someone. The man here fights his own battles and takes everything head on, while not losing his sense of humor even for a moment.
CHASHME BUDDOOR (1981)
Three students renting a flat in a big city- all of them single, lazy, carefree, and most of the times out of cash. Sounds familiar? It is the story that plays out in our cities, especially Delhi and Mumbai, at more places than one. Sai Paranjape’s ‘Chashme Buddoor’ is a delightful take on bachelorhood and friendship. The story is really uncomplicated and light hearted. The director creates an engaging set of characters and gives complete focus to their interplay and interactions instead of introducing unnecessary twists and turns and sub-plots.As per reports David Dhawan is remaking this film pretty soon- which is certainly not something to look forward to!
CHHOT SI BAAT (1975)
Telling a girl how you feel for her can be the toughest task for most, but it usually appears to be no big deal from a third person perspective. It is after all a pretty small thing- just three small words-‘Chhoti si baat’. When you have to do it for yourself, however, there cannot be a more complex thing in the world. But ideally this should not be the case, and this is the premise that forms the backbone of this Basu Chatterjee offering starring Amol Palekar, Vidya Sinha, Asrani, and Ashok Kumar (in a cracker of a role). There is also a larger context in the movie, which is essentially how two different personalities approach their lives in general and how in this cut-throat world it is very important to be sure of oneself and street-smart to survive and win.
A few minutes into this Basu Chatterjee- Rajshri productions collaboration, I almost shouted ‘Main Prem Ki Diwani Hoon’. A quick Google search later I was indeed vindicated. Sooraj Barjataya’s ‘Main Prem Ki Diwani Hoon’ was indeed an underwhelming remake of this little gem of a movie. While its newer rehashed version is a tedious 176 minutes watch, Chitchor is an unusual hindi movie from the 70s with a breezy runtime of just about 100 minutes. It stands for everything that made our earlier cinema so endearing- life like characters, simplicity of the plot, melodious music, engaging situations, and subtle humor. The setting is beautiful and in a way adds a lot to the movie…
A young recently married couple move into a small house in one of those crowded and cramped spaces of Mumbai. In a neighbourhood bustling with activity, the two decide to embark on a lifelong journey together. But all their dreams and all their expectations go for a toss once they discover the murky identity of their new abode, i.e. once they discover that just before them their home was being occupied by a notorious nauch girl and prostitute. Every second day in the middle of the night when the world sleeps, Hamid and Salma are harrowed by incessant knocking on their main door, by some or the other lost soul seeking refuge in the arms of Shamshad Begum, a lady who even in her absence manages to cast a icy cold wall between the much in love couple. How all this affects the psyche of the two, and how they attempt to fight the war their neighbourhood wages against them, is what the film is all about.
Deewar (1975)- A TRIBUTE
Yash Chopra’s Deewar is the quintessential Hindi movie for me. It would be futile trying to put in under a genre, for it’s a genre in itself. Many films hence have tried to repeat the formula (or what is perceived to be a formula), but hardly any other movie can claim coming close to level of intensity that was evident in each and every scene of this iconic movie written by Salim-Javed (Bas naam hee kaafi hai). I write this piece as a humble ode to this memorable offering from the 1970s, and this in no ways is a review. One thing that is striking about most potboilers from the 1970s and early 80s is that they nearly always started by showing the childhood of the protagonists. For it was the childhood that shaped the way the protagonists would turn out to become after the time leap…
The movie is essentially a murder mystery and it wastes no time in coming straight to the point (a thing that cannot be said of previous BR Chopra offerings). The first few minutes really set up the interest levels at the zenith and the taut screenplay ensures that they don’t go down till the very end. As in many other suspense movies, the story takes place in serene landscapes and that adds to the overall effect in this case. Giving anything away about the plot will be a disservice and I restrain from doing so. According to me the star of any mystery movie is its script and Dhund has a ‘Superstar’ in that regards. It is an adaptation of an old Agatha Christie play and stays true to the original, for its own good.
Dharmendra and Hema Malini as professors in an all girls’ college, with a playful Dharmendra sprouting exotic Sanskrit poetry that border on the erotic, and an upright Hema teaching the girls Chemistry, literally adopting all its dryness and lack of fun. Sounds like fun? Basu Chatterjee’s little known 1977 film (and understandably so) is an interesting idea treated in a mundane manner, that many of the times, borders on the inane. Despite that there is a certain charm in watching the two stalwart actors (a couple in real life too) rise above the script at many instances and creating some genuine laughs by the sheer strength of their performances.
