Saturday, December 20, 2008

Happy Holidays!!!

Friends, blogizens and readers, its that time of the year again when my favorite jodi comes to the fore – me and my holidays. :-) Yup you got it right – Old is Gold is on a Christmas vacation to the old country. And the old country sadly, isnt India this time but the UK (also known as Vilaayat in my favorite Bollywood oldies) which will certainly be a lot warmer than the arctic Calgary! Big Ben, here I come!!!
Hope you all have as good a time in your holiday season as I intend to! See you again next year. In the meantime, here’s a picture I happened to come across a while ago. Can you identify the actor and actress in the snap? Hint: he went on to become a famous Bollywood actor and she became a famous Pakistani actress.
Pran and Noorjehan in Khaandaan

Monday, December 15, 2008

Ijaazat (1987) – to like or not to like?

Ijaazat- DVD cover Gulzar wrote and directed this tale of a man (Naseeruddin Shah) torn between his feelings for two women (Rekha and Anuradha Patel). Every review I’ve read and every acquaintance of mine who’s seen it, has lavished praises on it. Still I resisted watching it, because I am prejudiced against love triangles where women come out the losers. Then I saw an interview of Naseer’s where he talked about how happy he was with his performance in this movie. So I decided to give it a try. And I am glad I did. Its a lovely movie inspite of some rather grave flaws! But thats Gulzar’s fault – he can turn the most unappealing stories into lovely and curiously touching movies (Basera is a good example)!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Filmi professions – just how professional are they?

I’ve been watching too many old movies (is it even possible to watch too many of those?) and couldnt help but notice their take on science. No matter what the protagonists’ field of research – be it a mysterious formula, nuclear science, or medical research – the 1950s to 1970s scientist always works in a lab that looks like a shiny version of my high school Chemistry laboratory!
As a scientist myself, I am mystified by filmmakers’ strange addiction to chemistry labs that are carefully stock-piled with glassware and multicolored fluids! Here are a couple of quick examples:
A scientist trying to harness solar energy (Madan Puri in Blackmail) should not be working in a Synthetic-chemistry lab straight out of the 1920s! He needs heavy equipment and sophisticated machinery - NOT glassware.Scientist in Blackmail

Monday, November 24, 2008

Kali Ghata (1980) – Masala-Thriller

Kali Ghata Poster A murder mystery + a couple of good songs + Shashi Kapoor + Rekha x2 = great fun! I can wax eloquent about all the pretty in the movie or rant about the Shemaroo people who take to scissors a lot more efficiently than the Indian Censor Board, but will desist and tell you about the movie instead!
The opening sequence - a cold-blooded murder – sets the tone for the rest of the film. A man is shot dead in a hotel room by an unseen assailant. We learn later that he is Seth Satpal Singh, whose look-alike daughters Rekha (Rekha) and Rashmi (also Rekha) are also in deadly danger.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The bad and the beautiful – catching up with 2007 films

My dwindling bank balance has decreed a strict moratorium on DVD-buying sprees. How then to quench the thirst for movies and more movies? This is where Calgary Public Library comes to the rescue! For the past few weeks I’ve been catching up on all the 2007-08 movies that I missed watching on the big screen. Here’s a brief review of some of them:
Salaam-e-ishq Dard-e-dimaag for the viewer!
salaam-e-ishq poster
I cant say I began watching with a lot of expectations but I still managed to be disappointed! To those of you not familiar with the plot, the movie follows the love-under-threat stories of five loosely-related couples - Ashutosh-Tehzeeb (John Abraham-Vidya Balan) whose young marriage is under threat because of Tehzeeb’s tragic loss of memory; Shiven-Gia (Akshaye Khanna-Ayesha Takia) whose love is imperiled because Shiven doesnt want to commit matrimony; Vinay-Seema (Anil Kapoor-Juhi Chawla) whose marriage is going through Vinay’s mid-life crisis; Kamna-Rahul (Priyanka Chopra-Salman Khan) in whose love-story Karan Johar plays an unlikely cupid; Raju-Stephanie (Govinda-Shannon Esrechowitz) whose love story you hope and pray does NOT take off but does! There is a random sixth couple Ram-Phoolwati (Sohail Khan-Isha Kopikkar) whose unsuccessful attempts to consummate their marriage will [not] educate the uninitiated about the “donts” of marital sex.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Emerging trends in interrogation techniques: an overview of Bollywood-related methods.

Prof. Jawaab-TalabWhile walking along the University’s pristine corridors yesterday, I had the good fortune to run into Prof. Lakshmi Jawaab-Talab and her grad student Gopi Jasoos. I know her from my grad school days in India. Once she’d ascertained my marital status, enquired closely into my career plans, finances, etc., she told me what brought her to Calgary. “The Canadian Govt was very impressed by my review article on the use of bad movies to interrogate tough suspects. Canada’s neighbours churn out bad movies and suspects in such large quantities that its become a matter of grave concern even so far up North. So here I am, about to give a series of lecture-demonstrations to Canadian law enforcement agencies!”

