March 30, 2012: Deliver Me from March Madness!

Julie’s been somewhat of a basketball widow this past couple of weeks, which gave her lots and lots of time to catch up on films!

 

Julie M:  B was working and watching basketball tonight, so I took the opportunity to watch Kashmir Ki Kali (Kali of Kashmir, 1964). It started out like a typical Shammi romp, where he is a wealthy, irresponsible playboy goofily chasing a shy, beautiful village girl, whom he almost gets until an impossible amount of drama in the last 30 minutes threatens their happy future together.

  

Jenny K:  Yes, I liked that one, too…it’s always been touted as one of his best. And of course, set in Kashmir…how can you resist?!?

 

Julie M:  Rajiv (Shammi Kapoor) is the reckless heir to a wealthyDelhi industrialist. One day Maa decides to pick him a bride so he’ll settle down; he rejects all the choices and flees to the family’s other home in scenic Kashmir, where he meets Champa (Sharmila Tagore), a poor flower-seller with a blind father. So as not to scare her off he pretends to be the homeowner’s driver (hm…where have I seen THAT before?) and chats her up, then finds numerous occasions to be with her and pitch adorable woo, mostly in song. This one was my favorite.

A particularly hilarious scene has him dressing up in a burkha so he can ride with her and her friends as they travel to a village fair, and there is a crazy sub-plot involving three comely lasses who have rented rooms in his home and are chasing his wealth (that part could have lifted right out as far as I was concerned). There’s also a wonderful dance number at the above-mentioned fair, full of ethnic goodness, although what a Punjabi folk dance is doing in a Kashmiri village is beyond me.

Since I had already seen the disarmingly similar, An Evening in Paris (1967), also with hammy Shammi and Sharmila, I kept having flashbacks–or flash-forwards considering it’s a later film. Though clearly typecast, Shammi is so silly and sweet that I forgave almost everything. Also, this film is worth watching because of the elaborate jewelry, second only to Paheli in films I’ve seen. Overall: fluffy, fun, a thrilling scene near the end with Shammi getting all dishoom on the bad guy and wrestling with him on an elevated rock transport system…what more do you want?

Kashmir Ki Kali available free on YouTube, with English subtitles.

 

Jenny K:  I, who never let basketball bother me, watched Bikini Beach today while getting some housework done. Ah, that Frankie Avalon, winning the fair Annette in a double role, as both himself and, as his own rival, Potato Bug, a goofy British hearthrob of a singer (a Chad and Jeremy type), who also drag races.  I just watch it for Eric Von Zipper. When EVZ likes someone, they STAY liked! In no way deep, but I’m a sucker for fluff, every so often. This may be why I was predisposed to like masalas.

 

Julie M:  I think the 1960s are the 1960s no matter where. I love how Indian films reflect the music of the time, all the while staying true to Indian mores and values.

[the next day…still during the basketball tournament…]

Julie M:  Saw Morning Raga (2004) tonight. LOVED it. It had everything–fantastic music, dramatic storyline (but not too), fabulous performances. Prakash…what a hottie, too bad he didn’t do more work. And Shabana “sang”! I loved that it wasn’t “mainstream,” that the pacing was perfect, visually stunning…I can’t say enough. Just my kind of film. Thank you, thank you for sending it.

Brief plot summary:  Swarnalata (Shabana Azmi) and Vaishnavi (Ranjani Ramakrishnan) are best friends and musical partners, singing traditional carnatic (South Indian) pieces in the privacy of their homes (this piece is the opening of the film).

Swarnalata convinces Vaishnavi to perform publicly with her, but a tragedy en route changes the lives of both families.  Twenty years later Vaishnavi’s son Abhinay (Prakash Rao), an aspiring musician, returns to the village and encounters Swarnalatha, and wants to incorporate her and her music into his band.   Swarnalatha, still blaming herself for the tragedy, refuses.  Can their mutual passion for music overcome the horrors of the past?  And what role does Pinky, Abhinay’s new girlfriend, play in the story?   Click on the Youtube logo, bottom right, if it doesn’t play.

 

Jenny K:  Morning Raga was all part of my minifest “movies about playback, and concert, singers”.  It was a nice little movie…but, Shabana didn’t sing any of it herself, you know. However, all the reviews I have read said they thought she had studied a lot to get the whole set of performance mannerisms right and the lip synch just so. Quite a feat!

 

Julie M:  Yes, apparently she did study, for months, as did Prakash learning to play the violin (even though it wasn’t his playing in the film). I admire that kind of commitment.

