Land of Charbhujanath, Atomic Power and Shreya

While serving Nuclear Power Corporation of India, I got transferred from Tarapur Atomic Power Station in Maharashtra to Rajasthan Atomic Power Station in 2001. Just the next day to Makar Sankranti, on 15th January, 2001, I stepped on the land of Rawatbhata for the first time in the morning hours after covering some 50 kilometres distance from Kota by bus. I spent around six and half years there and left finally in July 2007 due to changing job and shifting to Delhi.

This moderately populated town with some small villages adjacent to it, is mostly known for atomic power generation. It is the biggest atomic power generation site in India with 8 units. Rana Pratap Sagar Dam (on Chambal river) is situated there for the support in power generation activity. Since the power is generated through nuclear fission process, a heavy water plant is also situated there because heavy water is used as the moderator for the process. Due to radiation, the atomic power generation site has been kept more than 10 kilometres away from the residential area. There are many colonies situated together (except the Vikram Nagar colony which is on the other side of the Rana Pratap Saagar Dam) and because of the affiliation to atom, the word ANU has been prefixed to the names of most of the colonies.Rawatbhata is an eye-soothing scenic beauty in the rainy season. Many small seasonal falls start, picnic spots prop up like anything and greenery appears in abundance. Since it is better to approach Rawatbhata via Kota (though it is approachable from Udaipur and Chittorgarh too), one can visit Gapernath Mahadev which is a very old Shiva temple with a small waterfall there whose water falls on the temple itself. But the important thing is that it is at a point more than 100 metres deep from the Earth level and the visitors have to step down through the natural stairs which are quite high.

Once having reached Rawatbhata, the visitor can go to Pahadajhar Mahadev too which is some 10 kilometres away. It is a beautiful place with an ancient Shiva temple near a natural water body.Just one kilometre away from Rawatbhata is the hundreds of years old Baroli temple (since 9th century A.D.) which is a must visit place for the people interested in places of archaeological importance.A few kilometres away is Bhainsroadgarh fort. On route to Bhainsroadgarh, the scenic beauty of water on both sides of the road is also a pleasure to see and feel. That area is the Sentab Colony area. However the main attraction in Rawatbhata is Rana Pratap Sagar Dam. Photography is prohibited there and the vehicles cannot be stopped on the dam (which joins the Vikram Nagar colony of RAPS with the town). However it’s a joy to visit this dam and sometimes when due to heavy rainfall, the Dam brims with water, its gates are opened to allow excess water to flow out which provides a heart-conquering scene of overflow (called Chaadar Chalna in local lingo). After crossing it and passing by the Vikram Nagar colony area, the visitor can reach another beautiful dam called the Saddle Dam. In Vikram Nagar, near to the RAPS Guest House, the visitor can see a huge statue of Maharana Pratap on his famous horse – Chetak.One more picnic spot is just a few kilometres away which is known as Kaala Khet (black farm). It is a private property and for going there, the permission of the owners has to be sought.

In the atomic power plant, outsiders are normally not allowed until and unless they are the plant’s materials suppliers or contractors. However when I was there, a system of allowing employees’ families and guests on Saturday afternoon prevailed.

On the way to the atomic power site, in the village Charbhuja, there is the famous temple of Charbhujanath. Though it is not a fabulous or grandiose one, it bears the fame and religious importance. Devotees would like to visit there for sure. I still remember visiting this place alongwith the nearby Ram temple. However I miss my visit to the small Saibaba temple on the road moving towards the plant where I always got peace of mind. I was also a frequent visitor to the Hanuman temple situated near the Baalaram Chauraha at the heart of the town. One more beautiful Shiva temple – Mukteshwar Mahadev Temple is situated in the Anu Kiran Colony (where I resided for six and a half years in two different residential quarters).Rawatbhata is not just natural beauty, over the past few years, it has developed itself (unofficially) as a rich bird sanctuary with birds of several scarce species available here. The Durra wildlife sanctuary is also there between Rawatbhata and Kota though the govt. seems to have done little to attract the tourists to that place. Well, whether human-beings become guests of Rawatbhata or not, birds of empteen number of species have already become. Being a nature-lover, I always cherished the company of flora and fauna (especially birds) there.

Rawatbhata is in the Haadoti region of Rajasthan and culturally it is close to Kota. However administratively it is in the Chittorgarh district of Rajasthan. It does not have a railway station. However anybody can reach Kota (or Udaipur or Chittorgarh) by train and then can easily reach Rawatbhata by road. From Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan, direct bus of Rajasthan Roadways is available for Rawatbhata.

