Sunday, August 18, 2013

Hrishikesh Mukherjee - The Director's Limelight Series

Hrishikesh Mukherjee was a cinematic craftsman known for pioneering a middle-path between the melodrama and extravagance of mainstream cinema, on the one hand, and, on the other, the shrieking realism of art cinema. He was the most successful practitioner of the product of this variously called middle cinema or parallel cinema in the Bollywood. 

His string of hits with Rajesh Khanna, Dharmendra and Amitabh Bachchan made him one of the golden directors. In his active years he made numerous films. Some of his most notable films include: Anuradha (1960), Asli-Naqli (1962), Anand (1971), Chemmeen, Anupama (1966), Aashirwad (1968), Satyakam (1969), Guddi (1971), Bawarchi (1972), "Namak Haraam" (1973), Mili (1975), Chupke Chupke (1975), Khubsoorat (1980) and Bemisal (1982). He was the first to introduce Dharmendra in comedy roles, through Chupke Chupke, and gave Amitabh Bachchan his big break with Anand in 1970, along with Rajesh Khanna, he also introduced Jaya Bhaduri to Hindi cinema in his film Guddi.

ANARI Bawarchi movie posterChupke Chupke movie poster

He was one of the few people who have won Filmfare in 4 individual categories (editing, screenplay, story, direction). His last directorial tribute to indian cinema was Jhooth Bole Kauwa Kaate (1998). He died on 27 August 2006. He also remained the chairman of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) and of the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC),. The Government of India honoured him with theDada Saheb Phalke Award in 1999 and the Padma Vibhushan in 2001. He received the NTR National Award in 2001.

Salute for his contribution to Indian Cinema.

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Saturday, August 17, 2013

Saaransh (1984) - Bollywood's Must Watch Movies

There are good movies that you want to watch again and again and then there are great movies, which even after viewing once have the power to move you, jolt you and make you think. Saaransh is a movie in the later category. It's a story of despair, search, purpose and above all hope. It's a story that could as a plot would look very simple but requires an extraordinary flair for presenting it onscreen. You see that this comes from the very heart of the Mahesh Bhatt, one of the best from him ever, when you understand that it is entirely his movie. Brilliant writing, brilliant dialogues, brilliant direction and brilliant screenplay.

Saaransh is a story of an old couple, B.V Pradhan and Parvati (played by Anupam Kher and Rohini Hattangadi respectively), who are living their lives at a point where there is no meaning to life. Their son, who was studying in America, gets killed in an unfortunate mugging event with no fault of his. Pradhan and Parvati could not even visit their dying son and all that is left of him is his ashes. Pradhan sprays it over the nearby park. With loss of all the purpose they had in their life, their son, there is no meaning left to their lives anymore. They have rented their house to a budding actress Sujata (Soni Razdan) for the want of money. Sujata's boyfriend Vilas (Madan Jain) happens to be son of a politician Gajanan Chitre (Nilu Phule).

Pradhan in search of finding a livelihood goes on to search a job where he sees young and able people struggling for jobs all over. The state of the country with rampant riots, unemployment and all the problems that an ailing country could have, moves Pradhan, who had once been the freedom fighter for the country.
While getting back from the job interview to home, he finds that riots are happening all over the city. He tries to run away in the havoc, but could not find a way to take home. In the subway back, where he is taking each step with a fear in his heart of not reaching home at all, sees some goons, who comes to him, takes his money, beats him up. Humiliated he keeps on saying "Main tumhare baap jaisa hu..." but the goons go only on police's arrival. This event brings to Pradhan's imagination all that his son must have faced before dying. Though you don't see what he is thinking on screen but his face tells it all.
He does not want to live this life of humiliation anymore and wants to die with respect. Vilas saves him from a futile suicide attempt. And just when the couple were about the take poison for killing themselves they discover that Sujata has conceived Vilas' child and Vilas does not want it as his father is going to fight an election soon. Sujata wants the child and Pradhan get ready to support them. Parvati feels it is coming home for his son through Sujata and is obsessed with the feeling.

