- Mint on 100 great movie memories
The best magazine tribute to 100 years of Hindi cinema was published today. It's through a special issue of Mint, financial daily from the Hindustan Times group. It has some 15 articles, including a series of 10 parts on "10 great movie memories". Here is the first part. Its staccato style jolts a little,but this style is most apt for a series of vignettes.
> 100 years, 100 great movie memories, Part 1
To Hindi cinema, with love and exasperated fondness
By Nandini Ramnath, Mint, May 04 2013
Clockeork clichés: Or, the comfort that comes from watching formula films.
Policemen who are courteous enough to arrive only after the hero has single-handedly pulped the baddies.Protection-free sex followed by tearful announcements of a pregnancy.Tense moments outside an operation theatre, ending with either a) Congratulations, he/she will live or b) Please pray to the Lord. Memory loss following a knock to the head, usually articulated through the words “Where am I?”Emotional reunions at train stations or airports. Irate soliloquies before an idol in a temple. Drunken monologues. Interruption of nuptials, either by a spurned lover or dowry-hungry in-laws to be.
Cinema’s greatest Mr Sensitive.
Hindi cinema was bursting with talent in the 1940s, so if Dilip Kumar became one of the brightest lights of this decade, and the one that followed, it had everything to do with his commitment to the craft of acting, and the sensitivity and intelligence he brought to his characters. Find out how, and why, in our essay.
Low on facts, high on atmospherics.
To demand that Hrithik Roshan should resemble Akbar just because he is playing the Mughal ruler is to miss the point about made-in-Mumbai historicals.
Since little is known about the Akbar-era singer Baiju Bawra (1952), it is perfectly okay for Bharat Bhushan to play him, especially since the movie’s real draw is Naushad’s tour de force score. Hema Malini as Razia Sultan?
Why not? Razia Sultan (1983) is a Kamal Amrohi production with lurid colours, a superb score by Khayyam and a black-faced Dharmendra. Roshan is as convincing in Jodhaa Akbar (2008) as the emperor as, say, Jason Schwartzman as Louis XVI. But Roshan also makes for a delectable ruler, whereas Schwartzman looks like an overgrown American teenager who has been teleported into Versailles.
Our historicals are about spectacular sets, heavy costumes, impressive musical scores, declamatory dialogue, stirring romance and palace intrigue. How can a movie possibly have all these elements as well as a performer who actually looks like the real person?
Swimming pools Bathing beauties, both men and women.
One of the earliest images from Hindi cinema is of women (actually men dressed as women) splashing about in a pool of water. The images are part of the surviving footage from pioneering film-maker Dhundiraj Govind Phalke’s Raja Harishchandra from 1913.
Swimming-pool scenes flood us with discomfort, usually because they are meant to titillate audiences and bypass censorship. Given the prurience with which most film-makers shoot poolside sequences, and the easy association made between swimsuit-clad characters and loose morality, it’s not surprising that most actors put no-swimsuit clauses in their contracts (right after the no-kissing condition). Madhubala kept her clothes on while prancing next to a swimming pool in the song Thandi hawa from Guru Dutt’s Mr & Mrs 55 (1955). Madhuri Dixit looked happier thrusting her boobs in various songs than wearing a one-piece swimsuit in Tezaab (1988).
But Sadhana had no such inhibitions in Waqt (1965); nor did her co-star, Sunil Dutt. Yash Chopra’s movie treats swimming as a physical activity that isn’t any different from walking or cycling. Sadhana and Dutt were watched by a glowering, suited and booted Raaj Kumar (who covets Sadhana).
We all know what to expect when women get near a water body—they will either be humiliated (Kajol in Bekhudi, 1992) or have a Bo Derek moment (Zeenat Aman in Qurbani, 1980, and Dimple Kapadia in Saagar, 1985). But the swimming pool proved useful to men in another way in the 1970s.
Nefarious characters conducted a majority of their business by the poolside, clad in bathing robes, with a scantily clad woman (often blonde), cigar and whisky glass for company. The rooftop pool in the luxurious hotel was the place to be in that decade. Amitabh Bachchan emerged from one in a rare moment of candidness in Don (1978). Even Rahul Bose, several years later, emerged from the depths in jet-black, tiny briefs in Govind Nihalani’s otherwise serious drama Thakshak (1999).
The real traffic-stopper in the pool was, of course, Vinod Khanna.
Vinod Khanna, Sexy beast .
One of the most famous tracks from Feroz Khan’s Qurbani is Hum tumhe chahte hain aise, the one in which Zeenat Aman and Vinod Khanna stand on a beach transfixed by each other. Who can blame him, for she is dressed in a fetching floral-patterned bikini top and a wrap-around skirt. And who can blame her, for he is mouthing words that translate into English as, “I will take you to that place.”
Yes, V.K., yes.
Khanna has given us many such moments of combustibility. There is his upright, wronged husband in Achanak (1973) and his nasty, moustachioed dacoit in Mera Gaon Mera Desh (1971). There is a double role in Lahu Ke Do Rang (1979). There are at least two glorious leg-baring instances, one from Shaque (1976), a drama about the corrosive effect of suspicion on a marriage, and another from the trashy crime movie Maha Badmaash (1977), whose villain, one Mogambo, was resurrected in name in Mr India 10 years later.