Do Bigha Zamin (1953)- A CRITIQUE
It was with great expectations that I sat down to watch this Bimal Roy classic from the early 1950s. It is was an award winning movie at that time and had received a lot of acclaim, not only in India, but around the world. Also, having recently watched the 1964 war movie Haqeeqat that boasted of a stellar performance from Balraj Sahni, I was completely looking forward to watching another superb performance from him. But contrary to expectations, ‘Do Bhiga Zamin’ ended as a truly underwhelming experience for me. The movie is about the struggles of a helpless farmer Shambhu (Balraj Sahni in an author backed role) and his family, who have to return a sum of Rs. 250 to the village Zamindar, and have just three months to arrange for it (The actual debt is around Rs.65 but the Zamindar gets the account fudged as revenge for Shambhu refusing to sell his ‘Do Bhiga Zameen’ to him).
GARAM HAWA (1975) and 1947 EARTH (1998)
Deepa Mehta’s 1947 Earth and Kaifi Azmi’s Garam Hawa are two Hindi films that are based on incidents preceding and succeeding the horrific partition of India. Both the movies take a completely different view of the situation. In some ways, both the movies are like mirror images of one another. And both the movies have a narrative that can be viewed in two perspectives. Macro and micro. There was the larger picture that was common to all. But there were millions of people whose life got affected in a million different ways. While Garam Hawa tells the story of a rich capitalist Muslim trying not to leave India for Pakistan post the partition, 1947 Earth looks at the picture from the other side- how Sikhs and Hindus had to leave Pakistan for India post the partition abandoning their homes, their hopes, and their lives. While Garam Hawa is starts from six months after August 1947, 1947 Earth begins six months before that date. While Garam Hawa talks about a family, 1947 Earth talks about a family to be. While Garam Hawa is a story of resignation to fate, 1947 Earth is the story of taking charge of fate- even if it is in the most horrific manner possible. And while Garam Hawa ends on an optimistic note, 1947 Earth ends in the cruelest way possible.
GEET GAATA CHAL (1975)
Rajshri Productions’ Geet Gaata Chal, directed by Hiren Nag, is a delightful reconstruction of the ideas given in the text of Bhagvad Gita, here presented as an analogy drawn between the life of Krishna and a young man of the name Shyam (essayed by Sachin). This analogy is not too discrete and that comes out through the names given to the characters. Shyam was a name used for Krishna (a name that emerged because of his dark complexion). Here Shyam is a boyish young man who is like a free bird- with no settled home- no emotional attachments- and who keeps on wandering through villages and towns without a care in the world. Neither has he a destination in mind, nor does he have some aim in life- he just keeps traveling and discovering different cultures and places. On the way he meets and befriends various people, but never gets emotionally attached to anyone. It is ironical that his pleasing nature, his honesty, his charisma, and his charm makes it very easy for others to fall in love with him- but he hardly ever reciprocates with the same intensity as his admirers do. The closest companion he has is his flute and the songs on his lips that he keeps singing to the world while he travels.
The star-cast and Imdb summary of this Bhimsain Khurana film gave an impression of it being a film in the mould of ‘Chhoti si Baat’ or ‘Rajnigandha’. After all, one can hardly expect an Amol Palekar or a Zarina Wahab to star in a movie that is not a feel-good entertainer. But ‘Gharonda’ is hardly that Basu Chatterjee or a Rajshri movie from the 1970s that would leave you smiling and cause you to drift away in a simple and endearing world where everyone is good at heart and there are hardly any vices. It surely tells a story of two working-class people living in an urban city (much like Chhoti si Baat and Rajnigandha), but here the tone and tenor is drastically different. The world out here is the big and bad one where people aren’t always sweet and don’t always have the best of intentions. They are insecure yet ambitious, apprehensive yet ruthless…
The key statement that this movie makes is that wars are won and lost on the table. And India suffered not just at the hands of an unexpectedly determined and savage Chinese aggression, but also because of its own tactical inadequacy and lack of preparedness. We refused to open fire till the Chinese forces were literally staring us in our faces, from twenty meters across, on the pretext of being a peace loving nation that picks that resorts to aggression only when some other nation starts violating our territories. Haqeeqat truly is a landmark film in Indian cinema’s journey over the years. And it certainly acted as a reference point for later films like Border and LOC. It is one of the absolutely must watch movies- a film that every Indian should watch, feel, and absorb. STUNNING.
BR Chopra was known for making musical suspense thrillers, and Humraaz is considered to be one of his better works. What makes this movie work apart from its last one hour is its music, and the performances by the cast, especially by Sunil Dutt who is fantastic in his portrayal of a suspect trying to prove his innocence. The story, it can be said, is formulaic till the murder happens, after which things become really interesting and engaging. The last one hour or so has a frantic pace and keeps the viewer glued to the proceedings. The climax and the revelation of the culprit is not something on which most viewers would be able to make an accurate conjecture.