Then starts the story of a 'hopeless' life getting a purpose. An old couple against the might of the big politcian to save a child who is not yet born. The fearless Pradhan gets back to his old freedom struggle in fighting for the rights of Sujata. The story paces fast from here to show how the couple wins against all the odds to save Sujata and Vilas and make them go to another city. The end shows the couple with a zeal to live, with a thought that even if we are not there, life will always be there and it is this life which we should live for.

The best scene that I loved watching in the movie was when a desperate Pradhan, walks in to the minister's cabin (played by Akash Khurana), and speaks dialogues that I feel can never be forgotten, it's a voice of a common man. Anupam Kher has never matched that performance of his till date.
And the best dialogue for the film comes at the end when Anupam Kher after all ups and downs of life decides to "live" and tells his wife who is planning to die that they have to live and that "Tumhari chehre ki jhurrio mein mere jeevan ka saaransh hai" (In the wrinkles of your face lies the gist of my life). Very touching. Also at the end we see their sons ashes turning into flowers of the garden and both of them touching the flowers feeling the life they have, which too is a part of them.
Anupam Kher acts his part with sheer brilliance, he carries the film all on himself. He plays an old man in his first film! He won a Filmfare Award for an act in the parallel cinema. He just proves his grasp over the character in certain scenes, depicting despair and hope. Rohini Hattangadi's performance comes just next to her performance in Gandhi. Nilu Phule looks sinster, Madan Jain and Soni Razdan carry their role very well. Then there are certain characters that will leave their mark on you mind even with their small roles, whether it be the pandit, or Pradhan's friend, or Dr. Bhatt, or the goons, everyone plays their part well.

Ajit Varman gives a good music as the film demanded. Dialogue, screenplay and writing are simply fabulous, all credits to Mahesh Bhatt for etching the characters so well. You just live the lives of the characters while going through the movie. I want to see the same Mahesh Bhatt back in action.

Two important people involved in this movie but were not so famous then who are worth mentioning are David Dhawan and Sooraj Barjatya. The movie was marketed by Rajshri Productions and Sooraj Barjatya was the assistant director for the movie. He later went on to create a cinema style of his own. And so is true with David Dhawan who did the editing of this film.

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Saturday, August 10, 2013

Bandit Queen (1994) - Bollywood's Must Watch Movies

Shekhar Kapur's "Bandit Queen" has gotten more mileage from the hoopla surrounding the temporary ban on the movie in India than on the substance of his dramatization of the life and times of Phoolon Devi, the country's most wanted outlaw between 1979 and 1983. Adapted from a book by Mala Sen, the movie was stalled by a lawsuit brought on by Phoolon Devi who insists that Shekhar Kapur's portrayal of her life through the prism of a series of rapes, was grossly inaccurate.

Mala Sen's riveting India's Bandit Queen - The True Story of Phoolan Devi is stranger than fiction. She skillfully delineates the social and political nuances of Indian culture and painstakingly separates fact from fiction in the telling and retelling of the story of Phoolon Devi which had taken on mythic proportions in Indian folklore. Born into an indigent, sharecropper family oppressed by India's rigid caste and class system, a prepubescent Phoolon was married off to a man three times her age. An abusive man, he beat and raped his child bride till she ran away to her natal village. Back in the parental home, a cousin Maiyadin usurped her father's parched land with the help of the landowning Thakurs who keep the tillers of the soil impoverished and in their place. He also masterminded the rape and abduction of an adolescent Phoolon by a rag tag gang of brigands when she began to defend her father's meager property rights.

In the rough and tumble world of banditry her gradual transformation occurred, from a violated child to a tough outlaw. With her lover Vikram Mallah, also from an oppressed caste they formed a gang of outlaws robbing from the rich and waging a class warfare against the vested interests of the landed Thakurs.
The cold massacre of 20 Thakurs in the little known district of Behmai just south of New Delhi allegedly by Phoolon and her bandits as a revenge for the killing of her lover Vikram Mallah and of her gang rape by the Thakurs, will live on in infamy and ultimately crown Phoolon Devi as India's "Bandit Queen" by a sensational and often anesthetized media on gender and caste issues.