Khanna has done more than strut about and nuzzle with various beauties, of course. He has delivered the goods as a villain, a romantic hero, a wronged man and later as a troubled soul in offbeat films (for example, Aruna Raje’s Rihaee, 1988, and Gulzar’s Lekin, 1990). If he hadn’t checked out of the movie business between 1982 and 1987 to pursue Bhagwan Rajneesh, what could have been? Best couples
The rare meeting of chemistry and biology.
In no order of importance, our favourite pairings in Hindi movies are as follows.
Waheeda Rehman and Guru Dutt, unforgettable in Kaagaz Ke Phool even though they don’t live happily ever after. Waheeda Rehman and Sunil Dutt in Mujhe Jeeno Do and Reshma Aur Shera. Raj Kapoor and Nargis, with Barsaat at the top of the list.
Dev Anand and Nutan, especially in Tere Ghar Ke Samne.
Shashi Kapoor and Sharmila Tagore, although he kept getting paired with Nanda.
Shashi Kapoor and Amitabh Bachchan, as warring brothers in Deewaar, as partners in crime in Do Aur Do Paanch and Shaan.
Bachchan and Rekha (Mr Natwarlal, Silsila ).
In fact, is there any woman Bachchan didn’t look good with?
Farooq Shaikh and Deepti Naval in Sai Paranjpye’s Chashme Buddoor (1981)
Anil Kapoor and Amrita Singh in Chameli Ki Shaadi and Saaheb . Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol in every movie in which they appeared.
Irrfan Khan and Konkona Sen Sharma in Life In A… Metro.
Irrfan Khan and Tabu in Maqbool .
Farooq Shaikh and Deepti Naval , the parents you wish you had.
Dharmendra, with whomever he smouldered against.
Dilip Kumar and Madhubala, better in Tarana than in Mughal-e-Azam. Madhubala and Ashok Kumar in Howrah Bridge ;Madhubala and Kishore Kumar in Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi; Madhubala and Dev Anand in Jaali Note (what a professional).
Kareena Kapoor and Shahid Kapoor in Jab We Met , about a couple that gets together after many adventures, performed by a couple on the verge of a break-up. Shankar Nag and Neena Gupta in Utsav, whose tangles inspire Vatsyayana to write the Kama Sutra.
Kamal Haasan and Sridevi in Sadma.
Rishi Kapoor and Neetu Singh (of course), but also Rishi Kapoor and Dimple Kapadia (better Saagar than Bobby).
Dimple Kapadia and Vinod Khanna in Insaaf and Lekin;
Dimple Kapadia and Jackie Shroff in Kaash and, heck, even Ram Lakhan.Sanjeev Kumar and Tanuja in Anubhav .Govinda and Kader Khan in the David Dhawan comedies (or is that a love triangle?).
Madhuri Dixit and Anil Kapoor, made for each other. Ashwini Kalsekar and Vinay Pathak in Johnny Gaddaar , looking like they’d been married forever. Ditto Shefali Shah and Manoj Bajpai in Satya.
Aishwarya Rai and Hrithik Roshan , he brought warmth to her icy eyes in Dhoom: 2 and Jodhaa Akbar.Ajay Devgn and Kangana Ranaut in Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai. Ranbir Kapoor , hungry for love, no matter who he is with.
> Horror of horrors
> Creaking doors, heaving bosoms and that scary mask.
> The set-up would usually be the same: a woman bathing, a creaking door, thunder and lightning, and the camera travelling inordinately long before reaching the woman. A screech, followed by a close-up of a disfigured face, and tonnes of orange paint depicting a splash of blood—this was the horror genre of the 1980s and 1990s. The Ramsay Brothers, pioneers in the field, used shocking visuals as a means to scare despite low budgets and poor production values; by the time Ram Gopal Varma started to frighten people, technological advancement helped him use sudden sound for the same effect. But the combination of mysticism, mythology and moral positioning ended with the horror of the 1990s.
In the Historical Dictionary of Horror Cinema, Peter Hutchings described the Ramsay Brothers as the “closest thing to horror specialists that Indian cinema ever had”. They made films like 1984’s Purana Mandir, in which the monster disrobes women before killing them, and Bandh Darwaza (1990), where a vampire-like thing would emerge from a coffin to haunt unsuspecting youngsters (for some reason, young lovers from these films would always choose to romance in an abandoned temple at night). In Veerana (1988), a girl is possessed by a spirit and goes about seducing and killing people. In Purani Haveli (1989), a bear-like creature keeps necking unsuspecting women, and there are dialogues like: “Maut ke andheron mein zindagi ke ujale ki talash mein hoon (In the darkness of death, I am searching for the light of life)”.
> The B- and C-grade films gave fringe actors like Puneet Issar, Mohnish Bahl, Arti Gupta and Priti Sapru, among others, a chance to display their histrionics. Sex was central to the plot—the curse of death in Purana Mandir comes with childbirth which is, you guessed it, a consequence of sex—and not just to titillate.
