PADMAVATI: A few thoughts on the stunning trailer…

By

Sharada Iyer

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The trailer of director Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s much-awaited magnum-opus Padmavati released on October 9th at exactly 13:03 hours. Knowing the director’s penchant for perfection, the timing of the trailer was chosen to highlight the year 1303 AD when Sultan Alauddin Khilji is said to have laid siege on the fort of Chittor.

The trailer has received overwhelming positive response from millions of viewers. Like his earlier four films- Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Devdas, Ram Leela and Bajirao Mastani, this film also comes across as a lavishly mounted and stunningly picturized visual spectacle. Even in the two-minute trailer the detailing is visible in every aspect of film-making – starting from the costumes and jewellery of all the artistes involved to the palace settings, a glimpse of the well-choreographed dance sequence, the ladies getting ready for the horrific ‘Jauhar’ and the imaginatively shot spectacular battle scenes.

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THE CAST:

Deepika Padukone in all that ostentatious ‘Tanishq’ jewellery and heavy Rajput costumes looks every inch her character Rani Padmavati. Shahid Kapoor as the Rajput King Maharawal Ratan Singh is perfectly cast and their understated chemistry is endearing to watch. They both lend a dignified regal touch to the proceedings.

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But the real scene-stealer of the trailer is Ranveer Singh as Alauddin Khilji. He has literally got under the skin of the character to look the menacing, frightening, evil, power-hungry Emperor, Khilji was supposed to have been. One can’t get enough of him and it will not be wrong to say that he is going to be the main reason to draw the crowds.

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THE CANVAS:

Sanjay Leela Bhansali does have an extraordinary gift of visualizing everything on a grand scale and goes all out to take care of even the smallest detail. His untiring efforts and dogged determination to put life into his vision results in a memorable experience for the viewer as well.

A look at some of the scenes which go to show the care taken to get the right atmosphere:

Scene carrying hundreds of palanquins across the desert…

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Scenes depicting internal settings of the palace…

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Scene showing the queen and other ladies getting ready for probably the deadly self-immolation…

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MUSIC:

Though no songs are included in this trailer and will probably be released one by one, we can say with confidence that the songs are bound to be brilliant. Sanjay Leela Bhansali is not only a tough task-master but being a brilliant music director, he himself is the music composer as well. Both in Bajirao Mastani and Ram Leela, the music was superb and the songs blended perfectly with the narrative. The background score seems terrific.

PLOT:

According to Wikipedia sources there is little historical evidence to support the story of Rani Padmini. That Alauddin Khilji invaded Chittor in 1303 is a historical fact, but whether there existed a Rani Padmavati at that time is a point of debate for historians.

The earliest reference of the legend of Padmini is in an epic poem called Padmavat which was written by Malik Muhammad Jayasi in 1540 CE- almost 237 years after the siege of Chittor. There are other theories as well surrounding the story of Rani Padmini though when and how the story became part of the Rajput legend is not very clear.

How exactly Sanjay Leela Bhansali has chosen to depict this story remains to be seen. Hopefully he has not been swayed by the images of these popular stars and stuck to the story. In the case of Devdas the director got so carried away with his beautiful sets and costumes that there was no emotion in any of the scenes and the film ended up being a hollow version of the original simple story of Devdas.

Source: (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rani_Padmini)

(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Padmavat)

JUST ONE POINT:

There is excitement and anticipation as the film will hit the cinema halls on 1st December,2017. With such a strong star-cast and a spectacular trailer which has raised people’s expectations even more, the film is bound to do tremendous business…

But this is also a tale of lust, violence and gory deaths where women had no choice but to kill themselves in the garb of valour and honour… So one can’t help wondering if the choice of  such a story depicting an age-old horrific system like ‘jauhar’ is a good idea for a film ?

The film would probably get a ‘U’ certificate since no one ever voices objection against scenes which depict any kind of suppression or oppression of women -whether it is a slap on the face, dragging her by hand and locking her in a room, raping her or torturing her in any form. Jauhar- an act of dressing in all finery and jumping into a burning pit takes violence to an unimaginable level. Glorifying such a dastardly act in a glamorous way through a film does seem a little dicey and worrying… 

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The use of Raga ‘Bhimpalasi’ in Hindi film songs

By

Sharada Iyer

The repertoire of our century-old Hindi film music boasts of a wide range of songs based on a variety of classical Hindustani ragas. There is no denying that the reach of films and film music in our country is far beyond any other form of music. Therefore instead of composing these songs in a typical classical style which may appeal only to a select audience, our music directors have time and again proved their mettle to draw inspiration from our vast legacy of classical music and modify it to suit the mood and setting of the visual medium of cinema.  

Noted music critic and author Raju Bharatan writes a valid point in his book ‘A Journey Down Melody Lane’ “Your classicism is of value only if you know how to fine-tune it to the peculiar visual needs of instant cinema. In the end in the recording room it is not who knows classical singing but who has the ability to modulate classicism to the adolescent needs of mainstream cinema”. 

As the object of a raga is to express a certain emotional mood and sentiment each music director has captured the essence of the raga in his/her own way to fit into the milieu of the narrative- ranging from deep love and longing, agony of separation, a devotional ‘bhajan’ or just a peppy dance number. Sometimes the song completely adheres to the basic technicalities of the raga, sometimes the raga is touched upon only lightly and at other times the raga is mixed with other ragas to give the necessary appeal.

Lyricists, singers and finally the actors and actresses add their own magic to enhance the appeal and reach of these ragas to the large base of film-viewing populace of our country.

In one of my earlier blog-posts I had explored the Raga ‘Shivaranjani’ and the situations where this raga had been incorporated in our films.(https://myviewsonbollywood.wordpress.com/2016/09/25/the-use-of-raag-shivaranjani-in-hindi-film-songs/). For the current blog-post I have chosen Raga ‘Bhimpalasi’.

