The Genesis of Munni (Dabangg)

Rock Dancer (1995): Bappi Da, Govinda and Samantha Fox….what bloody fun!

Film History, Movies, Tribute

Five All-Time Best Comedies in Hindi

 5. Hera Pheri (2000)

Hera Pheri

Priyadarshan’s breakout comedy caper was 2000’s surprise sleeper hit. A namesake of the 70s Big B starrer heist classic, it was the inspired rehash of a Malayalam film called Ramji Rao Speaking (1989), which was also remade in Tamil as Arangetra Velai (1990). It’s about a trio of buffoons, a woman (but of course), mistaken identity, and loads of cash… Paresh Rawal is still remembered for his stellar performance as Baburao Ganpatrao Apte, a myopic, foul-mouthed simpleton with a heart of gold.

4. Andaaz Apna Apna (1994)

Andaz Apna Apna

 In 1994, ace director Rajkumar Santoshi landed a casting coup that has not been bettered ever since, not even by Santoshi himself! Two of three reigning Khans of the time, Aamir and Salman Khan, co-starred in a crazy, madcap comedy called Andaaz Apna Apna. It was a box office bomb, but over the years, it has gained a strong cult following. The film was full of in-jokes and film references: the two leads were named “Amar” and “Prem” respectively, Paresh Rawal in a dual role of Ram Gopal Bajaj and Shyam Gopal Bajaj, Amar and Prem’s dads were named “Murli” and “Bankelal” respectivley (played by Jagdeep and Deven Varma), Shakti Kapoor starred as Crime Master Gogo (“Mugambo ka Bhatija”), Karishma Kapoor’s character was called “Raveena” disguised as Karishma, Raveena Tandon’s character was “Karishma” in the guise of Raveena…confused? Watch the film!

3. Half Ticket (1962)

Half Ticket

Back in the early 1960s, Kishore da was a major star. He was an acting, singing, dancing sensation. A true maverick. Half Ticket has him playing a young man, his mother, a 10 year old boy, a dancing girl… Add to it the dazzling presence of Madhubala in her prime, and you have a memorable classic in your hands.

2. Gol Maal (1979)

Gol Maal

Gol Maal is the story of the encounter between Bhawani Shankar, an old disciplinarian and idealist whose code of honor has a lot to do with sporting a moustache, and a young man named Ramprasad Sharma who gets a job at the former’s office. The inimitable chemistry between Amol Palekar and Utpal Dutt forms the core of the movie. The fuming Dutt and the stuttering Palekar keep you in splits all throughout.

1. Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro (1983)

Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro

And then, the Baap of all black comedies. Who can forget the extended Mahabharat/Mughal/Ramayan stage play sequence? A satire on the corruption plaguing the media and nexus between real estate cartels and the government departments, Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro was unsuccessful at the BO on release. But as time went by, quite a cult developed surrounding the film. And its on the rise. Amen!

Film History, Movies, Reviews

Harishchandrachi Factory: The Lost Art of Simplicity

Harishchandrachi Factory is strongly reminiscent of Malgudi Days and other DD serials, Hrishikesh Mukherjee & Basu Chatterjee oeuvre of films, snugging into the quilt with Grandma telling a story… In short, the Good Old Days. Days when films were not merely about form or technique, but about the simple pleasures in life – about a fast-disappearing tribe called the middle class. When intelligence and simplicity were not mutually exclusive, in the realm of films. Today, cinema consists of either way-too-complex-see-how-intelligent-I-am films or way-too-idiotic-audience-is-stupid kinda trash! Along comes a film like Harishchandrachi Factory and you start believing  all is not lost – beside the banal and the super intelligent, the simpler, fun way of story-telling still exists.

Dadasaheb Phalke

Harishchandrachi… is the fable of how Dhundiraj Govind Phalke, better known as Dadasaheb Phalke, almost literally, gave birth to Indian Cinema with its first ever film Raja Harishchandra (might add here, two other contenders for the first film maker in India are Dadasaheb Torne and Hiralal Sen, although the first filmed plays being staged and the other was a shorts and ad film maker). It’s the story of his obsession with the medium, his struggles to prove that it can be done in India and that he wasn’t crazy (literally), the sacrifices he and his family made to realize the dream, casting of the film and how it was finally shot. With such a seemingly sombre and high brow plot line, one would expect a somewhat serious biopic of sorts. What debut ante Director Paresh Mokashi does is turn this very notion on its head by making a very light hearted, simplistic movie, filled with various hilarious and touching incidents. This film lives in its moments.