Indira Gandhi's government, much beholden to the Thakurs for the block votes to keep the Congress(I) party in power embarked on a hunt for these fugitives who successfully eluded their quarry for 3 long years. For the underclass of the Chambal valley, unaffected by media frenzy, Phoolon Devi became a populist cult figure, albeit a vigilante liberator of their class struggle toward social justice. In the end, Phoolon agreed to a negotiated surrender beaten down by converging police forces from three states.

But the journey from the book to a screenplay can be treacherous when the subject matter is as volatile and as unsettling as Phoolon Devi with her many manifestations as Kali the goddess of destruction, Durga the goddess who was born to kill, and Phoolon the liberator of the underprivileged, the voice of the people.
The film opens with the girl Phoolon bathing in the river shouting invectives, a precursor I suppose to a tart tongued, tomboy, rebel mantle Kapur bestows on his heroine right from the start. The child is cursed right from the start. Every frame is one of abuse and endurance, of indignities piled one on top of the other. The movie rape of the child bride is as disingenuous as the flashbacks Phoolon visualizes as she brutally beats the crap out of her abusive husband later on in the movie.

Kapur goes for instant audience gratification as he fabricates yet another scenario for cinematic appeal where the leader of the gang, his bare butt romping up and down is raping Phoolon in full view of his pack of thieves. Young Vikram Mallah disgusted by the assault on a woman blows the rapist away from a fully clothed Phoolon.

In reality the leader, a notch above Vikram Mallah in the unyielding hierarchy of the caste system, began to castigate his young lieutenant on his lowly birth. Mallah was protecting Phoolon from the advances of his drunken leader. When the sot reached for his gun, Mallah sensing an opportunity for a coup within the ranks killed him and his two henchmen and cinched his position as the first in his caste to lead a gang of bandits.
The flagrant phallic image of a Vikram Mallah, flat on his back with his rifle sticking erect between his legs is gratuitous and just does not fit the context of the film. The awkward love scenes are as hokey as the gang rape by the Thakurs as men emerge in and out of the revolving door in casual slow motion.

"Bandit Queen" is essentially a never ending sequence of rapes and the mindless violence of a one-dimensional Rambo-lina on a righteous rampage. The deeply religious and superstitious Phoolon who is also a daughter, a sister, a lover is left unexplored. Seema Biswas, who plays the title character does the best she can with emotions ranging from anger to anger with a supporting cast who come off as robotic characters with no history. But she does make you feel for Phoolon, a dangerous hero in a corrupt political and feudal social order.
Maiyadin, the bane of Phoolon's family is not even a peripheral character in the "true story" according to the gospel of Shekhar Kapur. Neither is there any examination of the reason why Phoolon did not trust the police or the legal system. They were bought off by Maiyadin. Land ownership was the only way that cousin Maiyadin could elevate himself to some level of economic respectability within the social apartheid of the caste system.

Cinematic fabrications add to discredit the director's bravado that he and not Phoolon Devi is the one who has the handle on the truth, even though he has admitted in India Today to wide factual discrepancies and omissions in the film he put together.

Despite all the manufactured hoopla I doubt that "Bandit Queen" will survive its season either as a memorable film or as a commentary on the caste system, for the evil that the uppercrust Shekhar Kapur tries to portray lies beyond his imagination.

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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

2nd Filmfare Awards - 1955

The inaugural edition of Filmfare awards provided a platform of  recognisation, for which  both the pioneers and prodigies of Hindi cinema were thriving. 1954 was a quite eventful year for Bollywood with the defining movies like Nagin, Nastik , Taxi Driver, Jagriti ,Shart                ,Boot Polish etc. K.A. Abbas's film "Munna" becomes the second film to be made without songs. Music director Hemant Kumar is thrust into the national limelight with the release of "Nagin". Keeping eye on all these movies and their response  2nd Filmfare Awards were held on 27th March 1955.

