Salman Khan’s charisma fails to create any magic in TUBELIGHT

By

Sharada Iyer

After the phenomenal success of Bajrangi Bhaijan’, the actor-director duo of Salman Khan and Kabir Khan was expected to deliver another blockbuster in Tubelight’. Alas! The film is abysmally lacking in both emotional as well as cinematic content. Everything from the story to the narrative, casting and direction seems to have gone wrong with the film.

tubelight1

To give credit, Salman Khan makes a sincere attempt to play a mentally disabled character but his act fails to strike an emotional chord with the audience as the totally linear and banal narrative does not offer him any challenges to test his prowess. In fact all those close-up shots of him crying only end up making him look weird and peculiar.

The choice of his real life brother Sohail Khan playing his reel-life younger brother does not help either because Sohail has never been known to have any great talent. The scenes depicting the bond between the brothers have nothing new to offer and to be honest these two actors look too huge and grown-up enacting these scenes. Bringing Mahatma Gandhi into the scheme of things seemed too contrived.

Salman Khan’s attempt to play a character not driven by box-office diktats is praiseworthy and Kabir Khan’s guts to cast his hero in such a unique role is also laudable but if only they had concentrated on infusing soul into the story the result could have been spectacular. It is said that the story is based on the Hollywood film Little Boy’ wherein an eight-year old boy plays the main protagonist and does all he can to end World War II to get his father back home. Similarly, Salman does all he can to end the Indo-China war to bring back his bother. But what made them choose Salman Khan to replace the child’s role as the protagonist leaves us baffled!

For a film which uses the Indo-China war of 1962 as the story’s backdrop, the battle scenes are neither thrilling nor dramatic. After seeing the spectacular action scenes of Baahubali 1& 2, our directors need to spruce up their act otherwise they will lag behind in the race.

For a film which espouses ‘faith’ to be the most motivating factor in our human life, the two-hour film really tests the faith of Salman Khan-fans as we wait patiently for some redeeming factor to turn up in the film to take home with us. And that is sad because Kabir Khan who is one of our industry’s better directors and has a long list of superb films to his credit- Kabul Express’, ‘New York’, ‘Ek Tha Tiger’, ‘Phantom’ and ‘Bajrangi Bhaijan’ –seems to have gone totally astray with this one!

tubelight3

Where was the need for a Chinese heroine? OK! She does look beautiful and surprisingly and quite impressively even manages to mouth lengthy dialogues in Hindi, but there was no ‘X’ factor and certainly no chemistry with Salman. Our own Katrina Kaif with some intelligent eye-makeup could have passed off perfectly as a Chinese woman. At least the chemistry of the lead pair would have been interesting to watch!

tubelight4

Except the song ‘Radio’ which caught on in a big way before the film’s release, none of the songs are all that catchy…

The film has but a few plus points. For starters, cinematography is brilliant and the mountain locales have been captured beautifully. It was great watching the late Om Puri in a well-written role. Mohammed Zeeshan Ayub, the young actor who is making waves with every film, shines in the negative role. The child actor Matin Rey Tangu, who plays the heroine’s son turns out to be a heart-stealer and holds the film in all the scenes that he comes. He is a real find like little Harshaali in Bajrangi Bhaijan’.

tubelight2

But here is the best part. A 10-minute cameo by Shah Rukh Khan is easily one of the highlights of the film. In the small role of a magician, he plays an important part in Salman’s life and reiterates the importance of ‘faith’ in our beliefs and how ‘faith’ has the power to move mountains! The scenes when these two share screen space only reminds us of the magic they created in ‘Karan Arjun’ back in 1995. But then that was way before these two actors had become superstars. With time, their stardom and ego only ended up robbing their fans of some interesting movies they could have done together…

… But SRK’s  cameo is not only a pleasant surprise but he also inadvertently ends up stealing the limelight in a full-length Salman Khan film! Had the makers of Tubelight’  bargained for this?

Salman’s fans will have to hold on to their ‘faith’ and hope that his future movies will have better roles for this charismatic Khan…

 

 

FATHER DEAR FATHER

By

Sharada Iyer

Cinema is said to reflect society and there are no two opinions about the fact that our society has always been male-dominated and patriarchal. The ‘Father’ figure in our society has always been the self-appointed head, who commands and sets the rules and diktats in the household which nobody dare disobey as he does not take too kindly to people opposing him in any way.

With this societal structure entrenched in the psyche of our people since hundreds of years, it is not surprising that the ‘Father’ figure in Hindi cinema has also, fortunately or unfortunately, for the most part been portrayed as a villain who is feared more than he is loved. More often than not, he is shown to force his son/daughter to follow the principles set by him and to walk the path chosen by him thus becoming the main obstacle in their professional life and more specifically in their love-life.…

If the father is wealthy he threatens to disinherit, if he is powerful he does not hesitate to plot evil plans with his henchmen to reiterate his stand and if he is poor he resorts to emotional blackmail under the guise of family honour and reputation. If the son rebels, he is thrown out of the house and if the daughter revolts she is dragged and locked inside the house with orders not to give her any food or water. As is evident, most of the time the ‘reel-life’ father ends up being shown in a poor light.

father's day 2

But all is not lost. Fortunately, there have been some films in which our actors have got to play loving, wonderful and even sacrificing fathers. This is especially true when our heroes are shown playing young fathers as against the older character artistes who have grey shades associated with them.

At times, these young fathers have taken over the mother’s role in the lives of their children and such roles have been very touching and emotional. In these roles, they have surprisingly got to sing beautiful ‘loris’ (lullabies) which have definitely struck a chord with the audience. When a father is shown singing and putting a child to sleep, the scene gets special significance because that is something generally associated with the mother and consequently helps to show the deep bond shared between the father and his child.

