Bollywood Rewind: The year 1960 at a glance

By

Sharada Iyer

The period immediately after Independence was a great time for the growth of our cinema. In fact, the years roughly starting from the late 1940s and extending up to the late 1960s is often referred to as the Golden Era of Hindi Cinema. Each year of the Golden era gave us magical films with mesmerizing music which retain their fond recall value in every cine-goer’s heart to this day.

For this blog-post I have chosen to look back on the year 1960. Many visionary directors, exemplary cinematographers, phenomenal singers, outstanding lyricists, remarkable music directors, good-looking and talented actors and actresses all contributed in giving us some classic and memorable cinema to make this year a landmark year in Bollywood history.

1960a

1960 was indeed a special year not only for our industry in particular but also for our country in general. It was on 1st May 1960 that the Indian State referred to as ‘Bombay State’ till then, was divided into two new states- Maharashtra and Gujarat. The city of Bombay was made the capital of Maharashtra.

Before partition, Hindi films were being made by three major centres- The Bombay film industry, The Lahore film industry and the Calcutta film industry. However, after partition Bombay became the sole focal point for producing Hindi films and our industry thus firmly established its home in Bombay city in Maharashtra.

The year also gave us the epic film Mughal-e-Azam unanimously considered by one and all as the greatest film ever made in our country. Neither before nor after has there been a film to match it in aura, stature, story, concept, production values, screenplay, music, sets, grandeur, costumes, direction, lyrics, dialogues, etc. The film had one of Hindi cinema’s most enigmatic on-screen romantic pair of Dilip Kumar and Madhubala bringing to life the unrequited love of Salim and Anarkali facing opposition from none other than Salim’s own father Emperor Akbar played by Prithviraj Kapoor.

mughal-e-azam

Here is a Shakeel Badayuni masterpiece from the film- In the song ‘Pyar kiya toh darna kya…’ the line ‘parda nahi jab koi khuda se bandon se parda karna kya…’ deserves a special mention. It defined the very essence of Salim and Anarkali’s love and Anarkali’s defiance and fearlessness towards Emperor Akbar himself forcing him to accept defeat. Lyrics like these are not written everyday.

‘Pyar kiya toh darna kiya…’

This film considered to be director K Asif’s labour of love took 16 years to complete as it went through several obstacles including change of cast as well but when it was released it created history and till date remains the biggest block-buster in terms of box-office collections also. Even after 60 years every film lover continues to be in awe of everything associated with the film with the minute detailing of every aspect remaining an enigma.

Superb acting by the brilliant cast of Prithviraj Kapoor, Dilip Kumar, Madhubala, Durga Khote, Ajit and Nigar Sultana, evergreen music by Naushad, memorable lyrics by Shakeel Badayuni, and dialogues by a team of four writers-Kamal Amrohi, Wajahat Mirza, Amanulla Khan and Ehsan Rizvi- the film continues to inspire the new generation in every respect.

‘Ghadi bhar ko tere nazdeek aakar…’

1960 boasted of some of the greatest musicals of Hindi cinema like Mughal-e-Azam, Chaudvin ka Chand, Barsaat ki Raat, Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai, Kaala Bazaar, Dil Apna aur Preet Parayi, Jaali Note, Bambai Ka Babu, Hum Hindustani, Chhalia. 

Music directors Roshan, Ravi, Naushad, Shankar-Jaikishen, S D Burman and Kalyanji Anandji gave some evergreen songs. Among the lyricists we had memorable lyrics from Sahir Ludhianvi, Shakeel Badayuni, Shailendra, Qamar Jalalabadi, Prem Dhawan, Asad Bhopali and a few from S H Bihari and Raja Mehndi Ali Khan as well.

Here are some remarkable songs of 1960

‘Zindagi bhar nahi…’

‘Ajeeb dastaan hai yeh…’

‘Khoya khoya chand…’

Aha rimjhim ke ye pyare pyare…’

1960 is also remembered for giving us one of Hindi cinema’s best crime thrillers Kanoon. What made Kanoon unique was that it was a song-less ‘who-dun-it’. At a time when music was at the heart of all our films, director B R Chopra was gutsy enough to give the audience a song-less murder thriller-Kanoon. And his confidence paid off as this movie was accepted by the people whole-heartedly and is rated even today among the top 10 thrillers of Bollywood.

The trend of Muslim socials started with Guru Dutt’s Chaudvin Ka Chand which had another great on-screen couple Guru Dutt and Waheeda Rehman playing lovers with Rehman forming the third angle of the triangle. Ravi composed some great numbers and lyricist Shakeel Badayuni created magic with the title song of the film ‘Chaudvin ka chand ho ya aaftab ho….’

‘Sharma ke agar…’

Barsaat ki Raat was another unique film and gave Hindi cinema some of its greatest qawaalis. The film had the outstanding ‘Isq Ishq hai ishq ishq…’ by Manna Dey, Mohammed Rafi and Asha Bhonsle which till date is considered the ultimate in qawaalis. The genius music director Roshan put his soul in the film and the results are there for all to see. Sahir Ludhianvi’s memorable lyrics resonate to this day in every music lover’s heart.

‘Yeh ishq ishq hai…’

‘Nigahen naaz ke…’

The ten highest-grossing films at the Indian Box Office in 1960: (source: Wikipedia)

Rank Title Cast
1. Mughal-e-Azam Dilip KumarMadhubala
2. Barsaat Ki Raat MadhubalaBharat Bhushan
3. Kohinoor Dilip Kumar, Meena Kumari
4. Chaudhvin Ka Chand Guru DuttWaheeda Rehman
5. Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai Raj KapoorPadmini
6. Dil Apna Aur Preet Parayi Raaj Kumar, Meena Kumari
7. Love in Simla Joy Mukherjee, Sadhana
8. Ghunghat Bharat BhushanPradeep KumarAsha ParekhBina Rai
9. Kanoon Ashok KumarRajendra Kumar, Nanda
10. Kala Bazar Dev Anand, Waheeda Rehman

 

Highlights of the year

Let us revisit this fabulous year to get an overview of the kind of films which were released and who were the stars dominating that year. A look at the list of films definitely suggests that romance was the dominant theme in 1960.

