Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
31st March is the 39th Death Anniversary of the legendary Meena Kumari – an actor par excellence to ever illuminate the silver screen of Hindi Cinema with her presence.
The blog dedicates 30th and 31st March to the loving presence of Meena Kumari amidst our movie lore.
I can’t imagine my film experience without the luminous presence of Mahajabeen Bano.
What would Golden Era of Hindi Cinema have been without Gauri, Lalita, Sharda, Karuna, Benazir, Kajaal, Aarti, Sahibjaan and above all, Chhoti Bahu?
Who would have given fame to these names, if not her?
Who would have penned and rendered those pathos-laden proses of longing and sufferings if not the husky voiced Naaz?
Who would have lived upto the title of ‘Tragedy Queen’ if not Meena Kumari?
And who would have dragged me to this euphoric world of Golden Oldies if not the magnetic personality of Meena ji?
Yes. It was She, as Gayatri of ‘Main Chup Rahungi’ who made me sit up and take notice while surfing channels a few years ago.
She was the catalyst to my eager entry to movie watching of yore. She was the magnet behind my jaw-dropping and super-awed movie experiences. She was the anchor to my ever wandering mind.
Whenever I would get annoyed by the superficial and shoddy works of the present cinema, I would go back to her. Her soothing presence blissfully engulfed me and transported to her enigmatic world – coloured by the sepias and the black & whites.
I laughed when she laughed.
I cried when she cried.
We formed a bond, She and I.
She is the axis around which my filmdom exists.
There have been many personalities of that time whom I adore and enjoy. But there is only one who makes me return to her every few weeks.
She is ‘Chhoti Bahu’.
Saturday, March 26, 2011
Year of release – 1972
*ing – Sanjeev Kumar, Jaya Bhaduri, Om Shivpuri, Asrani, Dina Pathak
Producer – Raj N. Sippy
Director – Gulzar
Music – Madan Mohan
I am a sceptic when it comes to watching movies revolving around disabilities, whether physical or otherwise. I fear they might turn out either to be cringing tales of helplessness or sagas of sickening optimism. Very few makers have been able to balance out the black and whites of such tales. And this is the only reason why I make it a point to avoid such movies unless I am caught unaware by the story. Sparsh and Koshish are two such films which were just sprung on me (by my film-thirsty mind, ofcourse!)
And for once, I was watching with certain doubts at bay. Trust Gulzar to come up with beautiful display of human relations and emotions! He has done exactly that in Koshish (will keep Sparsh review for sometime later). He has a knack of choosing intricate subjects for his films. Follow his filmography and you will be awed by his range, by his grasp on the medium, by his choice of subjects, by the subtle ways in which his characters develop and above all, by the sheer simplicity of his films.
Koshish is no different in this sense. It is the story of two deaf and mute people – Aarti (Jaya Bhaduri) and Hari Charan (Sanjeev Kumar). How they meet and lead their life together. Aarti lives with her widowed mother (Dina Pathak) and her wayward gambler brother Kanu (Asrani) in a poor neighbourhood. She is as normal a girl as her handicap allows her to be. She does not wallow in self-pity and has learned to have a way with her restrictions. A chance meeting in the market leads her to befriend Hari Charan who also shares this handicap. Hari is a newspaper vendor who earns enough to make his ends meet. He introduces Aarti to a deaf-and-mute school and makes it a point to accompany her back to home, without fail, every day. This leads to mutual admiration, they start coming close together and Hari proposes marriage. Taken by a surprise, Aarti doesn’t know what to say. She is perplexed with this sudden proposal and takes no time in saying ‘No’. She is not quite sure how two people with similar weaknesses would be able to live a normal life. But soon, she has to eat her words as Hari’s confidence in himself and his approach to life win her over.
They get married and, to their utter delight, have a perfectly normal boy. They are leading a happy life together but how do you explain life’s sudden twists and turns? One night, Kanu break in their house to steal Aarti’s sole gold necklace. Not only this, he had his eyes set on Hari’s cycle since long and wastes no time in grabbing it along. But in his haste to escape, he leaves open the main door which proves to be a fatal misfortune. The couple’s baby crawls out through it in the rain and dies. The world comes crashing down on their heads. Everything goes haywire with this sudden mishap. And to add to the injury, Hari loses his job with his cycle. It gets hard for the family to even arrange for their daily bread. With nowhere to go to, Hari takes up boot polishing as last means of survival. Gradually, life starts getting back on track with the arrival of their second son.
A chance encounter with a noble soul gets Hari a decent job in a printing press. With his hard work and determination and Aarti’s love and care, things start looking better for them. Life completes a full circle when their son Amit completes his graduation, turning out to be a perfect son. Hari’s boss had set his eyes upon Amit for quite some time and wishes him to be his son-in-law.
