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20 September 2016

My Favourites: Picnic Songs

I have a sad tale to relate. (All my recent tales seem to be sad.) My cup of woe is full to the brim, and in danger of overflowing. I mentioned in an earlier post how my laptop decided to give up its ghost while I was in India. Well, I've been attaching a keyboard and making do with it all this while. It is certainly not a 'laptop' any more, but it's sufficient unto the evil thereof, and hey, into each life some rain must fall, and all that tosh. (Besides, we need the rain; the North East is going through a drought.) 

But yesterday, I wrote a very good post (if I do say so myself) and was very pleased with myself indeed. Until, I hit 'Save', and pouf! the whole thing just vanished before my eyes. There was nothing I could do to bring it back; S tried his level best as well, but Blogger did not cough up the entrails. I tried to rewrite the post - after all, I'd just finished writing it, hadn't I? No luck. While I remembered the gist of the post, the words just didn't flow as well, and the writing seemed flat. I scrapped the post, nearly threw my busted laptop out of the window, vented to Dustedoff, and went to sleep in a huff. 

14 September 2016

My Favourites: Zulfein

Greek and Roman cultures prized long hair as a symbol of wealth and power. (And sometimes, hair was quite literally the source of 'power' - viz., Samson.) The Old Testament advocated that 'good' women cover their hair. Hindu scriptures demanded that married women cover their hair when in the presence of men other than those of their household; widows had to shave their hair as well. All this, ostensibly, to ‘protect’ the women from the lascivious gaze of men who, apparently, couldn’t control their libido when faced with the erotic sight of a woman’s hair. All hail patriarchy!

History, mythology and fairy tales are replete with hairy tales. Rapunzel's hair was so long and thick, her foster mother, a witch, used it as a ladder to ascend to the turret where Rapunzel was imprisoned. Medusa, twice punished (raped by Poseidon and cursed by Athena), uses her snake-hair to wreak revenge on anyone who looks at her. Draupadi, dragged to the Kuru court by her long, open hair, refused to tie up her tresses until she had bathed them in Dushashana’s blood. Kannagi, angered by the murder of her husband, untied her hair, and set fire to Madurai in revenge. 

31 August 2016

The Many Moods of Meena Kumari

As I've remarked before, I'd had such plans for the summer. I would post this review, and that song list; I'd even decided which ones. August had been earmarked for a month-long celebration of one of my favourite actresses. Alas! If you want the Gods to laugh, tell them your plans, says one proverb. Closer to earth, John Lennon said 'Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans.' Long way short of saying 'Nothing worked!' I've chronicled the reasons in another post but suffice it to say that I did not deliver on a self-promise. 

August is Meena Kumari's 'birth' month - she was born on the 1st. I could not let the month end without a post to mark my respect to an actress who has given me hours and hours of enjoyment. Before she became synonymous with tragedy, however, before she let her kohl-lined eyes fill with tears, and her husky voice drip pathos on screen, Meena Kumari performed a gamut of roles that made one realise how unfair it was to slot her as 'tragedy queen'. 

24 August 2016

Dishoom (2016)

Directed by: Rohit Dhawan
Music: Pritam
Starring: John Abraham, Varun Dhawan, 
Jacqueline Fernandez, Akshay Khanna, 
Saquib Saleem, Rahul Dev, 
Nargis Fakhri, Akshay Kumar
I swear that's the name of the film! We stroll in late one night to a multiplex close to where my sister lives, umbrellas in tow; the monsoons were showering Bombay with much love after all. We feel rather silly saying 'Four tickets! Dishoom' to the chap behind the ticket window, but he takes it in stride, shoving a seating chart at us. S peers over the window, trying hard to look interested in where we could sit to watch a film named Dishoom in all its glory. He gestures vaguely at some point on the chart.

Tickets in hand, we walk through a metal detector, and my sister I move aside to where a female security guard checks us desultorily, and waves us through. My sister and I look at each other; 'Perhaps we don't look like terrorists?' she says sotto voce. S is half asleep on his feet. 'Who's Jacqueline Fernandez?' he asks abruptly, as we stuff ourselves into a glass elevator. 'She's a Sri Lankan beauty queen,' says my sister, knowledgeably. S snorts. 'Not with a name like Fernandez, she isn't.' But despite S's disbelief, she is, indeed.

19 August 2016

Pukar (1939)

Directed by: Sohrab Modi
Music: Mir Saheb, S Fernandes
Lyrics: Kamal Amrohi
Starring: Chandramohan, Naseem Banu, 
Sohrab Modi, Sheila, Sadiq Ali, Sardar Akhtar
Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and Doordarshan was the only television channel available, they used to regularly telecast Hindi films on Sundays. We didn't have a television then, and so, when invited to do so, would make our way to a friend's house to watch the films, irrespective of whether they were meant for children or not. My parents didn't come, but it always seemed to me that the whole neighbourhood was present there, the children happily sitting on mats on the floor, while the adults occupied every single chair in the house. Looking back, I wonder what Mamta's parents thought of the wholesale invasion of their house every Sunday evening.

