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Saturday, February 27, 2010

The glorious 70s: Shyam Benegal takes center stage

Shyam Benegal'Socially responsible film maker' seems to be his tag. People talk of his brilliant exploration of social issues, of his technical superiority, of the superb performances he extracted from his actors, etc. etc. All this gives one the impression that he was the party-pooper of the decade that was the 70s; that he made "meaningful" cinema which was too artistic to be enjoyed by any but the very intellectual classes (whoever they might be). Of course, there is no denying that his films were socially responsible, that they did have great performances, that they were artistically made. But what all these tags do not reveal is that his films were actually interesting and fun to watch, that he is a brilliant story teller, that his films have a sense of humor that helps you over the grim parts, without ever trivialising the subject.
For me, the Shyam Benegal love started in the 80s with his lovely tele serial Yatra. It was an almost-anthology of tales set within the compartments of a train, journeying from Kashmir to Kanyakumari and back. It sketched the stories of the people who boarded the train in a few beautiful strokes - through their actions and interactions within the train compartment. Yes, it was brilliant film making, but more important to my masala-fed kiddie self, it was fun and interesting. It felt like I was really meeting all these people and getting to know them.

Friday, February 26, 2010

The glorious 70: a decade of Hrishikesh Mukherjee

Hrishikesh MukherjeeDil hai chhota sa chhoti si asha (the heart is small, it has a small desire) could have been written for the characters of Hrishida’s movies! They live in a small world, bounded by their domestic concerns. Their lives are lit up by the small joys of everyday living – a raise at work, a smile from a pretty colleague, India defeating Pakistan in a hotly contested cricket match… They have no large bungalows in London, no plushy revolving beds or shiny Mercedes convertibles. And yet, they have fun, there is laughter and joy in their lives, and more importantly, we have fun watching them go about their filmi lives.
If I had to describe the hallmark of all Hrishida’s movies in one sentence, I’d say that they make you happy. When you spend a couple of hours laughing and crying with one of his movies, you leave with a smile on your face and a firm conviction that the world is a lot better place than you imagined it to be! The optimism and the sheer joy of living that all his characters embrace - that is what makes his films so special.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The glorious 70s: waiting for Hrishikesh Mukherjee

Hrishida says hi. He is sorry he cant make it in time for today. He's stuck in Bombay for some last minute work on his film, but you're not to worry about getting bored. He is sending his two best singers along - young men who specialise in Hindustani classical. Their jugalbandi has been known to put people in a trance of musical ecstasy, and their singing would put Pandit Jasraj and Bhimsen Joshi to flight. Here they are, now.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The glorious 70s: shining the spotlight on Gulzar

GulzarHis CV reads: poet, lyricist, writer and director. That covers a wider range than most other film personalities can boast of! Born Sampooran Singh Kalra, in what is now Pakistan, he started out as a lyricist in the early 1960s. Success came early, with Mora gora ang leyi le for Bimal Roy’s Bandini, and he is still best known for his Hindi song lyrics. Not being of a poetical bent of mind, I must admit that its his directorial ventures that interest me more.
He started out as a director with Mere Apne in 1971, and went on to make ten films in the 70s decade. For me, the Gulzar love began with his wonderful tele-serials in the late 80s and early 90s – a big favorite was Kirdaar, which adapted short stories from various writers and featured Om Puri as the lead in every story. After that, looking back at some of the 70s and 80s films that I liked a lot, I was astonished to realise that a lot of them were either directed by Gulzar, or written by him! My favorite Gulzar film of all times has to be Angoor (1982) – his adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors. But that is a post for another decade! 

