Singer KK: Gone too soon…

By

Sharada Iyer

On 31st May, 2022, the entire film industry was hit by the shocking and unexpected news of the demise of the wonderful singer Krishnakumar Kunnath or KK as he was popularly known as. He had suffered a massive cardiac arrest minutes after his live performance in Kolkata where he had just treated his fans to an energetic performance and entertained them as always with his popular and melodious numbers. His fans throughout the country became numb at the unbelievable turn of events that the singer who had given them so many memorable songs had been silenced at the young age of 53.

Though KK did not have any formal training in classical music, he had an innate music sense and his ability to pack his songs with feelings made all his songs special. His romantic songs in particular had something magical and touched our heart in a haunting way. KK did not restrict himself to singing Hindi songs and had many popular songs to his credit in Tamil, Telugu and Kananda and he sang some songs in Malayalam, Oriya, Assamese, Gujarati and Marathi as well.

In memory of this golden-voiced singer, I am listing in this blog-post some of my favourite KK songs. Though the list could include many more as he made every song unique and left an indelible mark with each of them, I have restricted the number to 12 with great difficulty.

I start the blog with one of my absolute favourite KK-song picturized on actor Emran Hashmi.

‘Zara si dil mein de jagah, zara sa apna le bana…

Music director-Pritam (Film: Jannat ) (2008)

Here is another super romantic solo ‘Dil ibaadat…’ again picturized on Emran Hashmi. Though the film did not do well at the box-office, the song became a super-hit. Emran was indeed a lucky actor as many of his popular songs were sung by KK thus giving the actor an added recall value.

‘Dil ibaadat kar raha hai dhadkane meri sun…’

Music director-Pritam (Film: Tum Mile) (2009)

KK always wanted his work to speak and was never at the forefront marketing himself. He was a simple and down-to-earth man and had many friends in the industry but kept away from social media and valued his privacy. His first assignment in Bollywood was in 1996 when he sang the initial two lines for the song ‘Chod aaye hum who galiyaan…’ from the film Maachis which left writer-director Gulzar very impressed. The song had three other singers singing the full song. KK felt it was ironical that the lyrics connected with his life so well as he had also left his city- Delhi, to try his luck in a new city-Mumbai.

These two lines were incidentally heard by music director Ismail Durbar and he signed up KK to sing his composition ‘Tadap tadap ke is dil se aah nikalti rahii…’. When director Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s heard the soulful rendition in KK’s voice not only did he include the song in his film Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, he signed Ismail Durbar to compose all songs of the film. The song became an instant hit and ended up giving KK his unique identity in the industry and changed his fate. He had made a mark and people started talking about this new singer. This song is considered to be among the top 3 songs of KK’s career.

‘Tadap tadap ke is dil se aah nikalti hai…’

Music director- Ismail Durbar (Film-Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam) (1999)

His voice suited inspirational songs and anthems as well.  His song from the recently released 83 was superb but ‘Aashayein  khile dil ki…’ from Iqbal remains a top favourite.

‘Aashaayein khile dil ki…’

Music directors Salim-Suleiman (Film: Iqbal) (2005)

The film Bajrangi Bhaijan had a lovely song sung beautifully by KK which plays in the background and along with the touching lyrics encapsulates the emotional bond shared in the film between Salman Khan and the little girl from Pakistan.

‘Tu jo mila toh ho gaya main kaabil…’

Music director-Pritam (Bajrangi Bhaijaan) (2015)

KK had shared a good rapport with all music directors like Pritam, Vishal-Shekhar, Salim-Suleiman, Anu Mallik, Ismail Durbar, A R Rehman, Leslie Lewis, Harris Jayaraj, Adesh Shrivastav , Shankar-Ehsan-Loy etc. and was respected for his range and versatility by all his contemporaries and co-singers -Sonu Nigam, Abhijit, Kumar Sanu, Shreya Ghoshal, etc. He always felt blessed that whenever the situation demanded, the music directors had so much belief and faith in him that they always gave him their memorable compositions for which he was grateful to them.

‘Tu Aashiqui Hai…’

Music directors Vishal-Shekhar (Film: Jhankar Beats) (2003)

When Farah Khan decided to introduce Deepika Padukone in her film Om Shanti Om in 2007, she could not have asked for a better song than the KK solo ‘Aankhon mein teri ajab si ajab si…’ picturized beautifully on Shah Rukh Khan who plays a die-hard fan of Deepika in the film who incidentally essays the role of a top Bollywood actress.

‘Aankhon mein teri ajab si ajab si adaayein hain…’

Music- directors Vishal-Shekhar (Film: Om Shanti Om) (2007)

KK was part of some foot-tapping songs like ‘Koi kahe kehta rahe…’ from Dil Chahta Hai, ‘It’s the time to disco…’ from Kal Ho Na Ho, etc. Here’s a fun-filled number from Dus.

‘Dus bahane kar ke lae gaye dil…’

Music directors Vishal Shekhar (Film: Dus) (2005)

Here is another one from the film Airlift picturized as a background song when the national airline Air India comes to the rescue of its stranded people in a foreign country and brings cheer to the people who had lost all hope of being evacuated. KK evocatively brings these patriotic feelings in the song.

‘Tu bhula jise…’

Music director Amaal Mallik (Film: Airlift) (2016)

KK hailed from Delhi and had started his career singing in clubs. He moved to Mumbai in 1994 and here it was Leslie Lewis (of Colonial Cousins fame), who gave him his first ad jingle. For the next five years he sang many jingles and title songs for television serials. KK’s only aim when he moved to Mumbai had been to cut an album of his songs and he had not really considered playback singing as a career. Fortunately for him Sony Music was making its foray into the Indian market and were looking for a new voice to launch their label.

Once again it was Leslie Lewis who helped KK by introducing him to the Sony group. KK was super thrilled to sign the contract with them and his first album came out in 1999. Two songs ‘Yaaron…’ and ‘Yeh Pal…’ became super-hits and both continue to be played even today during school and college farewell ceremonies. Ironically, this was the song he performed as his last song in the Kolkata program also.

‘Hum rahe ya na rahe kal…’

Sony Music Album, 1999 (Music director- Leslie Lewis)

In his 20-year long career, KK was nominated several times but won the best male playback singer only for one song- ‘Khuda jaane…’– a duet he sang with singer Shilpa Rao for the film Bachna Ae Haseeno.

‘Khuda jaane…’

Music directors Vishal Shekhar (Film: Bachna Ae Haseeno) (2008)

I end the blog with another one of my super favourite romantic numbers sung by the one and only KK. Indeed, he will continue to live in the hearts of his fans and music lovers through his priceless songs…

‘Tu hi meri shab hai subah hai tu hi meri duniya…’

Music director Pritam (Film: Gangster -A Love Story) (2006)

JAYESHBHAI JORDAAR tackles the grave issue of female infanticide in a banal and absurd manner

By

Sharada Iyer

Yash Raj Films’ latest offering Jayeshbhai Jordaar may have started out with noble intentions to address the serious issue of female foeticide, but neither the story nor the characters create any impact on screen to present this horrific reality still existing in our society. Not only is the handling of this sensitive topic done in an immature way but the solutions and explanations offered in the end are also totally ludicrous.

With Ranveer Singh as Jayeshbhai, one expected a lot more from the movie which ends up being neither a comedy nor a thought-provoking film that questions our age-old, inane and obnoxious practices prevalent even today in the name of ‘culture’. His character is weak, not likeable and at times plain exasperating! Further, the predictable and linear story-telling and shoddy writing fails to engage the viewer emotionally and feel for the protagonists in any way and therein lies the film’s biggest minus point.

Though the film’s story brings to fore several contemptible issues still embedded deeply in the minds and lifestyle of our people- toxic masculinity, deep-rooted patriarchy, our obsession for a male child, forced marriages, domestic abuse, secondary status of women in our society, total disregard for women’s health issues and using her body only to produce the coveted ‘male heir’ or ‘waaris’ for the family, illiteracy, lack of any kind of awareness of what determines the sex of a child, etc., the script fails to tackle even one of them in a sensible manner and sadly tries to make a comic issue of the some of the most regressive incidents which took away the punch from the story.

[Note: Spoilers ahead…]

The story is set in a fictitious village of Gujarat which is inhabited by people with the most backward thinking mindset and where the only focus seems to be to on giving birth to a male child. Our hero Ranveer who plays the title role of Jayeshbhai is a typical spineless and meek son to his overbearing parents and has no guts to stand up and voice his thoughts in front of his father (Boman Irani). To add to his woes, his father is also the sarpanch or head of the panchayat and thus gets to make all sorts of rules which only adds to the already existing woes and restrictions on the females in the village. Sadly his mother (Ratna Pathak Shah) is equally vile and agrees with Boman in everything he does.

Ranveer has been married to his wife (debutante Shalini Pandey) for almost ten years and much to the chagrin of his parents, they have been unable to have a son. His first born was a daughter and managed to escape the wrath of his parents in the hope that the next one would be a boy. We come to know that at the behest of his parents, he had made his wife undergo abortion six times subsequently, each time after the sex determination test revealed that she was carrying a girl. Though in his mind and heart, he does not agree with his father on any issue, he just goes along with all that his father wants and tells him to do like a robot.

And now she is shown to be pregnant again and everyone concerned is hoping that this time she will give birth to a boy! But the doctor reprimands them for subjecting the girl to so much physical agony and strictly warns them this could very well be her last chance to conceive. She also secretly reveals only to Ranveer that this time too his wife is carrying a girl child.

Ranveer this time does not want to abort the child and hatches all kinds of weird plans to run away. His plans end up actually putting his wife and little daughter in danger at times, and though worried for them, he is scared of his father and cannot be man enough to put up a fight against this injustice being meted out to them.

Much to their annoyance, the plans never go smoothly and when Boman Irani comes to know about the unborn child being a girl again, he goes berserk and ends up following them everywhere and thwarting all their plans. It is almost as if Boman and his set of waster men have no other work and their sole aim in life is to abort the child and punish the daughter-in-law.

