Happy birthday, Shakila!

What better way to launch a new year than with a post on one of my favourite actresses? That too on her birthday?

Yes, today, January 1, is the 78th birthday of the beautiful Shakila. Star of my all-time favourite ‘Bollywood noir’ suspense film, CID. Star of one of my favourite Shammi Kapoor films, China Town. Star of one of my favourite Muslim socials, Nakli Nawab. Luminously lovely. Friendly (as Edwina Lyons can probably testify). And a good actress.

Shakila in Nakli Nawab

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Ten of my favourite car songs

I don’t often need to take a taxi to get around, but when I do, I always steel myself, because 9 times out of 10, the taxi driver will have music playing—a CD or a radio—and 99% of the time, it’ll be some completely vile stuff with just a monotonous beat, and no melody to speak of.
Last Friday, I had to take a taxi (for a longish ride, moreover—Delhi to Gurgaon and back, nearly 2 hours in the taxi). Sure enough, the radio was turned on. And what a pleasant surprise!—this driver had tuned into a radio channel that seemed to play only old Hindi film songs.

Those two hours were total bliss, and I was reinforced in my belief that good music can make a long and otherwise boring car journey also pleasurable.

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Ten of my favourite Ravi songs

This was not what I’d planned as my next post. But I learnt this morning that Ravi – the man who composed some wonderful tunes from the 50s and 60s – is no more. He passed away yesterday, the 7th of March, just four days after his 86th birthday. Ravi (born Ravi Shankar Sharma) also had a teeny-weeny link with my family. Like my uncle, he too sang part of the chorus for Vande Mataram!

More importantly, though, Ravi made a name for himself as a composer of songs that ranged from dreamily romantic to peppy, madcap to devotional (Ravi himself learnt how to sing by listening to his father sing bhajans when Ravi was a child).


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Ten Situations, Two Heroes, Twenty Songs

Caution: Long post!

It’s been a while now, but last year this blog hosted a Classic Bollywood Quiz. The prize for the runner-up was the chance to dictate a post: a theme for a list, for example.

Our runner-up, Anu Warrier, like me, likes both Shammi Kapoor and Dev Anand a lot. So, when we were discussing how both Dev Anand and Shammi Kapoor had acted in some similar films, Anu submitted her request for her prize post. Ten similar situations in which these two heroes find themselves in their films, and one song, respectively, that they sing in that situation. Easy? No, it wasn’t, as you can see from the fact that it’s taken me a long time to compile this list. But fun? Oh, yes!

So, Anu: here you go. Two of our favourite leading men in ten similar situations, and twenty songs that arise out of those situations. Enjoy! All of these are from 50s and 60s films that I’ve seen. And, no two songs from the same film.

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Ten of my favourite Shammi Kapoor roles

It seems a bit of a paradox that Tumsa Nahin Dekha was both good and bad for Shammi Kapoor. Good, because it turned him from a wannabe to a big star. Bad, because it created a certain persona – the fun-loving, completely madcap yet good at heart rebel.
Bad? Was that ‘bad’?

I think so. In film after film, Shammi Kapoor ended up doing pretty similar roles. (Even the films had similar names: Junglee, Jaanwar, Budtameez, Bluffmaster…). You wouldn’t expect a Raj Kapoor, a Dilip Kumar or a Rajendra Kumar to debase themselves by making faces and leaping about like Shammi Kapoor was willing – even eager – to do. The result? Shammi Kapoor got typecast. ‘India’s Elvis Presley’, ‘the rebellious star’, the man who could dance and sing and do comic scenes and romances. But if emotion was needed, directors turned to other stars.

So, when I decided I wanted to do a list of my ten favourite Shammi roles, I began to pick out films in which one can see glimpses of what a fine actor this man actually was. Roles that allowed Shammi Kapoor, even if he was prancing about and singing in places, to show off his skill as a thespian.

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Ten of my favourite train songs

Continuing with my plan to link every post to the previous one… well, what next? (Harvey: you were close when it came to guessing!)
My last post, North-West Frontier, was set mostly in a train – and that too a train in the Indian subcontinent. So it seemed appropriate to do a list of my favourite songs set in what seems to have been one of Hindi cinema’s much-loved settings. From this lovely old song by Pankaj Mullick (thank you, AK, for introducing me to that), to newer songs – from Teri hai zameen teri aasmaan, to the much later Chhaiya chhaiya.

But: I’m restricting myself to pre-70s songs, and those too from films I’ve seen. What’s more, these are songs where the person on whom the song is picturised is on the train throughout the song. That’s why, no Mere sapnon ki raani kab aayegi tu (for me, that’s a jeep song; I’ll do it in another post) and no Jab pyaar kisi se hota hai.

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China Town (1962)

Like memsaab, I too am a diehard Shammi Kapoor fan. Which is why China Town—with Shammi Kapoor in a double role—is bonanza! Add to that good music and two gorgeous heroines (Shakila and Helen) against the backdrop of Calcutta’s Chinatown (well, a sanitised set version), and you have a movie that’s quintessential Shakti Samanta: very entertaining.

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