A pulp fiction novel which deserves an award

Popular Hindi novelist Surendra Mohan Pathak has asserted on many occasions that pulp fiction novels are by no means literature. They are just light-reading stuff for timepass in the similar way as the regular formula-based movies are. That’s why, he maintains, they are neither reviewed by the critics, nor considered for any literary awards.

He is right because the bulk of the pulp-fiction novels published in India during 1960-1990 period when reading novels was a craze in our country and developed a huge market for the pulp-fiction work, falls into that category only. However in the crowd of thousands of pulp-fiction novels published in India, there came some excellent ones too which could have been considered for awards provided they had been published on good quality paper with good binding and glossy dust-jackets (and at a generous price) and without the tag of pulp fiction. Today I am reviewing such a Hindi novel penned by none other than Surendra Mohan Pathak only which despite being categorized as a pulp fiction novel, is quite superior in terms of its theme and more so in terms of the treatment of that. The title of this novel is Dial 100.

We all know that telephone number 100 is the helpline number of the police. Whenever anybody needs police help, he / she can dial telephone number 100 which rings in the police headquarters of the city concerned. It is not just a telephone number which is easy to remember but it is a symbol of the police system which is looked upon by the society as a mechanism to eliminate the crime and protect the innocents.This can be compared to the famous bell of justice at the palace of the emperor Jahaangir, asserts the author through the mouth of the main protagonist.

India boasts of very less honest and dutiful cops though a lot of movies have been made and novels have been written on the life and sacrifices of such scarcely available cops. In Dial 100, Surendra Mohan Pathak has also told the saga of such a cop only. The plot may seem hackneyed today but it was not like that when this novel was written. Besides, the novel has been written in a highly realistic manner (despite having an idealistic tone through the lead character) and that’s why it impresses and moves the reader in the real sense. The story of the novel or say the story of the life of the lead character haunts the reader after he is over with the reading. And that calls for a lot of praise for this novel.925663416sDial 100 narrates the story of inspector Vikram Singh who is in his forties now after spending around 25 years in the police service which he had joined as a constable and by getting some out of turn promotions, has found himself now to be an inspector. However alongwith promotions, he has faced three suspensions and several transfers courtesy his doing his duty diligently without fear or favour and inviting the wrath of his ‘practical’ superiors. After the sad demise of his newly wed wife who had been killed by certain criminals in order to teach him a lesson, Vikram Singh decided never to remarry and is spending a completely lonely life, living by sword. Now he has got a young subordinate, sub-inspector Rajeev who loves a deaf and dumb girl – Seema who is the granddaughter of a furniture-shop owner. Rajeev is very much impressed by his idealist superior, i.e., Vikram Singh and desires to become like him in his career.

The story of Dial 100 takes off with the robbery of a jewellery showroom by some habitual criminals who have been joined by a jail-breaker convict – Kulbhooshan. Kulbhooshan is the sworn enemy of Vikram Singh because he only had arrested him. He had threatened Vikram Singh also to settle his score after his release from the prison. Now after running away from the prison, Kulbhooshan has two missions – 1. Settling his score with Vikram Singh and Rajesh Gupta who is the younger brother of the owner of that jewellery showroom and who had given testimony against Kulbhooshan in the court, 2. Recapturing his robbed wealth which he had hidden somewhere before getting arrested. After several twists in the tale, Kulbhooshan is rearrested by Vikram Singh while laying down his own life in that process. During that tussle between the criminal and the police, Kulbhooshan happens to kill the deaf and dumb sweetheart of Rajeev, i.e., Seema.

This story of the novel is felt much better when gone through the pages of the novel than as told in a nutshell in a couple of paragraphs supra. This is a novel which engrosses and appeals to the reader right from the word ‘go’ and keeps him spellbound throughout till the very finish. It inspires at several places and underscores the significance of moral values in an utterly natural way sans any rhetoric. It has a good dose of sentiments also. The author made my eyes wet by writing that after the demise of Seema, Rajeev married her dead body and considered himself as a widower for life. Do such true lovers still exist on this planet ? Yes, I think so. The species of true lovers is yet to become extinct.

Through the character and life of Vikram Singh, the author has very realistically portrayed what an honest and dutiful cop has to go through. How lonely he is in the department ! In the system ! Certain incidents pertaining to crime and investigation might have been borrowed from other sources but the overall structure of the novel and the emotional as well as inspirational treatment of the theme is the author’s original effort which makes him stand out in the crowd of hundreds of pulp fiction writers.

