Sunday, April 20, 2014

2 States (2014)

Krish (Arjun Kapoor) walks into IIM Ahemdabad and runs into Ananya (Alia Bhatt) in the food queue in the canteen.  They become friends and later, lovers.  All is fun and games and lots of rolling in the hay.  Chetan Bhagat's heroines jump into the bed with the heros without acting coy or any rona dhona about lost virginity, which is quite refreshing.  However, good times don't last.  Soon, it is graduation time and Krish and Ananya have to think about their future.  It is now time to face the real world.

Jobs are obviously not a problem for an IIM Graduate.  They get placements without any problem.  It is their marriage they have a problem with.  Or rather, their parents have a problem with.  You see, Ananya is a Tamilian Iyer and our Krish is a Punjabi.

Typically what should ensue here is the usual descent into stereotypical situations involving Punjabis and Tamilians.  To his credit, the director does not go there.

Now the question is, where DOES the director go?

Alas, the script does not give him any aces, and the film falls flat.  Which is a pity.

The parents are dull and unexciting.

Alia's accent has no trace of a Southie girl.

Poor Arjun looks not a whit like a Punjabi boy.  He is totally lassi.

The songs are barely memorable.

As soon as the couple decide to get married and the parents come into the picture, the chemistry between the couple drops to a zero.

The audience adrenaline drops so hard after interval that all you heard was chatter and click click of mobile phones.

The first almost-half of the movie was really good, full of fun and rollicking.  The Chennai part was quite funny in parts. Strangely, it was the Punjabi part that fell flat.  Punjabis are supposed to personify fun. But there was too much un-explained angst and too little fun.

There was much to-do about Krish writing a book called 2 States.  It was perhaps a big moment for the fans with whom Chetan Bhagat has a Guru like status.

The friend who accompanied me said the movie was a ditto copy of the book.  That explains a lot.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Highway - 2014

Veera (Alia Bhatt) is the daughter of a rich, well connected industrialist.  She is all set to marry in four days time.  The preparations of her wedding are in full swing.  Veera feels claustrophobic and sneaks out of the house at night and coerces her finace, Vinay, to take her for a long drive.  They stop at a petrol station, and despite Vinay's exhortations, she steps out of the car for a breather.

Right then, they witness a robbery take place at the station.  A group of thugs run out, and hijack their car.  They throw Vinay out and take Veera along as a hostage.  After they discover who the girl is, they decide to ask for ransom. But they have to keep moving for the fear of getting caught.  The thugs are also truckers and they hit the road to keep moving and throwing off any attempt to catch them.  They know that the girl's father is a big shot and will move the police force to locate the girl.

Veera is turned into a screaming, terrified mess.  She calms down somewhat when she finds herself being taken care of.  Luckily for her, her main kidnapper, Mahabir (Randeep Hooda) is no rapist.  He is gruff and rude though.  Once Veera gets used to that, she even begins to enjoy the ride. It looks like a classic case of Stockholm syndrome.  But the fact is, Veera is finally getting the freedom she has always craved.  As long as she does not try to run away or draw attention to herself, the truckers cum thugs are content to let her do as she pleases.

Mahabir finds he is not able to handle the kidnapping quite well, and wants to be rid of her.  But now it is Veera who wants to continue this road-trip.  They know this trip is doomed, but they want things to be as they are for a little more time.

On one level, Highway highlights what happens when two different words collide.  The super rich never associate with the super poor.  The only time they come together is when they need each other, the poor to sell their service and the rich to buy them.  The movie depicts what happens when they are forced to be with each other.  This is beautifully brought out when Veera speaks in an anglicised Hindi and Ranbir speaks in a Gujjari dialect. Veera discovers that the polished manners of the upper classes hide a crudeness that can make anyone's soul shiver.  And that the gruff, seemingly rude behavior of a lower class person cannot mask their basic decency.

On another level, Highway is all about personal freedom.  Veera is a rich poor girl.  She is surrounded by luxury, yet she feels claustrophobic.  Which is why she was out on the highway on the fateful day.  It is almost as if her wish to be free was answered when she was taken captive.