Meanwhile more hackneyed things are part of the nonsense. Their smart tech-savvy nine-year old daughter who helps her parents a lot in their plans with the help of her knowledge of social media manages to upload some video of the fights with Boman using Ranveer’s phone which goes viral. They manage to contact the people of a unique village in Haryana where there are only men and no women owing to the unchecked foeticide that had taken place there sometime back. Now these men were repentant and willing to help any women in distress.

Towards the end, the plot takes a weird turn as they manage to catch Ranveer, tie him up and forcibly arrange his marriage to another girl! Once again, he accepts his parents’ diktat and surrenders. His hands and legs are tied and he is made to sit atop the ceremonial horse for the wedding procession. He waits hoping that he would be miraculously rescued by the villagers of Haryana at the last minute!!!

There is a sub-plot of Ranveer’s sister who is married to Ranveer’s wife’s brother in a sort of exchange. Apparently, this arrangement was made by Boman Irani when the children had still been infants and a deal was struck whereby, whatever treatment is meted out to Boman’s daughter would be given back to Boman’s daughter-in-law. So when Ranveer’s sister is subjected to physical abuse and beaten by her husband every night, as a tit-for-tat, Boman forces Ranveer to beat his wife similarly and get her injured. Instead of putting an end to his daughter’s torture, he wants to give his daughter-in-law the same abuse.

In a bizarre climax, Ratna Pathak unconvincingly has a super-sudden change of heart and Ranveer ends up giving a long monologue to all the women on ‘pappi’ or kissing and how the absence of kisses in their lives has turned all men into heartless animals bereft of any kind of feeling- pain or love for the women be it their wife, daughter or sister. He addresses all the women and requests them to accept their husbands and from now on shower them with love.

On the other hand, he never addresses the men or talks to them leave alone punish them for all the atrocities they have been committing. Even his own father who does not show an iota of remorse gets away scot-free for all the abortions he had masterminded. This trite explanation was senseless and irritating.

As far as performances go, all the actors have done a decent job. Boman Irani and Ratna Pathak Shah bring to life the horrible characters they play. Ranveer Singh has attempted something different and is good. Shalini Pandey plays the submissive wife to the hilt and Puneet Issar as the head of the Haryana village is also okay. But the real star of the film is the little firecracker of a girl-Jia Vaidya. This nine-year old who plays Ranveer’s smart daughter is the best part of the film. Role-wise, character-wise and acting-wise, she steals the show effortlessly from all the senior actors and ends up being the sole reason for which the film could be tolerated.

That the film is not doing well at the box-office is a clear indicator that the audience will not plainly digest any crap being dished out!

RUNWAY 34: A superbly crafted riveting aviation drama

By

Sharada Iyer

Produced and directed by Ajay Devgn under his banner Ajay Devgn FFilms, Runway 34 brings us an edge-of-the-seat thrilling cinematic experience the likes of which has never been seen before in Hindi cinema. At 2 hrs and 28 minutes, the film said to be inspired by true events, is engaging from the beginning when the flight takes off and keeps up the intrigue till the very end of the film. Ajay Devgn’s remarkable prowess as a director shines across every frame of the film especially in the nail-biting first half.

The film has a clearly demarcated pre- and post-interval narrative which not only offers a completely new type of drama but also imparts knowledge about so many technical aspects of things taken for granted when we board a flight. Something happens during the flight for which questions are raised and explanations sought and hence an investigation is required.

Ajay Devgn plays the central character of the pilot-Captain Vikrant Khanna who has the reputation of being a brave, resolute and intelligent pilot with an extraordinary photographic memory. Actress Rakul Preet is his co-pilot and a fan of Ajay Devgn. Actress Akanksha Singh plays his wife and has limited scope. Boman Irani is the owner of the airline for which Ajay and Rakul work and Amitabh Bachchan plays the investigator-lawyer Narayan Vedant, who handles the case against the pilots Ajay Devgn and Rakul Preet.

The entire action in the first half takes place on a Dubai-Cochin flight and the camerawork, the special effects, the sound system and attention to detailing is so brilliantly and realistically done that in the darkness of the cinema hall, every viewer feels that he/she is on board the flight experiencing every emotion and action and horror that is shown and we can relate to everything happening making it a very immersive experience. It was scary yet gripping and brilliant and gave goosebumps!

The second half concentrates on the investigation conducted by the aviation authorities to understand what exactly happened on the particular flight and why and how the incidents happened. The courtroom scenes are taut, very interesting and directed well. Both the parts of the film are entertaining and enlightening and definitely novel for Hindi cinema viewers.

Performances by Ajay and Amitabh are top notch. Ajay Devgn has chosen a role which suits his innate personality as well as his on-screen image and has done an outstanding job. He looks dignified and dashing as the pilot and with his brooding demeanor, his unique style and his expressive eyes, he dominates the proceedings and owns the character completely. He needs to be lauded for the choice of his role as well as the choice of such an interesting subject. Rakul Preet as the co-pilot looks lovely and has acted very well giving him perfect support. Akanksha Singh as the wife is okay. Boman Irani is perfect for the role but overacts a little.

The second half is dominated by Amitabh Bachchan and as always, he brings a rare dignity and integrity to the character he plays. The dialogues and the courtroom scenes are heightened by his towering presence and he adds a touch of gravitas to the scenario. His dialogues both in Hindi and in English are always a pleasure to listen to. The confrontation between him and Ajay Devgn is superb!

Having acted together in more than 10 films earlier, this is the first time that Ajay Devgn got the opportunity to direct the legend and he has stated in an interview that he could not imagine anyone else playing the character of Narayan Vedant, and had Amitabh had not come on board probably the film would have never been made.

There are many negative reviews floating around for this film comparing the first and the second half of the film but don’t be bowed down by these. The movie has so many plus points- action, direction, thrill, the aviation backdrop, and above all superb performances. This would definitely be more enjoyable watching in the cinema halls rather than the confines of your home but if the former is not possible, do watch when it releases on the OTT platform and make sure to switch off the lights and fasten your seat belts before you sit down in front of your TV screens!

[Note: All images are taken from the internet]

Abhishek Bachchan is outstanding in the thoroughly entertaining ‘DASVI’

By

Sharada Iyer

Abhishek Bachchan had a lull in his career when he was not getting any good films but now this brief hiatus of four years seems to have done him a lot of good and he has come back with a renewed vigour. His choice of roles in this second innings is commendable and his recent works on the OTT platform have given this highly talented but sadly underrated actor some excellent opportunities to showcase his prowess. He started with the crime drama Breathe: Into the Shadows (2020), followed by the highly engaging thriller Ludo (2020), where he was part of an ensemble cast but left his mark in an interesting role. In 2021, he was the protagonist in the film The Big Bull, which was based on the scamster Harshad Mehta’s life. This year in 2022, he displayed a completely different side of his talent by playing a serial killer in and as Bob Biswas and now in the recently released Dasvi he has given one of his career-best performances.

Dasvi is a highly enjoyable and witty political drama directed by debutant director Tushar Jalota, and carries the significant message of importance of education and how it empowers the person and brings about a change in the perspective and understanding of everything surrounding him/her. The narrative is well-paced with superb dialogues (by Kumar Vishwas) and the director intelligently places the message of education using politics as the backdrop and laces the script with dark comedy thereby ensuring that there is not a single boring moment in the film.

Abhishek plays Ganga Ram Chaudhary, the Chief Minister of a fictional state- Harit Pradesh and actress Nimrat Kaur plays his docile and rustic wife. However, due to mounting pressure of issues against him of corruption, fraud and his involvement in a scandal he is arrested and sent to jail. Before going to jail, he decides to appoint his illiterate wife, till then only used to taking care of cows and other such mundane chores, as the Chief Minister for the interim period and looks forward to controlling things from jail through phone.

But things don’t work out the way he imagines. Though for a short while, he is given royal treatment by the jailor and his assistants, soon things turn sour when he comes face to face with the newly appointed tough, principled and no-nonsense superintendent of jail played by actress Yami Gautam who makes things very unpleasant for him. Thereafter everything in and around his life changes.

Both the women control him in a manner he had not foreseen in his wildest dreams. His docile and shy wife after tasting the feel of raw power as the new CM, changes colour and wants to hold on to her new position and the new superintendent is after him to catch him and punish him for any nonsense he does in the jail.

The film is basically the journey of this brash eighth-class pass Chief Minister in jail and his experiences and learning during this period. The best part about the film is its refreshing storyline and the brilliant performance from the cast. Abhishek Bachchan has outdone himself. As the imprudent Chief Minister who loves the power he wields, his accent, his gait, his body language- in fact, his entire persona is so perfect that he really lives the role. He is endearing and carries the film on his shoulders confidently.

Giving him excellent support are the two super talented leading ladies of the film. Nimrat Kaur as the minister’s wife is brilliant and fits the role perfectly. Her transformation from the submissive wife to the greedy power monger is excellently done. Yami Gautam as the superintendent delivers a remarkable performance and her scenes with Abhishek are enjoyable and their chemistry is very good. Other supporting characters comprising of CM’s cronies, cops and other jail inmates are superbly cast. Arun Kushwah who plays the jail inmate Ghanti, deserves a special mention.

All in all, a well-made and highly entertaining film which deserves to be seen…

[Images are taken from the internet]

Classical raga-based songs of Mukesh

By

Sharada Iyer

Mukesh’s voice had a rare purity, simplicity and honesty which made him stand out among all his contemporaries of the Golden Era. No one could emulate the feelings he managed to convey through his songs especially in sad situations and his unique ability to pierce the soul of the listener with his golden voice remains unmatched till this day.

The simplicity of his songs made them easily hummable for every listener and packed with sentiments for every situation of life, it touched a chord in every heart. All his songs attained an evergreen quality thanks to this unique aspect of his mesmerizing voice. Though he became famous as the voice of Raj Kapoor, he could sing for any hero and any situation and convey any mood ranging from playful to pensive which was proof of his remarkable singing prowess.

He worked under almost every music director of his time and all the leading lyricists of the era and using his rare ability put life into the songs to match every mood, scene and character of the film. His very first song as a playback singer from the film Pehli Nazar became a superhit. The song was ‘Dil jalta hai toh jalne de…’ and was picturized on actor Motilal, who was incidentally his distant relative.