Since it has not been developed by the govt. as a tourist attraction, decent staying facilities are not there. If the visitor is familiar to any employee, he can help him through guest house or other ways. However, the visitor can stay at Kota which is hardly one hour journey by car and then enjoy Rawatbhata and nearby places by hiring a vehicle (or using own vehicle).

One final word about Shreya Ghoshal, the famous playback singer of Bollywood movies. She was brought up at Rawatbhata, spent her complete childhood there only and won the mega final of SA RE GA MA while residing there itself. Her success has stirred up a craze for music in the youngsters of Rawatbhata.It’s been almost a decade since I left Rawatbhata. However my heart is still there. Tourists are welcome to visit this underrated plateau region during the rainy season and the winter.

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A traveller and a belle

Guru Dutt’s assistant and pupil, Raj Khosla seems to have learnt a lot from his senior (who was indeed a Guru). He was given the first opportunity to direct a movie independently by Guru Dutt only in the movie – C.I.D. which was a crime-thriller. However later, Raj Khosla came out of Guru Dutt’s shadow and developed his own style of storytelling. I keep him in high esteem because he gave us memorable and entertaining movies of many genres – mysteries viz. Woh Kaun Thi, Mera Saaya and Anita, friendship-based thriller viz. Dostana (Amitabh-Shatru starrer), love-triangle viz. Prem Kahani and bandits-based stories viz. Kachche Dhaage and Mera Gaon Mera Desh (which was a predecessor to the immortal movie – Sholay). His movies were commercially successful because he was able to read the pulse of the audience.I am reviewing a very interesting movie made by Shashdhar Mukherjee (the real life father of the hero – Joy Mukherjee) and directed by Raj Khosla which is a rare combination of romance and thrill pervading its two halves. This movie is Ek Musafir Ek Hasina (1962).Ek Musafir Ek Hasina (a traveller and a belle) tells a story of a man’s amnesia happening twice in his life which was later repeated in several Bollywood movies. I don’t know the source of the basic grains of this script, however the writer-director, Raj Khosla has been able to present it in a highly impressive and entertaining manner.The main protagonist of the story is a military officer, Lieutenant Ajay Mehra (Joy Mukherjee) who is sent on the Kashmir front in November 1947 to fight the Pakistani invaders disguised as Kabayalis (tribals). He comes across a young bride-to-be who is fleeing for her life after the attack of the Kabaayalis at her marriage venue. While saving her life, he gets himself injured and loses his memory. The girl, Asha (Saadhana) takes care of him, taking the help of a child, Abdulla (Master Aziz ). The hero, not able to remember even his own name, leave aside the other things, soon finds himself in love with the heroine who is hesitant to respond to his advances considering that her marriage has, in the eyes of the world, taken place and socially she is a married woman (though the rites essential for a Hindu marriage through the Vedic system were not completed). She returns to her home and tells her elder uncle (she is an orphan, fostered by uncles and aunts) that neither the marital rites were fully performed, nor the groom and his greedy father are deserving people for her because they had taken her all bridal ornaments and fled away from there, saving their own lives and leaving her at the mercy of the invaders. Then the conscience of the uncle does not allow him to send his beloved niece with her so-called in-laws who are back to his door, demanding that their ‘daughter-in-law’ should be sent with them. When they try to take her away forcefully, the hero, already searching for his beloved, arrives there but the ensuing fight leads to his arrest. He escapes from the police van and moves to Mumbai (then Bombay) in search of his true identity because he had seen the label of a tailoring shop of Bombay on one of his shirts.

Now starts the second half where the hero is not able to reach the desired shop because now it’s been closed and replaced by a hotel but suddenly and unwillingly he gets involved in a clash with some bank robbers who are fleeing away after committing the robbery. This clash results in his another head injury which brings back his lost memory (of his life prior to the first injury) but now another partial amnesia has taken place with him due to which he has lost memory of everything that has happened between these two injuries, i.e., post the first injury and previous to the second injury. The bank robbers are relieved to find that due to this memory loss, the protagonist who now knows that he’s Lieutenant Ajay Mehra of the Indian army, cannot identify them. Still, being habitual criminals, they cannot take any chances. On the other hand, the cousin of Lieutenant Ajay Mehra, who was dreaming to usurp his property, considering him dead on the Kashmir border, is stunned at his return. There is a mysterious woman also in the picture who is linked to both this greedy cousin as well as the ringleader of the robbers. So there is a threat to the hero’s life from more than one side. One more woman who is actually the wife of one of the robbers, also approaches the hero, claiming to be his wife. The web of conspiracy against the hero seems to be getting more and more intricate.