It is very rare that a writer/director creates a character that is so fascinating that it lingers on in one’s mind even hours after watching the movie. Gulzar does just that and more in the most romantic movie of his career- the Naseeruddin Shah, Rekha, and Anuradha Patel starrer ‘Ijaazat’. The memorable character he constructs, with much love and affection, is named Maya (Essayed by Anuradha Patel). It is most likely that Gulzar based this character on someone he knew personally, because he handles it with such delicacy and intimacy that it looks like Maya is a piece of his heart. The music, the poetry, the mood- all appear to pay homage Maya. But despite all this, Ijaazat is not Maya’s film.
A taut, fast paced thriller from the 70s, Inkaar is a stylishly made highly entertaining movie directed by Raj Sippy. The movie is a kidnapping drama and has its central theme right in sight throughout its run-time. It is an extremely engaging movie and fans of the thriller genre will definitely enjoy this one. It would have been rated as one of the best Hindi thrillers ever had it evidently not been a scene by scene copy of a Japanese classic Tengoku To Jigoku by Akira Kurosawa. Ah wait! The movie also boasts of one of the most favour Helen number ever ‘Mungda Mungda’ (Katrina’s item number in the upcoming film Agneepath seems designed on the same lines).
To a fan of suspense and mystery movies, there is nothing more satisfying than viewing a taut and fast-paced thriller. ‘Ittefaq’, one of the early movies directed by the much celebrated Yash Chopra (and rightly so), is one such movie that is gripping enough to keep to you thouroughly engaged with its suspenseful plot and unconventional sequence of events. Produced under the BR Chopra banner, which was famous for its mystery movies, Ittefaq can be rated as one of the best thrillers to have been made in Indian cinema. It is an unusual Hindi movie with no songs and a run-time of just over 100 minutes.
JALLIAN WALA BAGH (1977)
Parikshit Sahni essays the role of Uddham Singh, while Vinod Khanna and Deepti Naval play major parts that bring in some star value to the otherwise non-commercial looking venture. Shabana Azmi has an insignificant cameo, but the surprise of the show is a meaty role by none other than Gulzar. As a young man contributing to the freedom struggle while living in London, Gulzar delivers a patchy performance that vindicates his decision of not going in front of the camera ever again. However the portions involving him are some of the most polished part of the otherwise amateurish attempt by the first time director.
A tale of fierce love that remains unrequited in an extremely volatile political situation, Junoon is more than an account of India’s first war for independence. It is a complex film, which has more meaning than what it conveys overtly through its narrative. Shyam Benegal has left it upon the viewers to form their own interpretations and opinions. One question that arises when you finish watching this movie is whether Javed Khan was justified in putting his love over all other rational and irrational things in the world. Frankly, there is no answer, to this- but this tale suggests that love may be a human failing, but it is also the most powerful emotion in the world.
Amitabh Bachchan is the most iconic personality of Hindi cinema. This is the inference I draw after looking at his enviable filmography- which comprises of few of the most popular movies ever and at the same time still includes a range of movies on diverse subjects- covering diverse genres. It is a true testament to his phenomenal range as an actor that in a period in which he was dishing out ‘angry young man’ blockbusters and huge money spinners by the number, he still tried out stuff that gave him the opportunity to indulge different facets of his acting prowess. ‘Jurmana’ by Hrishikesh Mukherjee is his one such endeavor.
In such time and age, watching a film like Mahesh Bhatt’s 1987 feature Kaash can be an extremely novel experience. The film boasts of just four lead characters and almost no one else. The story is simple; the narrative is singularly linear (apart from a few discernable flashbacks). But more than anything else, the most unique thing about the film is that the camera is in no hurry and has a lot of time to capture what the characters feel and what they do. It is an extremely performance oriented movie that tells the story of a dysfunctional couple- a man who has seen the highs of stardom but is now experiencing the lows of obscurity, and a woman who cannot bear to see her once full of life husband taking to the bottle and giving up on life. Caught between them is their school going son; grappling with the acerbic tension between his parents. The story takes a turn when the kid is diagnosed with a terminal illness.
Before I go on to talk about the film; I feel the word ‘epic’ has been coined just to describe the magnanimity of our two ancient relics- Mahabharata and Ramayana. Like most others from my generation I got introduced to both through popular tele-serials and some school text-book reading. Recently however I found time to go through some excellent re-telling of both- CR Rajagopalachari’s Ramayana, and Devdutt Pattnaik’s Jaya (an illustrated version of Mahabharata). The latter was a more enriching experience than the former as Mahabharata truly is an amazingly sinuous yet cohesive work of art. It is so wonderfully detailed and multi-dimensional that it is difficult to remember most of the things. On the other hand I know pretty much all the things about Ramayana which, comparatively, is much simpler and easier to comprehend. So post reading Jaya, I got the feeling that I had never really known Mahabharata.