And…I was listening to a library CD on my walk this morning and a fusion song came on that had long bits of carnatic music in it, and now I know what it is! 

Morning Raga is available free on YouTube. It’s mostly in English, and the small bits that aren’t English are subtitled.  Part I is here.

 [a few days later..still more basketball…]

Julie M:  Saw Maqbool (2004) tonight. I was really leery of seeing it because of the gangland setting and I kind of wish I had listened to myself, because despite the excellent performances (Irrfan was fantastic!) it was really bloody and violent.

I like how it played with the parallel characters from MacBeth: instead of two sons Abbaji (the King Duncan character) has a daughter, which set up a whole other dynamic re the succession. Lady MacB is not a wife but a mistress, the mistress of both the King and Maqbool, again upping the drama quotient and changing her motivation from ambition for her husband to simply getting rid of a lover she does not love to exchange for one she does love, while still keeping her position. This scene, where she holds a gun to Maqbool’s head and forces him to call her “my love,” is key to her twisted psyche.

Jenny K:  That’s what bothers me the most about Maqbool, when they make Lady MacBeth the mistress, then in this film, Maqbool’s whole motivator is sex, not power and greed as in MacBeth. That bothered me more than, say having “Emilia” [spoilers] not die in Omkara, but in the end, flip the Shakespeare on his head and have her kill her Iago. Shocking, but less fundamentally a change to the plot.

 

Julie M:  I also loved this quwwali song at the gangland funeral.

And I loved how the “witches” are brought together in the single person of the soothsaying cop (Om Puri) and his jovial sidekick (your boy Naseeruddin Shah).

The visuals were good and I suspect would have been better if the DVD had not been mastered from a bad VHS original. Still, all that blood and shooting really soured what could have been a really satisfying drama. Overboard, to my tastes. 

This was a welcome light moment, at the engagement-party festivities for Abbaji’s daughter.

Jenny K:  I’ve always liked Omkara better than Maqbool of Vishal Bhardwaj’s Shakespeare adaptations, primarily because Maqbool is soooo dark.  I thought as you like Irrfan so much, it was important that you see it. It may not have been his first film, but it was one of the first two that really put him on the map, cinematically. The first was The Warrior by Asif Kapadia. I haven’t seen it, but it has great reviews.  I can’t believe that he didn’t “hit” until he was about 40. He still looks so great and as busy as ever at 50!

Julie M:  Omkara certainly gets my vote, too, for the better of the two. It  was nice to see Irrfan and Tabu act together again. I loved the two of them in The Namesake (2007), which I saw first, but I can’t help but think that their casting in Namesake was inspired by their undeniable chemistry in Maqbool. Excellent, mature actors serious about their craft. LOVE to see that!

 [the next night…isn’t that tournament over yet?]

Julie M:  Saw Kairee (Raw Mango, 2000) tonight. Very indie, very good.

A young city girl (Yogita Deshmukh) arrives in a rural Marathi village to live with her beloved aunt Taani (Shilpa Navalkar) after the tragic death of her parents. At first she is happy in her new life, since she gets to spend a lot of time with her aunt in the beautiful setting. But soon she must go to school, which is taught by an incompetent master and where she is the only girl. She is made to feel bad but is cheered by her aunt’s standing up to the master and getting her transferred to another school where the education is better, the master  is friendlier (a stuttering Atul Kulkarni) and there are more girls. But, gradually she finds out that things are not what they seem in her idyllic new life.   [Sorry, no subtitles.]

It was a very beautiful movie visually, with excellent performances by Shilpa (such an expressive face, especially when she laughs!)  and Atul (good to see him NOT be a villain for a change), and a cameo by Sonali Kulkarni (of Mission Kashmir and Dil Chahta Hai) as the grown-up girl. 

Lots of cryptic references to finding the local peacocks (which the girl never gets to see:  I’m not quite sure what the symbolism is, maybe happiness?) and eating raw mangoes fresh from the tree (which I believe represents perfection), a favorite treat of Taani’s which the girl also never gets to experience.  

 

Jenny K:  Atul is one of my favorite character actors.  He’s given some great performances in Rang De Basante, Chandni Bar, Khakee and this one.  And all so different.  Amazing.  He never just “phones it in” as they say.  Definitely you’ve picked some wonderful basketball distractions. Two points…swooosh!  Into the hoop!

Dec. 13, 2011: Sham & Dev: The ‘60s — Mod to Mysticism

Julie M:  In memory of the great Dev Anand, who passed away recently, we should talk about one of his films that we both liked, Guide (1965).