The author has very emotionally portrayed Vikram Singh’s mindset in his moment of death that arrives in the climax of this novel. Taking his final breaths, Vikram Singh recalls his various acquaintances and visualizes their reactions upon his demise. And most of his last predictions come true later. The more Kulbhooshan, the glamorous criminal is kept in the memory by the public, the more Vikram Singh, the dutiful cop is forgotten. After all, who was he ? An emotional fool who laid down his life for the sake of some hollow ideals ! Then what did he gain by sacrificing his life ? He gained one thing, asserts the author. His ideals are adopted by sub-inspector Rajeev who steps into his shoes and pounces on the criminals in the similar fashion. At least one person has been able to understand him and follow him. It’s no little success.

This novel is a signature novel of Surendra Mohan Pathak, bearing a clear stamp of his style which engrosses, impresses and moves. He has used flashbacks quite skilfully and not allowed any boredom to creep in amidst all the idealistic talks and the nitty-gritty of the corrupt and inefficient Indian police system.

All the characters of the novel including those of the petty criminals have been allowed to develop on their own and none of them is sketchy. All the characters as well as all the events of the novel appear to be real. Witty and memorable dialogs are the icing on the cake.

This novel has immense repeat value and any Hindi reader would love to read it many more times after the first reading. Once a Bollywood movie had been planned to be made on this novel but the project could not materialize. Anyway, still it can be used to make an impressive movie. As far as myself is concerned, had it been in my right, I would have bestowed some literary award upon this novel.

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Murder Hunt game culminating in a real murder

Yours truly, a diehard fan of Agatha Christie, is at your service with the review of yet another AC work. As soon as I am finished with Dead Man’s Folly, my heart has prompted me to pen its review without delay.61vrjwworrlIn the novel, the word ‘folly’ has not been used in the sense of its dictionary meaning which is idiocy or ignorance. Here it refers to a structure. Folly is a building constructed primarily for decoration, but either suggests some other purpose by its appearance or is merely so extravagant that it transcends the normal range of garden ornaments or other class of building which it belongs to.2757240613_7d337320a6Treasure Hunt is a game quite popular to be played in the parties. In this game, something hidden is hunted with the help of clues. A similar hunt can be carried out to solve some problem also by going on from one clue to another. I hope, the movie buffs remember such a contest shown in the Hindi movie  Student of the Year (2012). However in this novel which was written as early as in 1956, the authoress has elaborated a game named as Murder Hunt in which the participants have to catch a murderer out of the given suspects on the basis of the clues and the first hand information available. Locating the victim’s body is also a part of this game.17-follyAs it had to be in an Agatha Christie story, the game of Murder Hunt becomes an opportunity for a killer to perpetrate a real murder. Unfortunately, it happens just under the nose of the detective hero – Hercule Poirot who has been called over the place by an old acquaintance – Mrs. Ariadne Oliver who is an authoress of detective stories (her character is in some other AC novels too viz. Elephants Can Remember). Mrs. Oliver had called Poirot to a fête arranged at a property called Nasse House in Devon (England) to apprise him of her apprehension that this Murder Hunt game which she only was arranging as a part of the fête, might lead to some real undesirable thing.3458320193_f284a59e2dThe venue, i.e., Nasse House originally belonged to the family of Foliats whose lone survivor is Mrs. Amy Foliat is also living there with the permission of its present owner known as Sir George Stubbs. Mrs. Amy Foliat has lost not only her husband but also two sons of hers. She happened to foster a pretty but extremely naive, docile and suggestible girl named as Hattie. Sir George Stubbs got introduced to Hattie through Mrs. Foliat only and they got married despite the difference of 20 odd years in their ages. Hattie appears to be moronic to the other people because she is too much conscious with her appearance, attire, adornment etc. with no concern for anything else or anyone else in the world. There are many guest at Nasse House plus an architect doing some work there who frets over the inappropriate location of a Folly in the property.dead-mans-follyThe location of the vast property is such that it’s possible for the trespassers to move through it towards the river from the side of the woods or the other way round. And hence when a teenager girl who was playing the part of the victim in the Murder Hunt game staged by Mrs. Oliver, is actually found to be the victim of some murderer with her dead body found in the boathouse which is also a part of the property, then the case appears to be that of an open murder because any trespasser not being a part of the gathering, also could have killed the girl named Marlene Tucker. Another bothering incident that has simultaneously taken place is that Mrs. Hattie Stubbs has disappeared. Firstly, she only is considered as the probable culprit but gradually it dawns upon the investigators – Hercule Poirot and police inspector Bland as well as the other people that perhaps Hattie also has been murdered and Marlene Tucker got murdered because she unfortunately must have become an eye-witness to Hattie’s murder or something associated with that. But ! Hattie’s dead body is not found even after an extensive search.imagesHercule Poirot returns to his place, much ashamed on himself that neither he could stop Mrs. Oliver’s suspicion from coming true nor could catch the culprit or at least coming closer to that by forming a logical hypothesis of the murder that has taken place. He had found the activities of many of the in-house mates as well as outside visitors as unusual or suspicious and found out many things by his leg-work but could not solve the mystery. All the facts are before him but despite analyzing them again and again and feeling within him that there’s something that is vividly visible but not being caught by his eye, he is not able to hit the nail of conclusion correctly by his deductive reasoning. One more death has taken place which is of a very old (92 years) boatman – Merdell. Considering his age and his intoxicated state, everybody has considered his death (by drowning in the water-body) as a mishap only. A restless Poirot, feeling guilty within him, does not give up even after leaving that place. He keeps on thinking and thinking and digging out some extra information and then he returns to Nasse House to present the solution of the mystery.indexWill the readers of this review allow me to assert that I had guessed the culprit beforehand, in fact while in the middle of the novel itself ? However I am not worthy of any prize for that because I could guess only the culprit and not many other things that are an integral part of this intriguing mystery. I could not guess the real identities of many people, the relationship between the people, the motive of the murder(s) and above all the modus operandi of the murder(s). All these things became known to me only when the mystery-queen herself clarified everything in the dénouement from the mouth of the genius Belgian detective called Hercule Poirot.index1The thing that we can learn from this novel (and many other novels of AC) that to reach the solution of a mystery or a puzzle or a problem, we need to look at the same facts differently. As said earlier, there must be something lying just before our eyes but escaping our sight. And therefore, sometimes it’s advisable not to look for something new but to change the angle of looking at the things which are already there. Let’s not forget that the darkness is always under the lit lamp, if an eye contains a straw, that straw may be visible to all but to that eye itself and if there are four interpretations of the a given fact not yielding to the desired solution, there may be a fifth one that may unlock the mystery and make every damn thing fall in place. And that’s the specialty of Agatha Christie which always jolts the reader like anything in the climax of a particular novel of hers. Red herrings are scattered in the novel to confuse the reader but all the relevant facts are there as well. If we are not able to join all the parts correctly to complete the picture, it’s our deficiency and not the authoress’.

