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Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Fun fable (Teen Bahuraniyan)

Teen Bahuraniyan projects Prithviraj Kapoor in a very different light. As the patriarch of a joint family, he is both stern as well as indulgent. Playing the woolly grandpa Dinanath, this actor is a revelation of sorts. His obesity doesn't hinder his delightful performance in this comic fable about a family and its tryst with false pride.
Kapoor here is old.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Terrific tramp (Awara)

The first thing that strikes me when Awara opens is how shockingly handsome Prithviraj Kapoor is. Pushing 45, this heavily built man almost reminds me of a Greek God. Playing the obstinate Justice Raghunath, Prithviraj shows why the Kapoors could mesmerise the audience with panache. Every expression is spot on, his booming baritone modulates impeccably, his eyes belie happiness, pain, sorrow and scare with utmost ease and his personality is too overwhelming to avoid. Thank heavens he passed on those brilliant genes to his sons...

Monday, 28 June 2010

Dull dupe (Bluff Master)

1963 seemed to be a lull year for the flamboyant Shammi Kapoor. Why else would we have films like Pyar Kiya to Darna Kya, Jabse Tumhe Dekha Hain, Shahid Bhagat Singh and Bluff Master? The first three I'm yet to watch. But, if they are as entertaining as Bluff Master, I'm better off without seeing them!!!
Manmohan Desai's tale about a clever (but not hardworking enough) young man loses steam somewhere in the middle of the script. True, Shammi Kapoor looks good, has a way with words and carries a confident personality on his broad shoulders, but after some time his actions look forced and lack conviction. Just like the way his character is devoid of development in B R Panthulu's Dil Tera Diwana. This upsets me.

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Matrimonial mayhem (How to Marry a Millionaire)

So, what is this hoopla about Marilyn Monroe being the star attraction of John Negulesco's How to Marry a Millionaire? Playing a ditzy blonde, who looks gorgeous, but in the words of Schatze Page, is more of a bubblehead than both her friends in the film, Monroe will hardly convince with her performance when Lauren Bacall and Betty Grable share screen space. And, all that I hear about this romantic comedy is how Monroe did this, and how she did that... Even the DVD that I have, came with a special pamphlet on this very sensuous woman giving a crackling performance in this film! What performance?!?!
Admitted, she is breathtakingly attractive. I won't say beautiful.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

It's a wonderful life (Khatta Meetha)

Priyadarshan is making a film called Khatta Meetha. Wonder whether it will be able to recreate the fun and warmth of the original Khatta Meetha, Basu Chatterjee's comedy about a bunch of Parsis living in Mumbai.
Well, not really a comedy. This 1978 classic is a slice of life. Peppered with a melange of emotions, this family drama is a complete joyride. You laugh with the characters, sing with them, dance with them and cry with them. Such is the strength of this sweet saga...
At the outset we are introduced to three Parsi families.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Simply sweet (Chitchor)

If Sooraj Barjatya were to heed his grandfather's principles, Main Prem ki Diwani Hoon would not have happened. And, we would have been saved from the onslaught of poor performances, bad characterisation and shoddy execution. For, this remake of Chitchor, Basu Chatterjee's adorable romance, lacks simplicity, an ingredient that made the 1976 classic so memorable. Tarachand Barjayta, with a penchant for setting his non-convulated social dramas in small towns and villages, made sure that his films stole your heart. And, Chitchor did that...
Reflecting the innocence of commoners living in small towns (as well as their trials, tribulations, joys and sorrows), Chatterjee centred this triangular love story on simple people's dreams, aspirations and hopes.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

The original don (China Town)