Bhimpalasi is a soft, poignant and passionate raga and evokes a feeling of deep-seated love and yearning for the lover It is generally classified as a ‘late-afternoon’ raga and sung when the harsh rays of the sun are receding thus bringing a serene and soothing effect to our mind and emotions. Once heard, the raga does have the power to penetrate our mind for days. In Carnatic music the raga ‘Abheri’ is said to be the closest counterpart of this Hindustani raga.

I could not find any distinct theory as to how the raga gets its name and would request learned readers if they could throw light on this. For those interested here is a little peek into the technical aspects of the significant ‘swaras’ or notes which give the raga its special characteristics.

There are several beautiful compositions based on this raga in our films and picturized on a variety of situations as well. As it is not possible to include them all, I have chosen some of my personal favourites for this blog-post. Let us take a look at the situations where these songs have used the raga Bhimpalasi:

MERA SAAYA – ‘Nainon mein badra chaaye…’

Sunil Dutt’s beloved wife Sadhana is dead and remembering their good times he yearns for his lost love. This beautiful composition by Madan Mohan brings these emotions evocatively with Lata Mangeshkar’s divine vocals giving a haunting quality to the song…

DIL TERA DIWANA-‘Yeh masoom chehra…’

In this duet we get to see Shammi Kapoor shedding his usual boisterous mannerisms and sing this soothing love song to his beloved Mala Sinha where they confess their love for each other. Music directors Shankar-Jaikishen have used the raga beautifully to suit the setting…

AMAR-‘Tere sadke balam…’

Madhubala finding her lover Dilip Kumar in a despondent mood tries to cheer him up by expressing her love for him. She has no idea that Dilip Kumar has inadvertently betrayed her trust and is trying to muster the courage to own up his unforgivable act and it is his guilt which puts him in a pensive mood. But for now she is immersed in his love and sings this beautiful song in raga Bhimpalasi composed by the music maestro Naushad in his inimitable style…

 

SHARMILEE-‘Khilte hain gul yahaan…’

This song ranks among my all-time favourite songs of Kishore Kumar and picturized on the handsome Shashi Kapoor it has a hypnotizing effect on the listener which is really difficult to put down in words. Right from the beginning humming Kishoreda’s resonating vocals fill our heart with a soothing feeling of deep love and the scene showing a cabin in the snow-clad hills only adds to the magic. Hats off to music director S D Burman for giving us this evergreen number where he uses this raga beautifully to convey the flush of first love that Shashi Kapoor feels for Raakhee…

 

CRIMINAL-‘Tu mile dil khile…’

South star Nagarjuna acts in this Telugu-Hindi bilingual film. He plays a medical doctor who gets embroiled in an ‘organ-smuggling’ operation and while trying to uncover some ugly truths ends up losing his wife Manisha Koirala. This song is sung in happier times when the two had just got married. There is a third angle to the triangle -Ramya, who also loves him very much. The beautiful composition by M M Kreem and sung by Kumar Sanu and Chitra bring out feelings of passion as their vocals lightly glide over the raga…

PUKAR-‘Kismet se tum humko mile ho…’

For his performance in this film Anil Kapoor won the National Award for Best Actor. Madhuri Dixit is his childhood friend who had always harboured love for him. But he falls in love with someone else and after some unfortunate circumstances which end up branding him a traitor, he is united with Madhuri. This song composed by A R Rahman uses the raga poignantly to convey their feelings for each other.

FAKIRA-‘Dil mein tujhe bithaake…’

Shabana Azmi and Shashi Kapoor team up in the film and make a very good pair. This lovely romantic solo by Lata Mangeshkar composed by Ravindra Jain conveys her deep love for him as they enjoy some tender moments with each other.

YEH RAAT PHIR NA AAYEGI-‘Mera pyaar woh hai ke…’

This film dealt with a tale of re-birth and had excellent songs by music maestro O P Nayyar. This solo by Mahendra Kapoor evocatively expresses Biswajit’s feelings for Sharmila Tagore and is set in the first birth. In the second birth Mumtaz is the lady who falls in love with him.

DULHAN WOHI JO PIYA MAN BHAAYE-‘Le toh aaye ho hame…’

Music director Ravindra Jain uses this raga to convey the heroine’s deep feelings for the man of her dreams. She paints a a rosy future with him in her imagination little knowing the obstacles and untoward circumstances she would be facing soon. Hemalata sings well and her voice seems to suit newcomer Rameshwari.

BADSHAH-‘Aa neele gagan taley…’

I could not find any video depicting picturization of the actual song in the film. But the beauty of this lovely Hemant-Lata duet comes across even in the audio and touches upon our inner recesses of our heart.This film starring Pradeep Kumar and Mala Sinha had music by the evergreen duo of Shankar-Jaikishen with Hasrat Jaipuri as lyricist.

Here are some sad songs composed using this raga:

RAM RAJYA-‘Beena madhur madhur kachu bol…’

This 1943 super-hit film directed by Vijay Bhatt tells the incident in Ramayana when Lord Ram decides to banish Sita into the forest. Prem Adib plays Lord Ram and Shobhana Samarth plays Sita. In the scene the servant girl singing the song is aware of the impending doom that awaits Sita the next morning when she will be separated from her Lord forever. Lord Ram is extremely pained and Sita senses something amiss. This song composed by Shankarrao Vyas and sung by Saraswati Rane brings out the melancholic mood of the approaching separation.