Alia Bhatt has put in a no-holds-barred performance.  Her baby face is bit of a deterrent.  Yet she goes all into the skin of Veera.  Randeep Hooda is superb.  He has a permanent scowl on his face, he speaks roughly to Veera and is thoroughly irritated by the mess he has fallen into by abducting Veera.  Even when he softens towards her, he is so guarded that is painful for him to loosen up.  For years Randeep has toiled in useless movies with his undeniable talent, handsome face and body while lesser talents like John Abraham have forged ahead.  I hope this movie is the break he has looked for and he gets good work hereafter.

The director Imtiaz Ali deserves kudos for finally making a film that hits it where it should.  I liked Jab We Met, but it was a bit preppy.  I did not see Rockstar, and did not think too well of Love Aaj Kal.  The direction is superb.  Sure, the heroine has too many clothes changes, they are not glamorous, and surely a poor truck driver cannot afford so many new clothes.

An excellent film.

The music is also super.  Even though I find sufi music rather ubiquitous in films these days, it fits right in in this film.  I loved Pathaka Guddi

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Some good Pradeep Kumar songs.

Pradeep Kumar (1925-2001) was a film actor who worked in hindi films from 1952 to 1984.  His filmography looks like he accepted almost any film that came his way.  For instance, in 1965, he worked in Bheegi Raat (co-starring Meena Kumari and Ashok Kumar), and also Zindagi aur Maut (co-starring Faryal).

In 1967, he starred alongside Nargis in Raat aur Din.  In the same year, he also worked in Wahan Ke Log with Tanuja.  He was a hero in both these films, and looks quite fit and fine to me.  Yet, a year later, in 1968, he was playing Deb Mukherjee's father in Sambandh.

Pradeep Kumar's name does not come up when you are recounting the best actors of Hindi films.  However, if you are browsing through YouTube videos of songs you love listening to, you are bound to run into Pradeep Kumar a lot more often.  Therefore, as a tribute to this ubiquitous actor (on YouTube at least) I am presenting here under 10 songs of Pradeep Kumar that I like a lot.

I won't call these songs his best.  Listing best songs of any actor is a pressure I cannot live up to.  Hence, some very good songs that feature Pradeep Kumar, here goes:

1. Vande Mataram from Anand Math
This song never fails to give me goosebumps.  The original Vande Mataram.  I like the Lata version equally well.  This was the debut film, in Hindi, of Pradeep Kumar.  Prior to this, he worked in some Bengali movies. The lyrics are by Shri Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay and the music is by Hemant Kumar.

Meena Kumari paired up with Pradeep Kumar in quite a number of films (7 films according to Wikipedia). This was their first film together.  This song is sung twice, once in the voice of Talat Mehmood and next in the voice of Lata.  Enjoy them both.  The link contains both the songs back to back.  The music is by Husnlal Bhagatram and the lyrics are by Qamar Jalalabadi. 

Nagin was one of the earliest Hindi films that Vyjayantimala worked in.  It had music by Hemant Kumar which was a super duper hit.  I don't think there walks a lover of Hindi film music on this earth who has not listened to a song of this film.  Of all the songs, I love this lilting tune best.  The song is sung by Hemant Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar.

4. Gaya Andhera hua ujala from Subah ka Tara
In this movie, Pradeep Kumar pairs up with Jayashree Gadkar. It is a duet once again with Talat Mehmood and Lata Mangeshkar.  The music is by C Ramachandra and the lyrics are by Noor Lakhnawi.  I have no idea what the film was about, but the music is divine.

This is another Pradeep Kumar song that makes me go weak in the knees.  What lovely music by Shanker Jaikishen.  I would surely pick this song as one of the most romantic Hindi film songs.  In this movie, according to the poster, Pradeep Kumar stars with Mala Sinha.  There is no video of the song.  This film also has that beautiful Hemant Kumar number - Rula kar chal diye ik din. The lyrics of the songs are by Hasrat Jaipuri.  

This is another gorgeous Shankar Jaikishen number with lyrics by Hasrat Jaipuri.  This song is sung by Rafi. In Raj Hath, Pradeep Kumar co-starred with Madhubala and Sohrab Modi.  The movie has other beautiful songs such as, Yeh wada karo chand ke saamne, and Mere sapne me aana re.

Pradeep Kumar starred alongside Vyjayantimala in this film.  Listen to this captivating song sung by Hemant Kumar and Asha Bhonsle.  The music is by Hemant Kumar and the song is written by S.H.Bihari. What a lovely song.

