Never lose hope, every labyrinth has a way out

In life, we come across difficult times when almost everything seems to be going against us, when we face such ticklish problems that cannot be discussed sometimes even with our closest ones, when we are concerned less about the solution of the troubles and more about their being known to the world and when we feel that none in this world can help us. However these seemingly hopeless situations may not be so hopeless and there must be some remedy for the problem present at the moment. The positive way to look at these things is to remind ourselves that no lock is ever manufactured without its key and no labyrinth is constructed without a way to get out of it. Himmat-e-Marda, Madad-e-Khuda or God also helps those who are courageous and don’t lose hope and their fighting spirit. Hindi novelist Surendra Mohan Pathak has written one such thriller in which the protagonist is not ready to surrender before a team of blackmailers who want to extort a hefty sum of Rs.20 Lacs from him (during the eighties when this novel had been written, this sum carried even much higher value). He, instead, decides to attack the attackers. This brilliant tale of courage and wit of a person is titled as Bees Lakh Ka Bakra (someone who can be swindled for a sum of Rs. 20 Lacs).indexThe word Bakra literally means goat but as we, the Indians, know very well that in common usage, this word is used for someone who has been / can be fooled or conned or looted for money (or some other valuable thing). By this definition only, the hero of this novel – Ranveer Raana who is a businessman and owns a machining factory in Chembur (Mumbai) is nothing but a Bakra for a team of three thugs – Naagwani who runs a photo studio, Chettiyaar who is a taxi driver and Pavnikar who works for a video parlour (video parlours had become quite popular in India during the eighties where movies were exhibited on small screen). However actually all these are involved in their respective professions for the sake of cover of their actual activity only which is crime. They pinpoint Raana as their victim for blackmailing and prepare a film of his sexual ventures with a girl – Seema as the basis of their blackmail. When Raana decides not to be blackmailed on this ground and tells the truth of his affair with that girl to his wife, the blackmailers now turn themselves into murderers and kill Seema in order to trap Raana under the charge of her murder. Still Raana does not yield. He knows that police won’t help him, hence he himself makes a convoluted plan to get better of the blackmailers and succeeds in eliminating them all.t-25bThe highlight of this very interesting thriller is the character of the protagonist Ranveer Raana only who is a man of courage and strength and never ready to bow before any adverse situation. Seeing the trouble facing him, he musters courage and starts thinking rationally to take on his antagonists. He believes in the philosophy of ‘Attack is the best defense’ and following that only, he prepares his strategy, seeking help from those he can trust. He knows very well that criminals are seldom beloveds of each other. The only thing they are fond of is money and money only. That’s why he decides to create rifts among them and that’s how he succeeds also in that mission of his which paves the path for the total elimination of the blackmailing gang. Hence through this extra-ordinary character, the author has spread the message of never to lose hope and never to panic when the odds are against you.

The author has not advocated or justified Raana’s being infidel to his wife and having an illicit relationship with Seema. He has shown that Raana is feeling guilty within him and his conscience hurts him for that affair. As a part of his strategy to turn the tables on the blackmailers, he confesses his affair before his wife but he apologizes to her with utmost sincerity. He is concerned for the future of his children also and is, in no condition, ready to compromise with their welfare.

However feeling guilty for something undesirably done and repenting for that is one thing but loving someone from the core of your heart is another. Quite paradoxically, despite feeling guilty for his affair with Seema, Raana has genuinely fallen in love with her. That’s why when he comes to know that the blackmailers have killed Seema, he decides to attack them not only to save himself from their blackmailing but also to seek revenge from them for Seema’s murder. This is a solid evidence of the seasoned author’s keeping his principal character as human, neither divine nor devilish.

In addition to the lead character, the author has portrayed other characters of the novel also quite realistically. All the villains alongwith the female associate of Chettiyaar – Anita appear to be quite real, emerging from the underworld of Mumbai. Raana’s wife Rashmi, his secretary Rekha, his works-manager Tendulkar, his sincere friend Advocate Susheel Khetaan etc. are also real flesh and blood human-beings and not caricatures. Especially the character of the protagonist’s wife has been crafted by the author in a highly admirable manner who is badly hurt by her husband’s infidelity and visualizes the other woman with a sense of envy as well as hatred plus develops a sense of utter disgust for her infidel husband but stands by him in his hour of crisis all the same.

The language (Hindi) used by the author in this novel is spicy but certain dialogues cross the line of decency. The narrative moves very fast as the novel is a compact one, devoid of useless, irrelevant and superfluous things. The climax is highly impressive.

Without touching the issue of originality of the story idea, I recommend this brilliantly written racy thriller to all the Hindi readers. Like the hero of this novel, let’s also develop inner strength in ourselves to face any odds in our lives as God helps only those who help themselves. No baddie or thug can beat our abundant courage, stony willpower and ability to think rationally.