The triumvirate of Dilip Kumar-Raj Kapoor-Dev Anand who were at their peak had some great releases to their credit. Dilip Kumar was undoubtedly the ‘Shehenshah’ of 1960 with the magnum opus Mughal-e-Azam (opposite Madhubala) breaking all records to emerge as the biggest grosser of 1960 followed by another super-hit Kohinoor (opposite Meena Kumari). Both were in the top three successful films of the year clearly indicating the power of his stardom.

‘Madhuban mein radhika…’

Raj Kapoor acted in and directed the brilliant Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai and started a new era in R K Films when he signed South star Padmini as the R K heroine. The film was a super-hit. He also had two more film that year- Chhalia opposite Nutan which had one of the best rain-songs of Hindi cinema-‘Dum dum diga diga…’ and Shriman Satyavadi opposite Shakila which did not do well but had the heart-tugging ‘Haale dil hamara jaane na bewafa yeh zamana…’.

‘Aa ab laut chalein…’

Dev Anand had six releases- Jaali Note opposite Madhubala, Kaala Bazaar opposite Waheeda Rehman, Bambai ka Babu and Sarhad opposite Suchitra Sen, Manzil opposite Nutan and Ek Ke Baad Ek opposite South star Sharada . Of these only Kaala Bazaar made it to the top 10, Bambai Ka Babu, Jaali Note and Manzil did well but the other 2 did not fare well.

‘Sach kehta hoon bahut haseen ho…’

‘Chal ri sajni…’

Veteran Ashok Kumar came out trumps with his outstanding performance in the murder mystery Kanoon. He starred in another suspense thriller Kala Aadmi opposite Shyama. His other releases included Kalpana where both Padmini and Ragini were cast opposite him, Aanchal opposite Nirupa Roy and a special appearance in Masoom with many child artistes.

‘Dil dhoondta hai sahare sahare…’

The genius singer-actor Kishore Kumar also made his mark with a heart-tugging and one of his career best performances in Apna Haath Jagannath opposite Sayeeda Khan and three light-hearted films- Bewaqoof opposite Mala Sinha, Girlfriend opposite Waheeda Rehman and Mehlon Ke Khwab opposite Madhubala’s sister Chanchal. Interestingly the film also had Madhubala but she was paired opposite Pradeep Kumar.

Balraj Sahni had the critically acclaimed Anuradha opposite the lovely Leela Naidu which dealt with marital discord and he also starred in family socials Dil Bhi Tera Hum Bhi Tere and Bindiya.

 ‘Jaane kaise sapnon mein…’

Both Pradeep Kumar and Bharat Bhushan shared screen space in the much acclaimed Ghunghat opposite Bina Rai. Incidentally Bina Rai walked away with the Filmfare Best Actress award for the year for her performance in the film.

‘More cham cham baje payalia…’

Bharat Bhushan also starred in the hit Barsaat Ki Raat and Chand Mere Aaja. He was praised for his sensitive performance in the title role of Angulimal who undergoes reformation from a killer and adopts the path of Buddhism. The song ‘Buddham Sharanam Gachchami …’ sung by Manna Dey became quite popular at that time.

Here is a small clip of the song:

Sunil Dutt had Hum Hindustani, Ek Phool Chaar Kaante, Duniya Jhukti Hai and Usne Kaha Tha to his credit. One of the best songs of the year was picturized on him…

‘Chodo kal ki baatein…’

Shammi Kapoor, who had yet to yahoo down the snow-clad hills with his Junglee which came the next year, had three releases- Basant (opposite Nutan), College Girl  (opposite Vyjayanthimala) and Singapore (opposite Padmini). All three were average hits.

‘Yeh sheher bada albela…’

Rajendra Kumar had a super- hit in Kanoon and his two other releases were family dramas with a social message- Patang (opposite Mala Sinha) and Maa Baap (where he and Pran play brothers). Manoj Kumar had only one film Honeymoon opposite Sayeeda Khan.

‘Rang dil ki dhadkan bhi…’

Among the heroines, top actresses Madhubala, Waheeda Rehman and Meena Kumari had two blockbuster hits each featuring in the top 10 films of 1960. Madhubala had Mughal-e-Azam opposite Dilip Kumar, Jaali Note opposite Dev Anand, Barsaat Ki Raat opposite Bharat Bhushan and Mehlon Ke Khwab opposite Pradeep Kumar.

Apart from the two top hits Chaudvin Ka Chand and Kaala Bazaar, Waheeda Rehman had Ek Phool Chaar Kaante opposite Sunil Dutt and Girlfriend opposite Kishore Kumar.

South star Padmini had a good year with one super-hit Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai opposite Raj Kapoor, three average hits- Kalpana opposite Ashok Kumar, Bindiya opposite Balraj Sahni, Singapore opposite Shammi Kapoor while Sarhad opposite Dev Anand did not do well.

Here is a lovely song from the film Kalpana with both the sisters Padmini and Ragini dancing together and the soft classical composition is rendered in the soulful voices of Mohammed Rafi and Manna Dey.

‘Tu hai mera prem devta…’

Actress Nanda also had a good year with seven of her films being released in 1960- Kanoon, Aanchal, Usne Kaha Tha, Kala Bazar, Chand Mere Aaja, Apna Ghar and Jo Huwa So Bhool Ja.  Nanda also received her first Filmfare trophy -Best Supporting Actress Award for her performance in Aanchal.