Today, on Father’s Day, here is a musical blog with some heartfelt lullabies picturized on some of our greatest actors and sung by our super singers who have added so much dignity and meaning to the on-screen characters thus contributing to these songs in their own peerless way. Some songs are not lullabies but they have been included to show the loving relationship between the father or father-figure and the child…

SHAMMI KAPOOR- Brahmachari (1968)

This award-winning song sung by Mohammed Rafi is easily one of the most melodious lullabies composed in Hindi cinema. And added to that is the dashing charisma of Shammi Kapoor who in a slightly mellowed role of a bachelor adopting many orphan children gives one of his career-best performances in this film. For an actor always associated with romance and exuberance, he convincingly portrays the role of a loving father to all the children. When I watched this song as a child for the first time, there was something so cosy and exciting about those bunk beds that to this day this song situation remains unique and memorable in my mind…

SUNIL DUTT- Khandan (1965)

In this family drama, Sunil Dutt plays a disabled character as his right hand gets paralysed due to an electric shock. Both he and Nutan are overjoyed when a normal son is born to them. This lullaby beautifully brings out a father’s love and his inner feelings expressing his inability to even hold his son with both his hands…

SANJEEV KUMAR – Nauker (1979)

Here Sanjeev Kumar plays a rich widower who is a loving and doting dad to his daughter and sings this lovely ‘lori’ to put her to sleep every night. This song appears more than once in the film.

SUNIL DUTT- Dard Ka Rishta (1980)

When Sunil Dutt lost Nargis to the dreaded ‘cancer’ in real life, he decided to make this emotionally charged film where he plays a doctor and his child played by Baby Khusboo (who later went on to become a very successful star in Tamil cinema) is shown to be afflicted with cancer. His wife Reena Roy dies at childbirth and he is left alone to bring up his daughter and this lullaby sung lovingly and emotionally in Kishore Kumar’s voice seems so apt for the situation…

SHASHI KAPOOR- Mukti (1979)

In the film Shashi Kapoor is a happy family man and his daughter is very attached to him. The song attains significance because a few scenes later the happy family is suddenly thrown asunder by a quirk of fate and Shashi gets to meet his daughter after many years after she is grown up and hence misses out on her childhood entirely. A lullaby in Mukesh’s voice is indeed a rare feature and he does full justice to it…

MEHMOOD – Kunwara Baap (1974)  

Directed and acted by Mehmood himself, the film deals with the serious issue of polio vaccination. Mehmood plays a very poorand illiterate chap staying in a slum and one day comes across an abandoned male child. He gets no help from the police or the temple priest or the useless neighbours in searching the biological parents of the child. Instead they start accusing him of being the father of this illegitimate child. Fed up of allegations made by them, he ends up adopting the child who unfortunately gets afflicted with polio due to neglect. Here he is singing a lovely lullaby composed by Rajesh Roshan who incidentally makes his debut with this film…

SANJEEV KUMAR – Rivaaj (1974 )

This is quite a senseless melodrama directed by T Prakash Rao where Sanjeev Kumar is forced to abandon his lover and marry a girl of his widowed mother’s choice (!). The daughter born to them is very attached to her dad which proves to be fortunate for the child as her mother dies after a few scenes. Sanjeev Kumar gets to sing a lovely lullaby for us to enjoy…

MEHMOOD- Lakhon Mein Ek (1971)

This family drama has Mehmood playing an orphan living and staying in a multi-tenement housing arrangement where everybody tries to take advantage of his simplicity and helpful nature. The film gives ample scope for Mehmood to display his histrionics and he wins our heart. This song shows him putting to sleep one of the babies in the society and is fortunate as he also gets to lip-sync to this outstanding lullaby in Kishore Kumar’s resonating voice…

OM SHIVPURI -Koshish (1972)

Who could have imagined Om Shivpuri –the man who has played many a villainous character in films to sing a lullaby? But writer-director Gulzar spins this unique magical story of a deaf and mute couple played by Sanjeev Kumar and Jaya Bhaduri in which Om Shivpuri plays their friend and ironically he is blind. This film remains a milestone in the history of Hindi films for the superb direction and brilliant performances. This lullaby is sung by the blind friend who can hear the child crying  and knows that the deaf-mute parents are helpless to console the child. This touching scene is bound to bring tears to our eyes…

BALRAJ SAHNI-Ek Phool Do Maali (1969)

Balraj Sahni, a childless widower, decides to marry Sadhna and adopt her child born out of wedlock with Sanjay Khan as he is assumed dead in an avalanche. They lead a happy life till one day Sanjay Khan unexpectedly turns up at their doorstep and the drama begins. But for now in this song, Balraj is overjoyed to be a doting father to his adopted son. Manna Dey brings the perfect emotions of yearning, love and pride to Balraj Sahni’s character as he sings this remarkable song. Though not a lullaby, one can feel the flow of emotions from the father to the child in the song…

KISHORE KUMAR– Bandi (1957)

This film has Kishore Kumar playing a village simpleton who brings up his elder brother Ashok Kumar’s infant daughter. The child’s mother Shyama dies and Ashok Kumar abandons his child and is later jailed for killing someone over a feud. Kishore Kumar sings this soft lullaby lamenting at the irony of the little one’s strange destiny as she is now left in his care…

MEHMOOD-Mastana (1970)

The film is remembered for the terrific performances from the duo of Mehmood and ‘wonder-child Bobby’. Bobby’s rich and high-society parents have no time for her and she is left at the mercy of her wicked governess Manorama. Under the circumstance, she becomes very attached to the poor but loving Mehmood and develops a very emotional bond with him. Kishore Kumar comes up with this delightful lullaby in his typical sonorous voice and the child finds much joy in it…

