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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Shabd (2005) – the power of words

Shabd poster Having declared publicly, on the internet, that I NEVER follow new songs into movies, it was perhaps inevitable that I'd break my own rule! The culprit songs in question were the dreamy Khoya khoya sa, and the dance number Sholon si sholon si – songs that I’ve loved ever since I saw them appear on TV promos 4-5 years ago. I am not sure why I suddenly felt the need to watch the film for these songs, but I did, and I certainly dont regret it. Parts of the film left me a bit dissatisfied, but its a very well made film and was an engrossing watch.
The story opens with critical acclaim for Booker Prize Winning author Shaukat Vashisht (Sanjay Dutt). Unfortunately for Shaukat, the acclaim soon turns sour, with reviewers trashing his next book and calling his characters and plots 'unreal'. Instead of using his talents to write for Bollywood, as any sensible writer of 'unreal' stories would, Shaukat goes into hibernation.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

BLB and OiG exclusive – Shashi's top secret speech at the Filmfares

Shammi Shashi Rekha As most readers will know, Shashi Kapoor was recently given the Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award. What you probably didn't know is that he made a lengthy, significant, and history-soaked acceptance speech that was never televised. You may have read that all he said is "Thank you," but that is far from the truth! How the entire film fraternity (well, with a few notable exceptions) managed to keep their mouths shut about this magnificent oration, we'll never know, but now you, dear readers, have a chance to hear his words in this exclusive report!
Thanks to a fantastic friend at Filmfare, Beth Loves Bollywood and I had a rare opportunity to be present for the awards - if you've seen them on tv or online, we're hunkered in the shadows at the far left of the stage. But our friend only had one pass to spare, so, like good long-lost, recently-reunited masala sisters, we promised to share and share alike. I drew the straw to go in second, so I have the second half of his speech here for you, transcribed word for word off the recording I sneaked with my phone.
Check out part-I at Beth Loves Bollywood. Here’s the second part:

Kaarnama (1979) Part IV – MAA and THE END

Karnaama poster Before intermission, the vilaayti twin Shyam (Shashi Kapoor) was romancing Dhanno (Tanuja) and the desi twin Gopal (also Shashi Kapoor) had just left a drunk Kamini (Sharmila Tagore), to go to Kashmir to figure out why everybody was mysteriously interested in his maternal relative. I must warn you that this is a very looong post (with spoilers), since I’ve had compress the entire second half of the film in one post. For lack of space, I’ve had to concentrate on the main plot and neglect such delights as Helen trying to seduce Mr. Mehra (Shammi Kapoor), Dwarka (Pran, now Dilawar in Pakistani Intelligence) being smuggled into India, Shalu (Bindu) and her hubby Dheeraj (Ranjeet) sharing a cute romantic interlude in the police station where they’re both police officers, etc.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Kaarnama (1979) part III – the mystery edition

Karnaama poster With the vilaayti twin on his way to his watan (country), you’d think that the found part of the lost-n-found formula is almost about to be accomplished. Well, you’d be wrong. Do not underestimate MDbhai’s genius… We leave Shyam on the plane, drinking heavily, with the mysterious lady X (Sharmila Tagore) keeping a sharp lookout a few rows behind.
We fly into India, ahead of the dimpled-duo, to meet the other twin Gopal. As I told you, MD caused him to grow up into a small-time theatre actor. Well, just as we go to find him, he’s landed his first starring role, and rehearsals are in full swing. We come upon him, in his shiny military uniform, playing Napolean Bonaparte, at Waterloo. And we realise why he isnt a big star yet, nor likely to be – he fluffs his lines something terrible.
Napolean (roaring): Wellington kameene, sherni ka doodh pasand karta hai to saamne aa (Wellington rascal, if you like tigress’s milk, come here!)
Wellington, not finding the right cue (which should have been agar maa ka doodh piya hai to… if you’ve drunk your mother’s milk), forgets his lines: Err… I prefer cow’s milk.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Kaarnama (1979) part II – SHASHI!!!

Karnaama poster So the twins were torn asunder in the before-the-credits part of the film. Bunty strayed into vilaayti (foreign) lands, while the twin’s father – Dwarka – strayed into Pakistan. The residual family in India – Parvati and Bittu - relocate to a new town. Parvati begins to work as a domestic help when a dizzy spell at work informs her employer of her pregnancy!
Parvati’s pleasure in the latest nishaani (momento) of her now-dead hubby is a bit mixed. She is happy but worries about making ends meet. Her kindly employers – Durga (Nadira) and Inspector Dev (Ifthekar) promise to take over the child, since they are childless, themselves. So, one fine day, Parvati and Durga go off to Kashmir, leaving Bittu behind with the other half of his to-be-sibling’s to-be-parents. Soon, Mom and Durga return with Durga’s baby daughter Shalu.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Kaarnama (1979) part I - twins torn asunder

Karnaama posterNow that you’ve gotten all the preliminary chatter about Kaarnama, its time for you to “see” the movie. I’ve thought about how I am going to put Fimi-eye’s reminiscences and the plot synopsis together, and decided to go the simple way. I’ll give you a scene-by-scene account of the film, and work in the most interesting stuff that went on behind those particular scenes. That way, you can appreciate MDbhai’s masala genius and Shashi’s professionalism, all in their proper context. And since the film follows a linear narrative, flowing in a straightforward, chronological order, that’s how we will talk about the making-of incidents too, ignoring their real-life chronology.