8. Zameen se Hame Aasmaan par  from Adalat
This movie has a line up of lovely songs.  Not a surprise, as the music was by Madan Mohan. The lyrics are by Rajinder Krishan.  I tried using an adjective before the word "lyrics" in the previous sentence, but could not come up with the appropriate word to describe how good they are.  In this movie, Pradeep Kumar stars alongside Nargis. 

In Detective, Pradeep Kumar stars once again with Mala Sinha.  The song is sung by Hemant Kumar and Geeta Dutt.  The music is by Mukul Roy and the lyricist is Shalendra.  What a beautiful song. My heart goes pitter patter when I listen to this.

10.  Tum Chal Rahe Ho Ham Chal Rahe Hain from Duniya Na Maane

Another beauty from the musical repertoire of Madan Mohan with lyrics by Rajinder Krishan.  The song is sung by Mukesh and Lata.  Pradeep Kumar was paired in this film with Mala Sinha once more.

I was going down chronologically through the filmography of Pradeep Kumar and picking the songs I liked best.  But I realised that there are many more beautiful songs of his to be listed.  Rather than make a long list, I decided to split the post into two.  These songs are from the films released in the 50s.  There are many films with excellent songs featuring Pradeep Kumar from the 60s as well.  Coming up ... Some good Pradeep Kumar songs II.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Sazaa - 1951

The movie starts on a dark and a stormy night.  The credits roll as the clouds thunder in the background.  Nimmi gets the top billing, Dev Anand follows.  From IMDB, I find that he had been working for 6 years and made about 17 films prior to this one.  On the other hand, Nimmi had worked for two years and made 5 films prior to this one.   I am guessing she became very popular very soon.  Either that, or it was merely a case of 'ladies first'.

More on the credits, the movie is produced by G.P. Sippy, the direction is by Fali Mistry.  His brother, Jal Mistry is the cinematographer.  The sound direction is by Robin Chatterji (I think he was a minor music director as well).  The lyricist was Rajinder Krishan and the music director was SD Burman.  Quite an interesting credits line up, I feel.

Well, to return to the movie, on this dark and stormy night a scream rings out.  Ashok (Dev Anand) runs out of a house.  He is walking along when he is mowed down by a pretty woman in a car.  Kamini (Shyama) is horrified and takes Ashok to the hospital.  She visits him often while he recovers.  She even fixes up a job for him when she finds out that he is destitute.  He starts working for her father's company as a manager.

Kamini, who is obviously attracted to Ashok, invites him over to her house often.  That is when Kamini's maid, Asha (Nimmi) spots Ashok and has a very emotional reaction.  She runs off home and seems all happy and overwrought.  Her mother (Lalita Pawar) is happy to see her happy.  She cannot figure out why her daughter is happy because the girl is dumb.

After a while, Ashok turns up at Asha's house to get her treated by a doctor. The doctor examines her and pronounces her fit and fine.  He surmises that there was something in her past that shocked her into losing her voice.  At this point Asha's mother relates her past story.  As a child, Asha was very pally with a boy of a rich household.  They loved each other very much.  But the boy's father, the cruel Major Durjan Singh (K N Singh) did not like it.  He slapped the girl and forbid her to meet the boy.  The girl was clearly traumatised by this event, and stopped speaking thereafter.

Upon hearing this story, Ashok is moved.  This was his own story.  He had lost Asha when he was young, and is overjoyed to find her.  He is able to coerce her (that is the word I feel I should use for the way he emotionally blackmails Asha) into speaking again.  The young lovers are happy.  They go off to sing a song that has survived 5 decades and sounds as beautiful and fresh as the day it was composed first.

But before they get to sing it, Asha describes what love means to her.  There are a lot of beautiful shots of trees swaying, birds flying, water rippling, clouds scurrying across the sky etc, while Asha goes over the top with her descriptions.  This sequence goes on for 5 minutes, just a montage of pretty shots.  It is an emotional confession of their love for each other.  This is followed by the song I spoke about.  Aa gupchup gupchup pyar karen.