RAJESH KHANNA-Humshakal (1974)

Rajesh Khanna plays a double role- one poor worker and one rich businessman. In the beginning of the film itself, circumstances lead to the poor man impersonating as the rich man for some time albeit at the behest of the rich Rajesh Khanna himself. The rich man’s daughter is very attached to her father and needs him to sing her a lullaby every night. Here is a soft masterpiece from Kishore Kumar where the poor man first puts the other’s daughter to sleep and then goes home to his wife and child…

SHAMMI KAPOOR-Andaz (1971)

Director Ramesh Sippy’s debut film had a unique story-line wherein a widow and widower with children are shown to fall in love and get married. Shammi Kapoor’s wife Simi dies at childbirth and Shammi Kapoor is a very loving father attached to his baby girl. In this scene she is angry with him for something and he tries his best to get her to smile and become friends. The bond that comes across is nice to see…

Aamir Khan-Akele Hum Akele Tum (1995)

Two aspiring singers-Aamir Khan and Manisha Koirala meet during their struggling days, fall in love and get married. Soon they have a son but Manisha starts feeling repressed and her hunger to pursue her career makes her abandon her husband and small son and leave her home. Aamir Khan then takes over as the loving father and they develop a strong bond with each other. This song has Udit Narayan’s son Aditya also singing with his father…

 

AJAY DEVGN-Shivaay (2016)

This song is different from the others as this is from the child’s viewpoint. Mountaineer Ajay Devgn during one of his expeditions ends up getting intimate with a foreign tourist and the mother leaves the child behind with Ajay as she decides to go back to her country. Ajay gets to play the loving and protective father and the song here reflects their loving bond…

SHASHI KAPOOR- Aa Gale Lag Ja (1973)

Shashi Kapoor gets intimate with Sharmila Tagore to save her life on a freezing snowy day and he never gets to know of her pregnancy till one day she comes to deliver the baby secretly in a private sanatorium where he is working. Her father lies to her that she had a still-born child and gives Shashi the permission to take the child away. The scriptwriter sure had some imagination but as with other Manmohan Desai films, this too was a big hit! Shashi Kapoor in the bargain gets to be a super dad to his son. Kishore Kumar is joined by Sushma Shreshta in this song…

NASEERUDDIN SHAH- Masoom (1983)

When happily married Naseeruddin gets a letter one day informing him of the existence of his illegitimate child he is shocked but as the dying mother has left the child in his custody, he decides to adopt him and bring him home. But not before he spends quality time with his son and gets to bond with him. The song brings out hidden emotions in the father’s heart as he tries to understand life’s game wherein the innocent child is a victim of unforeseen circumstances and will have to face challenges starting from Naseer’s own family and Naseer vows to stand by his son…

MANMOHAN KRISHNA- Dhool Ka Phool (1959)

A bold theme for its time, the film dealt with pre-marital sex and illegitimate children. When college students Rajender Kumar and Mala Sinha decide to disown and abandon their illegitimate child for fear of facing society’s wrath, Manmohan Krishna who finds the crying infant adopts it. Only Sahir could have come up with such powerful words which sound magical in Rafi’s voice and Manmohan Krishna’s superb character is one of all-encompassing love and honesty. The song is part-lullaby and also shows how he brings up the child instilling great values in him…

ASHOK KUMAR– Aashirwad(1968)

I end the blog with this beautiful composition from the film Aashirwad written by Gulzar and set to raag ‘Thodi’ by music director Vasant Desai. Lata Mangeshkar’s soulful rendition raises the song to a divine level.

This film directed by Hrishikesh Mukherjee had Ashok Kumar giving an outstanding performance which rightfully fetched him the National award for Best Actor. He plays an honest and loving ‘zamindar’ (landowner) married to the villainous Veena. Circumstances force him to leave the house and his loving little daughter behind and he gets to meet her only at the fag-end of his life. Meanwhile Sumita Sanyal who plays the grown-up daughter keeps reminiscing her childhood days spent with her father. Such is the beauty and poignancy of this song that it is bound to touch our heart and transport us to our own childhood days…

 

 

RAABTA: This much-hyped and heavily promoted film turns out to be a listless reincarnation saga

By

Sharada Iyer

There is something fascinating and mysterious about reincarnation tales which if told well can make for interesting cinema and somehow this topic has always interested both our filmmakers as well as the audience. Madhumati, Mehbooba, Om Shanti Om, Karz, Kudrat, Karan Arjun, etc. are some fine films made in this genre. Alas! Debutant director Dinesh Vijan’s Raabta (Urdu word for connection) evokes neither interest nor intrigue in the two and a half hour proceedings and this in spite of having two talented and good-looking youngsters Sushant Singh and Kriti Sannon on board…

raabta

The story starts with a typically sickening playboy-type of Punjabi ‘munda’ (guy) hitting out at every girl and Sushant goes out of the way to try and be this colourful character. Now our Punjabi guy Shiv, who happens to be a banker, leaves for Budapest on a project with his friend and there he comes across Kriti Sannon (Saira) who runs a chocolate shop. They hit it off from the first moment and feel an instant connection which neither is able to understand but as audience we obviously do!!!

raabta 5

Kriti is shown to have weird and unexplained dreams every night where she sees blurred faces and people in a strange tribal get-up and killing and blood. She wakes up sweating, pops in some pills and goes back to sleep but is strangely not interested in consulting any doctor. After our young couple have had their playful banters we are shown that she is actually having a boyfriend who is then conveniently removed from the way. Then they meet a fortune-teller lady who forecasts an impending danger about to enter Kriti’s life which would create havoc like it had done many years earlier and unless she herself makes an effort to change it this time, it would wreck her life once again.

With interval time approaching, it is time for the third angle of the triangle to enter the scenario. Jim Sarbh (who seems to be on a roll after Neerja and A Death in the Gunj) plays the role of an obsessive lover and also happens to be a character from the previous birth. He arrives in style in a helicopter with a battalion of armed security guards. He meets Kriti at a get-together where she tries to flirt with him and that did seem a little bizarre considering that she has such a loving boyfriend. She ends up inadvertently asking for trouble and paves the way for it.

raabta 3

He mistakes her friendly overtures to be love and when Sushant is away for a week on some work, he kidnaps Kriti and takes her back to some isolated island. There he reminds her of their connection in the previous birth where they had been lovers before Sushant had won her over and married her. He had killed Sushant in that birth and threatens to kill him this time also if Kriti refuses to marry him. That’s when our dear heroine gets all answers to her weird dreams and realizes that she must sacrifice her love to save Sushant at least in this birth.

But the plot till interval had been too slow and by the time the villain enters and she remembers everything it is too late and the slow proceedings frankly fail to impress. The entire sequence of the previous birth seemed totally creepy and the well-choreographed sword-fights are very little and come too late to make any impression. The climax has nothing new to offer as the lovers try to escape from Jim and his gang of gun-toting men.

In spite of the weak script, the film could have still got away had there been some kind of absorbing chemistry between the lead pair. Further, the weak script lets them down very badly and the actors are just not equipped with the kind of charisma or talent to pull it off.

raabta 4And pray! what was Raj Kumar Rao doing in that extraordinary get-up and that too for a blink and you’ll miss role…

 Sushant Singh, no doubt charming, still seems strongly attached with the ‘Dhoni’ image for the audience to accept him in such a spontaneous character. This kind of role seemed more suited for Ranveer Singh. Though Sushant does succeed to a certain extent, somehow it is not half as convincing. Kriti looks very good but is unable to bring any pain or love in her eyes and in some scenes her expressions in both the births seem to suggest that she really doesn’t care whom she finally ends up with.

In the absence of a strong narrative, music could have saved the day. But here again the director has to contend with an average musical score. There is only one song- ‘Ik vaariya…’ by Arijit Singh which is good. The director even managed to rope in Deepika Padukone for the title track which she sings on Jim and Kriti’s engagement day. But Deepika looks a little disinterested because no way can those steps be called dancing and for some strange reason her lip-syncing also looks half-hearted.

A love story involving rebirths should at least have intensity and passion between lovers which is essential to a fuel script like this and make the re-incarnation part seem believable. The sizzling chemistry visible in the posters and trailer is prominently missing in the film.  A very strange phenomenon of a ‘love comet’ is introduced in the story which strikes the earth only once in 800 years. So this saga that unfolds actually tells a tale of two lovers whose love remained unrequited in a previous birth 800 years back and have been reborn now to be united in this birth (!)

Two points:

Firstly, I wonder if Sushant and Kriti actually saw the full film before embarking on their whirlwind promotional tour! For if they did, would they seriously want people to see the film?

Secondly, why was Jim Sarbh left out of the promotional campaigns when he has an equally important role in the film? Why should the focus only be on the lead pair and leave out the villain?

Currently there are five young and talented heroes ruling the roost- Varun Dhawan, Ajun Kapoor, Ranveer Singh, Siddharth Malhotra and Sushant Singh Rajput. The competition is tough and their choice of films could make a big difference to their career. Sushant needs to be more careful in his choice of films…

 

A DEATH IN THE GUNJ: A brilliant piece of cinema!

By

Sharada Iyer

death gunj 4

There are indeed no two opinions about Konkana Sen’s talent as an actress par excellence. And now with her debut film A DEATH IN THE GUNJ she proves without doubt that she is a brilliant director as well! Based on a short story written by her own father Mukul Sharma and a superb screenplay written by Konkana herself, she weaves an intricate tapestry of relationships and cleverly infuses it with an aura of mystery and tension.

THE SETTING

As the name suggests, there is a death in the film and a feeling of uneasiness grips you from the very first scene when two of the characters are shown screwing up their noses to ward off the smell coming from a dead body as they try to fit it in a foetal position in the luggage compartment of their car. The effect of the scene is even more chilling as all this is conveyed without actually showing the body. And as they set off in the car, the film goes backwards to unravel the events which took place one week earlier. 

THE CHARACTERS

death gunj

Set in the small town of McCluskiegunj in Bihar, the director transports us back in time to 1979 when one wintery morning a family sets off on a seemingly normal holiday. The members include Nandu (Gulshan Devaiah), his wife Bonnie (Tilottama Shome), their daughter Tani (Arya Sharma), Nandu’s cousin Shutu (Vikrant Massey) and Bonnie’s friend Mimi (Kalki Koechlin). Once they reach Nandu’s parents’ house, they are joined by Nandu’s friends Vikram (Ranveer Shorey) and Brian (Jim Sarabh) and for a little while by Vikram’s newly wed wife as well. 

The icing on the cake was seeing Om Puri and Tanuja who play Nandu’s parents. It felt sad to note that we would never be able to see this wonderful actor with a resonating voice perform again. (This and the upcoming film Tubelight are incidentally two of his last screen appearances). It was a delight to see Tanuja in a nice role. After all in her hey-days she had been one of Hindi cinema’s most spontaneous actresses.

Each character is etched out so beautifully and brought to life so vividly that we come to identify perfectly with each of their emotions and they effortlessly become part of our psyche for the entire screen-time of less than 2 hours. The dialogues are in English with a smattering of Bengali thrown in making the scenes and setting very natural. The old-world charm of the seventies has been captured very well. That was the time when youngsters preoccupied themselves with nature and greenery, when handwritten letters held importance, when we had to go to a post-office or a special booth to book an outstation call and wait for our turn to come. Somewhere the ‘Bengali’ touch of the setting also reminds us of Tagore and the characters in his short stories…

death gunj 1

THE EVENTS

Hang on! Before you start categorizing the film as just another murder mystery, let me assure you, it is much more than that. As the past events unfold, we are kept guessing as to who must have been the victim whose body was being taken in the first scene? What could have happened on this seemingly uneventful family holiday that ended up in a death? Was it a normal death? Was it a murder? In the darkness of the cinema hall, the director certainly keeps us on tenterhooks… 

As the days unfold one by one, each day brings forth new events and unsettling emotions which add up to build the intrigue. The languid and unhurried pace of the drama also helps to build the characters. The apt background score by Sagar Desai and excellent camerawork by Sirsha Ray add their own unique dimension especially the night-time scenes and these two really need to be lauded for their imaginative work!

As we approach the sixth and the seventh day, the apprehension and speculation are palpable as the events start moving in an unexpected way leading to the final crescendo and all along the eerie suspense is kept intact.

A MUST-WATCH!

Towards the end, as Konkana Sen shows her true mastery by connecting all the dots beautifully leaving no loose ends, we cannot help but doff our hat to this outstanding debutante and hope there will be more unusual cinematic gems from this super lady!

The performance of the entire cast is brilliant and they help the director in nailing what she set out to accomplish.  In fact, the casting is so apt that we cannot imagine any other actor/actress essaying the respective roles. All are very good actors and in the absence of any set image, they blend effectively with the story-line.

death gunj 3

Such movies may not get the kind of publicity they deserve and are sometimes lost due to lack of promotional gimmicks. Also as the film is in English, the reach of the film gets narrowed down which is indeed a pity. These kind of films are rare and not to be missed by any fan of cinema.

For those interested, here is the trailer of the film:

CUCKOO: Remembering the dancing diva of the forties and fifties

By

Sharada Iyer

Cuckoo was known for her sensational dances in the Hindi films of late forties and fifties but sadly died alone and uncared for at the young age of 53 …

Dance being an integral and inseparable part of Hindi cinema, our industry has from time to time produced some great dancing stars, who have entertained and mesmerized the audience during every era and left an indelible mark in our heart with their charm and flair. One such dancing sensation of the forties and fifties was ‘Cuckoo’ whose unique name itself gave her a distinct personality and aura…

PARDES (1950) 

Here is an energetic gypsy dance set to tune by music director Ghulam Mohammed and sung by Shamshad Begum. This ranks among her most popular dance numbers.

 

Cuckoo’s effervescent and outstanding dancing was very infectious and her dances were a rare combination of speed, flexibility and grace. Her characteristic neck, hand and hip movements in her dances gave her the title of ‘Rubber girl’. She was an Anglo-Indian and her unconventional good looks, winsome smile, slim body-frame and extraordinary agility all added up to make her dances a sheer delight to watch. Her enticing eyes and facial expressions also added to her seductive charm without ever making the dances look vulgar.

NAMOONA (1949) Lata Mangeshkar

She came into prominence at a time when heroines of the era like Nargis, Madhubala, Beena Rai, Meena Kumari, etc., were not known for possessing any special dancing skill. So Cuckoo’s dance numbers were lapped up by the audience and proved a welcome change from the ensuing drama in the films.

KALI GHATA (1951) Lata Mangeshkar

Club dance

Except for Mehboob Khan’s classic love-triangle Andaz in 1949, she did not get a chance to act and was solely used only for her dancing. In Andaz, she plays Nargis’s friend and looked very charming.

Sadly not much written material is available on her and some of her earliest songs are also missing. There is a lot of mystery regarding her real name, her parents and how exactly she got into films. There is a lot of speculation and rumour about her personal life as well. While some write about her close affinity to a director others write about her marriage to a certain choreographer named More which is why perhaps some articles refer to her as Cuckoo More. But nothing can be confirmed as there are no decisive and definitive sources to vouch for any of the facts.

SINGAAR (1949) Rajkumari

Whatever may have been missing about her personal life, her professional life as a superb dancer was there for everyone to see. And from the information available about her films, it is very clear that the audience loved her enough to make the producers and directors incorporate her dances in their films as a special attraction. She was equally at ease in rural dances as well as ‘club’ dances. She could probably be considered Hindi cinema’s first ‘itemgirl’ and subsequently paved the way for all her successors – Helen, Madhumati, Laxmi Chaya, Jayashree T, Padma Khanna, etc., who dominated the scene in the sixties and seventies.

PHAGUN (1958) Asha Bhonsle

It was Cuckoo who introduced the next dancing sensation of Hindi cinema ‘Helen’. She was friends with Helen’s mother and at the latter’s request got the young Helen her first break in films. She also teamed up with Helen to give us some beautiful and evergreen dance numbers…

YAHUDI (1958) Cuckoo with Helen

CHALTI KA NAAM GAADI (1958) Cuckoo with Helen

She started her career in 1946 but it was her dance sequence in Mehboob Khan’s Anokhi Ada in 1948 which got her into prominence. Later the same director gave her a lot more scope in Andaz where she gets to dance in three songs and even sing alongside Nargis in one song. Then came India’s first technicolour film Aan where again Mehboob Khan incorporated a small dance sequence exclusively picturized on Cuckoo.

ANOKHI ADA (1948) Only tune as it is a stage dance

AAN (1952)

This is the only dance of Cuckoo’s shot in colour…

ANDAZ (1949)

Her career got a further boost when Raj Kapoor gave her immortal songs in his Barsaat and Awara. Even though, she does not get to lip-sync in Barsaat, the words ‘Patli kamar hai,tirchi nazar hai…’describe Cuckoo so aptly that it is her dance that stays with us and which we would recall whenever we hear the song.

