Sunday, December 18, 2016

Ashok Kumar - 10 favorite songs

Just before I started planning this post I wondered why there were hardly any song lists featuring Ashok Kumar.  I found out soon; Ashok Kumar barely ever lip synced to songs.  Hardly ever during the later part of 50s or 60s.  Mahal - one of his best movies - no song.  Afsana (old), DeedarEk SaalParineeta (old), Howrah Bridge, Aarti, Bheegi Raat, Bahu Begum were all movies with fabulous songs, but none that Ashok Kumar 'sang'.

Picking his songs was quite like scraping an almost empty barrel.  There were songs from late 30s and 40s, but I did not fancy all of them. Surprisingly, he sang some songs during his sunset years, in movies like Khatta Meetha (Roll Roll Makunisa) and the famous Pran and Ashok Kumar song from Victoria No. 203 (Do bechare bina sahare).

I consider Ashok Kumar as the best actor of Hindi Cinema.  He came before the famous trio of Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor and Dev Anand, and he rightfully towered above them.  Pick ANY film where he had any kind of a role, a benign older brother/father/grandfather, a lead actor, a sidekick, a villain and you will find him coming up aces. In 'Mere Mehboob' I was struck by a scene where he is talking to Johnny Walker who is pretending to be Rajendra Kumar's father.  The spotlight of the scene is on JW who is holding forth on how 'great' his family is and Ashok Kumar is reacting to his words.  His reactions are so perfect, his eyebrows rise at the right moment, he smiles at the right moment and relaxes on his chair at the right moment.  I doubt if we will ever see an actor who acted so well with his entire body.

Listing ten songs by Ashok Kumar is not the best way to sample this man's oeuvre, I realise.  It would be better to list 10 favorite Ashok Kumar films.  In which case one could pick two from each decade as he worked from the late 30s to the late 90s.  But I had decided to do a song post on Ashok Kumar to please my friend and soul sister Pacifist Immer who does not like anything post 60s and was dismayed by my Zeenat Aman post.

I am writing this in partnership with my friend and soul son (if there is a soul sister, there should be a soul son also) Harvey.  He has sadly taken a break from his wonderful blog but has kindly consented to help me with mine (encouraged by the S-word thrown at him by his dearest Anu).

1.  Main ban ki chidiya – Achut Kanya (1936)
MD: Saraswati Devi; Lyrics: J S Kashyap; Singers: Devika Rani and Ashok Kumar

I am not going to go into Ashok Kumar's history, and repeat the oft repeated story of how he became an actor.  I remember reading an interview by him where he credits Devika Rani with teaching him how to act.  She asked him to use his eyes to convey emotions.  Later he became a master of his craft, turning it into a high art form.  This movie was one of his earliest hits, no doubt it showed him that he was meant to be an actor. Despite being very old, the song is very charming.

Harvey: Yup Ava, they sure are using lots of eyes and looks to convey their love and they surely need it. The way he is holding her hand can only convey the affection of a policeman to a burglar. Nevertheless, it's wonderful to see a song filmed entirely in a single frame. Compared to the zappy frame changes nowadays accompanied by loud music, this is like meditation. ban ban bolu re.... !

2. Ek chatur naar kar kar singaar – Jhoola (1941)
MD: Saraswati Devi; Lyrics: Kavi Pradeep; Singer: Ashok Kumar

Harvey: You might have thought at first, what is this song doing in a list of Ashok Kumar’s songs. Most of us are more familiar with the persiflage of this song in Padosan, which was exemplarily sung by Manna Dey, Kishore Kumar and Mehmood. This is the original, sung by Dadamoni himself and that too in the bathroom, while pouring cold water on himself and maybe also on his amorous thoughts at the fantasy or the prospect of a clever lady entering his heart.

Ava: What lovely sounds Ashok Kumar makes when he dunks cold water over himself.  Here is a wonderfully comic song.  The entire sequence is so well crafted. Ashok Kumar lies on a bed thinking of the 'Chatur naar' and singing.  Then feeling restless, he tosses his clothes off and pours cold water over himself.  I also like the second outing of the song in Padosan, I must say.   

3. Dheere, dheere aa re, baadal dheere-dheere jaa – Kismet (1943)
MD: Anil Biswas; Lyrics: Kavi Pradeep; Singers: Arun Kumar and Ameerbai Karnataki

Harvey: When we think of Ashok Kumar, it is mostly in his roles as a good grandfather or father and in his romantic roles as a good inspector or noble, upright man. One forgets that he scored his biggest with a role, which had him playing a character with lots of grey shades. Kismet was, if I have my statistics right, the biggest box-office hit of Hindi cinema till Sholay came along. Ashok Kumar plays a petty thief and a pickpocket. Here he is singing a song to the cloud, asking it not to disturb his beloved in her sleep, but he is self-reflective enough to admonish himself for singing out loud himself. For me this is one of the most romantic songs of Hindi cinema.

Ava: If I were listing Ashok Kumar's songs by preference, this one would top it.  The song is so beautifully composed by Anil Biswas that it stands the test of time.  It is a truly magnificent.
This movie is also a reminder to all the superstars that came later what they were up against. The record that Kismet set in 1943 remained unchallenged by any movie for decades.  Sholay, we must remember, was a multi-starrer while Kismet was helmed only by Ashok Kumar.

MD: Rafiq Ghaznavi; Lyrics: Anjum Pilibhiti; Singer: Ashok Kumar

I have to thank Raja for suggesting this song.  He has written beautifully about Ashok Kumar here.