 

CHANDRAKANTA-‘Maine chaand aur sitaaron ki tamannah…’

Not much information is available on this film. The cast included  Bharat Bhushan and Bina Rai and had music by N Dutta. This lovely song based on this raga conveys the pangs of the lover who seem to be yearning for is lost love and Mohammed Rafi’s flawless rendition puts life into the emotions…

THOKAR-‘Ae ghame dil kya karun…’

Veteran composer Sardar Malik (Anu Malik’s father) composed this fabulous song for the film Thokar starring Shammi Kapoor and Shyama. Though there are two versions of this song it is the solo by Talat Mehmood which scores over the solo by Asha Bhonsle. The deep love between the lovers and their pangs of separation can be felt by the listener…

Here are two songs where the songs are picturized in playful situations:

DADA-‘Dil ke tukde…’

In the song, Vinod Mehra  is trying to pacify his lady love Bindiya Goswami who seems to be upset with him for some reason. This song beacame hugely popular and music director Usha Khanna ended up giving Yesudas one of the biggest hits of his career…

 

LAGAAN-‘Radha kaise na jale…’

The combination of Javed Akhtar-A R Rahman-Asha Bhonsle and Udit Narayan create magic to give us this foot-tapping number which touches upon this raga to convey the heroine’s love as well as her jealousy. The choreography is brilliant and both Aamir Khan and Gracy Singh get full marks for their superb expressions throughout the song… 

Songs where lyricists pen down philosophy of life:

Enjoy two compositions  from the films Anupama and Do Dooni Chaar respectively where music director Hemant Kumar skilfully touches upon this raga and comes up with two delightfully soothing and haunting gems. Kaifi Azmi in Anupama and Gulzar in Do Dooni Chaar  come up with some brilliant lyrics and Lata Mangeshkar and Kishore Kumar have sung brilliantly making these songs among Hemantda’s best compositions…

ANUPAMA-‘Kuch dil ne kaha…’

DO DOONI CHAAR…’Hawaaon pe likh do…’

 

Some music directors incorporated this raga in different kinds of situations: 

ABE-HAYAT-‘Main gareebon ka dil…’

Set in the backdrop of an imaginary kingdom the story involves an evil sorcerer who kidnaps princesses and also brings misery to the subjects. Along comes a kind prince who understands their problems and becomes their saviour. Premnath plays the kind prince and Shashikala is the heroine. This song is like an introduction scene for the character of the prince in the film and as suggested by the lyrics of the song, he declares his love for the poor and the downtrodden. Hemant Kumar’s unique voice makes the song a very pleasant one and music director Sardar Malik has used this raga in an imaginative way…

 

NAUBAHAR-‘Ae ri main toh prem diwani…’

This soothing bhajan composed by music director Roshan is an extremely pleasant number and is aptly picturized on the lovely Nalini Jaywant who has a sweet innocence about her. Roshan demonstrates how the raga can be effectively used in a devotional song as well. Ashok Kumar who plays a blind man gives a brilliant performance in this film…

 

 

 

GAZAL-‘Naghma o sher ki saugaat…’

This film is a romantic Muslim social starring Sunil Dutt and Meena Kumari and had lovely songs composed by Madan Mohan. This ghazal is sung by Meena Kumari in the presence of her female friends at a private gathering where she expresses her desire to experience true love as her heart yearns for a lover. Sahir Ludhianavi shows his mastery with the meaningful lyrics. Listening to her magical voice, Sunil Dutt who is passing by the house falls in love with her even before setting his eyes on her…

Here are two songs that prove that raga Bhimpalasi can be incorporated to churn out fun-filled peppy dance numbers as well:

AMARDEEP-‘Mere man ka baawra panchi…’

The street dancer Padmini is madly in love with Dev Anand who by a quirk of circumstances has lost his memory and is staying with her. His actual lover Vyjayantimala is searching for him but oblivious to all this he is basking in Padmini’s attention for the time being. Here she sings her heart out confessing her feelings for him. Music director C Ramachandra whips up lovely fast-paced lively number based on this raga…

MOHRA-‘Tu cheez badi hai mast…’

Music director Viju Shah (son of Kalyanji of the duo of Kalyanji-Anandji ) came up with a stunning dance number based on this raga which became a raging hit in 1994-the year Mohra was released and showed how a raga can be used in a modern dance number also. The song is still remembered for its robust and energetic choreography. The ‘swaras’ in the song lend a unique touch to the groovy tune…

I end this blog-post with this ghazal of Ghalib sung by the ‘one and only’ Kundan Lal Saigal from a film released in 1933. Eighty-four years later, the song still retains its magic and his outstanding rendition continues to mesmerize the listener even today… 

YAHUDI KI LADKI-‘Nukta cheen ae ghame dil…’ (Saigal version)

Pankaj Mullick made his debut as a composer with this film and using just a harmonium and tabla he composed this classic song in raga Bhimpalasi. The lyrics convey the poet’s desire to be with his beloved and says love is like a fire over which no one has any control…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LUCKNOW CENTRAL: Stands out for the unique plot and good performances

By

Sharada Iyer

In our industry where a majority of films are either love-stories or centered around ‘marriage’ as the core theme, LUCKNOW CENTRAL with a plot involving a daring escape plan from a prison comes as a breath of fresh air. Debutant director Ranjit Tiwari packs a punch in his very first outing. Not only is his choice of the plot unusual, his casting is also commendable and the dramatic narrative that unfolds keeps us guessing whether the five prisoners succeed in their plan or not.

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PLOT OUTLINE

The film is set in the state of UP. Farhan Akhtar lives in the city of Moradabad with his father. He is passionate about singing and harbors a dream of becoming a big-time singer someday having his own band. But his dreams are thwarted when one night the police barge into his house and arrest him for the murder of an IAS officer with whom he had been seen fighting by witnesses.

His own friend turns hostile and becomes the prime witness for the police. He is then sentenced to life imprisonment and sent to Moradabad jail and later transferred to Lucknow Central Jail  with the possibility of a death sentence! The story then moves to the jail where five of the prisoners including Farhan come up with an audacious plan to escape on 15th August, India’s Independence Day.