Alas, their love is doomed!  Kamini is unhappy and sacks Ashok.  This forces him to sell the expensive ring he is wearing to defray his expenses.  This sale allows his father to trace him and he commands Ashok to return home and locks him up.  In addition to this, a grim, aristocratic looking Durga Khote makes an appearance. She seems to have a say in Ashok's life as well.

Poor Asha is bereft once again.  She sings one gorgeous song to convey how sad she is at this.  This lovely Lata number tells us why Lata was the queen of playback singing for so many decades.  Here goes, tum na jaane kis jahan me kho gaye.

A few more twists and turns in the story follow.  There is a lot of emotional drama at the end.  It was hard for me to say whether the story would end tragically or happily.  So I was wavering between "Looks like they will live happily ever after" or "Oh no, they will die". 

It is not a great film.  But it is engrossing enough if you can swallow the high drama that often crops up in the movies of that era.

It was the two gorgeous songs that drew me to watch the film.  Nimmi put in the highly emotional performance that she was famed for.  It was Dev that surprised me.  He was devoid of his trademark style, the exaggerated mannerisms and fast dialogue delivery that he was famous for.  He was muted and natural.  Not as charming as he was a few films later, but incredibly good looking as he was from the start of his career till almost the 70s.  It was a treat to watch him.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Mr. and Mrs. 55 - 1955

Guru Dutt's Mr. and Mrs. 55 is seen as a breezy romantic comedy and does not feature on lists of Top movies.   I watched it again recently and was captivated by the following factors:

1. Guru Dutt looks very handsome.
2. Madhubala looks luminous as ever.
3. The movie is beautifully shot.
4.  The story is very sweet
5. The dialogue simply sparkles

To illustrate the point 1 and 2, here's proof.

As for point 3, take a look at how beautifully this song is shot.

Now for the story.  Right at the start, Anita (Madhubala) has run off from home to be with the boy she is sweet on, a tennis player.  Trying to escape the spy her aunt Seeta Devi (Lalita Pawar) has set upon her, she ducks under the bleachers and falls on top of an out of work young man Preetam (Guru Dutt).  He is instantly smitten with the bubbly young beauty.  

Seeta Devi is incensed on discovering that according to the will written by her later brother, Anita's father, she cannot inherit his money unless she gets married.  Seeta Devi has toured Europe and America and believes in feminism.  She hates men and wants her dear niece to live a 'man-free' life.  She hits upon a solution.  She looks for a respectable out-of-work man (Guru Dutt) for a sham marriage that will be dissolved after some months have passed.

In the meantime Anita and Preetam keep running into each other. They seem to get along fine.  Until the time Anita discovers that Preetam has agreed to the sham marriage for the sake of Rs.200/- per month.  This is a situation that Preetam and Johnny (Johnny Walker) try to redress by various means.  Not an easy task as the Aunt keeps a strict watch on her darling niece.

Will Preetam be able to win Anita over?  More importantly, will he be able to get along with Seeta Devi ever?

5.  The dialogue, written by Abrar Alvi, dazzles you.  It crackles and pops and delights you constantly.

For example: Seeta Devi and Preetam are sparring. Preetam says something about the poor people who have nothing.

Seeta Devi : Communist ho?
Preetam : Cartoonist hoon.

Then there is a long dialogue where Preetam replies to a volley of questions by Seeta Devi by merely a 'Jee'.  Each time the word is spoken, it means something different.  A sharp Jee says 'Oh Really!', a soft Jee says 'Yes' and so on.

Most times in hindi films, the dialogue is predictable and re-used so much that it becomes comic.  Not so in this film.  Each line is fresh and custom written for this film and this film only.

Madhubala and Guru Dutt make a refreshing pair.  You can see how good they look together here :

The only sour note was struck by Kumkum who plays Guru Dutt's compliant Bhabhi, who keeps busy all day chakkii peesing and cooking and minding children and not minding (gasp) if Bhaiyya beats her sometimes. Oh.. well... It was 1955. Gulp.

Apart from this glitch, the movie is so well written, well acted, well filmed that it deserves to be appear more often in people's favorite lists.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Chitra Singh - Hamko dushman ki nigahon se na dekha keejay

I am posting this to feed my blog, to prevent it from dying.  Also, I love Chitra Singh.  She was the perfect singing partner for Jagjit Singh.  Her flute like voice complemented Jagjit's heavy one.