(Trivia: It is said that when the legendary singer K L Saigal heard this song in Mukesh’s voice, he mistook it to be his own voice and is believed to have mentioned that he did not remember recording this song!)

Here is an interesting anecdote on this shared by Annu Kapoor on his program Suhana Safar with Annu Kapoor on the radio channel 92.7 big fm:

Mukesh as a young boy picked up the nuances of singing indirectly by sitting in an adjoining room and listening to the master who used to come home to teach singing to his sister. Initially he copied his idol K L Saigal’s way of singing, but soon developed his own unique style and attained popularity. It was Motilal who brought him to Bombay from Delhi and arranged music lessons for him.

Though he has never sung very heavy classical songs in films, many of his songs lightly touched upon several Hindustani ragas and he got the opportunity to showcase his brilliance in each of them. In this blog-post I bring to you some priceless gems based on 12 classical ragas sung by Mukesh. Each song is so beautifully rendered in his inimitable style and though it is 45 years since he left us, the magic of his soulful golden voice to convey the different emotions, especially the different shades of melancholy, remains incomparable…

Raag: SOHINI/SOHANI

Song: ‘Jhoomti chali hawa yaad aa gaya koi…’

The time of this raag/raga is late night and the intensity of feelings of longing expressed have a mesmerizing effect on the listener.

The song is from the film Sangeet Samrat Tansen, 1962, where Bharat Bhushan essays the role of the famous musician Tansen. Having heard tremendous praise for Tansen’s phenomenal talent Emperor Akbar invites him to stay at his palace and anoints him as one of the nine gems or ‘navaratnas’ of his court. But Tansen misses his sweetheart and the song set to raag Sohani does full justice to the situation as it beautifully brings Tansen’s anguish and pain of separation from his lover.

Raag: AHIR BHAIRAV

Song: ‘Waqt karta jo wafaa aap hamare hote…’

The raga can convey a mixture of emotions and has a calming effect on the mind. In the film both the heroes Shashi Kapoor and Sanjay Khan love the heroine Rajshri. But she seems to have made her choice which leaves Shashi heart-broken and in this pensive mood through the song he conveys his inner feelings of his unconditional love for her and at the same time accepts the irony of his fate.

Raag: SHIVARANJANI

Song: ‘Kai sadiyon se kai janmon se…’

This is a very melodious raag and is said to gather its strength from sadness. It brings out the ‘karuna ras’ or pathos and can evoke the feeling of romance by yearning for the beloved as well. There is a haunting quality about this raag which touches the deepest recesses of the listener’s heart to directly reach the soul.

The story of film Milaap revolves around rebirth and has Shatrughan Sinha in triple role and Reena Roy in double role playing the lovers in different births. The plot of this film not only has a unique ‘snake-angle’ in it, but also differs from the other reincarnation stories as the heroine unites with another man and not her lover from the previous birth. The lover of the older birth is reborn as a snake after 100 years and in the current birth becomes so possessive and powerful that it keeps taking the form of Shatrughan Sinha and keeps enticing Reena Roy to unite with him. This song aptly coveys his anguish and yearning and unknown to her, the real lover is put to sleep by the snake in the song.

Film: Mera Naam Joker

Song: ‘Jaane kahaan gaye woh din…’

This song written by Hasrat Jaipuri and composed by Shankar-Jaikishen is possibly one of the finest examples of song based on this raag. In the film the song is played at the time when Raj Kapoor remembers all the women he had loved and lost. The deep yearning in his heart for the bygone days and his subsequent loneliness tugs our heart every time we listen to this song.

RAAG : PILU

Song: ‘Bahaaron ne mera chaman lootkar khizaaon ko ilzaam kyun de diya…’

This is considered a light classical raag and has the ability to convey phases of joy and sadness alternating between them. This song from the film Devar is very aptly set to raag Pilu to match the situation. The film tells the heart tugging tale of two friends where one friend tells lies and betrays the other in order to marry his friend’s childhood sweetheart. When the betrayed friend comes to know of this ugly truth, he is stunned and pours his heart out in this song. Presenting the audio song here as there was some problem with the embedding of the video song.

Raag: DARBARI

Song: ‘Hum tujhse mohabbat karke sanam rote bhi rahe hanste bhi rahe…’

Considered to be a grave raga played deep into the night, the songs set in this raga have the potential to leave a profound emotional impact on the listener. Music directors Shankar-Jaikishen used this raag in one of the Mukesh solos in the film Awaara (1951).

Raj Kapoor and Nargis had been childhood friends though they belonged to completely different strata of society. They get separated and years later when they meet sparks fly and they fall in love. Now she is a lawyer and he falls in bad company and becomes a thief. On her birthday, he robs an expensive necklace from the pocket of a gentleman but much to his chagrin when he reaches the party and gifts Nargis the necklace, he realizes that the gentleman (Prithviraj Kapoor) from whom he had robbed was like her father who had bought the necklace to gift her. He leaves the party filled with shame and embarrassment and sings the song mulling over the irony of the situation and his fate.

Raag: YAMAN

This is an ancient raag and one of the grandest ragas of Hindustani music. The dainty raag expresses the emotion of love, romance, the hopefulness of a lover waiting for his/her beloved and used a lot in composing romantic film songs.

In the film Saraswatichandra, this Mukesh solo beautifully expresses the feelings of the hero for his beloved and his anxiousness to convey the same to her.

Song: ‘Chandan sa badan, chanchal chitvan…’

Song: ‘Aansoon bhari hai yeh jeevan ki raahein…’

This song from Parvarish is sung remembering his beloved and the good times they had shared but now it is time to move on as only parting seems to be written in their destiny. This is an evening raag and is used beautifully to bring out the sadness here where the lover has no ego but only good wishes for his beloved as they part ways.

Raag: JHINJHOTI

Song: ‘Jaun kahan bata ae dil, duniya badi hai sangdil …’

This is a light, playful, melodious and very popular raag, and is used a lot for instrumental music. It can be used to convey a myriad emotions especially of the inner self in a beautiful manner.

The song chosen here is from the film Choti Behn and picturized on Rehman (a rare song picturized on one of Bollywood’s ace villains!). It is a family drama where two brothers-Balraj Sahni and Rehman and their younger sister Nanda, after seeing wonderful days together become victims of fate and circumstances bring a rift in the family. Rehman turns against the other two but later realizes his folly and sings the song in his repentant state of mind.

Raag: PAHADI

Song: ‘Kabhi kabhi mere dil mein khayal aata hai…’

Raag Pahadi, one of the most commonly used ragas for composing Hindi film songs, encompasses a touch of folk tunes along with echoes of mountain ranges (‘Pahad’) and conveys serenity, charm and a sense of eternal love. It can be both playful and pensive and lends a soothing poignancy in songs of parting and separation also.

In the film Kabhi Kabhie, Amitabh and Raakhee are lovers but their love remains unrequited as she is forced to marry Shashi Kapoor. The song which has two solo versions in the voices of Mukesh and Lata Mangeshkar, aptly conveys the feeling of the lovers.

Raag: TODI

Song: ‘Main toh ek khwab hoon is khwab se tu pyar na kar…’

A raga of late mornings, it is a gentle raag conveying an underlying pensive mood.

Manoj Kumar is a doctor from the city and falls for the tribal girl Mala Sinha but their path is beset with obstacles from every quarter and especially from her father. The song in the film is aptly set to this raag to convey the dejected mood.

Raag: BHAIRAVI

Song: ‘Mera joota hai japani…’

Often referred to as the queen of melodies, its soft notes and smooth rendering mesmerize the listener with love and piety. This was a favourite raag of actor-director Raj Kapoor and as Mukesh was his on-screen voice, we have lots of songs sung by Mukesh in this raag and picturized on Raj Kapoor- ‘Awaara hoon…, ‘Mera joota hai japani…’, ‘Dost dost na raha…’, ‘Mere man ki Ganga aur tere man ki Jamuna ka…’, ‘Mera naam Raju…’, etc.

Raag: TILAK KAMOD

Song: ‘Humne tujhko pyar kiya hai kitna kaun karega itna…’

This is a very melodious raga used beautifully in both heavy classical and light songs. This song picturized on Raj Kapoor is from the film Dulha Dulhan released in1964 and had the unique pairing of Sadhana and Raj Kapoor. Raj Kapoor plays a singer who lives in a ‘chawl’ (tenement) with his friend Agha. He meets Sadhana, they fall in love and get married but one day she disappears and to his surprise he finds out that not only is she the daughter of a rich man, but she also claims to have never seen him. Raj Kapoor tries to revive her memory through the poignant lyrics of the song.

Raag: JAIJAIVANTI

Song: ‘Hum aaj kahin dil kho baithe…’

Raag Jaijaivanti is a raag usually associated with heavy classical songs but the genius music director Naushad managed to use it for light numbers for Hindi film songs. One such song is the breezy romantic number from the film Andaz released in 1949. The film remains a masterpiece till date as far as love triangles are concerned and watching the dream star-cast of Raj Kapoor-Nargis-Dilip Kumar come together remains till date a unique enigmatic experience for cinema lovers. The film had several piano songs and this song is sung by Dilip Kumar who pours his feelings for Nargis as he is completely smitten by Nargis’s charm while she flirts with him enjoying all the attention.

It is sad that after this film it took almost 2 decades for Naushad and Mukesh to come together again in the film Saathi in 1968!

Rajamouli’s ‘RRR’ is a stunningly mounted & breathtakingly executed visual spectacle

By

Sharada Iyer

Words fail to describe the adrenalin rush we experience in every scene while watching Rajamouli’s latest extravaganza RRR (Rise Roar Revolt). After Baahubali 1 &2, the director delivers yet another unbelievable cinematic experience, the kind of which seems impossible to even visualize leave alone execute for any other filmmaker! Along with his father K V Vijayendra Prasad, he is also the story writer of this film.