He has this to say about the song: 
The situation is that Ashok Kumar’s family is very close to Veena’s family. Ashok Kumar’s father is employed by Veena’s father. The occasion is Eid, so Ashok Kumar has come to pay a social visit on the occasion. Veena, watching from behind the scenes, decides to have some fun and play a prank on Ashok Kumar. So, while arranging to serve paan from the kitchen, she liberally adds chillis to the particular serving meant for Ashok Kumar. All for fun only, of course.
Ava: This is another comic song.  Ashok Kumar comes away from eating a chilli laden paan quite smitten by the maker, Veena.  I remember my bhabhi doing something similar when she was newly married to my brother.  She put heaping teaspoons of chilli into the daal meant for my brother. Quite like Ashok Kumar, my brother ate it with relish.  In joint families, with a lot of members around, maybe this was a way of getting the attention of a particular person.

Harvey: A wonderful song proving the aphrodisiac qualities of the common chilli. The legendary love potion must have been a salsa sauce. Dear Ava, if this is the prevalent way in North India to get the attention of a person you are particularly interested in, I can just hope nobody falls in love with me, when I'm there. But the last time I saw my face in the mirror, I saw, that I can't hold a candle to Ashok Kumar, so I think, I'm safe. Phew! 

5. Wo unka muskurana – Sangram (1950)
MD: C Ramachandra; Lyrics: Brajendra Gaud; Singer: Arun Kumar

Ava: According to Arunkumarji Deshmukh Nalini Jaywant and Ashok Kumar appeared together in 11 films.  He has written an insightful article about another song from this movie here.  
Sangram had another lovely duet between Ashok Kumar and Nalini Jaywant swimming and boating in a lake.  But I love the lovely lyrics and music of this song.  Ashok Kumar and Nalini Jaywant look lovely and playful together.  The song is so catchy that I find myself humming it all the time.

Harvey: Now isn't that a lovely sight? A shop as they used to be in the 1950s. Nowadays all you see are malls! But I digress, we are here to appreciate the pulchritude of Nalini Jaywant and Ashok Kumar. They do look good together and the song, simply wonderful. Baat hai zara si par ban gaya afsana...

MD: C Ramachandra; Lyrics: Rajinder Krishan; Singers: Lata Mangeshkar and Hemant Kumar

Ava: Ashok Kumar's pairing with Meena Kumari became very popular, just like his pairing with Nalini Jaywant was.  In Meena Kumari, Ashok Kumar found an actress who could stand up to his immense talent.  It is sheer delight to watch them together.  They are so natural and share a wonderful chemistry.  Later on Pradeep Kumar joined Meena and Ashok to make several films.  In this triangle, it was Pradeep inevitably who took home the girl.  Pradeep Kumar could not match histrionics with this magical couple, but gamely stood his ground, banking on his good looks (don't laugh, folks) and a very good dialogue delivery.

I have not seen this film; its youtube link has an intriguing synopsis, and I am tempted to watch it. The song has all the elements of the golden period of Hindi film music, a lovely tune, pretty lyrics terrific singers and two good actors making it all come alive.

Harvey: When my soul-mother asks me not to laugh, I don't laugh. Pradeep Kumar did look good in films like Nagin and Heer. But what I find shocking is the way, Ashok Kumar is behaving towards Meena Kumari in this song. If somebody is telling you something, one just doesn't brush it aside saying, I have heard about it too. A bit of empathic interest wouldn't have been out of place, I would say. 

7. Jaa re beimaan tujhe jaan liya – Private Secretary (1962)
MD: Dilip Dholakia; Lyrics: Prem Dhawan; Singer: Manna Dey

Harvey: I, who was born in the 70s, have grown up on films, where the entry to the villain’s den is paved with bad disguises and good songs. But in 1962, the case seems to have been not too much different. From the looks of it, the heroine seems to be held against her wishes at the villain’s house and our hero comes to her rescue as a classical singer, singing a song, which is full of innuendos. Yes, the disguise is bad, the beard is worse, but the song rendered by Manna Dey is just perfect.

Ava: Here Ashok Kumar is paired with Jayashree Gadkar who was a top actress of Marathi cinema then.  Ashok Kumar performs this classical song sung by Manna Dey. Watching Ashok Kumar's perfect gestures in this song, I wonder why he eschewed songs in so many of his films.  Did he think not singing lent gravitas to him as a serious actor? Or was it just that the situations in the films did not require him singing songs?  This last statement does not seem true as Hindi film actors have sung songs in all sorts of situations.

Harvey: I had read somewhere, that when he had started acting, he had great phobia of singing. Once he got used to it just lip-syncing must have needed quite a reorientation, so I can understand him being wary of it.

Ava: That could be one reason why he avoided 'singing'.  I fear we would fare even worse if we tried to write a post on Balraj Sahni songs.  He was another actor (and such a great one) who did not 'sing' much.

8. Naache man mora magan – Meri Surat Teri Aankhen (1963)
MD: S. D. Burman; Lyrics: Shailendra; Singer: Mohd. Rafi

Harvey: Ashok Kumar gets to play a classical singer again, though not in disguise, but with heavy make-up nevertheless, since he is portraying an ugly person and thus has to be black. Let us leave the plot aside and come to the delightful rendering of the song by Rafi. Isn’t it amazing the way he intonates naache man mora with joy and happiness, that one can’t but believe that his mann is indeed dancing of joy. A masterpiece!

Ava: This was the Indian version of 'The Phantom of the Opera'.  Ugly older son is cast out of the family for being beast-like.  He falls for the beautiful girl who seems unfazed by his looks.  She falls in love with his handsome younger brother. Unfortunate choice of make-up for Ashok Kumar, but very very fortunate choice of music.  This movie had a lovely musical score, what's more it had two more songs sung by Ashok Kumar.  The very famous Poocho na kaise maine and tere bin soone nain hamare.

Harvey: I think, Pradeep Kumar caught the dirty habit of spiriting away women, whom Ashok Kumar loved, around the times of this film.

