Cinema is the art to make believe

Today is the birthday of Bipasha Basu who is my favourite heroine from the contemporary cinema. I dedicate this review to herself. Many many happy returns of the day Bipasha.

Cinema is said to be the art of storytelling. But I assert that it is ‘the art to make believe’, i.e., the art of making the viewers believe whatever is shown on the screen and letting it go down their throats even when it is not real. Dum Maaro Dum (2011) may be quoted as a classic example of it in the times to come.

During the seventies, Salim-Javed used to write the scripts of crime-thrillers which were actually the stories of cat and mouse game between the police and the criminals. They were skilled in drafting such spellbinding screenplays (according to the standards of that period) full of blows and retaliations between the two rival sides, thrilling action, witty dialogues with some dose of emotions and romance just equal to the quantum of salt in the recipe of the pulse being cooked and they were paced so fast that the viewer hardly got any time to think anything about the characters or the story, who was made to watch the movie without a blink and holding his breath. Salim-Javed wrote the stories of the movies of Ramesh Sippy too during that period whose son, Rohan Sippy has come up with this movie and this movie falls under the same genre of movies, a mesmerizing thriller with an element of suspense too. And it is the screenplay of this movie which makes it a winner all the way through its duration of around 130 minutes. Such type of movies made Amitabh Bachchan a superstar during the seventies and now perhaps, it’s the turn of his son, Abhishek.

Dum Maaro Dum, as the name suggests, deals with the illegal business of narcotic drugs with the backdrop of Goa. In between the investigating adventures of the supercop, Abhishek Bachchan; a name is tossed as the main criminal behind all this illegal trade but who is this person, remains a suspense till the climax and myself (being proud of my success in guessing the real culprit most of the times whenever I watch or read a mystery) could not identify him till the storyteller himself revealed the suspense. And that’s a great achievement of the narrator, I must admit.The screenplay itself is the hero which rules over all the characters including the investigating cop, Abhishek Bachchan. The pace of the narrative is fast enough to keep the viewers glued to the screen and not missing a single moment of the movie. For the thriller fans, it’s a very big treat indeed.

Technically the movie is good and the cinematographer has done a praiseworthy job in not only capturing the beauty of Goa but also moving his camera quite skillfully amidst light, semi-dark and dark sequences. The action scenes are well-picturized and the dialogues are also quite impressive. The production value aspect is also up to the mark. Length of the movie could be trimmed by a few minutes in the second half but still the overall length of the movie is quite okay. The first half is more engrossing than the second one though the suspense deepens in the second half only.

Music is quite in line with the mood of the movie and according to the scenes running on the screen alongwith the background score. However had Rohan Sippy managed a fresh song instead of the remix of the old hit – Dum Maaro Dum from the movie Hare Rama Hare Krishna (1971), it would have been better on his part because neither the remix version nor Deepika Padukone is any match for the original track in Asha’s voice or Zeenat Aman for the on-screen performance. Despite being the title track, it is the most unimpressive one (both the song as well as the scene) in the movie.Rohan Sippy has extracted highly satisfactory performances from most of the performers. I count Abhishek Bachchan’s performance as one among his five best performances till date. All others also fit the bill and almost every principle characters is able to maintain his / her identity in the movie for which the writers and the director deserve a pat. Rana Daggubati and Prateek Babbar stand out among others. The movie stars two of my most favourite actresses – Bipasha Basu (today’s birthday babe) and Vidya Balan (she impresses in a cameo too), however the movie mainly belongs to the male cast.I had written this review after returning from the theatre with my wife (on 24.04.2011) who watches a movie with me in theatre once in a blue moon only. Despite not being very fond of thrillers or mysteries, she had liked the movie very well. The movie had proved so engrossing for her that she did not talk much to me during the watch which is unusual for her.

It’s not a classic movie but a very very entertaining thriller. I don’t know whether such type of activities and such type of scenario prevail in Goa or not (where I visited on the Christmas of 2009) but Rohan Sippy has been able to make me believe whatever he has portrayed in Dum Maaro Dum.