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Pathey Holo Deri (1957) – now thats what I call ROMANCE!

Pothey Holo Deri If you are looking for a well done romance Bollywood-style but sans the theatrics associated with the genre, you need to pick up an old Bengali flick starring Uttam Kumar and Suchitra Sen. They are Bengali Cinema’s legendary romantic duo (according to imdb they did a whopping 25 movies together over 20 years!) and were (arguably) an even bigger phenomenon in Bengali Cinema than Satyajit Ray! For sheer charisma and chemistry, these two beat any other on-screen couple hollow. Their movies together are a delight to watch and Pothey Holo Deri (got late on the way) is no exception.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Big B wins hands down!

The votes are in and democracy has once again thrown up a surprise!Amitabh Bachchan may be Bollywood’s most beloved icon and the biggest B on the B(ollywood) circuit, but he seems to have hung on to his youth far too long!
Sorry Dev Saab, the public has spoken and they think that you need to put in a lot more effort into hanging on to your youth. Perhaps in your next film you can play the role of a twenty year old and follow it up with even more youthful characters? You have won so many accolades. Surely the crown of the Evergreen Baadshah wont elude you. In the meantime check out your rival’s unrivalled youth:

Monday, October 20, 2008

Poll: Abhi to main jawaan hoon – choose Bollywood’s “Evergreen” Actor #1

With most of North America embroiled in election fever (Canada had a general election last week and the US presidential poll isnt far off), its time for democracy to make its appearance on Old is Gold. Today readers, we are going to select the “Evergreen” Baadshah of Bollywood!
 
We’re all familiar with the phenomenon of popular stars who continue to act “boyish” inspite of expanding midriffs, receding hairlines and increasing age. Mallika Pukhraj’s famous ghazal Abhi to main jawaan hoon (I am still young) is their motto and they’re sticking with it! Strangely, this phenomenon is confined to male stars and in over 100 years of Indian Cinema, its never spread to the feminine half of the industry! Actors from every decade of Indian cinema have been guilty of refusing to grow old (in their cinematic age) but the late 80s and early 90s are special in that they are overflowing with examples of stubbornly “youthful” superstars!
 
To help you decide who you’d like to crown the Peter Pan of Bollywood, I’ve made a list of the contenders:

Thursday, October 16, 2008

My Love (1970) - romance + trauma-fest

my_love_title my_loveLike all movies that are cursed by a bad second half*, this one begins very promisingly. There are snapshots of exotic Kenya including African wildlife and the “wild” tribals (much as I resent the exoticisation of India I can bear it tolerably well when its done to any other part of the world!) – all of which should convince you that you are in exotic Africa!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Do Ustad (1959) – was Manmohan Desai making films in 50s?

do_ustaad Hindi movie enthusiasts will be overjoyed to know of the discovery of a previously unknown masala multi-starrer gem by the 70s spice-king Manmohan Desai. Advanced scientific dating techniques tell us that the movie was made in 1959 - proof positive that the maestro was active long before previously supposed.
OK all that isnt true. This is NOT a Desai film though he was making films in the late 50s. It has all the required masala ingredients (check out Beth's and Memsaab’s lists to find out what those are) and then some. All the hallmarks of a Desai film, in fact. I was only convinced of the non-Desai-ness of the film on reading the director (Tara Harish) and producer's name (Sheikh Muktar) in the credit list!

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Far Pavilions (1984) – Raj romance or Raj masala?

The Far Pavilions Based on M M Kaye’s novel of the same name, this miniseries is a lavish period piece set in 1870’s India with a galaxy of stars – Sir John Gielgud, Omar Sharif, Christopher Lee, Saeed Jaffrey, Parikshit Sahni, Jennifer Kendall, Vinod Nagpal, Art Malik, etc. There is a strong thread of lost-and-found along with forbidden love-affairs, battle scenes and of course, lavish sets and costumes – in short the recommended masala allowance and then some!
Warning: Epic-length post with many spoilers ahead!
The story begins in 1865 when 11 year old Ashok makes his way into the head quarters of the Queen’s Own Corps of Guides at Mardan (North West India). Dodging the guards, he manages to hand over a package to the commandant (Robert Hardy). The package contains proof that he is really Ashton Pelham-Martyn, son of late Hilary Pelham-Martyn, and a British subject.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The paratha conspiracy: Mujhse Dosti Karoge (2002)

A movie about email-pals? A story of true-love being above beauty? A love triangle? WRONG. In case none of you have caught on to it, the movie reveals a chilling international conspiracy to steal the process and exploitation rights of gobhi-ka-paratha (a cauliflower-stuffed Indian bread, hereafter referred to as g-k-p).
Gobhi ke parathe (image taken from this blog which also has the recipe for the parathe!)