‘Ga rahi hai zindagi…’

The beautiful and talented actresses Shyama and Shakila had four releases each. Nutan was seen in Chhabili directed by her own mother Shobhna Samarth in which she sang her own songs one of them being the popular ‘Ae mere humsafar…’. Chhalia (opposite Raj Kapoor), Manzil (opposite Dev Anand) and Basant (opposite Shammi Kapoor) were her other three releases.

Ajit who had not yet switched over to villain roles had three releases as a hero without much luck- Gambler, Baraat and Delhi Junction. Interestingly Pran was the villain in Delhi Junction.  Among the male supporting artistes Pran made his mark with seven releases including hit films like Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai, Chhalia, Maa Baap, Bewaqoof, etc. Helen appeared in more than 20 films which spoke of the popularity and demand for her songs and dances. In Hum Hindustani she was the second heroine along with Asha Parekh.

‘Neeli neeli ghata…’

NEW TALENTS OF 1960:

The year saw many new talents make an entry in the film industry which included Dharmendra, Sanjeev Kumar, Tanuja, Joy Mukherjee, Sadhana, Indrani Mukherjee, Prem Chopra, Moni Bhattachajee, Gulzar and Manmohan Desai.  All of them went on to carve a special niche for themselves and their invaluable contribution to our industry remains unmatched.

Dharmendra was introduced in Dil Bhi Tera Hum Bhi Tere by director Arjun Hingorani and today after completing 60 glorious years in the industry he remains the same humble and loving man that he was in his early days.

Joy Mukherjee and Sadhana were introduced together in a romantic musical titled Love in Simla which was a super-hit and both became stars overnight. Joy Mukherjee remained one of the luckiest stars who got to lip-sync some of the best songs sung by Mohammed Rafi. Music directors O P Nayyar and Shankar Jaikishen contributed in a big way to his career by composing some of their most memorable songs in his films. Sadhana was not only considered a good actress but also became a style icon as long as she acted in films.

The same year Joy Mukherjee also acted in Hum Hindustani and Sadhana in director Bimal Roy’s critically acclaimed Parakh. Though she had a very small role she was noticed for her transformation into the simple village girl which was a big contrast from her role in Love in Simla.

‘O…sajna barkha…’

One of the most versatile actors of the industry Sanjeev Kumar made his entry with a very small role in Hum Hindustani and had to wait a while before he achieved stardom and overtook so many others with his humongous talent.

The ace villain Prem Chopra who made his entry into the film world with a Punjabi film Chaudhary Karnail Singh, also made his entry into Hindi films albeit in inconsequential roles in Mud Mud Ke Na Dekh and Hum Hindustani. His presence almost went unnoticed till he got better opportunities to showcase his talent.

Though actress Tanuja had acted as a child artiste Baby Tanuja in 1950 in Hamari Beti, as an adult her debut film was Chhabili directed by her mother Shobhna Samarth with her sister Nutan also acting in it.

Actress Indrani Mukhrjee made her debut in the film Usne Kaha Tha with Sunil Dutt and Nanda as her co-stars. The film was directed by Moni Bhattacharjee who had been Bimal Roy’s assistant director in many of his classic films. Incidentally this film was his debut film as an independent director.

Writer-director-lyricist Gulzar stated his career as a lyricist in the film Shriman Satyavadi. His name flashes as Gulzar Deenvi in the credits and he was one of the lyricists along with Hasrat Jaipuri and Gulshan Bawra.

Director Manmohan Desai was given his first break as a director in Chhalia by his brother producer Subhash Desai. The film starring Raj Kapoor and Nutan was a big hit and had great music by Kalyanji Anandji.

‘Dum Dum Diga Diga…’

FILMFARE AWARDS for the year:

Best Film: K Asif’s Mughal-e-Azam

Best Director: Bimal Roy (Parakh)

Best Story: Ruby Sen (Masoom)

Best Music Director: Shankar-Jaikishen (Dil Apna Aur Preet Parayi)

Best Lyrics: Shakeel Badayuni (‘Chaudvin ka chaand ho…’)

Best Playback Singer: Mohammed Rafi (‘Chaudvin ka chaand ho…’)

Best Actor: Dilip Kumar (Kohinoor)

Best Actress- Bina Rai (Ghunghat)

Best Supporting Actor: Motilal (Parakh)

Best Supporting Actress: Nanda (Aanchal)

Best Dialogues & Best Cinematography: Mughal-e-Azam

When we look at the list of winners it is heart-breaking to note that K Asif never won the Best Director award for his Mughal-e-Azam and lost out to Bimal Roy whose Parakh was an average film. Similarly Naushad gave probably his career-best score in Mughal-e-Azam where each song was a gem. Instead the award went to Shankar-Jaikishen for Dil Apna Aur Preet Parayi. Honestly except for ‘Ajeeb Dastaan hai yeh…’ there is no great recall value for the other songs of the film. Roshan did not even get nominated for his outstanding score in Barsaat ki Raat. Hindi cinema has yet to see qawaalis to match the standard of this film.

Though Bina Rai was good, Madhubala was outstanding as Anarkali in Mughal-e-Azam but the award went to Bina Rai for Ghunghat. That was a time when there were no separate awards for Best Male and Best Female playback singers. So Lata Mangeshkar’s ‘Pyar kiya toh darna kya …’ lost to Rafi’s ‘Chaudvin ka chand ho…’. Both were brilliant songs and both deserved awards. Prithviraj Kapoor was not even nominated for Best Supporting Actor award!

Well! As the saying goes ‘In life you win some, you lose some’. But whatever the outcome at the awards ceremony there is no doubt that those who did not win are also etched in our memories for their memorable contribution in making 1960 one of the best years of the film industry.

I end the blog with this very popular song from the film Masoom -a superb film with three child artistes- Sarosh Irani, Honey Irani and Aziz. The song was rendered by Hemant Kumar’s young daughter-Ranu Mukherjee.