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The touching story of a noble Christian girl

Bollywood has presented several memorable Christian characters in different movies. Who can forget Mrs. D’sa of Anari (1959) ? However full-fledged movies on the life of the Christians in India have been very few. Today while wishing all of my friends a merry Christmas, I am reviewing a memorable Hindi movie based on the story of a Christian girl and titled after her name only. It’s Julie (1975) which is now considered a classic.

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The story belongs to a very noble and simple Christian girl in the title role who is, in fact, an Anglo-Indian, living with her alcoholic father and a stern and stubborn mother. She also has a younger sister and brother. She falls in love with the brother of her best friend, Shashi who is a Hindu (Bengali Brahmin). Once given her heart to him, she gets physically intimate with him and becomes pregnant. However her lover is proved to be a coward and instead of standing by her, he flees from the town. Julie’s mother does not want her to marry a non-Christian and is willing to marry her to a known Christian boy, Richard (who loves Julie). Lonely and suffocating within her, Julie suffers everything alone but when her mother decides to send her newly born baby to an orphanage and gets ready to leave India forever, the agony becomes just too much for her. Still she is not offensive or complaining to anyone except her fate. However, Shashi’s father who is a mature person, comes to know of the facts and sets everything right for her.julie-original-motion-picture-soundtrack-various-artists-1975-rawmusic-inThe story is much more touching and appealing on the screen as compared with the plot described supra. The director, K.S. Sethumadhavan and the screenplay writer, Chakrapani have ably presented the story of the Malayalam novel penned by Pamman which has been adapted for the movie. The innocence and noble-heartedness of Julie is the biggest strength of this movie. Julie has loved Shashi from the core of her heart and despite himself ditching her, she has no issues against either himself or anyone else. She is such a golden-hearted girl who is ready to suffer herself to any extent but not ready to hurt anybody else. She forgives anybody and everybody. The romantic encounters of Julie and Shashi, the character of Julie’s best friend and Shashi’s sister Usha and finally the performance of Shashi’s father in the climax, everything is impressive and heart-warming. The audience effortlessly start sympathizing with Julie while flowing with the narrative and that’s the achievement of the moviemaker.julie-1975The title role has been played by Kannada actress Lakshmi who had played the same role in the Malayalam movie – Chattakkari (1974) made on this novel prior to doing the Hindi version. She has delivered a towering performance less through her dialogues, more through her eyes and body-language. Her innocent beauty has added to the strength of her performance. Dashing hero, Vikram as the coward and weak-hearted lover of Julie is also admirable. However even better performances have been delivered by Utpal Dutt as Shashi’s father, Rita Bhaduri as Usha and above all, Nadira as Julie’s domineering mother. Jalal Agha as Richard, Sridevi (being child artist) as Julie’s sister and Om Prakash as her alcoholic father have also done well.

Julie is a rare movie made on the life of the Anglo-Indians and the portrayal is quite lively and realistic. The storyteller has not allowed any type of lethargy to creep in the emotional story and maintained the momentum in the drama running on the screen. Technically and production value wise also, it is up to the mark. The only thing I did not like is the subtle bias against the community being shown vis-a-vis the Hindus (however it can’t be picked up at a glance).

Rajesh Roshan has composed memorable music for the lyrics of Anand Bakshi. My favourite song from this movie is – Ye Raatein Nayi Purani (Lata). Other songs – Bhool Gaya Sab Kuchh (Kishore-Lata), Dil Kya Kare Jab Kisi Se Kisi Ko Pyar Ho Jaaye (Kishore) and the English song – My Heart Is Beating (Preeti Sagar) are also memorable and people still listen to them in a nostalgic way.index1Julie definitely deserves to be considered a classic movie on the life of the Anglo-Indians. An utterly human story which cannot be forgotten easily. Very touching indeed which haunts long after it is over. If you like emotional and romantic musicals, then don’t miss to meet Julie.