For example, when Phalke runs outs of funds to make his film, he ends up selling his cupboard and other pieces of furniture – with the money, he buys some books on film making. When he returns home, his house is crowded with neighbours, all tearfully consoling his wife. He feels something is amiss, walks up to his wife and asks what is wrong, only to realize they had been consoling her on the loss of the cupboard! Precious… Or when the son goes looking for his father in the dead of the night, or the story of the casting – one by one, all such pearls sewn by Mokashi into this priceless necklace of a film. One may say that the complexity of such a momentous occasion in history has been rather too “simplified”, but hey, who’s complaining?

As with most Marathi productions, this one too is full of stellar performances. Nandu Madhav (last seen by Hindi film audiences in Jis Desh Me Ganga Rehta Hai) as Phalke proves himself to be an actor of immense caliber. Vibhawari Deshpande as Saraswati Phalke and the child actors support him suitably.


Film History, Movies, Reviews

The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes: Getting Wilder

The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes(1970) is one of Billy Wilder‘s least known works. It is one of the ‘revealed’ Holmes stories, and is not part of Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes canon. The film takes a satirical look at the Holmes-Watson equation, and, as the name suggests, touches upon the private life of the genius sleuth – who was decidedly misogynist. But the name is also misleading in one respect – it does not mention even once, the reason of Holmes’ contempt of women – that femme fatale named Irene Adler.

Billy Wilder

In his almost 50 year long career, Billy Wilder had made acclaimed Film Noirs (Double Indemnity, Sunset Boulevard), Rom Coms (The Seven Year Itch, Some Like it Hot), War films (Five Graves to Cairo, Stalag 17), Satire (The Apartment, One, Two, Three), even a Courtroom Drama (Witness for The Prosecution). A prolific and extremely versatile film maker, Wilder is perhaps best known for his Noirs and Romantic Comedies (talk about versatility!) Even in such a diverse career, The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes somehow stands out – not that it’s one of his masterpieces – far from it. As a matter of fact, as Wikipedia mentions, it was originally intended to be a roadshow attraction, with limited release in bigger cities. Why it stands out is that the film takes a well established myth, breaks it down to the basics, laughs at it, yet somehow retains the aura and dignity of the original work.

The film opens with the shot of a box in a bank vault with John H. Watson, M.D. engraved on it. It is intended to be opened only half-a-century after Watson’s death. They supposedly contain stories which he, ‘for reasons of discretion’, has withhold from the public. With that, Watson’s voice-over takes us to the beginning of one such ‘untold’ adventure. The very first conversation of the duo is one of the high points of the film, where Holmes accuses Watson of fabricating and romanticizing his exploits, and exaggerated his skills and abilities. After a hilarious encounter at a Russian Ballet, where the Ballerina propositions Holmes and he refuses suggesting (get this) that he and Watson are romantically involved (!), we meet a mysterious woman who’s suffering from amnesia, and is looking for her missing husband. Thus begins another Sherlock Holmes adventure, only this time gift-wrapped by Wilder, with his customary wit and dry humour thrown in.Mycroft makes an appearance too. Lestrade is sorely missed though.

Highly recommended.

Film History, Movies

God of Small Things: Meeting Anurag Kashyap

August 03, 2010. Landmark, Andheri. There he was, in his full glory, beard and all, looking almost a saint. The Messiah of New Age film making.  The man who wrote Satya (1998), Shool (1999), Kaun (1999), and directed Paanch (2003), Black Friday (2004), No Smoking (2007), Dev D (2009) and Gulaal (2009). Anurag Kashyap. In person. Flesh and blood. Standing merely a few feet away from me, browsing through the seemingly endless array of DVDs at Landmark. I went numb, blood rushing to my face and all that sort of thing. I mean, how often do you get to meet, in person, someone who you’ve admired, inspired by, and been deeply in awe of?

To me, right up there with Satyajit Ray, Naseeruddin Shah and the Big B himself, Anurag has always been an inspiration. A small town underdog who comes to Mumbai to become a film maker, and in time becomes one of the most respected auteurs of his generation! Whoever has read his blog posts and writings and rantings will understand what I mean when I say to a lot of us, he is nearly Howard Roark. Ayn Rand’s ideals of Objectivism and Individualism somehow seem to converge in his thoughts &  writings (In Defence of the ‘I’, Who the fuck I think I am?). Today, his films premier at Venice and Toronto Film Festivals, his protege Vikramaditya Motwane (who’s an excellent film maker in his own right) rubs shoulders with none other than Jean Luc Godard himself at Cannes, and in 2009 he was part of the Jury at Venice Film Festival. To think that when he came to the city, he practically lived on the streets and did group theater for a meager pay.. but all this while, that unnamed thing, call it passion, call it ‘fire in the belly’ – he kept it alive. This evening, at Landmark, Infinity Mall, I saw a glimpse of that fire. It’s still alive. And kicking.