Since his photograph alongwith the interesting tale of his memory loss and regaining the same, has been published in the national newspapers, Asha comes to know about him and she reaches Bombay to check his welfare. But the tragedy is that he has forgotten her too due to this second amnesia. The story reaches its happy ending (the union of the lovers post the arrest of the robbers) after many thrilling moments and twists in the tale.This movie is, in fact, a two-in-one entertainment. While the first half is dedicated to music and romance and studded with melodious and touching songs (composed by O.P. Nayyar and sung by Rafi and Asha Bhosle), the second half is a fast-paced thriller studded with checks and checkmates between the criminals, the hero and the Bombay police. Thus the two halves of the movie render two different types of entertainment to the audience. The second half also contains some songs but of different taste. The gripping narrative does not allow the viewer to take even a single minute break in any of the sessions (pre-interval and post-interval).

Raj Khosla has extracted good performances from the artists though chocolaty hero, Joy Mukherjee was not fit for anger and action (he’s the best bet for romancing). Being a great Saadhana-fan, my opinion about her may be biased but she is not just gorgeous, she has acted well too. Actually a Sindhi, Saadhana completely fits the bill of a Kashmiri girl in the movie. Her trademark hairdo (the famous Saadhana-cut for ladies’ hair) is visible in a few sequences of the movie and a normal hairdo in the remaining part. The complete supporting cast including the child artist – Master Aziz, comedians – Rajendra Nath and Dhumal and the baddies has done its part more or less satisfactorily. There is a dog – Sheru also in the first half of the movie. And in a unique sequence, a snake also appears who saves the lives of the lead pair from the Kabayalis.O.P. Nayyar has given the music of a lifetime for this movie. While the first half contains melodies like – Mujhe Dekh Kar Aapka Muskurana, Bahut Shukriya Badi Meherbani, Aap Yun Hi Agar Humse Milte Rahe Dekhiye Ek Din Pyar Ho Jaayega, Tumhen Mohabbat Hai Humse Maana Bataao Iska Saboot Kya Hai, Humko Tumhare Ishq Ne Kya Kya Bana Diya and my favourite – Phir Tere Sheher Mein Lutne Ko Chala Aaya Hoon; the second half contains some situational songs alongwith a great duet of Rafi and Asha – Aye Yaar Zulfon Waale Dildaar Zulfon Waale which is the climax of the movie. The album also contains a rare gem of Rafi and Asha – Main Pyar Ka Raahi Hoon which I did not find in the movie.The cinematography of Fali Mistry is simply brilliant. He has given the movie the look of the noir cinema of Hollywood during the forties (in the second half). The beauty of Kashmir has also been captured well (in the first half). The movie has been edited well and the narrator has kept the interest of the viewer alive throughout. Length of the movie is also okay and it’s not been unduly dragged.Now-a-days anything is shown by the Bollywood moviemakers in the name of entertainment. If somebody who is going to make a Bollywood movie, really wants to know how an entertaining movie is made for the Indian audience, he should watch this movie and meet Ek Musafir (Joy Mukherjee) and Ek Hasina (Saadhana).

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Guru Dutt presents a hilarious comedy

Guru Dutt is mainly known for his thought-provoking, profound classic movies like Pyaasa, Kaagaz Ke Phool and Sahib, Bibi Aur Ghulam. However he had directed one hilarious comedy also prior to them. Since the movie had been made in the year 1955, it was titled as Mr. & Mrs. 55. It’s a classic comedy, in fact, a satire on the pseudo-woman-lib movement gaining momentum in India in the post-independence era and represents the hurt (Indian) male-psyche wrapped in comedy.It’s based on a play – ‘Modern Marriage‘ penned by Guru Dutt’s close associate, Abrar Alvi. The plot is based on a male-hater stern lady, Seeta Devi (Lalita Pawar) who leads her niece – Anita (Madhubala) to enter a marriage of convenience with an unemployed and impoverished cartoonist – Preetam (Guru Dutt) so that she can legally occupy the inherited estate left by her father under a condition in the will that she will have to marry. A staunch feminist, Seeta Devi is strictly against the institution of marriage and makes a deal with Preetam to divorce Anita after the purpose of hers becoming the legal heiress of the estate is served and never try to behave like a husband with her during the intermittent period. However the simplicity and ideals of Preetam alongwith a view of the happy wedded life of his sister (Kum Kum) who is a housewife, make Anita fall in love with him. But when Seeta Devi tells her that Preetam has married her only for money (to be paid to him under the contract), she gets distanced from him. Finally, the story reaches its happy ending with the union of the married couple on the airport when disheartened Preetam is about to leave Mumbai (then Bombay) forever.The script of Abrar Alvi is full of laughter-generating sequences and Guru Dutt has directed them so ably that it is hard to believe that the same director later directed movies like Pyaasa and Kaagaz Ke Phool. Guru Dutt’s sense of humour proves to be just amazing. There is not a single boring moment in the movie and this comedy-cum-satire keeps the audience hooked throughout. The viewer just keeps on flowing with the twists and turns of the story, quite like a rudderless vessel going alongwith the drifting tides. And when the story reaches its happy climax, the viewer gets the feeling of the vessel’s touching the shore.