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The Kakori Conspiracy : The Light-House of Indian Secular Patriotism

Today is the martyrdom day of three great patriots – Pandit Ramprasad Bismil who was executed in the Gorakhpur jail, Ashfaqullah Khan who was executed in the Faizabad jail and Thakur Roshan Singh who was executed in the Allahabad jail on on 19.12.1927. Their close associate – Rajendra Lahiri had been executed in Gonda jail a couple of days back on 17.12.1927. These patriots were sent to the gallows under the charge of executing the Kakori Conspiracy on 09.08.1925.hqdefaultThe Kakori Conspiracy is a golden chapter of the Indian freedom struggle in which the violent revolutionaries led by the great patriot – Chandra Shekhar Aazaad looted the govt. treasury at a place called Kakori (about 14 miles from Lucknow) in the night of 9th August, 1925. It cannot be a small coincidence that the flag-bearer of Gandhi-led congress party decided to start its Quit India Movement on 9th August itself in 1942. The revolutionaries had done so because to carry out their nationalist activities, they needed money and they did not want to harass their own countrymen for that. Hence they decided to loot the British govt. itself which had been looting this great nation for more than one and a half centuries.

All the revolutionaries involved in the Kakori Conspiracy were well-educated ones. And their joint action was a symbol of India’s secular tradition too because Pandit Ram Prasad Bismil and Ashfaqullah Khan rubbed their shoulders to take on the mighty British for the cause of the motherland. The issue of who was a Hindu and who was a Muslim was not important for them. They were Indians first and to liberate Mother India from the shackles of slavery was the only mission before them which was above all the differences including the religion.

The revolutionaries, despite their violent path, were so human that they did not kill a known Railway employee who stumbled upon them when they were carrying out their plan. He had promised them to tell nothing to the police but he did exactly the same under the greed of reward. On his information only, the revolutionaries were caught later (except the mastermind, i.e., Chandra Shekhar Aazaad). A completely biased trial took place and quite unjustly, four principal revolutionaries were sentenced to death which was bitterly condemned far and wide. But the proud sons of Mother India embraced the noose with a smile on their faces.

It was the secular nationalism and patriotism of dependent India in which there was no place for communalism. The selfish people whose activities led to the partition of this great nation and the inhuman atrocities and elimination forced on millions of innocents, cannot match even the particles of the dust released by the foot-steps of these great martyrs. History never forgave them and will not forgive them in the coming times for the unpardonable sin called the partition of India.bismil-ashfaq-roshan-singh-1068x601I pay my tribute to these great youths (all were in their twenties only) who did not care for even their lives to repay the obligation of the motherland on them. If only the communal-minded people could learn something from them. I end this post with the lines of Ram Prasad Bismil (he was a great poet who had written the song – Sarfaroshi Ki Tamanna) that he had penned before his execution – Marte Bismil Roshan Lahiri Ashfaq Atyachaar Se, Honge Paida Saikadon Inke Rudhir Ki Dhaar Se (Bismil, Roshan, Lahiri and Ashfaq lose their lives due to oppression but the stream of their blood will produce hundreds like them).

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Mysterious murder of a mystery writer

Mystery writing is an art mastered by certain people whether they use original ideas or plagiarize others’ ideas but it’s by no means an easy job. Those who are able to pen enthralling murder mysteries become quite popular in the world of readers. I don’t think that any such author (or authoress) is able to think of his / her own murder even in the wildest of his / her dreams. However today I am reviewing a novel which contains the mystery of the murder of a person who himself is a mystery writer by profession. Eminent Hindi mystery writer Surendra Mohan Pathak has penned this novel under his Sunil Series. The title of the novel is Front Page.

