Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Mera Naam Joker - Pehla Ghanta

I have never ever seen Mera Naam Joker entirely.  It was panned by the critics who called it overlong, self indulgent and voyeuristic.  Raj Kapoor was no longer in the flush of youth and he did not look good here.  Maybe put off by all this, I have never watched MNJ.  I have caught bits and parts of it at times when it was being played on TV Channels.  I liked the first bit, which features Rishi, Manoj and Simi.  But it is not easy to watch a Hindi movie on TV.  There are commercial breaks after every ten minutes that last for further ten minutes.  You lose track of what is going on, and lose interest too, pretty fast.

Just last week, I bought a cheapo DVD which has Mughal-e-Azam, Pakeezah, Mother India, Mera Naam Joker and Mehboob Ki Mehndi (the last one is the odd one out really, even if it is an enjoyable movie).  After I was done with the others, I put on MNJ.  I skidded through the first song where he gathers all his ex-es, and jumped to the flashback - the pehla ghanta bachpan hai part.  Raju is a chubby, blue eyed, 16 year old, often teased by his classmates because he is clumsy.

They have a new teacher this year, a pretty young one who quickly gets very fond of Raju and often helps and encourages him.  It's the pretty Simi Garewal as Mary.

The teacher takes all the kids on a camping trip, and during this, she falls into water.  The rest of the class laughs to see this.  But not Raju...

He is struck by feelings he cannot fathom.  The teacher looks at his face, and feels abashed.

After the summer break, Mary returns with her fiance, David, a very handsome Manoj Kumar.  He is fond of Raju too,  and he knows exactly what is going on in his mind, when he catches Raju hovering around Mary.

    Mary is frightened by the thunder,

Raju can't help looking at her

David notices the look and talks to Mary about Raju.   He loves you, he tells Mary, with the love of a 16 year old who has just realised all the sexual feelings he has. How do you know all this? Asks Mary teasingly.  That is because I was 16 once, and know what it is like.  Inside I am still 16 and in love with a 20 year old teacher.

 Wah wah Raj Kapoor.  I have never seen such a beautiful 'coming-of-age' sequence in movies.  Before the childhood part ends, Raju has to give the bride away.  He is David's best man, and gets to kiss the bride.

                                                             Beautiful Mary as the bride

                                                       The best man gets to kiss the bride

This is the first heartbreak that Raju suffers, the one that was the most inevitable, and one where there was no deception.  Mary never was his, and never pretended to be.

I haven't seen the movie, but I know the story.  Raju falls for two more women, Padmini and Ksiena Rabiankina, who ditch him for other men.  Maybe I will watch the rest of the movie some day.  But nothing will ever take away the fact that this part of MNJ is so good.  Rishi Kapoor  won, very deservedly, a National Award for the best Child Actor.  It made him realise that he wanted to be an actor.  He had to give up his beloved steaks to lose weight and become the slim trim young man who could romance young girls on grassy slopes.  A fitting debut for a wonderful actor, a true legatee of the Kapoor khandan.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Go Go Go Golmaal 3

It is hard to beat a class act.  Golmaal 1 (Fun Unlimited) was a class act. Rather rough around the edges yet wacky, it quickly became a favorite of comedy lovers. Its title song - Lajawab.

Golmaal 2 wasn't IT at all.  Not bad of course, but the added star cast was not able to enhance its appeal.  It's title song worked so well - Lajawab 2.

Golmaal 3 - go die laughing.  It works and how.  The lafantar gang is footloose once again. Madhav (Arshad Warsi)  lives with his brothers Laxman (Kunal Khemu) and Lucky (Tusshaar Kapoor - dumb as ever) and father  Pritam (Mithun Chakravorty).  On the other hand Gopal (Ajay Devgan) and Laxman(Shreyas Talpade) live with their mum Geeta (Ratna Pathak Shah). Dabboo (Kareena) is a hanger on in the family, an anath child, with a dog called Facebook.  The Madhav group and the Gopal group don't get along.  They wind up wrecking everything within miles around them everytime they meet.  Geeta and Pritam have been past lovers and a meeting rekindles their romance.  They decide to get married.  But can the Madhav and the Gopal group live together as brothers? Here you have a wacky take on Khatta Meetha and Hamare Tumhare.

The best part of the movie is that all the characters belong nowhere.  They are like a bunch of wild cats forced to live together.  Just like Golmaal 1 (the unbeatable) there is no overt bhai-bhai or dost-dost thing here. The plot is as loose and disjointed as it was in G1 and you just have to be there in the cinema to be able to make any sense out it.

