Thursday, November 12, 2009

Naya Andaz (1956)

A song from this has been a long time favorite (Meri neendon mein tum). That, and the pull of bubbly young Meena Kumari, finally tempted me into watching this film. Its a sweet, lighthearted film that has, for some inexplicable reason, roused fRIENDS to fury. The print is terrible, the picture rolls on the screen or gets blanked out by bright lines, and the film’s reels are not put together in the right order. There are parts that remain a mystery in the first disc and light suddenly dawns in the second disc, because 15 minutes that were mysteriously missing in disc 1 are part of disc 2! And no, its NOT an experiment in a non-linear narrative! AARGHH!!!!

Shivcharan ‘Chand’ (Kishore Kumar) is of a poetic bent and gets his propensity for spouting poetry from his father (Murad). While Murad (I didnt catch the character’s name) is a poet of the old school who likes to spout social poetry, Chand (as Shivcharan styles himself) writes the chalta sikka (walking coin!) or popular kind of poetry. So deeply poetic is he that he even answers questions in his college exams with poetry. Needless to say, he flunks.
On a chance visit to the theatre, Chand sees the lovely Mala (Meena Kumari) dancing and is instantly smitten. And that shows him his career path – he must write songs for her! (Another man who would like to see Meena Kumari dance to his tune?) To this end, his friend Karim (Johnny Walker) and he wangle their way into a theatre owner’s home. The very fact that the theatre owner – Ashok - is played by Pran, in a sinister wig with a smoking pipe, ought to mean some devilry is afoot.
Funnily enough, Chand’s tragedy comes from another quarter! Ashok happily sits down to hear Chand’s poetry. Just outside Ashok’s house, a public meeting is in progress where Murad is reciting his poetry. When Chand begins to sing his verses, the crowd deserts Murad to stand beneath Ashok’s balcony! It IS Kishore - his poetry recital, even with just a harmonium and dholak, is very tuneful. Murad recognises his son’s voice and verse, and goes in to drag him out of the house of (potential) sin. In the ensuing scene, Chand is slapped by his Dad. The insulted Chand resolves to leave home and seek his fortune independently. Good friend that he is, Karim decides to accompany him.
On the road to fortune, they have various adventures, before striking it rich. Among other things, they fall in with a gypsy band who speak pidgin Hindi. Karim takes a shine to the leader’s daughter Lali (Kumkum) and her predilection for sharp knives. When Chand and Karim decide to leave their gypsy friends and seek their fortune in the theatre, Lali comes with them.


Next thing we know, the three of them are gainfully employed at Ashok’s theatre and Chand is stepping out with Mala - the star of Ashok’s company! The mystery is explained in disc 2. Mala had heard Chand’s open-air performance and brought his song into her act (so thats where Pritam and Anu Malik learned how to be… err… creative!). When Chand realised that, he staged a free open air performance outside Ashok’s theatre. He drew huge crowds and promised them free performances every evening. Ashok, worried at losing his audience, sent his manager (Gope) to Chand with an offer of employment in his theatre.

Chand managed to negotiate a great contract that not only gave him and his friends (Karim and Lali) big salaries, it also allowed him to call for rehearsals any time he pleased! (Our staff union could do with negotiators like him.) Considering that his fellow rehearsee was Mala, Chand was pleased to call rehearsals at odd times and at his home! And he made good use of his opportunities – Mala was soon as smitten with him as he was with her.
Poor Ashok – by the time he realises that his adored Mala is looking at a man, its already too late. He does his best to separate Mala and Chand. He horrifies Mala with an unwelcome declaration of love and then causes her to be imprisoned by her brutish brother Brij (Jayant). He dismisses Chand and spreads false tales about him to ruin his career. Nothing seems to go right for either of the lovers. Ashok is finally, gloriously, EVIL Pran, and manages to rain on all their parties. Will the two lovers ever get together? Will Pran take off his wig? Will Kishore stop trying to imitate K L Sehgal AND Rafi VERY badly? Thankfully for my ears, the answer to the last one is a resounding YES! For the rest, you will just have to watch the film yourself.
Meena Kumari was lovely in the film, but apart from a couple of dramatic scenes, doesnt really have a lot to do. The main action centres around Kishore and he is pretty good here. His acting is understated and his hijinks are very restrained. Plus, his dancing puts Meena’s in the shade! Johnny Walker was great as usual. Kumkum though, was totally wasted – she didnt get to show off her dancing much, and her pidgin Hindi got on my nerves. On the plus side, the songs were lovely (except for the one Kishore number) and there were lots of good moments of lighthearted humor.
Overall, it was a pleasant film. Is it worth braving a fRIENDS VCD to watch it? Not unless you are a big fan of any of the principle actors!

14 comments:

  1. Such a pity that so many old films are lost to bad VCDs! I wouldn't watch it, it would make me too angry.

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  2. Meena Kumari looks so pretty in your screen caps! I'd probably have liked to watch this film for her and Kishore and Pran, but the idea of a bad print, jumbled reels (and a really weirdly placed logo) put me off. :-(

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  3. I am increasingly getting so ENRAGED with these DVD/VCD manufacturers and the crap they pass off on us. This is why I support pirating and the guys who do their best to undo the damage to these films. I really don't understand how the owners of these film copyrights can tolerate what's done (or not done) with their work!

    Friends et all are lucky I am a pacifist, is all I can say.