Jenny K:  I’d be happy to—I like it without reservation. I’d also like to talk about the latest in our foray into Shammi Kapoor’s video vault, An Evening in Paris (1967), as he’s so recently left us, and both Dev and Shammi were such a focus in that era of Hindi cinema.

Let’s start with Paris, shall we, so as to go from the ridiculous to the sublime, for a change.

Julie M:  Saw Evening in Paris (Shammi Kapoor, 1967) this afternoon, free on YouTube. A cute rom-com romp in the first half and kind of a thriller in the 2nd half when Shammi has to rescue Sharmila Tagore from the bad guys who have kidnapped her. Lots of fun and 60s music. Also, lots of ridiculous plot lines to mock.

Jenny K:  Ooof…don’t want to read this yet…I have it in the pile on my dvd player. Perhaps I can see it and then comment… eyes closed, eyes closed.  Don’t get too far ahead of me…

Julie M: Brief plot: Deepa (Sharmila) is spoiled, rich, lonely and bored. Her dad wants her to get married, but all the Indian boys are only interested in her money, so she goes to Paris to try and pretend she’s poor and hook someone who’s interested in her as a person. Enter Sam (Shammi), whom she instantly hates, but then he very sweetly and comically pursues her all over the world and hate turns to love. As it happens, Shankar (Pran) is an evil retainer of her father’s who is in money trouble and schemes to marry Deepa for her riches; this turns into a kidnap/ransom plot by the mob to whom he owes the money.

Jenny K: Oh yeah, Pran is a professional villain.  299 films on IMDb, and all of them various layers of slimy, from nasty to pure evil.  His orange wig is very oddly hypnotic, though, “poisonously permanent waved” might be an apt descriptor of Pran in this film.

Julie, I think I’m losing my touch…I tried again to finish Paris last night and fell asleep again. I think it’s the plot. Why does Shammi seek Deepa out? Just because his friend wanted her? Doesn’t seem enough impetus. Chase-chase-chase, nahi-nahi-nahi, sing-sing-sing, maybe-maybe-maybe, chase-chase-chase again…blah-blah-blah. I’m rapidly losing interest in Paris, even with the kidnapping.

Julie M:  I think he went to meet her first to see if he could help his friend, and then his eyes went BOINGGGG and he fell in love with her himself, and basically stole her away.

The mob boss has a moll, a cabaret singer named Suzy who is Deepa’s double (yes, the obligatory dual role for Sharmila), so Shankar plots a switch to hide the fact that Deepa is kidnapped. It goes on from there.

May I entice you with this campy number?

Jenny K:  Why, may I ask, does Suzy make her entrance on a Webber kettle grill rack?  Is being presented as a tasty morsel or is she just being roasted??? Or are we?

Julie M:  There’s also lots of beautiful Paris, Switzerland, Niagara Falls and Beirut (Beirut? yes, the Paris of the Middle East in 1967) scenery.

Jenny K:  I am finding all this “oh, by the way, meet me tomorrow evening on another continent” stuff rather, shall we say, implausable, and highly “yeah, right!” if you know what I mean.  Too distracting outside a fantasy item number, IMO (example, “Suraj Hua Madham” from K3G, not exactly necessary, highly unlikely, but deliciously “right” because it was a fantasy scene).

Julie M:  Here’s another number, where Sharmila looks like Kareena Kapoor? (hey, maybe that’s why Saif likes Bebo!)

Did you get to the part yet where the fact that he stole her from his friend bites him in the butt?

Jenny K: I did finally finish Paris this morning, (Paris in the Morning…sounds like a song title) but I must have missed the part where he got bit in the butt?? Lot of odd stuff going on in the film but I didn’t pick up on that.

Julie M:  She finds out that he stole her from his friend, and she pouted at him for a while (this was just after she admitted that she loved him), but it disappeared quickly in the kidnapping plot.

Jenny K:  Ah, yes, but all complications to romance cannot last longer than the next love song…or subsequent kidnapping by thugs from your backstory.  It’s in the masala handbook.

And though I have just finished complaining about the needless side trips from France, I did like all the nice camera work on actual location on Luna Island? at the top of the Falls, even if the handy security railing made it a bit less imminently dangerous.

So, I guess, my final verdict is okay but not as charming as some of Shammi’s other vehicles, say, Professor which we reviewed earlier, or Kashmir Ki Kali, also with Sharmila…they were both better in that one.

