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21 January 2018

The Greats: Geeta Bali


1930 – 21.01.1965
Geeta Bali. The name is synonymous with a pair of impish eyes, a retroussé nose, and a smile that lit up the screen. Naturally gifted, spontaneous and with a terrific sense of comic timing, Geeta acted in nearly 70 films before her untimely demise.

Born Harkirtan Kaur in 1930 in Sargodha (pre-partition Punjab), Geeta had done a few small roles in films including The Cobbler and Badnami (1946). It was in Bombay, however, that she would meet Kidar Sharma, soon to be her mentor. Impressed with her verve and exuberance, he offered her the role of the heroine in Suhaag Raat (1948). She was an over-night success, and soon, she was besieged with offers. Perhaps it was the family’s straitened circumstances, but Geeta signed ever film she was offered, even when they were supporting roles (Dulari) or that of the villain’s moll (Baazi). 

16 January 2018

Of Whiners and Doormats

The other day, I was thinking about a couple of long-ago conversations on my blog. Blogger Chitrapat Sangeet had posted one of his favourite Lata Mangeshkar-Manna Dey duets on the post on Manna Dey's duets, and I responded that I hated the song because of its lyrics. He called it a 'samarpan' song, but he didn't convince me then. I’ve since changed my mind about the doormat factor of that song – I still don’t think it’s ‘samarpan’; it is one of those self-deprecatory ‘I have to show I’m inferior to you’ songs. Fortunately (or unfortunately), both (man and woman) seem to feel that way. When another fellow-blogger, Madhulika of dustedoff, mentioned she had the same reaction to Aap ki nazron ne samjha, I'd jokingly mentioned that perhaps I should do a song list of 'doormat' songs. After all, Hindi cinema thrives on role models – especially for women. Films of a certain vintage had a litany of life lessons for ‘good’ women. Madhu concurred. But there the matter rested.

6 January 2018

To Be or Not to Be (1942)

Directed by: Ernst Lubitsch
Music: Warner R Heymann
Starring: Carole Lombard, Jack Benny,
 Stanley Ridges, Robert Stack, 
Tim Dugan, Felix Bressart, 
Lionel Atwill, Maud Eburne, 
Charles Halton, Henry Victor
I’d seen the Mel Brooks version of To Be or Not to Be many years ago and found it hilarious. It was only later that I discovered that the 1980s film was a remake. So, while I ordered the Mel Brooks film again, I decided I had to watch the original film made four decades earlier. Strangely, Netflix sent me the original, which was great.

2 January 2018

Madhumati (1958)

Directed by: Bimal Roy
Music: Salil Choudhury
Lyrics: Shailendra
Starring: Dilip Kumar, Vyjayanthimala, 
Pran, Jayant, Johnny Walker, 
Tarun Bose
Ever since I did the Dilip Kumar post, I’ve been on a mission to watch the actor’s movies. I’ve deliberately kept to the lighter part of his oeuvre – Ram aur Shyam (since that came up so much in the comments), Tarana (again!), Kohinoor, Madhumati, Yahudi… when I realized to my horror that I hadn’t – yet – reviewed Madhumati. That was insane – it’s a movie I love (I love this type of ghost stories), I love the music, and I really, really like Vyjayanthimala and Dilip Kumar. And of course, it was a Bimal Roy film.

29 December 2017

Munimji (1955)

Directed by: Subodh Mukherjee
Music: SD Burman
Lyrics: Sahir Ludhianvi, Shailendra
Starring: Nalini Jaywant, Dev Anand, 
Pran, Nirupa Roy, Ameeta, 
SL Puri, Prabhu Dayal, Kanu Roy
I’d never been a great fan of Nalini Jaywant until, in recent years, I saw a couple of her movies, and found her extremely engaging. My love for Dev Anand is well chronicled in the pages of this blog for all to see. So, one day, when I was idly trawling the web for something to watch, and the sidebar threw up the crisp, restored version (thanks to Tom Daniel), it seemed inviting enough.