Having explained all the nervousness, numbness and sweating palms, let me tell you that I did finally somehow limp up to him and say, “Sir, I am a great admirer of yours, and right now, I am speechless – don’t know what to say” or something to that effect. He smiled those zillion watts (see pic above) and shook hands. The next thing I know, we were discussing That Girl in Yellow Boots, his newest baby. I’ve seen some of the clips, and they pack quite a lot of punch. He also spoke about the Doga standstill. He said he has a script on Bahadur (Indrajal Comics, remember?)imagine! But as ususal, the high and the mighty (read losers) are just not interested. And he also spoke about Paanch – he seems to have kept it behind him and moved on – such a pity… I mean, torrents etc. are all fine, but don’t the people have a right to get to watch it in theaters?

The man just loves books… he kept picking stuff from shelfs and recommending them to me saying ‘check this out, it’s simply awesome’, ‘ don’t you read some great stuff, or what?’ He has a special affinity for pulp fiction and crime (Read Bloody Murderers of Cult, highly recommended to anyone even remotely interested in Crime Fiction) , and he handed me two gems: Kiss Her Goodbye by Allan Guthrie, and a highly acclaimed Graphic Novel called 100 Bullets. I’ll treasure them. And this evening too.

It was truly an honour and a privilege. I thank you, sir, Mr. Kashyap…

For the rest of us, check this out – one of the best Rock numbers ever done for  a hindi film:

Film History, Movies, Tribute

Jaane Bhi Do…

Above is a shot from Chashme Buddoor (1981). I draw your attention to the guy in the middle – yes, the one with all the bandages on him. Inevitably evokes laughter, doesn’t he? What if I were to tell you this person passed away yesterday?

Ravi Baswani died yesterday, July 27, 2010. He was returning from scouting locations in Nanital for his directorial debut film. When I read of his demise in the papers, my first reaction was more of shock than sorrow. For those of us who grew in the 80s and 90s, his was one of the faces that essentially represented fun, laughter and everything else that comprised ‘comedy’ for us. To associate that face with the morbid idea of death is inconceivable. Only the other day, I’d spotted him in a soft drink ad, co-starring South heartthrob Asin Thottumkal!

So many memories came rushing back. In the early 80s, Baswani was a regular in an immensely entertaining DD Serial named Idhar Udhar, sharing screen space with the likes of Ratna Pathak-Shah and Supriya Pathak. He also starred in a popular adolescent romance-themed series on Sony entitled Just Mohabbat. But of course, the two pillars of Indian entertainment history everyone remembers him for are Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro (1983) and Chashme Buddoor. One could go delirious with laughter at his wafer-thin features and queer gait in Chashme..In Jaane Bhi Do, his unforgettable turn as Bhimsen with the inverted Gada is funny even the zillionth time you watch it! Ravi Baswani also represented the innocence of those times… an era ends with his passing on. Sad.

But then, had he been here now, he’d probably shoo all that serious talk with a wave of his hand and say, “Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro…”!

Film History, Movies, Reviews

Khatta Meetha

No, this isn’t the Akshay Kumar starrer Priyadarshan behemoth. This is the Basu Chatterjee directed true-to-its-name sweet and sour 1978 cult classic.

Supposedly inspired from the Henry Fonda and Lucille Ball starrer Yours, Mine and Ours (1968), Khatta Meetha is the story of Homi Mistry and his four sons ,and Nargis Sethna and her three children. Both Homi and Nargis are alone, in the twilight of their lives, but still burdened by their growing, irresponsible children, who know no better than to completely depend on their respective parent, thereby making their lives miserable. At the insistence of a common friend, the two of them decide to remarry. Each other. And that’s when the fun begins.

Khatta Meetha belongs to a series of ‘feel good’ films on the now-almost-extinct Indian middle class, their hopes and aspirations, by the two stalwarts – Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Basu Chatterjee. It also represented a rare attempt of depicting the Parsee community, in the league of films like Percy (1989), Albert Pinto Ko Gussa Kyon Aata Hai (1980), Pestonjee (1988), and the more recent Being Cyrus (2005) and Little Zizou (2008).

Ashok Kumar, that institution of Hindi Cinema, sparkles in his extremely restrained but equally powerful performance as Homi Mistry. A high point of his role in the film is the face off with his son’s Father-in-law (Pradeep Kumar, who else) towards the end. His real life daughter, Preeti Ganguly gave the performance of a life time as Freni, Nargis’ neurotic daughter, who has serious relationship issues. Theater veteran Pearl Padamsee debuts as Nargis with this film.

Another strength of the film is its music. It’s so amazing that the music director (Rajesh Roshan) here is the same guy who did stuff like Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai (2000) and Koyla (1997). Here’s a gem from the film: