SHAKUNTALA DEVI: Fascinating biopic of a remarkable woman!

By

Sharada Iyer

To the world Shakuntala Devi- the mathematical genius from India remained an enigma! No one could comprehend how this seemingly ordinary woman could crack such tough numbers in a jiffy and at times even spell out the answer in reverse order! Her mysterious ways of arriving at the perfect answer to the toughest Mathematical problems beating even the fastest computer of her time not only gave her entry into the Guinness Book of World Records but also the title of ‘Human Computer’!

But there was a lot more to this extraordinary woman than her professional side. Shakuntala Devi was after all, like everyone else, a human and in various phases of her life as a daughter, a sister, a girlfriend, a wife, a mother and a mother-in-law she had to navigate through some tough personal times to become the woman the world came to know her as.

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Real vs Reel

The film which released on Amazon Prime on 31st July is an attempt by writer-director Anu Menon to give us a glimpse into the life and times of Shakuntala Devi through the eyes of her daughter with whom she apparently had a troubled relationship. In the very first scene the daughter is shown filing a criminal case against her mother which makes the viewer sit up and from then on we are hooked on to the film till the very end.

The biggest plus point of the film is that it does not unnecessarily deify her but shows her as a woman who was unapologetic about the way she lived as she did not believe in conforming to the social diktats the society wanted to cast her in as a ‘woman’ a ‘wife’ or a ‘mother’. She followed her heart and carved her own path for she knew that her happiness lay in being surrounded by numbers and mathematical problems and nothing and no one would be allowed to take that away from her. In one scene she tells her daughter- “Why should I choose to be normal when I can be amazing?” That in essence sums up the feisty personality of the woman who never questions the choices she makes in her life.

The film also reveals that she was one of the earliest people in the country to support homosexuality and in fact even wrote a book on it. Apart from being a mathematician she also became famous as an astrologer and a writer. She had even set sights on a political career.

However to cramp all this into a 2-hour film is not an easy task so some aspects though very significant are only mentioned fleetingly and could have been highlighted more. The essential focus is on her personal relationships starting with the troubled one with her parents. She remains angry with them all her life and even though she vows not to make the kind of mistakes that she felt they did, her daughter ends up having the same kind of resentment towards her which becomes ironical. So like her favourite number ‘zero’ she realizes albeit a little late that life always goes in circles and that we should not be too harsh or judgemental towards anyone for every person is doing what they feel is best at that time.

In a biopic, the choice of the cast is of utmost importance. Today in our industry there could not have been a better person to portray the character of this eccentric mathematical genius than Vidya Balan. She fits into the character like a glove and carries the film on her shoulders confidently and superbly. There are some scenes though which tend to become melodramatic and she goes a little over-the-top with her enthusiasm. This is especially evident when she is portraying Shakuntala’s younger self. But to her credit she manages to capture the spirit of the character.

Sanya Malhotra who plays her daughter is okay. Her acting skills are nothing to rave about but she does get to play a difficult role and has a lot of screen time. She is good in some scenes and quite out of depth in others. Jishu Sengupta who plays Vidya Balan’s husband is very good and so is Luca Calvani, the actor who plays her Spanish friend Javier. Amit Sadh as her son-in-law is good and fits the part.

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Nowadays since all songs are played in the background not much recall value is there. There is a song added when the end credits are rolling which does not add any value and was avoidable. Direction, dialogues and camerawork are all good. Editing could have been more taut as some scenes do seem a little abrupt.

Today we talk so much about women empowerment, but here was a woman way ahead of her times who walked the talk with a rare dynamism and a kind of vitality difficult to come by! Shakuntala Devi was born in 1929 and the period in which she grew up women were not looked upon as being capable of such brilliance and that too in the field of Mathematics so dominated by men. And here was a little girl of six years solving tough calculations at the Mysore University leaving everyone spellbound. For such a woman to achieve what she did and win laurels and recognition not only in our country but all over the world is nothing short of spectacular and unbelievable!

Kudos to the producers and the entire team who thought of bringing to life the journey of this rare genius of our country. The film may not be a perfect in every respect but it helps us to understand the woman behind the brains and definitely deserves to be watched by one and all…

 

Bollywood songs based on Raga Pahadi

By

Sharada Iyer

Music directors of our film industry have skillfully woven the basics of classical ragas from our rich musical heritage in a simple form and given us outstanding film songs that could reach out to a much wider section of the audience and thus find mass appeal. Instead of strictly adhering to all the technicalities of the raga which can be appreciated only by a few, the essence or the flavour of the raga is maintained in the song to give us the right feel and emotion associated with the scene or mood of the character. Sometimes the raga is only lightly touched upon and at other times the raga is mixed with other ragas to highlight its beauty.

Lyricists, music directors, singers and finally the actors and actresses have all contributed by adding their own magic to enhance the appeal and reach of these songs to the large base of film viewing populace of our country. Lyricists wrote the perfect words, the music directors composed using the apt raga to bring out the right emotion, the singers put the soul into the expressions and finally the artistes brought it to life on screen with their charisma.

For this blog-post I have chosen Raga Pahadi. The word ‘pahad’ in Hindi language stands for ‘mountain’ and hence automatically the very name of the raga ‘Pahadi’ conjures up the vision of lush green hills and snow-clad mountains. It  also brings to our mind so many of our film songs picturized using this scenery as the backdrop. This pleasant raga suits many moods and is often referred to as ‘sarvakaleen raga’ or one that can be sung at any time of day or night. Therefore no specific time is allocated to sing this.

The link below is an instrumental music piece based on the raga and gives an excellent idea of the beauty of this raga. Listening to this will definitely bring to mind a variety of film songs based on this raga:

Raga Pahadi is considered a ‘light’ raga and not a heavy classical one like raga Yaman or raga Bhairavi, etc. It is more like a ‘dhun’ or tune and is generally used in singing ghazals, bhajans, thumris etc. The popular bhajan by Lata Mangeshkar- ‘Paayo ji maine Ram rattan dhan paayo…’ is based on raga Pahadi.

Here are two excellent film songs based on raga Pahadi from two of our hit films-Aradhana and Jewel Thief. The music director in both these films was the genius composer S D Burman who hailed from Tripura and loved composing songs based on folk music and light Hindustani classical.

Film: Aradhana

Song: ‘Kora Kagaz tha yeh man mera…’

Film: Jewel Thief

Song: ‘Dil pukare aa re aare aa re…’

Singers : Mohammed Rafi, Lata Mangeshkar

Interestingly raga Pahadi has been the most commonly used raga for composing Hindi film songs. The raga encompasses a touch of folk tunes along with the echoes of the mountain ranges 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 or separation also.

A little detailed tutorial for those interested in knowing the nuanced technicalities of raga Pahadi.

In this tutorial it is explained that though theoretically this raga like other ragas has a specific set of notes in ‘aaroh’ (while ascending) and ‘avroh’ (while descending), this raga does not necessarily follow the rules strictly and is generally sung with slightly altered version of the specific note. It is also explained how mixing the normal notes with the altered ones gives the raga its distinct identity which is very soothing and enjoyable. Thus songs composed in this raga become ‘Mishra Pahadi’. Many music directors have used this raga to give us beautiful compositions. 

Here is a set of songs with the typical setting of hills and mountains.

Film: Noorie

Song: ‘Aaja re aaja re o mere dilbar aaja…’

Singers: Nitin Mukesh, Lata Mangeskar

Music Director: Khayyam

Film: Sahibaan

Song: ‘Kaise jeeunga main agar tu na bani meri sahiban…’

Singers: Jolly Mukherjee, Anuradha Paudwal

Music directors: Shiv-Hari (Pandit Shivkumar Sharma & Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia)

Film: Kashmir Ki Kali

Song: ‘Isharon isharon mein dil lene waale…’

Singers: Mohammed Rafi, Asha Bhonsle

Music Director: O P Nayyar

Film: Aap Ki Kasam

Song: ‘Karvatein badalte rahen saari raat hum…’

Singers: Kishore Kumar, Lata Mangeshkar

Music Director: R D Burman

Film: Chandni

Song: ‘Tere mere honthon pe meethe meethe geet mitwa…’

Singers: Jolly Mukherjee, Lata Mangeshkar

Music Directors : Shiv-Hari

Film: Humraaz

Song: ‘Hey Neele gagan ke tale…’

Singer : Mahendra Kapoor

Music Director :Ravi

As can be seen, all the above duets are picturized on lovers during their courting days when life seems pleasant and wonderful and what better way to express their love for each other than sing melodious songs based on raga Pahadi!

But the path of love is never straightforward. Many a time it is beset with such unforeseen obstacles that the lovers are separated due to circumstances far beyond their control. Here are some sad songs based on this raga which convey sadness, yearning and pangs of separation.

Music composer Naushad famously known for his raga-based songs has given us some delightful compositions. Here are three popular songs composed by him and all three sung by Mohammed Rafi.

Film: Ram Aur Shyam

Song: ‘Aaj ki raat mere dil ki salami le le …’

Singer: Mohammed Rafi

A film where Dilip Kumar plays a double role and there is ample scope for misunderstanding as the look-alikes get interchanged albeit unknowingly. Waheeda Rehman and Mumtaz are the two heroines and they both think they love the same man and that he has been cheating on them. Understandably confusion arises and leads to heart-break.

Film: Dulari

Song: ‘Suhani raat dhal chuki na jaane tum kab aaoge…’

Singer: Mohammed Rafi

This film is the story of a rich man falling for a gypsy girl but the parents do not approve the idea of him marrying a girl below their status. This solo gave Mohammed Rafi his earliest hit.

Film: Udan Khatola

Song: ‘O door ke musafir, humko bhi saath le le e…’

Singer: Mohanmmed Rafi

Dilip Kumar and Nimmi play the two lovers in this tragic love story. The story set in a fictional kingdom had the queen of the kingdom also falling for Dilip Kumar but he has his heart set on the peasant girl played by Nimmi. The queen however succeeds in separating the lovers. 

Film: Bhabhi

Song: ‘Chal ud ja re panchi ke ab yeh desh hua begana…’

Singer: Mohammed Rafi

Chitragupta came up with this gem in Bhabhi which had actor Jagdeep give one of his career best performances. Sad that he got relegated to doing the same type of comedy in film after film when there was so much more to him as an actor. In this film Nanda becomes a victim of child marriage and sadly even becomes a child widow. She is allowed to stay in her house till a certain age after which she has to leave for her in-laws’ place and that too in the typical garb of a widow. By that time unknowingly she had fallen in love with Jagdeep but now they have to separate

Film: Shagoon

Song: ‘Tum apna ranjo gham apni pareshani mujhe de do…’

Singer: Jagjit Kaur

Music director: Khayyam (the singer is his wife)

The film Shagoon released in the year 1964 had Waheeda Rehman opposite actor Kamaljeet who later went on to become her real life husband in 1974. The film had a regressive story-line where Waheeda turns out to be a ‘manglik’ (born under the influence of planet Mars) which in Indian society is astrologically considered inauspicious for a bride. Conveniently all mishaps and unlucky incidents happening are automatically blamed on Waheeda and the couple start to drift apart. A family friend’s daughter played by actress mother Nivedita steps in with the hope of getting closer to him. This song is sung under these circumstances.

Here is a pleasant song from the hit film of 1946 – Anmol Ghadi sung by and picturized on the beautiful singer-actress Noor Jehan.  She is delirious with happiness after having found her childhood friend Surendra after many years. Friendship had now given way to love. This film had the unique distinction of having three singing stars in a love triangle- Noor Jehan, Suraiya and Surendra. Music by Naushad was the real highlight of the film. He puts his soul into every song thereby giving life to an otherwise ordinary love story.  