Both Jr NTR (former star N T Rama Rao’s grandson) and Ram Charan (Actor Chiranjeevi’s son) playing the two main protagonists Bheem and Ram respectively, are in full form and outstanding in their roles. I watched the Hindi version and found it thoroughly enjoyable. At the outset, it is heartening that films like these are giving opportunity for our south superstars also to get appreciation and garner a pan-India fan-following for their extraordinary talent and the Hindi speaking audience gets to see the originals instead of the Bollywood remakes of some extraordinary films.

This epic story of two real life Indian revolutionaries Komaram Bheem and Alluri Sitarama Raju is set in the 1920’s when the British were committing atrocities on our countrymen and is a fictional account of the undocumented part of their lives. In the film we have Ram Charan working as an officer for the British and Jr NTR plays a Gond tribal who refuses to bow down and is undaunted by their power and strength. Both are hell bent on achieving their goals and will go to any lengths, even stake their lives if need be. They get to display every emotion conceivable and complement each other so wonderfully that it is a treat to watch the two actors on screen.

They have surpassed themselves in the incredible action sequences and their physique and sheer body language make every scene seem convincing and believable. An added treat is the thoroughly entertaining and electrifying dancing skills of both these actors in the song ‘Naacho Naacho…’. In fact, all the songs composed by music director M M Kreem are catchy and choreographed very well. The last song ‘Sholay…’ has a patriotic fervor to it and once again a must-watch.

The very first scene of the film as well as the introductory scenes of the two protagonists sets the tone of what to expect in the following three hours and gets us ready to enjoy the thrilling adventure with mind-blowing sequences unfolding one after the other on the big-screen. The story is nothing extraordinary but the execution is so mind-blowing that it makes the narrative powerful and engaging with many twists as well.

The director, action director, story and screenplay writer, the fight masters, the choreographer, the cinematographer, the music director, the lyricist, the costume designer, the set designer and above all the visual special effects team- each and every one has worked so hard and contributed to make this a grand cinematic experience for the viewer to be enjoyed in the cinema halls.

The casting is a major USP as we cannot imagine any one else playing Bheem and Ram. Among the rest of the cast, Ajay Devgn leaves his mark in a small but impactful role and justifies his presence in the story. Alia Bhatt looks very sweet but has a really small role which does not add much to the story. She does her part well and also gets to be part of the dance number ‘Sholay…’  with both the stars. For someone who was used so heavily during all promotions, she could have had at least one powerful scene but maybe her presence was more to add weightage to the glamour and reach of the film. The actors playing the British are well chosen and have acted very well.

For all those looking for a different experience, a unique storyline with splendid execution and direction, remarkable action scenes, superb visual graphics and amazing choreography, you won’t be disappointed! The film is definitely worth a watch for all of the above and for the awesome pairing of Jr NTR and Ram Charan. Just sit back and enjoy the saga unfolding, and don’t go looking for too much logic in some of the action scenes…

Here is an interesting tribute to RRR by Amul:

[Note: All images are taken from the internet]

Six OTT thrillers ranked from best to worst

By

Sharada Iyer

Recently I watched six thrillers on different OTT platforms and here is my take on them listing them in the order of my preference. The first two were brilliant, the next two were very good and the last two were quite bad and did not live up to the expectations created by their hype. Consistently all the serials/films were dominated by female actors who showcased their brilliance and superb talent in every scene. Many young new actors have also been given a chance and they have done very well and are definitely talents to watch out for.

JALSA (Amazon Prime Video)

Cast: Vidya Balan, Shefali Shah

This riveting edge-of-the-seat thriller will just blow you away with its dark and suspenseful storyline, brilliant direction, taut narrative and superlative performances from Vidya Balan and Shefali Shah. Set in Mumbai, the plot revolves around two central characters -a celebrity news anchor played by Vidya Balan and her cook played by Shefali Shah.

The opening scene shows a hit and run incident where an 18-year-old girl becomes the victim and the driver flees the scene and drives away after the accident. How the two protagonists get entwined in the web of circumstances that connect them to the horrific accident and how they deal with the shock and tragedy forms the crux of the narrative. The climax is chilling and the superb background music only heightens the drama.

Saying anything beyond this would spoil the fun for the viewer but rest assured that the plot will get you hooked on from the first scene and keep you in its grip for the entire duration of two hours. Director Suresh Triveni, has done a brilliant job and he is also one of the producers, screenwriters, story writers and additional dialogue writers of the film. Other important characters are the victim’s boyfriends, a politician, two policemen, Shefali’s husband and son, Vidya Balan’s divorced husband (actor Manav Kaul in a small role), her mother, her boss, and a new trainee working under her.

Vidya Balan is raising the bar with every film of hers and is outstanding in this new kind of role she has attempted. Shefali Shah is simply mind-blowing and speaks so much with her eyes! The two together make this film an extraordinary viewing experience. Others in the cast are also good. A special mention for the heart-warming performance of  the young boy who plays Vidya Balan’s son-Surya Kasibhatla. The child is shown to suffer from cerebral palsy in the film and incidentally he has the same condition in real life also.

This film is not to be missed at any cost!

THE FAME GAME (Netflix)

Cast: Madhuri Dixit, Manav Kaul, Sanjay Kapoor

Directed by Bejoy Nambiar and Karishma Kohli and produced by Karan Johar’s Dharmatic Entertainment, this excellently directed eight-episode thriller web-series revolving around the glamourous and glitzy world of films leaves us with a shocking twist in the last episode promising us an equally exciting second season.

Madhuri Dixit plays a top Bollywood star, Anamika Khanna, who has everything going for her- a loving family with a husband, daughter, son and her mother, super-hit films and the love of her fans. She gets to unite for a new film with her old co-star with whom she had starred in several hits and their on-screen pairing had been a super-hit with the fans. But just before the release of her new film, Madhuri disappears without a trace sending her fans into a tizzy and the shocking news becomes the nation’s headline for several days.

Is she alive or has she been killed? Or just kidnapped? The case is headed by a lady inspector who realizes that there are dark secrets hidden behind the façade of perfection that Madhuri’s life had seemed. Her deep involvement with her old on-screen co-star, her relationship with her husband, mother, maid and children-all come tumbling out. But the answer to the riddle remains unknown and she remains untraceable.

The editor Monisha R Baldawa (known for her brilliant work in Badla, Mom, Neerja, Mardaani 2, etc.) should get a lot of credit for it is her sharp and intelligent editing of the episodes which makes the serial a gripping thriller with lots of twists at every end. The narrative goes back and forth smoothly keeping the episodes crisp and also keeps us guessing about what could have happened to Madhuri.

Madhuri Dixit shines in her first OTT debut and is brilliant. Her pairing with Manav Kaul is endearing and their chemistry is rocking. She plays the role of the mother, wife, lover, daughter and film star caught at crossroads in her life with ease and élan, and lends maturity and dignity to the character. Sanjay Kapoor plays her husband and is okay. The actors playing her children are spot-on and very natural and convincing. The lady inspector played by Rajshri Deshpande is also excellent.

All in all, this is also a must-watch thriller!

MITHYA (Zee 5)

Cast: Huma Qureshi, Avantika Dassani, Parambrata Chatterjee

Set against the backdrop of the picturesque hill station of Darjeeling, Mithya is a psychological thriller drama and involves a murder also. The plot centers around the two main protagonists- a professor and her student and their toxic relationship. This six-episode web-series is dark, edgy, thrilling and has intriguing twists that keep us engaged throughout with the very first episode ending in a murder and both the protagonists becoming the suspects.

Directed by Rohan Sippy, the series is adapted from the British mini-series Cheat and the screen-writers for Mithya are the talented duo of Anvita Dutt and Althea Kaushal who manage to keep the suspense intact throughout. At the beginning of each episode, for a few minutes we are shown the bars of a cell and the two women are on either side of it conversing with each other. We are kept in the dark as to who is inside and who is outside the jail. Then the rest of the episode takes us back in time to the incidents which could have led to the murder.

Huma Qureshi plays a Hindi professor in a college. She enjoys her job but on a personal front she has many issues troubling her psychologically. Her husband who is also a professor in the same college, is always pressurizing her for a child which makes her very annoyed and starts to affect her psyche causing a major strain and rift in her relationship with him.

Added to all this a new problem enters her life in the form of a hot-blooded student of hers played by Avantika Dassani, who is the daughter of one of the trustees of the college. One day Avantika submits an assignment which Huma does not accept and accuses her of plagiarism without providing any proof for her accusation. This one action of hers sets in motion a series of shocking and unforeseen incidents which changes both their lives forever.

Avantika does not take her accusation lying down. She is battling her own personal issues and in turn aggravates Huma further with her audacious, volatile and insolent behaviour. Soon the two enter into a toxic teacher-student relationship and are always at loggerheads with each other boiling down to plain revenge. And suddenly, they find themselves accused of a murder which either of them could have committed and the unfolding begins…

Though both the actresses have given very convincing performances, debutant Avantika Dassani deserves a special mention. She is the daughter of yesteryear actress Bhagyashree and she could not have asked for a better launchpad. She adds a touch of mystery to her character and her mannerisms, her husky voice, her body language, her expressions- everything is spot on and she manages to leave a special mark. Parambrata Chatterjee who plays Huma Qureshi’s husband and Rajat Kapoor who plays her father are the other important characters and they also act very well.

The series stands out for being quite unusual and intriguing and has good performances.

MARZI: A Game of Lies (Voot)

Cast: Rajeev Khandelwal, Aahana Kumra, Pavleen Gujral, Vivek Mushran

Directed by Anil Senior, this six-episode web-series is definitely worth a watch for the engaging screenplay and superb performances. Based on the British television series Liar, the plot of Marzi is also centered around two principal characters- a school teacher played by Aahana Kumra and a reputed surgeon played by Rajeev Khandelwal. He is a widower who lives with his 17-year-old son and she is a teacher in the school where his son studies.

Having met each other a few times, they decide to go on a date. But something unexpected, unthinkable and shocking happens that leaves her shattered. The morning after the date she wakes up in her bed with a heavy head, cannot remember anything of the previous evening or night but feels sure that she has been raped by the doctor.