 

Julie M:  I agree.  The cute first half is just not cute enough, and the action-y second half not exciting enough.  Maybe if her clothes were better it would have distracted me.

 

[A week or so later]

Jenny K:  And now, for the more serious part of our double feature…Guide with Dev Anand and Waheeda Rehman.

Julie M:  I never read the novel that it’s taken from, The Guide by R. K. Narayan (but it’s on my list now!) as it struck me as something I might not like, but Dev Sahib’s version got me interested.  It’s a long, complex story about sacrifice and fulfilling one’s destiny. A number of commentators rank it as Dev Anand’s lifetime masterpiece–he produced and starred in it, and it was an early example of an Indo-American co-production, shot in both English and Hindi, with the Hindi version directed by his younger brother Vijay (who also directed another favorite of ours, Teesri Manzil).

Jenny K:  I haven’t watched very many of Dev Anand’s films, but this one struck me as very atmospheric, almost something out of time, especially as Dev’s character progresses toward the climax.

Julie M: Dev plays Raju, a tour guide in the historic city of Udaipur, who initially protects a histrionic client (Waheeda Rehman) from her distant and borderline abusive husband, then falls in love with her himself, encourages her to divorce her husband (!) and helps her achieve her goal of international dance stardom despite the rather unsavory reputation of her art. They move in together (!!) but just when he ought to be happiest his life starts to fall apart as he self-sabotages spectacularly (!!!). Ultimately he finds redemption in a peculiarly Indian way, and proves himself to be a “guide” in several senses of the word.

Anand gets to do everything in this film. He’s a handsome romancer, a dutiful son, a savvy business manager, and a spiritual leader (albeit reluctantly). The camera loves his good looks, and I fell in love with his easy patter and jokey demeanor (he never crosses the line into sliminess). I’m sure there’s a lot more to the philosophical angle of things that one who was raised in Hindu tradition would understand, but most of that whooshed right over my head.  And Waheeda Rehman, a frequent co-star, was simply brilliant in what I consider a fairly negative role.

Jenny K: I found this film after having seen Waheeda in a couple of Guru Dutt films, Pyaasa and Kagaaz Ke Phool, specifically.  She was so luminous in them, that I had to find out if it was just working with Guru Dutt or if  it was a quality she had in all of her movies.  Needless to say, I found she had it in almost every film, and still has it, today, evident in Delhi 6 and Rang de BasantiKagaaz Ke Phool is an interesting one to compare Guide to, as it’s also set in a showbiz arena with managers and stars, etc, though that one is more about actors and directors than this foray into the dance world.  Guide is almost a better showcase for her, as she’s the fulcrum the whole film winds around.

Julie M: Oh, yeah, that WAS her in Delhi-6 as the grandmother.  I loved that character. Interestingly, the soundtrack for Guide ranks #11 on this list of the 100 Best Movie Soundtracks  (although I don’t know how reliable it is…Dil Se… only ranked #46, and it is my absolute favorite; your favorite, Lagaan, was #34)  I wasn’t really enamored with the music.  Unfortunately the videos of the Guide songs available online are such bad quality I’m not sure it’s worth posting them…but “Aaj Phir Jeene Ki Tammana Hai” was my favorite.

Jenny K:  Nah…that list doesn’t have any of my favorite three albums on it, Taal and Meenaxi by Rahman and Omkara by Vishal Bhardwaj.  It is rather skewed toward “classic” Bollywood.  To each era, their own, I guess.

My favorite number in Guide was always the snake dance…I had seen the parodies like the one the sister does in Bride and Prejudice, but hadn’t seen the real thing, as it were, until this one. She just totally wowed me. 

Julie M:  I liked the snake dance too…her face while she was doing it was amazing to watch.  I should have said that Raju was a CHATTY tour guide. I mean, he never stopped talking!!

I was curious to see if the English version was as good so I went hunting.  Difficult to listen to, but here’s a clip of the beginning where he’s doing his guide patter.    It’s not a shot-for-shot duplicate, which is odd.  Pearl S. Buck wrote the dialogues.  I wish the sound was better so I could compare better.

Jenny K: It’s odd…sounds a bit like his patter is written in verse…but not.  Made me think of Shakespeare for some reason.  Waheeda’s so lovely, even when she’s severe like in this scene.  Always reminded me a bit of Jean Simmons.  Here’s a clip of Jean around the same time in Spartacus, to show what I mean. That whole era of film in the ‘60s could be so iconic.