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Masala-noir... Black Cat (1959)

A while ago, our friendly neighbour, the Sultan of Pitustan held a hunk-fest and released a list of Bollywood's top 10 hunks. The surprise winner was Balraj Sahni. Aye, the man who drove a rickshaw and channeled the angst of the dispossessed in Do Bigha Zameen, wore a dhoti and glasses in the true "Unkil" tradition and sacrificed ad infinitum in several family dramas - Bhabhi (1957), Choti Behen (1959), Bhabhi Ki Chudiyan (1961), etc. What is so attractive about him? He was a great actor, very good looking, gave great talks at my favorite University, was an acclaimed writer, and an overall good guy in the bad bad bad world of Bollywood. Is that why I echo Sultan Pitu's liking? Nope. The guy did romance like no-one else and always played such intellectually idealistic characters that its hard not to like him! But that isnt all - he could also do masala and carry it off with great panache as I discovered in this unknown movie I stumbled across recently. OK OK, So I will stop rhapsodizing about Sahni saab, already. Without further ado, readers, I give you the Black Cat.
Black Cat
Bombay is terrorised by a series of ingenious robberies engineered by the master thief "Black Cat". The Master Thief has an organisation that is more efficient and deadly than the city police (lets face it - it could hardly be less efficient than them!) and has a network of spies and informants second to none. The network alerts the Black Cat to Number 14's potential treachery and the unfortunate 14 soon ceases to be.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Points to ponder - a rant against "good" movies

The last few weeks have not exactly been packed with movie-viewing but I have managed to see a few talked-about ones. Two of them - Black Friday and A Wednesday - were pretty disturbing. I am not going to review them because:
a) I am too lazy
b) please refer to point a

That doesnt mean that I wont talk about them! So here's my tuppence-worth.

Both the movies were extremely disturbing in unexpected ways. And no, I am not talking about the mass scale destruction of human-kind depicted, because that wasnt unexpected. They were movies about terror attacks. I knew that gruesome scenes of death and destruction were on the menu and was prepared for that. What disturbed me more was the depiction of police torture as a legitimate, even essential, component of interrogation.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Mahabharata - Injurious to public sentiment?

What if Spielberg were to apply to the Indian Govt for funds to make a film on the great Indian epic Mahabharata? Read this hilarious article to find out. Evidently, a filmi depiction of the epic could potentially hurt public sentiments and contravene existing Indian Laws. Here's a sample:

In the script... it is shown that there were two sets of cousins, namely, the Kauravas, numbering one hundred, and the Pandavas, numbering five. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has pointed out that these numbers are high, well above the norm prescribed for families by them. It is brought to your kind attention that when the Government is spending huge amounts for promoting family planning, this will send wrong signals to the public. Therefore, it is recommended that there may be only three Kauravas and one Pandava.

And that isnt all - the Mahabharata, it appears, contrives to offend several other ministries, break several laws and hurt the sentiments of various people! If only Maharishi Vyasa had known... I'm sure he'll be more careful while writing his next epic. Wonder if this is the reason why Shyam Benegal drastically cut the number of Kauravas in his adaptation of Mahabharata to two!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Deewangee (1976) - Beware of diamonds!

I discovered this unknown (to me) movie by Subodh Mukherji Productions (the production house that gave us Junglee, Sharmeelee and Abhinetri) on Rajshri's movie (and TV-series) portal. An unknown movie starring *gasp* Shashi Kapoor and Zeenat Amaan at their beautiful best - what a treat! The story has a pinch of Roman Holiday, lots of diamonds and generous doses of Bollywood masala but the result is a rather bland mish-mash. It appears that though diamonds are a girl's best friend, Zeenat hates them and they do nothing for Shashi or any of his assorted friends, either!
Shekhar (Shashi Kapoor) is a poor orphan who through hard work and misogynism (yes, he really hates women and tunefully explains why in Haseeno ke chakkar mein at 9:00 min into the movie!!!) has overcome the handicap of poverty to make himself an unsuccessful car mechanic. OK OK he has not overcome the handicap of poverty but you wouldnt think so if you saw his wardrobe and how perfectly his hair have been curled! His companion in poverty is his trusty lieutenant Birju (Jr Mehmood) who loves women as much as his boss hates them.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The colors of Bollywood

Ever wondered who Govinda's style-icon is? Who does Govinda consider his Guru in matters sartorial?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The joys of youtube!