It so happens that the Chief Minister of UP wants a music competition to be held in the premises of the Lucknow Cenral Jail on 15th August and he entrusts the responsibility of the execution of the competition as well as security to the Inspector General of Police. He in turn puts pressure on the jailor and the lady NGO worker who as part of her organization’s reformation schemes is asked to get the music band ready for this jail to compete with the bands formed by inmates of other jails across UP. 

While the NGO worker supports the move the jailor is against the whole idea and tries to create obstacles. When Farhan who loves singing comes to know of this band competition, he volunteers to be part of it and promises to find a few more members within 7 days. But the task is not easy and there are fights and opposition at every step.

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How he finds his other band members and how he convinces them to be part of the escape plan is brought out very well. They choose the ‘competition day’ for escape as they feel there would be more commotion owing to lots of extra people from other jails on that day. The jailor Ronit Roy however smells a rat and keeps a strict watch over all their activities much to their chagrin.

The scenes between inmates in the prison, the choice of the four people who are ready to be part of the plan, the tension mounting as the day of escape approaches and finally the day of the ‘competition cum escape’ are all well directed and keep the audience engrossed. So do they succeed in escaping? Or does Ronit Roy get the better of them? You have to watch the film to find that out…

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MUSIC

Music is an important part of the plot and many melodious songs have been woven into the narrative. Surprisingly there are several music directors involved with each one composing a song. ‘Rangdaari’ sung by Arijit Singh, ‘Meer-e-Kaarvaan’ sung by Amit Mishra and Neeti Mohan and ‘Kaavan Kaavan’ rendered by Divya Kumar remain in our hearts when we walk out of the cinema hall.

There is an unusual song sung ‘Ek Kabootar’ sung by Mohit Chauhan which uses minimal instruments and the choreography by Bosco-Caesar is very imaginative and very apt for the situation:

PERFORMANCES

Farhan Akhtar who usually treads the off-beat path with his off-beat choice of films (Rock-On, Luck By Chance, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, Bhaag Milka Bhaag,  Dil Dhadakne Do, etc.) fits the role of the singer turned prisoner perfectly. His earnestness combined with his appealing on-screen persona make his character look convincing. He is ably supported by Deepak Dobriyal, Rajesh Sharma, Gippy  Grewal (the Punjabi actor-singer) and Inaamulhaq who play the other four prisoners. Diana Penty as the NGO worker is adequate.

Ravi Kissen in the small role of the UP Minister is highly entertaining. But the scene stealer here is Ronit Roy as the strict jailor. He is simply brilliant and his dialogue delivery, expressions and body language all add up to make this a memorable character.  Honestly this talented actor needs to be utilized more in our films.

FINAL VERDICT

The film is definitely worth a watch  for the ‘hatke’ plot, for the excellent performances, for the lovely songs, for some heartwarming and thrilling moments in the narrative and for Ronit Roy! You won’t be disappointed!

Enjoy this lovely Rangdaari song in Arijit Singh’s voice…

 

 

 

Kangana’s brilliant performance makes SIMRAN a thoroughly enjoyable film

By

Sharada Iyer          

Director Hansal Mehta’s latest venture ‘Simran’ is a fun-filled racy ride full of interesting and intriguing twists and turns that will keep the audience engrossed from the very first scene to the very last one. Kudos to the full team – the writer, editor, director and above all Kangana who ensure that there is not one unwanted or boring scene in this 2-hour long film.

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KANGANA ALL THE WAY

After ‘Queen’, Kangana Ranaut once again gets to play an extremely interesting character which could easily be ranked amongst one of the finest ever written for a Bollywood heroine. She plays Praful Patel- a 30-year old divorcee who stays with her parents in Atlanata, USA but is constantly at loggerheads with them as their views don’t match on anything. She works in the housekeeping department of a 5-star hotel and dreams of buying a small house of her own. She believes in living life on her own terms and particularly hates it when her father constantly nags her with the idea of remarriage. She wants to take her own decisions and is not afraid of making mistakes in life.

PLOT

Her life is no fairy-tale as she is faced with unexpected challenges at every step. She does things impulsively and has her moments of weakness where she succumbs to the situation but she faces every situation head-on and does whatever is in her power to salvage it. But things don’t always work out for her and an unexpected trip with a friend to Las Vegas changes her life in more ways than she had bargained for.

She gets addicted to gambling and ends up borrowing huge amounts of money that she can never dream of repaying! That is when our Praful decides to become Simran and resorts to some remarkable thieving. For a while things seem fine but the ghosts of Vegas soon catch up with her. Suffice to say that the engaging plot laced with large doses of humour make it a thoroughly gratifying watch and the last scene is simply too good!

There is a song played when the end-credits appear which focuses on the plight of women in Indian families where parents still feel that marriage is the ‘be all’ and ‘end all’ for women even if the woman is a divorcee. Any woman who thinks differently is considered a flawed and loose character. The song written by Vayu, composed by Sachin-Jigar and sung by Shalmali Kholgade and Divya Kumar is very interesting. 

Here is the song in case you miss it by walking out during end-credits…

This movie with the so-called ‘flawed’ protagonist makes us question our out-dated ideas regarding women and the failure of the parents to be understanding. The desperate circumstances which make the character to commit acts which she would normally have never done stems from the total lack of understanding and communication between her and her ‘marriage-obsessed’ obnoxious father who is too irritating for words.

A FEW POINTS

The director Hansal Mehta incidentally started his career with the popular TV show ‘Khana Khazana’ which turned Sanjeev Kapoor into a celebrity chef overnight. Later he turned to films and made ‘Aligarh’, ‘Citylights’ and ‘Shaheed’. Incidentally he won the National Film Award for best direction forShaheed’ in 2013.

Apparently the story of the film is loosely inspired by the life of 24-year-old Sandeep Kaur who robbed several banks in Arizona, California and Utah in 2014 and was called the ‘Bombshell Bandit’!