I knew something was seriously wrong with when I found myself able to follow what Tusshar was trying to say!  Ae ii aa oo ye!

Kareena looks pretty here, really.  I have never been a fan of her looks, but I have to admit she looks good in this movie. She is the prime mover and shaker in a movie dominated by men.  The men get to show their machismo in one over-drawn fight sequence.  And really, while we are at it, the opening track of Ajay Devgan on two cars and Kareena on one was clearly an animation, it shows yaar.  Not that it takes anything away from the film, but please don't tout it as some kind of a stunt sequence. The actors are all too good to have to prove themselves here.  Ratna Pathak Shah has maintained her size zero and looks fab.

Go go go Golmaal song rules! How can Rohit Shetty come up with winning title tracks all the time.  Here's to a Golmaal 4, hope it keeps the flag flying.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Sherlock Holmes on History Channel

I was thrilled to see 'The Return of Sherlock Holmes' on the History Channel yesterday.  The programme comes on at 11 pm Friday-Sunday.  The timings are a bit stiff for me, the early to bed one.  I caught one episode in re-run on Sunday, and tried my best to watch the 11 pm one too.

'The Musgrave Ritual' was the one I watched in morning re-run slot.  I saw the episode and picked up my Sherlock Holmes bible and read the story through to compare them.  Most of the dialogues that the characters speak are taken from the book.  There is a bit of a shifting in who speaks it, that's all.  To begin with citing the differences between the tele-play and the story, the story is listed in the collection 'The memoirs of Sherlock Holmes' and not 'The return of Sherlock Holmes'.  This story is supposed to have been an early case of Sherlock's when he was not yet established as a famous detective, so Dr.Watson was not on the scene. Most of the story is told to Sherlock by Musgrave and just the last bit is when he visits Musgrave's home to figure out the end.

The tele-play takes a linear approach to story telling, making things happen before Holmes' and Dr. Watsons' eyes.  In the tele-play, Holmes is suffering from a cold and the good doctor has advised a bit of country air as a cure, so they visit Lord Musgrave who is a college friend of Holmes.  Lord Musgrave has a curious butler who is very educated, speaks several languages, can play several musical instruments, yet seems content in his lowly position.  Lord Musgrave chances upon him going through his papers one night and fires him.  The next day the butler disappears and his ex-girlfriend, a housemaid, turns hysterical.  A day later, she disappears too.  Upon inquiry, Holmes learns that the butler was looking through a paper which contained the Musgrave ritual, a set of questions the answers to which had to be learned by all young men of the family when they came of age.  The questions seem disjointed and mysterious to all but, of course, Sherlock Holmes.  He knows that he must decode the Musgrave Ritual to decode the disappearance of the butler and the housemaid.

The changes in the story telling format definitely adds to the effect.  It makes the play seem more fast paced and current. Holmes is balanced perfectly with Dr. Watson, and his presence in an episode is always a welcome addition.

The other thing I have noticed in tele-plays often, is that they like closure.  In the story, an absconding character is let alone, which adds to the mystery really, but in the tele-play they are shown getting their just desserts.  It is not true of just this, but several episodes that I have watched and compared with the story.

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the stories that Arthur C Doyle wrote are absolute genius.  He makes Holmes so edgy, as if he is on the brink of madness.  The way he describes some of the criminals makes you wonder if he really was on their side.  It is this ambivalent morality that the BBC series were unable to capture.  In all other respects, the series win absolutely.  They are the best adaptation that could have been made.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Kalpana- Tu Hai mera Prem Devta

Years ago, when I was still in junior school, we went on a trip to a beach close by called Balachadi.

Somewhere on this fine sand, our music teacher sat with a tabla, and our science teacher sat with a harmonium.  They sang this awesome song for us.

The memory of that day lingers in my mind to this day, and makes this song extra special for me.

Tu Hai Mera Prem Devta
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Monday, September 20, 2010

Life in a Metro - Bittersweet

Actually you never give up longing for love, and you don't have to be living in a big city to wish for love.  Small town or big, people are always looking for love.  The characters you find in this film walk among us; you will run into anytime, anyplace.. looking for a kiosk to buy cigarettes, flipping through a magazine in the doctor's waiting room, sitting by you on the bus, living in your neighborhood, your home, your skin.