Capital Punishment has a marked prominence in the annals of all recorded history. There has been no civilization where this form of punishment has not been practiced. Be it the Greeks, or the Romans, or the Chinese- all had strict stipulations on human execution as a part of their code of law. Even major religions like Islam, Christianity, and Hinduism have permitted capital punishment for certain offenses. But despite all this, there has always been a serious debate on whether human execution is justified. It has always been argued whether justice is always just; most certainly there have been many recorded instances where apparently innocent have been executed. BR Chopra’s 1960 movie Kanoon essentially debates and discusses this very pertinent issue of whether a human has got the right to take the life of another human, even if it is a means of enforcing punishment. Starring Ashok Kumar, Rajendra Kumar, and Nanda in principal roles along with some splendid lesser known actors essaying crucial roles, Kanoon is a resounding statement on the fallacies of human court of justice and on the inadequacies of the written law.
This 1983 Naseeruddin Shah- Deepti Naval- Farookh Sheikh starrer is a take on the popular children’s tale- ‘The Hare and the Tortoise’. It is a light-hearted comedy with a simple narrative that shows the daily hustles and bustles of a Mumbai ‘chawl’, and how the life of the simple-helpful-naïve-idealistic Rajaram (Naseeruddin Shah as the Tortoise) changes when the confident-clever-manipulative-complacent Bashu (Farookh Shiekh as the Hare) re-enters his life. A very little known classic by Sai Paranjpaye movie- this certainly deserves a watch. No big budget- no foreign locales- no big stars- no popular songs- no thrills and action- just a simple engaging story that will make you smile a lot.
Though the title hints at it, Shatrughan Sinha is not a part of this supremely well-crafted suspense thriller by Vidhu Vinod Chopra. Instead this movie stars a host of other well-known actors like Naseeruddin Shah, Shabhana Azmi, Amol Palekar, Pankaj Kapoor among others. The story takes place in the pristine locales of Pahalgaam and is about a murder that takes place while a film crew is shooting their new venture in an outdoor schedule. The premise of a film shoot within the film is certainly novel for that time. Revealing the exact plot would spoil the fun and therefore I resist the temptation to do so.
Mrinal Sen’s 1984 feature film Khandar (ruins) is a deeply moving account of human predicament, that despite it lugubrious approach ends up as a poignant and redoubtable study of how our past and our roots always have a formidable role to play in shaping our future. The emphasis is on stillness of time and incidentally (or rather intentionally) the main character is a still photographer. It’s his art that acts like a window to the director’s mind and his vision. The story though basic alludes to a deep thought that is far visceral than what it looks on the surface. The movie is akin to a beautiful and languid prose that is suffused with thought. Through the sinuous performances by the case, especially by Shabana Azmi who is beyond wonderful in her portrayal of the lady thwarted by her own roots, the movie sublimates into something which is very rare in Hindi cinema.
I have always had a liking for the friendly and warm rural settings in both books and movies. Such settings may seem idealistic and may refrain from showing the murky realities, but their simple tone, and the simple problems that people in such stories have, have always allured me. Malgudi Days is my second favorite book after the Harry Potter series- and I was thrilled when I saw Gulzar’s ‘Khushboo’ unfolding in a manner similar to the RK Narayan’s classic fable based on the lives of people in a fictional village. This movie also boasts of memorable music by RD Burman. Each and every song is a gem and may be a part of the playlists of old Hindi film music lovers.
Anubhav Sinha’s ‘Tum Bin’ is one my favorite romantic movies of recent times. Its premise of the hero trying to make amends for an accidental death caused by him was heartwarming and gave ample scope for dramatic situations. While watching ‘Kinara’, written and directed by Gulzar, I was reminded of ‘Tum Bin’ as this movie had essentially the same premise as the modern day musical. Starring Jeetendra, Hema Malini, and Dharmendra (in an extended cameo)- Kinara is a touching tragic tale of love and fate. Like most good poetry, this movie too demands patience and a discerning eye for subtle highpoints. The drama is understated but still charming, quite like the man Gulzar himself.
Gulzar’s ‘Kitaab’ is an exceptional reconstruction of a child’s mind. It is a movie that is so thoughtful and so precise, that it seems like Gulzar had put himself in a child’s mind to construct this story (or rather he might have taken some autobiographical references). It is story of a boy grappling with the world around him, and struggling to make sense of the things that happen and don’t happen around him, in a manner that seems far off from what he thinks is logical. As with every Gulzar movie, there are some delightful songs (though not very well known), but very relevant to everything that the master was trying to say through this film.
