Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Bahu Begum 1967

Films of the Urdu era in India is a niche. The ones that will come to the top of your mind maybe Mughal-e-Azam, Chaudhvin Ka Chand and Pakeezah. All beautiful films definitely but there were some more which I feel needs some mention too.

Today I watched Bahu Begum, a 1967 movie starring Meena Kumari, Ashok Kumar and Pradeep Kumar. Totally soaked in the Lucknowi haveli culture, this charming movie immediately reminded me of Mere Mehboob. Not just for the costumes but also for the family drama it represented without being over the top. I have always heard and learnt about Urdu culture as one with lots of tehzeeb and I love movies or art forms which showcase that. Every culture has its nuances and its wonderful to view or read about them.

Zeenat (Meena Kumari) is in love with Yusuf (Pradeep Kumar). He is the friend of Achchan (Johny Walker) who is a tenant at Zeenat's home. Yusuf's uncle controls his property though appears friendly. On the mandate that Yusuf's property will be his when he gets married, his uncle cleverly foils their love and marriage plan. On the other hand, Nawab Sikandar (Ashok Kumar) falls madly in love with Zeenat at first sight. He spots her at a jeweller's shopping,especially noticing that she likes a bangle but cant afford. On insistence of his caring sister, he sends a marriage proposal to Zeenat's father who happily accepts. He also gifts Zeenat the bangle she liked. Unaware of the sender she assumes it to be Yusuf and is all set to fulfill her dreams.

The two lovers

Excellent comic timing by the adorable Johny Walker

 Nawab Sikandar and his sister

Yusuf, on the other hand is sent out of town on an errand by his conniving uncle who doesn't want to let go of the property. Thus the marriage day arrives. But Zeenat goes to the dargah to meet Yusuf once if she can ,as she promises to her friend or she will return to be Nawab Sikandar's wife. Unfortunately, she faints there and the marriage confirmation to the lawyer is mistaken to be of Zeenat. An empty palanquin goes to Nawab Sikandar's house, upon the discovery of which, he and his sister sadly but bravely manage to hide the fact from the world. Zeenat meanwhile tries to return home but rejected by her angry father she ends up at a kotha where Lalitha Pawar provides her a sympathetic roof.

The angry father

 The kind stranger

 The bearings

A kind,gentle man, Nawab Sikandar tries to overcome his sadness and to get his sister married off . Such was the deep rooted culture that time ,it would be shameful if the bahu begum of the house doesn't actively involve in the marriage preparations. Thus he asks Lalitha Pawar to help him out and to send any woman to just act as the bahu bhabhi so that his sister can be married off. Fate weaves in and ofcourse it is Zeenat who comes to him and his sister. Though she has the monumental task of deciding which path she has to take.

I wish the ending was a different from what it was but nevertheless the movie stays true to what it intends-charm, culture and all the facets of a bygone era.

There never would be any words enough to outline Meena Kumari's acting prowess. There is not a single scene where she is hesitant or not Zeenat. From the ada, the moments when she knows the difference between to be sad and to be tragic or just the joy of meeting her lover, this brilliant actress does not have a thread out of place.

The male actors have also given due diligence to their roles. I'm a big fan of Ashok Kumar always. Though being a 80s kid my favourite movie of him will be Khoobsurat,hence I can never see him in a lover role! :) Always the well suited, jolly grandfather Dadamoni.

Do watch the movie if you love or miss the Muslim social era. The havelis always cast a spell don't they? Whether you see them in a painting or in a movie,they are forever so alluring.

Also take a moment to appreciate the credit screens. I love the images and the font. So pretty!

Monday, October 9, 2017

Manzil 1960

I like Dev Anand for his smile and his unique persona. He brings that boyishness to the screen without much effort. And Manzil isn't untouched by it.

A young boy who has returned to his hometown in Shimla from vilayat is demanded by his rich dad to continue the family business. But the dreamy Raj( Dev Anand) is interested in music. The only one who understands him is Pushpa (Nutan). This leads to constant tiffs with his father and ultimately he goes away to Bombay.

He slowly finds success with helpful friends like Mehmood and a prostitute who tries to make advances on him. Pushpa misunderstands him and takes decisions that significantly decides the fate of the two.