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Mercifully human-beings can forget and they should

I have a very sharp episodic memory and I often (undesirably) boast of it. However a novel of my favourite authoress – Dame Agatha Christie has given me a new perspective of thinking. This novel is Elephants Can Remember which has forced me to think whether it is required to keep everything in your memory and is it not desirable to forget certain things whose memory renders pain and nothing else.

Agatha Christie has given the analogy of elephant to the people habitual of keeping quite old things stored in their memory only to retrieve them later with or without a reason. By this analogy, I am also an elephant. However, now onwards I will try to shed this tag of being an elephant because there’s indeed no need to remember anything and everything that happened in one’s life or that came to one’s knowledge. One can’t wash facts away from his / her memory with deliberate effort but he / she can definitely try not to dwell upon them when they are distasteful or painful.Elephants-Can-Remember-v3Elephants Can Remember is based on the plot of a very old incident of joint suicide by a husband and a wife which gets fresh attention when the now-grown-up daughter of the couple is all set to marry her beau. It’s the mother of the would-be groom who is interested in digging out the buried skeleton of the mysterious double suicide and make it a point to oppose the marriage which is on the cards. She imposes herself upon a popular authoress – Mrs. Ariadne Oliver and pressurizes her to find out whether it’s the mother of the girl who shot her father first and then committed suicide or it’s the other way round as the shot dead bodies of the twosome were found at a cliff. Kind, benevolent and mature Mrs. Oliver finds this task as uncalled for but as she is the godmother of the would be bride – Celia Ravenscroft, she is not able to get rid of it and when her goddaughter also insists her to find out the truth so that she is able to get rid of the unpleasant thoughts arising out of the hearsay regarding that tragedy, Mrs. Oliver has no option but to do something in this regard.

And she does. Not alone but by seeking the help of the world famous Belgian detective – Hercule Poirot. Both Mrs. Oliver and Poirot meet several people and find that one fact after another is coming out to cast a new look upon what had happened more than a decade back. The interesting thing in this regard is that everything points to the fact that the dead couple was very fond of each other and the mutual love of the husband and the wife was beyond any doubt. Then why the hell did the couple make a suicide pact ? It is also evident that no third person could be imagined who might have shot the twosome dead. This is not at all a case of double murder. Quite interestingly, just a few weeks earlier, the twin sister of the wife had fallen from the same cliff and died. Questions are aplenty for both Mrs. Oliver and Poirot. Mrs. Oliver visits and talks to several oldies in this context who know something about or who feel that they know something about the tragedy. She terms such people as elephants because elephant is an animal which does not forget anything. ‘Elephants can remember’, opines Mrs. Oliver. However here she has to extract information not from the real elephants but from those who can be compared to the elephants as far as their memory is concerned. She digs out facts which Poirot studies and analyzes, doing some leg-work on his own too. And when pursued, the facts do reveal themselves. Old sins leave long shadows.

Finally Poirot unravels the mystery of the deaths before the daughter of the Ravenscroft couple – Celia and her beau – Desmond Burton-Cox by calling them alongwith Mrs. Oliver and an old female acquaintance of the Ravenscroft family – Zelie in the same house situated near the cliff where the dying-duo had lived during its last days. But after knowing everything, what’s the best way for the young couple ? Keep the facts in their memory forever like the elephants do or forget them, leaving the past behind to make a new beginning ? The young would-be bride and groom prove to be mature enough to move on in life, leaving the ghost of the past behind. Those who died were human-beings only and whatever happened was perhaps the only appropriate thing to have taken place then. The daughter now feels proud of her dead parents and moves on in her life thanking those who have taken pains to reveal the truth to herself and her beau.3971724370_4969172221The works of Agatha Christie usually contain two salient features – 1. A psychological basis of the story, examining the mental status and the thought-trains of the characters involved, 2. Unravelling of the suspense on a layer-by-layer basis just like an onion is peeled off. These two features are present in Elephants Can Remember too just like several of her other works. The celebrity authoress has not only kept a mentally unstable character (a significant one) in the story but also delved into the psyche of many characters to explain logically why he / she did something. That’s something which separates her apart from the other mystery-writers, putting her in a league of her own. After reading the complete novel and coming to know of the solution to the mystery, the reader gets complete satisfaction because there’s a logical explanation to everything asserted.