Is this the result of Hari’s sincerity and affable nature which made his senior to think about this match? After all, for a humble man like Hari, it is quite something to be invited to his boss’ place for a cuppa. But what had Hari not bargain for is Amit’s reaction to this matchmaking.
The film has its moments whenever Sanjeev Kumar enters the frame. Here is one truly gifted actor Hindi Cinema has ever seen. The scene where Hari misunderstands his newborn’s silence to be his deafness is beautifully emoted by Kumar. His sudden panic at this adversity and his relief when everything turns out okay shows what this man is capable of.
Jaya Bhaduri complements him with a convincing role portrayal. I cannot imagine any other actor in Aarti’s shoes after watching Jaya play this role. Its tailor made for her. One scene that stands out is the one where a teacher asks her to say a name other than her own. The way Jaya coyly gestures Hari’s name is very endearing. Another smile inducing scene is where Aarti learns to whistle much to the delight of two roadside romeos.
Asrani here is in one of his rare negative roles. He plays Aarti’s crooked, selfish brother convincingly. But the way his character develops in the film is very usual. I don’t get it why this character is needed in Hari and Aarti’s story? The stealing part could have been be done by any Tom, Dick and Harry thief. Asrani, IMO, is simply wasted in this film. Dina Pathak, on the other hand, has some good scenes to her credit and a bit more than the usual filmi Ma.
Gulzar has used Om Shivpuri’s character, Narayan, very effectively throughout the movie. He is a blind man who befriends Aarti and Hari and become an indispensable part of their life. Together with Narayan, the couple raise their son to be a good person. There is a scene where Narayan, spending his night outside their house on a cot wakes up Hari using a rope tied to both their legs, whenever the baby cries in the night. In another instance, Narayan takes it upon himself to sing a lullaby to the baby (“Soja baba mera soja...” by Rafi). This is one close-knit family which strives to make life easy for each other in whatever way possible.
The story of two disabled people, who with the help of a blind friend construct a worthwhile life for themselves, is tenderly handled. The only thing, I found, lacking in this film is a peak point or climax, the reference point for conclusion. There is nothing that marks the high point of the movie.
But, the thing I loved the most is the way Gulzar touched the handicap. Surely, the leads have a difficult life but the master director saves the film from degenerating into a tear jerker. True, Hari and Aarti’s problems raise your concern but then you know that they’ll soon find a way out. Such is the kind of character Gulzar has given to his protagonists! He keeps his film free from forming an air of morbid shadows. The film charts the lives of deaf and mute people but without wallowing in pity and vulnerability.
Friday, March 25, 2011
Year of release – 1960
*ing – Dev Anand, Suchitra Sen, Nasir Hussain, Achala Sachdev, Dhumal, Rashid Khan, Jagdish Raj
Producer – Jal Mistry, Raj Khosla
Director – Raj Khosla
Music – SD Burman
Bombai Ka Babu is unconventional in many ways. First, it is a family drama from the suspense/ crime thriller stable of Raj Khosla. It has just a hint of crime noir in the start giving it a Khosla touch. Second, it has the most bizarre relationship between its main leads – the most sanctimonious bond in the world is treated in ways unheard of! Third, coming at a time when the reel world flourished mostly in happy romances, this one has a very unconventional touch to its conclusion.
Loosely based on O Henry’s ‘A Double Eyed Deceiver’, it is a story about a conman Babu (Dev Anand) who flees Bombai (now Mumbai) after accidently killing one of his accomplices, Balli (Jagdish Raj). He travels across the country and reaches Jogendranagar, a small village in Punjab. Trying to escape the police, he finds a shelter with Bhagat (Rashid Khan), a village thief who blackmails him into another crime plot. Masquerading as Kundan, the long lost son of village head Shahji (Nasir Hussain), Babu enters their life. Shahji, his blind wife Rukmini (Achala Sachdev), his accountant (Dhumal) and the whole village celebrates his arrival without any suspicion or question. Reluctant all the way, Babu whiles away his time in the household looking for ways to dupe the innocent family. But he is soon engulfed by a trouble – that of the presence of Maya (Suchitra Sen), his supposed sister! Maya is a radiant beauty with an attractive persona who is overjoyed by the return of his brother, revelling in the company of her friends and dancing to the tune of “Dekhne mein bhola hai...” As moments pass, Babu finds himself getting attracted to Maya and is soon head-over-heels in love with her. But of course, it is damn difficult to flirt around with the girl as she is supposed to be his sister. He cannot propose love to her without revealing his true identity as it is the most unnatural, most heinous feeling in the world – developing feelings for one’s own sister!