Kangana gets to portray such a wide spectrum of emotions and her talent has been tapped and brought to fore very intelligently by the director. She gets into the skin of the feisty character and it is her riveting performance which takes the movie several notches higher.

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One cannot imagine anyone else portraying the swashbuckling, savvy and sassy character with so much confidence, charisma and conviction! Don’t go by the negative reviews. This film is a total paisa-vasool entertainer and not to be missed! For Kangana fans out there, the film is a super treat!!!

THE INCREDIBLE JOURNEY OF SUPERSTAR AKSHAY KUMAR AS HE TURNS 50 …

By

Sharada Iyer

For someone not belonging to any film family, not even remotely connected to anyone in the film industry, having no theatre background, never participated even in school plays, no training from any acting school, the rise of this youngster from a rank ‘outsider’ to the dizzying heights of ‘superstardom’ seems quite unbelievable!

With the idea of making a career as a martial arts instructor, when Rajiv Hari Om Bhatia who grew up in the by-lanes of Chandni Chowk in Delhi stepped into Mumbai, one wonders whether even in his wildest dreams he ever imagined that one day he would become Hindi cinema’s most ‘Versatile Superstar’ !!!

Throughout his career, Akshay never let himself be slotted in any particular image and left his mark in all genres be it action, romance, comedy, villainy, suspense, murder mystery, spy thrillers, vigilante action films, films with social messages, patriotic films, family films or emotional dramas.  

It was probably his will to experiment all kinds of roles coupled with his sincerity, hard work and dedication that gave him the confidence to embrace any character on screen and thus he ended up being very convincing in all the roles that he portrayed.  He never believed in restricting himself to one film a year or one film in two years. He has no qualms in having 3-4 releases in the same year and never consciously went after the coveted Diwali, Christmas and Eid weekends. Recently he decided to corner the Republic Day/Independence Day weekend as there seemed to be no takers for it. The audience today looks forward to an Akshay Kumar film with enthusiasm and expectation and he has undoubtedly become the most successful box-office star of Bollywood!

FROM RAJEEV BHATIA TO AKSHAY KUMAR

He had admitted in an interview on Rajya Sabha TV that once when his father got upset at his total lack of interest in studies and asked him how he was going to survive in life, Akshay out of sheer rebellion and anger characteristic of that young age had blurted out that he would maybe become a hero! He still does not know what made him say it that day for neither before nor after that incident the thought of a becoming a ‘hero’ was ever mentioned.

Akshay was always drawn towards all kinds of sports right from childhood and not too keen on studies. Inspired by one of his neighbourhood boys who used to ‘show-off’ his karate skills, Akshay also decided to master this art and started learning karate. After finishing his tenth standard exams, he moved to Bangkok and learnt different types of martial arts, Thai-boxing, etc. and also earned a black belt in Taekwondo. On his return he did odd jobs in different cities. He worked in a travel agency in Kolkata, he bought Kundan jewellery from Delhi and sold them at a higher price in Mumbai and he started taking Karate classes for kids in Mumbai. Being the son of an Army officer, at one point he even contemplated joining the armed forces…

But destiny had other plans for him. As luck would have it, the father of one of his students who worked as a model coordinator suggested that Akshay with his good looks and good build should try a hand at modelling for that would help him monetarily also. He took him for a furniture ad and after two hours of shooting ‘still’ pictures, he was paid more than double of what he earned in a full month as an instructor!

Soon Akshay’s interest veered towards modelling and he also did a few ramp shows. He worked with photographer Jayesh Sheth for two years for free and in return got a professional portfolio made which he started taking everywhere.  Jayesh Sheth used to shoot film stars and Akshay accompanied him and assisted him in the photo-shoots of film stars. 

In 1987, he played the small role of a martial arts instructor in Mahesh Bhatt’s film Aaj, which had Kumar Gaurav playing the hero. It was a miniscule role as a martial arts instructor where Akshay’s face was also not shown. The name of Kumar Gaurav’s character was Akshay and somehow young Rajiv Bhatia got so hooked onto the name that one day he just went to the court and changed his name to Akshay Kumar. He admits that soon after changing his name by coincidence or luck or destiny he was offered two films and then there was no looking back…

AKSHAY THE STAR-ACTOR

It was director Pramod Chakravorthy who signed him up for his first film Deedar in 1991 opposite Karisma Kapoor. However, on the sets of Deedar, he met Raj Sippy who wanted to introduce him in his film Saugandh and that is how Saugandh which released in 1991 became his first film and Deedar which he had signed first was released only in 1992. With Mohra in 1994, he had his first brush with stardom.

Thereafter, this young man with neither any connections in the film industry nor a godfather to guide him, slowly but surely started scripting his unique journey to superstardom. In an industry known for either ‘stars’ who get a huge fan following but end up getting slotted in a particular image or ‘actors’ who are skilled in moulding themselves in any role but seldom whip up the mass hysteria typical of stars, Akshay Kumar remains unique.

Being a ‘Karate’ and’ Taekwando’ champion, he excelled in action sequences and most of the time he insisted on performing  all kinds of dangerous stunts in his action films and would not use body doubles. His success in a series of ‘Khiladi’ films ( Khiladi, Main Khiladi Tu Anadi, Sabse Bada Khiladi, International Khiladi, Mr. & Mrs. Khiladi, Khiladiyon Ka Khiladi, Khiladi 420 and Khiladi 786) has also earned him the title of ‘Khiladi Kumar’.

He soon turned to explore his talent in comedy and was part of laugh riots like Hera Pheri series, Housefull series, Welcome, Garam Masala, Bhagam Bhag, etc. He also teamed up with Amitabh Bachchan in many films of which Aankhen where he plays a blind man who helps to rob a bank was outstanding. His charming smile and a pleasant personality made him shine in romantic films as well- Aitraaz, Dhadkan, Yeh Dillagi, Jaaneman, Namastey London, Andaz, Bewafa, etc. He has played double role also in films like Rowdy Rathore, Jai-Kishen, 8×10 Tasveer, etc.

