Among the lesser-known films for which my Uncle Vernie played was Shrimatiji, made by (and featuring) some of his closest friends. IS Johar, who was one of Vernie Tau’s chums, wrote, directed, and acted in it. The three music composers for the film (Jimmy, Basant Prakash, and S Mohinder) too were friends of Vernie Tau’s, Jimmy an especially close pal.
My father had recently expressed a desire to watch this film, mainly to hear his elder brother’s music. When I discovered it starred Shyama (whose gorgeous smile and dancing eyes make her one of my favourites), I decided I needed to watch it too. And, since the only other film in which I’ve seen Nasir Khan was Ganga-Jamuna, I wanted to see if he was any different in a much earlier film.
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.
Today, November 11, is the birthday of Mala Sinha, so I decided to finally watch this film—not because it’s one of her best, but because it has three elements I’m partial to: it has music by C Ramachandra, it’s a historical, and it stars Mala Sinha.
I have to admit my love for Mala Sinha sees ups and downs, based on which film I’m watching. In a film like Pyaasa or Gumraah, where she has good roles (and good directors), she shows just how good an actress she is. And in an all-out entertainer like Aankhen, she’s equally unforgettable as the feisty, glamorous spy. These are the films I prefer to stuff like Anpadh, Hariyali aur Raasta, or even Baharein Phir Bhi Aayengi—because the melodrama is kept in check.
But one thing I’ll happily admit: I think Mala Sinha is lovely, and I’ll watch most films just to see her.
After all the unhappiness over the past week or so – first Ravi’s death, and then Joy Mukherji’s – you’d think the last film I’d want to see would be one that starred the ultimate tragedy couple: Dilip Kumar and Meena Kumari.
But, thanks to Anu, who assured me that Azaad was loads of fun, I decided I should try watching this one. And yes, Anu: I loved it. Loved Meena Kumari’s pretty peppiness. Loved Dilip Kumar at his swashbuckling, handsome, thoroughly attractive self. Loved the smoke rings (almost perfect circles) that Pran blew. Loved Sai and Subbulaxmi’s awesome dancing. Loved C Ramachandra’s fantastic music.
What is a writer without readers? What is a blogger without people who stop by to read, comment, suggest, recommend, and encourage?
So, in gratitude to everybody who’s been visiting this blog over the months: this month on Dusted Off is dedicated to you. All through September 2010, the posts here will be connected in some way or the other to the readers of Dusted Off. The film reviews will be of films that have been recommended, given, or otherwise suggested by readers; and the lists—those ‘top tens’ I’m so fond of—will be of requests made by readers.
To begin with, this film. When I posted a review of Bhai Bahen a while back, it sparked off a discussion on N Dutta’s music—and reader Ash mentioned Gyaarah Hazaar Ladkiyaan, for which too the score had been composed by Dutta. After we’d indulged in much speculation about the film’s plot (what an intriguing title, right?!), another reader, Shalini, was kind enough to say that she had a copy, and was even more kind enough to share it. Therefore…
Okaaay. I’m finally back from a whirlwind book tour. I gave endless interviews (I can now answer questions in my sleep); was wined and dined—great ilish in Kolkata and awesome Chettinad food in Chennai—and even ended up on youtube. I met some likeable and interesting people, including crime writer Zac O’Yeah (in conversation with me at the Bangalore do) and blogger-cum-bestselling writer Amit Varma, author of the delightful My Friend Sancho—he was in conversation with me in Mumbai and had some nice things to say about my book. And yes (I can’t resist the temptation to blow my own trumpet!), others have said good things about The Englishman’s Cameo, too: Pradeep Sebastian, writing in BusinessWorld, for instance; and Vivek Tejuja on http://www.goodreads.com.
So, having done my bit of shameless self-promotion—and wound up at exactly the place I wanted this post to go—I’ll begin with this review. Like me, the Urdu poet Mirza Ghalib was a Dilliwala. Like me, he too was a writer (and before I have Ghalib fans leaping at my throat for daring to lump the two of us together: no, I do not compare myself to the man. He was pure genius. Not so with me). And like me, Ghalib loved to hear his writing being praised.
Bimal Roy, Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Guru Dutt, Asit Sen: some of my favourite directors, and all men with a string of poignant, meaningful films to their credit. Not always very happy films, but films that step away from the usual masala of Hindi cinema. Films that, like the classic Do Bigha Zameen, are not about bewigged, gadget-toting gundas and their better-than-good (not to forget immensely strong) nemeses, but about common people with common problems.