Today is the 100th birth anniversary of one of my favourite Hindi film actors, the extremely talented, very versatile Balraj Sahni. Born on May 1, 1913 (an interesting coincidence, considering he went on to become the first president of the leftist All India Youth Federation), Balraj Sahni became a prominent writer—first in English, later in Punjabi—and, of course, a brilliant, much-respected actor, with a dignity and screen presence that made him stand apart in films as different as Do Bigha Zameen, Waqt, Kabuliwaala, Haqeeqat, Anuradha, and Sone ki Chidiya.
A couple of years back, I dedicated one month of blog posts to the readers of Dusted Off. Since then, many more readers have begun following this blog. Some drop by, leave a comment, or like a post. Some lurk in the background. Some become staunch friends.
It’s been a while, so I thought it was time to repeat what I’d said back then: Thank you. Thank you for reading my blog, for encouraging me, and keeping me going. It’s because of you that I blog. It’s for you that I blog.
To express some of my gratitude for my blog readers, February 2013 on Dusted Off is dedicated to you. All the posts this month will be related to blog readers: reviews of films recommended by readers, lists requested by readers, and so on. To begin with, a film that I’ve wanted to see ever since Shalini recommended it three years ago. I finally found Lala Rookh in Induna’s catalogue a few months back, and pounced on it.
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.
Unlike Madhumati and Aar Paar, where he was just a supporting actor (though, in my opinion, his contribution to both films far surpassed the actual screen time of the characters he played), in Chhoomantar Johhny Walker is not just the funny man, but also the hero. He gets to sing and dance (the latter even in drag!). He gets to woo a pretty heroine, be brother to another lovely lady, and he gets to kick some serious ass.
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.
I made such a mistake doing a Westward the Women post for International Women’s Day. Granted, it’s a good film, and highly recommended—but does it really teach a woman anything substantial? Knowing how to harness a mule or drive a wagon isn’t all there is to life. So here’s compensation: a film replete with lessons for women (and men, too). There are do’s and don’ts for just about any situation in life, including—though never stated—filmmaking.
There are some things I have very little patience with while I’m watching a film. Weepiness, for instance. Precocious children for another. Endless bhajans (unless the bhajan in question happens to be of the calibre of Allah tero naam or Man tadpat hari darshan). Mindless self-sacrificing which can’t possibly benefit anyone.
And much more. Beti, unfortunately, has all of these in ample doses. I saw it primarily because I like the lead pair (Nanda is an old favourite, and I haven’t given up on Sanjay Khan, despite the lamentable Ek Phool Do Maali). And when a film lists Rajendranath, Shyama and Asit Sen in its cast, one can hope for lots of entertainment.
Or so I thought.