 

 

 

 

 

ANGREZI MEDIUM: Irrfan Khan’s heart-warming performance is a lesson in acting

By

Sharada Iyer

After the super success of the comedy-drama Hindi Medium in 2017, producer Dinesh Vijan is back again with the second part of this franchise Angrezi Medium and this one is directed by Homi Adjania. Like its predecessor this film also deals with how hyper the parents in our country get when it comes to their children’s education.

angrezi medium 6

It was a pleasure to watch a brilliant actor like Irrfan Khan on screen after a gap of 2 years and especially after his miraculous comeback from the deadly disease he has been fighting against for the past two years. The film is a must-watch just for his outstanding performance. Giving him fabulous support with almost as much screen time is Deepak Dobriyal whose comic timing is superb. Together with their rocking chemistry and camaraderie they rise above the script to take the film several notches higher with their effortless performance.

angrezi medium5

The plot basically revolves around the relationship between Irrfan Khan and his daughter played by the talented and young Radhika Madan. After losing his wife who is there for just one scene, widower Irrfan brings his daughter with a lot of love and care and tries to fulfil all her wishes and guides her at every step. He is the owner of a sweetshop in Udaipur and is quite happy in his small world.

angrezi medium1

Irrfan’s daughter however has big dreams and wants to get out of this small town, explore the world and go to UK for higher studies. As a father though he loves his daughter very much he is unable to fathom her need for some space and freedom and her desire to get an education abroad. Their relationship which is captured beautifully has its fair share of ups and downs, as well as laughter and tears.

Involved in all this is Irrfan’s cousin Deepak Dobriyal who adores his niece very much. There is also a family feud going on between him and his cousin regarding the family sweet business. Despite their professional differences, the two are there for each other and their scenes are a laugh-riot.

As Irrfan Khan’s daughter Radhika Madan comes up with a winning performance. After all it is no easy task to even stand in the same frame with an actor of Irrfan’s calibre. So kudos to this young actress who manages to leave an impact. The scenes with the two are natural and directed very well. Some scenes are really funny while some are bound to leave us teary-eyed and the confrontation scenes work well.

The story is simple and the narrative straightforward but many interesting incidents and hilarious situations, some even seemingly implausible, have been woven into the plot which do throw surprises now and then. The first half of the film is set in Udaipur and the second half in London.

What happens to the daughter’s dreams? Is she able to fulfill her desire of getting an education in UK? What role does her father finally play? Do they reach UK legally or is there any hanky-panky involved? The film deals with all this and to add masala to the plot many talented character artistes have been added like Ranvir Shorey, Pankaj Tripathi, Kiku Sharda, Zakir Hussain and Dimple Kapadia and they all act well.

Unfortunately Kareena Kapoor Khan has a very small role. She plays a London cop but her track is not etched out well. In fact her presence or absence would have made no difference to the film’s plot. So basically while it was nice seeing her on screen such a talented star was wasted as she had nothing to do with the crux of the film. Further, as her role was totally devoid of any humour element she did not contribute to any comedy also.

angrezi medium2

The film lacks the punch of Hindi Medium and the problem lies in the fact that there are four writers who seem to have worked individually and not as a team. With the result some parts are brilliant while some have not been developed well. For instance when the story shifts to London the daughter’s track gets derailed a little and even the education angle suffers. The focus shifts entirely to Irrfan and Dobriyal and their adventures. Tighter editing would have also given better results. Music is not up to the mark.

With its minor flaws also the film is definitely worth a watch for Irrfan Khan. The film’s collections will suffer now that the cinema halls are facing a shutdown. Bur whenever it is streamed on any of the OTT platforms, the film will be a treat for his fans. For Deepak Dobriyal this film will surely be counted among his best.

 

THAPPAD: Impactful film which questions the deep-rooted misogyny in our society

By

Sharada Iyer

Director Anubhav Sinha’s latest offering ‘Thappad’ is a hard-hitting slap on the narrow-minded, regressive and patriarchal values existing in our society wherein a woman has been conditioned to endure in silence any kind of abuse in a relationship and not make an issue out of it. And who better to portray the role of our protagonist than the beautiful and talented Taapsee Pannu who is raising the bar with every film of hers!

Taapsee plays a doting housewife who is happy having her world revolve around her husband and his activities. Basking in his love she is content leading a seemingly ‘perfect’ married life until one day a shocking and totally unexpected incident turns her life upside down. Her husband slaps her at their house party in front of all the guests for no fault of hers.

thappad 3thappad

She not only feels humiliated but is also caught totally off-guard and becomes quiet and withdrawn. The incident creates an emotional turmoil within her and she starts to question her real worth and place in this marriage. She faces all kinds of questions from her brother, her parents, her in-laws, her husband and her lawyer. Everyone is ready to point out that it was ‘just one slap’ and why make an issue. But she realizes that things will never be the same again for her.

So what is the situation that leads to this incident? What happens to her life and her equation with her husband after that? Is she able to forgive him? Is she justified in getting upset? Does he feel sorry and apologize? Do matters spiral out of control? Are her demands unreasonable? Was the husband’s behaviour justified? What is the reaction of the rest of the household? These questions form the crux of the plot.

The film brilliantly and in an insightful manner presents the audience with a scenario which gives rise to a conversation/debate surrounding such incidents. It makes us think and question some age-old thoughts and ethos associated with marriage. So does a hue and cry need to be raised only if the violence gets beyond tolerance level? Why is a wife expected to ignore this ‘one’ untoward incident? Is it okay to argue that ‘after all he is her husband’ and little bit physical fights are ‘part of the game’?