Then  Chief Minister  of  Bombay Morarji Desai ( Later Prime Minister of India) was chief guest  of the glittering celebration.  The famous Travancore sisters Padmini, Lalitha and Ragini performed at award function. 

Travancore Sisters at Filfare awards 1955

The Winners For 2nd Filmfare Popular Awards Were:

Best Actor
Bharat Bhushan
Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu
Best Actress
Meena Kumari
Best Film
Raj Kapoor
Boot Polish
Best Director
Bimal Roy
Best Supporting Actor (Male)
Boot Polish
Best Supporting Actor (Female)
Usha Kiran
Best Music Direction
S.D. Burman
Taxi Driver - 'Jaye To Jaye Kahan 

 (Left to right) David, Meena Kumari, Bharat Bhushan and Usha Kiron

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Monday, May 20, 2013

Filmfare Awards 1954 - The First Ones

Filmfare Awards, Indian Cinema
The Filmfare ceremony is one of the oldest and most prominent film events given for Hindi films in India.The awards were first introduced in 1954, the same year as the National Film Awards. They were initially referred to as the Clare Awards or The Clares after the editor of The Times of India, Clare Mendonca. Readers of Filmfare were polled to decide the winners, and over 20,000 readers spread throughout India participated in the polls;trophies were given to winners of the popular vote.

Hollywood star Gregory Peck was invited to be the guest of honour at the first ever awards on March 21, 1954 at the Metro theatre, Mumbai but couldn't make it to the function since his flight from Colombo got delayed. However, Peck did attend the banquet that followed the award nite atWellington ClubGymkhana), Mumbai .
Gregory Peck 
 In the first awards function, held on 21 March 1954 at the Metro Theatre of Mumbai, only five awards were presented: Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Music Director. 
The Winners of the first Filmfare awards were 
Best Actor
Dilip Kumar
Best Actress
Meena Kumari
Baiju Bawra
Best Film
Bimal Roy
Do Bigha Zameen
Best Director
Bimal Roy
Do Bigha Zamin
Best Music Direction
Baiju Bawra - 'Too Ganga Ki Mauj'

The First Winners of Filmfare - Bimal Roy, Meena Kumari, Naushad & Dilip Kumar
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Vintage advertisements featuring Bollywood Stars

In a rapidly expanding market, nothing makes a product stand out better than a familiar face and Bollywood stars can promote from 10 to 15 products a year, making $1 million plus from each deal which can far exceed their earnings from movies or TV shows. The celebrity endorsement market in India is estimated to be worth about US$185 million a year with Bollywood stars last year accounting for 80 percent of endorsements on Indian television.
But it doesn't happen with a blink. The entry of Bollywood star in advertising started five decades ago because of the unparalleled reach and aspiration quality that Bollywood actors and actresses gave to our cinema crazy nation.  
I am sharing some old ads, featuring Bollywood’s lads and ladies, who gave credibility to brand just with their association. 

Vinod Khanna Promoting Cinthol soap 

Mithun Chakraborty  Promoting VCR

Parveen Babi in Lux

Salman Khan  & Sangeeta Bijlani promoting Graviera Suitings

Hema Malini in Lux

Jackie Shroff promoting Binny Textile 

Ashok Kumar in Prudent ad

Balraj Sahni, Nirupa Roy and Raj Kapoor promoting CSA Jet

Jackie shroff in Avis jeans

Kabir Bedi in Wills 

Ashok Kumar  promoting Ambiking Suitings

Akshay Kumar in Red & White

Jackie Shroff in Savage after shave
Kishore Kumar in Brylcream

Aamir Khan promoting Hero Puch

Shatrughn  Sinha in Bagpiper ad

Rekha in Lux ad

Juhi Chawla promoting Dinesh Suitings

Rajesh Khanna promoting Fabina Suitings

Dharmendra Promoting Topaz

Zeenat Aman in Lux ad

Parveen Babi in Bombay Dyeing 

Mithun Chakraborty promoting National electrics

Mumtaz in Lux ad

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Monday, May 13, 2013

Bollywood's most Popular onscreen Mothers

"For decades, Bollywood has doted on its mothers and now we pay a tribute to the most famous mothers in the history of Hindi cinema." 