DD, at the time, used to go through phases where they felt that they had to show 'uplifting' films, as opposed to mere 'entertainers'. Hence, we got regularly scheduled doses of Shantaram, Mehboob Khan and... Sohrab Modi. I remember watching Sikander, Jailor, and Pukar in subsequent weeks. Mamta and I decided that someone up in the DD echelons had a sadistic temperament, inflicting these old black and white films on us, while what we wanted was our dose of fluffy entertainment.

13 August 2016

Picking Up From Where I Left Off

I had plans for July and August. Drafts waiting to be edited, linked to, and uploaded. A whole host of posts to celebrate one of my favourite actresses. But you know what they say about the best laid plans of mice and men.

9 July 2016

Princess Mononoke (1997)

Mononoke Hime
Directed by: Hayao Miyazaki
Music: Joe Hisaishi
Voice Talents (Japanese): Yōji Matsuda,
Yuriko Ishida, Yūko Tanaka,
Kaoru Kobayashi, Akihiro Miwa,
Hisaya Morishige
(English): Billy Cruddup, Claire Danes,
Minni Driver, Billy Bob Thornton,
Gillian Anderson, Keith David
The first Miyazaki film that I watched many years ago was Spirited Away (2001). It was a simple tale of a young girl who, on the way into a new neighbourhood, is accidentally trapped in the spirit world. The only way to exit that world is to cross a bridge by sunset. Unfortunately for the little girl, her parents, having partaken of a dish of pork at a restaurant, have been turned into pigs themselves. Now she has to find a way not only to turn her parents back into humans, but to also escape the spirit world before it's too late. It was a whimsical fable dealing with inter-generational conflict, Japanese culture and the effect of modernity upon it, through the eyes of a courageous little girl. It was a tale that touched your heart in inexplicable ways, and was not restricted to one generation. My older son, then a little boy, was as spellbound by the tale unfolding in front of him as we, his parents, were. 

In these intervening years, we have watched several other Miyazaki movies Ponyo, The Wind Rises, From Up On Poppy Hill... suffice it to say, I've never yet watched a Miyazaki film that I haven't liked. So when my husband ordered Princess Mononoke (or Mononoke Hime, which is its Japanese name) from Netflix for our second son, I sat up to watch it as well. On the face of it, Princess Mononoke (I shall continue with the English name, since I'd watched the English version of this anime feature.) is another simple tale, like one of our folk tales. A courageous hero, a curse from an animal god, a journey across lands to seek redemption from the curse, a beautiful heroine, anthropomorphic animal characters, an internecine war, and so on. Underlying it, however, are very serious themes of man vs. nature.
So, onward, my friends, to the tale of Ashitaka and San, Eboshi and Jiko-bō, Moro and Okkoto, and several others.

4 July 2016

My Favourites: Songs of Strangers

When I was a teenager, I had the habit of writing down things that I specifically liked – bits of poetry, passages from books, lyrics that I particularly liked, the sort of nonsense rhymes that were particularly meant for autograph books, greetings that appealed to me from the greeting cards that I bought, quotes, inspirational sayings, etc. When one notebook got over, I bought another one. I think I'd amassed quite a few such notebooks by the time I graduated. 

One saying that I particularly remember even now is 'Strangers are friends you're yet to meet.' It seemed very profound to the 16-year-old that I was, and I remember scribbling it down very carefully. I think I also wrote it down in someone's autograph book, preening myself over how worldly-wise I sounded. I wonder what that person thought of it! 

28 June 2016

Chandralekha (1948)

Directed by: SS Vasan
Music: S Rajeswara Rao
             MD Parthasarathy
Lyrics: Papanasam Sivan
              Kothamangalam Subbu
Starring: TR Rajakumari, MK Radha, Ranjan,
MS Sundaribai
I've wanted to review this film for a long time now. Like many of the movies I watched in my childhood, this too was courtesy my father. When Chandralekha was re-released in Bangalore, he wanted me to see the famous drum dance  – he'd described it so often, and so vividly that I remember sitting on the edge of my seat waiting for the dance. 
The 'theatre' was a ramshackle tent, and the seats were not exactly comfortable. Once the film began, however, I completely forgot how uncomfortable the seat was, or how dingy the theatre.

Chandralekha was a typical raja-rani film, set in a vague historical period. It had two brothers who fought for the throne, a beautiful heroine with whom both the brothers fell in love, attempted fratricide, fabulous sets, gorgeous handwoven silk and gold costumes, political machinations, espionage, exquisitely staged battle scenes, the longest sword fight captured on film, circus animals, song and dance... the works! 

So... are you ready for the magic?

23 June 2016

My Favourites: 'Where Are You?' Songs

The other day I was listening to one of my favourite RD Burman songs. From a 70s fluff movie called Jawani Diwani. Apart from the fact that it had Randhir Kapoor as a college student, it also had Jaya Bhaduri walking around with a creepy life-sized doll. But – and that is a huge 'but' – this  song is classic Burman. Anyway... long story short, it gave me an idea for a song list. (Another one? you ask disbelievingly.*Hangs head in embarrassment*)

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