I just stumbled across a rare Talat Mahmood song on youtube and just have to talk about it! Its a song originally sung by Mohammed Rafi for the film Bhabhi (1955). According to lovehumanity who posted it, this was recorded by HMV as part of their VERSION RECORDINGS series in the 50s where they had famous singers sing popular songs of other singers.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Come lets laugh - Top 10 Bollywood Comedies

It seems to be the season of "Top 10" in blogland. Both FilmiGirl and the Post-Punk Cinema Club have put up their selection of top 10 songs for various decades. Never having done a top 10 of anything before, I promptly and shamelessly decided to copy the idea. However, to weed out Top 10 songs from literally hundreds of songs every decade is a Herculean task and a beginner like me needs something much simpler. After much cogitation I settled on Top 10 Comedies simply because great comedies in Bollywood appear but rarely and it shouldnt be hard to select 10. Having committed myself to the task, I realised that Bollywood has way too many great comedies to make this any easier than top 10 songs!
What you see here is the result of sheer hard work and days of frantic weeding and ruthless trimming - I've even managed to limit myself to only two comedies each from directors Basu Chatterji and Hrishikesh Mukherji who between them were responsible for most of the great comedies in the 70s and 80s!
If jest be the food of life, read on... and dont forget to tell me about your favorite comedies.
10. Andaz Apna Apna (1994) - Yaallah!!
andaz apna apna Two bumbling young men meet up on the path of get-rich-quick by attempting to marry the same rich girl. Alternately collaborating and competing with each other for their heiress, they run into bizarre villains, confusing look-alikes and every possible situation that a hero of a successful 70s masala block-buster could look forward to. From these trials they emerge triumphant, with their love-lives and fortunes made. What makes it especially amusing is its use of cliches to create a hilarious parody of masala movies. Salman Khan and Aamir Khan as the aspiring fortune-hunters are uproariously funny and ably supported by their heroines - Raveena Tandon and Karishma Kapoor - their villains - Shakti Kapoor, Shehzad Khan and Viju Khote - and the goody-baddy lookalikes played by Paresh Rawal. Raj Kumar Santoshi's tongue-in-cheek nod to 70s Bollywood still has me in splits everytime I watch it, though I havent watched it as often as Veracious seems to have!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Goodies on youtube - Helen Queen of Nautch Girls (1973)

I sometimes wonder how we bloggers would survive without youtube. Take me, for example. I had a hectic week and then a super hectic weekend watching James Garner, Doris Day, Fred MacMurray, et al, over at TCM, leaving me with no time to write up a review! So, I decided to go fishing in the youtube seas for some interesting videos to talk about and guess what I found - a 1973 documentary on Bollywood's beloved twinkletoes Helen. The film was directed and narrated by Anthony Korner for Merchant-Ivory Productions and can also be found in the DVD extra features of Bombay Talkies. The documentary tells us a little something about Helen from her difficult beginnings to her climb as Bollywood's most graceful and prolific dancer. And here it is for your viewing pleasure.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

How To Steal A Million (1966) - A lesson in love and larceny*

What happens when you lend your invaluable statuette to a Paris museum and want it back in a hurry? Why, you enlist the help of a society cat-burglar and steal it from the museum! Elementary dear Watson. But which society burglar? Its 1966 and Cary Grant has retired (well, almost) and Stewart Granger is too busy making spaghetti Westerns in Germany. Fear not. In the British Isles the sun never sets on debonair thieves. Lets get Peter O'Toole. He isnt British (he is Irish) but can disguise himself as an Arab and even has something that Grant did not - intensely blue eyes and a true-blue British accent (Grant's accent is classified as Mid-Atlantic)!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Guess-time #2

In a career spanning several decades, these Bollywood icons rarely ever shared screen-space. In fact, this is the only instance that I know of where Ashok Kumar and Raj Kapoor appeared in the same movie. Its also the only movie where Raj Kapoor played a negative character and came close to murdering the heroine! What movie is it?
t_1

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Hum Tum (2004) or A Jerk Who Grew Up To Be A Man!

humtum_37
This is the story of two very different people who are victims of improbable co-incidences in three different continents over several years who finally give in to their fate and fall in love. In other words, its a run-of-the-mill masala movie with a difference (quite a paradox, that) and I love it! Its the movie I like to watch when I am feeling blue and need a laugh or when I am happy and need to see my happiness reflected on-screen.
 