Film: Anmol Ghadi

Song: ‘Jawaan hai mohabbat haseen hai zamaana…’

Singer: Noor Jehan

Music Director: Naushad

This one is a mind-blowing gem from Khayyamji from the film Aakhri Khat. The film directed by Chetan Anand remains a unique film till date with the focus of the story being a small 15-month old child who wanders around the city on his own. It is also the first released film of superstar Rajesh Khanna and what a splendid performance he gives! In the film he plays a sculptor who on one of his trips to the hill station of Kulu sees a tribal girl singing this beautiful song and falls in love with her. The child born to them is the main star of the film.

Film: Aakhri Khat

Song: ‘Bahaaron mera jeevan bhi sanwaro…’

Singer: Lata Mangeshkar

Barsaat was the top grossing film of 1949 and had the story of a man from city falling in love with a girl from the mountains. This formed the perfect setting for a song in this raga. This film was the beginning of the on-screen magic of the pairing of Raj Kapoor and Nargis. This was the debut film of music directors Shankar-Jaikishen and actress Nimmi.

Film: Barsaat

Song: ‘Meri aankhon mein bas gaya koi re…’

Singer: Lata Mangeshkar

Music Directors: Shankar-Jaikishen

One of the best and easily the most haunting duets ever composed in the history of Hindi film music is based on this raga. Picturized on the characters of Emperor Shah Jahan and his queen Mumtaz Mahal played by Pradeep Kumar and Bina Rai respectively, this is an immortal composition of music director Roshan and the outstanding lyrics by Sahir Ludhianavi make this a timeless masterpiece. And of course the contribution of the great singers-Mohammed Rafi and Lata Mangeshkar cannot even be expressed.

The song beautifully and poignantly brings out the essence of their love and the emotions behind building the evergreen monument Taj Mahal and captures it for eternity.

Film: Taj Mahal

Song: ‘Jo wada kiya who nibhana padega…’

Singers: Mohammed Rafi, Lata Mangeshkar

Music Director: Roshan

Lyricist Shakeel Badayuni teams up with the music maestro Ravi to give us another eternal gem in the golden voice of Mohammed Rafi from the film Chaudvin Ka Chand. On his wedding night, Guru Dutt sings this to his beautiful wife Waheeda Rehman.

Film: Chaudvin Ka Chand

Song: ‘Chaudvin ka chaand hoy a aaftab ho…’

Singer: Mohammed Rafi

Film: Dosti

Song: ‘Jaane waalon zara mudke dekho idhar…’

Singer: Mohammed Rafi

Music Directors: Laxmikant-Pyarelal

This film won several awards but the film is remembered till this date for its outstanding songs. Two of the six songs in the film were based on raga Pahadi. The link of one song is given below and the other song was- ‘Chahoonga main tujhe saanjh savere…’

Some more milestone songs based on this raga:

Film: Waqt

Song: ‘Kaun aaya ke nigahon mein chamak jag uthi…’

Singer: Asha Bhonsle

Film: Pakeezah

Song :’Chalo dildar chalo…’

Singers: Lata Mangeshkar, Mohammed Rafi

Music Director: Ghulam Mohammed

Film: Milan

Song: ‘Saawan ka mahina pavan kare sor…’

Singers: Lata Mangeshkar, Mukesh

Music director: Laxmikant-Pyarelal

Film: Woh Kaun Thi?

Song: ‘Lag ja gale ke phir yeh haseen raat ho na ho…’

Singer: Lata Mangeshkar

Music Director: Madan Mohan

Here is a unique song where music director Jaidev uses this raga not to transport us to the hills but takes us straight to the heart of Rajasthan desert where the village ladies are singing this song on their way to bring water. This film directed by K A Abbas in 1971 won the Nargis Dutt award for Best Film on National Integration.

Film: Do Boond Paani

Song: ‘Peetal ki mori gaagri…’

Singers: Parveen Sultana, Meenu Purushottam

Music Director: Jaidev

There are many more famous songs based on this raga- ‘Husn pahadon ka kya kehna ke…‘,‘Kabhi kabhi mere dil mein khayal aata hai…’, ‘Woh dil kahan se laun teri yaad jo bhulaye…’ , ‘Rula ke gaya sapna mera baithi hoon kab ho savera…’, ‘Raat ka sama jhoome chandrama man mora nache re…’, ‘Shaam dhale khidki tale tum seeti bajan chod do…’, ‘Usko nahi dekha humne kabhi par iski zaroorat kya hogi…’, ‘Dil karta o yaara dildara mera dil karta…’,‘Rahe na rahe hum…’, ‘Parbaton ke pedon par…’, ‘Roshan tumhi se duniya…’, etc.

The list is indeed a long one. Hopefully this post helps the reader in appreciating this beautiful raga which has been incorporated into so many of our songs to give us so many hours of mesmerizing music.

And finally I end the blog with this evergreen motivational song sung and composed by the one and only Kishore Kumar. A song which can give goose-bumps every time one hears this and hearing it once is never enough…

Film: Door Ka Raahi

Song: ‘Jeevan se na haar o jeenewaale…’

Singer: Kishore Kumar

Music Director: Kishore Kumar

For those interested, here are the links to my blog-posts on other raga-based film songs: 

(https://myviewsonbollywood.wordpress.com/2017/10/02/the-use-of-raga-bhimpalasi-in-hindi-film-songs/)

(https://myviewsonbollywood.wordpress.com/2018/01/10/hindi-film-songs-based-on-raga-kalavati/)

(https://myviewsonbollywood.wordpress.com/2016/09/25/the-use-of-raag-shivaranjani-in-hindi-film-songs/)

(https://myviewsonbollywood.wordpress.com/2019/02/12/hindi-film-songs-based-on-raga-charukeshi/)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bollywood update: Half-yearly review of 2020

By

Sharada Iyer

Looking back, the first six months of 2020 witnessed many unexpected and unprecedented events.

The year started off with the usual excitement of looking forward to plenty of new releases with some exciting stories and superb performances. But little did we know that things were about to change dramatically. A small unseen virus was about to cause a pandemic and throw the whole world out of gear. Caught in the grip of the dreaded ‘corona virus’ every human activity had to hit a ‘pause’ button and the entertainment industry too suffered a huge setback.

A nationwide lockdown was imposed following which cinema halls across the country were shut down from 13th March, 2020. Around 34 films had released till then but after that there were no new theatrical releases of films. With continuously rising number of cases even after four months, all shootings schedules and releases remain cancelled.

A SALUTE TO THE DEPARTED SOULS

First a heart-felt note in the memory of our beloved film personalities whom we lost during this period. Both Irrfan Khan and Rishi Kapoor who had been suffering from terminal illnesses since 2018 succumbed to their fatal conditions one after the other. On April 29th Irrfan Khan left us after a brave battle with a rare type of neuro-endocrine tumour and the very next day Rishi Kapoor also passed away after his long battle with blood cancer. Their deaths sent shock waves across the industry and saddened their fans all over the world. 

While Rishi Kapoor, the blue-eyed boy from the industry, the son of the great showman himself after a successful stint as a hero was having an active second innings in character roles, Irrfan Khan’s career was brutally cut short just when he had so much more to offer as an actor of rare calibre. From a rank outsider to becoming the most respected actor of the industry (in Bollywood as well as Hollywood), his inspiring journey will remain a lesson on how not to give up on your dreams even against the most impossible odds.

On June 14th young Sushant Singh Rajput decided to end his life and once again the industry was left shell-shocked! What made such a good-looking and talented actor with films like M S Dhoni-TheUntold story, Chhichhore, Kai Po Che, etc., under his belt take such an extreme step would remain a mystery as there was no note left behind by him giving any reason. The case is still being investigated. But his death unfortunately triggered an unhealthy storm of speculations and blame games with every person trying to become a qualified therapist and judge of character. A lot of mud-slinging happened and an unhealthy debate on nepotism was unleashed using Sushant’s name. Hope this will quieten in the days to come and allow his soul to rest in peace.

On June 4th, veteran writer-director Basu Chatterjee often referred to as one of the pioneers of ‘middle-of-the-road’ cinema, passed away at the age of 90. From his very first film Sara Akash which he directed in 1969, he had the rare distinction of making films only on his terms with never compromising on his principles or never bowing down to the star-system. He made thought-provoking as well as fun-filled family entertainers and has left a legacy of gems in his repertoire.

HITS & MISSES

1st January- 13th March saw the release of several films few of which created quite a stir. In terms of box-office collections, Ajay Devgn and Saif Ali Khan’s period drama Tanhaji-The Unsung Warrior was the biggest hit. While Ajay played the title role with class, Saif played the villain with gusto!

Deepika Padukone’s Chhapaak, based on the story of real life acid attack survivor Laxmi Agarwal and directed by Meghna Gulzar touched an emotional chord in every viewer. So did Taapsee Pannu’s act as the wronged housewife in Anubhav Sinha’s Thappad. Her character’s strong reaction to her husband’s slap resonated far and wide and forced the viewers to question the underlying misogyny still very much prevalent in our society. Pavail Gulati as Taapsee’s not-so likeable husband acted very well.

Ayushmann Khurrana continued his stint with experimenting something new in every film. This time it was a gay love story in Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan with Jitendra Kumar as his partner. Though it was a light-hearted romantic comedy, it did carry the relevant social message regarding same-sex marriages. The film was well received adding one more feather to his cap.

2 films review

Vicky Kaushal tried his hand at horror in Bhoot Part One:The Haunted Ship, which didn’t turn out to be as scary as expected but it was good to see the actor attempt something new. Kangana Ranaut came in a lovely inspirational film Panga, which talked about second chances in life. It was a fictional story based on the life of a ‘kabaddi’ player who had to give up her dream of representing her country after her marriage and a kid. Kangana was brilliant and so was Richa Chaddha as her friend and mentor and Jassie Gill as her husband but the film sadly did not get the publicity and reception it deserved.

Pooja Bedi’s daughter Alaya Furniturewala made an impressive debut in director Nitin Kakkar’s Jawani Jaaneman where she teamed up with Saif Ali Khan who plays her father. Their bonding and chemistry was good. Talking of newcomers, two other star kids made their debuts. Padmini Kolhapure’s son Priyank Sharma and Ravi Kishan’s daughter Riva Kishan came together in Sab Kushal Mangal which also had Akshaye Khanna in a major role. But the film did not make much noise. Director Vidhu Vinod Chopra introduced two new faces- Aadil Khan and Sadia in a sensitive love story Shikara against the backdrop of the 1990 mass exodus of Kashmiri Pundits.

Angrezi Medium which sadly turned out to be the last film of our dearest Irrfan Khan was also an enjoyable film with tons of comedy. Together with Deepak Dobriyal, they made a great pair and we were treated to some awesome comic and emotional scenes. With Irrfan Khan coming up with those expressions which only he could, he proved as usual that every film of his is a lesson in acting. Radhika Madan as his daughter also makes a mark. Sadly, this film which was released on 13th March got only day in the cinema halls before the shut-down happened.

Malang with an interesting star-cast of Anil Kapoor, Aditya Roy Kapoor, Kunal Khemu and Disha Patni was an unexpected bonanza. With a fast-paced narrative and thrilling twists and turns, the film was a total ‘paisa-vasool’ with excellent performances from the entire cast.

Films which failed to impress included Street Dancer 3D  (Varun Dhawan & Shraddha Kapoor) and Baaghi 3 (Tiger Shroff & Shraddha Kapoor). Clearly stretching these films into meaningless franchises will have repercussions. Both films were never-ending sagas with no sense, no plot, no story, not even good songs and the less said the better about the performances. While the former gave a headache with the same type of dances with no novelty, the latter had so many repetitive fight scenes that it got very boring and annoying.

bollywood 2020Love Aaj Kal -a love story in the same format of the 2009 hit film by the same name starred Karthik Aryan and Sara Ali Khan. Somehow the magic was missing and it was given a thumbs down by the audience.

There were many other films but except Kaamyab there is nothing much to write about the others. Kaamyab produced by Shah Rukh Khan’s Red Chillies Entertainment starred Sanjay Mishra in the role of a retired side-actor of cinema who dreams of making a comeback just one more time to create some personal record. The film was interesting and Sanjay Mishra comes up with a memorable performance.

CHANGING SCENARIO

After waiting for almost three months, some of the producers decided to adapt to the changing scenario and look at releasing their films on any one of the OTT platforms available. The first big release was director Shoojit Sircar’s Gulabo Sitabo on Amazon Prime Video. Starring the evergreen superstar Amitabh Bachchan and the current heart-throb of the nation Ayushmann Khurrana, the film was well received and has paved the path for many other films to follow suit.

gulabo sitabo1

Some interesting upcoming films lined up for release include:

Shakuntala Devi starring Vidya Balan in the role of the maths genius will release on Amazon Prime Video.

Gunjan Saxena is a film based on the real life story of the ‘Kargil Girl’ Gunjan Saxena, who was one of the first IAF women pilots to fly into a combat zone during the Kargil war of 1999. Jhanvi Kapoor will be essaying the role of the protagonist and the film will be releasing on the OTT platform- Netflix.

24th July will see the release of Sushant Singh Rajput’s last film Dil Bechara opposite Sanjana Sanghi on Disney Plus Hotstar.  This platform also has several other films lined up. Akshay Kumar’s Laxmmi Bomb which is a horror thriller, Ajay Devgn’s Bhuj-The Pride of India set against the backdrop of the Indo-Pak war of 1971, Kunal Khemu-Ranvir-Shorey-Vijay Raaz-Rasika Duggal starrer Lootcase which promises to be a fun film, Mahesh Bhatt’s Sadak 2 (a sequel to the 1991 Sadak), starring Alia Bhatt and Aditya Roy Kapoor, the Abhishek Bachchan starrer The Big Bull with Ileana D’Cruz (Ajay Devgn is one of the producers) and the Vidyut Jamwal starrer Khuda Haafiz.

bollywood 2020a

This would be a new experience for the film industry, the stars and of course the audience! Shorn of any over the top publicity campaigns, the films will start streaming for all to watch simultaneously so that the reviewer’s opinion need not reign so supreme. Plus there is no tension of box-office performance and the mania for counting the collections earned in ‘crores’. These films will also have competition from the films exclusively made for the particular OTT platform.

For instance the recently released film Bulbbul on Netflix was an amazing experience. It gave an opportunity for a new female director Anvita Dutt Guptan to showcase her talent. Apart from her writing and direction, performances of the cast was also appreciated. However one wonders if this film had been made for a theatrical release would it have been marketed that well or garnered much footfall due to lack of big names. This could be a big advantage for the makers as well as the actors who make films where content is strong but big stars may not be there.

The coming months will reveal what the future holds for cinema. For now, it can be assumed that few more films will definitely look at OTT platforms for the releases instead of waiting for an unknown period of time. May be the big ones like Rohit Shetty’s Sooryavanshi and Kabir Khan’s 83 are still hoping for a theatrical release towards the end of the year!

A few songs which left an imprint:

Title track of Chhapaak- ‘Koi chehra mitake aura ankh se hatake …’

Title track of Panga: ‘Le le panga…’

Song from Thappad: ‘Ek tukda dhoop ka…’

Song from Tanhaji: The Unsung warrior- ‘Shankara re Shankara…’

Song from Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan: ‘Mere liye tum kaafi ho…’

Title track of Malang: ‘Kafira toh chal diya is safar ke sang…’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BULBBUL: An intriguing dark thriller with a poignant twist

By

Sharada Iyer

Writer-director Anvita Dutt Guptan takes us on a riveting psychological ride in her debut directorial venture Bulbbul, where she effortlessly combines elements of folklore, suspense, a touch of spook and edgy characters to give us an engaging dark family drama set in 1881. Known for being a talented dialogue writer and lyricist for the past several years, this film gives Anvita a platform to display her mastery over the craft of direction as well.

The 1 hour 30 minute film which released on the OTT platform Netflix on 24th June, 2020, has been produced by Anushka Sharma and her brother Karnesh Sharma and has garnered good response from viewers as well as critics. This is their fourth successful outing after three films- NH10, Phillauri and Pari and the Amazon Prime web series Paatal Lok.

Bulbbul 1

The story traverses through a period of 20 years and is basically the journey of an innocent child-bride, the events which shape her adolescent years and cuts to the present where she has metamorphosed into a confident but somewhat cynical and enigmatic young woman. 

The film is set in a typical ‘Haveli’ or ‘mansion’ found in pre-independent India in The Bengal Presidency and revolves around a family of ‘Thakurs’ (lords) steeped in regressive traditions and patriarchy which was very much prevalent in that era. Moreover ‘havelis’ were always known to be associated with dark secrets! There is something mystical about Bengal folklore which abounds in stories of both the ‘devi’ and ‘kali’ images of a woman and this backdrop adds a touch of intrigue to the unfolding drama.

The opening scene shows a very small child- Bulbbul (around 5-6 years), decked like a bride and playing atop some trees in a yard. Soon her aunt spots her, carries her, touches up her make-up again and admonishes her for running away to play on such an important day.  It is her marriage day and she is being married off to a much older man, probably 20-25 years older, played by Rahul Bose. He has a mentally challenged but identical twin brother (Rahul Bose in a double role) who is married to an older woman played by Paoli Dam.

But the playful little child has been tricked into thinking that she is getting married to Rahul Bose’s younger brother, just a few years older to Bulbbul but at that time she is too young to comprehend what is marriage all about and what exactly is happening. Her friendship with the brother starts on the very first day when he starts telling her stories to keep her engaged and help her feel secure in her new home.

Eventually he becomes her closest friend and confidante over the years. By virtue of being married to the ‘normal’ Rahul Bose, the child-bride becomes the ‘Badi bahu’ (elder daughter-in-law) of the family. Paoli Dam, the older sister-in-law, married to the mentally challenged twin, has to contend being the junior in the household.

Writer-director Anvita Dutt weaves an intricate tapestry of relationships among the six main characters, adds a dash of mystery and unexplained killings and leaves us stunned with her poignant narrative. There are constant references to a ‘chudail’ or female ghost who is said to reside in the trees in the woods and who kills her victims mercilessly. She is generally imagined as a woman with long curly tresses, inverted feet and lusting after male blood much akin to the ‘dakini’ form of Goddess Kali.

What is the secret behind these brutal killings? What happens to the child bride during those 20 years? What happens to the friendship of Bulbbul and her brother-in-law Satya? Does she adjust to the ‘haveli ‘and its rules?  What is the equation she shares with her sister-in-law and husband? The answers to all these lie in Bulbbul’s journey and revealing anything more would not be fair. The film proceeds at an unhurried pace but does not follow a linear story-telling pattern. Events unfold in flashbacks and go back and forth in timeline and that is where the director scores in keeping the viewer engaged.  

bulbbul2

The choice of the cast is just brilliant. Every actor has come up with a splendid performance and there are many scenes that will linger on. Tripti Dimri as the main protagonist Bulbbul is a treat to watch and is the perfect combination of innocence and enigma. Her childhood friend and brother-in-law played by Avinash Tiwary is also superb. There is a character of a doctor who becomes Bulbbul’s friend and is played by the highly talented Parambrata Chatterjee. Paoli Dam is brilliant and Rahul Bose in a double role packs a punch.

The background score by Amit Trivedi has a spooky edge and adds the necessary eeriness to the setting keeping the viewer hooked. Camerawork deserves a mention and different shades of red have been used to signify various emotions and changing events in the life of the members. After all red is the colour of ‘sindoor’ as well as ‘blood’.

So does such a ghost or a witch really exist in real life? Why is there so much fear in people for a ‘chudail’? Suppression of women has been going on since centuries. Any woman who refused to toe the line or conform to the expected rules and set-patterns of the society was branded a ‘witch’ and in our legends these witches and female ghosts are always after human blood. So is she really the scary ghost people make her out to be? Or are the heinous and scary practices and rituals ingrained in the very psyche of our society the real horror we should be scared of?

The director in a subtle way makes us ponder over many such feminist issues which seem prevalent in the current scenario as well. In the garb of telling a simple story, the film explores and touches upon several disturbing questions which are often brushed aside for fear of facing the uncomfortable answers. Though the film is set in 1881 when patriarchy was so openly practiced, is the scenario really any different for the woman of today?

For people looking for a new kind of film with a different approach to story-telling, this film will be an enjoyable watch.  Hats off to Anushka Sharma and Anvita Dutt for delivering a unique thriller!!!

 

 

 

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Remembering yesteryear actor Shyam who met with a tragic death

By

Sharada Iyer

Though every actor/actress enters the film industry with dreams of making it big, ultimately fate, luck and opportunity play a very major role in shaping his/her journey. Some become stars overnight, some take years to get recognition, some get to play a long innings while some others are around only for a short period.

Shyam imageThis blog is a tribute to the tall and handsome actor Shyam who caught the attention of the cine-goers owing to his good looks and height but unfortunately, shockingly, brutally and tragically his career was cut short when he died during the filming of an action scene for the film Shabistan. The year of the accident was 1951 and the date April 25th. He was only 31 years old and his untimely death sent a shock wave in the industry. 

Shyam Shabistan

Born as Sundar Shyam Chaddha on February 20, 1920 in Sialkot, this year marks the centenary year of this handsome actor. A well-known name in Hindi cinema in the late forties and early fifties, he is perhaps best remembered for the 1949 musical hit Dillagi in which he was paired opposite the singing star Suraiya. The film had about a dozen songs composed by music director Naushad and all were big hits giving this film a high recall value.

Who can forget the evergreen song from the film ‘Tu mera chand main teri chandni…’?

Picturized on Suraiya and actor Shyam and sung by Suraiya and singer Shyam Kumar (not the actor but a singer by the same name) this song became a rage at the time of its release and even today it remains a favourite among film aficionados and lovers of Hindi film songs for its catchy beat and simple lyrics. The film had other wonderful songs and include many solos ‘Tera khayal dil de bhulaya na jaayega…’, ‘Char din ki chandni thi phir andheri raat…’, ‘Is duniya mein ae dilwalon dil ka lagaana theek nahin…’ etc.

Here is a sad song from the same film:

 Mohammed Rafi: ‘Tere kooche mein armaanon ki duniya leke aaya hoon…’

The film was a tragic love story where Suraiya is forcibly tricked into marrying another man. The film belonged to Suraiya who puts in a spirited performance. People always are attracted to tales of unrequited love which probably catapulted Dillagi directed by A R Kardar to become the fourth top grossing film of 1949.

Apart from Dillagi, Shyam acted in another hit film Patanga in 1949 which had the famous song-‘Mere piya gaye Rangoon kiya hai wahan se telephone…’. But in this film actors Yakub and Gope get to share as much screen space as Shyam. The film was basically a love triangle between Yakub, Nigar and Shyam and though Shyam and Nigar do fall for each other’s charms, she realizes her true love is Yakub and Shyam ends up marrying his childhood sweetheart.