So you thought Amitabh Bachchan was the original Indian don? Rubbish. Shammi Kapoor started it all. In Shakti Samanta's gangster flick, China Town, Kapoor essayed twin roles of the stylish smuggler Mike, as well as his lookalike, the smart undercover agent, Shekhar. The difference? Unlike the later film starring Bachchan, where the two men were not related to each other, in this 1962 thriller, the two men are shown to be identical twins. A more plausible script, therefore.
Shammi Kapoor, I have always maintained, was a stylish man. His clothes, attitude, hairstyle, mannerisms, everything screamed of panache.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Miscast Meena (Chandan ka Palna)

Meena Kumari's Baharon ki Manzil was enough to warn me against her later films. Her lost beauty, her bulky figure, her bloated face, the alcohol-induced heaviness in her voice, the loud makeup, everything about Kumari's persona in this slow thriller was disheartening. It kept reminding me about her faded glory and glamour; her beautiful eyes, her perky voice, her grace and of course, her superlative performances in her heydays. How we wish she would not drown herself in high spirits (pun intended obviously)...
But, something about Ismail Memon's Chandan ka Palna, drew me. Was it the lead pair (Dharmendra and Kumari again), the fun supporting cast, the dramatic plot or the music (RD Burman's score is pretty good)? A relatively unknown film starring Kumari, I was a tad curious about this 1967 classic.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Age no bar (Professor)

It's a close match. Suave and sexy Preetam is pitted against wobbly but clever Prof Khanna. The wages are high, the competition is tight...
Preetam has to quickly find a job to send his ageing mother to a sanatorium. For that, he has to hoodwink a dictatorial woman and glib his way to her house posing as an old professor. He then has to learn the ABC of Sanskrit to teach two giggly young girls and handle the tantrums of two small boys.
All this, as the old Prof Khanna! Yes, young Preetam, struggling to get a job, charades as an ageing bachelor and enters the household of the martinet Sita Verma, and in the process, sets off a series of hilarious incidents. Rankled initially by the strict regulations set by his employer, Prof Khanna unconsciously breaks all those rules and even manages to make Sita Verma fall in love with him!
So, who wins?

Monday, 14 June 2010

Couple no. 55 (Mr & Mrs 55)

I have problems with Guru Dutt as a romantic lead. Though thoroughly taken by his brooding avatar (read: his angst-ridden persona in Pyaasa and as a simpleton in Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam), his lighter roles, I feel, paled in comparison. A month back, I watched Suhagan, a film where Dutt plays a middle-class professor marrying his student. Attracted to it by the song, Tu mere saamne hain, I sat through the film with much pain. Dutt's awkward expressions as the loverboy wooing his sweetheart spoiled the fun. Bharosa, another social drama featuring Dutt, was enjoyable only for Asha Parekh’s effortless portrayal of an ebullient village belle.
But, Mr & Mrs 55, my friend kept saying, was different.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Femme fatales (Arth)

Mahesh Bhatt's films have always been subtly hardhitting. That is, before he started experimenting with Pakistani exports (bombshells who consider little or no clothes and titillating scenes their ticket to Bollywood glory). His earlier films (read Saaransh, Daddy and Arth) deftly balance arthouse and commercial cinema. With well etched characters, convincing plots and soulful music, these films have carved a niche for themselves in the history of meaningful cinema.
Not to forget, his women characters. Bhatt always made them stand out, amidst the veritable talents in his films. Here, we come to the two women artists in Arth, his semi-autobiograhical treatise on infidelity. This 1982 film depicted human emotions like never before. With an extra-marital affair forming the core, Bhatt weaves a fine drama that is as disturbing as gripping.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Love's labour lost (Pyaasa)

What dampens Vijay's optimism?
Hoping against hope that some day the world will regard his creation, this struggling poet toils on. With an empty stomach and the burden of umemployment on his sturdy shoulders, Vijay keeps penning those poems, whose beauty and poignance no one is able to comprehend save the poet himself. But, there is no stopping him. Society, reeking of materialism, keeps crushing his creativity and aspirations beneath its greed and artificiality. Just like the bee, whose buzzing life is stamped out by the passer-by and his banal existence. But, Vijay writes on. For, he believes in himself and his talent. It is this talent, he feels, that will shine forth amidst the dark dreary world of hypocricy and cruelty. It is this thirst that keeps him going...