Putting up with domestic violence and marital subjugation are so deeply entrenched in the psyche of women in our society under the nonsensical garb of ‘culture’ and ‘Indian values’ that women themselves have doubts whether this is an issue which needs attention or should they just turn a blind eye and not say a word. Is it wrong for a woman to expect self-respect and dignity in a relationship? And when she feels stifled in such a situation what are her options? Should she listen to her heart or behave in a ‘certain’ way the society expects her to do so?

thappad 5                    

Though the film is basically about Taapsee, there are other female characters interconnected with her life- her maid, her mother, mother-in-law, sister-in law, her lawyer and her neighbour. The narrative beautifully blends their individual stories and by weaving together an interesting tapestry of relationships, the film highlights the plight of women from different strata of society caught in situations where their self-respect is being compromised and yet society expects them to treat it as a ‘normal’ thing and carry on with their lives ignoring the pain and the shame.

The biggest plus point of the film is the excellent performance from the entire cast. The characters are well-etched out and the dialogues are well-written and seem very natural. The film belongs to Taapsee who comes up with yet another stellar performance. She has plenty of scope to display a range of emotions and she lives the role. Her expressions and voice modulations are superb.

Giving her good support is debutant Pavail Gulati who plays her husband. Though he gets to play a not-so-likeable character, he is also excellent in his role. The supporting cast of Kumud Mishra, Ratna Pathak Shah, Tanvi Azmi, Ram Kapoor, Manav Kaaul and Dia Mirza are so natural in their respective roles. Also the comparatively newer actresses Geethika Vaidya and Maya Sarao playing the maid and the lawyer respectively are also brilliant.

The film is definitely worth a watch for the unusual and thought-provoking subject and the superlative performances. Whether we agree with the director’s viewpoint or not and whether our reaction to the situation would have been the same or different, the film keeps us engrossed and we become part of Taapsee’s journey and feel all her emotions. The film definitely makes us look inward and rethink our beliefs and practices and for that the director gets all credit… 

Quick review of the weekend releases:  ‘Bhoot: Part One-The Haunted Ship’ & ‘Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan’

 By

Sharada Iyer

Bollywood is definitely on a roll. The kind of subjects being attempted by mainstream cinema and popular actors is indeed commendable and it is clear that there is no limit to the variety of subjects ready to be tackled by the younger generation of stars.

Both the films need to be applauded for daring to tread the off-beat path and have definitely made inroads into arenas hitherto considered taboo for popular cinema. While ‘Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan’ deals with the love story of a gay couple with Ayushmann Khurrana playing one of the protagonists, ‘Bhoot: Part One-The Haunted Ship’ has Vicky Kaushal take the plunge into horror genre with a flourish.

In both cases without doubt the USP of the film is the earnest and sincere performance by the two stars Ayushmann Khurrana and Vicky Kaushal. It is to their credit that in spite of being let down by the weak writing and editing, they manage to lift the films several notches higher by their mere presence.

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Here is my take on both these films:

‘Bhoot: Part One-The Haunted Ship’ fails to induce spine-chilling moments

It was good to see a big name like Karan Johar and his Dharma Productions known for making romantic family dramas attempt a horror thriller (to be spread over a three part series). To have the current heart-throb Vicky Kaushal who is riding high after the super success of URI: The Surgical Strike, associated with such a film was the icing on the cake and was thrilling news for his fans.

The story basically revolves around a ship which somehow sails into Mumbai waters and gets stuck in the sandy shores of Juhu beach. There is no one on the ship and no one has any clue as to how it landed there and who sent it! Our protagonist Vicky Kaushal works for the shipping company which has been given charge of getting this marooned ship moved at any cost and at the earliest. But there are rumours about the ship being haunted which is disturbing and causes delay in their work.

Things start happening when Vicky decides to explore the interiors of the ship on his own and to his utter disbelief and shock ends up experiencing some spooky encounters which are quite scary. But he himself is suffering from a tragic and troubled past and is a victim of hallucinations which makes him question his own experiences. So he confides in his best friend.

His closest friend played by Akash Dhar, however refuses to believe him and Vicky is soon introduced to a scientist doing some research on the subject of paranormal phenomena. Ashutosh Rana plays the scientist. The first half of the film concentrates on Vicky’s character and takes time to build up the suspense and the second half has more of action scenes and all the explanations.

So what kind of encounters does Vicky experience? Is there a ghost on board and if so whose ghost is it and why is it haunting the ship? Do Vicky and his friends manage to ward off the ghost or do they also become victims? Are they able to move the ship? What is the story behind Vicky’s hallucinations? These questions are answered by the end of the film.

The film starts off well with a chilling scene when a small child celebrating her 3rd birthday on a ship hears a tune and starts walking towards it all alone with a doll in her hand…Yes! That sets the tone of the film as suggested by the title-The Haunted Ship…

But somehow the script falters and fails to keep the audience engaged from start to finish which is essential for such a genre. We keep expecting something to happen any minute but things move quite slowly and some scenes especially of Vicky Kaushal opening various doors in the dingy rusted ship in a dimly lit screen get repetitive after a while. The explanation in the end is not very convincing.

The dim light is used well to create a frightening atmosphere which was good but the interiors of the ship did not add any character to the proceedings. For reasons best known to the makers of the film the ghost in many scenes is shown crawling on the walls like a lizard which actually makes it look more comical than scary. 

Except Vicky Kaushal, overall performance of the rest of the cast was not up to the mark. The film rests on Vicky’s shoulders and he does a superb job. His expressions conveying trauma, anguish, fear and restlessness are brought out very well. The others like Akash Dhar, Ashutosh Rana and Meher Vij are quite unremarkable and disappointing. Bhoomi Pednekar who has a very small role manages to leave her mark. The film’s background score is okay but could have been spookier. The make-up of the ghost and the special effects and graphics seemed substandard for today’s time.