Front Page contains the mystery of the murder of an eminent mystery and thriller writer Ram Faujdaar who pens novels in Hindi in the style of Sidney Sheldon. He is a bachelor but has fostered his niece Soni like his daughter only. Soni’s late father has made such a will that she will be able to inherit his property only when she marries a suitable boy chosen by her uncle, i.e., Ram Faujdaar for her. But she is in love with a boy Shashank Saalvi who is considered as unworthy for her by Ram Faujdaar. Shashank has been arrested twice by the police, first time under the charge of raping a Sweedish tourist lady and second time under the charge of shoplifting. His sister Shobhna Saalvi is a known dope-addict and is said to be having an illicit relationship with a famous (as well as notorious) self-proclaimed godman – Rangaswamy. Their parents are no less in the eyes of Ram Faujdaar. Father Shivnaath Saalvi has gone bankrupt in his business of printing paper and now functions through a silent partner whereas mother Suman Saalvi used to perform full nude cabaret in the pre-marital period of her life. Quite naturally, Ram Faujdaar is not at all ready to allow his niece to tie the sacred knot with a boy like Shashank.

Otherwise also, there is no love lost between Ram Faujdaar and the Saalvis. Faujdaar is currently busy in penning a novel titled as Dozakh Ke Keede (the insects of hell) in which he is said to have created many characters like the Saalvi family plus a colourful occultist who terms himself as a godman but is actually involved in lascivious and immoral activities. This information has reached the Saalvis because Shivnaath Saalvi is the supplier of printing paper to Faujdaar’s publisher Alakhnaath Paandey and it has, but natural, further aggravated the hatred and tension in the hearts of the Saalvis towards Ram Faujdaar. Ram Faujdaar as well as his secretary Subroto Majoomdaar is concerned about the reaction to be faced after the publication of this novel less from the side of the Saalvis and more from the side of Rangaswamy who is having strong political connections in addition to the huge band of his followers.

And then Ram Faujdaar gets murdered in his felicitation function itself arranged by his publisher Alakhnaath Paandey at his residence-cum-office. He is shot dead when the function is underway and he is addressing the audience from the dais. The hero of this novel – crime reporter Sunil Kumar Chakravarty and his close Punjabi friend Ramakaant Malhotra are also present in the function and they are surprised to see that though Faujdaar has been shot dead, there is no apparent movement pertaining to his shooting and the murderer seems to have vanished in thin air just after shooting. Now investigation of the hero proceeds on the line parallel to that of the police. The mystery gets intensified when the investigating officer is also found as shot dead in the premises itself. Finally, our journalist hero is able to unearth the whole mystery and unmask the murderer.

The title of this novel has nothing to do with its story. This title has been kept only because of the profession of the hero who is a journalist and works on full time basis for a national daily – Blast which is published from the fictitious city of Rajnagar (created by the author for this series of his). Anyway, the novel is damn interesting right from the start to the finish. The curiosity of the reader has been maintained throughout the narrative and with ample doses of humour, the novel has been rendered a high entertainment value by its author, i.e., Surendra Mohan Pathak.

The author has very skillfully developed the character of the murder victim who is a sensitive person within his heart though he maintains a stern persona while dealing with others. He wants his niece to follow the right path and be able to differentiate between true love and fake love before choosing her life-partner. He does not want to come in the way of her joys but she misunderstands him because of her lack of maturity. Another character that stands out due to the author’s efforts is that of Subroto Majoomdaar who is the author’s secretary and has been hand-in-glove with his employer in his lifetime.

The author has also highlighted the life and activities of the self-proclaimed godmen through the character of Rangaswamy. When this novel was written (first published in 1988), a well-known self-proclaimed godman (Chandraswamy) used to remain in the news headlines. He had strong presence in the corridors of Indian politics also and that’s why the readers of this novel (in that period) were able to contrast the fictitious character of Rangaswamy with the real life character of Chandraswamy.