The story and its treatment subtly caters to the Indian male-chauvinism which was dominant those days (no less even today). However the brighter side is that it exposes the hollowness of the so-called woman-lib movement. Woman’s liberation does not mean dilution of the importance of man in her life. After all, the world runs through the eternal love of male and female only. Who of these two is complete without the other one ? None, definitely. And the taunting at the half-baked woman-lib philosophy is not at all a direct hit. It is enveloped in a laugh-riot. Guru Dutt has directed the story with so much finesse that nowhere it is felt that it’s an (indirect) attempt to establish the superiority of man over woman. The cartoon made by Preetam showing Seeta Devi clad in a Roman toga and riding a Roman chariot with a whip in her hand, is an example of the height of Guru Dutt’s creativity.O.P. Nayyar’s music is a treat to listen for the music lovers. The songs include melodies like Thandi Hawa Kaali Ghata, Jaane Kahaan Mera Jigar Gaya Jee, Preetam Aan Milo, Chal Diye Banda Nawaaz, Udhar Tum Haseen Ho Idhar Ham Jawaan Hain, Aye Ji Dil Pe Hua Aisa Jadoo etc. sung by Geeta Dutt, Shamshaad Begum and Mohammed Rafi. My favourite song is a Qawwaali sung by Manna Dey and others – Meri Duniya Lut Rahi Thi Aur Main Khamosh Tha whose lyric is able to move any sensitive heart. The beautiful words of the songs have been written by Majrooh Sultaanpuri. The picturization of the songs is also imaginative.V.K. Moorthy’s cinematography is great as always. This black and white movie is a visual treat also, showing the life of Bombay of the fifties in a realistic, yet aesthetic way. Editing is also quite good and the production value is definitely according to the prestige of Guru Dutt’s banner.Guru Dutt proves once again that he’s not only a director and narrator par excellence but also an outstanding actor. He has infused life into the role of the poor cartoonist who has been in love with the rich heiress without any greed for her wealth. Lalita Pawar’s role is definitely tailor-made for her. Johnny Walker was an integral part of Guru Dutt’s movies and he has generated sufficient laughs for the audience in collaboration with Yasmen, starring opposite him. However, this is Madhubala’s movie by all means. Her transformation from an ultra-modern girl to a traditional Indian girl is heart-warming and she has underscored the fact that other than being one of the most beautiful women of India (in fact, the world), she’s a brilliant actress too.

I recommend this movie to one and all because it provides wholesome entertainment. However Guru Dutt’s mocking of the woman-lib movement may be felt as offensive by the educated ladies in the contemporary context. This movie had been made (as the name clarifies) more than six decades back. Since then enough water has flown in the river of time. Now we cannot mock woman-lib philosophy in that way (and it’s not desirable too). However, despite being a die-hard supporter of equality of sexes (and of all other kinds as well), I don’t support any home-breaking propaganda in the name of women’s liberation. The readers (especially females) are hereby invited to present their views in this regard in addition to their feedback on this movie review. I only assert in the end that while it’s joyful to see the females getting education and breaking the millenniums old shackles of males’ slavery, is it possible (and desirable) to get out of the shackles of love ?

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Hemant Da presents the Indian Rebecca