When a creative person sets a high bar for his / her works, then his / her every performance is judged against that only. And perhaps that’s the reason, Dead Man’s Folly was not received with the expected amount of appreciation by the reviewers when it was published because the reviewers compared it with her best only. However I consider this highly engrossing as well as impressive novel as worthy of a five star rating. This rating is not because of my bias towards Dame Agatha Christie. It actually deserves it. Just enter the venue of the incidents with the world famous detective Hercule Poirot and find yourself as spellbound for 288 pages.

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A victimized daughter-in-law demands justice

Popular Hindi novelist Ved Prakash Sharma passed away on 17.02.2017. I am paying my tribute to him through this review.

Dowry has been the curse of the Indian society for ages and unfortunately it still exists swallowing the joys of the young brides and would-be brides. During the seventies and the eighties, a plethora of dowry deaths was reported  in India. These were the cases where the concerned daughter-in-law was suspected to have been murdered by her in-laws because she had not brought enough dowry in the marriage to satisfy their greed. Most of these deaths had taken place by burning in the kitchen perhaps because it’s considered as natural for a daughter-in-law to work in the kitchen of her marital home and her garment’s accidentally catching the fire of the gas stove does not appear to be something unusual. And thus the murdering in-laws had a good chance of escaping the law by proving that the burning of the young lady was only a domestic mishap.