BARSAAT (1949) Mukesh-Lata duet.

In Awara,the sequence of a moll singing in front of the gangsters set the trend of many such songs to come in the future.

AWARA (1951) Shamshad Begum

Unlike Helen, Cuckoo did not get the chance to wear too many different costumes or experiment with exotic hairstyles and get-up. Her costumes were more conventional keeping in tune with the era in question where rural stories were predominant. She was often seen in flowing ‘lehengas’and swirling long skirts and gowns and made the most of her settings by putting all her energy into her dance.

PARAS (1949)

HULCHUL (1951) Shamshad Begum

She led an affluent life-style and is said to have charged Rupees 6000/- per dance which was considered a very high price for that time. She spent extravagantly and had three expensive cars out of which one was used exclusively for her dog! But as the number of films coming her way reduced, the industry started to forget her. She fell into bad times and with no one around to help or advise her, all her money was lost in tax settlement and she was reduced to penury. It is to her credit that she braved the bad times with dignity and took it in her stride with a smile.

BAZAAR (1949)

Always the biggest tragedy of our stars is facing this harsh reality that when one is climbing up the ladder of success, everyone wants a part of the pie, but the way down is always lonely and painful. (https://myviewsonbollywood.wordpress.com/2015/06/12/the-tragic-side-of-showbiz/). And so it was with Cuckoo also. With age no longer being on her side, her assignments stopped and to make matters worse, she was diagnosed of cancer. In her last days she was lonely and died on September 30th,1981- alone and uncared for.

PIYA MILAN KI AAS (1961) Mubarak Begum

In Mr. & Mrs.55, the song ‘Neele aasmani…’ sung by Geeta Dutt surpisingly has her just standing and singing in a club  and even though the focus is on Madhubala and Guru Dutt and their awakening of love, Cuckoo manages to leave her eternal stamp in the background.

Today not many pause to remember this golden girl who lit up the screen with her vibrance and gave us many hours of entertainment. Many of her songs remain popular even now and I do hope by the end of this blog it would have helped you to recall and hum some of Cuckoo’s popular songs and remember this remarkable dancer of the days gone-by…

SAQI(1952) Lata Mangeshkar

Here she can be seen in an Arabian dance

 

By 1958, Helen had gained a lot of popularity and after her popular dance number ‘Mera naam chin chin chu…’ from Howrah Bridge, there was no looking back. She became the much sought-after dancing star and gracefully took over the mantle from her own mentor. Cuckoo must have realized that her days at the top were over and she was seen in many ‘twin dances’ where she shared screen space with another dancer.

HEERA MOTI (1958)-With Helen

GUEST HOUSE (1959)-with Sheila Vaz

She was last seen in 1963 in Sunil Dutt’s Mujhe Jeene Do. She does a dance number with Madhumati where she dons the part of a male pretending to tease Madhumati. Though many singers sang for her- starting from Zohrabai Ambalewali to Geeta Dutt and Mubarak Begum,  form Rajkumari  to Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhonsle, it was Shamshad Begum who was considered best suited for her.

Here are some more of Cuckoo’s dance numbers:

HUM EK HAIN (1946)-One of her earliest films.

Of the three dancers, Cuckoo stands out

MIRZA SAHIBAAN (1947) Zohrabai Ambalewaali

RAIL KA DIBBA (1953)

ANDAZ (1949)

 

 

REEMA LAGOO: The actress who defined the ‘new-age’ mom in Hindi cinema …

By

Sharada Iyer

The film, television and theatre fraternity as well as fans woke up on 18th May, 2017 to the shocking news of the untimely death of veteran actress Reema Lagoo who breathed her last in the wee hours of the morning. She had been shooting for Mahesh Bhatt’s television serial ‘Naamkaran’ and complained of uneasiness when she came home after the shoot. Though she was immediately taken to the hospital, she suffered a massive heart attack and passed away around 3.30 am.

Reema Lagoo was a rare combination of a beautiful face, a bubbly personality and loads of talent. She had acted in several Marathi and Hindi films as well as in Marathi plays and Hindi television serials and had a huge fan following. Though her soft and pleasant demeanour made her most suitable for the quintessential young ‘mother’ roles, she was also brilliant in strong character roles, comedy roles as well as roles where she displayed negative shades or acted as a seductress. She was equally at ease as the rich urban socialite, a middle-class mother or a woman in the rural setting. She added her own nuances to put life into the character and left a memorable mark. 

reema2
Aakrosh

It was director Shyam Benegal who gave her the initial break in Hindi films. In 1980 she had a ‘lavani’ dance number in the director’s much acclaimed and hard-hitting film Aakrosh. In 1981, he gave her a break in Kalyug– touted as the ‘modern-day Mahabharat’. She had a supporting role as the wife of the second brother Kulbhushan Kharbanda.

reema
Kalyug

Soon however she graduated to accepting ‘mother’ roles at a very young age. She played the role of Juhi Chawla’s mother in Qayamat se Qayamat Tak when she was just 32 years of age. She had no qualms playing mother to all the top heroes and heroines of the nineties who were hardly a few years older than her. She was just 2 years older than Sanjay Dutt and yet she pulled off his mother’s role with such conviction in Vaastav that it is difficult to gauge the age difference when one is watching the film.