When the film started, I didn’t want to like Raju, with all the advice and help he was giving Rosie to dissolve all her traditonal ties to her old life and husband.  Becoming Nalini was important to her self image, but was it important to her true self?  Maybe that’s why Raju finally chucked it all in for a new path, maybe he saw that he had been leading them both away from deeper truths.  Devsaab managed in this film to show all the layers of bravado, doubt and self sacrifice that made it a really nuanced performance.  Perhaps the best I’ve ever seen him do. Wish this had subtitles, but it was not to be.  Don’t watch if you don’t want spoilers.

Julie M:  I found this clip of an interview with Dev Sahib where he talks about his long history in film:  No wonder they call him “evergreen.”  I also couldn’t resist watching this clip of Aamir Khan’s remarks   about him  (it’s about half in Hindi, half in English).

I hope nobody succumbs to the temptation to remake this classic film, as they did with Devdas. It’s perfect just as it is.  And Dev Anand…what a star.

Sept. 2, 2011: More Shammi K, Most of SRK & A Little BigB

Jenny K:  While waiting for Irene to blow on through, I finished the first of the Shammi Kapoor triple feature that I found on sale on Amazon. Teesri Manzil (1966). All the gang on Memsaab’s page said this was probably their favorite movie from their favorite pair. Shammi Kapoor and Asha Parekh. I’ve got to say, they are a cute couple. Though Asha was about nine years younger than Shammi,  she is on record as saying that he treated her more as a little sis…and that on set, Shammi’s wife joked “Let’s adopt Asha!”  But younger or no, Asha was a lively, spunky heroine opposite Shammi, giving him no easy course to win her.

Her character, Sunita is determined to solve the mysterious death of her older sister who had fallen to her death from a third floor (the “teesri manzil”of the title) window of the hotel where her boyfriend was the drummer and star of the house band. She goes secretly off to Mussourie to see if she can lure this “Rocky,” who she’s never met, into a confession of his guilt. Of course, she meets him, on the rail trip there, under his own name Anil (Shammi). They wrangle, she’s difficult-nigh-impossible to impress, and yet he perseveres.

Then, all he has to do is tell her he’s lied to her about who he is, and that he’s not involved with her sister’s murder. That’s all.  But he succeeds; he is Shammi, after all.

The music is fun, the costumes are loud (in the stage shows) and Helen’s dance numbers are sometimes indescribably, awfully eccentric…And she’s a very famous item girl; I’ve seen her much better. However, her acting at the end of the film is really acting…and I hadn’t seen that from her before. Just thought she got her roles because she was cute, fair skinned and married well (to Salman Khan’s father).

Definitely a fun thriller with comedy touches. Shammi and Asha do not disappoint. Here is one of my favorite oddball nightclub numbers.

Julie M:  I’ll put Teesri Manzil on the list…

Had a bit of free time last evening and spun up The Inner and Outer World of Shah Rukh Khan. How fangirly was I? Well, as it turns out, not much.

I started with Outer and barely lasted through half of it. Maybe it’s a cultural thing, but I found it odd and somewhat sad that these Bollywood stars felt they had to deliver a half-*ssed stage show (bad lip sync, bad costumes, and man, did they look tired and bored) to keep up their fan base in the UK and USA (on this particular tour). As if their film work was not sufficient. Although I have to admit that SRK did go out of his way to talk to fans onstage and really try to connect with that one person. Best part: Aamir showing up backstage with long hair and curly mustache, obviously on a brief hiatus from filming Mangal Pandey: The Rising. But overall, horribly boring to see screaming fans, bad stage show and him smoking constantly.

Here’s the part with Aamir:

Jenny K: I see what you do in the concert footage, and it does look that way to someone watching on television, but having actually been at that concert when it played the Verizon Center, I have to say…you just have to be there to “get it”.  The costumes can be cheesy, but you never see them close up.  And there is some real singing, too, along with the lip synching.  And sometimes that can be a problem, like when SRK tries to give us our complete money’s worth and sings along in his…ehm…peripatetic sense of key.  And the dancing can be wonderful.  Plus,  the audience adores it.  You can have no idea of the level of excitement if you don’t see it yourself.  I might not do it again (except to watch Hrithik dance, maybe), but I’m glad I’ve experienced it.

 

Julie M: Inner was better, as well as shorter (50 minutes) and I watched the entire thing. Having seen the movie I liked the on-set shots during Main Hoon Na, and it was fun to see SRK go back to Delhi and visit his old school. I’m not sure how really “intimate” the portrait of his life was, but he did let the cameras into his house, in the car while he was driving himself and around his kids, which is something I cannot imagine a major star in the US doing.