 

He has always excelled in energetic dance numbers and has also had many melodious love songs picturized on him.

Now he has two more aces up his sleeve. He is gearing up for the release of his upcoming film 2.0 (sequel to Robot) where he plays a villain and will take on none other than southern superstar Rajnikant! That is certainly going to be a clash to watch out for! He is also going to be a part of a sports drama which highlights the journey of the Hockey player Balbir Singh who was part of the team that won the historic first Olympic medal for India as a free nation. The poster of the film titled Gold has been released today- on his 50th birthday and the film is scheduled for release on 5th August 2018.

akshay3

TUNING WITH CO-STARS

Akshay Kumar has never had problem sharing screen space with any other hero or character artiste during his long career of twenty-six years. He had a brilliant tuning with all of them. He has done maximum films (twenty-three) with Paresh Rawal, followed by Anupam Kher (sixteen). He has acted with Sunil Shetty in more than a dozen films, and also had good camaraderie with Saif Ali Khan and John Abraham. There are many other good co-stars as well and acting with these excellent artistes made him give his best in the face of such tough competition.

His chemistry with all his heroines has also been laudable. Be it Raveena Tandon, Shilpa Shetty, Kareena Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra, Katrina Kaif, Karisma Kapoor, Asin, Bipasha Basu, Lara Dutta or youngsters like Sonakshi Sinha, Deepika Padukone, Huma Quereshi, Kajal Aggarwal, Taapsee Pannu or Bhumi Pednekar ,their pairing has been spot-on.

 

Both he and Ajay Devgn made their debut in 1991 but have starred in only three films together – Suhaag, Insaan and Khakee. With Salman, he did an interesting comedy Mujhse Shaadi Karoge and a love triangle Jaaneman. He has done cameos in two Shah Rukh Khan films but there was hardly any scene together.He has yet to do a film with Aamir Khan.

CAMEO ROLES

akshay4Akshay Kumar leaves a mark in his cameo roles as well. Recently his act as a gay gangster in Dishoom left his fans surprised but thrilled. He was so brilliant in that five-minute sequence that he not only stole the thunder from the film’s heroes John Abraham and Varun Dhawan but the scene became the highlight of the film. He also had small roles in Dil Toh Pagal Hai, Chalo Dilli, Om Shanti Om, Naam Shabana, etc.

AKSHAY ON TELEVISION

Akshay Kumar has hosted Season 1, 2 and 4 of the show ‘Fear Factor – ‘Khatron Ke Khiladi’ on Colours channel and ‘Dare to Dance’ a dance show on Life-OK.  Season 1 of Master Chef India was also hosted by him as he had also worked as a chef in Bangkok before his acting career had begun.

AKSHAY THE PRODUCER

In 2008 Akshay Kumar started his own production company Hari Om Productions named after his father Hari Om Bhatia and has produced several films starting with Singh is King in 2008, Action Replay in 2010, Patiala House in 2011, Holiday-A Soldier is Never Off-Duty in 2014, to the recent Airlift and Rustom in 2016.

In 2011 he launched ‘Grazing Goat Picture’- an Indian film and TV production house along with Ashvini Yardi and the first film under this banner was the super-hit ‘OMG – Oh My God!’ This company has also produced many regional films.

Grazing Goat Pictures also produced their first Hindi soap opera ‘Jamai Raja’ which was aired on Zee TV for a period of three years from 2014-2017.

In 2013 Grazing Goat Pictures launched its Internet division Grazing Goats Digital and its first venture has been a Hindi fashion channel on YouTube called ‘FOMO (Fashion on my own). Aimed at trend-conscious women, this YouTube channel provides online tutorials on various fashion subjects.

 A FEW SOCIAL CAUSES ASSOCIATED WITH AKSHAY

Akshay Kumar, along with Yuva Sena chief Aditya Thackeray, runs free martial arts classes for women in the city at the Andheri Sports Complex. Now, the duo plans to take these self-defence classes to other parts of the country. (http://www.hindustantimes.com/bollywood/akshay-kumar-to-open-100-martial-arts-training-centres-across-india/story-IWma66l91QGKxOUsFcUiGP.html)

The actor opened free martial arts classes for women and also offered financial assistance to families of farmers who committed suicide in the drought-hit region of Marathwada.

With help and co-operation from the Government of India, Akshay Kumar has also launched a donation portal –app and website titled ‘Bharat Ke Veer’ for families of soldiers killed in action.

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Having been a stuntman himself he understands the risks involved and has started an ‘Insurance Scheme for Stuntmen and Stuntwomen’- to secure the lives of these unsung people who seldom find any acknowledgement.

AWARDS

He has won several awards in various categories- Best Actor, Best Comedian, Best Villain, Best Supporting Actor, Entertainer of the Year, etc. In 2009, he was awarded the coveted Padma Shri by the Government of India. This year he won the prestigious National Award for Best Actor for his performance in Rustom.

Here’s wishing this amazing superstar a very Happy Birthday and an equally exciting and rewarding journey as he enters the next phase of his career…

JOLLY LLB 2

 

 

 

Rishi Kapoor romances 45 actresses on screen !

By

Sharada Iyer

Rishi Kapoor is a dynamic combination of amazing talent and unusual charm. His boyish persona combined with his ‘chocolate-boy’ looks made him the perfect ‘romantic’ hero for almost twenty-five years before he moved on to character roles. He also had the good fortune of having many superb songs picturized on him during his long career which has helped in his recall value.

As Raj Kapoor’s son, no doubt he was launched with style but with his performance in the first two movies itself, he showed the industry and the audience what he was made of. He won the National Award for the Best Child Actor for Mera Naam Joker (1971) and walked away with the Filmfare Best Actor trophy for his performance in Bobby (1974).