Written in spicy Hindi, the novel keeps the reader hooked for more than 200 pages. Though I feel that a reader who regularly reads murder mysteries can guess the identity of the murderer through deductive reasoning, this fact does not dilute the quality of the book.96-Front Page-2Front Page is an engrossing murder mystery and underscores that ‘truth is stranger than fiction’. A mystery writer himself can be murdered in a mysterious fashion and that real mystery may be more intricate than the fictional mysteries penned by him.

I wholeheartedly recommend Front Page to all the mystery fans who can read Hindi.

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One of Nana’s best movies

Ghulam-e-Mustafa (1997) can undoubtedly be counted among the best movies done by Nana Patekar. This is also one of the better works of the director, Partho Ghosh. The movie has a great deal of emotions and touches the viewer at many places. It not only entertains, but also gives good messages of communal harmony and crime never pays.indexAs the name suggests, the story belongs to Ghulam-e-Mustafa (originally the name of the movie was kept Mustafa but due to opposition of certain religious groups, it was changed to Ghulam-e-Mustafa) who is the henchman and right hand of Saanta Prasad (known as Abba among his man and in the underworld). Abba had adopted and fostered him and hence he feels himself as indebted to him for life, doing anything he wants Mustafa to do without giving any thought to its propriety or ethical aspect. He comes in contact with a teacher Kavita who loves him to the extent of becoming his wife despite knowing everything about his past, present and of course, future, without any regrets. But when she is killed in an attempt on Mustafa’s life by his enemies (say the enemies of Abba), Mustafa’s profound grief proves to be an eye-opener for him. He realizes that the violence in which he has been involved for years in the name of Abba’s work, considering it as his duty, is nothing more than an outright futile and condemnable phenomena which has made him guilty of taking innocent lives. The pain of losing his own beloved makes him empathize with the pain of his victims. A thoroughly changed Mustafa leaves the path of violence and Abba’s house too. Abba loves him so much that he realizes his pain and consequential change in him and therefore lets him go his new way.Mustafa now finds his way leading to the house of Dayanand Dixit, an honest govt. officer, unreasonably trapped by an anti-corruption officer and sentenced to imprisonment resulting in the plight of his family containing his wife, son and daughter. Mustafa enters the pain-stricken house of this Hindu Brahman family as a trespasser and imposes himself upon the family members who initially hate him but with the passage of time come to realise that he has come to their house to play the messiah for them. He saves them from all their enemies including the corrupt anti-corruption officer who has his lustful eye on Dixit’s daughter. However the main problem is monetary hardship and the honour of the family. He gets an opportunity to solve this problem by making a deal with Abba who wants the services of his beloved ex-henchman back to reap the electoral harvest by unlawful means for a particular political party. Mustafa agrees to do the wrong thing for the last time in his life in lieu of release of Dixit from jail and his exoneration from the false charges levied upon him as well as a job for Dixit’s son and monetary help for his daughter’s marriage. However he conveys in good faith to Abba that he will surrender to the authorities for his past crimes after the objectives of Abba as well as himself are fulfilled. This communication leads to the unexpected climax of the movie when Mustafa is shot dead by his loving Abba himself to prevent him from arrest and abolish any possibility of exposure of Abba and the politician, Abba is working for.Ghulam-e-Mustafa is a movie in which Nana Patekar shows the depth of his acting talent in the simplest manner. He is an actor par excellence and Ghulam-e-Mustafa demonstrates why he has such a huge fan following. Raveena Tandon as Kavita is very charming and impressive. She has done a good job despite less footage given to her. The supporting cast has also done excellently including the villains. Paresh Rawal has acted a difficult character of Nana’s mentor who loves him by heart but compelled to eliminate him due to his illegal profession’s requirements, proving once more that he is a highly versatile actor who can infuse life into any type of positive or negative character. In Ghulam-e-Mustafa, Paresh’s character is neither positive nor fully negative, it is a character with grey shades whose activities are apparently contradictory, yet quite logical. Among other cast, special mention is needed for Shivaji Satam as Dayanand Dixit and Aruna Irani as his wife, Bhagyalakshmi Dixit who have acted their roles with the highest level of sensitivity and naturalness.Rajesh Roshan’s music is not great but very very touching. The songs may not have been chartbusters but their melody and meaningfulness can be easily felt while listening. Lovers of emotional songs should definitely listen to ‘Tera Gham, Mera Gham, Ek Jaisa Sanam‘ penned by Anand Bakshi and sung beautifully by Kavita Krishnamurthy and Hariharan.