Teaser of the film:

Overall verdict: The film was definitely different from the usual kind we see in Bollywood but for a film advertised to be a super scary horror film, the pace falters taking away the scary effect from the scenes. Strangely the teaser of the film released on YouTube had scary scenes which were missing in the film. Maybe the audience felt cheated which explains why the first weekend collections have not been very encouraging.

On the whole, the film has some very good parts and some very drab scenes. For those wanting a different kind of story, the film is worth a watch as a thriller. There are some scary moments but don’t expect chilling horror scenes. For Vicky Kaushal fans the film is a must-watch for his performance and he is there in almost every frame of the film…

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SHUBH MANGAL ZYADA SAAVDHAN does a light-hearted take on homosexuality

After last year’s Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga, here is another mainstream film with a top star celebrating homosexuality. It requires guts to star in a film like this and to convey to the family audience that love as a feeling is same whether it is a typical boy-meets-girl romance or between same-sex partners.

For a society still opposing love on the grounds of caste, class and religion, gender becomes another obstacle to deal with and social acceptance becomes that much more difficult. And sadly the biggest opposition comes from one’s own close family members especially parents who refuse to accept their children’s sexuality by being in denial and treating the whole phenomenon like a disease. This kind of mentality is even worse in small towns where all such topics are not discussed openly and hushed up under the carpet for fear of societal ostracism.

The film’s publicity campaign did well to garner the curiosity of the audience to walk into the cinema halls to see their favourite actor and box-office numero uno star of today Ayushmann Khurrna play a gay character.

The film wastes no time in introducing us to the lovers of the story-Ayushmann and Jitendra Kumar who play contrasting personalities. Ayushmann is the more flamboyant partner wearing his heart on his sleeve and has no qualms indulging in public display of affection. Jitendra on the other hand is the quiet one who is afraid of confronting his family with his sexuality issues and even succumbs to their constant pressure by agreeing to marry the girl of their choice.

The film generally focuses on how people suffering from homophobia vehemently refuse to accept same sex love and can go to any lengths to be in denial. This issue is brought out well but as the entire film is laced with humour and witty dialogues, somewhere the seriousness of the issue gets diluted. 

There were too many unnecessary subplots and deviations which take up too much screen time and end up deviating the focus from the main love story. Gajraj Rao and Neena Gupta play Jitendra Kumar’s parents and are also the main villains in the lovers’ path. They live in a joint family and Gajraj’s younger brother (Manu Rishi Chadha), wife (Sunita Rajwar) and children also live with them.

Now the subplots include fight between the brothers, continuous bickering within the family for everything, the brother’s daughter’s love story, Gajraj and Neena’s past love affairs, Gajraj’s nonsensical scientific experiment, the brother’s professional career…Well! The list is exhausting. Expectedly, amidst all this confusion the gay love story gets smothered down.

Not enough time has been given to develop the characters of the protagonists or how they discover their sexuality and come to terms with it. There is a nauseating scene where Gajraj and his brother are arguing while peeing in the open which was totally unnecessary in this otherwise neat clean family entertainer.

How does the family react on knowing the truth? How do the lovers confront the parental opposition? Are they able to convince them in the end or do they have to sacrifice their love and bow down to societal pressure? This is the crux of the story. There is a meaningless cameo by Bhumi Pednekar which must have been added just to get her name included.

Acting by Ayushmann is top class and we get to see him play an over-the top- personality for the first time. His body language, expressions and dialogue delivery are all superb and he is amazing to watch in the song situations as well. Jitendra Kumar also gets his act perfectly and it is easy to understand his difficulty in opposing his parents openly. His chemistry with Ayushmann is good but not brilliant. Maybe Rajkummar Rao or Siddharth Malhotra would have been a better choice for the role.

Gajraj Rao plays a very irritating character and his acting is okay. Neena Gupta is simply brilliant and it is great to watch her shine in every film. Others in the cast lend able support. Music is good and songs are catchy. However the DDLJ train scene and the remix version of the old Bappi Lahiri song could have been avoided.

Overall verdict: The film is definitely worth watching as it treats homosexuality in a dignified way without mockery and drives home the point that same sex love needs to be accepted. Ayushmann’s immensely likeable screen presence and the humour element will appeal to the audience. If only so many subplots had not been there the film would have been a milestone.

An interesting song from the film:

 

 

 

 

 

 

MALANG: Superb action-thriller laced with romance and revenge

By

Sharada Iyer

Director Mohit Suri’s latest offering Malang is a must-watch entertainer and has all the ingredients of a masala film in the right mix– high voltage action, an edge of the seat narrative, heart-touching romance, sizzling chemistry between the lead pair, amazing twists and turns in the plot, suspense, murder, good music, excellent cinematography, superb direction and above all outstanding performances from the entire cast.

The story unfolds in an intriguing way and the narrative takes us back and forth in time keeping us hooked on to the plot throughout. The film starts with a jail sequence which is superb. Basically the film is about murders that happen over one night, on the eve of Christmas (24th December), leaving the cops baffled. There are flashback sequences which offer us a glimpse into the characters and their background and finally a gripping climax which neatly ties up all the loose ends.

Revealing anything more would spoil the fun for the viewer but suffice to say it is easily one of the best thrillers to come out of Bollywood in recent times. Mohit Suri handles the plot very intelligently and choosing the back and forth narrative instead of a linear mode was a superb touch as it keeps the suspense alive and the audience guessing. He has extracted excellent performances from the entire cast and that is the biggest USP of the film.

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Anil Kapoor has a brilliant role and his remarkable performance raises the bar of the film by several notches. He gets into the skin of the layered character effortlessly and his special laugh in the film is just too good. He has always believed in playing versatile characters which is why he remains evergreen even today!