Secondly, as her style of narrating is, Agatha Christie never heaps the facts on the head of the reader in the climax. She allows the facts to come out one by one and provides enough food for thought to the reader, giving him / her an opportunity to work out a probable solution to the mystery himself / herself. It’s different that thinking about a probable solution or the probable culprit is a next to impossible task for a reader of her novel. The picture gets clearer and clearer as the layers of dust get removed one-by-one but the complete colourful picture is visible to the reader only when the last particle of that dust has been removed by the authoress in the climax. Result ? Obvious. The reader remains hooked throughout, guessing continuously but failing to think of the most convincing resolution of the mystery.Elephants_can_Remember_First_Edition_Cover_1972However Elephants Can Remember is definitely not among the best of Agatha Christie. It is a cut below her best. The authoress has gone slow during more than 2/3 rd of the novel, leading to fatigue of the reader. The narrative picks up pace during the final 80-90 pages only when the facts start pouring in relatively fast. Perhaps the authoress herself had felt it and that’s why we find a very small chapter titled as ‘INTERLUDE’ in between the novel just like INTERVAL in the middle of a feature film. During the first 200 odd pages of the novel, the same facts keep on getting repeated through different mouths, generating sluggishness in the narrative. That’s a minus point of this novel amidst the pluses.downloadThe pluses are many. In addition to the brilliant plot, the psychological study of the characters and the curiosity factor; the novel contains a bit of humour too. Calling the oldies with sharp (or deemed sharp) memory as elephants itself is humorous. A telephonic conversation between Mrs. Oliver and Poirot is so humorous that it is able to provoke a generous laugh in the reader.captureWhile recommending this novel to the mystery fans in general and the Christie fans in particular, I reproduce the final statement of Mrs. Oliver from this novel to sign off – ‘Elephants can remember but we are human-beings and mercifully human-beings can forget’.

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Stay awake ! Criminals & sinners roaming around !

Jaagte Raho ! Have you ever heard this loud voice of a watchman in your locality in the darkness of late night hours ? I have heard it. The watchmen of now-a-days do not send such yells but the watchmen of the bygone period always used to do it. Sometimes the residents of the locality used to laugh at the yelling watchman with the thought – ‘It’s his duty to stake awake and protect us from burglars and he is asking us to do this job.’ Was this thought correct ? Is it only the duty of the paid watchman to stay awake and not of the public in general ? And what’s meant by staying awake (Jaagte Raho) – losing own sleep only or there’s some deeper meaning to these two words spoken out loud?

Legendary actor and filmmaker Raj Kapoor made a quest for the answer to these questions through a movie made by his home production house, i.e., the R.K. banner. This classic movie is Jagte Raho (1956) .download (3)

Jaagte Raho (stay awake) tells the story of one night only, the night spent by a villager Raju (Raj Kapoor) in a multistory building containing dozens of  residential flats and business offices. He is a poor peasant who has migrated from his village to the metropolitan city of Mumbai (then Bombay) . He is very thirsty and when he enters a multistory building under the hope to have some drinking water, in no time, he finds almost the whole housing society going for his blood, terming him a thief. He keeps on running for his life from this floor to that floor, this flat to that flat and from this spot to that spot throughout the night, still thirsty. He has not been given even a drop of water but the residents of the society want his blood. He is not a thief. He is an innocent man, a simpleton who is seeing the bare, real face of the world in this building which is just like a miniature world. The people searching him on war footing, calling him a thief, themselves are criminals, law-breakers and persons of low morals. But instead of getting booked themselves, they are hell bent upon trapping this innocent man. The whole night passes in this fashion only  and then due to his interaction with a little child (Daisy Irani), he realizes that he did not need to be afraid of anybody. Now he comes out fearlessly and takes upon the residents of the society who had been smelling him like blood hounds for hours. The movie ends with the quenching of his thirst when a nice woman (Nargis) offers him (2)The movie was made more than six decades back but the mindset of the Indians has not changed much since then. The common psyche is ‘Pot calling the kettle black’. Instead of looking below own neck to see who we actually are and what our own reality is, we keep on finding faults with others forgetting conveniently that when we point one finger towards someone else, three fingers of that hand of us start pointing at ourselves only. Why doesn’t the Indian society improve ? Why doesn’t India grow as a nation? Because society and nation are abstract terms which derive their existence from individuals. When the individuals can’t improve and are not ready to mend their ways and practices, how can the larger institutions head further in the positive direction ? We, the Indians, are hypocrites and this hypocrisy of us only gets spread in all the institutions and collective phenomena. Jaagte Raho exposes this hypocrisy (5)This is perhaps the only movie of the prestigious R.K. banner which does not contain glamour, aestheticism, Bollywoodish romance and lavishly pictured songs. With the exception of a song – Aye Wai Duniya Deve Duhaai, the filmmaker has kept the movie simple and free from the regular Bollywood formulae. This movie written and directed by Sombhu Mitra-Amit Maitra, tells a story emerging straight from the narrator’s heart and reaching straight to the audience’ heart. It moves you, stirs you and, of course, awakens you.hqdefaultIn addition to Raju, certain other characters of the movie have also become unforgettable. One is a drunk man (played by Moti Laal) . Another is a child (Daisy Irani). The scenes involving these two characters (with Raju) are gems of cinema. Moti Laal’s performance on the song – Zindagi Khwab Hai, Khwab Mein Jhooth Kya Aur Bhala Sach Hai Kya and thereafter during his interaction with Raju is hilarious with these scenes having an undercurrent of philosophy. The character of the kid and his dialog with Raju proves to be an eye-opener for Raju as well as the audience. He asks Raju – ‘Are you a thief ?’ Raju denies. Then he asks again – ‘Then why are you so scared ?’ These words fall on Raju’s heart like lightning and he realizes that when he hasn’t done anything wrong, he need not be scared of anything or anyone. How precious are these words of wisdom ! When you are honest to yourself and your conscience, you cannot have fear of any kind.Jagte_Raho_1956_film_posterThis movie breaks the myth of the progress of the country post independence (as prevailed in that era) and underscores the disillusionment with the Nehruvian idealism. It shows the downfall of moral values during the first decade of independence of the country.