The other aspects of production are also satisfactory. The storyteller has been successful in keeping the viewers glued to their seats throughout the movie and he never lets them down at any point during the narration. Many scenes compel the viewers to clap. Mustafa’s refusing the non-vegetarian food sent for him by Abba to respect the sentiments of the Dixit family is an example.nana-patekar-muslim-role-ghulam-e-mustafa-movie-dialogue-640x640Movies like Ghulam-e-Mustafa are like an oasis in desert in these times of communal hatred and biases. Ghulam-e-Mustafa had come much prior to the fateful 9/11. However its relevance can be felt when watched even today. The movie carries both the entertainment value and the inspirational value in good quantum. It shows that anybody can be a good human-being or become a good human-being at any time in his or her life, irrespective of his or her religious identification.

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Ye Kya Jagah Hai Doston, Ye Kaun Sa Dayaar Hai . . .

Umrao Jaan (1981) is based on the novel –  ‘Umrao Jaan Ada’ of Mirza Mohammad Haadi Ruswa. I happened to watch the movie first and read the novel later. And undoubtedly, director Muzaffar Ali’s cinematic version of the story originally written in the nineteenth century and said to be the true story of a true character, is better than the written work which I am reviewing now.umrao-jaan-1981-bollywood-925024224-435994-1The story belongs to the Tawaif (courtesan) Umrao Jaan who was born at Faizabaad as Ameeran. After getting kidnapped and sold to a Kotha (brothel) in Lucknow, she grows up and becomes famous among the rich and the elite because of her Shaayari (Urdu poetry) sung in her melodious voice and coupled with her enchanting dances. However she finds almost everybody around him as greedy for her earnings and she continue to move through her journey of life with a sense of complete loneliness within her. Certain males enter her life and raise false hopes in her heart for being able to live a normal married life containing a loving husband, social acceptance and motherhood but finally, she finds that loneliness only is her destiny.indexTaking the story from the said novel, producer-director Muzaffar Ali himself has written the screenplay and dialogues of this movie in association with Shama Zaidi and Javed Siddiqui. This script has been written quite crisply without giving undue footage to anything and not allowing the focus to divert from the principal character and her woes. The narrative with the gloom and loneliness of the principal character prevalent in every moment of it, moves at a reasonable pace without allowing any laxity or boredom to creep in. The audience is not only kept engaged in the narrative and glued to the screen for more than two hours but also made to feel the pain, the feelings and the stuffiness of the pivotal character. It is a very impressive movie, no doubt.index1The ending scene is just superb in which Umrao Jaan wipes the mirror to see her face in that. It’s an example of sheer brilliance on the part of the filmmaker who conveys the permanent sense of loneliness in the courtesan to the audience leaving the theatre without any spoon-feeding. Anybody who has watched this movie on the big screen must have left the theatre with a throbbing in his / her heart.

Umrao Jaan can be termed as pain-filled poetry written on celluloid. It stirs, moves, pinches and brings tears to eyes. It’s a journey made by the spectator alongwith the courtesan known as Umrao Jaan. Within a few minutes, the narrative envelops the viewer and makes him a part of the unusual story of the protagonist being told to him.

The art director has brought the period of the 19th century alive on the screen. The complete milieu including the architecture, the dialect, the clothes, the style of living etc. are authentic. The cinematographer has also left no stone unturned from his side in this regard and thus a realistic account of that era is presented to the audience who also happen to witness the turbulence due to the Gadar or the mutiny of 1857 by a section of the Indians against the British rule.

