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.
The main reason I rented this film was that the credits were so absolutely mouthwatering. A cast that included Sunil Dutt, Madhubala, Minoo Mumtaz, Madan Puri and Nishi Kohli. Music by S D Burman. Shakti Samanta as director. A winner, I’d have thought.
Alas, no. While it’s not a dud, Insaan Jaag Utha isn’t more than the sum of its otherwise stellar parts. The story is a mishmash of tropes. It doesn’t seem to know where it’s going, the plot has a lot of holes, and it’s not really too interesting.
Since my last post was about my uncle, the guitarist David Vernon Kumar, it seemed appropriate to devote this post to one of the films for which he played. Mahal, made when my uncle was about 20 years old, featured the hauntingly melodious Aayega aanewaala, the song that shot Lata Mangeshkar into the limelight – also a song, which, if you listen carefully, has some beautiful guitar notes. Played by my Vernie tau.
Did the producer and director Devendra Goel specialise in film names that incorporated numbers? Have a look at this (admittedly select) filmography: Ek Saal, Ek Phool Do Maali, Ek Mahal ho Sapnon ka, Do Musafir, Dus Lakh… Was he, perhaps, doing a countdown to what he hoped would be some blockbuster magnum opus that would put Mughal-e-Azam or Mother India firmly and permanently in the shade?
I don’t know, but this I can say: of all the Devendra Goel films I’ve seen (six), this is by far the best. It’s coherent, interesting, romantic – and it stars a wonderful lead couple: Ashok Kumar and Madhubala.
I’m doing something I’ve never done on this blog before. I’m offering a free gift for anyone who cares for it: a VCD, once viewed, of Rail ka Dibba. I’ll ship it anywhere in India and you won’t need to pay a paisa for it.
Now, why I’m doing this. First, the preliminaries: it’s a Friends VCD, and we all know what that means. Their logo takes up much of the screen. The print is bad, the sound quality even worse. And their evil villain editor seems to have chewed up frames, scenes, dialogues—everything—in an attempt to fit the film onto two CDs. And though it’s not a really bad film, Rail ka Dibba left me feeling pretty certain that I won’t be watching it again. Anybody who wants it is welcome to 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.
The last of the eye candy posts, and (in my opinion), the toughest. Hindi cinema—and this is irrespective of era—seems to be replete with beautiful women. Offhand, I can’t think of a single leading lady whom I’d put in the `plain’ category. So, selecting the ten women from the 50’s and 60’s whom I think are the ultimate when it comes to sheer pulchritude was a very, very difficult task. But it’s finally done, and after having changed, rearranged and turned around my list God knows how many times, I’m finally done.
The Hallmark Group recently introduced a limited edition of gold-plated silver ingots representing 25 historic stamps of India. Issued under the authority of India Post, it’s called the Pride of India Collection. The stamps replicated run the gamut of concepts, events and people dear to India: Rabindranath Tagore, kathakali, the Taj Mahal, cricket—and more. And with Bollywood so close to the hearts of so many millions of Indians, there had to be a film star featured: and they couldn’t have chosen better.
[Personally, I think the stamp (released in March 2008) does Madhubala justice; the ingot doesn’t. She looks as if, as P G Wodehouse would put it, she’d been bingeing on starchy foods. The eyes are puffy; the smile is off; and she has a double chin. No, I wouldn’t pay Rs 6,000 for this.]
Having watched countless Hindi films, I’ve reached the conclusion that the bulk of 50’s and 60’s cinema wouldn’t have been possible without a few stock plot elements. One of these is Divine Intervention (DI); another’s the Mysterious Motive (MM); and yet another—a popular one, this—is Just For A Song (JFAS), when the whole point of a plot element is to bring in a song.
Shakti Samanta’s Jaali Note is replete with DI, MM and JFAS. I don’t really mind this in films, as long as there’s more. Unfortunately, this is where Jaali Note falls flat on its face; there is almost nothing else. Madhubala, looking lovely, and Dev Anand disguised in a thin moustache, but that’s it.
Mehboob Khan, who directed Aan, Andaz and Mother India, also made this unusual film. It explores themes that were avant garde for the 50’s: a man’s sudden succumbing to sheer lust, while being in love with another woman; a woman’s sympathy for `the other woman’; a villain who’s shades of grey rather than totally black-hearted. Not exactly standard Bollywood fare. There are clichés of course, but on the whole, this is worth a watch.