The movie poses some serious questions. A person is doubted to be a thief just because he is poor and has a shabby appearance. Which extent is it correct ? Is wealth a symbol of character ? Why can’t a wealthy person be suspected to be a thief ? This is the biased elite mindset that links poverty to weak character. We can see in certain advertisements shown on TV that this mindset has still not (4)The narrative is fast paced and does not give any time to the viewer for a pause and breathe. The viewer remains hooked throughout once the story takes off. This is one of the initial movies whose narrative encompasses the events happening during just one night. We can consider it as the pioneer in this line.

Raj Kapoor has delivered a standout performance in the lead role and it can be counted among his five best performances. None could (and can) match Raj Kapoor in playing the role of a simpleton whose heart is clean like a mirror. Nargis is in a special appearance and the ending scene in which Raj Kapoor drinks the water offered by her is the last ever scene done together by this immortal on-screen pair of Hindi cinema. Nargis looks quite beautiful and impressive in her cameo. As stated earlier, Moti Laal and Daisy Irani have performed excellently. All others are also perfectly in place. The credit goes to the director duo for extracting the best out of every member of the cast and making a breathtaking, spellbinding movie.imagesAll the technical aspects are well in order. The movie boasts of simplicity and that’s why does not boast of high production value. But there’s no need of any kind of lavishness in this movie.imagesSalil Chaudhary’s music is very good. Shailendra has supported his compositions with his beautiful lyrics (one lyric is of Prem Dhawan) . Jaago Mohan Pyare, Zindagi Khwab Hai, Thandi Thandi Saawan Ki Phuhaar etc. are all a treat for the melody loving ears.images (1)Jaagte Raho is a masterpiece. An illustration of cinematic excellence. It won the Crystal Globe Award in the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival (1957) . The directors made this movie in Bangla also as Ek Din Raatre.Jagte Raho+Ek Din RaatreNow-a-days the shouts of the watchmen (Jaagte Raho) are not heard in the housing societies or the colonies during the late night hours, reminding the people living there to stay alert. However let’s stay awake on our own. Crime and sin never sleep. Hence we also cannot afford to allow our conscience and senses to sleep.

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Showman Raj Kapoor arrives on the scene