Here is a song from the film sung by

 ‘Bolo ji dil loge toh kya kya doge…’

In the film Kaneez starring Shyam, Kuldeep Kaur and Munawar Sultana, Shyam’s character has grey shades as he does not like his overly virtuous wife Munawar and falls for the club dancer Kuldeep Kaur. The film had a very regressive story-line and somehow Shyam managed to leave an impression with his charm even though it was not a very likeable character.

Though he was around for only 8-9 years, Shyam left his mark in the short time that he was part of the industry and got to act opposite all the top actresses of that time – Nigar Sultana, Naseem Banu, Suraiya, Pushpa Hans, Kuldeep Kaur, Munawar Sultana, Nargis, Veena, Rehana, Ramola, and Meena Shorey.

Shyam SuraiyaShyam Bazar

In his last film Shabistan which released in 1951, Shyam was cast opposite the lovely Naseem Banu and the film had some lovely duets.

‘Hum hain tere deewane gar tu bura na mane…’

‘Kaho ek baar mujhe tumse pyar…’

Ironically it was this very film during the shooting of which he met with the fatal accident. The scene being shot was an action scene which required Shyam to be on horseback. There were other horseback riders too as part of the scene. When the scene was being filmed, somehow Shyam lost control of his reigns and was thrown off his horse. He sustained head injuries and by the time he was rushed to the nearest hospital the damage had been done. He never recovered and sadly succumbed to his injuries.

After his demise the few remaining scenes of the film were shot using a body double who matched his physique and the shots were taken from behind. The film has a story of two warring kingdoms and Naseem Banu was the princess of one of them. Hence the requirement of fight sequences on horseback to depict war scenes.

In 1950 came a spy-thriller Samadhi with an interesting star-cast of Ashok Kumar, Shyam, Nalini Jaywant and Kuldeep Kaur. The film was a hit and definitely among one of Hindi cinema’s early spy thrillers if not the first. In the film Shyam plays Ashok Kumar’s elder brother. Though the brothers share a close personal bond, they are fighting on opposite sides and hence sparks fly on the professional front. While Ashok Kumar is a part of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose’s army, Shyam supports the British. Their scenes together are good and the film is definitely worth a watch. Nalini Jaywant and Kuldeep Kaur are sisters and also spies. They also play love-interest of Ashok Kumar and Shyam respectively. The foot-tapping number ‘Gore gore o baanke chore kabhi meri gali aaya karo…’ is picturized on them.

In 1949, Shyam had a good year with around 10 releases- Dillagi, Kaneez, Patanga, Naach, Raat Ki Rani, Bazar, Chandni Raat, Chaar Din, Sangeeta and Dada. In 1950 he had eight releases- Samadhi, Choti Bhabhi, Meena Bazar, Kaale Badal, Surajmukhi, Nirdosh, Wafa and Madhuban. Apart from Samadhi, I could not find out whether he came as a hero or in a major supporting role in the other films of 1950.

Except for Dillagi, Samadhi, Kaneez, Patanga and Bazar prints of Shyam’s films are not available on YouTube for us to watch and information on many of his films is very meagre. Some songs from other films are there but many have only audio versions with no accompanying video. I shall update whenever I get more information.

Shyam displayed a keen interest in acting while studying in Gordon College, Rawalpindi. Though his father was not too much in favour of him taking to acting, it was his uncle who encouraged the young Shyam to pursue in this field. After completing his education, he headed to Lahore which was considered to be the mecca of films at that time. Owing to his looks and tall physique, it was not surprising when he landed the hero’s role in a Punjabi film Gowandi in 1942 in which he had two actresses Veena and Manorama cast opposite him. The film was a hit and Shyam was noticed for his acting and looks. This was followed by another Punjabi film.

After this Shyam set his eyes on Bombay as he wanted to be part of the Hindi film industry. He had his share of struggle and his first break came in 1944 with Mann Ki Jeet directed by W Z Ahmed and Shyam’s heroine was the director’s wife Neena. Shyam tasted success with the Bombay Talkies film Majboor in 1948. The film was a hit and his heroine was Munawar Sultana.

Here is a song from Majboor:

‘Pia milne ko aa…’- Lata Mangeshkar

Shyam married Mumtaz Qureshi (also known as Taji). They had a daughter Sahira and a son Shakir but the son was born two months after Shyam passed away. After his death, his wife shifted to Pakistan where she remarried. Sahira made a name for herself as an actress, director and producer on Pakistan Television Network. Shakir lives in UK.

In real life writer Saddat Hassan Manto was Shyam’s closest friend. They met each other when the former was an employee at Bombay Talkies and Shyam was signed for a film. In the year 2018, director Nandita Das made a biopic on Manto with Nawazuddin Siddique playing the title role, while young and upcoming actor Tahir Raj Bhasin essayed the role of Shyam. He managed to convey very well the suave personality, the charm and sophistication for which Shyam was well known.

Shyam Mantofilm
Film: Manto, 2018

I end the blog with another popular catchy song from Dillagi:

Suraiya-‘ Murli waale murli baja sun sun murli ko naache jiya…’

(Note: If the songs do not play directly do go on the link and watch)

 

GULABO SITABO: Amitabh Bachchan’s sterling performance is sure to win hearts

By

Sharada Iyer

A film starring the living legend of Hindi cinema Amitabh Bachchan (now in his 51st year of acting) and the highly talented youngster Ayushmann Khurrana needs no motivation for viewing. Individually when they have set such a high benchmark for the quality of films they churn out, imagine the excitement surrounding the film which has them coming together for the first time!

Director Shoojit Sircar and writer Juhi Chaturvedi’s latest offering Gulabo Sitabo is a delightful and heart-warming entertainer which does full justice to the choice of their dream cast and has an interesting mix of emotion, laughter, drama and philosophy to keep us engaged throughout.

The film will definitely remind us of director Basu Chatterjee’s films where the characters and their journey had a very relatable quality about them. The city which forms the backdrop acquires a great significance as the milieu also adds an intrinsic flavour to the setting bringing authenticity to the incidents unravelling on screen.

THE SETTING

The whole plot revolves around a century-old dilapidated ‘haveli’ (mansion) ‘Fatima Mahal’, its owners Mirza (played by Amitabh Bachchan) and his begum (played by Farrukh Jafar), and the many tenants residing in it. Begum is the real owner but being ill and mostly confined to bed, the onus of maintenance and collecting the rent falls on Mirza who is passionately and crazily attached to the ‘haveli’. He is cranky and has no compassion for the tenants and their plight and his only aim is to get the rent at the end of the month.

His main fights and arguments are with Baanke (played by Ayushmann Khurrana) who lives with his three sisters and mother and refuses to pay the rent and in fact has not paid for five months. Their banter which gives an insight into their not-so-likeable traits and the extent to which they are ready to stoop to outwit each other forms one of the highlights of the film. The scheming things they do is both realistic and funny and therefore relatable.

gulabo sitabo

To add to the confusion two more characters enter into the narrative. A worker from the Department of Archaeology (played by Vijay Raaz) shows unusual interest in the old mansion and with an inner motive to score some brownie points with his superiors takes both Mirza and Baanke for a ride. There is also a lawyer (played by Brijendra Kala) who specializes in problems between owners and tenants of any house. He also sees an opportunity to make a few bucks to sell the place to a builder who has plans of constructing something modern in its place.

Revealing anything more would spoil the fun for the viewers. There are interesting developments and a few twists which are reserved for the end. The film also holds a mirror to people’s meaningless and undying attachment to their property and other material possessions. 

REASONS TO WATCH

As I have already mentioned- the presence of Amitabh and Ayushmann in the same film makes the film a definite must-watch just for their priceless performance. Amitabh Bachchan gets to play yet another quirky, cranky character and does a remarkable job. He does not play a very likeable character and yet he endears himself to the audience. His body language and get up are also outstanding. He gets into the skin of the character and remains Mirza from beginning to end and we viewers are truly gifted to watch such a performance. Full credit to Shoojit Sircar for conceiving such a character and giving Amitabh a chance to prove his mettle yet again after Piku and Pink.

Only someone as talented as Ayushmann Khurrana could have stood up to the legend himself in the same frame and matched his histrionics with his own brilliant acting. His voice modulation and natural dialogue delivery are his strongest points and he shines as only he can in the role of the bickering tenant.

Farrukh Jafar as Amitabh’s begum is supposedly 17 years older than him in the film and her character as a 95-year old is a delight to watch. Similarly Ayushmann’s sister played by Srishti Shrivastava is shown to be more educated than her brother and is more in command of the things going on. So though the film is about the two male protagonists, these two female characters also stand out. In fact the film’s title is based on two female puppets named Gulabo and Sitabo who are always at loggerheads with each other and the film’s tone takes its flavour from them.

Vijay Raaz is superb as usual and so is Brijendra Kala. Such talented supporting artistes really polish and add sheen to the narrative. The girls playing Ayushmann’s younger sisters are also very good. There are other characters who have minor roles and are aptly cast.

Intelligent direction, a brilliant screenplay and imaginative camerawork which captures the essence of the city form the other strong pillars in such films. Each character stands out for his /her individuality. Music is of a different type and has a folk flavour and blends with the narrative as they all come in the background. Many new voices and more than one music director are involved. Though the songs sound good while we are watching, the recall value is not much once the film is over.

This is one of the songs sung by Vinod Dubey:

This is the first big ticket film to have a digital world premiere on Amazon Prime Video. To be honest I did miss the magic of the big screen and am sure the film would have felt even better in the cinema hall but circumstances have made it necessary for us not to step out of our homes. So the OTT platform makes it easy for the viewers to watch at the click of a button on their laptop, mobile or television.

Watch the film to find out what happens to Mirza and Baanke at the end and who wins the battle! And once again-Kudos to the undying spirit of our greatest superstar who adds yet another magnificent feather to his cap!!!

 

Five interesting off-beat thrillers on Netflix

By

Sharada Iyer

With the country going through unprecedented lockdown days, viewership on various OTT channels has gone up considerably. With nowhere to go and plenty of online entertainment available at the click of a button, people have been binge-watching lots of films and high-quality shows on Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Zee5, ALT Balaji, Hot Star, etc.

Honestly the variety of genres and content available is phenomenal. Also for the first time people have easy access to regional shows and films. Clear and ad-free prints of both old films (including the Black & White era) and new films has made movie watching a hassle-free & a dream come true experience.

In this blog-post I have reviewed five interesting, intriguing and off-beat thrillers which deal with murder, disappearance, kidnapping, betrayal, deception and revenge. These films follow a little different path as the psychological angle is very important in all of them. They boast of a team of talented artistes but in the absence of any top star they could not get good theatrical releases and probably lost out in the rat race.

No Spoilers ahead! Nothing related to suspense has been revealed…

The write-up is just a basic outline of the plot with what happens in the first couple of scenes. A note is added on the performances and technical aspects.

The_Body_film_posterTHE BODY

Director: Jitu Joseph

Starring Rishi Kapoor, Emraan Hashmi, Sobhita Dhulipala

Release date: December, 2019

On a dark rainy night a dead body goes missing from a morgue. Much to his horror and disbelief the night watchman feels he saw the back of the body standing in the elevator seconds before the door closes and is petrified to make sense of what he saw.

The investigating officer SP Jairaj Rawal played by Rishi Kapoor is called to take charge of the case. He comes with two of his assistants played by not very well-known actors. The body in question happened to be that of Maya Verma (played by Sobhita Dhulipala), a rich and powerful businesswoman who had died of a heart attack the previous evening.

Her husband Ajay Puri played by Emraan Hashmi is called for questioning as he had been the last person to see her alive. The rest of the film has events that take place in the next few hours within the confines of the morgue. Rishi Kapoor is suspicious of the husband and feels he is not as innocent as he seems. On the other hand he has his own emotional inner demons he is battling with and his deputy feels he is being a little too harsh on the husband.

The script is taut and the background music keeps us on the edge giving the necessary suspense effect. Emraan keeps seeing Shobhita and starts wondering if she is really dead or she is playing one of her weird psychotic jokes characteristic of her. There are flashbacks giving us insight into their individual personalities and their mutual relationship. As the entire film is shot in Mauritius, the backdrop is conducive for a couple of songs which of course could have been avoided but they don’t disrupt too much.

So what is the truth behind the body’s disappearance? Is Sobhita really dead? If yes, then how did her body disappear? If no, then what is the explanation? The narrative keeps us guessing till the end when everything is tied up neatly.

Acting by the entire cast is excellent. This film marks Rishi Kapoor’s last screen appearance before he passed away and he has done a brilliant job. The role of SP is befitting his age and talent and the film is worth watching just for him. Emraan Hashmi fits the role of the husband with the right mix of innocence and deception to keep us guessing. Sobhita the talented youngster who made waves with her looks and acting in Amazon Prime’s ‘Made in Heaven’ series is also perfectly cast.

The others in the cast also do their job well. The film had been one of the releases of December 2019 along with big films like Dabangg 3, Good Newwz, Mardaani 2, Panipat, Pati Patni Aur Woh, etc. Somewhere the publicity was low-key and not many cinema halls and shows were allotted so it did not make much of a stir. Rishi Kapoor’s swan song is a definite must-watch!

Vodka_Diaries_-_PosterVODKA DIARIES

Director: Kushal Srivastava

Starring Kay Kay Menon, Mandira Bedi, Raima Sen, Sharib Hashmi

Release Date : January 2018

Shot in the picturesque locales of snow-clad Manali, the backdrop provides the right atmosphere of intrigue for a series of five unexplained murders that take place one after the other. All of the murder victims though seemingly unconnected with each other seem to have a connection with a club named Vodka Diaries.

ACP Ashwini Dixit played by Kay Kay Menon is the investigating officer and is helped by his assistant played by Sharib Hashmi. Mandira Bedi plays his wife. She is shown to be a talented poet and writer. Raima Sen keeps appearing on and off. The film starts as a whodunit but later on takes a psychological turn. The more baffling the case gets the more things don’t seem what they are and one day, his wife also goes missing!

To complicate matters Kay Kay Menon comes across the murder victims one by one but now they all seem to be alive and kicking! But how is that possible? Later even the club ‘Vodka Diaries’ looks different then what it had been.

So what exactly is happening? Who are these victims? Are they really dead or not? If yes, then who is killing them and why? Who is the mysterious woman who keeps phoning Kay Kay Menon? Why does he get the disturbing dream that makes him break into a sweat every night? All these dots are connected in the end to reveal the plot and answer all the questions.

This off-beat film manages to keep the viewer engaged and the explanation given is really unique. Kay Kay Menon gets a full length role to display his talent and he does full justice to it. Mandira Bedi has a charm of her own and is well cast adding to the intrigue. Sharib Hashmi is okay.

This film also did not get much pre-release publicity or any rave reviews. Sometimes reviewers can be harsh and scathing in their criticism not allowing the audience to form their own judgement. For those who don’t mind a little psychic angle, the film is a good one-time watch.

Deadline_Sirf_24_GhanteDEADLINE SIRF 24 GHANTE

Director: Tanveer Khan

Starring: Irrfan Khan, Konkona Sen, Rajit Kapur, Zakir Hussain, Sandhya Mridul

Release Date: November 2006

Rajit Kapur is a well-known and well liked popular doctor and Konkona Sen is his wife. They have a 7-year old daughter in Mumbai and their life is going smoothly until one day their world turns topsy-turvy when all three of them find themselves separated and at the mercy of three kidnappers albeit in three different places.

Irrfan Khan plays one of the kidnappers the other two being Sandhya Mridul and Zakir Hussain. When Rajit Kapur is called to Delhi to receive an award, after the ceremony he is taken as hostage by Sandhya Mridul in the hotel room. Meanwhile at their residence in Mumbai their little daughter is kidnapped and taken away to a secluded place by Zakir Hussain and Irrfan holds Konkana as hostage in the house.

So three different places are shown simultaneously with different incidents happening and the viewer is as foxed as the victims regarding the reason for the events unfolding. The family has only 24 hours to fulfill the conditions and demand of the kidnappers or face dire consequences. The narrative is engaging mainly owing to the wonderful performance from the cast.  

What is the reason for the kidnapping? Was the family able to meet the demands? Are they able to outwit the kidnappers or not? Who wins in the end?

The confrontation between Irrfan and Konkana is really wonderful to watch. Two good actors caught in the game opposite each other gives them ample scope to test their acting prowess. Sandhya Mridul is excellent as always. Rajit Kapur is also good and so are Zakir Hussain and the child artiste.

There are no songs to distract. The film released 14 years back and hardly caught the attention of the public. Maybe the publicity was low-key. The film is a must-watch for Irrfan Khan’s underplayed dignified performance.

One Day1ONE DAY: JUSTICE DELIVERED

Director: Ashok Nanda

Starring: Anupam Kher, Kumud Mishra, Esha Gupta

Release Date: July 2019

The film is set in Ranchi and starts with the scene of Anupam Kher’s daughter’s wedding. He plays a retired judge-Justice Tyagi. But after the wedding a high-profile doctor couple (played by Murli Deora and Deepshika Nagpal) go missing. Soon a rich hotelier (Rajesh Sharma) also goes missing. The police team headed by Kumud Mishra as the police officer has no clue and soon Crime Branch is called for help.

CBI officer Laxmi Ratthi played by Esha Gupta steps in to piece the puzzle together. Now Kumud Mishra takes on a supporting role to assist her. Some more disappearances take place. The film is not a suspense thriller in the usual sense. The identity of the person behind these disappearances is revealed to the audience early on. So the film is more about how the investigating team will figure it out.

Acting by the three main characters is praiseworthy. Anupam Kher is very good as usual. Kumud Mishra’s talent is also utilized. Esha Gupta gets a big role and does a good job. Again for those looking for a different kind of film this is not a bad option.

game overGAME OVER

Director: Ashwin Saravanan

Starring: Taapsee Pannu, Vinodini Vaidyanathan

Release Date: June 2019

This is a brilliant and chilling thriller laced with psychic horror and keeps us on the edge with its superb twists and turns.  The opening scene is of a serial killer but focus shifts to our main protagonist Taapsee Pannu plays who plays a game designer. She stays alone in a spacious bungalow with a household help who is like a friend cum mother figure and a watchman who guards the house.

She is shown to be battling inner demons of her own which is why she stays away from her parents. One day she gets a tattoo on her wrist which brings a major change in her life psychologically and emotionally. And she also ends up in a wheel-chair after an unfortunate incident. Then the serial killer ends up at her door-step. The action scenes that follow are nail-biting. What will happen? Will she realize that this is not a game where we get 3 lives but real life where there is no going back?

The film was actually made in Tamil and Telugu and later on dubbed in Hindi for a pan-India audience. So the actors are all from South and unknown faces which makes it all the more natural and edgy. Even Taapsee who started her career from South films was not a big enough name to attract audience to a film of this genre. So the film in Hindi did not do too well.

But the intelligent and imaginative writing, the taut narrative, the superb direction and a brilliant performance from Taapsee makes this a not-to-be-missed film. If you are waiting for a rare off-beat thriller this is the one for you.

 

 

 

 

MADHURI DIXIT: The dancing queen with the captivating smile

By

Sharada Iyer

The very mention of Madhuri Dixit’s name brings to mind her charming on-screen persona, her brilliant dances and that 1000-watt smile which never fails to light up our hearts with a happy feeling.

This blog-post celebrates the birthday of this beautiful actress as she turns 53 today by taking a look at some of her scintillating dance numbers.

It was the year 1984. A simple and unassuming girl made a modest debut in a Tarachand Bharjatya family drama titled ‘Abodh’. She went almost unnoticed though a few reviewers did find her promising. This was followed by a spate of rather ordinary films like ‘Uttar Dakshin’, ‘Swati’, ‘Awara Baap’, ‘Khatron Ke Khiladi’, ‘Mohre’, etc. which may not have given her career a boost in terms of box-office hits but it gave her an opportunity to work with some highly talented seniors like Dharmendra, Rajesh Khanna, Nana Patekar, Anupam Kher, Sadashiv Amrapurkar and her favourite on-screen hero Anil Kapoor.

However destiny had earmarked the year 1988  for her and with that one memorable dance number with catchy lyrics ‘Ek do teen, char paanch … she danced her way into the hearts and minds of millions of cine-goers and has remained there ever since. A whole generation of fans and industry people came under her spell for the next decade and a half till she decided to take a break to set up her personal life.

Her no-holds bar dancing had caught the pulse of the nation and overnight she became a sensation. There was no looking back for this beautiful and talented actress. Neither the director of the film N Chandra, nor the choreographer Saroj Khan in their wildest dreams had imagined this kind of response to this dance number. Audience flocked to the cinema halls to see this number again and again as they could not have enough of their ‘Ek Do Teen girl’! That is when people realized she had been around for four years but had never got the opportunity to set the screen on fire with her presence and her dance.

Well! The rest is history. She followed it up with some lovely films which always had some outstanding dance number of hers. Take the case of the song Humko aaj kal hai intezar… from ‘Sailaab’; very few dance numbers have shown the heroine dancing in such a bewitching yet elegant manner. Once again Saroj Khan had done justice to her talent.

Many of her dances were solo numbers with more focus on her and she seemed to be enjoying as much as the audience which came through and created magic when she came on-screen. Most of the time stories revolved around her in such a way that not including a dance number of hers was unthinkable. Many of the films are remembered more for her acting and dances than the story or the hero.

Film: Yaarana (Song: ‘Mera piya ghar aaya...)

 Film: Anjaam (Song: Chane ke khet mein...’)

The film ‘Raja’ had her team up with Anil Kapoor’s brother Sanjay Kapoor. The film was a big hit and the songs were a big hit. The song ‘Nazren mili dil dhadka …’ had her don just a loose kurta and no jewellery or heavy make up and yet she looks so lovely.

She also made a great team with Salman Khan in ‘Saajan’ and ‘Hum Aapke Hain Kaun’ with the latter considered to be the one of the biggest blockbusters in Bollywood history. In fact 25 years back when it was released there was a lot of apprehension. ‘How can a film have 14 songs?’-was the question on everybody’s lips. But it defied all norms and clichés and in fact defeated video-piracy which was at its peak and managed to draw the audience back into the theatres. And what a treat for the audience! Their favourite Madhuri Dixit was there in all the songs and dances. She even managed to leave a mark in her ‘pregnant’ avatar in the song Didi tera deva deewana…and the purple sari of hers became a fashion statement and a must-have in every fan’s wardrobe.

She teamed up with the super dancer-choreographer Prabhudeva in ‘Pukaar’ to give us a scintillating dance number Kay sera sera sera jo bhi ho so ho…. To match steps with this guy is no easy task and Madhuri held her own with elan.

She did a few sensuous dance numbers too. In 1992, her duet with Anil Kapoor with  to the lyrics Dil dhak dhak karne laga… set the screen on fire making the Anil-Madhuri pair one of the hottest on-screen pairs of the industry. With already ‘Hifaazat’, ‘Jeevan Ek Sangharsh’, ‘Tezaab’, ‘Parinda’ and ‘Kishen-Kanhaiya’ behind them this lovable and good-looking ‘jodi’ was at the top. 

In ‘Khalnayak’ her number Choli ke peeche kya hai… with naughty lyrics created a furore and she received some flak for it but the song was so catchy and the combination of her, Neena Gupta and the background dancers made the song a raging hit and continues to be popular even today. She plays an undercover cop out to catch the baddie.

She never shied away from group dances and was game for dancing with other heroines. Her dance from the song Gajar ne kiya hai ishara… from ‘Tridev’ was a fast-paced dance number and though there are two more dancers Sonam and Sangeeta Bijlani, it is Madhuri who wins our hearts.

In the murderous version of ‘Devdas’ directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, she played Chandramukhi and had lovely dances picturized on her. The script also incorporated a dance numberDola re dola re...’ between Paro (Aishwarya Rai) and her which made no sense to the story but was a treat in terms of sheer value a wonderful dance number.

In ‘Dil Toh Pagal Hai’, there is a dance face-off between her and Karishma Kapoor where the latter’s jealousy comes to fore when she realizes that Madhuri is to be the new heroine of the play. Both of them are brilliant!

Unfortunately her pairing with Shah Rukh Khan did not create the kind of magic like she did with Aamir Khan in ‘Dil’ or Salman in ‘HAHK’, but their chemistry and performance in ‘Koyla’ (an absolutely brilliant film) was outstanding. This dance number ‘Saanson ki mala pe…’ brings out the pain in the hearts of the lovers as they realize how the evil Amrish Puri had tricked her into marrying Amrish and now both are caught in a helpless situation.

Her dance numbers gave her the chance to emote beautifully and those expressive eyes could effortlessly convey a range of emotions from pain and anguish to sensuality and fun. Note her emotive prowess in the number Bada dukh deena tere Lakhan ne… from ‘Ram Lakhan’ and the song Tabaah hogaye… her last release ‘Kalank’ .

 In ‘Sangeet’ she had the chance to play a double role that of a mother and her blind daughter paired opposite Nitish Bharadwaj and Jackie Shroff respectively. As suggested by the title, the film was about music and dance. Here is a beautiful dance number from the film- O rabba koi toh bata de…’. Such grace and beauty is indeed hard to come by.

In 2002 she decided to take break and went to America to be with her doctor husband and when she returned to screen after five years with ‘Aaja Nach Le’, things had changed in the industry. Marketing and PR were in the forefront. New heroines had come and all her old co-stars who had turned producers were busy acting with these younger actresses. She was not one to fret. She was confident of her talent and she chose a film with ‘dance’ at its core and played a mother of a young girl. Akshaye Khanna was her hero. But the focus was on her and she gave us some mesmerizing dances in the film. Her expertise in ‘Kathak’ has remained her strong point and added to her grace and poise.

Watch this popular title track from the film:

With not too many women-oriented subjects for her age-group, she has to wait for good roles. She has been seen in ‘Gulab Gang’ with Juhi Chawla, ‘Dedh Ishqiya’ with Naseeruddin Shah, ‘Total Dhamaal’ with Anil Kapoor and Ajay Devgn and ‘Kalank’ opposite Sanjay Dutt. Her dances in ‘Dedh Ishqiya’ were a treat to watch. In the film ‘Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani’, at actor Ranbir Kapoor’s insistence, the dance number Ghagra‘ dance number with him and Madhuri was included. To dance with a brilliant dancer like Ranbir did not deter her from taking up the challenge.

She also ventured into production and her Marathi film ‘Bucket List’ where her touching portrayal as a mother met with a lot of appreciation. She became the judge for reality dance shows which had sprung up in every channel. She started her own online dancing academy and is taking dance classes.

The problem with the industry and ‘star image’ is that the audience wants to see more and more of the same type of roles from their favourite. Throughout her career, though dancing remained her main USP, she tried to maintain a balance by taking on strong character-driven films also. ‘Parinda’, ‘Mrityudand’, ‘100 Days’, ‘Prahar’, ‘Lajja’, ‘Anjaam’, ‘Yaarana’, ‘Rajkumar’, ‘Beta’ and more recently in ‘Dedh Ishqiya’ and ‘Total Dhamaal’, she played memorable characters.

She never got the opportunity of doing a film with superstar Amitabh Bachchan, but they teamed together for a fun dance number for the film ‘Bade Miyan Chote Miyan’. Govinda also joins them in the song- ‘Mere pyar ka ras zara chakna...’.

In 2000, M F Hussain tried to showcase women in an enigmatic way by presenting Madhuri in many avatars. Here is a unique song picturization with Madhuri where the ‘gathri’ or bundle is supposed to represent the burden a woman is expected to carry all her life.

She has been nominated about 13 times in the best actress category in the filmfare awards and won it three times. She has also been conferred the coveted ‘Padma Shri’ by the Government of India. She has won several other awards as well by other associations and groups. Here’s wishing this gorgeous actress all good wishes and hoping our writers come up with interesting subjects and interesting characters to tap more aspects of her talent. 

Myriad shades of the on-screen Bollywood mother

By

Sharada Iyer       

The ‘mother’ figure has played a very prominent and significant part in Hindi cinema. Though mostly seen in the role of a warm, loving, caring, understanding and sacrificing person which a mother is without doubt, she is sometimes portrayed as an intimidating and powerful woman and she can also become ruthless and cruel as a ‘mother-in-law’ or a stepmother. A number of actresses have brought to life these myriad shades of our on-screen Bollywood mother in their own unique way and added their special ‘X’ factor to make these characters realistic and life-like.

This blog-post is a tribute to all the on-screen mothers of Bollywood. It must be mentioned however that neither is it possible to cover all the types of mother’s roles played in a single blog-post nor will it do justice to the talent of these actresses who have immortalized the ‘mother’ character with their own interpretation on screen. This post focuses on a few shades of mothers picked from an assortment of films across different eras.  

There was a time in the early years of cinema when certain actresses got slotted into ‘mother’ roles and subsequently were given similar roles for a major part of their career. Leela Chitnis, Nirupa Roy, Durga Khote, Sulochana, Achla Sachdev, Leela Mishra, Kamini Kaushal, etc. were the pioneers who started doing mother roles once they passed the so-called ‘perfect age’ for heroines. With a few exceptions they portrayed the kind-hearted loving mothers mostly doting on the sons.

Take the case of Leela Chitnis. A beautiful actress of 1930’s and early 40’s, she took on the role of Dilip Kumar’s mother in the 1948 super-hit Shaheed. She was very young at that time and after this film found more popularity in her career as the archetypical virtuous suffering Bollywood mother than she did as a heroine. Kamini Kaushal who had played the heroine in the 1948 Shaheed made the smooth transition to mother’s roles when she decided to play Manoj Kumar’s mother in the 1965 Shaheed and again in Upkar in 1967 and her roles are remembered till date.

The ‘mother’ roles changed a little with changing times as different layers were added to her character. Easily the most popular and the most written about mothers of Hindi cinema are Nargis Dutt in Mother India and Nirupa Roy in Deewaar. Though Mother India was set in rural India and Deewaar had the backdrop of Mumbai city, the characters these women portrayed had some similarities. They were strong characters who were deserted by their husbands leaving them to fend for themselves, face the hardships and embark alone on the long, daunting and arduous journey of bringing up the sons under heart-wrenching circumstances.

In both cases one son follows the path of righteousness while the other strays from it. But their love for their mother remains undeterred. And when it comes to making the right choice both women show that however much they may love their son they will not hesitate to be brutally honest in their emotions and voice their disapproval at the wrong path chosen. While Nirupa Roy walks out of her son Amitabh’s life knowing that it would destroy him, Nargis kills her son Sunil Dutt to save the honour of the village belle he abducts. Probably it is this very trait that made these two on-screen mothers stand apart from the rest giving them an iconic status.

A mention must be made of the actress Sardar Akhtar who played the iconic mother’s role in the original film ‘Aurat’ (1940) on which Mother India (1957) was based. Incidentally both were directed by Mehboob Khan. To be honest as a film Aurat captures the essence of rural India in a more realistic way than Mother India and Sardar Akhtar is outstanding in the role of the protagonist mother who shoulders the entire burden of bringing up her children in dire poverty. Devoid of any glamour and much make-up she lives the character beautifully.

maa-sardar akhtar

Durga Khote’s regal portrayal of Salim’s mother Queen Jodabai in Mughal-e-Azam also became a milestone character. Torn between her duties towards her husband-Emperor Akbar-and her deep-rooted love for her son Salim, she is caught in the crossroads between her maternal affection and the diktats of the royal family and this was brought our very well by her.

maa-durga 2

Sharmila Tagore plays Rajesh Khanna’s mother in the super-hit Aradhana which had him essaying the role of lover and son. As she gives birth to her son after her lover dies in a plane crash, in a moment of weakness she leaves the child in an orphanage and by the time she comes back to take him again, her son is given away to a childless couple. Luckily she gets employed as the child’s nanny and she could be near her son at all times. She loves and dotes on him and even goes to jail for the unforeseen crime he commits to save her honour but he becomes aware of her true identity as his real mother much later in life. Here the mother’s character is indeed very touching. For an actress at the height of her fame to don the make-up of an old woman and play it so remarkably, her character as the mother remains etched in our memories.

Here is a lovely song from the film: ‘Chanda hai tum era suraj hai tu…’

While Sharmila in Aradhana feels awkward to let the world know about her child out of wedlock, 2 years later Hema Malini in Andaz decides to be honest about her son’s birth. Her lover Rajesh Khanna dies in a motorcycle crash but instead of being a whimpering widow she is shown to come to terms with the past and find love again without guilt when she decides to embrace a new life with her new man Shammi Kapoor who incidentally plays a widower with a daughter.

Here is a song sung by all four of them which became very popular: ‘Haina bolo bolo…’

An unforgettable dominating mother was played by Dina Pathak in Khubsoorat released in 1980. As the matriarch of the family she feels it is her rules of discipline and punctuality that has kept the family knitted together. She feels too much kindness and a little lax in her rules might lead to total disruption of the clock-work routine she sets for the family members. Things go haywire when her daughter-in-law’s sister played by Rekha comes to stay with them. There are several confrontation scenes as the two women are diametrically opposite in their outlook to life. Dina Pathak comes up with a memorable performance.

maa-dina

An actress who has always strived to play different kinds of mothers in her films is the highly talented Ratna Pathak Shah. In the remake of the original Khubsoorat, she gets to play the no-nonsense disciplined mother from a royal family and is appalled at the idea of her son Fawad Khan falling in love with a commoner Sonam Kapoor. She seeks class, royalty and perfection in everything.

Ratna Pathak also gets to play a very realistic down-to-earth mom to Imran Khan in Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na. Their mother-son relationship was depicted very naturally and went down well with the audience. She tries her level best to make her son the opposite of what her late husband Naseeruddin Shah had been but in the end things don’t work out in her favour and these scenes are laced with lots of humour.

Next we come to another interesting mother played by Amrita Singh in the film 2 States. She plays a loud-mouthed Punjabi woman who is stuck in an unhappy marriage with her alcoholic husband Ronit Roy and is often beaten up by him. She however shares a unique bond with her only son Arjun Kapoor but comes to depend on him so much that she does not realize that eventually he has to build a future and a life of his own which may or may not match her ideas. So she finds fault with the Tamilian girl whom her son loves a lot and does not miss any opportunity to show down the girl’s parents. She plays the Punjabi mother to perfection.

maa-amrita

In the 2019 crime drama Badla, Amrita Singh is seen in a completely different light out to revenge the person responsible for her son’s disappearance. The character showed the desperate tactics a mother is willing to resort to revenge her wronged son’s culprit. It was a small yet powerful and unforgettable role.

maa-bahubali

Another strong mother character who was seen in the more recent blockbuster Bahubali Part I & Part II was Ramya Krishnan. Seen in the powerful role of Queen Mother or ‘Rajmata Sivagami’, she was simply brilliant and her performance was one of the highlights of the film. She raises both her son Bhallaladeva and her nephew Amarendra Bahubali and makes decisions which decide the future of her kingdom Mahishmati. The role gives her opportunity to display a variety of facets of her personality including some grey elements also. Ranging from a skilled warrior to a loving mother to a jealous mother-in-law when her pride makes her take an injudicious decision and finally to sacrificing her life to rectify her mistake and thereby ensuring the safety of her kingdom in the right hands, it was a dream character to play.

Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge is perhaps one of the few films showing a close-knit mother-daughter duo. Away from the eyes of her dominating husband Amrish Puri, Farida Jalal is the best friend to her daughters. She understand the plight of Kajol and even advises them to elope to find happiness. But sadly she does not have the courage to stand up to her fierce husband and this brought out in her dialogue when she tells Kajol that there is no harm in dreaming of great things but don’t expect the dreams to get fulfilled in life.

maa-farida

On the other hand, actress Meher Vij in Secret Superstar portrays one of the most heart-wrenching mother characters written in recent times. Even though she is at the receiving end of extraordinary physical abuse at the hands of her alcoholic and useless husband, she encourages her talented daughter to dream about becoming a singer and gives her strength to pursue them in the face of all kinds of obstacles. She does not want her daughter to meet with the same fate as her and in the end when she decides to walk out, it is one of the best scenes where her sterling character comes through.

Another inspiring mother character is Swara Bhaskar in Nil Battey Sannata. She is a 10th class fail and working as a household help but wants her daughter to pass her 10th exams so that she does not fall into the same rut. Her struggles to make her adolescent daughter understand results in many highs and lows in their relationship and finally she decides to join the same school as her daughter to make her understand. A master performance from Swara who brings out the emotions of a young single mother so beautifully that her engaging journey tugs at our heart.

Shabana Azmi plays mother to Sonam Kapoor in the biopic on flight attendant Neerja who was on the ill-fated plane which was hijacked by some terrorists. This is again one of the few films which showed a great mother-daughter bond and in the end the speech Shabana gives after her daughter’s death will bring tears to everyone’s eyes and clearly showed why Shabana is Shabana and no one can come near her in histrionics.

This song from Neerja brings out the emotions between the mother-daughter duo…

Priyanka Chopra in The Sky is Pink and Vidya Balan in Paa played mothers to children battling a terminally-ill condition. While Priyanka’s daughter played by Zaira Wasim is born with a rare genetic disorder SCID which will not let her live beyond 16 or 17, Vidya Balan’s son played by none other than Amitabh Bachchan in an unbelievable get-up also suffers from a rare disorder Progeria which would eventually end his life very early. The emotional, physical and mental challenges faced by such mothers as they work tirelessly to give their children a few extra years is brought out brilliantly by these two actresses. As we live their journey through this film, it leaves us teary-eyed as they play very relatable characters.

What happens when mothers discover that their sons are gay? Kirron Kher in Dostana and Neena Gupta in Shubh Mangal Zyada Savdhan come up with super performances laced with lots of humour when they confronted with such a situation.

Here is a funny song picturized on Kirron Kher in Dostana: ‘Maa da laadla bigad gaya…’

Mothers were also shown having grey shades.

Sonia Sahni in Bobby, Shyama in Mastana, Kamini Kaushal in Prem Nagar and Achla Sachdev in Hare Rama Hare Krishna are examples of high-society mothers who were too busy either with their work or kitty parties and meetings and had little or no time for their children. Hence they were left in the care of the governess who in turn either loved the child too much or ill-treated senselessly depending on the actress playing the governess. In such families somehow at the end the mother was made to carry the burden of guilt for neglecting her ‘duty’ which in today’s times may not hold water.

Here is a song sung by the child actress Bobby from the film Mastana at a school function yearning for her mother’s love while the evil governess played by Manorama sits and enjoys in the audience.

Song: ‘Maine maa ko dekha hai, maa ka pyar nahi dekha…’

Supriya Pathak gives a dark edge to motherhood in Ram Lila where she plays mother to Deepika Padukone. She is unbelievably evil and ruthless and will go to any extent to keep her daughter from marrying Ranveer who unfortunately belongs to the warring enemy tribe. There is a scene which showed her cutting off her daughter’s finger as punishment for trying to run away with Ranveer. It requires real guts to portray mother of such evil proportions and Supriya is too good.

maa-supriya

Evil stepmothers have been the norm since our fairy-tale days and the same generally holds true in Hindi films also. Aruna Irani in Beta is Anil Kapoor’s step mother and ill-treats not only him and daughter-in-law Madhuri but also her husband just to get all the wealth in her real son’s name. Similarly Archana Puran Singh in Raja Hindustani derives a vicious pleasure in destroying her stepdaughter Karishma Kapoor’s life.

maa-aruna irani

On the other hand Sridevi’s act as a stepmother in her last film Mom was a touching portrayal of how stepmoms can also be as loving and caring as a real mother.

But when the focus shifted to ‘mother-in-law’ it was a totally different ball-game. While their love for their sons remains intact, all the hatred shifts to the new daughter-in-law. Actress Lalitha Pawar was the best in this category. When she played the role of the evil mother-in-law out to squeeze her daughter-in-law for ‘Dowry’ in the 1950 film Dahej, little did she realize that her character would become so popular that the tag of the most evil and heartless mother-in-law would become her biggest USP. Her vile acts in films like Patita, Sau Din Saas Ke, Majhli Didi, Chirag, etc. have been unbeatable.

maa-lalitha

A similar type of evil mother-in-law character was enacted by Tanvi Azmi in Bajirao Mastani where she plays mother to Peshwa Bajirao played by Ranveer where she detests her son’s second wife Mastani (Deepika Padukone) just because of her religion and resorts to all kinds of atrocious and evil acts to get her killed.

maa-tanvi

As I had mentioned in the beginning these are just a few of the characters picked from the innumerable films. There are so many more facets which can be explored and from different angles but for now I end the blog with my 2 of my favourite ‘Maa’ songs of Hindi cinema which capture the innate essence of a mother and in the eyes of her children:

The first is the outstanding song ‘Usko nahi dekha humne kabhi par iski zaroorat kya hogi…’ from the film Dadi Maa (1966). Touching lyrics by Majrooh Sultanpuri are set to a simple yet catchy tune by none other than music director Roshan and brought to life by some brilliant singing by Mahendra Kapoor and Manna Dey.  In the film the lovely actress Bina Rai plays mother to actors Kashinath and Dileep Raj.

In the film Raja Aur Runk adapted from Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper, the brilliant child star Mahesh Kothare is seen singing conveying all his emotions to his mother played by one of the most popular mothers of Bollywood Nirupa Roy. Lata Mangeshkar’s rendition is flawless as usual

Song: ‘Tu kitni achchi hai,tu kitni bholi hai…’

 

DOUBLE DHAMAKA: BOLLYWOOD DOUBLE ROLE SONGS

By

Sharada Iyer

The concept of double roles is not only unique to Indian cinema, but has also played a significant part in the history of our 100-year old film industry. When the same actor/actress gets to play double/triple/multiple roles in the same film, it gives them a wonderful opportunity to display their prowess in a variety of characters- as a parent and child, siblings with negative and positive shades, as identical twins, as part of a reincarnation saga or at other times just a doppelganger who becomes part of the plot to generate excitement and interest among the audience.

Hindi cinema has a rich repertoire of double role films and different actors during different eras have added their own charm and interpretation to bring the characters alive on screen. For the audience it is double the fun to see their favourite actor/actress in more than one role and hence it is added dose of fun and excitement for them.

This post concentrates on songs from some of the double-role films wherein both the roles essayed by the actor/actress are part of a song picturization. This is not a common occurrence because not all double-role films have stories whereby both the characters can be seen simultaneously on screen. For instance if they are playing parent and child then at times the second character appears only after the death of the other. Similarly in films dealing with reincarnation it is difficult to show the actors in different births together in one frame on screen.

In this blog-post I have put together some interesting songs where the different roles played by the actor/actress are visible either singing together or they are present in the same song. There is also a brief write-up about their characters and the context in the plot where the song appears. For some of the songs the blog links may not open directly but please click on the YouTube link which appears to enjoy the song.

I start the blog with one of my all-time favourite films which remains unique till today for its story, characters, direction and of course acting by the child artiste Baby Sonia (Neetu Singh), who plays the main protagonist.

Film – DO KALIYAN : Baby Sonia (Neetu Singh) (1968)

This super-hit film released in 1968 was a remake of the 1965 Tamil original Kuzandaiyum Deivamum which itself was based on the British film Twice Upon a Time and the 1961 movie The Parent Trap. The plot deals with identical twin sisters whose are separated at birth and grow up with one of the parents without knowing the existence of the other parent or the other sister. They study in the same school where people cannot help noticing the uncanny similarity of their features. Their temperaments are different and after the initial fighting is over, they realize they are identical twins. Soon they decide to switch places to meet the other parent and also hatch a plan to reunite their parents. A thoroughly entertaining film which made Baby Sonia a household name overnight. All the songs were hits.

The song chosen here shows the sisters in the same class. This evergreen song remains a favourite even today for the tune as well as the superb lyrics and of course Lata Mangeshkar’s exemplary singing.

Song : ‘Bachche man ke sachche…’

Film- KUCH KHATTI KUCH MEETHI : Kajol (2001)

This film has a story of identical twin sisters switching places very similar to Do Kaliyan but here the girls are much older. Kajol gets to play the twin sisters one of whom grows up with her mother in London while the other grows up with her alcoholic dad in India. Rati Agnohotri who played the mother returned to big screen after a gap of 16 years and had Rishi Kapoor opposite her as the father off the twin girls.

The song here is when they are overjoyed to meet each other and soon decide to switch places and also try to patch up things between their parents.

Song:  ‘Kuch Kuch Khatti Kuch kuch meethi…’

Film- DO BEHNE : Shyama (1959)

This film had the talented actress Shyama in the role of two sisters with different personalities. While the boisterous one falls into bad company and is ditched by her male friend, the docile one falls in love with Rajendra Kumar and gets married to him. By a quirk of fate one of the sisters gets killed and the other has to take her place. It’s a film which I chanced upon by luck and found it to be quite enjoyable.

This song which comes right in the beginning of the film straightaway establishes the characters of the two sisters.

Song: ‘Main natkhat ek kali…’

 Film – AAMNE SAAMNE : Mithun Chakravorty (1982)

Directed by Shakti Samanta’s son Ashim Samanta, the plot idea had shades of his father’s B&W film China Town where a look-alike simpleton (Gopi) is made to impersonate a smart and ruthless smuggler (Johnny). Gopi and Johny meet each other when the simpleton comes from the village to town in search of a job and Johny decides employ Gopi to work for him. He fools him by convincing him to agree for a complete transformation to look like Johny himself and manages to fool the police for a while.

This song comes in the film when the training period is over and the transformation is so perfectly done that everyone in the room is left wondering as to who is the actual ‘Johnny’ and who is the imposter!