I felt the first half was too slow with unnecessary romantic scenes and the only saving grace are the songs. S.D Burman once again weaves magic with his lovely melodies. Director Mandi Burman has brought a lot of lightness to an otherwise heavy,sad and tension filled story.

Watch it for the ever boyish and endearing  performance of Dev Anand and some great acting by Mehmood too.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Mere Mehboob 1963

If you love shaayari and old Hindi cinema, then you will appreciate Mere Mehboob, the 1963 blockbuster movie. With such giants of the golden era of Bollywood,Rajendra Kumar and Sadhna, this beautiful lyrical movie will capture every nostalgic fancy.

Dripping in poetry, beautiful costumes and the old Lucknowi style of living, Mere Mehboob is a like watching a lovely scenery on your vacation. Inspite of this visual fancy the movie is not just a musical or a moving sonnet. With a strong script, some amazing performances and dependable supporting cast of Ashok Kumar and Johnie Walker, Mere Mehboob will not let you budge or look at your phone ,if I should speak for my generation.

Set in the famed Aligarh University romance blooms in a  innocent way between Anwar and Husna, Kumar and Sadhna respectively. The kind of romance which is veiled and shy. The popular song Mere Mehoob sets the tone for the movie. The story moves to Lucknow where Husna is shown as Nawab Akhtar's sister ,who is extremely proud of his lineage and khaandaan.

 Aligarh University

 This is the thing about old style movies especially set in Lucknow, where the nawabi grace and conduct is so neatly shown without being over the top and being obvious about it. The glamour is subtle and comely.

Nawab Akhtar is also secretly in love with Najma, Anwar's sister. Najma,who is a dancer is played by Nimmi. Though he isn't ashamed of being in love with her or rebukes her profession , he is conscious of the society and thinks it against his refinement to marry her and make her begum of his khaandaani makaan. And a beautiful one at that!

Without any overly emotional dialogues and the obvious shaayari, the movie glides beautifully through showing every character's role in this story of sacrifice, family bond, prestige and love.

 Anwar with his sister

The nazaakat between the lovers

Watch for the Lucknowi andaz,the charming Sadhna or just some classic brilliance.

Old time Lucknow

Director - H.S. Rawail
Music - Naushad

Monday, February 29, 2016

Anupama 1966

Why hasn't Anupama been in the list of women-powered movies? Even though Sharmila doesn't have much dialogue delivery I felt she conveys more than Dharmendra (very strong on his own too though). No long eyelash fluttering, no twisting of sari pallu and no coy smile. Very few Hindi movies make you understand the protagonist's feelings in the right way,instead of sympathy or anger. Anupama agrees with you in the right way.

Anupama, a story of an introvert girl mostly ignored by her father and finding herself in the world. Joined by a host of emminent actors such as Dharmendra,Shashikala, David Abraham, Deven Verma etc, the movie is a discovery of relationships and of self.

Watch it for some finespun performances by Sharmila,Dharmendra and Tarun Bose as her father.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Griha Pravesh

Extra marital affairs in movies are shown with dramatic effects. A weeping wife, hysterical family members,moral value discourse and the unmissable packing of suitcase despite the wife wearing gazillion sarees and jewellery.

In Griha Pravesh ,direcetd by Basu Bhattacharya, I was looking for similar things and was happily shocked. The husband Amar is played by Sanjeev Kumar and his better half as Mansi by Sharmila Tagore. He goes astray with Sapna (Sarika).

I saw the movie some days ago and yet it lingers in my mind like an amazing dessert. All three actors did a fantastic job. Sapna was not seductive with any questionable hemlines and sparkling lipstick. In fact she looked tomboyish with her striped vests and de-glam pants. Amar's role seems to be concentrated on two aspects - his own curiosity as to why Sapna thinks beyond her age and second is, just the basic physical need of sex. Yet there are no sleazy scenes and thankfully no perfume-lingered-shirts to start a 'Who,what,why' exhibition.The attraction was 'mature' if not morally right.

At the same time,Mansi is not dumb or a doormat. In a brief intimate scene(which is at the start of the movie,thus surprising me even more) she depicts a a confident woman who knows her desires.