Rekha quite deservingly won the national award for the best actress for the title role played by her in this movie (though Jennifer Kendal Kapoor was a stronger contender for that award for that year for her performance in 36 Chowringhee Lane). Rekha does not seem to be acting, she appears to be actually living the life of Umrao Jaan. Originally a Tamil, this talented actress has portrayed the Urdu speaking Shaayara cum Tawaif in an amazing manner.

Farooq Sheikh as Umrao Jaan’s lover and all the other characters have also done exceedingly well. Even the small characters of Maulvi Saheb (Gajanan Jaagirdar) and Bismillah (Prema Narayan) are able to leave their imprint in the movie. The romance between Farooq and Rekha is so delicate that the audience can’t help falling in love with them and their relationship.

Khayyam has composed immortal music with the great Shaayari of Shahryar for this movie. All the ghazals and nazms are so touching that any lover of music and Shaayari can keep on listening to them again and again. Dil Cheez Kya Hai Aap Meri Jaan LeejiyeIn Aankhon Ki Masti Ke Mastaane Hazaaron HainZindagi Jab Bhi Teri Bazm Mein Laati Hai HamenJustujoo Jiski Thi Usko To Na Paaya Humne etc. are heart-conquerors. Most of these are gems in the voice of Asha Bhosle whereas Zindagi Jab Bhi Teri Bazm Mein Laati Hai Hamen is a memorable ghazal of Talat Aziz. The album contains a couple of folk songs also and a classic song authored by Amir Khusro. However the pain-soaked ghazal (which is placed at the end of the movie) which always brings a flood of tears in my eyes is – Ye Kya Jagah Hai Doston, Ye Kaun Sa Dayaar Hai, Hadd-e-Nigaah Tak Jahaan Gubaar Hi Gubaar Hai. It underscores the pain of Umrao or Ameeran on one side and her mother’s pain on the other side who is not able to embrace her long separated daughter because of social restrictions (as her daughter is now known as a courtesan).

Umrao Jaan is a true classic. A masterpiece. It was remade by J.P. Dutta in 2006 by taking Aishwarya Rai in the title role. Though I found J.P. Dutta’s movie as closer to the novel of Mirza Haadi Ruswa, it lacked the soul of the story. If anybody wants to meet the real Umrao Jaan that used to exist some 150 years ago, then this movie only is the perfect choice for him / her.

Shaukat Azmi (or Shaukat Kaifi) who has played the role of Khaanam in this movie, passed away on 22.11.2019. This review is a tribute to that great theatre and film personality better known as Shaukat Aapa in the literary and art-world.

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Thuggery in gambling with a hidden motive

Gambling is a vice, no doubt. However, speaking philosophically, sometimes the whole life appears to be a kind of gamble only. Gambling is illegal in India (though the government itself runs certain kinds of gambling in our country) but habitual gamblers are seldom able to forbear from gambling. And those who are professional gamblers or have seen professional gambling closely, know very well that dishonesty is the best policy considered here. Cheating appears to be a standard rule of the game may it be the gambling through cards or roulette wheel or the like wise. Normally, the motive of such a cheating by the gamblers or the people running the game, is to loot certain person or persons. However more than four decades back, Hindi novelist Surendra Mohan Pathak had written a novel which tells a story of cheating in gambling (through cards) apparently to loot a wealthy person who is fond of gambling but actually with a hidden motive which is much bigger than the visible motive of making easy money. This very interesting novel is Khoon Ka Khel (bloody game) which is the 62nd venture of Sunil, the popular journalist hero created by Surendra Mohan Pathak.