9. Naav chali, neena ki naani ki naav chali – Aashirwaad (1968)
MD: Vasant Desai; Lyrics: Harindranath Chattopadhyay; Singer: Ashok Kumar

Harvey: I was torn between naav chali and rail gaadi to include in this list. As usual in such cases, I always opt for the charm of the lesser known. This is a short song and the charm of the lyrics lies within the play and rhyming of mundane words like jhandaa (flag) and danda (stick). All the same it narrates a story in this song of a boat journey of an old lady, who is threatened by a crocodile.
Ava, don't you think that they just recycled the wig from Meri Surat Teri Aankhen for Aashirwaad. I wonder, why Ashok Kumar didn't sue the art department.

Ava: Yes, he does look a bit funny in the 'younger man' get up in this film.  But what a film. I remember I cried buckets during the climax.  Ashok Kumar spends his life in exile from home, pining for his daughter.  The movie had several beautiful songs, apart from the ones Harvey has mentioned. The best of the lot, with due apologies to the delightful Ashok Kumar songs, was this soulfully sung Manna Dey number, Jeevan se lambe hain.

10. Beqaraar dil tu gaaye jaa – Door ka Raahi (1971)
MD: Kishore Kumar; Lyrics: A. Irshad; Singers: Kishore Kumar & Sulakshana Pandit

Harvey: When even Ashok Kumar starts to move his lips to Kishore Kumar's voice, then we are surely in the 70s. From the looks of it, Kishore Kumar plays the title role of a traveller, who has found a shelter in a house full of grief, where a death of a person has clouded the happiness of all the others. Though the lyrics sound to be full of optimism, the tune lays the deep underlying pessimism bare.

Ava: Apparently Kishore Kumar is a habitual traveler who comes to the house of Ashok Kumar and Tanuja and finds that they have recently lost a family member who resembled him.  I think Tanuja's emotional state is because of this.  I do hope things end happily for them.


Sunehriyadein mentioned this song as one of her favorites. It is a twin song from the film Bandhan. Chal Chal re Naujawan is first sung in a school assembly to encourage students.  Later Ashok Kumar alters the words a bit to sing it with his sweetheart, a lovely looking Leela Chitnis.

I hope you have enjoyed the feast of Ashok Kumar songs (Playlist link) presented here by us.  We would love to discover songs missed by us.  The readers are at liberty to mention songs where Ashok Kumar is not lip-syncing. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Zeenat Aman - My favorite Songs

Zeenat burst into the film scene in 1970s. She was not the first glamorous heroine of our times. We have seen many of those.  But there were none who were as free spirited as her. Look at the picture above.  She is wearing a simple kurta, hoop earrings and her hair is let loose to cascade down her shoulders.  There is no pancake makeup, heavy earrings and no designer dress.  Zeenat exemplified Casual, be it in her dress, demeanor or make-up. I can't pin-point when the bouffant died, but I am pretty sure Zeenat was one of the ladies responsible for its death.

I am not a film historian, but I do feel that Zeenat also blurred the lines between the heroine and the vamp. Previously, it was the heroine who was the Good Girl and the Vamp the bad one in sexy clothes. Zeenat staked the claim of being a Good Girl in sexy clothes.  She did not bother to change into a demure saree in the 8th reel.

I have picked 13 songs performed by Zeenat that I like.   I thank Harvey for helping me select the songs and also help with the write up. Originally we had selected twelve but then Harvey reminded me of a lovely song from Darling Darling which I wanted in without dislodging the others. Hence we agreed to make it 13 (Baker's dozen - as Harvey reminded me).

The visuals had to match the catchy lyrics and Zeenat had to be the focus. Harvey and I mostly concurred with each others' choices.  He did not like the Warrant song, but I insisted.  I had to have a song with Zeenat dressed up as a Punjaban. I bowed to the Heeralal Pannalal song despite disliking Premnath's headgear, it overshadows everything else.  We auditioned several of the Satyam Shivam Sundaram songs but dumped them all because we cannot stand Zeenat mincing around in that fashion.  After the 1980, we could not recall any nice songs sung by Zeenat in which she was being, well.. Zeenat, so that is where our selection ended.

These songs are in the order of Zeenat's filmography so that no more scuffles break out between Harvey and me over the greater and lesser favorites.

1. Dum Maro Dum
Hare Rama Hare Krishna (1971)

I was a pre-teen when I saw Zeenat in Hare Rama Hare Krishna.  It was such an exotic story, an estranged brother and sister meet in Nepal where the sister is part of a Hippie gang.  Zeenat wore light pink shades, hoop earrings and let her hair flow naturally to her shoulders. (We used to call it the Shoulder-Cut- *eyeroll*). No wonder I have such a fascination for hoops and Pink Eyeglasses.

This song gets everything right. A big crowd of Hippies puffing on the chillum, the psychedelic beats of the song (the best part, I feel), Zeenat swaying away, random couples dancing and playing the guitar and an anxious Dev Anand watching it all. R.D. rules and Zeenie Baby rocks!

2. Chura liya hai tumne jo dil ko
Yadon Ki Baraat (1973)

Zeenat was not a very good actress.  Her diction was deplorable.  It is hard to believe that the was the daughter of the Amanullah Khan who co-wrote Mughal-e-Azam and Pakeezah.  The man who gave us such wonderful dialogues in chaste Urdu could not even influence the way his daughter spoke.  But then, Amanullah died when Zeenat was just 13.  Her mother remarried with a German. Zeenat went to California to study.  All this, I suppose, gave her westernized mannerisms and accent.

Yet, she looked like a million dollars.  Just when the world was changing and filmmakers wanted actresses who wore trendy clothes, Zeenat landed on the scene.