That is the trump card of the movie.  The characters are real, the dialogue is what we call  ’sadharan bol chal ki bhasha’, (un-grandiose).    The center piece is undoubtably, Shilpa Shetty.  This is so unlike the item girl she was reduced to by the formula filmmakers.  I hope she gets some good roles hereafter.

The movie takes you through the lives of four women, Shikha, Shruti, Neha and Shivani.  Shikha (Shilpa Shetty) is at a loose end with a husband who no longer loves her. Shruti (Konkona Sen) is looking for a life partner, Neha (Kangana Ranaut) is filling the void in her life with a sugar daddy, Shivani (Nafisa Ali) gets a bonus in shape of an old boyfriend homing in, 40 years too late.  The movie takes us through the wrong and right turns the women take.  Among the men  there is Ranjeet (KayKay), husband to Shikha and sugar daddy to Neha, his secretary.  Amol (Dharmendra) who had dumped Shivani years ago, because he wanted to get ahead in life.  Rahul (Sharman Joshi) works in Ranjeet's call center and  adores Neha,  Akash (Shiney) who bumps into Shikha on a bus and gets friendly with her, and Monty (Irfan Khan) who pops up too often in the life of Shruti to be ignored.

The director wastes the minimum possible footage to sketch the characters quickly.  As the titles roll, we get quick sketches of where all the lead characters are in their lives.  As the songs play, we get an overview of what the characters are doing at the moment. This allows you to grasp the story in a jiffy.  The product placement is also quickly dispensed with (Radio Mirchi and Shaadi.com) so that we may get on with the story.  The peppy dialogues, the faultless delivery, the clever use of voice-overs, keep the movie moving at a smart pace and audience rofl -ing so the proceedings don't get too morose.

The movie makes you think, and realise that everyone is looking for love and that to keep your heart and mind open is more important.  Shivani did not let a past grudge stop her from meeting Amol, and shared some lovely moments with him.  Shruti learns to look beyond the ordinary-ness of Monty and love him for being a friend (that gregarious whale -- he is lovable).  Neha learns to appreciate the sweet adoration of Sharman.

The movie is worth a watch for many reasons,  one of them being the band that sings about the current angst of the characters among the pavements and rooftops of Mumbai.  The songs are all lovely.  They sound good after the three years that have passed since the films release.

I end got a bit melodramatic for Konkona and Ifran, but they carried it off very well, I must say.  All other stories were wrapped up well.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Manna Dey Magic

A dreamy song by Manna Dey :

Ek samay par do barsatein
Badal ke sang ankhen barse!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Minoo Mumtaz

In a movie the Hero and the Heroine get the major spotlight.  However they cant carry a film on their shoulders, no matter how able they are.  They need sidekicks, marginal actors, extras, props, music, singers, bands etc.  And all this before the camera.  There are many more people behind the camera who bring a movie to us, too many to list.  Because the spotlight is on the hero and heroine, we sometimes fail to notice the amazing work done by others.  It is when you see just the dance on Youtube or a TV Channel playing just the song videos, that you notice how good the dancing is, how glamourous the dancer looks, how nifty the band in the background is.

This is when a compilation DVD works wonders.  You get a bouquet of songs by one artist to look at. Tommydan1 has created a compilation DVD of Minoo Mumtaz songs.  You can read all about the DVD here on Mister Naidu's blog and also Richard's blog

Minoo is perhaps best known for her wonderful mujra in Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam, the amazing:

Sakia aaj mujhe neend nahi aayegi
Suna hai teri mehfil me ratjagaa hai

But did you know she appeared in a movie called Black Cat as a heroine?

Alongside Balraj Sahni too ! The movie is a thriller where Minoo is the sweetheart of Balraj Sahni- the police chief- who is harried by the spurt in crime in the city and finds that his sweetheart's brother is the main suspect. Minoo sings the lovely :

Mein tumhi se poochti hoon
mujhe tumse pyaar kyon hai.

But she does not get to dance here, as she is a 'respectable' girl.

From Tom's DVD I picked these songs:

Ae ri jaane na doongi was chosen because of the lovely music, beautiful lyrics and great dancing.  There are two unknown girls dancing in a blue dress.  Bela Bose and Minoo Mumtaz dance in a pink dress.  Minoo is the tallest girl here and the dance is classical.