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The glorious 70s – my masala top ten

Ask people about 70s Hindi Cinema and I bet you’ll get a different reaction from each person. A Rajesh Khanna fan would tell you that its the decade of the “Romance King” who brought more romance to the big screen in one head-twist than most actors do in a whole film. A Bachchan fan would tell you that its the decade of the Angry Young Man - the enigmatic vigilante who kicked everybody’s ass. To a masala lover, its the decade of Manmohan Desai’s cracktastic masala, the decade of Salim-Javed, and the glorious masala classic Sholay.
To me, the 70s stand out as the decade of infinite variety. From small budget romantic comedies and sweet little films about middle class people, to art-house fare and its exact opposite - the masala potboilers – the 70s had a movie for every mood and every taste. If Manmohan Desai came into his own in the 70s, so did directors like Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Gulzar, Basu Chatterji and Shyam Benegal. It was my intention to concentrate on the films of the last four, since masala will be amply represented elsewhere in blogland this week. But I really cant NOT write about all the masala goodness in this decade! Considering how much masala-madness the 70s encompassed, one blog post cant really do justice to it. Such a complex subject clearly calls for a list – a top ten list of masala movies from the 70s. Simple? Not really! How does one pick and choose just 10 from that sea of masala greatness? The only way is to pick out the first ten, fun masala films that come to mind. And here are the first ten that I remembered:

Monday, February 22, 2010

The 70s are here!

Thanks to Beth, blogland has parked its time machine in the 1970s, this week. YAY!!!! There is so much fabulousness in the 70s – big bell-bottoms, loud and lavish interiors, carefully crafted villain-lairs, lots and lots of masala-madness, and a ton of non-masala goodness, as well. Needless to say, I am ecstatic to be back in my favorite decade, and shall do my best to keep my one-post-a-day resolve. So stay tuned for some exclusively 70s programming…
And before I sign off for today, Gabbar has a message for all of us:
Sadly, I have no idea what he’s trying to say. Can any of you help?

Friday, February 19, 2010

Naach Uthe Sansaar (1976)

There are films that hook you from the first scene and draw you into make-believe land. There are films that make a deep impact and leave lasting memories. And then there are films like Naach Uthe Sansaar (the world begins dancing), that do none of the above! In keeping with its name, there is much singing and dancing in the film. The hero (Shashi Kapoor – yay!) spends a lot of time tapping a drum, shaking a leg, and lip-syncing to Rafi’s voice. The heroine (Hema Malini) isn't far behind in the dance department but comes up as an also-ran in the singing and angsting stakes. There is a lot of cute romance, too. But still, the film falls far short of being a solid entertainer.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

My favorite filmi Mr. Rights!

1647St_Valentine's_Day The Valentine spirit is everywhere. From heart-shaped, diamond-studded pendants on special offer, to heart-shaped candy in heart-shaped boxes, and long-stemmed red roses - its hard to escape the “romantic” season. Naturally, that made me think of my filmi Valentine. An exhaustive search down memory lane turned up rather less material than I had hoped for! Most Bollywood heroes are too busy fighting bad guys and making up to their dost and/or Maa, to do more than sing the requisite “eve-teasing” number and romantic duet with their heroines. Any cherishing of the beloved, done in Hindi films, is usually done by the woman. Fortunately for us women, Hindi Cinema does bring us some men of substance and beauty, who take time off from saving the world (and/or bromancing their buddies) to pay attention to their lady-loves. Needless to say, thats where I looked for my filmi Mr. Right. And here they are – all top ten of them, in no particular order:

Friday, February 12, 2010

Anand Ashram (1977) - a sweet saga...

When in doubt, always pull out a favorite film. Unless you last watched it in your childhood, you know that you’ll enjoy it. And this film definitely fits the bill. It is overflowing with all my favorite actors – Sharmila Tagore, Moushumi Chatterji, Ashok Kumar, Uttam Kumar, Rakesh Roshan, Utpal Dutt, Asit Sen. The story is convoluted enough to keep me interested and told well enough to hold my attention. AND it features one of my favorite songs – Saara pyar tumhara maine baandh liya hai aanchal mein (I have tied up all your love in my aanchal).

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Woman Hater (1948) – a hilarious battle of the sexes!

Much as I love classic Hollywood romantic comedies, there is no denying that they are very retrogressive when it comes to gender relations. Every time a Doris Day turns into a puddle for a Rock Hudson or a Cary Grant’s marriage proposal, I sympathise, but can't help the groans, either! Why couldn't the woman win for once, get the upper hand and show up the guy for the idiot that he is – at least in the beginning? WHY? To my comedy-loving, feminist heart, this British film was manna from heaven. Not only does it star my all time favorite British-Hollywood actor – Stewart Granger – it is also the very antithesis of woman hating!