Lalita Pawar

The most sought after, yet the most dreaded mother of all time in the industry was Lalita Pawar, who has the longest innings spanning from the silent era of 1920s to 1990s with more than 300 films to her credit. She played mother in films like Dahej, Thokar, Mr. And Mrs.1955, Khandaan, Shri 420, Pocket Maar, Nau Do Gyarah, Asha, Parwarish, Sujata, Guest House, Anari, Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai, Sasural, Junglee, Hum Dono, Grihasti, Bluff Master, Sangam, Kohra, Khandaan and Love in Tokyo.

 Durga Khote

She essayed a wide variety of roles in a career span of over 50 years. Her portrayal of Jodhabai, the queen of Mughal Emperor Akbar, torn between duty towards her husband and love for her son Salim in film is most memorable.

 Dina Pathak

One of the most powerful mothers onscreen, Dina Pathak has proved her talent in over 100 movies, more notable amongst them being, Satyakam, Sat Hindustani, Sacha Jhoota, Jal Bin Machli Nritya Bin Bijlee, Koshish, Avishkar, Charitraheen, Anari, Mausam, Chitchor, Dream Girl, Kitab, Gol Maal, Thodisi Bewafai, Umrao Jaan, Prem Rog, Arth, Arpan, Jhoothi, Aankhen, Sabse Bada Khilari, Yarana, Pardes, Mere Sapno Ki Rani, Tum Bin, Devdas (Bhuwans mother) and Pinjar.

 Farida Jalal

Be it Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, Dil To Pagal Hai or Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Farida has belted out one typical mother performances after another with a consistency that very few have displayed in the industry. She win the Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge.

 Kamini Kaushal

She played a strong role as Bhagat Singh's mother in Manoj Kumars Shaheed (1965). The appreciation she received ensured that Kamini became a fixture as the mother figure in a string of 1970s Manoj Kumar starrers films like Poorab Pascham, Shor, Roti Kapda Aur Makan, Sanyasi and Dus Numbri.

 Kirron Kher

The most graceful looking mother that our film industry ever got is Kirron Kher. She was seen in films like Devdas, Veer Zara, Om Shanti Om, Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna, Apne and Dostana.

Jaya Bachchan

She is one lady who has potrayed different kind of roles in her career but her motherly figure in her character makes her stand above the rest. She played mother in films like Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gum, Hazaar Chorasia Ki Maa, Kal Ho Na Ho, Fiza and Laga Chunari Mein Daag.


The mother of all Bollywood mothers, of course, was Nargis in Mother India. In the film, she raised her two sons single-handedly while also working in the fields and fending off the evil intentions of the landowner.

 Rakhi Gulzar 

She played the most challeging role of her career by essaying Amitabh Bachchan's mother role in Shakti opposite Dilip Kumar, who played the father. Her important films in which she played mother include Baazigar, Karan Arjun, Soldier, Badshah, Ek Rishta, Khalnayak and Ram Lakhan for which she win the Filmfare award.

 Reema Lagoo

With her typical motherly looks and Indian features, Reema easily slipped into the mother roles in the film industry. After Maine Pyar Kiya, she played the mother in practically all of Rajshri Production films.

 Smita Jayakar

Her role as Aishwarya Rai's mother in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam gave her a good possition in the industry. She was seen in films such as Pardes, Prem Aggan, Hum Aapke Dil Mein Rehte Hain and Ajab Prem Ki Gazab Kahani.

 Wahida Rehman

She has played mother and grandmother roles in film like Om Jai Jagadish, Water, Rang De Basanti and Delhi 6.

Nirupa Roy

Amitabh Bachchan's most favourite mother onscreen has always been Nirupa Roy and after playing his mother in Deewar, a story about a sacrificing single mother and her two sons, Shashi Kapoor and Amitabh Bachchan, this mother sure became the most popular mother of Bollywood. Her other films as Amitabh's mother were Amar Akbar Anthony, Muqaddar Ka Sikandar, Suhaag, Mard and Lal Badshah.

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