Mansi is practical yet a dreamer. She wishes of her own home while they manage in a dilapidated,paint peeled,rented house.She has witty replies to their state yet is vulnerable. On knowing about her husband's affair she doesn't confirm to Bollywood tradition by crying or playing blame game. The calmness with which she handles it is why such movies get side-tracked as 'non commercial' cinema.

The best part or the climax of the movie is not when they three meet at,
surprise 1 - Mansi's home,
surprise 2 - at the request of Mansi,
surprise 3 - without any shrewd plan or revenge in mind.
I was smiling at the fact that before the meeting, Mansi gets her house painted ,decorated and set up. She also gets a makeover at the beauty parlour. I'm still trying to think of the symbolism here and what it conveys. I assumed a supreme turning point where Amar realises how pretty his wife and home can be and does a volte-face on the mistress. But nah! The story surprises even in the end.

A movie which pokes in you small ,delicious ways.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Aalkkoottathil Thaniye

Aalkkoottathil Thaniye is 1984 movie about lost love,betrayal, sacrifice and moral questioning.

Rajan (Mammotty) is a village man who loves his cousin Ammukutty (Seema) but his stubborn father  Madhavan (Balan Nair) forces him to marry Nalini (Unni Mary). Nalini is an ambitious woman who wants to study further and achieve an educated status. Rajan on the other hand believes in simple living. They have come to a indifferent attitude to their marriage and live separate lives under one roof.

Years later when Rajan's father is bed ridden,the only person who makes time to look after him is Ammukutty. Inspite of his children only she is available and does so selflessly and without past grudges. In the midst of the ill father,property disputes and jealousies are shown as the norm of a middle class Malayali family. The old love of the two people and happier times are shown in glimpses.

I felt this movie also had a unique feature in Mohanlal's portrayal as a friend of Rajan. Not a friend who bird-watches with him or plans revenge plots. A character who expresses his love for a friend and of life. A friend who later chides him on leaving Ammukutty and questions on his morality.

Overall the movie is a drama which shows the state of thinking in a family. As it is with most, the husband expects a wife to perform and live in a certain way. Whether she is a good wife or a good mother is without meaning, if she is too ambitious. That she should be sacrificing and selfless is a norm to be accepted by most women is the message of the movie. How acceptable is the story in today's changing world maybe debatable. Nevertheless, Aalkkoottathil Thaniye was one of the few movies of that time where a woman protagonist is essayed in a strong, independent way rather than a crying, hollering, helpless waif.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015


Shabana Azmi vs Smitha Patil. Passionate vs Sharp. Luminous vs Astute.

If ever you wanted to make synonyms of Arth movie, then the above words should suffuse. So much so that I still have to remind myself Khulbhushan Kharbanda was there too.

A story about betrayal is not just what Arth is. After Inder(Kharbanda) leaves Pooja (Shabana) for Kavita (Smitha), the story, according to me, starts then. Prisoned in loneliness and penalised with the struggle to survive, Pooja is like a hungry,desolate little girl. After having her home snatched away from her, one which she furnished like a mother dresses up her toddler, the acceptance of life in paying guest is not easy for her. Her independance, grit and dissent blossoms.

It's not that she was pampered in a rich luxurious home, its the confusion of this sad,new reality that is heart-touching.
It's brave to have a character portray an emotion which is much less obvious than what the viewer assumes - in this case, Pooja should have been angry or heart broken about betrayal,but she is more confused and disillusioned about her new environment, heart broken about a lack of a house of her own, always having been an orphan.

Kavita has totally different tangents on which she flies. She is wanton, innocent and dominating all at the same time. She rules her lover both with her physical want and her loneliness. Smitha could have let Kavitha be just a bed-magic but being such a deep actor she didn't leave it at that. Her role is strentghened by emotional, childlike qualities too. A role with intensity and Smitha played it well.

Raj Kiran is winsome as the happy friend of Pooja and even more when she politely declines his love for her. No walking sadly with a jhola and singing songs of unattainable love. No speech on sacrifice either. This dude is happy enough to understand her need for freedom and respects her decision.

Arth is a seesaw of remarkable acting between Azmi and Patil.