New age directors – Sooraj Barjatya, Aditya Chopra and Karan Johar got accolades for making blockbuster movies and picking the pulse of the youthful audience with perfection while themselves being at tender age. However decades back, a very young man had proved his talent at a similarly tender age of 24 years and within less than a decade, that young man started being called as the showman of Indian cinema and amassed a lot of respect. This 24 years old youth was Raj Kapoor who had demonstrated his worth in his directorial debut itself which was Aag (1948).indexAag (fire) is an emotional story whose protagonist Kewal (Raj Kapoor) wants to make it big in the world of theatre. He starts cherishing this dream since his childhood itself and one more extension of his dream is to stage the classic story of Sanskrit poet – Bilwamangal and his sweetheart – Chintamani with himself playing the role of Bilwa, the hero and his childhood buddy – Nimmi playing the role of Chintamani, the heroine. Destiny separates Nimmi from him and after growing up, not only he starts pursuing his dream with the help of Rajan (Premnaath) but also searches his Nimmi only in every girl he comes across. However, his thirst of getting the association of his childhood-love, Nimmi in his life and his theatre-world remains unquenched. The ladies entering his life have to leave him due to the worldly constraints. One day, out of frustration, he sets his own theatre on fire and gets burnt. His face is disfigured and uglified due to the burnings suffered. However, finally he gets married to a girl selected by his parents, only to get the most pleasant surprise of his life on their first conjugal night.index2This black and white movie is a showcase of the brilliance and the abundant talent of the great artist – Raj Kapoor. How he could make popular and impressive movies becomes clear when we watch this maiden venture of himself as a filmmaker (producer as well as director). He had the vision and the ability to pick the pulse of the audience as to what it thought and what it wanted to see on the screen. Aag is not so pleasant as his later movies are. In fact, it is a dark movie, delving deep into the psyche of a youth with sky in his eyes and the pain of losing his childhood-love in his heart. The fact that the hero tries to locate his childhood-love (Nimmi) in every woman he comes across tells a lot about the passionate love and the peculiar lover-psyche. The excellent direction of Raj Kapoor proved it at that time itself (in the forties) that cinema is indeed the art to make believe. To be frank, during certain sequences of this movie, I shed tears for the main protagonist because Raj Kapoor was able to make me feel his pain. When a girl Nirmala (Kamini Kaushal) has to part ways with him quite reluctantly, the viewer is able to see and realize the pain in her heart (in addition to the pain in the heart of the hero). It’s the sheer brilliance of Raj Kapoor that he repeats this scene (with the same dialogues bidding farewell to her) after a few reels with another leading lady (Nargis) and no monotony is felt by the viewer. In the climax, the viewer can empathize with the happiness of the protagonist as well.aagRaj Kapoor could make his musical team properly with his second movie – Barsaat (1949) only. However at least one member of his musical team – Mukesh got associated with him in this movie itself and he sang one of the most memorable songs for him in this movie only – Zinda Hoon Is Tarah Ki Gham-e-Zindagi Nahin (a pain-soaked Ghazal authored by Behzaad Lakhnavi). Ram Ganguly composed touching songs for this movie including Kaahe Koyal Shor Machaaye Re, Dekh Chaand Ki Or, Raat Ko Ji Chamke Taare, Dil Toot Gaya Ji Chhoot Gaya, Solah Baras Ki Bhayi Umariya etc. The female songs are in the voice of Shamshad Begum. In fact, the music has also helped the narrative to be emphatic.1indexThis movie cannot boast of high production value considering the limited resources of Raj Kapoor at that time. Still technically, it is admirable by all means. Cinematographer has done a brilliant job in conveying the intensity of the story through the use of lights and shadows. In fact, I feel that considering the darkness of the story and its presentation, it’s good that it got made in the black and white era. The lack of colours has assisted the darkness and the intensity embedded in the screenplay and the characters to come out vividly before the audience.0356Performance wise talking, Raj Kapoor has proved in Aag that he was not just an excellent director, he was an equally excellent actor too. He has depicted the ambitions, emotions and frustration of the young protagonist very well through his eyes, gestures and voice. Nargis got associated with the R.K. Banner with this movie and gave the glimpses of the famous Raj-Nargis chemistry that became properly visible in the later movies of the banner. Kamini Kaushal and Nigar Sultana have also done pretty well. Premnaath (Raj Kapoor’s brother-in-law in his real life) also got associated with him in Aag and proved that he was a class apart. Raj Kapoor assigned him a meatier role in his next venture – Barsaat.

One interesting trivia is that three decades later to Aag, Raj Kapoor again used the incident of the burning of the face of a lead character in Satyam Shivam Sundaram (1978). This time, it was the heroine of the movie. The sound of the foot-steps of Raj Kapoor’s much later and over-ambitious project – Mera Naam Joker (1970) can also be heard in this movie (through the coming in and going out of women in the protagonist’s life).

I recommend this black and white emotional saga to all the fans of Raj Kapoor, all the viewers liking emotional movies and those who are interested in knowing how the art of filmmaking evolved in Bollywood post the Independence of our country. Despite certain weaknesses and certain over the top things, this maiden venture of the great showman is highly laudable.

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Dharmendra-Waheeda starrer suspense thriller

There have been many Bollywood movies made under the title – Baazi. The most famous one among them is Dev Anand-Geeta Bali starrer film which was released in 1951 and directed by Guru Dutt. However today I am reviewing a lesser known Baazi starring Dharmendra and Waheeda Rehman which is a suspense thriller and which was released in 1968.pctv-1000050636-hdBaazi (bet) is the story of the mysterious death of Mr. D’ Silva whose niece – Liz (Waheeda Rehman) is a money-minded girl. Liz calls her beau, Ajay (Dharmendra) who is a responsible police officer, for her help when she gets the news of her uncle’s death. When Ajay reaches there, he is told by the attending physician that Liz is not in her senses and he had better do the needful for the cremation of Mr. D’ Silva. Ajay does everything with the help of the priest of a nearby church. Pall-bearers are called, coffin is arranged and Mr. D’ Silva is peacefully buried in a nearby Christian graveyard. The thing which catches Ajay’s attention is that a stranger, standing behind all the people present at the time of the burial, is found to be weeping all alone. Upon Liz’s coming to her senses, Ajay consoles her and decides to live in her house for a couple of days. However in the darkness and calmness of the night, he finds a stranger woman also weeping on the grave of Mr. D’ Silva. He gets suspicious. He also finds that not much grief has occurred to Liz upon her uncle’s demise and she is in a hurry to occupy her father’s inheritance which, according to his will, would be hers only upon either her marriage or her uncle’s death who was supposed to be her guardian. Now since the uncle is dead, Liz gets not only his life-insurance money but also becomes the heiress of her father’s wealth. Instead of grief, Ajay finds her in a delightful mood.