She confides in her sister who is a nurse and works in the same hospital as the doctor. They go to the police station to lodge a complaint and in the absence of anything concrete except her gut feel, no FIR is lodged but the police do go to the hospital to question the doctor. He has a different story to tell. The suspense is kept up for a few episodes leaving us undecided as to who is telling the truth and the audacity of such persons and the lengths they would go to keep up the façade is shown well. The ineptitude of the police to do anything in the absence of solid evidence and the constant pressure from seniors also become a cause for concern.

The USP of the serial is the solid performances from Rajiv Khandelwal and Aahana Kumra, especially the latter, who fit into their characters so well. Hope Aahana gets more roles where her talent can be tapped further. Other characters are the police duo of Vivek Mushran and Pavleen Gujral, Aahana’s elder sister played by Shivani Tanksale and the sister’s husband played by Suhas Ahuja. All of them act well. The story set in the charming hill station of Shimla adds its own unique character to the proceedings.

The end was a little rushed up but also allows us the liberty of imagining what could have happened to get to the end scene.

THE GREAT INDIAN MURDER (Disney+Hotstar)

Cast: Richa Chadha, Prateik Gandhi, Raghubir Yadav, Mani

Directed by Tigmanshu Dhulia, this web-series is based on Vikas Swarup’s thrilling book Six Suspects but sadly falls completely flat. For starters, several important changes have been made compared to the book that make a major difference and somehow the thrill part is completely missing.

In the first episode the rich, brash and evil playboy son of a powerful politician is killed at a party hosted by him. There are both invited and uninvited guests at the party and three of them are found with guns in their possession making them the prime suspects. The police headed by Richa Chadha and the CBI headed by Prateik Gandhi are in charge of the case. Both are shown to be having grey shades and not very forthright in their investigation.

Each episode is too long and dragging without any intrigue or interest and quite shoddily directed. In spite of some good actors like Prateik, Richa, Sharib Hashmi, Paoli Dam, Shashank Arora, Raghubir Yadav and Ashutosh Rana, the series is not engaging and after a point we don’t care who is the murderer as the deceased himself had been a despicable character. There are lots of lies, deceptions and secrets hidden and the police also don’t seem too keen to get to the bottom of it.

The one person who really steals our heart is the actor Mani playing the character of Eketi- a tribal from Andaman who was at the party to retrieve a precious idol of their tribal God which had been stolen from their island. His expressions, the character’s innocence and the way he is taken for a ride by the so-called civilized society for their own selfishness is heart-breaking to watch and perhaps the only good point of the entire series.

Both Richa and Prateik walked through their parts without any life and seemed disconnected with the soul of the story. Only the first two episodes were good, though very slow-paced. The title of the series itself was misleading as there was nothing ‘great’ about this murder. This series can surely be given a miss and for those who have read and enjoyed the book this is a big letdown.

RUDRA: The Edge of Darkness (Disney+Hotstar)

Cast: Ajay Devgn, Atul Agnihotri, Raashii Khanna, Esha Deol

Directed by Rajesh Mapuskar, this web-series is a remake of the British web-series Luther and marks the OTT debut of actor Ajay Devgn. He plays DCP Rudrapratap Singh, (Rudra, for short). He is a cop with an introverted brooding personality and a genius mind and known to crack the toughest of murder cases by understanding the psychology of the criminal. He plays by instincts, does not believe in following rules and has no qualms risking his life to solve the cases. This often lands him in trouble with his superiors.

Each episode has a different case and a different cold-blooded murderer but the same team headed by Ajay gets to solve them. We have Atul Kulkarni playing his friend DCP Gautam, a junior officer played by Tarun Gahlot who looks up to him, ACP played by Ashwini Kalsekar and finally, Esha Deol who plays his wife. There is also a personal angle to the story involving Ajay’s relationship with Esha and another angle where he shares an intellectual chemistry and physical attraction with the criminal of the first episode, Raashii Khanna. She gets to play a very interesting character.

Though all this sounds good on paper, somehow the execution falls short of expectations. For starters, Ajay Devgn though good, remains Ajay Devgn the star. He is his usual self and does not bring anything new to make his character Rudra stand out. Maybe this is what happens when big stars start taking up roles on OTT platforms, a newer or lesser-known face would have worked better perhaps. Esha Deol is so bad in her role and a big minus point of the series. Atul Kulkarni has also not been given a role befitting his talent.

All episodes are very slow and a better editing could have kept the interest intact. Two of the episodes are a little gruesome. The title music is also jarring and after watching some really good web-series in the last two years, this one had nothing special to offer except getting to watch Ajay on the small screen and his chemistry with Raashii Khanna.

[Note: All images are taken from the internet]

Kausar Munir-Bollywood’s top female lyricist

By

Sharada Iyer

Today on International Women’s Day, here’s a look at the journey of the super-talented Kausar Munir, who has paved her unique path and made a mark in the male-dominated arena of Hindi film song-writers. With her quick grasp of the cinematic medium and her sharp understanding of the situation of the film, Kausar Munir has proved her prowess and mastery over words time and again in all her films and has the gift for writing any kind of song- be it a romantic ballad, a motivational anthem, a qawwali, a poignant song, a song of separation or just a promotional song.

Kausar Munir has an impressive list of films to her credit –Rashmi Rocket, Shiddat, Ishaqzaade, Bajrangi Bhaijaan, Ek Tha Tiger, Dear Zindagi, Padman, 83, Secret Superstar, Dhoom 3, Gunjan Saxena-The Kargil Girl, etc., and though we have all enjoyed the songs from these films, how many of us are aware that she is the writer of these songs?

Let us start the blog with a superb romantic number written by her for the film Padman, sung by Arijit Singh.

Film: PADMAN

Song: ‘Aaj se teri saari galiyaan meri ho gayee…’

Here is one of her popular anthems written for the recently released film 83.

Film: 83

Song: ‘Lehra do, sarkashee ka parcham lehra do…’

Both these songs are so vastly different in their genre and yet the words touch our hearts in a gentle soothing way in the first song and kindle our patriotic spirit in the second song thus bringing out the right emotions.

As more and more of our films are moving towards realism with emphasis on content-driven stories, the situations where a song could be interspersed in a script is fast diminishing and lip-syncing to a song unless it is a dance number, may soon become a thing of the past. With the result most of the songs are background songs and the lyricist has to work harder to be heard when so many scenes are being played during the song. Here is a beautiful song from a lesser know film Youngistaan, in which her use of words like ‘sangemarmar’ and ‘minaaren’ lent a fresh quality to the romantic song.

Film: YOUNGISTAAN

Song: ‘Suno na sangemarmar ki ye minaaren…’

Here is another beautiful number saluting the daughters of India who had the courage to overcome all obstacles in the pursuit of their goal :

Film: GUNJAN SAXENA:The Kargil Girl

Song: ‘Bharat ki Beti…’

In the film Bajrangi Bhaijaan she got the rare opportunity to pen lyrics for a qawaali- ‘Bhar de jholi…’, sung by Adnan Sami as well as a fun children’s song – ‘Chicken kukdoo koo…’, to spruce up the mood of the little protagonist of the film. Both were very well written and apt for the situations. Here’s my favourite song from this film and the poignancy of the lyrics is conveyed beautifully by the soulful rendition of KK.

Film: BAJRANGI BHAIJAAN

Song: ‘Tu jo mila…’

Kausar Munir graduated in English literature from St Xavier’s College, Mumbai and being born and brought up in the city, there was a heavy influence of Hindi films and Hindi film songs in her life. She had never thought of pursuing a career in films as the atmosphere at home was of Arts, Literature and Poetry. Her grandmother Salma Siddiqui was an Urdu literary writer and her father, a graduate from FTII was a professor of Film Studies. Somewhere subconsciously these influenced her, flowed into her psyche and she ended up imbibing a lot of it.

She was interested in writing and landed her first job with a documentary film maker which involved research and writing. From there destiny just led the way and she came on board as one of the junior writers of the popular television serial Jassi Jaisi Koi Nahin. While working for the show, she met Vijay Krishna Acharya who was making his directorial debut with the film Tashan. Thus in 2008, she got the opportunity to write the first song of her career- ‘Falak tak chal saath mere…’. Picturized on Akshay Kumar and Kareena Kapoor, and the song became a hit.

Film: TASHAN

Song: ‘Falak tak chal saath mere…’

After this she had to wait for two years to write her second song for the film Anjaana Anjaani and it took another two years to get the opportunity to write the lyrics for all songs (barring one) for the film Ishaqzaade in 2012. The music of the film was much appreciated and Kausar Munir’s song ‘Pareshaan…’ which expressed the awakening of first love became a chartbuster.

In the same year 2012, she was asked to pen the lyrics for two promotional songs for the film Ek Tha Tiger. Though she was signed after the film was completed and the songs were not part of the film, both became super-hits especially ‘Mashallah…’ and this was her first association with director Kabir Khan. After this, she became a part of many of his films like Phantom, Tubelight, Bajrangi Bhaijaan and 83.

Film: EK THA TIGER

Song: ‘Mashallah Mashallah chehra hai mashallah…’

Kausar Munir has been associated with top banners like Yash Raj Films, Dharma Productions and has also worked top music directors Pritam and Amit Trivedi and even southern maestro Ilayaraja. She has worked in films starring Amitabh Bachchan, Aamir Khan, Shah Rukh Khan, Saif Khan, Salman Khan, Akshay Kumar, Ayushmann Khurrana, Taapsee Pannu, Deepika Padukone, Rani Mukherjee, Alia Bhatt, as well as newcomers Arjun Kapoor, Aditya Roy Kapoor, Parineeti Chopra, Zaira Wasim, etc.

Film: MARDAANI

Song: ‘Aaj se ab se aan meri…’

There was a time when the name of the lyricist used to be announced over the radio before playing the song, but over a period of time, this trend disappeared and the whole focus now has shifted to the stars of the film followed by the music director and even the singer but the lyricist remains largely ignored. There have been instances when they have not even been invited for the music launch of the film. She shares a wonderful camaraderie with her fellow lyricists and together they are trying to raise this issue to give them the dignity they deserve. It is ironical that the very people who put life into the songs to convey the right emotion, are sadly placed last in the hierarchy in a film song’s journey.