25 December 2017

It Happened on Fifth Avenue (1947)

Directed by: Roy Del Ruth
Music: Edward Ward
Starring: Victor Moore, Charles Ruggles, 
Ann Harding, Gale Storm, Don DeFore
I try to watch a classic Christmas film every December. Frank Capra’s ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ is usually on some channel or the other during this period, as is ‘Miracle on 34th Street’. I’ve watched both multiple times. Strangely enough, this film is one I’d never watched before. Originally slated to be directed by Frank Capra, who chose instead to film ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’, this film went through a few hiccups before seeing the light of day. 

21 December 2017

The Many Moods of Dilip Kumar

Ten days ago, on December 11, Dilip Kumar, the last of the golden age triumvirate turned 95. I wanted to do a post on the occasion, but between travelling and a now-here-now-not internet connection, the date passed me by. I had initially meant to review one of his films, but haven’t had the time since I returned, to watch any. Therefore, I take recourse to songs.
 
Now, Dilip Kumar, exactly like Meena Kumari, is better known for his tragic roles. In fact, even more so than Meena Kumari, Dilip Kumar enacted so many pathos-laden, tragic characters that it affected him mentally, and he was forced to seek medical help. Yet, there was more to the man than his ‘tragic hero’ image. He was a fantastic actor, a man who was equally good at comedy and romance (if you don’t believe me, just watch Beimaan tore nainwa from Tarana) as he excelled at the intense, angst-ridden characters he so often played.

17 December 2017

Teen Batti Char Rasta (1953)

Directed by: V Shantaram
Music: Shivram Krishna 
Background: Vasant Desai
Lyrics: PL Santoshi
Starring: Sandhya, Karan Dewan, 
Nirupa Roy, Sheila Ramani, 
Shashikala, Smriti Biswas, 
Meenaxi, Diwan Sharar
The other day, I was idly flipping through YouTube’s offerings when suddenly it threw up Teen Batti Char Rasta on the side bar. I’d heard of the film but had never gotten around to watching it, Sandhya not being one of my favourites. (It seemed to be the bane of Shantaram’s films – that he inevitably cast his wife in the leading role.) However, Shantaram, like his contemporary Sohrab Modi, generally had something decent to say through his films. Because it starred Sandhya, I trawled the web to see what the film was all about, not wanting to waste my time on a film that starred her and wasn’t appealing, and came across Richard’s review of the film. (He and I generally agree to disagree on Sandhya.) It sounded interesting, and since I’d nothing better to do with my time (but didn’t want to waste it looking for another film to watch), I decided to give this a try.  

12 December 2017

Behind the Curtains

Before I left for India, I ordered a few books as is my wont. One of these was a book I've long wanted to read – the first biography of Shashi Kapoor. My sister told me it had been delivered; unfortunately, I was in Kerala at the time. By the time I came to Bombay, the subject of the biography was no more. It’s an unfortunate coincidence that I should have ordered the book just before his death. Somehow, I feel a sense of guilt... like I am responsible for his demise... 

Perhaps it was that sense of guilt that made me hesitate to begin reading the much-awaited biography. It is not as if I didn't know he was ailing. Yet, it was difficult to accept that Shashi Kapoor was no more, even if his death was probably a welcome release.  

4 December 2017

The Final Curtain

18.03.1938 –  04.12.2017
This was not the post I intended to write. Actually, I had no intention of posting anything at all. With a spotty internet connection, and a very crowded itinerary, the blog was going to be neglected for a fortnight anyway. However, I couldn't let this occasion pass without acknowledgement. Five years ago, I wrote an article on Shashi Kapoor saying I didn’t want to ‘remember’ him after he died; I would much rather commemorate his life. And I did. But now, another era has ended with the demise of yet another much-loved actor of the golden age. Perhaps I will review one of his films later, but for now, a quick but sincerely meant tribute.
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