Rebecca is a classic mystery penned by Daphne du Maurier in 1938, which was adapted for celluloid by Alfred Hitchcock in 1940. The lady in the title role is already dead in the story but she; through her memories, the references to her in people’s talks and her belongings left behind; continues to haunt the life of the new wife of her husband. It’s a great psychological mystery whose climax was changed in the movie by the director, Alfred Hitchcock to suit the mentality of the American audience those days.The great singer-musician of Indian cinema, Hemant Kumar adapted this story for a Hindi movie – Kohra (mist) in 1964, taking Biswajeet in the male lead, i.e., as the dead woman’s husband and Waheeda Rehman in the central role of the hero’s wife. Interestingly, despite the story revolving around the memories of the dead lady (called Poonam in the movie), the director has not shown her face despite several flash backs. He has allowed the audience to see either her body starting from the neck (in the front pose) or see herself from the back side. And that’s the reason, I remained unaware for a pretty long time as to which actress played this character who is the soul of the story. Just a few years back when Biswajeet, the hero of this movie, revealed this secret in an interview, then only I (and several like me) came to know that she’s an Anglo-Indian actress – Thelma who used to do supporting roles in movies.In this Indianized version of Rebecca, widower Raja Amit Kumar Singh (Biswajeet) marries Rajeshwari (Waheeda Rehman) who enters his mansion with a lot of hope for her joyful future only to be stunned by the high-handed attitude of Daai Maa (Lalita Pawar) who looks upon her derogatorily and always compares her with Poonam, the deceased wife of her husband. By misguiding her to wear the attires of  Poonam and imitating her mannerisms, Daai Maa brings about a rift in her relationship with her husband too. But one fine morning, the dead body of Poonam is found and Raja Amit Kumar Singh is arrested under the charge of her murder. Gradually the inner secrets of Poonam’s life come to the fore. The ultimate truth is revealed in the climax taking place in the court-room.Director Biren Naag has quite skilfully adapted the classic story of Rebecca for this Indianized story and changed the climax once again (firstly it was changed by Alfred Hitchcock in the Hollywood movie – Rebecca) which suits the taste of the Indian audience. The drama takes some time to pick-up but it is quite speedy in the later part and keeps the audience spellbound.Gorgeous and talented Waheeda Rehman is the main attraction of this black and white movie. She impresses in all kinds of scenes – romantic, emotional and painful. Biswajeet is okay in the male lead. The supporting cast has done its part well. However the best performer is definitely Lalita Pawar in the role of Daai Maa (a role akin to the role of Mrs. Danvers in Rebecca). It is definitely one of her best performances. Music is, in fact, the biggest strength of this classic suspense thriller. Producer of this movie, Hemant Kumar has composed as well as sung the songs which include gems like – Ye Nayan Dare Dare and Raah Bani Khud Manzil. The movie contains Lata’s classic songs like – Jhoom Jhoom Dhalti Raat and O Beqaraar Dil as well. Asha-Mahendra Kapoor duet – Kaahe Bajaai Tune is also in this movie. The beautiful lyrics have been dropped by the pen of Kaifi Aazmi.

Cinematography, art-direction, editing and production value aspects of this black and white movie are all up to the mark. The movie proves to be a memorable experience for the viewer after it is over.

Those who have not read (or seen) Rebecca, should not miss this classic Bollywood mystery. However, those who have read the novel or seen the Hollywood movie, will also find it quite engrossing and entertaining. And it’s a very big treat for the fans of Waheeda Rehman.

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The market where helplessness is bought and sold

Bazaar (1982) is truly a classic movie by all standards. It presents the true story of those unfortunate (Muslim) girls who are virtually sold to the rich people in the Gulf under the camouflage of marriage by their poor parents / guardians. These unfortunate girls thereafter remain accursed to spend their entire life with much older ‘husbands’ or according to their dictates. This Baazaar (market) is actually the market of their poverty; their helplessness, to be accurate. Most of such so-called marriages which are nothing but the selling of the girls only (marriage being just a decent name for the flesh-trade) take place in Hyderabad.The movie narrates the selling of the helplessness of a very young and innocent girl – Shabnam (Supriya Pathak) who comes from a poor family and is in love with a poor boy – Sarju (Farooq Sheikh). Her parents finalize the ‘deal’ of her so-called marriage with a rich old man from Dubai who has arrived at Hyderabad only for this ‘marriage’. In finding a suitable (i.e., very young and beautiful) girl for him, he is helped by Akhtar Hussain (Bharat Kapoor) who is going to get money for this purpose plus Najma (Smita Patil) who had run away from her home with him because of her parents’ also being ready to throw her into such a hell only on account of their poverty. Najma herself has been in love with a thinker and Shaayar (Urdu poet) – Salim (Nasiruddin Shah) but their love is platonic. Najma had opted to run away from her parental home with Akhtar and accepted the live-in relationship with him because she was not able to spend her life with Salim and Akhtar had assured her that as soon as he got enough money, he would marry her. Now Najma also becomes a part of this selling-out of Shabnam alongwith Akhtar under the hope that by getting money for that, Akhtar will be able to marry her. Najma is not aware of the fact that Shabnam is in love with Sarju who is Najma’s deemed brother. When she realizes her mistake, it’s too late. Just too late !Writer-director Saagar Sarhadi has made a brilliant movie with a modest production value. Even the colours of this coloured movie have got faded out in the prints available now. But one thing is intact. The soul of the movie. This movie is not to be watched by eyes and ears (the songs being immortal ones and the dialogs being the heart-piercing ones) but by the soul. Just visualize the real life plight of hundreds of such poor (Muslim) girls whom none cares for once they are sold out and ‘delivered’. They are considered like the animals whose flesh is sold for the consumption of the non-vegetarians. They are not self-sufficient. They are not independent. Hence helpless. And their helplessness gets easily sold out to those who may not be worthy of becoming their husbands but who are wealthy enough to buy that helplessness from their guardians. The girls are just commodities whose selling consideration is also not theirs, it goes into the hands of their guardians.