This amazing ability of hers to adapt herself to the demands of the time by switching over to ‘mother roles’ made her carve a special niche for herself as she gave to Hindi cinema the unique image of a ‘young urban mom’ and the character to this day remains synonymous with her. She became associated with Rajshri Productions, known for their family dramas and thus in Maine Pyar Kiya we were introduced to the lovable, ever-smiling, beautiful and friendly image of a ‘mother’ hitherto not seen in Hindi cinema. She dominated the nineties by acting in plenty of films which gave her ample scope to display her histrionics.

reema8

The nineties saw a new generation of stars on the rise and new kind of cinema being made and she thus became an integral part of many block-buster films of that era – Maine Pyar Kiya, Aashiqui, Saajan, Vaastav, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak, Judwaa, Yess Boss, Kal Ho Na Ho, Dilwale and the biggest of them all- Hum Aapke Hain Kaun. She has played mother to a long list of stars which included Govinda, Monish Bahl, Salman Khan, Shah Rukh Khan, Ajay Devgn, Akshay Kumar and Saif Ali Khan among the heroes and Juhi Chawla, Kajol, Madhuri Dixit, Sridevi, Urmila Matondkar and even Renuka Shahane among the heroines.

reema1

At the same time her on-screen chemistry with her screen husbands was also a delight to watch. Whether it was Anupam Kher (Hum Aapke Hain Kaun), Alok Nath (Hum Saath Saath Hain), Sayeed Jafferey (Yeh Dillagi) or Shivaji Satham (Vaastav, Jis Deh Mein Ganga Rehta Hai), she was spot on. She also shared screen space with Naseeruddin Shah in Najaayaz, Rihaee and Police Public .

In this blog I am listing out some of her memorable Hindi films which showcase the talent of this multi-faceted actress:

HUM AAPKE HAIN KAUN

One of the biggest blockbusters of Hindi cinema this film revolving around a marriage took the country by storm with its unique story-line and outstanding songs. It touched a chord in every viewer’s heart and till today remains a rare film in this genre. Reema Lagoo was perfectly cast as the wonderful and lovable mother of Renuka Shahane and Madhuri Dixit. Her contribution to the success of the film was indeed enormous.

Just watch her expressions in the song which speaks volumes of her talent and it is also easy to understand why she became a much-loved screen mother!

YESS BOSS 

This film has her playing a widowed mother to Shah Rukh Khan. Both he and Juhi Chawla stay in his house and pretend to be married for a while acting as husband and wife so as not to hurt Reema Lagoo’s feelings.

KUCH KUCH HOTA HAI

She plays the understanding mother of Kajol, who knows that her daughter’s first love remained one-sided. She also shares a warm and friendly relationship with her would-be son-in-law Salman Khan and requests Kajol to give herself another chance in life by accepting him from the heart.

RIHAEE

This bold film directed by Aruna Raje questions men’s double standards as they set different set of rules for the men and  women of the village. All the men-folk of the village go to city to work leaving behind their wives and children almost the whole year. Reema Lagoo plays one such village woman who misses her husband and in his absence, she is only too eager to sleep with Naseeruddin Shah, the only male member of the village for a while.

reema13.jpg

RUI KA BOJH

This is an NFDC film directed by Subhash Agarwal which deals with three principal characters- a father, his son and daughter-in-law and how his presence in the house affects their relationship. Reema Lagoo who plays the not-so-affable daughter-in-law is brilliant and leaves her mark opposite Pankaj Kapoor who plays the father-in-law and Raghuvir Yadav who plays her husband.

reema12

HUM SAATH SAATH HAIN

In this typical family drama, she plays mother to four grown-up actors.- Mohnish Bahl, Salman Khan, Saif Ali Khan and Neelam. But Mohnish happens to be her step-son and has a disability in his right hand. Everything is fine in the household till a group of Reema’s friends poison her mind against him and she starts acting like a typical step-mother and changes her colours.

VAASTAV

This film fetched her the Best Supporting Actor Trophy from Filmfare. This film which was acclaimed by critics and loved by the public is a thrilling underworld drama and has Reema in the role of Sanjay Dutt’s mother. She has a powerful scene in the end where her son begs her to kill him and set him free from his worthless life of crime, underworld, murder and drugs and had reached a point of no-return. Reema delivers a superb performance as she unhesitatingly pulls the trigger and sets him free.

reema7

POLICE PUBLIC

In Police Public, a thrilling murder mystery, in spite of knowing the truth behind the murder of the daughter-in-law of the house-Poonam Dhillon, Reema Lagoo, who plays  a servant, sides with the murderers and even sleeps with the dishonest police officer Naseeruddin Shah. Finally it is only when CBI officer Raj Kumar threatens to pour acid on her face, does she spill the beans and confess to everything that she knows.

reema5reema4

YEH DILLAGI

In Yeh Dillagi, Reema Lagoo plays a typical rich snobbish high-society lady who is aghast when she comes to know that both her sons- Akshay Kumar and Saif Ali Khan have fallen for their driver’s daughter Kajol. She tries her best to be antagonistic towards Kajol.

JIS DESH MEIN GANGA REHTA HAI

Here she plays a childless villager. She and her husband Shivaji Satham  are entrusted the job of bringing up Shakti Kapoor and Himani Shivpuri’s son who grows up to be Govinda. After 24 years, the real parents come back to take their son with them leaving Reema Lagoo heartbroken. She has several powerful as well as emotional scenes and she shines brilliantly.  Her crystal clear diction and loud voice add to the gravity of the scenes.

reema10

NAJAAYAZ

Reema Lagoo plays a poor worker who by a quirk of fate encounters a wounded Naseeruddin Shah when he is running away from a gang out to kill him. She helps him to safety and ends up not only removing the bullet from his body but also sleeping with him. She plays a vulnerable character torn between her lover who is a criminal and their illegitimate son Ajay Devgn who grows up to join the police force. Yet she does not hesitate to take Naseeruddin’s side when the situation arises and even goes to the extent of slapping Ajay.