Everything about this song from Yadon Ki Baraat is perfect too.  The fancy party, Zeenat's dress, a lovely song.  Zeenat makes Vijay Arora look good by pairing with him.  R.D. Rules and Zeenie Rocks!

Extra Song:

There was another great song in this movie, if you can tolerate Tariq for a bit, you will soon get to Zeenie rocking the stage in 'lal kapde'. What gorgeous 'lal kapde'. Even today any girl would be glad to get into that red mini dress and those red high boots. Zeenat makes even Tariq look good just by standing with him.

3. Panna ki Tamanna
Heera Panna (1973)

Dev Anand was Zeenat's mentor.  Zeenat was disappointed with her flailing film career post Hulchul and Hungama and ready to pack her bags and go back to live with her parents. She landed the role of Janice in Hare Rama Hare Krishna thanks to Dev.  He was close to 50 and Zeenat was barely 20.  Dev was still very handsome, he was beginning his downslide, and the tendency to wear flashy young clothes was just starting to rankle.  I have several friends, Harvey and Sameer among them, who are very interested in Dev of this period. Just mention '70s',' Dev' and 'Zeenat' in a sentence and Sameer is sure to pop up with a comment.

Heera Panna is a goldie of this new era in Dev's career. He is a (fashion?) photographer who gets embroiled in a diamond heist.  Zeenat is the semi-bad girl, the kind who is a thief and wears bikinis to distract men but is good at heart.  In this song she is trying to latch on Heera (Dev). Unbeknownst to him, the Heera she craves is lying in the petrol tank of his car.

Zeenat is wearing pink flares and her signature hoops-and-shoulder-cut-hair. Dev is dressed in mustard pants, a shirt that throws shades of orange and peach, red cap and a huge phallic looking camera. His car has names of various places written on it, showing that he is a much traveled, Internationally renowned photographer.

4. Hai Hai ye Majboori
Roti Kapda aur Makaan (1974)

Roti Kapda Aur Makaan was a feather in the cap of Zeenat Aman.  In this superhit multistarer, she was courted by two men, Manoj Kumar and Shashi Kapoor.  She loves her slightly loser-ish boyfriend from her mohalla, Manoj, but gets engaged to the dashing, rich Shashi.  She is torn between promise of a good life with Shashi and her love for Manoj.

She dresses mostly in Sarees as behooves a sanskari middle class girl who finds favor with Mr. Bharat, but she does get this romp in the rain where she teases her boyfriend for wasting time with his job when he should be with her.

5. Chori Chori Solah Singaar Karoongi
Manoranjan (1974)

Shammi Kapoor could not have found a better girl to play a happy-go-lucky prostitute for his remake of Irma La Douce than Zeenat.  Our girl never shied away from flaunting her sexuality.  Zeenat needed this capability in spades to play the role of Nisha who is a prostitute sans the usual tears that heroines were required to shed for being in that state.  In Manoranjan, she is happy in her profession and her only goal is to earn money and take care of her favorite pimp - Sanjeev.

Zeenat sings this lovely song while she takes a midnight bath, waiting for her man to return to her.  She wasn't a great actress, but manages to convey the joy she feels at decking herself up for her beloved. I doubt if we have ever seen any other Hindi film actress flaunt her body with the ease that Zeenat had.

6.  Ladi Nazariya Ladi
Warrant (1975)

By Mid-70s Zeenat's mentor, Dev Anand, was almost a spent force.  There are some who may want to delete the 'almost' in the previous sentence. I, however, enjoy some of his 70s movies. He extended his shelf life by appearing in/making reasonably watchable entertainers and also by acting alongside pretty young heroines.

In Warrant, Zeenie ups the glamour quotient by looking pretty and standing by Dev while he tries to find out who has framed him,  There is this lovely song from the film 'Main tumse mohabbat karti hoon' where Zeenat is honey-trapping the villain.  But I am a Punjaban and cannot resist a Punjabi sounding song and Zeenat decked up like a Punjabi girl.

7. Hai Agar Dushman Zamana 
Ham Kisi se Kam Nahi (1977)

Zeenat was not really there in Ham Kisi se Kam Nahi.  She was in a special appearance as Rishi's girl friend.  But what an appearence! Rishi was seen as a Prince of Qawwali, and here Zeenat gets to match him latka to jhatka.  She is very spirited as she decides to ditch her glum father (Ajit) and go on to the dias alongside Rishi and proclaim to the world that she will spurn everything for love.

Zeenat had an anglicised accent, but in the songs she gets to hide behind a singer and emote with abandon.  I adore her in this black outfit.  She had a gorgeous figure.

8. Ikk main hoon Ikk tu
Darling Darling (1977)

This song is lovely, soft, romantic. A slim Zeenat in a frock looks great as she resists the advances of Dev.  I have to thank Harvey for reminding me of this wonderful number.  It did swell my list from 12 to 13, but who cares! More the merrier, I say.

As far as I remember, Darling Darling had a story similar to My Fair Lady.  Dev Anand improves Zeenat from a rough speaking village girl to a polished woman who wows all.  It has the delightful Hello Darling which was meant to chart the transition, something like 'Rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain.'

I don't see any other Dev-Zeenat film in her filmography after this.  It seems like they moved on.  The phase of nice songs was also waning, soon we would be treated to eardrum killing tunes.   Dev was already in his fifties, and he was ageing.  Zeenat was in her prime.  She went on to make many more good movies - not with good songs though.

