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Friday, July 30, 2010

Crimes against gender: confessions of a Bhartiya Naari

In a perfect world, everybody would realise that a woman is "feminine" no matter what she does, simply because she is female. Since it’s not a perfect world, only a select few (like yours truly and other such intelligent women) recognise the fact. But the lovely Banno has challenged me to confess my crimes against my gender, so I must show some! How do I find out what constitutes a crime against my gender? I must admit that my only yardstick for this comes from old Bollywood films. So let’s see what they say a woman should be like, and what crimes I’ve committed against Bhartiya naari-hood.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Mere Humsafar (1970)- four rapes and a romance!

Mere Humsafar posterWell, "four rapes" is an exaggeration. There is only one rape. The other three are attempts by essentially "good" men who, once their attempted rapes are foiled, turn into their would-be rape-victim’s best friends and protectors!! Why did I persist in watching such a bizarre film? Well, partly because the story was engaging to begin with, partly because I love Sharmila Tagore and was intrigued to see her almost-pairing with Balraj Sahni, and partly because, having started, I wanted to see where it was going! The film is the strangest mix of awful and engaging, with the awful far outweighing the engaging.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Glass Bottom Boat (1966) – fun unlimited!

The Glass Bottom Boat poster The 60s is not my favorite decade for Hollywood comedies - the screwball comedy was largely defunct and the romantic-comedies were usually too sexist for my taste. In spite of that, I can be occasionally induced to watch 60s rom-coms for my favorite actors, and Doris Day is definitely one of them (Rock Hudson is another, but that’s a post for another day!). So it’s a good thing that I did follow Ms. Day into this film, because it is hilarious.

When the debonair scientist Bruce Templeton (Rod Taylor) goes fishing in the Catalina island, the last thing he expects to catch is a real-life mermaid! But that is exactly what he does land up reeling in - a mermaid tail! It’s actually the tail end of a mermaid-suit, with a very angry de-tailed mermaid (Doris Day) close behind. Jenny was doing a mermaid act as a stunt for her father’s glass bottom boat business, in waters that Templeton had no business fishing in.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Mellifluous melodies: my favorite Shamshad Begum songs

Shamshad Begum Shamshad Begum The name conjures up images of golden classics, old-fashioned fun songs, and a nasal voice that may be out of fashion now, but never seems dated. She started her career singing for radio Lahore in 1937. From there to singing for movies was but a short step. She recorded her first film-song for music director Ghulam Haider in the Punjabi film Yamla Jatt (1940), and her career as a popular playback singer was launched! She went on to give us hundreds of popular songs in her lovely earthy voice with its distinctive nasal twang. And she is perhaps the only female singers to have provided playback for leading men – she sang for Shammi Kapoor (Bluffmaster) and Biswajit (Kismat)!

Shamshad Begum

For a singer without any formal musical training, she had an amazing vocal range and command over her voice. I love her folksy songs best, but there is no denying that she shone at every genre she handled – from the "Western" Meri jaan sunday ke sunday, to the haunting Dharti ko aakash pukare and the numerous peppy numbers that have been remixed ad infinitum in more recent times. Her biggest hits were from the 40s, most of which I’m not very familiar with. But even limiting myself to her 50s songs, I still had lots of great songs to choose from! The only way I could limit myself to “ten favorites” was by listing the first ten songs that came to mind – though even then it was a tough job since I did want to include some of her 40s songs and some of her lesser known numbers. And here is my list, in all its freshly edited glory (the songs are included in this youtube playlist):