The twist in the tale comes when an old villager reaches the police station with the grievance of his son, Prakash’s going missing. When Ajay sees the photo of the missing man, he is stunned to find that the same person whose name is being told to him by the complaint-lodger as Prakash, was buried by him as Mr. D’ Silva. The mystery deepens with a couple of murders and the fact that when the grave is dug to verify the identity of the dead person, the coffin is found to be empty. Now Liz is the prime suspect in the eyes of Ajay and he arrests her. However his senior police officer releases her on bail and asks Ajay to keep a watch on her. The mystery is resolved in the climax.index1Well, I won’t be surprised if any reader of this review tells me that the story is an adaptation of (or inspiration from) an Agatha Christie work. In fact, I was taken aback in the climax when the mystery got resolved and the identity of the real culprit was exposed. The revelation made me feel like reading the climax of a work of fiction by Agatha Christie.india-baazi28india29Director Moni Bhattacharjee has handled the suspense story pretty well and though the suspense takes some time in building up, the plot of the movie starts taking shape right from the very first scene. The curiosity is maintained throughout and a couple of scenes must have been spine-chilling for the viewers who had watched the movie in theatre when it was released. Guessing the culprit may prove to be difficult even for those who read (or watch) mysteries quite regularly.

The flip side consists of the regular Bollywood formulae and some superficial characters (and scenes). Actually, prior to the multiplex culture, an Indian filmmaker was bound to stretch the movie to around two and a half hours because then only the traditional audience was supposed to find it to be its money’s worth. That’s why undue comic and romantic scenes were inserted in the movies to fill the time-duration. This movie is around 2.15 hours long but it could have been shortened by 20-25 minutes by omitting the character of an insurance company detective (Johnny Walker) and his comic encounters with two Christian ladies (Shammi and Helen). Johnny Walker has been given a second persona of Liz’s so-called cousin arriving from London but despite giving him adequate footage, nothing is revealed about that character in the climax (though the audience can make its own guess).

Kalyanji Anandji’s music is just okay. Neither memorable, nor bad. Only Aa Mere Gale Lag Ja (by Lata Mangeshkar) remains in memory after the movie is over. A song picturized on Waheeda, Helen and others in the beginning reels of the movie (in the form of a play on the stage) is entertaining. In fact, the movie could have been trimmed by omitting a couple of songs too.

Art direction, cinematography and production value aspects are satisfactory.index2Performance-wise talking, Waheeda Rehman has acted in many good suspense thrillers, however Baazi is a low profile movie when compared to her much-talked-about suspense movies. Her character in the movie seems to be containing some gray shades and she has impressed like always. However, the heart-conqueror is Dharmendra, the dashing and smart hero who performs quite naturally. All others have supported the lead-pair properly.

This long forgotten movie is not a classic but a thoroughly interesting suspense thriller and a decent one-time watch. Mystery fans will definitely like it.

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Merry Christmas To You . . .

Bhanwar (1976) is a regular mainstream Bollywood movie which is based on the Hindi novel of the same title written by renowned Hindi novelist and script-writer, Gulshan Nanda. I have read the novel also and found both the book version and the celluloid version of the story quite nice though by no means great. Since the lead character of this movie is a Christian girl, I feel that Christmas being around, the timing of this review is quite apt. bhanwar-movie-925667136-435994-2Roopa D’ Souza (Parveen Babi) is a college girl who has none else but her mother, Rosy (Kamini Kaushal) in her life. She knows that her mother has taken divorce from her husband, Johny (Madan Puri) who is actually not her biological father but she does not know who is her father and why her mother did not marry him. Johny is a baddie and Roopa can understand that her noble mother might have married him under some compulsion only. Among her college-mate girls, Roopa is the something like the odd-man out because she is the only girl who is not having any boyfriend. In a party on the occasion of Christmas, she comes across Anoop (Randhir Kapoor) who, at her request, poses as her boyfriend before the other girls. Actually Anoop’s mother, Shaarada Devi (Nadira) wants him to see Anju (Aruna Irani) for the purpose of marrying. However Anoop falls in love with Roopa. When Anju comes to know of it, a rift appears in the hitherto solid friendship of her with Roopa.