Baazaar is a realistic movie which penetrates the viewer’s heart like anything and makes him / her realize the cruel reality prevailing in our country. There has not been any political or social will shown over the years to abolish this market. The deals have been going on, just going on ! Even the tears of the girls (a majority of them are minor by age) dry up but the stony hearts of the buyers and the sellers do not exude. Everything of this soul-crushing phenomena has been portrayed with utmost realism in this movie through a touching love story (of Sarju and Shabnam) which is destined to go the tragic way. The sentimental love story with the horrifying reality has been blended well with the Shaayari (Urdu poetry) and the melodious music, giving the movie a unique form and rendering it a cult status.

Baazaar is an engrossing movie which keeps the audience hooked throughout for around two hours. There are several heart-winning sequences and dialogs in the movie which are able to move the sensitive hearts and generate tears in the eyes. The end makes the spectator leave the screen with an immensely heavy heart, mourning the condition of the unfortunate girls being continuously victimized in this heartless market in which the silver coins and currency notes matter more than their feelings; in fact, their entire existence. The romantic encounters of Sarju and Shabnam are heart-tickling and the scene of their final meeting is so much sentimental that it made me burst into tears.

Baazaar underscores the importance of the young girls’ becoming self-independent which is the only way out for them to escape this injustice, this hell ! There are dialogs between Salim and Najma which highlight this issue. Baazaar is also the story of realization of own blunder and the repentance and penitence for it by Najma. She is not able to forgive herself for being instrumental in this oppression on Shabnam and therefore, she discards the thought of marrying Akhtar whose sake she had jumped into this exercise and moves with Salim to start a new life.

Baazaar highlights the irony of so-called religious customs and the significance given to the so-called giving of tongue (solemn promise made, not to be broken) which are nothing but the subterfuge for ensuring that the deal for giving the girl ultimately materializes and no eleventh hour development is able to stop it. Hollow excuses are painfully furnished to destroy the life of innocent girls whose parents / guardians are not ready to take their steps back despite knowing very well that they are thrusting their girl into hell.The art director has done his job with great proficiency. The poverty stricken areas of (old) Hyderabad have come alive on the screen. The streets, the roads, the houses; everything is damn realistic.

Khayyam’s music with the great Urdu poetry created by Mir Taqi Mir, Mirza Shauq, Makhdoom Mohiuddin, Bashar Nawaz etc. is immortal, consisting of classic Ghazals and Nazms like Dikhai Diye Yun Ki Bekhud Kiya, Karoge Yaad To Har Baat Yaad Aayegi, Dekh Lo Aaj Hum Ko Jee Bhar Ke etc. It also has the classic Ghazal – Phir Chhidi Raat Baat Phoolon Ki which I had learnt to sing and play (on harmonium) from my Sangeet Guru – Pandit Naaradanand Shaastri. This is based on the fusion of some classical raagas. As enlightened by esteemed blogger, reviewer, authoress and poetess – Geetashree Chatterjee, the main raaga used in it is Baageshri.Towering performances have been delivered by the great artists of Indian cinema viz. Nasiruddin Shah, Smita Patil and Farooq Sheikh. These are the actors who have redefined the art of acting and Baazaar is a showcase of their abilities. However the heart-conqueror is Supriya Pathak who won the Filmfare award for the best supporting actress for her role of Shabnam in this movie.The complete supporting cast involving actors like Bharat Kapoor, Nisha Singh (as Shabnam’s friend – Nasreen), Sulbha Deshpande, Yunus Parvez, Shaukat Aazmi, B.L. Chopra, Javed Khan etc. has done exceedingly well.

I sign off with a dialog from the final meeting of Sarju and Shabnam in the movie (just before the song – Dekh Lo Aaj Humko Jee Bhar Ke). Sarju says, ‘Agar Hum Gharib Na Hote To Humko Koi Bhi Juda Nahin Kar Sakta Tha Na ?‘ (None could have separated us had we not been poor). And Shabnam replies, ‘Haan, Tab Hamko Koi Bhi Juda Nahin Kar Sakta Tha‘ (Yes, then none could have separated us).