I like the part in this clip about the Diwali celebration in his office for his staff.

One thing is clear: SRK is extremely hardworking and always thinks about the fans and his family in equal measure. Some of the things he says reminded me of William Shatner’s autobiography, wherein he gives a reason why he did anything anyone asked of him during his career: “I had a wife, three daughters, and a mortgage on a house in the Valley. I couldn’t afford to be picky.”

 

Jenny K: The Inner was definitely the best part of the series. It was a documentary for the BBC. My mom liked it so much that she forced my dad to watch it, too. His quote was roughly “There’s something about that guy…I like him.” Go figure, my dad was a Rukhie…

[the next day…]

Julie M:  Hey, I found Pardes on YouTube, full (with some ads) and subtitled. I think you said that I might not like it, because it’s full of SRK doing what I don’t like about him, but although it has some flaws I really enjoyed it (some of the flaws being her hideous saris and SRK’s neon boxers!). I liked the scenes in India more than the ones in the US, but I guess we were supposed to. SRK plays the same ol’ character, but he seemed to have more depth in this one. Definitely knew who the heroes and villains were. And I liked that there was a “prequel” (visual and verbal) to Rab ne Bana di Jodi.

I liked this song, but overall I was not impressed with the music in this film.

Jenny K:  Prequel??  Explain…Maybe it’s been too long since I saw it.

Well, I didn’t think you’d enjoy Pardes, but I’m glad you did.  You’ve got me so scared of suggesting any kind of SRK film to you, that I just don’t have the nerve…I like him like I like other sweet things I shouldn’t eat to excess, caramel apples, peanut M&Ms, fresh crullers, chocolate croissants.  He makes me feel good in those lightweight films. Most of the time.

Of course he is predictable in them, but then so were Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy in their comedies, Marilyn Monroe, too and perhaps more comparable, Jerry Lewis, Carol Burnett and Adam Sandler. They can be pretty darned funny, even if their range isn’t that great most of the time. And every so often they’ll try something different and hit one completely out of the park. Like Jerry’s work in The King of Comedy and on the Wiseguy tv series, Carol’s work on Broadway, Adam’s wonderful Reign Over Me, and SRK in Dil Se or MNIK…but I’d never want them to stop the silly, endearing stuff they do best.

 

Julie M:  I think the reason I liked Pardes was because of the female character. She got weepy at the end but overall I thought she was spunky and brave, trying to make the best of a situation that was forced upon her until it became clear that she couldn’t go on as it was. The character (both the actress and the personality) reminded me of Hema Malini’s character in Sholay.

This song was OK too. Typical SRK starrer.

Jenny K:  To tell you the truth, I don’t remember too much about Pardes, except that I saw it after I saw Taal and thought that Taal was much better. I kept hoping that Pardes would get less predictable, that the fashions would get less garish, that SRK’s fake musical instrument playing would be more believeable and that Amrish Puri’s wig would somehow get better. It’s amazing how many fake-looking wigs he wore over the years. I think the film suffered a lot in the comparison. Subhash Ghai isn’t particularly consistant, except in finding good talent.  Mahima Chaudhry who played Kusum, is a case in point.  And I think she probably was influenced by Hema in Sholay…most actresses of her generation were.

 

Julie M:  Taal was one of my favorite movies so far.  Love everything about it.  I don’t pay too much attention to directors or producers, except to avoid (now!)  certain ones who specialize in genres I don’t like (cough…Emotional Family Drama…cough).  But in the “making of “ feature on Iqbal, Shreyas Talpade said that every actor wants to work on a Subhash Ghai film.  Guess it’s because they are popular.

 

Jenny K:  And because Ghai is one powerful guy in the film community.  He even has his own film school in Mumbai, Whistling Woods.

Speaking of Amrish Puri, I much prefer him in DDLJ as Kajol’s stern dad. I, however, from time to time wish I hadn’t sent it…so if you hate it, you won’t blame me …but there are so many references to it, everywhere, that you may just have to ram through all the non-Kajol bits at fast speed in the first half, and just grit your teeth in the really long fight scene at the end of the second.

SRK’s personality in the first half is really grating until he begins to fall in love with Kajol in their European trip. But in the second half, when he’s trying to win her parents’ approval to marry her, he’s just darned adorable. Love, she observes with a wink, has changed and matured him into the perfect prospective Indian bridegroom. Hence the title, which translates to: The Brave Heart Will Win the Bride. Watch it when and if you’re ready…no rush.