For a movie on two handicapped people, Koshish is amazingly restrained in most things it attempts and refrains from the clichéd trappings of such stories. In that sense it is fresh perspective, and a few scenes bring out this perspective wonderfully well. One such scene is when the two, relieved at finding out that their new-born son does not suffer from the same handicap as they do, start whistling alternately to capture the attention of the kid from two sides of the bed on which he rests comfortably. The rapturous whistles (growing in intensity every second) attract the attention of all the people on the street, who are shunned out in good humor by the joyous father Haricharan. The people continue with daily chores after having a good laugh. It is the treatment of this laughter by the normal people around the two, which is really different here. The focus is entirely on the world between Haricharan and Aarti, and the rest of the world doesn’t really matter.
There are many different views regarding the number of basic plots possible in storytelling. Some say that there seven; a few argue that there could be twenty. An argument also claims that all kind of plots center on conflict (either internal or external), and in that sense there is only one basic plot in all stories. Whatever be the case, it leaves very little room for storytellers and film-makers to experiment. Or does it? The finest film-makers have, at times, taken the most mundane of stories and have presented them in such a novel manner that they have left the audiences spellbound. They have proven that though the plots may be limited, the possibilities are endless. And this is what essentially Chetan Anand did in his 1981 feature Kudrat starring Rajesh Khanna, Hema Malini, Vinod Khanna, Raajkumar, and Priya Rajvansh in principal roles.
‘Lekin’ is a movie best remembered for this timeless song by Lata Mangeshkar. Directed by Gulzar and produced by the nightingale of Bollywood herself (along with her Brother Hridyanath Mangeshkar, who also takes up the responsibility of composing music for the film), Lekin is the most ‘hatke’ theme attempted by Gulzar in his long and illustrious directorial career. It is a story that is mythical, rustic, and open to interpretations- like so many of the folktales that can be heard in villages abode to old monuments that act as a bridge between the past and the present. Starring Vinod Khanna and Dimple Kapadia in principal roles, Lekin is a story seeped in the culture of the most mystical part of our nation- Rajasthan.
Madhumati (1958)- A TRIBUTE
Despite the familiarity born out of watching many rehashes of this movie over the years (some good some tacky), Madhumati is an extremely fresh watch owing to it’s well crafted scenes and some sparkling performances by Dilip Kumar, Pran, and Vyjayanthimala (the last especially for her ebullience in the songs and dance sequences). Moreover each and every song by Salil Chaudhary is a classic, and it was a pleasant surprise to see so many memorable songs back to back in a movie. Though it must be said that having eight songs in a two hour movie is like an overdose, and considerably hampers the otherwise fast paced narrative. Without the songs the story could have been said in an hour flat. But then, it wouldn’t have been this charming.
MASOOM (1983): A Tribute
This is my 50th post in the series. To mark the milestone I choose one of my favorite films for discussion- Shekhar Kapoor‘s 1983 feature Masoom, starring Naseeruddin Shah,Shabana Azmi, and Jugal Hansraj (as a child artist) in principal roles. The film is one of the most acclaimed ones from that time and is the winner of many a awards for its actors as well as for the people responsible for its timeless music- Gulzar (lyrics, screenplay, and dialogues), and RD Burman (music director). Shekhar Kapoor also won tremendous appreciation for his able handling of a sensitive subject in his debut directorial effort. Masoom has quite a following amongst Hindi movie lovers and is widely recalled as one of the most loved films from that time. Thus I design this post as a tribute to the movie where I will recount some of my favorite moments from the film apart from discussing some subtle aspects. For the same I am using some screen-shots from the movie- my first attempt at the method.
Hill stations, as settings for a movie, almost always result in a laidback charm that draws the viewers into a world where everything is pristine, most locales are virgin, people are earthly and simple, and the weather is spectacular. Gulzar’s ‘Mausam’ is one such tale where the setting plays a huge role in drawing the attention of the viewers, especially in the initial bits. Starring Sanjeev Kumar and Sharmila Tagore, Mausam has unrequited love as the core of the story it has to tell – always a subject that manages to engage if attempted properly. It is a path breaking film that could have served as a reference point for many later films like Lamhe and others, including the ones that dealt with prostitution.
Mere Jeevan Saathi (1972)
The superstar plays a Casanova, an artist, a singer. He gets to strut around in garish and loud clothes (in vogue at that time), gets to flirt with girls ready to eat out of his hands (and what not!), and gets to sing songs to an audience of admirers and fans. All this, and more, happens in the first half of the movie when he is chased by a rich spoilt princess (Helen), and he chases and demure and comely young lady doctor (Tanuja) and falls madly in love with her. In the second half things change color and Rajesh Khanna gets to play the other side of his persona that was quite famous at that time- the romantic hero stuck fighting through tragic circumstances. He meets with an accident and lands up in the palace of the very princess who he had ignored and rejected. At what more, he loses his eyesight and becomes a prisoner of his ardent admirer who treats him like a slave…
Mirch Masala (1987)
The movies that try to recreate an era gone by always have a quaint charm irrespective of how good their content is. It is wonderful to be able to witness something that is way behind us, especially because most of these movies try to depict our historical roots and culture. Mirch Masala by Ketan Mehta- starring Smita Patil, Naseeruddin Shah, Om Puri, Deepti naval, Suresh Oberoi amongst others is a fine take on the pre-independence era when the exploitation of villages by tax-collectors was rampant. Naseeruddin Shah comes to this quiet Gujarati village to collect ‘Lagaan’ on behalf of his white-skinned masters. And with him comes his entourage- all of them intoxicated by the power and control they have over the poor villagers. Naseeruddin Shah- the ‘Maalik’- the ‘Saheb’- can do anything and everything- can get anything or anyone from the village to his liking to do his bidding.