Things take such a turn that Rosy passes away and now Roopa is alone. Before that, exploiting her monetary need, Shaarada Devi compels her to move out of Anoop’s life (because she wants him to marry Anju only). Roopa meets with an accident and it appears that she will have to live the life of a handicapped person now onwards. However a seasoned and famous surgeon, Dr. Varma (Ashok Kumar) comes to know of the case and decides to take a chance to operate her in such a way that the possibility of handicap is removed. The operation is successful and meanwhile Dr. Varma also comes to know of the fact that Roopa is his own daughter only. Due to lack of communication with Rosy and misleading by others, he has been considering Rosy as dead over all these years and married someone else. Now knowing the fact, he requests Roopa to become his daughter and takes her to his home where Roopa is stunned to find that Anju is the daughter of Dr. Varma. Shaarada Devi is hell-bent upon ensuring Anoop’s marriage with Anju only and has hired the services of greedy and wicked Johny and his accomplice, Ravi (Ranjeet). However everything is set right in the end for the noble-hearted Roopa.bhanwar-movie-925667136-435994-1The story of Bhanwar (swirl) has been written quite interestingly by famous Hindi novelist, Gulshan Nanda. He was a master story-teller and that’s why the most successful in the world of Hindi fiction. None could beat his popularity during 1960-1990 and since his stories were easily adaptable for celluloid versions, so many movies were made on his novels. The title – Bhanwar  has been used for the life of the lead character, i.e., Roopa who remains lonely and aggrieved, roaming fast in the water-swirl without any control over her own movements and acts, doomed to drown eventually. All the twists in the story (except the very first one which brings the hero and the heroine together for the first time) are hackneyed and we can always guess what is going to happen next.  Still, the movie is by no means bad for the purpose of entertainment. The viewer also moves alongwith the twists and turns in the life of Roopa knowing very well that everything will eventually turn out just fine for her but the thing is that the movie does not bore him.
This formula-based movie is technically okay. Length is not much because the screenplay writer, Sachin Bhowmick and the director, Bhappi Soni have avoided superfluous incidents (except a small comedy track of Asrani, Aparna Chaudhary and Dhumal) and kept the movie strictly according to the novel. Despite the modest production value, the beautiful locations of Shimla have been captured very well by the cinematographer. Action and choreography aspects are routine.indexR.D. Burman’s music is also not extra-ordinary. However the Christmas party song – Merry Christmas To You is definitely a foot-tapper. It’s a Kishore-Lata duet. One more song also stands out – Rang Le Aayenge Roop Le Aayenge Kaagaz Ke Phool, Khushboo Kahaan Se Laayenge whose not only the composition but also the lyrics (by Anand Bakshi) are quite praiseworthy. This song with a sarcastic tone has been sung by Kishore and Asha.

Randhir Kapoor was in the prime of his career then and he has done well. He had his own charm and that’s why he could play a successful innings as a romantic (and comic) hero for more than a decade. It’s a mystery for me why his successfully running career finished all of a sudden during the eighties. The members of the supporting cast have done what they were expected to do in the assigned roles. Aruna Irani was also highly successful in second lead roles (and also vampish roles) during the seventies and she has done full justice to the role of envious Anju.

All things said and done, this is the movie of Parveen Babi whom I consider as one of the most underrated actresses of Hindi cinema because this lovely lady who possesses the distinction of being the first Indian woman to be featured on the cover page of the Time magazine, is remembered for her beauty and charms only whereas the truth is, she was a proficient actress also. The movie has been set on her shoulders only and she has carried it away successfully from the beginning to the climax.

While recommending this regular Bollywood movie to the movie buffs for a nice timepass, I wish all the readers a merry Christmas, singing the song of this movie – Karo Baaten, Mulaaqaaten, Aisi Raaten Jaagi Jaagi, Soye Soye Khoye Khoye Main Aur Tu, Merry Christmas To You, Merry Christmas To You …

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Is life in a metro like this ? Oh no !

This is a long overdue movie review because my friend and well-wisher Geetashree Chatterjee who is an extraordinary reviewer in her own right (in addition to being an outstanding authoress and poetess) had made a friendly request to me to review this movie many years back (she herself must have forgotten about it by now) but somehow I could not do it. Well, better late than never. Hence here comes the review of Life In A … Metro (2007) which is a Hindi movie directed by Anurag Basu.

Anurag Basu is definitely a good director but like many other good directors, he lacks originality and hence lifts not only stories but also scenes from various (mostly Hollywood) movies. Life In A … Metro is no exception but he has executed the idea fairly well. The movie is overall a good one which impresses to a great extent. All the same, it is to be admitted that director Basu has not done complete justice to the stuff at his hand.

The movie contains many stories running parallel to one another (total four) and every character of every story is related to at least one of the characters of some other story. The stories (and their characters) cross path at some point after the interval. There are total four such tracks. The first one is of the married couple of Kay Kay Menon and Shilpa Shetty who are having a baby out of their wedlock. Theirs is not a happy wedded life as Kay Kay is an infidel husband and is having an affair with a girl working in his company (Kangana Ranaut). A sincere youth Sharman Joshi also works in the same company and loves Kangana in his heart. Thus both these youths are bossed by Kay Kay who exploits them and they willingly get exploited for the sake of their respective careers. Kangana allows Kay Kay to use her body (without any emotional connect between them) whereas Sharman provides the key of his flat to Kay Kay to carry on with his illicit affair with Kangana (despite the fact that he himself is emotionally attached to Kangana). He provides that ‘facility’ to his other colleagues also for making additional income.