MAIN PREM KI DEEWANI HOON

In this remake of Chitchor, Reema Lagoo plays Abhishek Bachchan’s mother and has a small role only. But the class and dignity she lends to her character is amazing.

reema14.jpg

SARKAR 3: Fails to be as gripping as the earlier installments of the Sarkar series

By

Sharada Iyer

sarkar3

In 2005 when Ram Gopal Verma’s Sarkar hit the screens the novelty of the script managed to impress  both the public and the critics so much that it went on to become a blockbuster-hit. This prompted the director to make a sequel Sarkar Raj in 2008 and this gripping thriller also went on to become a big box-office success. The story of a Don running a parallel government was hailed as the ‘Indianised’ version of The Godfather. The character of the protagonist Subhash Nagre  (played by Amitabh Bachchan) borrowed heavily from the late Shiv Sena leader Balasaheb Thackery’s life caught the fancy of the audience in a big way.

The films were also appreciated for the superb performances from the entire cast especially Amitabh Bachchan, Kay Kay Menon, Abhishek Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai. While Kay Kay Menon played Amitabh’s elder son Vishnu, Abhishek Bachchan played Shankar, Amitabh’s younger son. The relationship between the father and the sons formed an important crux as well as the highlight of this crime drama.

In Sarkar, Kay Kay Menon is killed and in Sarkar Raj, Abhishek Bachchan is killed. And now Sarkar 3 introduces Kay Kay’s son Amit Sadh.

First of all, only a person who has watched the earlier two movies of the Sarkar saga is bound to have a better understanding of Sarkar 3 as against the person seeing it in isolation. As the movie starts directly with Subhash Nagre aka Sarkar’s grandson’s entry into the scheme of things it would have been better had the director taken the trouble to give a short background into the story and the characters for any first time viewer. And even for those who have seen the earlier films, the gap is too long as it is 12 years since Sarkar came and 9 years since Sarkar Raj hit the screens.

Having said that, Amitabh Bachchan who remains the lifeline of the crime saga needs to be lauded for yet another brilliant performance and it is his enigmatic presence which holds the film from the first scene to last scene.

THE PLOT OUTLINE:

Having lost both his sons, Subhash Nagre is shown to be older and quieter and even though he is a broken man emotionally his spirit to fight for his people and his will to provide them justice has not waned at all. His razor sharp brain is still able to assess the situations, see through the facades of the people surrounding him and he is astute enough to plan and plot the killings of his enemies and traitors.

It is at this juncture that his grandson Shivaji (played by the youngster Amit Sadh) makes an entry into Subhash Nagre’s life. Though Shivaji supports his grandfather’s ideologies like his Shankar ‘chacha’, he possesses a volatile personality like his father Vishnu thereby making way for clashes and confrontations between grandfather and grandson.

The story follows the usual path where people come to ask his help or support. There are wily, power-hungry groups constantly fighting to finish Sarkar and there are people switching sides at the drop of a hat. As with the earlier films, there is a traitor leaking important information and the director manages to keep the identity of the traitor a suspense till the end…

sarkar3-1

WEAK POINTS:

While the story does sound good on paper, the director loses his grip during execution. There are no exciting moments in the first one hour of the film and it is only after the Ganesh aarti song that things pick up a little bit. Dull lighting and weird close-up shots lead to lacklustre camerawork which also cause damage to the narrative.

Though Amit Sadh is very good in his role of the grandson he cannot make up for the charming presence of Abhishek Bachchan who is sorely missed. After all, there is always a special ‘x’ factor whenever Amitabh and Abhishek share screen-space.

There is no villain of the stature of Pran, Amrish Puri or Prem Chopra left in the industry today to match Amitabh Bachchan’s towering screen presence and personality and give him a ‘takkar’ (competition). Jackie Shroff as the evil mastermind is such a spectacular misfit that he single-handedly kills the very essence of the film with his average acting and dull dialogue delivery. He and the weird lady who plays his moll make the Dubai scenes look cheap and crassy.

Most importantly, while the first two movies stood out for the racy narrative and brilliant twists, Sarkar 3 is marred by its extremely slow pace especially in the first half. Though things do pick up post-interval ending in an intriguing climax the final product sadly falls short of being the dark thriller it was touted to be!

PERFORMANCES:

Amitabh Bachchan is in top form as usual. Amit Sadh’s work is also commendable. For a youngster, he shows tremendous confidence in standing next to a colossus like Amitabh and leave his mark. Manoj Bajpai in his short role is his natural self. Ronit Roy as Amitabh’s right hand man is superb though he could have been given a bigger role. Supriya Pathak is quite irritating. Yami Gautam has nothing much to do in the film.

About the actors playing the villains, the less said the better. None is able to leave a stamp as none have the cold-blooded evil look so necessary for films like these.

There is a spectacular Ganesh Chaturthi visarjan scene with an outstanding ‘aarti’ song sung by Amitabh Bachchan himself. Really Amitabh at this age never ceases to amaze! His resonating voice singing the song is absolutely spellbinding and this is easily the highlight of the film. Here is a video clip of the song and though it is not the full version as seen in the film, it is enough to give an idea…

TO WATCH OR NOT TO WATCH ?

It is a different kind of film and may not cater to popular taste and the slow pace may also prove to be off-putting. But Amitabh Bachchan fans should definitely watch the film for his performance and fans of the Sarkar saga may also end up watching it.

Coming in the wake of the Baahubali tsunami, the film will have tough competition to attract audience. Come to think of it, Baahubali has changed the cinema viewing experience so dramatically that it is going to be very difficult for any of the upcoming films to generate that kind of interest and excitement…