He set out to carve a unique place for himself in the annals of Bollywood history. After all he belonged to the first family of Indian cinema and knew that if he had to make a name he would have to fashion an identity distinct from his father Raj Kapoor, his illustrious uncles Shammi Kapoor and Shashi Kapoor, his renowned grandfather Prithviraj Kapoor and his elder brother Randhir Kapoor. 

Quite a tall order for anyone! But Rishi had confidence in his talent. In an industry dominated by macho-men and action heroes, he stood out for his boyish looks, his pleasing personality and his innate sense of music and rhythm. He has shared screen space with almost every other actor of his time as well as many veteran seniors, be it a hero or a character artist but always left a mark by adding his special touch to his roles. Today he is more popular than his son Ranbir Kapoor also.

Among the heroines also, he has had the unique distinction of having been paired opposite almost all heroines belonging to varied age groups. Starting from senior actresses like Shabana, Hema , Raakhee and Rekha to Madhuri, Sridevi ,Tina Munim and Raveena  and to the youngest Divta Bharati, he has romanced them all. He has also starred in many films opposite debutante actresses like Dimple Kapadia , Ranjeeta, Padmini Kolhapure and Shoma Anand.

Today on his 65th birthday, I bring to you a list of forty-five actresses opposite whom he was paired romantically and have also presented one song with each of them. This is indeed an imposing number and must definitely be a record of sorts for I doubt whether any other actor has romanced more than this …

Dimple Kapadia- Bobby (1971)

 

Neetu SinghKhel Khel Mein

Simi Garewal- Karz (1980)

Meenakshi Sheshadri- Damini (1993)

Tina MunimBade Dil Waala (1983)

Hema MaliniEk Chaadar Maili Si (1986)

 

Moushmi ChatterjeeZehreela Insaan (1974)

 

Reena RoyBadaltey Rishtey (1978)

Kajal Kiran-Hum Kisise Kum Nahin (1977)

Bhavna Bhatt-Naya Daur (1978)

Jaya PradaSargam (1979)

Madhuri DixitSahibaan (1993)

Zeenat AmanHum Kisise Kum Nahin (1977)

Parveen BabiRangila Ratan (1976)

Shabana Azmi-Raahi Badal Gaye (1985)

SrideviNagina (1986)

Shoma AnandBarood (1976)

Kim- Naseeb (1981)

RanjeetaLaila Majnu (1976)

Poonam DhillonYeh Waada Raha (1982)

Varsha UsgaonkarHoneymoon (1992)

Ashwini Bharve and Zeba BakhtiyarHenna (1991)

Radhika and FarhaNaseeb Apna Apna (1986)

Vinita GoelJanam Janam (1988)

Sangita BijlaniHathyar (1989)

RekhaAzaad Desh Ke Ghulam (1990)

Juhi ChawlaBol Radha Bol (1992)

Divya Bharti-Deewana (1992)

RaakheeDoosra Aadmi (1977)

Neelam KothariRanbhoomi (1991)

Kimi KatkarKhoj (1989)

 

Amrita SinghDuniya (1984)

Rati Agnihotri- Tawaaif (1985)

NaseemKabhie Kabhie (1978)

TabuPehla Pehla Pyar (1994)

Yogita Bali and Deepti NavalYeh Ishq Nahin Asaan (1984)

Padmini Kolhapure- Prem Rog (1982)

Mandakini – Hawalaat (1987)

Rukhsaar-Inteha Pyar Ki (1992)

Urmila MatondkarShreeman Aashique (1993)

 

Sonam-Vijay (1988)

Raveena TandonSaajan Ki Baahon Mein (1995)

 

 

ZOHRABAI AMBALEWALI: The golden voice of the 1940s

By

Sharada Iyer

Zohrabai Ambalewali brought to film music a unique, robust and unrestrained style of singing and has left behind a legacy which continues to enthrall the listeners even today…

To understand, appreciate and enjoy the mellifluous magic of her voice, let me start the blog with her most famous song ‘Akhiyan milake, jiya bharmake, chale nahin jana…’ from the film Rattan, 1944. The image of the heroine Swarnalata playfully singing and running after her lover Karan Dewan who is on horse-cart remains etched in the viewer’s mind even today. 

Zohrabai sang four more songs in the film Rattan and the film not only ended up being that year’s highest-spinning blockbuster but also made her an overnight sensation and catapulted music director Naushad into big league after which there was no looking back for the maestro. Though she also sang under Ghulam Haider, Ghulam Mohammed, Husnlal Bhagatram, etc., it was under Naushad that she sang some of her best songs.

Here is a classic duet from the same film which she has sung with singing-hero Karan Dewan:

Her voice had a distinct personality which made her songs stand out from the rest. This is the song with which the movie Rattan starts and in a way sets the tone for the musical extravaganza. A touching story of unrequited love, both the story and the songs were lapped up by the viewers. In this song she brings out the emotions of the heroine pining for her lover with the onset of the monsoon clouds:

Zohrabai Amabalewali (1918-1990) belonged to the ‘first generation’ playback singers of Hindi cinema who started singing in pre-independent India and went on to lay the strong foundation of what was to become a billion dollar music industry in the years to come. In many ways the 1940s was the formative decade of film music. Not only did the composers and singers usher in variety and an escalation of vocal standards but also carved out the basic motif of the Hindi film song that was followed in the following decades.

Film: Sanyasi (1945)– A superb duet with Amar- ‘Duniya chadhaye phool...’

Born in Amabala, young Zohrabai’a musical talent was spotted and encouraged by her grandfather who guided her and got her trained under two great ‘Ustads’ (skilled musicians) of that time-Ghulam Hussain Khan and Ustad Nasir Hussain Khan. To encourage her further, her grandfather shifted to Delhi where the family lived in Mori Gate area.