9.Aa jaa mere pyaar aaja
Heeralal Pannalal (1978)

I remember this song from my childhood days, when this film was released. Since then it has always been on my favourite list. I was fascinated by this song then and am fascinated by it now. Although the song sounds romantic it is not a lover’s romance, which is the driving force behind it, but a father-daughter love. The Hemant Kumar version of the song is sung by Premnath, the father () and the Asha Bhonsle version by Zeenat Aman. Pancham’s lines are an addition here, to which Amjad Khan moves his lips. Pancham’s gargling voice and his lines give the song certain urgency, which is immanent to it. The daughter sees her father after a long separation and in a grave danger. The father is in disguise and can’t reveal his identity and save her. The girls singing Mr. Hu (the father’s pseudonym) sounds thus like a ridicule. Zeenat Aman’s dialogue delivery though always left something to desire her facial expressions were always good. Here she manages to look sexy and still express her helplessness, sorrow and happiness at meeting her father.

Ava: Zeenat in a shimmery pink dress dancing with abandon ticks my boxes, but Premnath wearing a funny headgear as disguise does not.  But Harvey put up with my Punjabi choice from Warrant and I put up with this 'father-daughter' club dance.

10. Khatooba, khatooba
Alibaba Aur 40 Chor (1980)

Harvey: Zeenat is again on a mission to save her father here. He is locked in a cellar dungeon of a wizard. The wizard’s skills seem to be very futuristic, which manage to conjure up a disco in the middle ages of the Arabian nights. Zeenat does what she is best at, being seductive and turning every man's head in her wake and more.

Ava: Yes, Yes, Yes. This movie was fun and the song is terrific.  Zeenat dances her way out of a tight corner looking every inch like an Arabian Princess.  She danced pretty well too, at least the filmi variety.

11. Rakkasa Mera Naam
Great Gambler (1979)

For me movies stopped being fun after the 70s.  Qurbani which is listed next was the absolute last of the greats.  Even Amitabh movies became stale (most of them, anyway).  But this had it all.  Amitabh had  a double role, one CID Inspector and the other a crook.  He was very very very ably supported by two great actresses, Neetu Singh and Zeenat.  The movie is replete with lovely numbers featuring them.

In this song Zeenat is a belly dancer somewhere in middle-east (if my memory can be trusted).  No wonder Amitabh is transfixed by her.  There was another sublime song from the film with Zeenat and Amitabh - Do lafzon ki hai . This song is sung by me and Harvey every time either he or I talk about Venice and Gondolas.

12. Laila Main Laila
Qurbani (1980)

Habba Habba! I like actresses with loads of chutzpah, and Zeenat had it in spadefuls.  Here also she dons a lovely silvery dress and sways to this catchy tune.  Qurbani had another song that was (rightfully) an all time chartbuster.  I mean the Nazia Hasan number Aap Jaisa Koi.. It is a wonderful number, but if I had to pick a good dance and what we Punjabis call 'Rola Ruppa' (Noise quotient) to dance to, I prefer Laila Main Laila.

What fun movies we had in the 70s and (early 80s).  I had just started working then and wanted to take my nephew and niece for a movie treat.  This is what we picked to watch.  It takes me back to those days when I was younger and could still enjoy these kind of movies.

 Abdullah (1980)

Harvey: From the Arabian Nights setting of Alibaba we jump to Sanjay Khan’s take at the Krishna saga, which is reset in Arabian surroundings. The Arabian Nights are full of women who bathe in springs and men gawking at them. Sanjay Khan sets his Arabian oasis in a cheap Bombay studio with Mumbai’s chlorinated nal ka paani instead of the crystal-clear, sweet water of a spring. Only I can think of such superficial things, while most of other men were interested in the deeper values of Zeenat’s rendition of the song. (Ava: Rofl)

Ava: Zeenat rocks the song as only she could. She would have been really good in Satyam Shivam Sundaram if Raj Kapoor had let her do her own thing.  Here she looks so natural, enjoying her dip in err.... an oasis in the middle of a desert.

I have to thank Anu  and Sameer for sparking this idea of doing a post on Nakhrewali heroines.  I hope to be able to do many more on my favorite Divas like Sharmila Tagore, Saira Banu, Mumtaz and a few more.

I would love to hear about your favorite songs. Please do post them in the comments section.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Stars and Songs

This post is dedicated to Raja Swaminathan and Archana Sapkota. These are some of the actresses dear to their hearts.  I have often teased them that the girls on this list are too 'nice'. All of them, except Mumtaz who had loads of pizzaz.

The list is in order of the 'seniority' of the actress.  The song chosen by me is the one that I particularly like featuring the actress.  Do check out the songs if you want the best of the Stars to be showcased in a song.

A special thank you to Pamir Harvey for preparing this lovely poster for me.

1. Madhubala:
Career duration: (1942-1964)
Debut film as heroine: Neel Kamal
Song: Mohe Panghat pe Nandlal Chhed gayo re.

An American friend of mine once said, "Madhubala is the most beautiful woman that God put on earth" More than fifty years have passed since her last film in 1964, yet Madhubala lives on the hearts of people.  Posters of her are still being sold.  Most people agree that Mughal-e-Azam is the grandest Hindi film ever made.  She was beautiful and talented as well. Of her performance in Mughal-e-Azam, Dr. Philip Lutgendorf says "Anarkali ...whose incandescent portrayal by Madhubala upstages both of the bombastic male leads."

When I saw Madhubala perform in 'Mohe panghat pe Nandlal chhed gayo re', my jaw dropped to the ground at the sight her her beauty.

2. Shakila
Career Duration: (1949-1963)
Debut film: Duniya
Song: Baar Baar Dekho

Shakila of the impish face and dark eyes is best known for films like CID, Aar Paar, China Town and Ustadon ke Ustad.  The 50's and 60's were such a golden period for good music, that the songs of the era have become immortal.  With them, they bring us a visual of beautiful actors who sang them onscreen.  Most of Shakila's films had beautiful songs, but for me this great club song from China Town is special.  Shakila charms the dashing crooner, Shammi Kapoor, into serenading her with this catchy number.