Khoon Ka Khel tells the story of Girdhaarilaal who himself is modestly educated but runs a high profile and reputed scientific research institute. He is fond of gambling and gets trapped by a gang who conducts gambling sessions just for his sake only. Girdhaarlilaal does not know that all the gamblers playing with him are in collusion against him and the sole objective of such sessions is to loot him. He keeps on losing money everyday in such dishonestly played games in which all the tricks of the trade are applied to empty his pocket. His young wife Neelima gets concerned by her husband’s continuously losing money in such gambling sessions which are always conducted at new venues, different from the earlier ones. She approaches the hero of this novel Sunil Kumar Chakravarty who is an investigative journalist and works for a national daily – Blast which is published from the fictitious metropolitan city of Rajnagar. The thing which is not known about Sunil is that he is also associated with Special Intelligence, a branch of the Central Investigation Bureau whose director is Colonel Mukherjee.

Neelima requests Sunil to stop her husband from gambling. Sunil first considers it an impractical thing because Girdhaarilaal is an adult, experienced person who must be knowing what’s in his interest and what not. However the people of the gang who is after Girdhaarlilaal’s wealth, consider Neelima’s approaching Sunil as a threat to their big mission which this gambling is only a part of. To threaten Sunil and keeping him at bay from them, they destroy his beloved motorbike. Now Sunil who was earlier not interested in helping Neelima, decides not only to reach the root of the whole issue but also teach the destroyers of his motorbike a lesson. He approaches Girdhaarilaal and joins one gambling session with him as his guest. Sunil’s friend Ramakant who runs a club titled as Youth Club, is a seasoned gambler and he enlightens Sunil regarding several tricks of this trade. Equipped with this knowledge, Sunil is able to catch many tricks applied by the members of the gang against Girdhaarilaal during that session. Besides the attitude and behaviour of those so-called gamblers, compels him to think that there’s some much bigger motive behind this dishonesty in gambling with Girdhaarilaal.

Later Sunil advises Girdhaarilaal to get out of this regular gambling activity of his and the company of those so-called gamblers and furnishes the details of the cheating being regularly done with him with evidences. However Girdhaarilaal does not listen to him. He, instead, makes up his mind to recover the money looted from him. The same night, he’s murdered and when the murder was taking place, Sunil was in Neelima’s company in a hotel. Naturally, both become suspects in the eyes of the police and get arrested. However after his release from the police custody, Sunil deeply investigates the whole thing and comes to know the real motive behind that dishonest gambling. Now it dawns upon him that whatever was known earlier, is only the tip of the iceberg and there’s a large conspiracy taking place against the nation. How Sunil, with the help of Colonel Mukherjee and a CIB officer – Jagatwaani, is able to fail the mission of the enemies of India, forms the climax of the novel. In the end, he also finds out the person who had destroyed his motorbike and teaches him an unforgettable lesson.

This very interesting novel first published during the time of internal emergency in India, is the only novel under the popular Sunil Series of the author in which the hero is present in both the personas of himself – a journalist and a spy. On one hand, he is a journalist, on the other he also works in association with a secret government department meant to protect the country from external threats. After this novel, Sunil never came before the readers as a spy.

The author has portrayed the hero as a normal human-being who possesses the human weaknesses like grudge and desire to settle scores. He does not follow the principle of forgive and forget. His love for his motorbike is natural as many people (including me) have that kind of attachment with the vehicles they drive. And therefore, his deciding to teach the destroyer of his motorbike a lesson, is also understandable. He admits that he does not believe in the noble philosophy of giving flowers in return for stones. His heart gets respite only when he has caused more damage to the person who has harmed him.

The author has also highlighted through a character of the story how communal riots are provoked by unscrupulous people in India who play with innocent lives for the sake of their vested interest. Finally it depends upon the commonfolk only to identify such traitors and save themselves from getting trapped into their conspiracy.

The narrative of this novel moves very fast and the novelty of the theme makes it different from the run-of-the-mill murder mysteries. Written with witty dialogs, the chain of events shown in the novel don’t allow the reader to pause and think. Despite being a very old novel, the story does not appear to be stale from any angle.

Khoon Ka Khel may not be easily available to read as its last edition had come long long back. However if any Hindi reader is able to find a copy and read it, he / she will immensely enjoy it.

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