Namak Haraam (1973)
What’s more important- profits or people? Now this is a lot closer to my current project in life- the Masters in Business Administration that I am pursuing. And this is also what Hrishikesh Mukherjee essentially tries to debate in his movie Namak Haraam starring Amitabh Bachchan and Rajesh Khanna in principal roles. A story of two thick friends who can’t even imagine leading their lives without each other, this is a sensitive representation of the clashes between the capitalists and the labor class- a subject that had relevance not only in India, but also the world over. Namak Haram deserves to be seen by the lovers of Hindi cinema for it attempted something different from what was the norm and also boasts of powerhouse performances from two of its most popular superstars.
What would be the worst part of living a nomad’s life? The lack of a settled dwelling? Or the felling of constant disengagement with the society? Human beings are not meant to live alone. People, who try to fool themselves into believing that they need no one else in their lives, are usually the ones who get the worst out of this unforgiving world. One can never stop having attachments in the world around us, and one cannot really leave everything behind and move to another location taking everything away with him. This is because while moving from one place to the other, some small part of one’s heart always does get left behind. One cannot really escape this, however hard one tries. And that’s the reason people find it so hard to say goodbye.
Nishant is a story set in the pre-independent era when our country was no country at all, but an agglomeration of fiefdoms, kingdoms, and states- some tiny and non-descript, while some mighty and formidable. Benegal tells the tale of one of the many insignificant Indian villages from that time, which has a landlord family lording over it. This village remains unnamed throughout the film which implies that the story could have been an occurrence in any part of our country. Though from the dialect and the customs and traditions shown in many of the scenes, it can be inferred that it is somewhere in Andhra where the cruel Zamindar (Amrish Puri) and his three younger brothers exploit the poor and helpless villagers in a bid to sustain and further their dominance over them.
India lives and breathes in its villages. Unfortunately most of us city bred people don’t even appreciate this fact (till the day we take a train and realize that cities are like small traffic lights on a long expansive road). Our movies of today don’t really appreciate this fact either. I personally have always loved the rural settings in movies and books and such movies act have a great cathartic effect on me. The languid and all encompassing life of villages with limited means and limited ambitions has always had a great pull on me. The days in such settings seem unhurried and more meaningful to me. I have always wondered whether other people also feel the same way about rural life (or do I have a strong past life connect). I have no answer and frankly I don’t care. When I saw this little gem of a movie from Rajshri- Paheli, I got so much sucked into its world that I found it very hard to get back to my world. It was really difficult to get it out of my head.
PALKON KI CHHAON MEIN (1977)
Five minutes into the movie, and you can make out it is a Gulzar film. This Rajesh Khanna and Hema Malini film is though not directed by the maestro himself, but by Meraj, who was an assistant to the man in most his earlier directorial ventures. But everything- be it the dialogues or the treatment, or even the look given to the lead actors- looks straight out of the Gulzar school of film-making. That he has written the screenplay is just a part of this happy occurrence. The story is set in a village, very much like the Jeetendra- Hema Malini starrer Khushboo that came just two years or so before this movie. But this time, instead of Jeetendra, the moustache is donned by (the then on the wane) superstar, who gets to play a meaty author (read Gulzar)-backed role. Ravi (Rajesh Khanna) is a city bred educated but unemployed youngster, who doesn’t lose his sense of humor and wit despite his many failures to secure a decent employment.
As in all his other films, Gulzar chooses a simple tale with a heart and adds his masterly strokes in the form of witty dialogues, splendid music and moving drama. The craft of caressing a simple plot into an evocative and engaging feature is something that Gulzar practiced with trademark precision and uncanny ease over the years. It is hard to find any other Indian director with such a rich and full body of work, and adding his contributions to the world of poetry and music, he becomes truly unmatched and unparalleled. Hoping that the magic lives on and on… his films and songs surely will…
Govind Nihalani’s Party, based on a play by noted Marathi playwright Mahesh Elkunchwar, is indulgent cinema at its most brilliant. This irreverent indulgence however can be mostly attributed to the playwright, for it is set in the world of elitist art and theatre and there are long ramblings about the responsibility of art and its connections to politics. And thus, this is one of those rare Hindi movies that give the impression of being entirely written on paper before any of their shots were canned. It is the quintessential theatrical cinema, minus all its negative connotations. It is hard to remember any other such movie where long visceral monologues were the fodder for most of the narrative.