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  4. I dunno, the prospect of a young bubble Meena might tempt me into an indiscretion re: the VCD as well. I love your captions, as usual: if you could make a living doing them you'd be a millionaire! :-D

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  5. Banno, my suffering was in the cause of young Meena Kumari. But for her, I would have given the VCD several satisfying thumps! :-D

    dustedoff, Meena was lovely and I even ended up liking Kishore, but fRIENDS is never going on my favorites' list!

    memsaab, the original filmmakers are probably long dead and now only we care about these films! :-( Sad, since they are such watchable films, otherwise.

    ajnabi, thanks. One of these days Filmfare will ask me for my photo captioning services and it will be goodbye forever to my day job! ;-)

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  6. Really did Kishore really put Meena in the shade with his dancing, that's one of her strongest points, i still practie the dance moves to 'inhi logon ne'...lol

    i'm a big fan of Meena and Pran and I would gladly see anything with them in it. I've read so much of Kishore's work as an actor but i'm yet to get involved any recommendations apart from this and Chalti ka naam gaadi

    Lets hope another company releases this, we should be thankful i know it sucks when all these dvd manufacturers mess things up but i'm a bit thankful that at least we can catch glimpses of some past films, there are many such cases around the world where notable past films can't be seen by the current generation

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  7. bollywooddeewana, as far as I know, the dances in Pakeezah were all done by Padma Khanna (who is an accomplished dancer) since Meena Kumari was too ill during shooting. I love her, but based on what I've seen of her dancing in older films (before the drink got to her), she is a charming dancer, no more. Kishore is pretty rhythmic as well as energetic and just appeared more coordinated in some of the dances in this film. His dancing and acting usually has me hitting the FF button because I cant stand the unrestrained hijinks. Guess with a director who could curb his excesses, he could be pretty good - like in this film.

    As far as prints go, I do usually think that we are lucky just to be able to watch these films. This print though, was almost unwatchable! Since they bothered to release the VCD, why couldnt they have bothered with some proper video clean-up?!

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  8. I have said before that Meena Kumari is my favorite of all the actresses who weren't dancers (or singers, I could add). People say, but Meena could dance! And I would say, not really.

    It's funny, because I have noticed a pattern that in many old Meena films, there were other women around to take up the role of the real dancer(s). Most of the best had a role in Meena starrers: Kamala Lakshman (Yahudi), Sai-Subbulaxmi (Azaad), Kumkum (Kohinoor) (and btw, if Kumkum didn't get a chance to show her skills in this one, that is a shame), Padmini in a couple of films...

    So I don't doubt that Kishore put Meena in the shade dancing-wise...though of course he met more than his match in Aasha and New Delhi ;)...

    Anyway, it's always nice to see others echoing my frustration with fRIENDS! They're the only company that is putting out some of the really old classics that I want on DVD with subtitles - but as people know already, I'm never even sure if I'll be able to play them.

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  9. "People say, but Meena could dance!" - well "people" say that about Amitabh Bachchan too! Its probably more a reflection of their popularity than their actual dancing skills.

    Kumkum did get two songs but I thought they didnt showcase her dancing skills well enough. It was Meena Kumari who was playing the famous dancer-actress and got the bulk of the dance numbers (4-5 of them).

    Kishore did more than meet his match in Aasha and New Delhi - he was seriously outclassed!

    Old "classics" are usually not hard to find - for example, you'd have no trouble finding RK-Dilip-Nargis's Andaz, or Ashok-Madhubala's Mahal - but its unknown films like this one that I'd much rather look for and they are almost impossible to find. So, bad print or no, I will see them if I get them (and rant about the bad print afterwards)!

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  10. I've probably said this before, but it bears repeating - the problem with Hindi films is that they are 3 hours Loooonnnngggg.:-)

    It could be that I've seen too many movies [Nah!:-)], so the plots all sort of blur together in my mind, but all I remember of Naya Andaz is two songs - Mere neendon mein tum and aaj suhani raat re (Love, LOVE listening to the young Rafi and Kishore singing together).

    And I'm not surprised that you found Kishore a better dancer than Meena - save Vyjantimala, all the greats of yesteryear, such as Nutan, Nargis, Madhubala, Meena Kumari, etc. were lousy dancers.

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  11. Shalini Razdan, I beg to differ with the comment above. Padmini was a great of yesteryear, and she was a great dancer, greater than Vyjayanthimala. :) (And I'm using for my critereon of a "great" someone who starred as an actress in hundreds of films, including very famous ones by Raj Kapoor. There are others one could mention too, depending on where you want to draw the "greats" line.)

    And Bollyviewer, re. the "old classics" I was thinking of, I hadn't been able to find Ratan (1944) except on a fRIENDS DVD, and as you know, it didn't work the first time, so I had to get it twice. I think, probably, we might have to look to fRIENDS if we want to find DVDs of classics THAT old. :)

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  12. Shalini, according to the theory of relativity, Hindi movies are three hours looooonnnggg only when they are bad/boring. Rest of the time, they are three hours short! ;-D Aaj suhaani raat re was such a lovely surprise. Rafi Kishore were great together and it was good to see Shamshad Begum take centre-stage, for once. OP Nayyar certainly gave her her due in this film!

    Richard, there is no doubt about Padmini's dancing skills! By the way, have you seen this clip from Pardesi (1958) which Shalini found on youtube. Padmini looks gorgeous in color and of course, her dancing is divine.

    As to fRIENDS, I AM glad they are bothering to put these films on disc. Now that they are digitised, I can start wishing for better prints! :-D

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  13. Oh yes some of these oldies are really evergreen

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