Rhea (Rani Mukherjee) is your normal feisty, intelligent, attractive, girl-next-door. On her way to the US of A for further studies, she runs into Karan (Saif Khan) who fancies himself a lot and fancies women even more. He never misses an opportunity to impress the ladies. That his efforts meet with indifferent success is completely due to the ladies' bad taste and no fault of his! Rhea is one of a long line of girls who are unappreciative of Karan's seductive appeal. The guy does everything he can to impress her - he double guesses her food orders wrongly, goes through her purse while she sleeps, ogles every thing in skirts, tells her how much he likes mentally undressing women, and even kisses her. Really Rhea - you are hard to please!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Ek Musafir Ek Haseena (1962)

DVD-cover Director Raj Khosla's excellent romantic-thriller is an old favorite that I never get tired of re-watching. It has all my favorite elements - a taut, well-written story, a beautifully done romance, cute Joy Mukherjee, lovely Sadhna, great songs, and some startlingly modern views on marriage.
The story is set in turbulent Kashmir of the late 40s when the newly formed states of India and Pakistan were engaged in a deadly combat to take control of Kashmir. In late 1947 Pakistani tribal irregulars marched into Kashmir and got as far as the outskirts of Srinagar before the Indian Army seized control and stopped their advance.

Asha (Sadhna) is a young Kashmiri girl in Baramulla who is getting married just as the tribals (or kabaaylis as they are referred to, here) attack their village. The wedding ceremony is interrupted by the attack and Asha is abandoned by everybody in their haste to flee, including her groom (Kamal Kapoor). She manages to reach the shelter of a nearby forest.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Ganga Aur Suraj (1980)

poster Beth's poll on the path to awful movies reminded me of some of the bad movies I have seen because of who’s starred in it. There are several of those - most of them starring Shashi Kapoor! This one is by no means the worst of them (Atithee takes the prize for that), but it comes close!
Here's the plot dynamics. Inspector Shekhar (Iftekhar) is an honest and upright officer of the Indian police force. Shekhar will sacrifice anything to catch the dreaded dacoit Vikram Singh (Kader Khan). Vikram has but one weakness – his young daughter - while Shekhar has neither daughter nor weakness. He does have a wife and two sons, though.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Mouna Raagam (1986)

Mouna-raagam Need a melt-into-a-puddle, non-mushy romance? Need two romances for the price of one? You need Mouna Ragam (Silent Symphony) - director-writer Mani Ratnam's first memorable film and in my opinion, one of his best. The love story of two strangers united in an arranged marriage unfolds in a gently flowing narrative that keeps you spell-bound. You're wondering what the narrative is. Well here goes...
Divya (Revathi) is a lively, fun-loving, college student. Her joie de vivre lights up her household which is ruled by her stern father (Sankaran). Her family arrange a marriage for her with Chandrakumar (Mohan) a manager for a Delhi-based company. Divya - a modern woman - is unwilling to marry a stranger. She tries to put the groom off by cataloging all her faults for his benefit. Instead of being convinced of her unworthiness, the disobliging Chandrakumar is charmed by her forthrightness! (And who wouldnt be - Revathy is at her charming best here.)

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Bride and Prejudice (2004) - Jane Austen gets spiced up

The title says it all. The movie has lots of brides, brides-in-waiting, brides-to-be (there are grooms too, of course, but they don’t really amount to much) and a truckload of prejudices. The movie is roughly based on Jane Austen’s romantic comedy Pride and Prejudice. By roughly, I mean that Austen’s story comes in for some rough handling here. However, we will ignore Jane’s hurt sensibilities at the mangling of her novel and enjoy this adaptation on its masala merits! Those of you who are familiar with Pride and Prejudice probably don’t need to be told the plot. Those who aren’t, you need to read the book ASAP or proceed with reading the rest of this post.
Clueless-but-Cute-American William Darcy (Martin Henderson) comes to Hicksville, India (Amritsar to the uninitiated; and the appellation is his, not mine!) to attend a friend’s wedding. Also with him are his friends the Anglophilic Indians (Naveen Andrews and Indira Varma) who rejoice in the Indian names of Balraj and Kiran Bingley. You may charitably conclude that they are the Indian descendants of Austen's Bingleys who settled in London's high society.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Neend Hamari Khwaab Tumhare (1966)

Based on the short story Saanch Ko Aanch (Truth in Trouble!) by famous Pakistani satirist Shaukat Thanvi, Neend Hamari Khwaab Tumhare (My Sleep and Your Dreams) tells the tale of an ambitious social climber with gentle humor and tons of masala.
Ajjoo Hajjaam (Ajjoo the barber - Om Prakash) strikes it lucky with a lottery win and installs himself as Nawab Ajmatullah Khan Farooqui in Delhi. His rags-to-riches story however, doesnt quite go according to plans. He manages to worm his way into Delhi's nawabi society presided over by the extremely-high-in-the-instep Khan Bahadur (a very dashing looking Balraj Sahni) and his cultured, pious Begum (Nirupa Roy). Ajjoo's position in high society however, is under constant threat from his delightfully uncouth wife Begum Ajmatullah Farooqui (Manorama). He hires Miss Pal (Shashikala) to teach his wife the ways of fashionable society, but the lady remains unrepentantly pedestrian in her language and manners. He finally gives up on her education and lets it out that she suffers from mental problems.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The two Parineetas

Continuing with this month's theme - movies from books - here's a look at Sharat Chandra Chatterji's famous romantic story Parineeta brought to life on the silver screen by two exceptional directors, 50 years apart.