The second song is a qawwali from Taj Mahal:

Chandi ka badan Sone ki nazar
Is par ye nazakat kya kahiye

Minoo is great here in a blue dress again.  I think the actor who is opposite her is Balam. He is the one who opposed Shyama/Ratna in  Barsaat ki Raat qawwalis.  It sets such a lovely scene, a beautiful song, some great emoting by Minoo and also a dance.

The third song is taken from the film Akeli Mat Jayeo.  Rajendra Kumar and Meena flirt with each other while Minoo sings and dances in the background.  This is by far my favorite from Tom's dvd.  I had heard this song a lot, but never seen its video.  It wowed me totally.  The song can be viewed on youtube here. The embedding has been disabled.  But please do not let that deter you. Its amazingly sexy.

These songs have been taken from youtube and are not the best quality.  Tom's videos are crystal clear and bring out all that is amazing in a song.

Now to bring to you one of my favorite songs ever.  It is from the movie Jehan Ara.  The music and lyrics are just perfect.  You can see that Minoo was perfect in a classical dancing as well.  Her Kathak is faultless.  She is accompanied by a very young Aruna Irani, who leaves the stage when heavy duty dancing is required.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Snake And Peacock Fight
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This dance is from the film Suhaag Raat starring Jeetendra and Rajshri (1968).  It seems to take place on a kotha, which is highly unlikely.  It is more of a 'stage' kind of a dance.  Its fabulous, much better than all those Sridevi's scary nagin dances.  The wonderful Laxmi Chhaya teams up with Madhumati for this Snake and Peacock dance.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Ishqiya - Krishna gets a Valentine

Two goofball petty criminals are being chased by a bigger don. A loving husband and wife are separated by an explosion. After this and Omkara, we would be very afraid to traipse through Uttar Pradesh. It looks like every home breeds a killer. The children here learn to shoot before they learn to wash their butts. Despite such rampant criminalisation of life, there is very little fear. Rather, the criminals are lovable and apt more to fall in love than kill. Make love not war. Babban, who is a lustful whoremonger falls in love when the girl mouths foul words and holds up a rifle. Khalujan is smitten from the word go, as soon as Krishna sings a ditty. Krishna finds love amidst bombs when she sees her lover return to save her. Even Cuckoo the captive finds double love.

There is loads of story here, plenty of scenes that make you chuckle, some scenes that are so subtly funny that they will delight you. Songs are first rate, lyrics better. Who is not captivated by Dil to bachcha hai jee? Ibn-e-batuta took me back to my history lessons. Rekha Bhardwaj's smoky voice is very effective in the amazing Badi dheere jali. In retrospect, this song is perfect as the song of Krishna, who lives her mundane life without anyone suspecting how she is simmering inside.

The second part has been accused of being confusing, but it is not. Everything is well thought out, and ties up somewhere or the other. You have to pay attention to everything, even the old crone who asks for a light to burn her torch, and is sitting by calmly while Krishna goes about her daily business.

Naseruddin Shah...... Khalujan
Arshad Warsi...... Babban
Vidya Balan...... Krishna Verma
Salman Shahid...... Mushtaq
Adil Khan...... Vidhyadhar Verma
Anupama Kumar...... Manju Kakkar
Aalok Kumar...... Nandu
Rajesh Sharma...... Kamalkant Kakkar

I have reproduced the cast here because while the first three actors are very well known and famous, the others are not. The little comedy between Kamalkant Kakkar (Rajesh Sharma), his wife (Anupama Kumar) and the beauty parlour lady (I think - Gauri Mala) is truly truly delicious. These fine supporting actors add to the realistic look of the film.

If it has a failing, it is that of falling between two stools of menace and comedy. I suppose it is a bit of a farce, but it does not go there overmuch. Maybe the story telling is too plain for it. Omkara was gloriously comic and gloriously menacing when the plot demands it, even when Langda Tyagi is being funny, you are chilled because you know the guy is pure evil. This one is too gentle to make that kind of an impact. Vidya Balan is understated. Among the current crop of heroines, she is surely very capable of handling this kind of a role. I would have loved to see Mahie Gill here, she is much more uninhibited and would have done better in the more menacing avatar of Krishna.

Krishna needed to be made the centerpiece of film, as she is the mover and shaker here. I feel the story would have had more of an impact if her character had been given more menace and drama.

It merits a viewing, maybe two, maybe three.

I loved loved the re-appearance of Dhanno ki ankhon me raat ka surma, the classic Gulzar-RD Burman song from Kitab.