Anil Ganguly’s 1985 family drama Saheb starring Anil Kapoor as the central protagonist is one of those rare good movies in the 80s that managed to enliven the spirit of the kind of films made by Hrishikesh Mukherjee in the 1970s. It is an ensemble cast film, but the focus is mostly on Anil Kapoor’s character Saaheb who is the fourth and the youngest son of a retired patriarch Badri Prasad Sharma (Utpal Dutt in a remarkably restrained role). His family is a typical middle class joint family headed by a sexagenarian and ably run by the eldest mother-like ‘Bhabhi’ (Rakhee Gulzar in a quintessential middle aged woman role). Saaheb’s elder brothers and their wives (except Bhabhi) are too much into their own little world and hardly care about the issues and worries of the household.
Saath Saath (1982)
Togetherness, affection, love… so many of our movies talk about these things, but hardly any of them try to look into the actual meanings and connotations of these rather abstract emotions, and fewer still try to take a realistic look at these things. Saath Saath, a Farookh Shiekh and Deepti Naval starrer from the early 80s, is a movie that attempts to give an answer to an oft repeated question- ‘What is Love?’ (A question that has left many a philosophers and thinkers grappling, and whose answers, more often than not, are pretty vague ones that stem more from frustration rather than actual understanding or sudden flashes of cognition). It is a good breezy watch (at just about 120 min), elevated to a great extent by its music and performances by its lead pair.
Sadgati is a ironical take on the caste system that was prevalent in the Hindu society till a few decades ago (I say ‘was’ because even though it still has its imprints over our society, but most of the emotions that are associated with it are somewhat suppressed by the people these days in lieu of the stricter political, social, and regulatory environment). It is a very sad story that will depress you, haunt you, and make you think. Although I generally don’t find such themes appealing, Sadgati is a must watch for everyone, for we deserve to know what used to happen in our country, and what all things are a part of the culture and tradition we talk about so fondly whenever we intend to satiate our ‘Indian’ egos and fell good about ourselves.
Written and Directed by Balu Mahendra (a famous South Indian director), with dialogues by Gulzar, ‘Sadma’ is not your regular romance flick with a dash of melodrama thrown in. I think most are aware of its premise- a young upright and honest fellow giving shelter and care to a mentally challenged girl, and in the process falling in love with her. While Sadma is certainly a good watch, and is notches above the regular entertainers Bollywood dished out in the 1980s, in my opinion is not exactly as perfect a film it is made out to be. Good-of course no question, but great- I don’t think so…
Safar is one of the famous Rajesh Khanna movies from his super-stardom phase. A musical drama that has philosophical undertones, it is one of those ‘it was good while it lasted’ kind of movies. The plot of the movie, directed by Asit Sen, is slightly reminiscent of another Rajesh Khanna classic Anand, with him playing the role of a man who remains jovial and level-headed despite being terminally ill. The major difference between Anand and this movie is that while the former focused on the idea of living your life to the fullest, this movie has romance at its forefront. Avinash (Rajesh Khanna) is a college student who is more interested in bringing blank canvasses to life using his skill with the brush. There is a face that comes repeatedly in most of his paintings, and he soon discovers Neela (Sharmila Tagore) who shares a striking resemblance with that face. Neela is a diligent college student who aspires to become a successful surgeon. After an initial misunderstanding she treats Avinash to good health after he falls ill.
Many great men have exhorted the importance of following the path of truth, however arduous, in amazingly simple words (almost nonchalantly in many cases). Our holy relics, our Upanishads, and our two most significant historical texts- the Ramayana and the Mahabharata- too have averred vehemently that there is nothing greater than reveling in the knowledge and the spreading of truth. Hrishikesh Mukherjee, in his 1969 feature Satyakaam, pays homage to these thoughts by means of depicting the journey of a man who never wavers from this formidable path of truth. More than a film, Satyakaam is a comment on the society in the form of a biopic of a fictional character. It is most certainly an important film and showcases the range of Hrishikesh Mukherjee as a director.
‘Shaheed’, a 1965 Manoj Kumar film directed by S Ram Sharma, is a story of martyrdom- it is the story of the greatest set of revolutionaries to have taken birth on the Indian soil. One of the few biopic features made in our cinema, it is certainly one of the finest too- if not the finest. It narrates the life and times of Bhagat Singh, a name that resonates every now and then in each and every home of our country- and understandably so. At the start of the new millennium, our film-makers decided to relive his story on celluloid and thus we were confronted with as many as four features on the same man, and the same story. Although Raj Kumar Santoshi’s effort was indeed a fine one, it certainly had a great reference point in the form of this movie that is an extremely rich feature despite being made in an era characterized by minimalistic use of technology and lack of resources and high budgets. This movie has a soul as bright and as warm as the great soul it talks about.