3. Nutan
Career Duration: (1950-1994)
Debut film: Hamari Beti
Song: Kali Ghata Chhaye

When Gautam Rajadhyaksha (the famous photographer) was asked to name a face that was perfectly photogenic, he chose Nutan.  He said she looked perfect from every angle.  Her career spans more than 40 years as she segued effortlessly from a leading actress to playing roles of a mother. In 1988 Nutan acted in Muzrim Hazir, a TV series on Doordarshan based on Bimal Mitra's novel Asami Hazir.

Nutan has worked in many landmark films. Bandini and Sujata spring to the mind immediately. The song, Kaali ghata chhaye is from Sujata and brings out Nutan's effervescence, her beauty, her lovely eyes perfectly.

4. Bina Rai
Career Duration: (1951-1968)
Debut film: Kali Ghata
Song: Yeh zindagi usi ki hai

Bina Rai was a celebrated beauty. She was moon-faced with bright eyes. Her best known movies are Anarkali, Taj Mahal and Ghunghat. Anarkali was not produced on a grand scale like the later Mughal-e-Azam, but it captured the imagination of the viewers.  The musical score by C.Ramchandra has kept the movie alive in the hearts of music lovers. Anarkali's lament "Yeh zindagi usi ki hai jo kisi ka ho gaya" is irrevocably linked to Bina Rai.

In Taj Mahal she plays Mumtaz Mahal and made it easy for us see why a pining Shah Jahan built Taj Mahal for her.

5. Ameeta
Career Duration (1954-1971)
Debut film: Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu
Song: Tere Sur aur mere geet

Ameeta personifies cuteness. She has a sweet round face, bright eyes and a pouty mouth that makes her look childlike and innocent. After a few forgettable films, she starred in Tumsa Nahi Dekha alongside Shammi Kapoor.  This movie was a turning point for Shammi Kapoor, catapulting him into boundless fame.  She worked in several films, but was never very successful. Munimji, Goonj Uthi Shehnai, Ham Sab Chor Hain, Ham Sab Ustaad Hain, Mere Mehboob were some of the movies which are still being watched.

In Goonj Uthi Shehnai she played a simple village girl who goes into a trance,Radha-like, when Rajendra Kumar plays his Shehnai.  Their love for each other perseveres though all odds. The song, Tere Sur Aur Mere Geet, was very popular in its time.  The Shehnai was played by none other than Ustaad Bismillah Khan.  It brings out playful innocence of Ameeta, I feel.

5. Waheeda Rehman
Career Duration (1955 -  )
Debut Film (Hindi): CID
Song: Jaane kya tune kahi

This ageless beauty has seen decades whizz past her without any seeming effect on her face.  She appears in movies, on television, looking stately with her white hair still set in a widow's peak.  As far as I know she has not hung up her shoes yet.

Guru Dutt discovered her on a visit to Hyderbad and brought her to Mumbai to work in CID in a supporting role. Her next film was Pyaasa where she shared credits with Mala Sinha. Then we had the deeply emotional Kagaaz Ke Phool, Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam, Ray's Abhijaan, Guide, Mujhe Jeene Do, Reshma aur Shera. One fabulous movie on top of the other.  I have not even counted all the fun and romantic movies she did like Kala Bazaar, Ek Phool Char Kaante, Chaudvin ka Chand.

In Pyaasa she is introduced to the screen with this song. As a prostitute Gulabo, Waheeda is out looking to entice a man, but unknowingly traps the man who has written the song she is singing.

6. Sadhana
Career Duration (1960-1977)
Debut film as heroine: Love in Simla
Song: Gal gulabi kiske hain.

Slim as a reed with a face like an angel, Sadhana had a bombastic debut. Right after the superhit Love in Simla came Parakh, Ham Dono, Prem Patra, Asli Naqli, Mere Mehboob.  It was like her career went from one high to another.

Love in Simla was a very enjoyable romantic comedy.  Sonia is a dumpy looking teenager in glasses who falls for her sister's boyfriend.  She gets a makeover at the hands of her grandmother and makes a grand entrance into the club where the boyfriend, Joy Mukherjee is instantly smitten and dances to this fun song with her - Gal gulabi kiske hain.  One look at the song will make you fall instantly in love with Sadhana.

7. Tanuja
Career Duration (1961-   )
Debut film as heroine: Hamari Yaad Aayegi
Song: Koi keh de zamane se jaake
Tanuja came from the renowned Samarth family and was the younger sister of Nutan.  Cute, perky and bubbly are the words that describe her best.  She has enjoyed a long career.  She may not have reached the heights that her sister did, but then there were very few actresses who could match up to Nutan. Tanuja had her own niche during her heydays and has been working steadily.

In this song, Koi keh de zamane se jaake, you can see Tanuja's playfulness.

8. Mumtaz
Career Duration (1961-1990)
Debut film as heroine: Faulad
Song 1: Tune jo samjha hai mujhko
Song 2: Zindagi Ittefaq hai
With her cute eyes and a little nose, Mumtaz had a perfect face for a chocolate box.  One of the cutest actresses to grace our films, she lit up the screen every time she appeared on it.  She was a wonderful dancer, mostly party or club dancing, nothing classical like Waheeda.  She had to work in many many B or even C grade movies before inching her way upwards to reach the top.  She started early in bit roles and worked in several Dara Singh films as a heroine.  After 7 years, she was cast alongside Dilip Kumar in Ram Aur Shyam as the second lead after Waheeda Rehman. She worked in several movies as the second lead or a supporting role.  Do Raste catapulted her into the big league.  It was a huge hit and after that there was no stopping her.

I have chosen two songs for Mumtaz.  I love Tune jo samjha hai mujhko from Boxer. Mumtaz dons a frilly dress and top boots and dances with abandon.