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Atithi, please drop in on any Tithi

After many overhyped movies, an underhyped and unpromoted Bollywood movie came in the form of Atithi, Tum Kab Jaoge (2010), got seen without any expectation in the mind of the viewer and conquered his heart. After Lage Raho Munnabhai (2006), there had not come any good, clean, sensible and inspiring comedy. Atithi, Tum Kab Jaoge (O guest, when will you leave ?) filled the vacuum. The great Indian tradition of Atithi Devo Bhavah (Guest is just like God) has lost its momentum due to the urban individualistic culture. But roots are, after all, roots. A man can forget his roots but cannot get rid of them, especially when they are as noble as considering the guest no less respectable than the Almighty. Indian mythology has considered Aatithya (being the host) as one integral part of the Grihastha Dharma (duties of the householder). This dharma is accompanied by love, emotion and warmth of relationships. Practical life constraints cannot abolish these subtle, untold things of human psyche that can only be felt within.Unlike 3 Idiots (2009) whose intellectual maker dared to consider his audience as idiots, ATKJ strikes an emotional chord with the audience. It is a comedy, hence cannot be altogether real but it’s believable and digestible (at least the audience starts desiring it to be real while watching and emotionally associating with it). The laughters generated are genuine and not imposed. Throughout the movie, even if you are not laughing, you are getting a light, comforting feel.A guest is not welcome in today’s running, tight life when every moment you are thinking that the time is catching up with you and you cannot afford the luxury to entertain any guest. Further, a guest himself is also expected to be prudent enough not to bother you for more than one or two days. But what to do when an unexpected (and unwanted) guest bumps upon your household and your life ? ATKJ tries to find an answer through a seeming garden variety working couple who is not so ordinary from within as it respects the elders, adjusts with the guest and gets ready to forgo benefits and real life relationships for the sake of his honour. The guest though imposes himself upon the husband-wife-kid family apparently like a free-loader, is thoroughly human and sentimental. The more you know him, the more your resentment for him vapours out into the air filled with love and warmth. You want him to leave you but when the time arrives for his actual departure, your eyes refuse to control the tears.I tried hard to find flaws in this movie but I couldn’t. The script-writer as well as the director has done a splendid job. Right from the beginning scene (consisting of cartoons) to the ending scene when you come across a twist in the tale, the movie is thoroughly gripping and does not get loose even for a single minute. The viewer is simply lost in the flow of the movie, empathising with the characters. In addition to entertaining you, the movie reminds you of your ages old traditions, values and virtues. It is not unnecessarily lengthy too. The compact storytelling maintains the momentum and impact of the movie and does not allow you to yawn or look at your watch.The music is good and well integrated with the narration. The editing and the cinematography departments have done their jobs well. As far as the performances are concerned, Paresh Rawal has perhaps got less footage than the hero-heroine duo of Ajay and Konkona but he is the heart and soul of the movie and he carries it alone on his shoulders. A class act by a class actor, living upto his reputation and expectations of his admirers. Talented actors – Ajay Devgan, Konkona Sen Sharma, Akhilendra Mishra, Mukesh Tiwari and Satish Kaushik are perfect. Child artist Ayush also has done well.If you believe in Indian traditional values and household life ideals or feel the importance of relationships or even if you don’t but are aspiring for a neat and clean, good entertainment; please don’t miss it. It is a very delicious sweet served to you without fancy packaging and heavy marketing, fully capable of satisfying your entertainment hunger. The people who still miss Hrishikesh Mukherjee-Basu Chatterjee-Satyen Bose era, are most welcome to watch Atithi, Tum Kab Jaoge.

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The unending slavery of the lower caste peasant

First of all I express my heartfelt gratitude towards esteemed blogger and my dear friend Nishant Singh (better known as @sydbarett) for inspiring me to pen the review of this outstanding movie which was the maiden venture of now well-known filmmaker, J.P. Dutta. It’s a thought-provoking movie, baring the bitter truth of the slavery (Ghulami) of the downtrodden Indian poor peasant to the heartless Indian caste system as well as poverty. The poor peasant (mainly belonging to a lower caste in the discriminatory caste system) takes birth in a loan which had been taken by his ancestors and dies also in loan, leaving it for his next generation; his land and belongings are always under the threat of confiscation due to non-payment of the loan and worstly the honour of the ladies of his family is under constant threat from the lusty landlords, still enjoying the undesirable benefits of the feudalistic landownership system continuing for centuries in the rural India. On 15th August, 1947, our country got independence from the British but the poor peasants are still accurst to bear the brunt of the slavery of the mighty. Constitutional equality has not ensured actual equality of human-beings in several parts of India, still carrying the legacy of the feudal times.