The film opens with two young children – obviously identical twins - receiving a joint first prize at school. They are gifted a copy of the Bhagvad Geeta, which they divide into two parts, in the interests of equitable distribution. After the prize-giving ceremony, the kids happily run home to play. They play hide-n-seek in their barn which is stacked high with ominous looking crates. While Bittu (Master Tito) looks away, Bunty (also Master Tito) hides in one of the crates, and pulls the lid in after him.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Kaarnama (1979) – A bromantic break

I know I promised to tell you about this newly discovered masala-masterpiece, after the preliminaries were over, but the need to catch up with my forty winks has gotten to me. I got so lost in chatting with Mr. Khabarwala and getting to know every kaarnama that went on the sets, that I just didnt get time to write it all up. You WILL get the whole story, minus the scandalous gossip, before long, though. In the meantime, check out this fantabulous song from the film: Is ishq mein har aashiq ko, aag pe chalna padta hai (In love, every lover has to walk on fire).

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Kaarnama (1979) – an interview with Manmohan Desai

Karnaama poster Yesterday I told you about this Shashi- treat that I stumbled across, quite recently. The film was launched in 1977, and right from the mahurat, Filmi-eye had a bird's-eye view of the proceedings. The film took a while to complete, since MDbhai's finances came in fits and starts and dictated a rather scattered shooting schedule. But Filmi-eye was tenacious, and always made a point to catch up with what was happening with the film. He was convinced that this film would be the last word in masala-movie-making and stubbornly clung to this belief, inspite of all the trouble the film attracted. I went through all his Kaarnama write-ups for the next few years to compile a story that makes sense with 20/20 hindsight. There was delicious gossip (too scandalous to be repeated here!) and lots of speculation that wasnt actually borne out by subsequent events - I've used the editor's scissors on those bits. To fit it into a week’s worth of blog posts, I’ve had to edit some of Filmi-eye’s delightful prose, too. Hopefully, the unedited story of Kaarnama will make it to print, one of these days (publishers, are you reading?). In the meantime, here is the lite version, in Filmi-eye’s own words.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Kaarnama (1979): a masala feast for Shashi-week!

Shashi Kapoor Yes, its that time of the year when Beth announces a Shashi-fest and the rest of us rush to celebrate! This year, I’ve gotten my hands on something rather unusual - a newly discovered Shashi Kapoor film! Thats hardly unusual, you might say. The guy never refused a film, so one is always stumbling across "new" Shashi films, all over the place. Well, this one is a masala-swashbuckler-cum-thriller-cum-everything else – nothing less than a "new" Manmohan Desai film, in fact! Yes, I can see that you are about to bring up Aa Gale Lag Ja and Suhaag and tell me that there’s nothing new about a Shashi-Manmohan Desai collaboration.

Hear me out – this film IS rather unusual. Its more than ordinarily unknown. The film was never released for some reason, and only one copy has survived. Luckily for me, I was able to trace the owner of the last surviving copy - Mr. F. Khabarwala. A collector of old films, (and a big fan of Shashi, of course!), Mr. Khabarwala was only too happy to share this filmi treasure. But that isnt the only thing I am excited about. He also has a treasure trove of contemporary news and behind-the-scenes incidents about the film, which he also graciously shared with me. 

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Nishan (1965) – swashbuckler times three!

No matter how often The Prince and the Pauper, The Prisoner of Zenda and The Man in the Iron Mask are milked for a film, I never get tired of the stories. And when all three are simultaneously called upon, in a single film – well, its just fun times three! Here, they are well blended with the Wadia Brothers’ own version of swashbuckling masala and Usha Khanna’s lovely music – so its 2.5+ hours of pure paisa vasool entertainment.

Monday, March 1, 2010

The glorious 70s: Awards night

MAA statuette Its been a week long marathon of 70s movie goodness, and a festival of fun and funkadelic delight. But whats a festival without an awards night? Considering how much hard work, time, and effort went into the making of a 70s film, it is only right that the people involved be recognised for their good work. So, we end the festival with the Masala Awesome Awards – or MAAs. The festival committee decided to call in an expert jury to judge the entries and pick the awardees. The jury consisted of a panel of distinguished film critics – Bollyviewer, Bollyviewer, Bollyviewer and Bollyviewer. With so much material to choose from, the judges had a hard time deciding between the candidates. You’ll realise just how much talent the 70s encompassed, when I tell you that the list of nominees for some awards ran into hundreds. After long deliberations, the judges finally made their choice. So lets see who gets to take a MAA home, tonight.