At one point in the song 'Zindagi Ittefaq hai' Mumtaz kicks off her shoes and dances while Dharmendra and Feroze Khan watch a little dazedly.  Mumtaz never lost her cool, you feel as you watch this song.  You have to admire her chutzpah as she dances and later responds so beautifully to Dharmendra's singing.

9. Leena Chandavarkar
Career Duration (1970 - 1985)
Debut film: Man ka Meet
Song: Is zamane me, is mohabbat ne
Leena has to be, after Mumtaz, the cutest actress to hit the Hindi film scene. She debuted in Man ka Meet and had three more releases in 1970. At the end of it, she was one of the top heroines and worked with all the major actors of her time.  Her career was short, but bright.

Mehboob Ki Mehendi was a muslim social, almost the last of its kind.  She was paired with the hottest actor of the time, Rajesh Khanna.  They make a lovely pair, Rajesh looked great in Achkans and was able to declaim Urdu very well.  Likewise Leena looks gorgeous in Shararas and fit her role as a damsel in distress to a T.  She looks lovely in this song, Is Zamane me, is mohabbat ne. It is easy to see why she shot right to the top.

10. Jaya Bachhan
Career Duration (1971 -    )
Debut film in Hindi: Guddi
Song: Gagan pe do taare takraye
Jaya Bhaduri debuted with no less than Satyajit Ray in Mahanagar.  She was the brightest star in FIIT, Pune.  She was all about talent.  She had a lovely face and refused to ever go glamourous. As a result, she was cast in Hrishikesh Mukherjee films, or was given a substantial role in mainstream films. She still works in films.

The song Gagan pe do taare takraye is from one of her early films, Shor.  She plays a young girl who is attracted to Manoj Kumar.  This is a song she sings after she overhears a plan to get her married to him.

11. Moushami Chatterji
Career Duration (1972 -    )
Debut film in Hindi: Anurag
Song: Mere Bachpan tu jaa
Moushmi had a fantastic debut in Bengali film Balika Badhu as a child bride who gradually learns what it is to be married. She was so successful that crossing over to Hindi was a cakewalk for her. She was beautiful and talented and was counted amongst the top actresses of her time.

Kachhe Dhage was an early film that Moushami starred it.  In the film, she catches the fancy of two rival dacoits who are smitten by her innocence and charm. In this song, she is seen as a young village girl on the brink of adulthood.

12. Vidya Sinha
Career Duration (1974-2011)
Debut film: Rajnigandha.
Song: Rajnigandha phool tumhare
Vidya Sinha was another girl-next-door type of an actress who escaped the Glamour Brigade like Jaya Bhaduri.  She starred mostly in small (but very effective) films by Basu Chatterjee, with whom she debuted in Rajnigandha.

The song is taken from Rajnigandha which she sings while she thinks about her boyfriend, Amol. He usually brings her a bunch of Rajnigandha flowers.  It is a beautiful song full of longing for love.

13. Swaroop Sampat
Career Duration (1989 -   )
Debut film: Doosra Kanoon
Song: Tumhari palkon ki chilmano me
Swaroop Sampat came to films after winning the Miss India crown - like Zeenat Aman before her. She was gorgeous and talented but did not work in many good films. Her best known films were Nakhuda and Naram Garam.  She became the small screen sweetheart of India with her immensely popular role in TV series "Yeh jo hai Zindagi".

I love this song a lot. It is written by Nida Fazli and set to music by Khayyan. Raj Kiran and Swaroop are like cherry on top of  the cake in this lovely song.

Here is a playlist of all the songs listed in this post.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Rooftop Prince - 2012

Director: Shin Yoon-Sub
Writer: Lee Hee-Myung

The series starts with a Joseon Crown Prince Lee Kak (Mickey Yoochun) waking up in the middle of the night to find his wife missing from beside him.  The palace is thrown into a turmoil when she is discovered floating in the Royal Pond, drowned.

The Prince is devastated and is sure this is murder, not suicide. The court produces evidence of suicide and the King is satisfied. The Prince decides to conduct an inquiry on his own. He hires three young men who are known to be best in the area of their expertise.

Song Man-Bo (Lee Min-ho (junior)) has the sharpest brains in the Kingdom. Woo Yong-Sool (Jung Suk-Won) is a fighter. Do Chi-San (Choi Woo-Sik) is a cross-dresser who can wrest secrets from anywhere.

Along with these three men, Crown Prince attempts to solve the murder of his beloved wife Hwa-Yong (Jung Yoo-Mi). They get to work immediately.  Song Man-Bo deduces that the Princess was poisoned by using arsenic.  The four try to locate arsenic sellers in the Capital. They find that there is only one arsenic seller and he has been killed. On top of that, they are being chased with murderous intent. They are flung across a chasm and find themselves:

In a rooftop apartment in modern day Seoul.  The apartment belongs to Park Ha (Han Ji-Min). She is startled out of her wits at this sudden apparition and tries to shoo away the intruders. But she is stuck with them.

A few days later the Crown Prince spots Hong Se-Na (Jun Yoo-Mi again) who is the spitting image of his deceased wife.

The Prince feels he has been sent to the future for a reason. Maybe he is meant to unite with his wife one more time to discover why she died in her past life.  There was a modern version of him too, Yong Tae-Yong (Mickey Yoochun again) who is missing and presumed dead.

In the meantime he is having a very hard time with Park-Ha.  She does not understand that he is a royal personage and must be deferred to.  She treats him with disdain and is always ready to take him down a peg or two.  He does not recognize her as Boo-Yong (Han Ji-Min again) from the past, the girl who was his wife's sister.  Boo-Yong had a disfiguring scar on her face and always wore a veil.