Times have not changed since Mother India (1957) when a peasant is forced by the injustice to pick up the gun and become a rebel against the partisan system. The legal system and the society may call him a bandit or a dacoit but he, in his own eyes, is a rebel only, the rebel with a cause – the cause to change the system. But can the system be changed ? Not in the shorter term at least. And that’s why even three decades after Mother India, J.P. Dutta found the topic relevant and suitable to make a movie. He has not taken up just the issue of the poor peasant’s destiny of being always burdened with loan and losing his land to the loaners but also the issue of the condemnable caste system of India which crushes humanity in general and the souls of the victims in particular.Ghulami (1985) was the maiden directorial venture of J.P. Dutta whose story was written by his father, O.P. Dutta. He has presented the story of a well-educated and full of self-respect peasant (Dharmendra) who unfortunately finds himself on the lower rung of the ladder of the social structure because of his birth. The daughter of the supercilious landlord, though, possesses a different nature and outlook and she (Smita Patil) is a close friend of him. The police of the village, as usual, is sold out in the hands of the landlord (Om Shivpuri) and join hands with him and his arrogant and lustful sons (Bharat Kapoor and Mazhar Khan) to oppress and humiliate the already victimized by misusing the power of the uniform. A like-minded ex-serviceman (Mithun Chakraborty) joins hands with him and a lower-caste kind-hearted Hawaldar (Kulbhushan Kharbanda) also comes to his side after losing his son in a confrontation with the upper caste and rich mighties who don’t allow the lower caste grooms to ride a horse. The main protagonist has to become a bandit in the eyes of the law to save the land and the honour of the hundreds of peasants, leaving his pregnant wife (Reena Roy) behind. The husband of his friend (the landlord’s daughter) is a senior police officer (Nasiruddin Shah) who also becomes his enemy on personal level after knowing about his friendship with his wife. The violence-ridden climax underscores this harsh reality only that the rebels die, the cruel and unjust system doesn’t.I am a Rajasthani, well-acquainted with the deserts there and therefore I acknowledge with high appreciation, the skill of J.P. Dutta in capturing the area in the movie with finesse. The complete background and the milieu is highly realistic and impressive – the sand dunes, the Hawelis, the village lanes, the tattered houses of the poor and even the Police Chowki. The narrative is in complete synchronization with the milieu and nowhere does the movie render an air of being an imaginary story. Almost everything looks real. Still in several caste-system-ridden villages of Rajasthan, the lower caste grooms are not allowed to ride the horse and if anybody dares to do that, he is forced to come down to the ground without delay. Still in several villages, the lower caste people are not allowed to take the water from the wells and ponds earmarked for the upper caste ones. These soul-crushing phenomena have been shown by Dutta in a heart-piercing manner.

The narrative is spellbinding. Right from the very first frame to the very last frame, the movie is able to keep the viewer tied to his seat with his eyes glued to the screen. The screenplay swiftly moves from scene to scene and J.P. Dutta has demonstrated his better sense by keeping the movie completely free from meaningless comedy and unrealistic romance. The love-angles are touching, not titillating.The music of Laxmikant Pyarelal soothes the soul of the listener with the meaningful songs (only three) having been penned by Gulzar. The best one is definitely Jeehaal-e-Muskin Mukon Ba-Ranjish Bahaal-e-Hijra Bechaara Dil Hai (picturized on Mithun and his love-interest, Anita Raj). Mere Pee Ko Pawan is an underrated excellent song. The third one is Pee Le Pee Le which is also good to listen and better to watch.

The impressive, meaningful and touching dialogues are another highlight of this movie. ‘Thank you’ of Kulbhushan Kharbanda and ‘Koi Shaque’ of Mithun Chakraborty remain with the audience long after the movie is over. The production value is quite high and the cinematographer has marvelled not only in capturing the beauty of the rural Rajasthan but also in creating impact through shadows in certain scenes.

J.P. Dutta possesses the knack of extracting the best from his cast. All the main characters – Dharmendra, Mithun Chakraborty, Nasiruddin Shah, Kulbhushan Kharbanda etc. have delivered their best. Leading ladies- Smita Patil, Reena Roy and Anita Raj also have done pretty well in their low-profile roles in this male-dominated movie. Supporting caste (Sulochana, Om Shivpuri, Bharat Kapoor, Mazhar Khan, Raza Murad etc.) has also done justice to the respective roles assigned. Except the over-the-top Anjan Shrivastav (the accountant of the landlord), all look flesh and blood human-beings.

Ghulami is an outstanding movie which was a box-office hit also. To understand the caste-ridden class-conflicts and related dynamics in rural India, this movie can be used just like a textbook. In the story of the mythological epic – Mahabharat, while all the other major warriors were called Maharathi; Karna, despite his valour and capabilities, was called Ardh-rathi because of his belonging to a lower caste. Some twenty years back, I had read an article in an English newspaper with the caption – ‘Ardh-rathi Karna died, the caste system still survives’. You, like me, will vouch for this statement after watching Ghulami.

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