Film: DAAWAT-E-ISHQ

Song: ‘Dil ne dastarkhan bichaya…’

Kausar Munir feels that she is blessed and though her journey has been a slow one, she has not encountered any gender discrimination in her path. People have been helpful and she strongly feels that since emotion has no gender, there will be opportunities if one keeps doing good work. Though she is not a poet per se, she has now started writing poetry to put down those thoughts which can be freely expressed without the constraints of cinematic demand. She remains a great admirer of Gulzar and Javed Akhtar.

She is also the writer of films like Jalebi and Shimla Mirchi and the additional dialogue writer of Bajrangi Bhaijaan. She was also signed up as the language consultant by her director friend Gauri Shinde for the film English Vinglish to help Sridevi with the diction and language. She was also the lyricist of Gauri Shinde’s much acclaimed film Dear Zindagi and her song ‘Love you zindagi …’ which expresses life’s philosophy in simple words, connected well especially with the younger generation.

She strives to keep subtlety, dignity and grace in her lyrics and tries to balance the demands of the producer and the music director as well for she understands that at the end of the day, the song has to bring in the viewership and money for the makers. She admits that she has yet to write a wedding song which has not come her way so far.

She has been nominated for many of her songs and won the award a few times. Here’s wishing her success in all her future projects.

I end the post with her latest hit ‘Doobey…’ from the film Gehrayiaan

Film: GEHRAYIAAN

Song: ‘Doobey…’

Madhubala’s films opposite Bharat Bhushan

By

Sharada Iyer

Madhubala got the opportunity to do only one double-role and one triple-role in her career and both were opposite actor Bharat Bhushan. Read on more to find out about this interesting on-screen pair…

Madhubala entered the Hindi film industry as a child artiste at the age of 9 years in 1942 with the superhit film Basant where she played the young daughter of Mumtaz Shanti and Ulhas. She then made her debut as a leading lady at the age of 14 years in the film Neel Kamal in 1947 and her hero was none other than actor-director Raj Kapoor and incidentally this was also his debut film as a hero. However, she died very early at the young age of 36 years and did not live to see her last release Jwala, opposite Sunil Dutt, as it was released in 1971, two years after she passed away.

During her career spanning around 20 years she acted opposite a number of top heroes of the time- Ashok Kumar, Jairaj, Chandrashekhar, Prem Nath, Sunil Dutt, Shammi Kapoor, Kishore Kumar, Pradeep Kumar, Bharat Bhushan, Guru Dutt and the triumvirate of Dilip Kumar-Raj Kapoor-Dev Anand. She got to play a variety of roles from comedy to love stories, light-hearted fun films to emotional dramas and attained iconic status for her glorious portrayal of the character of ‘Anarkali’ in K Asif’s epic blockbuster Mughal-e-Azam.

Madhubala got the opportunity to do only one double-role and one triple-role film in her career and both were opposite actor Bharat Bhushan. They acted together in four films- Gateway of India, Phagun, Kal Hamara Hai and Barsaat Ki Raat, and all of them were thoroughly entertaining films and could easily be counted among her best films. Madhubala had beauty and vitality and Bharat Bhushan had an innate simplicity and honesty and together they made an immensely likeable on-screen pair.

All four of these films had a unique feature about them. Gateway of India was a one-woman show with the story revolving around the character of Madhubala and the other actors forming the supporting cast, Kal Hamara Hai saw her play the lone double role of her career, Phagun had her in a triple role and Barsaat ki Raat is considered to be one of the greatest musicals ever to have been made in our film industry with all 11 songs, especially the mesmerizing ‘qawaalis’, becoming sensational hits.

Today is Madhubala’s birth anniversary and as a tribute to this beautiful and consummate actress, this blog-post examines all these four films. For those who plan to see these films, there are spoilers ahead and for those who don’t mind reading about them, the blog will give a very good idea of the film’s plot.

GATEWAY OF INDIA (1957)

This was the first time the pair was cast together though Bharat Bhushan had a very small role. Produced and directed by actor Om Prakash, this is a very different kind of film that is neither a typical boy-meets girl story nor an emotional family drama, nor is it a full-length comedy film. Instead, the interesting plot deals with the incidents which happen during one night in Madhubala’s life.

Plot

Madhubala’s father before dying had left behind a map with information about where he had hidden his wealth so that his wicked brother could never get his hands on it. One night, Madhubala and her loyal servant overhear an evil plan being hatched by her uncle to finish them, and before they could do anything, the servant is killed. Madhubala is shocked to witnesses the murder being committed by her uncle. She is also caught and now that she had become an eye-witness, her uncle gives instructions to his henchmen to bundle her off to a remote place and keep her there till the servant’s body is disposed-off in the morning at the Gateway of India at 6.30 am.

She manages to fool her kidnappers and escape and is on the run as she realizes that she is being followed closely by her uncle’s thugs. During the course of the night, she ends up meeting all kinds of weird and shady characters who are out and about at this time of the night and who try to take advantage of her vulnerable situation. But our heroine here is no damsel in distress. She not only manages to escape from the clutches of each one of them using her common sense and intelligence but also gets all of them to meet her at the Gateway of India in the morning at 6.30 am with a promise of marrying them.

Director Om Prakash manages to rope in many actors to do small roles in the film. Pradeep Kumar is a suave club owner waiting to catch damsels in distress and get them stuck in the whirlpool of his dirty games and Anita Guha is the club dancer who is one of his victims; Johny Walker is an alcoholic who does shady business by stacking foreign branded alcohol without license; Manorama is the owner of a brothel and in an apartment she trains girls to sing, dance and lure their customers and Chandrashekhar is a pimp who helps her; Raj Mehra is one of the customers who shows interest in Madhubala; Bhagwan is a mentally disturbed man who has already killed six of his wives and stacks the money that he gets from their life insurance policies; Bharat Bhushan is a poor poet trying to make a name and Om Prakash himself plays a street ruffian who takes out his knife at the slightest provocation.

Madhubala changes her name to trick these people after gauging the situation and their character and from Anju she becomes Lajwanti, Chanchal, Darling, Padma, etc. to fool them. The climax where all the characters come together is interesting and finally the uncle is caught with the body of the servant and all the other miscreants are also arrested by the police. There is a song during the encounter with each character. The popular Lata Mangeshkar-Mohammed Rafi duet from this film comes during her meeting with Bharat Bhushan.

Song: ‘Do ghadi woh jo paas aa baithe, hum zamane se door jaa baithe…’

The film is an enjoyable one-time watch and Madhubala is wonderful as the street-smart girl on the run, captivating us with both her beauty and her acting. Clad throughout the film in the same dress-a pair of trousers, a shirt and a coat with a simple hair-do of two pigtails, she looks beautiful and it is a pleasure to watch her outwit the loafers. No prizes for guessing that she loses her heart in the end to the simple and honest Bharat Bhushan, who plays a poet in the film.

PHAGUN (1958)

Produced and directed by Bibhuti Mitra, the film had a reincarnation story and Madhubala had a triple role in this, though two of the roles were very small and had very little screen time. Keeping in tune with the reincarnation theme, Bharat Bhushan also had a double role in the film. Important actors in the supporting cast included Jeevan, Dhumal, Murad, Nishi and Kammo. Being one of his early films, Mehmood had a very small role as that of the guard of the princess’s palace.

O P Nayyar scored the music and the Mohammed Rafi-Asha Bhonsle duet ‘Ek pardesi mera dil le gaya, jaate jaate meetha meeta gham de gaya…’ became a big superhit. Other songs which also became very popular were another Rafi-Asha duet-‘Tum roothke mat jaana …’ and the Asha Bhonsle solo ‘Piya piya na laage mora jiya, aaja chori chori…’. The flute played by Bharat Bhushan in the latter song is haunting and plays an important part every time the lovers are apart. There is a special dance number by Cuckoo also.

Plot

A newly married couple (Madhubala and Bharat Bhushan) have just bought a mansion and as the new owners decide to come and stay there. First, they are greeted by an old servant (Dhumal) who registers both surprise and shock when he sees their faces, and later they are stunned to see their own photographs already on the wall along with the other ancestors of the mansion, albeit dressed differently. Dhumal is overjoyed and tells them that it is indeed a divine miracle that after 25 years the lovers who had died young in their previous birth had returned as a couple in their next birth to take their place as the rightful owners of the mansion! Though he has become old, he is happy that his master has returned…

He then proceeds to tell the story of their previous birth when they had been Banani and Bijan! Madhubala (Banani) had been the tribal chief’s daughter and Bharat Bhushan (Bijan) had been a rich landlord’s son living in this very mansion and both of them had been very much in love with each other. Expectedly, owing to the class differences of their backgrounds, both the fathers are against their union and only Dhumal who was a servant in the mansion, helps them in their secret meetings.

However, it is revealed to us in the first scene itself that Madhubala was actually the adopted daughter of the tribal chief and he had found her as a new born crying inside a casket floating in the river. It so happened that after many years Madhubala’s parents had been blessed with a daughter but when she is born, sadly her mother dies at child birth. So, the father abandons the newborn daughter by putting her in a casket and setting it afloat in the river. Here the mother’s role is also played by Madhubala making it a triple role for her!

The film is thus more of the love story between the tribal girl Banani and Bijan. No love story is complete without a villain and Jeevan steps in to do the needful. He is engaged to Binani and very possessive about her and keeps suspecting her of having a secret lover. Dhumal loves Binani’s best friend Jharna and everyone for a while fools Jeevan successfully. As is known, true love always faces many obstacles and here also at every step some problem keeps arising. But the lovers remain undeterred and find strength in each other’s love and trust.

The film is engaging and everyone acts very well. Madhubala looks lovely in the tribal attire and her on-screen chemistry with Bharat Bhushan is very good making their love story believable.

KAL HAMARA HAI (1959)

Produced by K Amarnath and directed by S Prabhakar (who later married Madhubala’s sister, Chanchal), the story is set during the time when Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s second five-year plan had come into effect in the country and economic changes were taking place in the society. The narrative urges the youth not to feel depressed, not to fall prey to corrupt and greedy ways of life but to make the right and honest choices for a brighter tomorrow for themselves, as well as the nation. Ironically our hero’s name in the film is also Bharat signifying that after all the country is nothing but the people and they would have to conquer the inner demons and overcome the obstacles to rebuild a brighter tomorrow.