Park Ha has to deal with the four interlopers from the past. Initially she thinks she is being conned. Eventually she realizes that the four young men are really from the past.  She can get along with the other three, but their Prince is a pain in the ass.  He is stuck up and keeps issuing orders.  She has to take this:

and turn them into this:

Most of the time the series are very funny, as the young men from the past try to adjust to modern age.  But the Prince is on a serious mission too, he has to find out why his wife was murdered.  He keeps pursuing Se-Na with an intent to woo her and marry her, but he also has deep feelings for his benefactress Park-Ha who has been mostly very kind to them.

He is sure that they landed up in the Rooftop apartment for a reason.  He wants to find out all the answers, but had to bide his time. In the meanwhile Yong Tae-Moo (Lee Tae-Sung) seems to thwart him at every chance he gets.

Slowly the pieces start falling together. Yet the Prince does not know for sure.  It is only when he sees a body floating in a lake, almost as if in a mirroring of the past, that realization dawns upon him.

The series are funny and poignant at the same time. The first and the last episodes are so action packed that you had better be prepared not to blink your eyes for the fear of missing anything.

Mickey Yoochun comes up trumps with his performance as the grief-stricken Prince at the start, to the puzzled and disoriented person trying to make sense of the future he is plonked in. Even after he masters the modern world, his insouciance when enjoying a sweet drink or eating instant noodles is touching.

Han Ji-Min is also wonderful as the girl who wants to help the Prince uncover the secrets of his past, but cannot help feeling jealous when he tries to woo Se-Na.

As the series progressed, I could not guess how it would all end.  Will the Prince go back or stay on in modern day Seoul? How can Park Ha go to the Joseon period when her counterpart - Boo-Young - is probably still alive? What will happen to Se-Na? Will SHE accompany the Prince to Joseon?

When the end did come, it was so well wrought that I was taken completely by surprise.  It was one the best endings I have seen in a drama.

Rooftop Prince was supposed to be the second Korean series that I watched.  My mother, who is a veteran of K-series sent this to me on a DVD.  It took a long time in getting to me, and when it did, the subtitles did not work.  I watched it online eventually, and was so captivated that I have almost seen it twice already.

After Faith, which will always be my first love, I liked this series the most.  It was fun and nice and had a very good script.  Mickey Yoochun is always a delight to watch, as is Han Ji Min.  I was thrilled to be able to recognize some of the character actors here.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

King and the Clown -2005

Yeonsan Gun (1476-1506) was the 10th King of Joseon Dynasty from 1494 to 1506.  He was said to be one of the most cruel kings ever.  He killed people without any compunction.  His mother was ordered to drink poison and commit suicide for the crime of killing other concubines out of jealousy.

Jang Sa Eng
During the rule of Yeonsan, there was a troupe of minstrels who put up acrobatic shows, tight rope walking along with ribald skits. The older one was Jang Saeng (Kam Woo Sung) and the other minstrel was Gong-gil (Lee Joon-Ki).  Gong gil has pretty looks and is able to portray a girl quite effortlessly.

Gong Gil

The headman of the village likes young boys and asks for Gong-gil to be sent to him.  The leader of the troupe agrees to that. Jang Saeng does not like it, we learn that this has been going on for a long time.  The leader often pimps Gong-gil for extra rations or money.  Gong-gil is used to it, but Jang Saeng fights for him.

In the ensuing fracas, the leader is killed and Gong-gil and Jang Saeng run off to Hanyang (present day Seoul).  There they meet up with another small troupe and start performing risque plays involving the King and his Concubine which are met with wholehearted audience approval.

The ribald Play

The King's Clerk Cheo Sin (Jang Hang-Seon) is not amused when he sees the play while passing by.  He gets the troupe arrested and flogged.  Captain - Jang Saeng - dares him to show their skit to the King.  If he laughs, they live, if he does not, they die.

Colorful dance

The King (Jung Jin-Young) is used to pretty cultural shows like this, not a nasty ribald comedy.  

The King and His Concubine

But despite the nervous performance by Captain's troupe, he laughs.  He is not just amused, he wants the troupe to stay and be the Royal Minstrels.  What the Captain's troupe don't know is that the King is unhinged and is quite likely to become violent.  Also, to Jang Saeng's consternation, he appears to like Gong Gil a bit too much.  The King's clerk seems to have an agenda as well.  He seems to want them to perform plays on controversial topics.

A Play about the poisoning of the Queen

The movie is about very strong bonds of friendship (perhaps even intimacy) between Jang-Saeng and Gong-gil.  The King - Yeonsan- is attracted to Gong-gil too.  Gong Gil likes being with the King because he gets to see the King's vulnerable side.  The three leads, Kam Woo Sung, Jung Jin Young and Lee Jun Ki put in stupendous performances.  They are required to love and hate each other at times and they do it wonderfully.

But it is the director Lee Jun ik who is the ultimate winner for putting together this wonderful tale.  Each scene is tight and well directed.  The script and dialogues (alas, I had to depend on the subtitles) are flawless.

The director chooses the audience to use their own imagination to make out what is going on.  There are never any 'leading' dialogues to make the audience think anything.  Only in one instance in the beginning - where Jang Saeng speaks about Gong-gil being regularly pimped (which was integral to the story, if you think of it) - is the audience directly 'told' something.

You, as a viewer, can choose to believe that Jang Saeng was intimate with Gong Gil, or not.  You can choose to believe that the King slept with Gong Gil, or not.  Even the last scene is very open ended and you may, if you wish, believe what you will.

This is what I loved best about the movie.  This is what makes it stand out so much from the usual fare that is dished out.

The cinematography is very good.  As it is a historical film, there are a lot of costumes and montages of flag waving and grandeur. Even the countryside is pretty and virgin (as it must have been in those times).

A special word about the background score. Fabulous. We are given silences, traditional pipes and drums and a beautiful tune to accompany the opening credits.  It is soothing and apt for a great movie like this one.