There is a story behind how I ended up watching this film last week.
I had first seen Shikast on TV years ago. I was a pre-teen, and didn’t much care for the film: it was too tragic, too angst-ridden, too lacking in entertainment, as far as I was concerned. For years afterwards, the only thing I remembered about the film was that it starred Nalini Jaywant and Dilip Kumar, and that through most of the film, Nalini Jaywant’s character sported a vivid crescent-shaped scar on her forehead. I had even forgotten the name of the film.
I’ve been exceptionally busy over the past few weeks, and even had to give up the idea of publishing a post last week—simply because I didn’t have the time. But today is the birthday of my favourite Hindi film star, Shammi Kapoor—how could I not post a tribute?
So, even though it’s meant doing some crazy juggling of schedules, here we go. A Shammi Kapoor film that, while it’s not classic Shammi, is at least fairly entertaining. And has the distinction of being the earliest Hindi film I’ve seen which was actually filmed abroad, not just set abroad.
Mumtaz, as I mentioned in my last post, was one of the best things that happened to Mere Sanam. She may not have had much screen time in the film, but she certainly left her mark – more than she’d been doing in the B-grade films she’d mostly appeared in till then. Rustom-e-Hind, made in the same year as Mere Sanam, is an example of that type of film. It’s basically a Dara Singh showcase – so there’s lots of showing off of wrestling – but Mumtaz gets to smile prettily and flutter her eyelashes, if nothing else.
One of the main characters in Prince of Foxes was a man who actually existed in history: Cesare Borgia (1475 (?) – 1507 AD). This post is about a film that features one of Cesare Borgia’s contemporaries, a man born halfway across the world, seven or eight years after Cesare Borgia was born. A man as ambitious as Borgia, and a man who had as marked an impact on the history of India as Cesare Borgia did on Italy. This was Babur, the founder of the Mughal dynasty – without which we wouldn’t have had the Taj Mahal, Fatehpur Sikri, murgh musallam, and who knows howmany Hindi films.
Humayun is (as the name suggests) more about Babur’s son and successor Humayun (who, coincidentally, was born almost exactly a year after Cesare Borgia died – Borgia died on March 12, 1507; Humayun was born on March 7, 1508). But the film begins with Babur (Shah Nawaz) invading India, so Babur does play quite an important role in the scheme of things.
If I have one major failing when it comes to selecting films to watch, it is the stubborn (naive?) belief that any film which has good songs and a good cast must also necessarily be good. This has been proven to be a completely baseless criterion for film selection, but I plod on optimistically, buying and renting films that have superb music but fall absolutely flat on other fronts: House No. 44, for example, a Dev Anand starrer that tries to be noir but doesn’t quite make it.
For all those who thought I’d deserted classic Hindi cinema to wax eloquent about Robert Mitchum: good news. I’m back. After gushing for a week (well, a little more) about Mitch and his films, I’ve returned to Bollywood—and with a film that’s a must-watch for anyone who likes Muslim socials; who thinks Madhubala is gorgeous; or who loves old Hindi film music—especially qawwalis.
I fall into all three categories, so Barsaat ki Raat was long overdue for a rewatch.
Long before TV came into our lives, a family treat would be to go out for dinner or for a film at a local cinema. And though Bobby was the first film I saw, CID was the first black and white film I remember. I don’t recall anything of the film except a very brief bit from the climax, but you can imagine how gripping that must have been to have stayed in my memory for well over thirty years.
Every now and then (recently, with alarming frequency) I come across films that do an about-turn midway through. Either they start off being happy and degenerate into utter despondency; or they are intelligent to start with and then descend into idiocy. Marine Drive is a prime example of a film that manages to become irritatingly nonsensical almost exactly at the half-way mark.
I’m always on the lookout for old, offbeat Hindi films. Something without the hackneyed romances, the clashes between rich/poor, urban/rural, good/evil, the sudden breaking into song and the neat tying up of all loose ends once the regulation three hours are up. Don’t get me wrong; I have nothing against masala films—some of my favourite old films are masala to the spice-sodden core. But somehow a film like Kanoon, Ittefaq, Anokhi Raat, Kabuliwalaor Dekh Kabira Roya, each unusual in its own way, has a certain je ne sais quoi. So does this, Nargis’s last film. There’s something a little hat ke about a film in which the romance is really quite minimal, and the strange light-and-shadow personality of a schizophrenic woman is the main focus of the plot.