There is a lovely title song composed by music director Chitragupt and sung by Mohammed Rafi and Asha Bhonsle with meaningful words signifying that ‘Every cloud has a silver lining and however difficult our today may seem, tomorrow would be ours…’.

Song: ‘Gham ki badli mein chamakta ek sitara hai, aaj apna ho na ho, par kal hamara hai…’

Plot

In this film Madhubala gets to play two look-alike sisters Madhu and Bela who have very different personalities. While Madhu is the understanding, helpful, compliant, and responsible elder sister trying her best to make ends meet and look after her ailing father, Bela is the flamboyant, ambitious, outgoing and adventurous younger sister. As Madhu, she is clad in a Maharashtrian style sari in the entire film, and as Bela, she sports a modern and westernized look and looks beautiful in both the roles.

Madhu wants her sister to study well and make something worthy of her life to escape their poverty. However, without informing her, Bela quits her studies and feels that by using her beauty and sensuality and flirting with the right men, she would climb up the social ladder in a more effective way to get both money and power. Later she writes a letter to her sister and informs about her activities. Madhubala excels in both the roles and manages to essay the contrasting characters effortlessly. Her performance is a sheer delight to watch.

The story takes us straight to the world of corruption and crime of the evil businessman Jayant, who commits fraud and kills people without any qualms. One such incident involves purposely hitting an old employee of his firm with his car as he had found out about some fraud committed by Jayant.  Jayant then tricks his driver Bharat Bhushan to take the blame promising him a bright future with monetary help and a permanent job when he comes out of jail. Because of this decision his lover commits suicide (Ratna Bhushan in a small role). Once out of jail, for fear of being caught by the police, Jayant refuses to even recognize Bharat Bhushan and asks him to never show his face.

Left in the lurch and having foolishly been used like a puppet by his boss, he becomes frustrated, even gets suicidal thoughts but finally decides to kill Jayant to quench his anger. He manages to sneak into his house at night and even fires two shots but Jayant escapes the bullets and now the police are after Bharat Bhushan. While on the run, he meets Madhu who is on her way to get the doctor to see her ailing father.

Upon reaching her home, he is shocked to see that her father was none other than the man whom Jayant had hit with the car and for which Bharat Bhushan had served the jail term. Out of guilt and having found a chance to reform himself, he decides to stay and help Madhu. He starts working as a taxi driver, they fall in love eventually and plan to get married. She also asks for his help to find her sister Bela and help her to come back.

Unknown to Madhu, her father who had by now become alright, recognizes Bharat Bhushan as the employee of Jayant who had helped Jayant escape prison term by foolishly taking on the blame. He makes it very clear that he was not happy with his daughter marrying such a man and that he should leave the house and stay out of Madhu’s life forever.

Meanwhile we are shown the life of Bela, who gets a job as a club dancer and with so many admirers, feels on top of the world. But sadly, she too falls prey to evil Jayant’s tricks who manages to buy her and the hotel she is staying and soon she is forced to work for him. Slowly she gets to realize that the glamour world has a murky underbelly and that one has to pay the price to be a part of it. She agrees to help him carry out his wicked plans and wants a good cut from the money they would make.

During one such operation, while she is escaping in a cab, she comes face to face with Bharat Bhushan who happens to be the cab driver. He recognizes her instantly due to her resemblance to Madhu. He sabotages her attempt to blast a train and she realizes what a grave crime she had been about to commit. She too falls in love with Bharat Bhushan. She comes home and relates her experiences and especially her love for Bharat. Madhu though heart-broken is happy for her sister.

Sadly, Bela overhears a conversation between Bharat and Madhu and realizes that he loves her sister and not her and she runs away. Now, Jayant is after Bela’s life for not having carried out his plan and will go to any lengths to get his revenge. He shoots Bela with the gun having Bharat Bhushan’s fingerprint on them and so, Bharat Bhushan is arrested.

The climax in the court is interesting and though innocent, Bharat Bhushan confesses to having made bad choices in his life for which repercussions had to be faced. The film reiterates once again that whatever the circumstances in one’s life, ultimately it is the individual’s choices which decide the path taken and consequently decide the destiny of the nation too.

Everyone acts well and the film is an interesting watch.

BARSAAT KI RAAT (1960)

Produced by R Chandra (Bharat Bhushan’s brother), directed by P L Santoshi and screenplay by Bharat Bhushan himself, Barsaat Ki Raat was the second highest grosser of 1960 after Mughal-e-Azam. A superbly directed Muslim social drama with scintillating music by Roshan and outstanding lyrics by the one and only Sahir Ludhianvi, it was an engaging love story between a poet and his admirer who had fallen in love with him through his poetry.

Plot

The plot has two parallel tracks-one which involves a struggling poet trying to make his mark in the world of poetry and the other involving a struggling qawwal and his two daughters who are trying to regain their lost reputation and dignity after losing the previous year’s qawwali competition.

Bharat Bhushan plays the struggling poet whose poems get published but is still struggling to make money. He is a boarder in the house of the qawwal Mubarak Ali who lives with his daughters Shyama and Ratna Bhushan. He is very friendly with them and Shyama loses her heart to him and mistakes his friendship for love.

One day Bharat Bhushan leaves for his home town Hyderabad where he has been given a chance to recite his poetry as a singer in their Radio station. He promises to help the qawwal by writing poetry for their competition when he returns. In Hyderabad he stays with his friend Chandrashekhar who is an Inspector and works under the Police Commissioner played by K N Singh. Madhubala is his daughter.

At the radio station he is asked to come up something new and unique to make a mark and he decides to roam around the streets to get some inspiration for his new poem. That is when amidst thunder and lightning and heavy rain, he has a chance encounter with the beautiful Madhubala who comes to take shelter under the same tree and in the darkness hugs him inadvertently when the thunder roars. Surprised by her own action and a little fearful and conscious of the stranger, a world of emotions is felt by both of them and this is conveyed beautifully by Roshan’s music and by Sahir’s excellent poetry the very next day when Bharat Bhushan describes the entire incident in his song over the radio.

Madhubala is ecstatic to know that the chance encounter had been with the very poet whose poetry she loved deeply. Soon, thanks to his Inspector friend he gets the job of a tutor at the Police Commissioner’s house for his younger daughter. Bharat Bhushan is thrilled to get this chance to meet Madhubala. Both of them can’t believe their luck and thus starts their beautiful journey of love. They meet surreptitiously every day in the house and soon decide to start meeting outside to get more time with each other.

As luck would have it, K N Singh spots them together and is furious. Bharat Bhushan is insulted and thrown out of the house and he loses his job and Madhubala’s marriage is fixed with some old friend’s son in Lucknow. But Madhubala and Bharat Bhushan run away and start living in hiding. As they have no money, Bharat Bhushan sings on the radio using a different name but his Inspector friend recognizes the voice and soon his location is traced.

Later they also leave town to stay with a lawyer friend of Bharat Bhushan who advises Madhubala and Bharat Bhushan to get married so that legally no one can touch them but before that can happen, Chandrashekhar lands there and takes Madhubala back to her father and soon the family leaves for Lucknow for her wedding.

Ironically, Bharat Bhushan also lands in Lucknow for the qawwali competition and visits another friend but is soon shocked to find out that this is the man to whom Madhubala is going to be married to. He leaves the house but not before a brief meeting with Madhubala and as their love seemed doomed, they part ways. When she sees him, Madhubala faints and becomes depressed and unwell.

Meanwhile, the qawwal has lost one more competition for want of a good poet to write the qawwalis and they are on the lookout for a good poet to help them win their next two rounds. Bharat Bhushan then chances upon them during the competition and on the spot writes poetry which helps them win the first round. Now that he has nowhere to go, he decides to stay with the old qawwal master and his 2 daughters and help them win the final round as well. Shyama who is initially overjoyed thinking her love has come back to her soon finds out that it is Madhubala and not her who is the love of Bharat Bhushan.

The rare and one of its kind of climax comprises of the 12-minute qawwali sequence during which a lot happens. Shyama faints halfway and Bharat Bhushan takes her place. And hearing the voice of her lover over the radio pouring his feelings into the words, Madhubala gets the courage to leave the house and rushes to the scene of the competition.

Finally, its all’s well that ends well and once again there are thundershowers as the lovers are re-united with everyone’s good wishes and blessings.

Interesting OTT Releases I watched in Jan 2022

By

Sharada Iyer

As the first month of the year 2022 ends, here is a brief write-up of a few engaging films and web-series I watched during the month.

420 IPC (Zee 5)

This is an engrossing courtroom drama which deals with bank fraud, forgery and economic offence and keeps us glued to the proceedings from beginning to end. Considering that it is helmed by none other than Manish Gupta, the man who wrote the screenplay for the brilliant 2019 film Section 375, it comes as no surprise that he manages to dish out yet another intriguing courtroom drama. This time he is also the director of the film apart from handling the story, screenplay and dialogues.

The story is based in Mumbai and revolves around a Chartered Accountant played by Vinay Pathak who lives with his wife (Gul Panag) and their school-going son. Though he has powerful clients like a top city builder and Deputy Director of MMRDA, his own lifestyle is nothing much to boast about and the couple is struggling to repay the loans they have taken.

One day, the Deputy Director is arrested for his alleged involvement in a flyover road scam involving rupees 1200 crores and being his CA Vinay Pathak comes under the radar of the CBI. Suddenly they land up in his home for a thorough search of his small flat and he is taken in for questioning also, but he is given a clean chit as nothing incriminating is found on him.

Soon after, he finds himself accused of stealing and forging cheques by his ‘builder client’ (played by Arif Zakaria) and much to his chagrin this time he is arrested with no provision for bail. The Public Prosecutor (played by Ranvir Shorey) handling the case is a powerful Parsi known to win all his cases and his very presence in the court is considered intimidating. Vinay Pathak hires a young and upcoming lawyer played by Rohan Mehra (son of actor Vinod Mehra) who feels such a case involving a high-profile lawyer and a big-shot client could make or break his career. He decides to fight till the end come what may.