1. Parineeta (1953)
parineeta_old

Producer: Ashok Kumar
Director: Bimal Roy
Starring: Ashok Kumar, Meena Kumari, Asit Baran, Nasir Hussain, etc.






2. Parineeta (2005)
parineeta
Producer: Vidhu Vinod Chopra
Director: Pradeep Sarkar
Starring: Saif Ali Khan, Vidya Balan, Sanjay Dutt, Sabyasachi Chakraborty, etc.
The story involves a romance between a lovable orphan and her bossy mentor.



Friday, June 20, 2008

Climbing in the Canadian Rockies

This was the first week of gloriously warm, sunny weather that Calgary has seen since last summer. Of course, I played hookey! Took a break from work and movie watching to go climbing in the Rockies with some colleagues. Here's the ridge we climbed:
Wasootch


Saturday, June 14, 2008

Shashi in fancy dress!!! Guess where....

While I mull over my next post, here are some gratuitous screencaps of my current favorite - Shashi Kapoor - in some unusual costumes. Can any of you guess what movies they are from?

Friday, June 13, 2008

Indian literature in Bollywood

A while ago I was reading this article on Gulshan Nanda - a Hindi writer whose frothy romances were very popular in the 1960's and 70's, and who was responsible for several successfull Hindi movies (Saawan Ki Ghata, Patthar Ke Sanam, Kati Patang, Sharmelee, Jheel Ke Us Paar, Jugnu, etc.). The author of the article claims, among other things, that
a) "good" Hindi literature never made it to Hindi cinema,
b) the task of bringing Hindi literature to movies is beyond the scope of Bollywood directors.
This got me thinking - did serious Hindi literature never make it to Bollywood? Right off the bat I can recall several examples of Indian literary classics that did make it to Bollywood, though were not very popular. Here are the ones I've seen and liked. They're from Hindi literature as well as literature from other Indian languages. Though not large in number, they do refute the author's claims that Bollywood is incapable of making movies based on Indian literature. If any of you know of some other examples, I would love to hear about it.

Monday, June 9, 2008

A Prisoner of Birth - vintage wine in a lovely new bottle

APOB_1_cropped A book, and a new one at that ... What is Old is Gold coming to? Isnt this blog supposed to be the last bastion of the bygone era? Well, as my favorite lawyer Perry Mason would have put it,"Your Honor, we propose to connect it up [to the relevant facts] later." I have just finished reading this marvelous thriller and need to gush about it - so please bear with me for a while and I promise to connect it up with true Old-is-Gold stuff.
A Prisoner of Birth is a novel about a man wrongfully accused of murder, and his quest for revenge against the men who framed him. It may not be a new story but Archer gives it a completely fresh perspective. In the true revenge-drama-style there are dastardly villains, good scoundrels (its not an oxymoron in the context of this book), tense courtroom drama and thrilling twists that keep you on the edge throughout. In short, all the ingredients that make for an absorbing read.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Khel Khel Mein (1975)

The cute boy in Bobby went to college, found love and fell right in the middle of a Hitchcockian mystery thriller! Thats a one-line summary of Khel Khel Mein (All in play) but it doesn't even begin to tell you how awesome this teen thriller is. I have just finished watching it and am still under the spell of R. D. Burman's music and Rishi-Neetu's cuteness!
Ajay (Rishi Kapoor) is new in college and falls prey to the class dude Vicky's (Rakesh Roshan) practical jokes. Matters soon come to a head and the two have a free-for-all in the college canteen. Having cleared the air with some well-aimed punches, the two become fast friends. Ajay begins to hang out with Vicky and his friend Nisha (Neetu Singh).

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Do Chor (1972)

do_chor Another great thriller starring the super suave Dharmendra. This guy has the best thrillers from 60s and 70s! If a drool-worthy Dharmendra in a great thriller with super songs isn't enough to tempt you, consider this - the other lead is the lovely Tanuja and she looks great, absolutely great. Now that I have sold you on this movie, let me give you the lowdown on it...
Bombay is plagued with a mysterious thief who leaves the Swastika mark after burglarising the safes of various wealthy people in town. What is even more intriguing is that he only steals specific pieces of jewellery and leaves everything else in the burglarised safe untouched! The police and the press alike are baffled. The handsome, smooth, mustachioed, swastika thief also moonlights as the beautiful Sandhya (Tanuja). Actually it should be Sandhya who moonlights as the thief... Anyway, Sandhya, in addition to being beautiful and a thief, is also an art director in an ad company and an artist extraordinaire. Gosh, is there no end to her accomplishments? O well, it is Tanuja after all and who can deny that the lady is accomplished and charming!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Aao Pyaar Kare (1964)