The film captures Babu’s turmoil and exasperation through various incidents. Whenever he hints about his feelings to Maya, she gets cautious about his strange behaviour and playfully rebukes him. But when he is insistent, she goes to him with a rakhi and is flabbergasted when he refuses to acknowledge the sanctimonious bond between them. Now nothing in the world could stop her suspecting that something fishy is going on with her brother. Why is he behaving in such a strange manner? Which brother would deny a rakhi and even try to stop his sister’s marriage?
For Babu, everything is grimy as he is neither inching towards his goal of robbery, much to the chagrin of Bhagat, nor can he express his love to the girl who is soon going to be married to another man. Tough man Babu breaks down in “Saathi na koi manzil...” Dev Anand keeps himself devoid of his flamboyant body movements, giving his Babu the right mix of broodiness and helplessness. He is picture perfect as the caught-in-his-own-deed Babu who doesn’t know how to handle these difficult situations. The frustration clearly shows through his body language. The instigated look on his face every time Maya calls him “Bhaiyya” is proof enough of the perplexed state of his soul.
Suchitra Sen as Maya is spot on with her dialogue delivery and facial expressions. She is a darling in “Dekhne mein bhola hai...” where she is exploding with pride and happiness in being reunited with her brother after 20 years. Her eyes have a mischievous glint as she warns her brother of the charming ways of other village belles. In “Deewana mastana hua dil...” both the leads share a happy sort of camaraderie. But Sen is best in the scenes where Maya is baffled by her brother’s inappropriate behaviour towards her. She shows a whole range of expressions in her role of Maya. The look on her face when she says “aurat aur behan mein fark hota hai” (there is a difference between a woman and a sister) is award winning!
Nasir Hussain and Achala Sachdev have comfortably portrayed their roles of Maya’s parents. Dhumal is not much utilized by the director – there is just one comic scene where he gets to flaunt his comic timings. And that too looks forced and could have been done away with. No one more than the lead pair shines in this unconventional saga. Raj Khosla has dealt this novelty with utmost sincerity without losing his focus. The dream sequence where Babu proposes his love to Maya has been canned beautifully. The romance has been deftly handled and the editing is taut which makes this film a sweet ride. Khosla has kept the script tight, interspersed with beautiful gems by SD Burman.
This album is one of the most accomplished works of Dada Burman with each song being a classic hit. “Deewana mastana hua dil...” (a breezy rendition by Asha-Rafi), “Dekhne mein bhola hai...” (Asha stumps you with her ‘baabu chhinanna’), “Saathi na koi manzil...” (a very poignant Rafi) are the stand outs here. Other songs like “Taak dhoom...”, “Kachchhu kaha nahi jaaye...” (Asha-Rafi) and “Chal ri sajani...” (Mukesh is the king of folksy numbers) are appropriately placed and utilized well. “Kachchhu kaha nahi jaaye...” is the dilemma tale of Maya, “Saathi na koi manzil...” is the poignant saga of Babu and “Chal ri sajani...” is the final nail in Babu’s coffin.
This film was way ahead of its time in 1960. But what else could have been expected from the geniuses like Raj Khosla and Dev Anand who have given some very unconventional and ahead of its time films to Hindi Cinema.
The only question left with me after this unusual entertainment is why did they rope in Suchitra Sen as Maya? There was no dearth of capable actors to play Maya opposite Dev Anand. Sadhana would have fitted the bill perfectly. Even Waheeda would have been a good choice. Then why go for a Bangla actor with an awry diction? Was it because it would have been awkward for the leading ladies of Hindi Cinema to play Dev Anand’s sister, given the hint of incest in his character in the film? Was it for the sake of the audience, to spare them the conflict of watching either of their favourite pair in an incestuous relation? Did the director need a new face for this role so that the viewers could digest the experience? Or was it a simple matter of Suchitra Sen’s acting prowess and superstar persona which overwhelmed Raj Khosla and Dev Anand to cast her in the movie?
I sincerely want to believe that its Sen’s cinematic calibre which landed her in an unconventional and powerful role. (I am clearly experiencing her magnetic force working around my Cinematic conscious. It won't be long before I am a proclaimed Suchitra Sen fan.)
Thursday, March 24, 2011
Year of release – 1975
*ing – Suchitra Sen, Sanjeev Kumar, Om Shivpuri, Om Prakash, A.K. Hangal, Rehman
Producer – J. Om Prakash
Director – Gulzar
Music – R.D. Burman
Suchitra Sen has never been my favourite, or rather one of my favourites. Prior to ‘Aandhi’, I have only seen her in Bimal Roy’s ‘Devdas’ and another time, prancing alongside Dev Anand to the tunes of “Deewana mastana hua dil...” in ‘Bombai Ka Babu’. And on both the occasions, something in her presence repelled me. She was stiff in her serious role of Paro and her Bangla accent distracted me throughout.