Aditya Roy Kapoor is the big surprise of the film. In a role that gives him scope to display a range of emotional ups and downs be it happiness, romance, heartbreak, fear, anger, frustration or shock he is just outstanding. With all that muscle that he built for this role, he is so convincing in the fight sequences and owns the character like no other. The film shows that given a good role he can rise to the occasion to leave an indelible mark.

Kunal Khemu who deservedly is on a roll after Kalank gets to play yet another superb character. He has always been an excellent actor but somehow luck had evaded him. He tackles a difficult role and comes out with flying colours and his performance will definitely be talked about.

Disha Patani known more for her gorgeous looks and sensuous personality gets to play a very interesting character who is free-spirited with a vulnerable touch and does full justice to it. Elli Aviram in a brief but important role is also very good and leaves her mark. Amruta Khanvilkar in a small role as Kunal Khemu’s wife is good. The rest of the cast who form the police force are also apt in their respective parts.

The Goa locales have been captured beautifully and the setting lends authenticity to the plot. Several lyricists and music directors comprise the music team and have come up with good songs and background music.

The younger lot of actors have once again shown that they are in fact highly talented and all it requires is a good script and a scope to portray interesting characters to bring out the best in them.

Sadly many prominent reviewers in their enthusiasm to dissect every frame of the film have revealed the entire plot almost scene to scene in their reviews which is not fair. Do head to the cinema halls for a super entertainer before the spoilers get to you and snatch away the thrilling moments…  

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The Director with his cast

CHHAPAAK: A heart-wrenching story of unimaginable grit and determination

By

Sharada Iyer

The piercing scream which shatters the silence of the cinema hall when a bottle of acid is thrown on Deepika’s face leaves us shaken and shocked from the very core of our soul. The audience is not only made to witness this unbelievably heinous and gruesome human act but also made to feel the excruciating pain and agony of the victim. What a world of difference there is between reading about such a horrific act as a news item and actually getting to know the agonizing journey of such a person!

After the brilliant Talvar in 2015 and Raazi in 2018, writer-director Meghna Gulzar this time addresses the extremely significant and continuously increasing acid attacks on young girls and women by bringing to light the events that happened in the life of Laxmi Agarwal who was at the receiving end of such an act in 2005.

While poignantly addressing the issues surrounding this attack, the film also poses uncomfortable questions regarding our inept judicial system and also holds a mirror to this kind of inhuman behaviour prevalent today. Worse still is the attitude of people in general who not only allow such acts to happen but somehow instead of making the perpetrator pay for his horrific crime, it is the victim who has to face all kinds of obstacles for the rest of her life.

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In a society obsessed with good looks and beauty, attacking and defacing a woman’s face is a direct attack on her very existence, erodes her very soul and destroys her physically and mentally so that she has no future. From the attack to the trauma to the rehabilitation and investigation of the attack, the film tries to address all the issues.

The real-life incident:

In 2005, a 15-year old girl Laxmi Agarwal- a school student hailing from a poor family in Delhi was walking towards the book shop where she had taken up a temporary job during her two-month summer vacation in the city’s posh Khan Market area. Within seconds she was attacked by a man and a girl who threw a full glass of acid on her face and ran away after which her life underwent a change which she had never anticipated in her wildest dreams.

The attack happened so fast and so suddenly that the onlookers could not do anything and probably no one realized what had happened. She fainted and when she came to her senses she felt as if her whole body was being burnt in fire as she lay there screaming in pain. Though the area was crowded at that time, no one came to her help for a long time. Finally a kind Samaritan called for an ambulance and she was taken to a government hospital.

The man who threw the acid was the 32 year-old brother of her friend and the woman accompanying him was his brother’s fiance. Laxmi had known this man for two and a half years as he used to come home and looked upon him as a brother but he had different ideas and had been sending her texts confessing his love for her and proposing to marry her. When she told him a categorical ‘no’ for an answer, he did not take it kindly. 

That particular morning with this one despicable act done out of revenge for spurning his advances he left her devastated, scarred and humiliated for the rest of her life. But support from her parents gave her the courage to first accept the reality of her new face and then to embark on her new journey and embrace a new life for which she had not been prepared.

In the film:

The film does stick to the basic story line for the most part but also takes some cinematic liberties to highlight the nature of such heinous attacks and the trauma attached to the lives of the survivors. After all, not many are able to face the long and daunting personal battle of struggle to cope with this tragedy.

The film is an eye-opener in many respects and we salute the makers for taking up such a topic and making a touching film which will definitely get us thinking as to the kind of society we are living in today where violence and crime against women are becoming a norm and no one bats an eyelid.

While there is a lot of awareness and discussions on rape, domestic violence and child abuse, very little comes to light regarding an acid attack, the atrocity of the act, how the perpetrators get their hands on it, what happens to the victim, her future, how her family copes with this ghastly trauma, what kind of help is needed, etc.

Much like the ghastly act of rape this unspeakable act which scars the person physically and emotionally for life has somehow not been taken up seriously either by the society or the Government. In many cases the victim succumbs to the acid attack and dies and the act is thus equivalent to first-degree murder, yet the perpetrators get away with very little punishment and in spite of the restriction order passed by the Supreme Court in 2013, acid is still being sold across the counters freely.

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Full marks to Deepika Padukone for taking on such a role and doing a remarkable job. She slips into her character effortlessly and becomes the acid attack survivor who decides to fight back. She has put in a lot of effort and the results have paid off. Having a top actress and one known for her beauty to take on such a role carries a lot of weightage as the reach of the film to create awareness widens and the purpose of making such a film is a success.

In the role of the NGO activist, Vikrant Massey, one of the most talented youngsters today, is excellent. Though his role is not much he lends the necessary gravitas and authenticity to the film. Actress Madhurjeet Sarghi who plays the role of a lawyer is so natural that she comes across as a real-life lawyer. She is a relatively unknown face and is a huge advantage as the proceedings look very real.  