Saira Banu is bent on spoiling my weekend! This is the second bad movie (the last one was Pocketmaar) I watched this weekend and it again had Saira, this time paired with Joy Mukerji. There were some compensations to watching this movie though. Apart from some lovely songs it had a very young Sanjeev Kumar and a very young MacMohan - the latter was for once playing a nice character with no overtones of shadiness.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Pocketmaar (1974)

A romance? An action movie? A 70's style masala blockbuster? A comedy? An out-and-out entertainer? Well, Pocketmaar tries to be all of these and fails miserably on each count! I have just spent a good portion of my precious weekend watching this movie and if I am acerbic in my criticism of this film, I hope you will take into account my wasted Saturday afternoon.
The plot: Shankar (Dharmendra) is a small-time pick-pocket and his partner in crime is the myopic Sundar (Mehmood). Together the two happily live off the pockets of Bombay commuters when Shankar happens to rescue the blind Ganga (Azra) from goons intent on raping her. He takes her home and cares for her and her new-born baby. Lest you doubt the poor woman's virtue, she did get married and then deserted by her husband. OK, now that we have all been assured of Ganga's purity, lets move on.

Monday, May 12, 2008

From Hollywood to Bollywood - of romantic comedies and remakes

I was meditating on my review for Suhana Safar - an adaptation of It Happened One Night - when it struck me that many of my favorite Hindi movies are remakes/adaptations of Hollywood classics. In most cases I found that I loved the Hindi versions as much as, if not better than, the original ones. The gray cells jumped in excitement - why not do a post on remakes and adaptations? So, here goes...
Warning: very long post with spoilers ahead.
1. Come September (1961)
American tycoon Robert Talbot (Rock Hudson) visits his Italian villa once a year in September to meet his fiery Italian girl friend Lisa (Gina Lollobrigida). In his absence, his enterprising butler Maurice (Walter Slezak) has turned the villa into a very profitable hotel. When Talbot suddenly decides to visit Italy in June, Maurice's hotel has a group of girls (Sandra Dee and friends) chaperoned by Margaret (Brenda De Banzie), staying at the hotel. What will Maurice do to avoid discovery? He tells Talbot that the girls are taking shelter at the villa due to lack of hotel rooms in town while the girls are told that Talbot is a lunatic whose family used to own the villa. Enter: a group of boys (Bobby Darin and friends) camping outside the hotel/villa and the stage is set for the comedy to begin. Talbot finds himself playing the heavy-handed guardian to the girls and unable to openly spend time with Lisa. The boys' attempts to outwit him and get to the girls make for hilarious situations. Apart from all the beautiful people and the hilarious comedy, the best part of the movie is Rock Hudson dancing the 60's dance - he is adorably dorky!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Gautam Govinda (1979)

This Subhash Ghai movie has Shashi Kapoor, Shatrughan Sinha, Moushumi Chatterji, Aruna Irani, Vijay Arora, Nirupa Roy, Prem Nath, Madan Puri, Om Shiv Puri, Abhi Bhattacharya, and should come with the statutory warning that it is too spicy (with filmy masala) to handle! Its a 70's masala movie with angry young men, nasty villains, charging bulls, stampeding cows, and of course lost-and-found brothers.
Gautam (Shashi Kapoor) is an angry young police officer who hates criminals. After successfully putting smuggler Bagga Seth (Madan Puri) in prison, he is posted to a lawless village. Before leaving, he seeks the blessings of his father. Wait a minute... His father is a catholic priest! In masala-land that can mean just one thing - Gautam is an orphan. A blown up picture of his kiddie-self with parents and a flashback tells us that he was separated from his mother while his father was being killed. Yup, you guessed it - Nirupa Roy has misplaced her nth son (why did she never lose a daughter?).

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Ek Phool Char Kaante (1960)

This is a B&W comedy that I remember watching on Doordarshan in the good old days. When I stumbled across the DVD in the Indian video store, I was eager to find out whether the movie stood the test of time - so many of my childhood favorites have turned out to be awfully kiddish or silly! Well, the good news is that I still liked it.
Sanjeev (Sunil Dutt) is your average movie hero who is on the lookout for his heroine. The moment he sees her in a group of picnicking girls, he recognises his nemesis in Sushma (Waheeda Rehman). The two engage in some preliminary sparring followed by loving duets. When their love is revealed to Sanjeev's parents (Bir Sakuja and Mumtaz Begum) they are delighted with Sushma - not your conservative movie-parents, obviously. Sanjeev's father even engages to talk to her family about it. That's where the couple's trials begin. Sushma is an orphan brought up by 4 eccentric bachelor uncles (the 4 thorns - char kaante - of the title). Each of them has his own ideas about a suitable boy for Sushma.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Raja Saab (1969) - Jab Jab Phool Khile revisited

