Railway Platform (1955)

Railway Platform begins, not on a platform, but in a train.

It starts with a song, Basti-basti parbat-parbat gaata jaaye banjaara, lip-synched by a philosopher and poet (Manmohan Krishna) as he rides in a crowded train compartment. This man, only referred to as ‘kavi’ (poet) throughout the film, acts as a sort of sutradhar. Not strictly the holder of the puppet strings, not always a narrator, but a voice of reason, of conscience, of dissent. His favourite saying is that “Two and two do not always make four; they sometimes make twenty-two.”

The kavi sings a song

Continue reading

Adalat (1958)

My family first acquired a TV in 1982. For the next few years, Doordarshan remained our main source of entertainment. And the films Doordarshan telecast at 5.45 PM every Sunday (and a couple of times during the week, mostly at odd times) were the highlights of the week. We saw loads of films during those years. Everything that was shown—from the simply horrendous Fauji to Fedora, which I didn’t understand—was grist to the family mill.

Looking back, I now realise just how tolerant I was back then of cinema that now induces irritation at best, ‘kill-this-film maker’ fury at worst. Watching Adalat now, after having first seen this when I was a pre-teen, I can see that what I thought of as a tragic but entertaining film is really not that great. In, fact, almost tedious.

Continue reading

Chic Chocolate: the Mussoorie Connection?

Where I go, cinema seems to follow.
Well, not unusual, in this day and age, especially not in a country where cinema is so well-loved. But on a recent weekend trip to Mussoorie, I made a discovery that excited me so much, I had to share it.

Mussoorie, as some of you may know, has several filmi connections: actors Tom Alter and Victor Bannerjee are residents, as is the much-loved Ruskin Bond, author of A Flight of Pigeons (on which the 1979 film Junoon was based), as well as of the stories on which The Blue Umbrella and Saat Khoon Maaf were based.
On our last evening in Mussoorie, walking along the Mall, we found the road choked by a crowd. There were cameras, bright lights—and Neil Nitin Mukesh in a striped T-shirt, busy shooting.

Then I discovered, on a visit to Sisters Bazaar in Landour (and having referred to one of Ruskin Bond’s books on Mussoorie and Landour) that the long, low building that once housed the nuns, was later owned by Dev Anand.

Continue reading

Sharaabi (1964)

Today, September 26, 2012, would have been Dev Anand’s 89th birthday. To commemorate that occasion, I decided it was time to watch a film that had been sitting in my to-watch pile for nearly a year. Just looking at the cast and crew—Dev Anand, Madhubala, Lalita Pawar, Madan Mohan, Rajinder Krishan—and listening to some of the songs from the film made my mouth water.

Continue reading

Ten Bits of Trivia from Classic Hindi cinema

This is another of the prize posts for those who participated in the Classic Bollywood Quiz I hosted on this blog last year. I’ve two awards left to ‘hand out’ – (read ‘two more posts to dedicate to readers’) – but this post is dedicated to Neha, whose blog is really niche: it’s a collection of interesting trivia about black-and-white Hindi films. Neha won the Hope Springs Eternal Award in the quiz, simply because she didn’t allow herself to be deterred by the fact that she couldn’t guess more than a handful of the answers. Atta-girl, Neha! That’s the attitude.

Anyway, here goes: a post for Neha. Since Neha’s so keen on trivia, I decided to do something along those lines for her post. Not, unfortunately for Neha, from just black-and-white Hindi films, but at least from pre-70s Hindi films. Just some little snippets that I’ve discovered over the years, and thought were fun.

Continue reading

Jahanara (1964)

Hindi cinema’s fascination for the Mughals is – well, fascinating. Even before independence, we were busy churning out semi-historicals such as Humayun (1945) and Shahjehan (1946); then, in the 50s and 60s, there followed a spate of rather more big-budget extravaganzas, complete with big names, vast armies, glittering palaces and superb music: Mughal-e-Azam, Taj Mahal and Anarkali (Note: As a character, Anarkali seemed to be especially popular. Besides the Bina Rai-Pradeep Kumar version, there were Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam versions of her story; even a Pakistani version starring Noor Jehan. And that list neither includes the two versions made in 1928, nor a 1935 film starring Ruby Myers. Note that Mughal-e-Azam is also about Anarkali).

Continue reading

Akeli Mat Jaiyo (1963)

Akeli Mat Jaiyo (‘Don’t Go Alone’—specifically addressed to a female) is, if nothing else, very aptly titled. Because if you gallivant where you’re not supposed to, you run the risk of being pursued by a moron whose best friend is a ventriloquist’s dummy. You may end up betrothed to somebody whose family includes a father with a loony sense of humour. Worst of all, you may have to stake your all on saving the ‘life’ of that ventriloquist’s dummy. So yes, akeli mat jaiyo. No way.

Continue reading

Haqeeqat (1964)

With most films, by the time I see The End come up on the screen, I’ve more or less decided what I’m going to write about it, till which point I’m going to reveal the plot, and so on. With Haqeeqat, I’m still a little dazed. This is one of Bollywood’s earliest—and most realistic—war films, set against a backdrop of what was then the almost inaccessible region of Ladakh. It’s a blend of war and melodrama, propaganda and patriotism… and I’m not sure exactly what can be considered the main story of the film, since it actually consists of a number of stories woven into each other.

Balraj Sahni in Haqeeqat

Continue reading

Pooja ke Phool (1964)

I’ve been on a Dharmendra-Mala Sinha spree, and it’s been a disaster. Baharein Phir Bhi Aayengi started off promisingly, but deteriorated; and Neela Akash was an even bigger disappointment. I had grave doubts about Pooja ke Phool, and sadly, it proved even worse than Neela Akash. I’m not sure I want to watch any more Dharmendra-Mala Sinha starrers. I’ve had enough.

The film begins in a village where a poor blacksmith called Hansraj (Nana Palsikar) is slogging his butt off trying to scrape together money to pay for a college education for his younger brother Balraj `Raj’ (Dharmendra). The only other member of the family is Hansraj’s daughter Vijay (Sandhya Roy).

Hansraj, Raj and Vijay

Continue reading

Neela Akash (1965)

When I see Dharmendra, Mala Sinha, Madan Puri, Mehmood and Shashikala as part of the cast, I’m inclined to sit back with a happy smile and look forward to the movie. I expect to be entertained, not subjected to a string of disconnected scenes that make me want to weep with frustration. But yes, after Baharein Phir Bhi Aayengi (also Dharmendra and Mala Sinha—I’m losing my faith in these two), Neela Akash was another disappointment.

The film begins with the graduation of Neela (Mala Sinha), the eldest of the three offspring of Karamchand (Raj Mehra) and his wife (Sulochana Latkar). Karamchand is the type of father nobody should be subjected to: he’s bossy, selfish, prone to gambling (and worse, losing) at the races, and a drunk. Fortunately, a good-at-heart goon called Abdul Chacha (Madan Puri) hauls him home every night.

Abdul Chacha fetches Karamchand home

Continue reading