Handling such a sensitive subject requires utmost care and it is certainly not a very easy task. The direction, the camerawork and the background score are all praiseworthy. The supporting cast which includes actors who play her parents and a few real-life acid attack survivors who are shown to be part of the NGO where Deepika starts working are all cast very well.

Probably the only flip side is that the narrative could have been tighter. The story travels back and forth with the real reason for the attack on Deepika being shown only at end of the film. A little more emphasis could have been given to the events leading up to the attack which would have had more impact.

The soulful words of the title track penned by the one and only Gulzar Saab are set to tune by the super trio of Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy and aided by the outstanding rendition of Arijit Singh sum up the gist of this kind of attacks so brilliantly that any one hearing this song will get tears in their eyes. The victim’s thoughts and feelings could not have been expressed in a better and more touching way. The song stays with us long after we leave the cinema hall…

‘Koi chehra hata ke aur ankh se mita ke, chand cheente udake jo gaya, chapaak se pehchaan le gaya…. ‘How easily with a splash of a few drops not just the face but the person’s very identity and along with it all dreams, aspirations and hope are taken away from her forever…’

Here is a small clip from the title track:

 

TANHAJI-The Unsung Warrior: Ajay Devgn and Saif Khan are brilliant in this action-packed historical

By

Sharada Iyer

A great story, superb direction, excellent sets, remarkable fight sequences, outstanding acting and a riveting climax- all add up to give us an amazing and inspiring account of the brave and unsung Maratha warrior Tanhaji Malusare, the right-hand man of Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. While there are many stories recounting the courage and valour of Shivaji Maharaj, not many are aware of the contribution by his greatest and most trusted warrior-friend Tanhaji, who fought alongside the Chatrapati in many a battle.

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Tanhaji is best remembered for the important and historic battle of Sinhagad (earlier known as Kondhana) fought in 1670 between Shivaji Maharaj’s army led by Tanhaji and the army of Emperor Aurangzeb led by the ruthless Rajput warrior Udaybhan Rathore who joined the Mughals and was stationed at the Kondhana fort as its protector.

The Mughals had set their sight on the strategic hill fortress of Kondhana, an important gateway to the southern part of India as they wanted it to be their capital in South just as they had captured Delhi in the North. To protect his people from being killed, Shivaji Maharaj is forced to sign off 23 forts to the Mughals as part of the treaty of Purandar and one of them was the Kondhana fort.

The terrain surrounding the fort being hilly and dangerous and the other entrances being guarded heavily by the Mughals, there is no other way left to enter the fort except through this do-or-die attempt. Tanhaji and his group of brave-heart men put their lives at stake to win back this fort from the Mughals. This in essence forms the gist of the story. So do they win back or they fail? That is for viewers to see. For those who know their history as well as for those who don’t, the film offers gripping fight sequences to keep us engaged. Writer director Om Raut does take a few cinematic liberties but the pulse of the battle and the emotions involved are kept intact.

The film shot in 3-D gives the viewer an unbelievable and unique visual experience of seeing the entire narrative unfold in all its grandeur in 3-D and the fight sequences are a treat to watch. The taut pace of the film is maintained throughout and there are no diversions from the main plot.

I remember reading Tanhaji’s story in the Amar Chitra Katha comic so many years back but never ever imagined that one day I would be able to experience through cinema what must have happened during the great fight to capture the coveted Kondhana fort of Maharashtra. The film transports us to the period in 1600s and right away takes us to the heart of the situation between the Mughals and the Marathas.

In fact the very first action scene with Ajay Devgn and his team sets the tone of the film and we get to see the kind of guerrilla warfare techniques used by these Maratha warriors to outwit the Mughals. One can see the efforts taken to film this kind of a story, the sets erected and the superbly conceived action scenes.

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Since both the protagonist and the antagonist are played by big stars Ajay and Saif who also happen to be actors of high calibre, their roles are very well-written and the face-off between them is very interesting leading to a nail-biting climax which will be remembered for a long time. These 2 brilliant yet underrated actors have never shied from playing any kind of character. While Ajay Devgn plays the title role of Tanhaji Malusare, Saif Ali Khan is cast as the villain Udaybhan. Both have well-written author-backed roles, memorable scenes and dialogues and end up delivering masterly performances. The film is lifted several notches higher thanks to these two gifted actors.

This is Ajay Devgn’s 100th film- indeed a proud landmark since he entered Bollywood 30 years back and what a stupendous performance he has given. Saif Ali Khan is the real surprise and redefines the word ‘menace’ with his mind-blowing act. After his character of ‘Langda Tyagi’ in Omkara, he takes villainy to new heights in this film and also adds some humour to make this an unforgettable role of his career. A hero’s heroic efforts are made meaningful only when the villain is so despicable and evil and Saif gets full marks. He gets as much claps for his performance as Ajay gets for his patriotic fervour.

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Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, Rajmata Jijabai, Aurangzeb

Sharad Kelkar is perfectly cast as Shivaji Maharaj and brings to the character the right amount of dignity and aura of a Chatrapati and is good in the emotional scenes as well. Kajol has a very brief role but leaves a mark. Other warriors are difficult to identify and barring a few, most look similar but are all aptly cast. Padmavati Rao as Shivaji Maharaj’s mother Rajmata Jijabai and Luke Kenny as Aurangzeb are okay. Yesteryear actor Ramesh Deo’s son Ajinkya Deo as Pisal is good in a negative character.

There are two excellently picturized song sequences where hundreds of dancers are involved and on the big screen they are enjoyable to watch. Some songs are played in the background. There is a song towards the absolute end and picturized on Kajol which was not really necessary as it did not add to anything extra to the film. Sanjay Mishra deserves a special mention as the narrator of the epic drama.

2020 has started off on a great note with Tanhaji – drama, action, thrill and emotion the film has everything that turns it into a not-to-be-missed period thriller….