But, God knows what Gulzar did with her in this poignant tale of love and success, that even her accent awed me so much! And here I am, much in love with Suchitra Sen’s Aarti. I could hear her helplessness throughout her quiet demeanour in “Tere bina zindagi se koi shiqwa nahin...” Something tugged at heart in the very first time I saw that song. What Lata Mangeshkar’s rendition couldn’t do, Sen’s “I-want-to-break-free-but-I-can’t” expressions did so effortlessly!
Her Indira Gandhi-sque gait (one hand on her saree pleats and another sporting a non-fuss watch), white strands and simple cotton sarees with those oversized shades gave her a complementing look, to go with her convincing and effective portrayal of Aarti. Everything in her role play was immaculate, every dialogue spot on and every glance explanatory.
Aarti (Sen) is a politician, visiting her constituency for the assembly elections. She has a strong opposition in Chander Sen (Om Shivpuri), who is at a comfortable position with large vote banks in his kitty. Though a highly principled individual, Aarti is surrounded by a group of real players who take the election as a war and try everything to make her win. One of them is Lallulaal (Om Prakash -convincing but nothing extraordinary from him, apart from his affable “Bhaiyye”!) The staff arranges her stay in a hotel which, as fate would have it, is managed by her estranged husband, JK (Sanjeev Kumar in one of his best performances). There begins a journey to their past and what all they have lost together in their haste to gain success individually. They revive happy memories together, get stung and shaken up by the bitter ones but none of the two have the strength enough to acknowledge the fact that not all is lost. Something is still there, hanging between them, listening to their silence, waiting for them to hold out their hands and start afresh. Meanwhile, Chander Sen gets hold of their photographs together and loses no time in defaming Aarti. JK is miffed and frustrated to be dragged amidst this mud-slinging. Though he is fiercely protective of his wife’s reputation, he has never liked this unnecessary public attention, even when they were together and nor could he accept it now. He confronts her and makes it very clear to her that he is tired of all the aspersions cast on their relationship and can’t take it anymore. (What a role reversal! Till this time, it’s the lady in question who is answerable to all and sundry in a maligned relationship.)
What makes this movie a class apart is the way Gulzar has deftly handled his flashbacks – one of the most significant methods in film making. Every flashback takes the story forward. The most effective is the one when Aarti visits JK for the first time. Such sweet instances are so Gulzar-ish that your face reflects what your eyes are watching! Watch out for the scene where Aarti holds a press conference. He is a master when it comes to weaving human emotions with an emotion defying background like politics.
In the acting department, Sanjeev Kumar shines in this one. This is probably one of his best performances. He is a clear winner playing the carefree, charming and handsome (yes, here he surely is!) assistant manager as well as lonely and serious managing director. He is much in love with Aarti in “Tum aa gaye ho nor aa gaya hai...” And, very hesitant in “Tere bina zindagi se shiqwa nahin...” He wants her to be with him, he seeks one-to-one correspondence, he wants to care for her the way he used to. But, there is something which is binding him, stopping him going the whole way. Sanjeev Kumar has given his JK everything he could and that is what makes him so different from others. He is the best in everything he does.
Apart from him and Suchitra Sen, none of the characters had enough screen space barring Om Shivpuri. Om Prakash was okay in his part. A. K. Hangal had nothing much to do as the house help Binda Kaka. Rehman, in a special appearance as Aarti’s father, albeit had some edgy dialogues and did full justice to them.
RD Burman’s music in Gulzar’s movies is nothing beyond excellent. Here also, he came up with a great album. Special mention should be made of “Is mod se jaate hain...” and the way it was used in the film. It was almost a leitmotif in the movie. There is also a qawwaali-type number by Mohd. Rafi, Bhupinder and Amit Kumar - "Salaam kijiye..." mocking the election rallies and the politicos. Though everything in this film is beyond good, with a tight script, well-written screenplay, a deft hand at direction, excellent music and very dependable shoulders of Sanjeev Kumar, the film clearly belongs to Suchitra Sen. She is simply flawless here (barring that diction, but who’s complaining?)
Trivia – There is a scene in the film where Aarti tells her father that Indira Gandhi is her idol and she wants to serve the country, following her steps. The said scene was added to the film in its 23rd week, after the government banned it during the emergency. This was done to imply that the protagonist is not Indira Gandhi and the film does not depict her life.