And since I seem to be misjudging what you will and won’t like in his case, maybe you should watch Asoka. It is historically inspired, even if the palate is a bit more colorfully and broadly rendered. He looks gorgeous in his longer wig, the cinematography is lovely, and Shah Rukh shows a much larger arc of emotions…from petulant arrogance, to dangerous and somewhat paranoid, to humility and penitence, to falling in love, loss and despair, implacability and madness then through to real breadth of character. Definitely not one of his trademark likeable Rahuls.

It’s here online with subtitles that you can turn on, if you want to try it out.  You can always blame not liking it on Kareena, and turn it off. But I think she does a pretty good job in it for the most part, especially when she becomes an actual warrior princess at the end, fighting to save her country.

 

Julie M:  I saw that our library had Asoka (when I was searching for SRK films early on) but when I went to reserve it a couple of months later the copy had been removed from the ability to request it (although it was still listed in the catalogue). ?? I was disappointed because I had recently been watching music videos from Jodhaa Akbar and was in the mood for more historical-themed Indian movies.

And as for another SRK movie I “should” probably see, there’s Don (especially since Don 2 will be out shortly), but it’s not at my library. I suppose if I want to see it I will have to break down and buy it, but I’m reluctant to purchase something I’m not likely to see more than once.

 

Jenny K:   As to Asoka, I ended up watching that link to it last night, and liked it much more than I remember having done before. I don’t think I was wrong in recommending it now. And I can send you my copy of Don if you want it.

 

Julie M:  Definitely send Don in the next box, but no rush.  I have until Christmas (Diwali) to watch it before Don 2 comes out, right?

 

Jenny K:  Here’s that Amitabh “Full Joy” smile you were mentioning earlier that you liked.  Add the web prefix to this.

bollywoodsargam [dot] com/talkingphoto.php?poster=9659859

Wish I could post it directly, but the website won’t let me. 

 

Julie M:  Thanks for the picture!! I love to see him grinning as a young man, since so many of his movies were so serious.  Deewaar, particularly:  I don’t think he cracked a smile once in that.

August 17, 2011: Professor Shammi Kapoor Teaches Us

Julie M: Professor is a fun introduction to why Shammi Kapoor deserves his reputation. He is completely adorable as Pritam/Professor Khanna in this masala film, and he shows off the complete hero range: romance, charming light comedy, a fight scene, love of his mother, looking dashing in fashionable (for 1962) clothes and hair, safeguarding a young girl’s honor, dramatic arguing which of course he wins, and to top it off he admirably pulls off a masquerade as an old man plus being his young stud self.

Shammi Kapoor finds a Himalayan Heaven in Professor (1962).

Jenny K:  I agree, Julie.  Shammi was pretty adorable in this film.  I only had seen Kashmir Ki Kali in this decade of his work, and it definitely was a different side of him.  When he came on the screen, the scenes with his mother were so low-key and sensitive that the rambunctious Shammi that I’d seen before was almost unidentifiable.  He was so endearing trying to feed his mother the last of the family rice.  Shammi’s chemistry with Pratima Devi was, I think, stronger than with any of the other ladies in the movie.  Goes to show, an Indian boy always loves his ma the most.

 

Julie M:  I noticed that too—his ma was definitely the center of his life.  (and he was hers)  Is there an Indian film that doesn’t have this mom-son thing going on?

 

Jenny K:  Maybe to a lesser degree, but I can’t think of one film where the son is at odds or even dislikes his mother, aside from complaining about her rushing him to the altar.  The feminist side of me could have done without the old, stale trope of  the school’s Principal, Sita Devi, (played by Lalita Pawar with an alarming severity that suggested she was trying to play a literal devi) fall head over heels in love with the first man who dared to stand up to her.  Oh, well,  perhaps it wasn’t so old a gimmick back in the 60’s…and it added extra complications to the comedy.

 

Julie M:  I really dug her fashion sense, though, when she was severe.  Reminded me of Indira Gandhi on the news when I was a kid.  And I thought her wistful look at herself in the old portrait above the fireplace was heartwrenching:  kind of like she regretted the person she had become.  Very touching.  The hotel room farce scenes were a bit predictable but Shammi’s so innocent-looking that the old tropes work. I kept thinking of him as a combination Jerry Lewis and Charlie Sheen (the old semi-innocent CS, like in Hot Shots, not the creepy one from earlier this year, ugh), but better than both. Sigh.