Their duets are amply celebrated.  But I feel, at times, Chitra is neglected as a solo singer.  Hence this offering.

Here is a lovely song, with beautiful lyrics and great music.  Chitra does full justice to it.

Pyar hi pyar hain hum
Hum pe bharosa keeje

     humko dushman kee nigahoN se na dekha keeJe
     pyaar hi pyaar haiN hum humpe bharOsa keeJe

     chand yaadoN ke siwa haath na kuch aayega
     is tarah uMr-e-gureza ka na peecha keeJe

     roshni auroN ke aaNgaN meiN gawara na sahee
     kam se kam apne ghar meiN to uJaala keeJe

     kya khabr kab wo chale aayenge milne ke liye
     roz palkoN pe nayee shamme jalaya keeJe

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Lal Pathhar - 1971

I have to thank a friend, Usman Latif Khawaja for recommending this movie to me.  Out of the blue, I was reminded of a song from this movie.  It led me to viewing the entire movie.

Kumar Bahadur (Raj Kumar) has watched his grandfather go mad.  He has seen his profligate father drinking and womanizing.   On top of that, one of his grandfather's had raped a lady called Sonmai, who cursed his family to ruin. All this factors make Kumar Bahadur to decide to abstain from wine and women, as per the advice of his sainted mother. He spends his life trying to do good.

On one hunting trip, he rescues a woman from the clutches of a dacoit.  Saudamini (Hema Malini) is a young widow from a neighboring village that the dacoits were carrying off.  Kumar Bahadur is dumbstruck by her beauty.  Yet, he tries to send Saudamini away, first to her in-laws place, where she is beaten up.  He wants to send her to live in Kashi, but Saudamini would have none of it.  Eventually, they become lovers.

Kumar Bahadur is a refined man, and he is taken aback by Saudamini's (now called Madhuri) crude behaviour.  He tries to educate her, but fails.  Soon he loses interest in her and starts living the lonely life like he used to.  As time passes, he feels he need to get married.  That is when he spots Sumati (Rakhee).  She is well educated and sings beautifully.  He buys off Sumati's father and marries her.

Madhuri is struck with jealousy and tries to do her utmost to keep Kumar Bahadur by her side.  Sumati's childhood friend Shekhar (Vinod Mehra) is in and out of the house as Kumar Bahadur has taken a liking to the young man.  Madhuri tries to wean Kumar Bahadur away by making him think Sumati and Shekhar are not really above board.  Caught between the tussle between his wife and mistress for his affection,  Kumar Bahadur finally cracks.

Hema Malini puts in a wonderful performance as Saudamini/Madhuri.  She is, at first, a widow who is abused and mistreated.  Once she is ensconced in Kumar Bahadur's household, her very body language changes.  She becomes a mistress, ruling over everyone, and lets her crude side show.  On the other hand, she is deeply in love with Kumar Bahadur and is hurt constantly by his rejection of her.  "Mujhe to tum chahiye ho Raja", she says to Kumar Bahadur at one time.  She is frank about her sexuality.  Her jealousy is visible.  Even though she loves Kumar Bahadur, she sees his faults and is not afraid to stand up to him. She is a real person here, 3 dimensional.

Raj Kumar as Kumar Bahadur shines as he does often in his roles.  A sophisticated prince with an impeccable taste and  penchant for hunting suits him to a T.  As he describes himself right at the start, he is a complex character.  He is good and bad at the same time.  He can be kind to people and buy them off at the same time.  He is good to his mistress even after he is put off her by her constant displays of crudity.  He tries to strike a balance between his mistress and his wife.

By contrast, Rakhee as Sumati and Vinod Mehra as Shekhar are not really center stage.  They seem more like interlopers in this drama, though of course, they are integral to the story.  Sumati is the usual 'good Indian wife' who ill put aside her feelings and wishes for her husband.  Shekhar also spends his time trying to make the best of a bad situation.  Being all sacrificing and asking Sumati to do the same. Their tame characters are totally overshadowed by the flashy and fiery characters of Kumar Bahadur and Madhuri.

Lal Pathhar has beautiful music.  All the characters, major or minor, have put in good acting.  The costumes, the ambience are all perfect.  The movie scores in all respects.  Definitely worth a few viewings.