On the other hand, Kay Kay’s frustrated but helpless wife Shilpa Shetty happens to come across an artist Shiny Ahuja who is a divorcee. They find each other on the same wavelength in no time and Shiny starts loving Shilpa whereas Shilpa despite liking him, is hesitant to get out of her wedlock. Kay Kay is a chauvinist who maintains double standards. He is unapologetically having an affair with Kangana but is not ready to tolerate Shilpa doing the same (or something similar) in her life. In other words, a lubricious husband Kay Kay wants his wife Shilpa to remain a Sati Saavitri.

The third track belongs to an elderly duo – Dharmendra and Nafisa Ali. Dharmendra had dumped his love for the sake of his career but realized his mistake in the twilight zone of his life and he comes to India from abroad for the sake of his old (and still existing) love for Nafisa who is now awaiting her death in an old age home. They decide to live together in that ending phase of their life but death does them apart when Nafisa passes away in their night of physical togetherness. Thus Dharmendra learns the invaluable lesson of life to prefer love and relationship over career and success the hardest way.

The fourth track is of Konkona Sen Sharma and Irrfan who are bachelors while in their thirties. Konkona is Shilpa’s sister and Kangana’s roommate. Her quest for a soulmate (or at least a straight beau) continues until she meets Irrfan. This is a fun-filled track in this otherwise serious movie which, quite naturally, culminates in the union of these two singles who had been ready to mingle for years and years before running into each other.The movie is an entertaining one and the first three tracks strike a chord also in the viewer’s heart (though it’s the fourth track only which finally makes him feel better) in the pre-interval session. However the post-interval session lets the viewer down to some extent if not fully. The stories do not move ahead properly and the characters do not behave in a natural manner in the narrative which appears to lose the right track after the interval point. Dragging begins and a feeling starts coming to the viewer that now the narrator has to end these stories (and the movie) anyhow, convincingly or unconvincingly. Anurag Basu has made silly errors of milieu also which can be caught by any attentive viewer.

The career-oriented youths in the (metro) cities are ready to do anything and pay any cost without having any moral issues to rise (materialistically) in life as per the vision of the director. Well, I have also spent time in metropolitan cities but not sure whether this is a universal truth. And even if we get ready to consider it a universal truth, it is not and cannot be specific for the metros. The same must be true for the working life of the youths in small towns also. The director has not been successful in selling this idea to the audience despite hard-hitting scenes and dialogues. By default perhaps, the director has depicted almost all the characters as trying to make peace with themselves and resolve their inner conflicts. But that’s also a reality which cannot be confined to metro cities only.

Male-chauvinism is a reality whether in a metro or in a small town or in a village but why should a well-educated and cultured lady decide to stay in a stinking wedlock with an infidel and abusive male instead of moving ahead in life with someone who truly understands her, loves her and is ready to shoulder the responsibility of her kid from the failed marriage also ? Shilpa’s bidding goodbye to Shiny in the end and staying back with Kay Kay is hard to digest. Then this is not life in a metro. This is the same slavish mindset of Indian females that has been continuing since the feudalistic age or better say, times immemorial.lifeinametroKonkona-Irrfan track is a rom-com and provides relief moments in the movie. This track only can be said to end on a happy note, not the other three ones though Kangana accepts Sharman’s love and ends her illicit affair with her boss, i.e., Kay Kay (who has no need now to give the key of his flat to his boss as he himself can ‘use’ it). Nafisa’s death makes the viewer sad but at the same he is also made to feel that it was quite unnecessary. When the movie ends, it renders a feeling to have watched an interesting and a fairly good movie but not something extraordinary or outstanding or even highly laudable.

The performances are the best part of this product. All the actors have risen above the script and rendered credibility to their characters. Actors like Konkona and Irrfan who are better known for their intense performances, have surprised with their brilliant comic timing. All others are also completely natural and highly impressive in their respective roles. The movie would have been a disaster had the performances not been up to the mark. However the director has shortchanged a talented actor like Shiny Ahuja by giving him much less footage than deserved by him as well as his role.

Pritam’s music is definitely good and any music-lover will appreciate it. However the way the songs are positioned with the flow of the narrative (while being shown as sung by a threesome having nothing to do with the plot of the movie) is unique which may appeal to someone and may appear weird to someone else.

As asserted in the beginning of this review, the writer-director Anurag Basu has lifted story and sequences from many movies. Still he could not make a movie which could be called an outstanding one (after a few years, he achieved this feat with Barfi). In his view, selling (and buying) of sexual favours and doing (or abetting) immoral things for material gain culminating in illicit relationships is a norm in metro cities and not fidelity, sincerity and truthfulness in male-female relationships as well as restricting needs and desires to one’s means. I am finding it hard to accept. Exceptions do not form the rule Mr. Basu.

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