> Style quotient
Little to do with fashion, and never short on trends.
> Nahin Sunder, nahin,” she says, covering her lips lest they betray her. An expression that combines karmic shock and worldly disbelief, a sequinned sari with a high-necked, sleeveless blouse and funky armlets. An elaborate hairdo, big jhumkas that protest sweetly while she sobs like only a Hindi film heroine can. That is Vyjayanthimala as Radha in Sangam (1964), when fate announced that she would marry Raj Kapoor and not Gopal, her true love, played by Rajendra Kumar. Her saris—worn carelessly, sweepingly, lovingly, as she twisted twigs and sang with Kumar earlier in the film—suddenly acquired a formality and mature sensuousness. Both looks rocked and they had little to do with fashion’s haughtiness. > Cut to the Sadhana Cut, the frilly fringe of the 1960s heroine, which in Waqt (1965) veiled and unveiled her coy desire for Sunil Dutt even as Raaj Kumar watched with melancholic longing.
> Now don’t cut. Stitch instead a filmi collage or direct one of your own takes on style—Zeenat Aman’s flower-powered look with tinted glasses, likhai-printed kurtis and flower garlands in Hare Rama Hare Krishna (1971); Jaya Bhaduri’s white cotton saris with heavy Banarasi zari borders in Abhimaan (1973); Neetu Kapoor’s flaring bell-bottoms worn with awfully short, front-knotted blouses in Parvarish (1977), Rekha’s plain China silk saris worn with cap-sleeve (they were incidentally called mega sleeves) blouses in Silsila (1981), Yash Chopra’s assorted heroines, on permanent loyalty programmes, cavorting in white bling, or Sridevi’s very sexy, blue diaphanous sari in Mr India (1987).
A standing ovation for Madhuri Dixit’s enviable choli collection—the dhak dhak of fantastic cardiac symphony in Beta (1992), Ek do teen’s shimmering, sequinned choli-top in Tezaab (1988), the choli of all decades in Khalnayak’s Choli ke peechhe kya hai (1993) and the heavily embellished blockbuster purple blouse in three-quarter sleeves worn with a matching purple sari for Didi tera devar deewana in Hum Aapke Hain Koun... (1994) that formally turned this country’s shaadi fashion into an industry. In our collective and individual minds, these styles form a clear blur that had little to with fashion’s reasons or seasons, yet became trendy, dictating our wardrobe choices.
Bollywood has always been creating and curating its own fashion. Of course when Aki Narula served his mad and merry patchwork kurtis for Rani Mukerji in Bunty Aur Babli (2005) and Manish Malhotra gave the chiffon sari a reason to look beyond Yash Chopra’s virginal enslavement, the place of these designers in Bollywood’s style history got underlined. Yet, there was something compellingly freer (Saira Banu in Junglee, 1961) and fiercer (Mumtaz in Brah machari, 1968) in Indian style in the days of costume directors Laxman Shelke and Bhanu Athaiya, respectively—theirs was called the costume and wardrobe department—than it is today. Never mind Priyanka Chopra’s fashionable fire in Fashion (2008) or Dostana (2008).
There is something sexy and alluring about “unstyled style” that beats much ado about the form, fit and fashion of a pretty gown flown from Paris—something about a desi mix free of the seasonal look-book. The reason why Kareena Kapoor’s salwars worn with T-shirts in Jab We Met (2007) and Vidya Balan’s Charulata blouses in Parineeta (2005) became hysterical hits, as compared to Sonam Kapoor’s Aisha. > We are a filmi nation, sold to the jugaadu mix and match of Bollywood style. Sorry, Sonam Kapoor.
Voice of India.
Did she slay the competition? Did she squash her sister Asha Bhosle’s chances? Was she too aggressive? Questions abound about Lata Mangeshkar, but about her vocal abilities there is no doubt or debate. Read our essay on the impossibility of drawing up a list of great Hindi songs without mentioning Lata.
Effortless, versatile, powerful.
Haribhai could effortlessly make you cry, laugh, feel pain, sometimes all of it at the same time. If the man-next-door Amol Palekar was usually the victim of circumstances, portly, man-next-door Kumar could be the victim or could be in complete charge. Through the 1970s and first half of the 1980s, before his untimely death, Sanjeev Kumar held his own irrespective of how smart or silly his role was, or who he shared screen space with. He could ridiculously sing Thande thande paani se semi-naked in Pati Patni Aur Woh (1978) or have you in tears from laughter in a double role as twins who are constantly being mistaken for the other (Angoor, 1982). You feel his shame and anger as he shivers in the wind that blows his shawl away in Sholay, cheer for him as he seeks revenge in Qatl (1986) with a murder, and sympathize with him because of his cheating wife in Silsila (1981). He taught a generation of actors how to use their voice and why it did not matter what your waist size is.
Sanjukta Sharma, Arun Janardhan, Kushal Gopalka (a Mumbai-based musicologist and musician), Seema Chowdhry, Chanpreet Khurana, Niranjan Rajadhyaksha, Shefalee Vasudev and Rudraneil Sengupta contributed to this story.
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