Are the things as simple as they seem to be or is there something murky deep down which is being prevented from coming to fore? The entire courtroom proceedings are kept taut with both the lawyers putting in their best effort. As the director of the film had spent almost 2 years researching on the subject and meeting and interviewing real-life lawyers, the authenticity of the court room scenes is spot on and keeps us guessing.

Acting by the entire cast is superb and the film is definitely worth a watch especially for those interested in court room trials.

YEH KAALI KAALI AANKHEN – Season 1 (Netflix)

Set against the backdrop of a small town of Uttar Pradesh, this is a superbly crafted thrilling drama series embroiled in crime, passion, power and deceit. Though at the base of the story is a love triangle between the three protagonists played by Shweta Tripathi, Tahir Raj Bhasin and Anchal Singh, the unbelievable twists and turns that every episode reveals makes it a riveting show.  The story even takes us to Ladakh and back and the camerawork is laudable.

Director Siddharth Sengupta has done a brilliant job and has a complete hold over the taut narrative and gripping storyline and does not slip up keeping us on the edge throughout. The choice of actors for the characters is a super big plus point. Tahir Raj Bhasin in the role of the main protagonist is excellent. He plays a character for whom nothing goes as planned and the more he tries to sort out things, the deeper he gets pulled into the vicious whirlpool and the more his life turns upside down.

As the two girls in love with the same man, both Shweta Tripathi and Anchal Singh are splendid the latter especially clinching it with her surreptitious smile that lends an unnerving touch to her obsessive demeanor. Their characters are haunting and will keep us hooked. Saurabh Shukla as Anchal’s father and Brijendra Kala as Tahir’s father are brilliant as always. Another find of the series is actor Anant Joshi as Tahir Raj Bhasin’s best friend who is also superb. Arunoday Singh who appears towards the end of the season adds his own mystery to the drama.

All in all, a web- series definitely worth a watch. The season ends on a cliffhanger with many things left to be tied up leaving a lot of opportunity for taking the excitement forward.  Waiting with bated breath for Season 2…

UNPAUSED: Naya Safar (Amazon Prime Video)

This is an anthology of five pandemic-related short films of about 30-minute duration each and helmed by five different directors. The films deal with situations faced by different sections of the society during the second wave of Covid-19 pandemic and how it impacted their lives. Many talented actors with their natural acting bring to life the different characters making us a part of their emotional journey.

Vaikunth

Easily the most heart-wrenching and poignant of the five films, it tells us the story of a cremation ground worker during the pandemic. He works at a ground ironically titled ‘Vaikunth’, which has the line written underneath: ‘Here the rich and the poor sleep on the same bed’. It is a somber tale which gives us an insight into the lives of such workers who kept the pyres burning and yet were never counted among the frontline workers for their invaluable contribution.

They are not even given proper masks or a PPE suit to wear and yet with an indomitable spirit they go about their job wordlessly. Because of the nature of his work, Nagraj is even asked to vacate his small room during these most difficult times and with nowhere else to go he decides to stay in a corner of the cremation ground with his young son.

This story deals with that reality of life about which not many would want to talk about or make films. But the fearless and brilliant director here is Nagraj Manjule who gave us the thought-provoking Marathi film Sairat in 2016. He himself plays the main protagonist here and with minimal dialogues, he is able to convey a world of emotions that leaves us thinking about the kind of society we live in.

War Room

The setting of this story is a Covid War Room which is like a call centre where volunteers are working round the clock taking phone calls from relatives of patients to inform them of the availability of hospital beds and other facilities. The data is updated regularly and there is also a doctor on duty to attend to any queries from the callers. There is not a minute to rest as the phones keep buzzing throughout day and night.

The focus here is on a widowed school teacher who is one of the Covid War Room workers. She goes about her work diligently till one day she gets a call from a person wanting to know about the bed availability for his father. The call upsets her and takes her into her past and brings memories of an unforgettable incident that had left her shattered. Is this divine justice finally for her?

Faced with the situation which gives her the power to avenge the wrong done to her, she finds it difficult to focus on her job for a while. So, what happens to the patient and what is it about her painful past that is troubling her so much? Geetanjali Kulkarni is brilliant as the protagonist and manages to convey her angst and dilemma under the circumstances. The episode highlights how these people who help us also could be dealing with so much in their personal lives and it is not an easy task for anyone.

Teen Tigada

This story throws light on how criminals involved in illegal activities were also not spared due to the pandemic and how their shady activities also had to come to a standstill due to the lockdown. Three men are thrown together for a while in an abandoned warehouse where they are to lie low for two days till their boss finds a buyer for their illegal consignment of some equipment. The three men are in dire need of the money and so were now working for the boss who is somewhere else overseeing the deal.

However with the announcement of lockdown and the consequent stopping of all transport and any kind of travel, they are stuck in the remote place with no food. Emotions run high and frustration makes them go at one another. How they tackle this unforeseen situation and what happens to them forms the crux of the episode. They each have a personal tale to tell and have dreams of what they would do if and when they get the money. Acting by all the three protagonists- Saqib Salim, Sam Mohan and Ashish Verma is top class.

The Couple

This story is about a young working couple who are well tuned on their personal as well as professional front and coping well with the situation of ‘work from home’ due to lockdown. Everything seems hunky-dory till one of them is fired without any prior notice and soon emotions go astray. Irritation sets in and the incident focuses on how the relationship gets affected. What is the ripple effect and are they able to overcome the crisis and take it in their stride or could it cause irreparable damage?

The setting is natural as many families faced this in reality during the recent lockdown. On the pretext of cutting costs, companies fired many employees without a thought to the repercussions of this one move of theirs. Acting by Shreya Dhanwantri and Priyanshu Painyuli is very natural making the scenario believable. Priyanshu has a charming screen presence which was already evident in the film Rashmi Rocket and the web-series Mirzapur and here again he is very good in the role of the husband.

Gond ke Laddoo

This story is not as strong as the others as the situation shown here is something which could occur even if there was no pandemic but the story does highlight how even under dire circumstances, not giving up hope could turn the tide and bring a smile. The incident here involves a mother (Neena Kulkarni), who is unable to meet her daughter and new born grandkid due to lockdown and decides to send some handmade sweets through a courier service.

The delivery boy (Lakshvir Saran), has his own problems as his boss is unhappy with him and when he gets the charge to deliver this parcel, something unforeseen happens which catches him off-guard. But his wife (Darshana Rajendran) who has a more positive attitude does not wish to give up so easily. What happens to the parcel and how the couple scrape through forms a heartwarming tale. Though many of us take them for granted, it is a fact that even delivery boys face so many problems in their day-to-day situations and the story was an eye-opener on that count.

PUSHPA: The Rise- Part 1 (Amazon Prime Video)

(Hindi dubbed version of the Telugu film)

After the success of actors Prabhas and Rana Daggubatti with the Hindi audience, Allu Arjun is the next superstar from the south to conquer the northern belt. With the Hindi dubbed version of his latest film Pushpa: The rise garnering a phenomenal response at the box-office, the film has made Bollywood sit up and take notice of this megastar’s extraordinary pan-India reach. The Hindi-version alone has crossed the rupees 100 crore mark and is still going strong.

The film which was released in the cinema halls on 17th December hit the bull’s eye and became a craze with people flocking to see this masala entertainer again and again despite the pandemic restrictions. It is basically a Telugu film but was released simultaneously with the dubbed versions in other languages as well, including Tamil, Kannada and Hindi and the All-India gross collection has exceeded rupees 500 crores making it an all-time blockbuster!

So much was the craze that even Kabir Khan directed cricket bonanza 83 and the Hollywood action film Spiderman: No Way Home, could not create a dent in its collection. The film had its OTT premiere on 14th January. Though its story about the rise of the underdog is not new it is the racy treatment, the backdrop, the superbly choreographed action scenes, the ‘seeti-maar’ dialogues and above all Allu Arjun’s magnetic charisma which makes it so different.

Set in the Seshachalam forests of Andhra Pradesh, the plot is about the smuggling of the unique and rare red sandalwood found exclusively in these forests alone. There is a crime syndicate running the smuggling business transporting the sandalwood to other states as well as to other countries via the sea route. This setting itself makes for a novel backdrop as not much is known about this trade. Hues of brown and green dominate the camera work and takes us right into the forests to feel the pulse of the storyline.

Allu Arjun starts off at the lowest rank as a coolie who is paid rupees 100 for chopping the trees but he is not willing to settle for this pittance. With his intelligence, daring ideas, sheer audacity combined with extraordinary fighting skills and a fanatical determination to never bow down to anyone makes him climb up the ladder to become the leader of the syndicate. Along the way plenty of enemies are added and he faces life threatening situations and many obstacles from the police also create problems but his steely resolve and unwavering will power always comes to his rescue. Towards the end of the film arrives Fahadh Faasil and the scenes between the two are total paisa-vasool.

Allu Arjun has done a superb job. With his crude, uncouth and rugged countenance he carries off the role with ease and adds a signature swagger which imparts a unique persona to the character. His dialogues- “Pushpa naam sunke flower samjhe kya? Flower nahi, fire hai main” (Pushpa does not mean flower, it is fire) and “Jhukunga nahi” (I refuse to bow down) have become hugely popular and his dance steps especially in the song ‘Srivalli…’ sung by Javed Ali has garnered phenomenal views on YouTube.

With Bollywood dishing out an overdose of biopics and too many films based on nationalism and patriotism, this total ‘out and out’ mass masala entertainer with an unexpected storyline and a new hero offers a refreshing change. Mercifully, there won’t be a remake of this film as the dubbed version has hit the jackpot. Kudos to Shreyas Talpade who has done a brilliant job with the dubbing.

The only weak point I felt was the romantic track and somehow the heroine Rashmika Mandana gets to play a silly character and there was not much chemistry between the two. But the Part 1 has ended on an interesting note. Like Bahubali a few years back, Pushpa is also a film with two parts with the second part also promising to be as entertaining. Perhaps there will be more confrontation scenes between Fahadh and Allu Arjun and maybe even Rashmika will get to do more.