Take Jab Jab Phool Khile remake it 4 years later with the same set of people (add Rajendra Nath), tone down some of the female oppression, improve the heroine's dress-sense and you have Raja Saab.
Spoiler alert!
Raju (Shashi Kapoor) is a young orphan at an orphanage who is much given to daydreaming and weird hairdos. His daydreams always involve him playing a king - Raja or Sheikh are both acceptable. In the grip of one such daydream he insults the visiting Princess Beautiful (Nanda) and is thrown out of the orphanage.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Yakeen (1969)

A stylish thriller starring Dharmendra, Dharmendra, Sharmila Tagore, a dog, a beautiful red car and loads of thrilling masala!
Dharmendra plays Rajesh, a scientist working on a top secret government research project. The project requires Rajesh's complete involvement to the extent that he isn't able to spend time with his girl friend Rita (Sharmila Tagore). Rita is understandably peeved at the neglect. Rajesh manages to wangle a few days off and woos his girlfriend (should that be re-woos?) to the tune of Yakeen kar lo mujhe mohabbat hai tumse tumse... Rita hears Mohd Rafi's beautiful voice and is properly won over. Rajesh then goes over to Rita's place and formally asks for her hand in marriage from her mother (Kamini Kaushal).

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Parakh (1960)

Another unforgettable film from Bimal Roy - Parakh netted him his third consecutive Filmfare Award for best direction (he won earlier for Madhumati and Sujata). The story - written by music director Salil Choudhury - is a satirical fairytale set in rural India and comes complete with wicked people, good people, a damsel in distress, a hero and a fairy godfather.
We are taken to a small village called Radhanagar and meet the people there - the penurious village postmaster Nivaran (Nazir Hussain) and his charming daughter Seema (Sadhana) who is in love with the popular village schoolmaster Rajat (Vasant Choudhury), the irreverant postman Haridhan (Motilal), the pious priest Tarkalankar (Kanhaiyalal), the lecherous rich man Haribhanj (Asit Sen) who is keen on Seema, the greedy Doctor (Rashid Khan), the zamindar Tandav (Jayant). The good, the bad and the ugly - they are all here, but remarkably true to life.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Bombay Talkie (1970)

I read about the movie at Merchant-Ivory Productions' website and couldnt wait to see it. The cast included my favorite Shashi Kapoor, playing the role that he was born to play - a successful, womanising, film star. Shashi in a negative role - that was something I had never seen before! Consequently my expectations were rather high when I began watching and it might be argued that I was doomed to disappointment!
The movie began very promisingly with Helen dancing on a giant typewriter. A song was being shot for a Hindi movie starring the successful actor Vikram (Shashi Kapoor). Come to watch the shooting was Lucia Lane (Jennifer Kendall) a famous American writer. Now, Lucia is the archetypal American writer - she is much married, middle aged, hungry for romance and utterly shallow, selfish and self-centred. (Did she have to be such a stereotype?) She also has a British accent that puzzled me until it was explained away later in the movie - she was actually English but settled down in USA.

Bombai Ka Babu (1960)

This is an old favorite of mine that I feel compelled to revisit every so often. The movie was directed by Raj Khosla of CID (1956), Woh Kaun Thi (1964) and Mera Saaya (1966) fame, and according to IMDB this was his 5th straight direction of a Dev Anand starrer. The movie stars, besides Dev Anand in his Gregory Peck style hair-puff days, a lovely Suchitra Sen, the usual assortment of character actors and wonderful music by S. D. Burman.
The movie tells the story of Babu (Dev Anand), a small time crook in Bombay who accidentally kills fellow crook Balli (Jagdish Raj). Horrified by what he's done, Babu flees and doesnt stop running till he reaches Jogendranagar, a small town in the Himalayan foot hills.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Door ki Awaaz (1964)

Another oldie I stumbled across in the DVD store. The cover had my favorites Joy Mukherjee and a young Saira Banu. So, I happily dished out the moolah and acquired the movie. The film had some unexpected surprises in store for me. Alert: spoilers ahead.
The plot: Prakash (Joy Mukherjee) is seeing off his sister Mala (Malika) at the station and is smitten by the unknown beauty (a gorgeous Saira Banu) who is to be Mala's cabin mate for the journey. The train subsequently meets an accident and Prakash discovers his heart throb severely injured and suffering from a total loss of memory. Mala and he convince their mother to shelter the girl and name her Jyoti (light). Prakash woos his beloved and in due course she reciprocates. The cute couple dance and ride into the sunset singing lovely duets. They even manage to overcome family opposition and marry - all without Jyoti remembering her past.