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Making of a superstar (Tumsa Nahin Dekha)

Shammi Kapoor and struggle. Sounds jarring, right? Not when you witness his flamboyance on screen. The way he smoothtalks his way into the heroine's heart, grooves with attitude and beats the villain into a pulp. And, uses his elastic face and impeccable comic timing to ensure the splits. Shammi Kapoor, it seems to me, had always been a winner.
But, I stood corrected six years ago when my father told me about Nasir Husain's Tumsa Nahin Dekha. Struggling to get a toehold in the film industry (he had to his credit some lacklustre films such as Mirza Sahiba, Ujaala and so on), Kapoor tasted sweet success with this 1957 frothy musical. Husain's directorial debut catapulted him into instant stardom and established as an actor who could carry off those youthfully romantic personas with elan. The film gave him a fresh image--entertaining, charming and spontaneous. His carefree personality as Shankar floored the audience and his quick one-liners drew plenty of wolf whistles. Girls went bonkers over his attractive face, his wavy hair, his stylish swagger and his athletic frame. They started weaving mushy dreams surrounding this flamboyant Kapoor. And, after watching the film I gauged why...
Kapoor in Tumsa Nahin Dekha is drop-dead gorgeous.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Mesmerising Meena (Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam)

I'm upset. In a documentary, aired yesterday, featuring onscreen beauties of the past few decades, a mention of Meena Kumari was conspicuous by its absence. In the 50s, Kumari was a sought-after actor. Her beauty was legendary, her performances superlative. Dexterously handling a variety of roles, Kumari proved that she was definitely bankable. And, those docu-makers turned a blind eye to such an enigmatic personality! What were they thinking? Or not thinking, to be precise...
Miffed sufficiently, I rummaged through my collection to fish out a Meena Kumari classic. Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam surfaced. An attempt to explore the mysticism and passion that Kumari portrayed in this 1962 Abrar Alvi classic, a perfect balm! Though we could launch an endless debate on the immaculate portrayal of the decadence of feudalism in Bengal in the late 19th century, my mind focussed on the enigma called Chhoti Bahu, Meena Kumari's best peformance ever.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Moving on (Ijaazat)

My friend is going through a difficult phase in her five-year relationship. The lady and her lover have decided to call it quits. Thanks to her egotistic father, and of course the man, who couldn't muster up enough courage to walk away with his sweetheart, my dear friend is in the doldrums. We've been counselling her to move on, simply because she deserves a lot better. But, moving on, she says, is easier said than done...
Mahendra in Gulzar's Ijaazat is tormented by a similar predicament. Straddling between his past love and his current responsibility, Mahendra is torn between right and wrong, and is a bit selfish sometimes. In the process, he is neither just to Sudha, his wife, nor is he able to shun his marriage and return to Maya, his sweetheart. On the face, this triangle seem very concrete, but the edges are deceivingly blurred. Such is the complexity of this 1987 drama. Based on Subodh Ghosh's Jotugriha, this is a contorted take on human relationships that Gulzar presents with a poetic flair...

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Playing hard to get (Ziddi)

I used to be in two minds on whether I liked Joy Mukherjee. Well, sometimes his grin really irked me. He spoiled Mujhey dekh kar in Ek Musafir Ek Hasina with his clownish expressions. He copied Shammi Kapoor, my favourite. And, didn't do it well either! His didn't dance, he jumped! But, but, but...
Yesterday, I saw Ziddi, Pramod Chakraborty's 1964 romance. And, I liked him. For, despite his silly grin, he came about as a dashing young man who knows how to tame his obstinate lover. His baritone was smooth and his shoulders broad. He hair, swept up, looked stylish and he carried his natty clothes damn well. He cuts Asha Parekh to size and makes her relent to his overtures. That is a job that this man does well!!!