 

Jenny K: I can’t believe you said that!…I was thinking the same thing, Charlie Sheen-wise, and wondering if it would be too awful to draw the comparison.  It’s actually just a physical resemblance, nothing else…the squarer build in the loose 50’s style shirts, the dark coloring with the sexy, easily ruffled hairstyle (ooh, did Shammi look fine after that little dip in the lake toward the end!), and the cheekbones to die for.  I can’t, and never want, to imagine CS in one of Shammi’s dance numbers. Charlie with his two “goddesses”….”Aaja, A-a-a-aaja, Aaja, A-a-a-aaja!”  It’s definitely not a “Winning!” image.  Shudder.

 

Julie M: For the most part I didn’t notice that it was an old-old film (yes, it’s as old as I am and I am almost as old as dirt) except for the scene where Reeta and Ramesh are pitching woo at the record party, which seemed very jarring and completely dated the film. (In fact the entire Reeta-Ramesh subplot could have lifted right out, as far as I was concerned).

 

Jenny K: One of my few negative thoughts was that I thought the hotel scenes in Mumbai (that you mentioned, too), where almost all of our stars ended up for a very extended game of “Where’s Pritam?” could have been lifted out and not really be missed.  It was as if he wanted to be caught with all that “where’s my beard, where’s my hat?” business.  And as he didn’t end up telling either Aunty or Neena the truth, then, what was the point except for filler, which  a 2 ¾ hour film really doesn’t need, IMO. 

 

Julie M:  I disagree—I thought it was a much-needed bit of silly humor that didn’t depend on romance.  If this is what Shammi was known for at the time, I think the audiences would have expected both the farce aspect and the “Will he be unmasked now?  How about now?” anticipation. I admit to being charmed by it, and I Hate Farce almost as much as I Hate Westerns.

 

Jenny K:  I may have to nickname you Ms. Nafrat (check the glossary post). I loved, however, the “I was young once” number with the girls in the school garden, “Yeh Umar Hai Kya,” though they were pretty mean to the “old guy.”  I wasn’t sure what drew Pritam to Neena, except the Young Male Hormone Factor, of course.  I also loved that the subtitles translated “pagal” as “freaky”…adds an extra odd charm to the number.

 

Julie M: That was pretty cute. And I hope you noticed the random squaw dance in the middle, which we mentioned in our latest horror-costume discussion (the Intergalactic Squaws in “Om Shanti Om” number from Subhash Ghai’s Karz). Wonder if the OSO sequence, set in the 1970s, was a deliberate callback to this 1962 scene?

 

Jenny K:  Yeah, I thought it was odd, too, to have a tribal number in a part of the country way the heck away from Nagaland, which is the only native dress that I can think of in India that looks vaguely like that.  Now, I know there are plenty of ethnic looks in the Darjeeling area, but most of the ones I’m aware of are more of the Tibetan/Nepali type.

 

Julie M:  We saw lots of Nepali ethnic dress and faces in the opening number. I liked that.  And now I have to put in a clip of my favorite number from the film, “Main Chali Main Chali.” The setup is that Neena (played by Kalpana) has been playing naughty pranks on Pritam in his guise as her Sanskrit professor, and Pritam has put into play an elaborate plan to both get revenge and win her heart with a little playful blackmail. Neena has decided to use her wiles to steal the blackmail instrument so he has nothing on her. This flirty cha-cha at the top of the world (yikes! She terrified me when she was hopping along those train tracks) is the height of charm as both characters try to work their schemes on each other.

 

Jenny K: I loved Main Chali Main, too.  Though I think I woulda danced a rhumba to it, partial as I am to that style J!  I think it’s really cool the way Shanker – Jaikishan, the Music Directors, could go almost seamlessly back and forth between current western latin-jazzy styles and the more traditional Bollywood string-fests of the ballads without a flicker of hesitation.

I’m always partial to the almost obligatory “tanhayee” (loneliness) number in every good masala film. “Aawaz Dekhe Hamein” does it justice with our heroine, Neena wandering sadly (and picturesquely) through the Darjeeling hills to its hauntingly poignant notes. She’s looking for her Pritam, who finally comes thither and joins her in a duet.

While we’ll all miss Shammi Kapoor’s splendid excesses on screen, and the occasional sweet grace notes, as in this film, thank heaven that they are all preserved on DVD and a surprising number online, too.   Thank you, Rajshri for putting them up!   Enjoy!

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