Zohrabai started her career at the young age of 13 recording ‘thumris’ for the gramophone company HMV.  In one of the interviews on YouTube, she mentioned that the song  ‘Chote se aangna me gilli khelen…’ sung when she was about 14 years old turned her into a popular name:

Along with her contemporaries Amirbai Karnataki and Rajkumari and later Shamshad Begum, the cinema of the forties was dominated by them and they are remembered for their full-throated husky voices.

With Rajkumari in Mahal (1949)

With Amirbai Karnataki in Hum Ek Hain (1946)

Incidentally this was Dev Anand’s first film and the dance director for the film was Guru Dutt! The clip is not very clear but that is how many of our old songs and films have been neglected. Preservation has never been our forte. So many silent era films have been lost forever and so many songs for which discs were not cut in those days have also been lost.

Zohrabai was married off at a young age but was very fortunate that her husband (the well-known ‘tabla’ player of his time-Faqir Muhammad) did not object to her singing. This is indeed laudable for girls from so-called ‘respectable’ families stayed away from singing for films as the profession was looked down upon. To have made a mark in such a scenario is really admirable and spoke volumes about her dedication and professionalism. Credit also goes to her music directors who tapped her potential to give us some unforgettable melodies.

Listening to this outstanding number from Mela (1948), sung with so much feeling and emotions leaves little doubt about this singer’s mastery over ‘sur’ and ‘taal’ and makes us understand why she sounded so effortless in her rendering:

1940-1949 was the period when simple lyrics were set to heartfelt tunes and the playback singers of this Vintage era conveyed powerful emotions through these songs which were integral to the film’s narrative. Recording techniques were rudimentary and practice sessions were long and arduous and the remuneration was not very much. Yet these artistes strived to give their best and this spoke of their dedication to their craft.

Elaan (1947)

 

Sadly there is not too much information available on this great singer. Even her date of birth is missing in the articles on her and only the birth year is mentioned. Also there is a doubt about which was the first film for which she sang – either Gramophone or Daku ki Ladki, though more people seem to be in favour of the latter which released in 1938.

A song from Nishaan (1949)- music by R Rao

She was also part of the era when singing stars had not fully disappeared and so the competition from Noorjehan, Suraiyya, Khurshid with their lovely voices and a charming on-screen persona proved a big competition to artistes like Zohrabai who were only doing playback. There was a film Village Girl in 1945 for which both Noorjehan and Zohrabai sang the same song but apparently in the film, Noorjehan’s version was retained. When one listens to the audio, one can see that both the singers have done an outstanding job.

In the film Anmol Ghadi ,1946, starring both Noorjehan and Suraiyya, Zohrabai got only one song and that too a duet with Shamshad Begum- ‘Udan khatole mein ud jaun…’, picturised on child artistes, but their robust vocals made the song unforgettable and left a special impression in the listener’s heart:

Her voice suited both fast-moving and sad songs. Here are a few fast-moving dance songs:

Nargis (1946)

Rattan-1944

Parda 1949-Miyaji chori chori

 

Mirza Sahibaan (1953) – Song picturized on the famous dancer Cuckoo- ‘Saamne gali mein mera ghar hain…’

With Shamshad Begum in Amber, 1952

This sad Diwali song ‘Aayi Diwali, aayi Diwali…’ from Rattan became a rage at the time of the film’s release:

Zohrabai was also one of the main singers of the famous ‘only female qawwali’ from the 1945 film Zeenat. This qawwali remains unique till today. The lyrics are so beautifully written. There is young Shashikala lip-syncing to a major part of the song and a 9- or 10-year old Shyama playing the instrument ‘dholak’ and comes for just one line.

Here is a song ‘Gori chali piya ke des…’ from Shama, 1946 is a lovely marriage song sung by Zohrabai along with Shamshad Begum and Rehana and composed by Ghulam Haider.

This song from Naiyya (1947) is composed by Anil Biswas

Film-Shakuntala with chorus

Here is a fabulous number from Pehle Aap (1944) -‘Chale gaye chale gaye…’ composed by Naushad. 

 

It is true that Zohrabai Amabalewali’s reign was not that long but whatever songs she sang no one could have sung it better. Here is an audio clip in which nightingale Lata Mangeshkar talks about Zohrabai and then proceeds to pay her a tribute by singing Zohrabai’s iconic song from Rattan. With due respects to Lataji, her version is not a patch on Zohraji’s and goes to reiterate the latter’s distinctive and inimitable style of singing which is not easy to emulate.

 

Here is a fabulous dance number from the film Jadoo (1951) composed by the great Naushad and sung by Zohrabai, Shamshad Begum and Mohammed Rafi.

Another dance number from Har Har Mahadev (1950)

By the early fifties assignments stopped coming her way. Soon Shamshad Begum overtook her in popularity and with the arrival of Lata Mangeshkar and her iconic songs in Mahal and Barsaat, Hindi film music underwent a revolutionary change. Thick husky voices became passé. Zohrabai realized it was time to call it a day. Though she quit the film industry, she continued to sing for her daughter Roshan Kumari’s dance performances.

Roshan Kumari who is considered by many as one of the foremost exponents of the Indian classical dance form of ‘Kathak’ also choreographed and performed in a few films. Here is a small clip showing her perform in the film Mirza Ghalib (1954).

On January 1st, 1990, Zohrabai Amabalewali bid good-bye to this world. Her reign may have been short-lived but she breathed so much life into her songs that she will be remembered fondly for her haunting voice and her immense contribution as one of the founding pillars of the Vintage era of Hindi film music.

Sadly not many today pause to listen to her songs or remember her contribution.This blog is a small tribute to this outstanding singer and I have tried to put together many of her milestone songs for readers to enjoy. It was indeed a memorable experience going down memory lane and getting transported to that Black&White era of innocence and simplicity.

Before I end, here is a rare interview of Zohrabai when she was much older and believe me, her superb singing even at that advanced age will leave us spellbound !