Song: ‘Tu mai ban gaya mai tu ban gaya…’

Film – HASEENA MAAN JAAYEGI : Shashi Kapoor (1968)

Directed by Prakash Mehra this film had one of the most entertaining plots ever written for a double-role film. Shashi Kapoor plays look-alikes Kamal and Rakesh and both are in love with the heroine Babita. All three study in the same college but Babita loves the poor and honest Kamal as opposed to the rich brat and her father’s friend’s son Rakesh who leaves no stone unturned to woo her. The plot turns interesting when both of them get enrolled in the army when War breaks out but during a scuffle one of them is killed while the other returns home to the wife Babita.

Not only does the heroine keep mistaking one for the other, many a time even the audience is left confused making it a challenge even for us as to who returns from the War. The song chosen here comes in the beginning when she invites both to the club by mistake and even in the song her confusion is very clear and interestingly so is ours.

Song: ‘Dilbar dilbar kehte kehte…’

Film- GORA AUR KALA : Rajendra Kumar (1972)

This super-hit film of 1972 had Rajendra Kumar in the double role of royal twins separated at birth. When the King is murdered by his supposedly trusted commander, both the new-born princes escape from the palace albeit with different people. They had been conjoined at birth and the operation performed leaves one of the twins with a paralyzed left arm and dark skin owing to a blood disorder. As the royal doctor who escapes the palace ends up being caught by a dacoit, this Rajendra Kumar grows up to be a dacoit. The other one is normal and grows up with the King’s loyal minister in a village. There are some very well-choreographed sword-fights and the dacoit Rajendra Kumar comes up with an excellent performance.

A unique thing about the film is that even though there are two heroines both of them love Hema Malini while Rekha’s love for the dacoit remains one-sided. The song here is sung when their true identity is revealed and they are united with each other and their mother.

Song: ‘Ek gora ek kala…’

Film- JIGRI DOST : Jeetendra (1969)

A delightful family entertainer where Jeetendra entertains in the double role of look-alikes. For a change both are good and kind-hearted and there is no smuggler/thief angle here. One of them is an illiterate villager and the other an upcoming lawyer and they end up in the same house. Once the two of them realize they look identical they manage to trick the people around for a while before the truth is revealed. The villain in the film is K N Singh who had murdered the lawyer Jeetendra’s father years ago.

The song chosen here is sung when both the Jeetendras go to meet their respective lovers- Mumtaz for the villager and Komal for the lawyer. Incidentally Komal is actually Shatrughan Sinha’s wife Poonam Sinha who acted in a few films under the name of Komal before she decided to give up acting.

Song: ‘Phool hai bahaaron ka…’

Film – SACHCHA JHOOTA : Rajesh Khanna (1970)

Director Manmohan Desai delivered a delightful entertainer replete with action, thrills, comedy and emotion which deservedly fetched Rajesh Khanna his first Filmfare Best Actor award. He plays two look-alikes-an honest village simpleton Bhola and a ruthless diamond smuggler Ranjit. After the initial shock of seeing his doppelganger, Ranjit devises the ingenious plan whereby he convinces Bhola to masquerade as Ranjit which helps him to both fool the police as well as to carry on with his nefarious activities without suspicion.

The song chosen here is picturized at a masquerade party where both the charatcters come together. While Bhola is the one singing the song Ranjit is  hidden behind a black mask and cape to escape the police officers Vinod Khanna and Mumtaz who are also disguised as guests at the party.

Song : ‘Dil ko dekho chehra na dekho…’

Film – DOUBLE CROSS : Vijay Anand (1972)

A badly written and directed film starring Vijay Anand getting to play identical looking brothers- Ajay and Vijay. While Vijay is a photographer and in love with Rekha, Ajay after being spurned by his lover takes on a new name Jimmy and turns to smuggling to amass wealth.

This duet sung by Kishore Kumar and Bhupinder is sung by the brothers when life had been simple for them and Ajay had not yet taken the path of crime.

Song: ‘Hum dono ki yaari kya kehna…’

Film – HUM DONO : Dev Anand (1961)

The only film where Dev Anand played a double role as Amar and Major Verma and the film is set in India during wartime. The film as well as its music became a big hit. Amar loves Sadhana and Majaor Verma is married to Nanda. Amar after getting enlisted in the Indian Army is posted under Major Verma who turns out to be his exact look-alike except for an added moustache. When war breaks, Major Verma is reported missing and presumed dead and the onus falls on Amar to convey the news to the Major’s family. But when he goes to their house, he is mistaken to be Amar and as Nanda has a weak he refrains from telling the truth which results in Amar getting caught in a difficult position.

This beautiful song appears in the film when both of them are in a pensive mood thinking about their respective loved ones.

Song : ‘Kabhi khud pe kabhi halaat pe rona aaya…’

Film- HUM DONO : Rajesh Khanna (1985)

This film was a remake of a Telugu film Somokkadidi Sokokkadidi and had Rajesh Khanna playing a poor villager and his look-alike Dr Shekhar who has a flourishing practice. The villager decides to earn a few bucks by impersonating the doctor once he leaves the clinic and pockets whatever money he makes fooling patients by way of treating them. He even falls for the girl who had set her sights on the doctor. After a while the doctor finds out the truth and then confusion follows before everything is sorted out.

In this song the doctor is amused to see his impersonator not only dressed like him but also romancing the girl who had professed her love for the doctor many times.

Song: ‘Tu lajawab bemisaal dilbar yaar…’

Film – MAHAAN : Amitabh Bachchan (1983)

The film had Amitabh Bachchan in a triple role -father and his twin sons with Waheeda Rehman, Parveen Babi and Zeenat Aman as their respective heroines. It has the typical plot of separation in the first few reels and reuniting at the end with a lot of drama in between. Amitabh Bachchan has a whale of a time in all three roles with the narrative written to cater to his ‘star’ image.

In this song sung by Kishore Kumar and Amit Kumar the two sons enter the villain’s den to rescue their father and end up confusing the cronies in the process.

Song: ‘Asli kya hai,naqli kya hai…’

Film – GHAZAB: Dharmendra (1982)

This is a remake of a superb Tamil film Kalyanaraman and had Dharmendra playing a double role as twin brothers. One is a village simpleton with crooked teeth while the other grows up in the city but for a long time they have no idea that they are brothers. In a strange twist of circumstances, the village simpleton is murdered and this ghastly scene is witnessed by his lover played by Rekha who then loses her mental balance. The movie has interesting twists and turns.

The song chosen here has both the brothers though one is the ghost of the village simpleton who is teaching his brother to sing the song he used to sing to her.

Song : ‘Jaaneman, jaane-jigar, jaan-e-tamanna, jaan le…’

Film -DARD : Rajesh Khanna (1981)

This film is a remake of the 1966 classic Mamta but instead of the mother-daughter duo played by Suchitra Sen this film this film alters the script by making Rajesh Khanna play the father-son duo. By a quirk of fate not only is the older Rajesh Khanna unable to marry his lover Hema Malini he is forced to marry another girl and finally ends up in jail by taking the blame of the murder committed by his evil brother-in-law. Meanwhile his wife dies at childbirth and now his son grows up with Hema Malini and becomes a lawyer.

The song chosen here shows both the father and son enjoying some special moments with their special women.

Song: ‘Pyar ka dard hai meetha meetha pyara pyara…’

Film- DIL HI TOH HAI : Jackie Shroff (1982)

This film is another royal saga where Amjad Khan is the King of some remote kingdom in Rajasthan and has twin sons Harshvardhan and Govardhan. For some strange reason right from childhood the King loves only Harshvardhan and wants him to be crowned prince and is therefore made to undergo rigorous training in every department as befitting a . But the prince right from childhood hates this stifled life dull of rules and discipline and behaviour expected from a future prince like him. He envies brother Govardhan’s freedom of getting to go wherever he wants. Govardhan being a little dull in the brain is considered to be a dimwit by all except Harshvardhan who loves his brother.

When he comes to know that his father is expecting him to forcefully marry a princess of his choice Harshvardan decides to exchange places with his brother and run away. But before that he trains him a little bit to walk and act like him. This song is picturized just before he plans his escape.

Song : ‘Chat ke upar do kabootar…’

Film- DUPLICATE : SHAH RUKH KHAN (1998)

Shah Rukh Khan gets to play an interesting double role in this comic thriller where he gets to play the dual role of look-alikes. Bablu is a chef in a restaurant and is in love with the manager Juhi Chawla while Manu his look-alike is a ruthless criminal and has Sonali Bendre as his girlfriend. Manu kills his partner (Gulshan Grover) for betraying him and running away with the loot money and is now being hunted by the police but Bablu ends up getting arrested.  When the criminal comes to know of his duplicate he decides to take his place to escape the police and expectedly a lot of confusion ensues.

The song below has both the Shah Rukhs romancing their lady-love but from the looks of it they seem to have ended up with the wrong girls.

Song: ‘Ladna jhagadna jhadake akadna…’

Film- HUMSHAKALS : Saif Ali Khan, Riteish Deshmukh, Ram Kapoor (2014)

This comedy of errors had all three actors in triple role and had some really funny scenes. Unfortunately the film did not do well as it got a lot of flak from the critics for not having much logic. But the film does have its interesting moments where identities are confused and all three act well.

In the song below two sets of the characters can be seen with one set of the trio dressed in drag.

Song: ‘Khol de dil ki khidki…’

Film – HUMJOLI : Mehmood (1970)

Mehmood with his extraordinary talent carved a special niche for himself in the film industry and there was a time when special roles were written for him to showcase this talent. This particular film had him in triple role as grandfather, father and son. He did an amazing imitation of the real life trio of Prithviraj Kapoor-Raj Kapoor -Randhir Kapoor and the scenes became a special highlight of the film. Jeetendra and Leena Chandravarkar were the hero and heroine of the film.

This song has all three coming together on screen with Aruna Irani as the wife of the youngest Mehmood.

Song : ‘Yeh kaisa aaya zamana yeh kaisa…’

Film – WHAT’S YOUR RAASHEE? : Priyanka Chopra (2009)

A unique film directed by Ashutosh Gowarikar which had Priyanka Chopra playing twelve roles. The hero Harman Baweja plans to get married and starts seeing girls in a hope to find the perfect match. He meets twelve girls each of them belonging to a different ‘raashee’ or sign of zodiac with Priyanka playing all the twelve characters. The film was a real challenge for Priyanka Chopra and all credit to her for doing a very fine job of etching out 12 different characters with different traits and mannerisms.

In the song chosen Harman is thinking of all twelve of them before he makes his final decision.

Song : ‘What’s your raashee?….’

Film – CHHICHORE : Sushant Singh Rajput, Shraddha Kapoor, Tahir Raj Bhasin, Navin Polishetty, Tushar Pandey, Varun Grover, Saharsh Kumar Shukla (2019)

This film which released in September 2019 was a delightful entertainer and traced the journey of seven friends from their college days to the time they enter their forties. Both the time frames- the campus caper as well as the scenes when they are older- are directed very well and the actors are very natural.

This is not a film with double roles but for just one song we can see the younger and older versions of the characters coming together simultaneously almost making it look like a double role albeit only for the song. Since the blog-post is about songs and as the idea of the song is really unique and enjoyable I decided to include it in the blog as the last song.

Song: ‘Arrerere pagle fikar not…’

On a personal level I do find the concept of ‘double roles’ really fascinating. Attached here are the links to three of my earlier blog-posts related to this topic :

(https://myviewsonbollywood.wordpress.com/2015/02/04/bollywoods-fascinating-tryst-with-double-roles/)

(https://myviewsonbollywood.wordpress.com/2017/07/18/double-role-films-of-rajesh-khanna/)

(https://myviewsonbollywood.wordpress.com/tag/amitabh-bachchan-double-roles/)