The subject of disability on celluloid has its share of fans but I am certainly not one amongst them. I, for one, could not comprehend Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s ‘Black’ and found it quite tedious to sit through. His ‘Guzaarish’ was no masterpiece for me either. So when I decided to watch Sai Paranjpai’s ‘Sparsh’, I was a little apprehensive despite being a great fan of her other noted works- ‘Katha’ and ‘Chashme Buddoor’. It stars Naseeruddin Shah and Shabana Azmi- two of the most celebrated actors in Hindi cinema- and after you finish viewing this little gem- you would have no doubts remaining as to why these two are so highly rated. Naseeruddin Shah plays Anirudh, a blind man, who runs an institute for blind children. Shabhana Azmi plays Kavita, a widow, who has not recovered from the death of her husband even three years hence.
TAXI TAXIE (1977)
Amol Palekar, quite fondly given the moniker ‘Hero’ by his fellow Mumbai Taxiwallahs, is an honest and diligent worker who spends most of his time on the streets of Mumbai, helping various people move around the city. However, he himself finds it difficult to navigate through certain cobwebs in his mind, which keep pushing him back to his past. His choice of being a taxi driver, despite being well qualified academically, comes as an enigma to his old college friend who he runs into one day. He justifies it by voicing the joys of being constantly with various passengers, who he treats like fellow companions in the journey of life. The profession, thus, is his way of parrying off any chances of falling prey to loneliness. There is also a more romantic reason of him wanting to search for an old flame who he hopes would run into him, if luck is on his side.
TEESRI KASAM (1966)
Life is showbiz can be a big challenge, especially for ladies for the lines between morality and professionalism and ambition can be pretty thin ones. We have had many movies that have dealt with this subject in recent times- Fashion and The Dirty Picture being the ones that immediately come to mind. In fact there was a time when women working in such vocations were not seen in a good light. The society never encouraged the women to be a part of such set-ups and the women who did end up working in the entertainment world were deemed social outcasts. Also, before cinema and fashion became as big as they are today, something else ruled the heartlands of our country- the good old village nautanki- a celebration of life and all its covert pleasures. Basu Bhattacharya’s first Hindi film, Teesri Kasam, starringRaj Kapoor and Waheeda Rehman is set in such an era. With a rustic backdrop, this film is a heartwarming tale of love between a nautanki star and a bullock-cart driver (Gaadiwaan).
The genre of the movie can be defined as pulp fiction at best- the kind which is available in abundance in the bookstalls of the railway stations across the country. The sub-genres can be described as concentric circles- with mystery forming the outermost circle, and drama forming the central core. The story is woven around the travails of an idealist lawyer, Ravi, who is also unabashed drunkard. Anil Kapoor plays this wasted young man who is pitied, detested, and admired in equal measure…
While no one can put a stop to ageing (the world is still waiting for the chemical formula), coming of age is an arduous job. It is a journey like no other, which is more psychological than literal. Unfortunately history tells us that the best men, more often than not, get made only after facing a lot of hardships and going through personal losses. Maybe it’s a small tax that they have to pay on their path of self-discovery and conquest. Govind Nihalani’s Vijeta is a movie that emphasizes on the above fact and explores human relationships through challenging times. It is basically a story of guy’s journey from boy to man, and how he conquers his doubts and apprehensions to emerge victorious in life. The movie has been produced by Shashi Kapoor, and stars his son Kunal Kapoor as the protagonist.
The film has a young Sunil Dutt coming home after work and discovering that his wife has walked out of his life- taking with her their two kids and leaving behind a note… and lifetime of memories. As the night progresses the man starts reminiscing of the past and transforms from being an angry and vengeful husband to a helpless and hopeless romantic, longing for his wife and kids. In the process his soliloquy is what keeps the audience company. Instead of using other actors, Sunil Dutt uses sounds, dialogues, shadows, puppets, balloons, and what not- to create the scenes. To an ardent movie lover, this very compromise and how it is executed would be worth the hundred minutes of the run-time.
‘Western’ is a really popular genre in Hollywood. But if we have to look for a Hindi movie that can be put in a similar bracket, we won’t go further than Sholay. However there are many other lesser known Bollywood movies that embody the western spirit- shot in virgin countryside, with horseback chases, gunshots, dacoits, loot, and romance. Yateem, written and directed by JP Dutta (the man who made ‘Border’), is one such movie. I had not heard about this one at all until I chanced upon a page on it recently. And upon watching the movie subsequently I got more than one reason to be surprised of.