This issue had got so much prominence in that time that it was discussed on several forums and many pulp fiction writers (mainly those who used to write social dramas) used their pens on it. Today I am reviewing a famous Hindi novel written on this theme whose author is highly popular Hindi mystery and thriller writer – Ved Prakash Sharma. First published during the early eighties, this much-talked-about novel is Bahu Maange Insaaf (daughter-in-law demanding justice). Since the author was known as a mystery-writer, he wrote it in the style of a scary mystery cum courtroom drama.bahu-maange-insaaf-ved-prakash-sharma-925669104-435994-1The victimized daughter-in-law of this story is Kavita who has entered the household of a retired Commissioner of Sales-Tax – Harnaamdaas by getting married to his younger son – Manjeet. The household contains Harnaadaas’ wife – Sulakshana, their elder son – Jaswant, his wife – Madhu, the unmarried daughter of the family – Rekha and a domestic help – Bansi also. The family is quite unhappy with Kavita’s not bringing enough dowry and they want Manjeet to be married to the younger sister of Madhu. But for that, Kavita has to die. Jaswant who is an advocate, forms such a scheme that Kavita is shown as first running away from home to get reunited with her erstwhile boyfriend – Govind (whom she was in love with prior to her marriage with Manjeet) and thereafter committing suicide by jumping into a water-body due to his discarding her. Jaswant proves in the court that Kavita has died of drowning. And thereafter, the dowry-greedy in-laws kill Kavita (who was kept as imprisoned in the basement of the house by that time) by burning her. It is done after sending Madhu to her parental home because they do not want the elder daughter-in-law to know that the younger daughter-in-law is being murdered on account of bringing insufficient dowry.

However just after the murder of Kavita, the troubles of the murderous family do start and continue without a break. Strange things start taking place in the household signifying that the spirit of Kavita is haunting the house in a bid to seek revenge from her murderers. The local police also goes after them because an escaped prisoner is supposed to have taken shelter in their house. Besides, the elder daughter-in-law of the house, i.e., Madhu starts suffering from fits. Since there has been an insurance policy on Kavita’s life and now the LIfe Insurance Corporation of India (L.I.C.) has to give its claim to the nominee, i.e., Kavita’s father; a detective working for the L.I.C. also starts trailing them. This detective is named as Keshav Pandit. Now these panic-stricken criminals commit mistakes after mistakes but somehow they find that some unknown power saves them from the claws of the law. However this is a small relief for them because that unknown power starts killing them one after another. When all the guilty family-members have been killed, then the suspense is revealed as to who has been first frightening and then killing them, why and how925669104sBahu Maange Insaaf had gained immense popularity when it was first published. Not only its burning theme and thrilling treatment but also the character of Keshav Pandit was behind its popularity. Later, the author repeated the character of Keshav Pandit in many of his novels and this character became so popular in itself that Ekta Kapoor made a serial based on the exploits of this characters with the script of the various episodes being written by Ved Prakash Sharma himself. Keshav Pandit emerges in this novel as a very sharp-minded and astute detective who traps the criminals by his intelligent questions and intimidates them with his intriguing talks. His presence itself is shown as a source of panic for the educated and white-collared outlaws.

The story moves very fast despite the fact that the complete bloody drama takes place in a household only with just a handful of scenes taking place outside it. Once Kavita is murdered by her husband and in-laws, the story starts getting twist after twist, keeping the reader hypnotized until the complete mystery gets unravelled in the climax. Once the reader is in, it is pretty difficult for him to leave the novel in-between. Authoring liberties have been taken but they are not many and can be excused.

The author has allowed the characters to develop on their own and the characteristics of all of them reveal themselves before the reader through their talks and activities, may it be the character of the murder-victim Kavita or each one of her murderers or her financially weak father or her loving brother who suspects his sister’s in-laws for being behind her death or her ex-boyfriend or the investigating police officer who cannot function independently to solve his case or the genius detective working for the L.I.C., i.e., Keshav Pandit. It’s quite interesting to study and understand each character by reading the lines as well as by reading between the lines. Each character is able to emerge in live form before the eyes of the reader as he flips through the pages of the novel.

The author has underscored this fact very well that when some people commit a crime together, all the relationships those used to exist among them change their shape to only one relationship – the relationship of crime, nothing else. And then, naturally, they interact with each other like criminals only and not on the basis of their original relationships.

Bahu Maange Insaaf had added immense value to the popularity of the already popular Ved Prakash Sharma and its fame reached the tinsel town of Mumbai (then Bombay) also. A Hindi movie – Bahu Ki Aawaaz (1985) was made by adapting this novel which starred Swaroop Sampat, Supriya Pathak, Nasiruddin Shah, Rakesh Roshan, Om Puri, Sulabha Deshpande, B.L. Chopra, Aruna Irani etc. However the director of the movie completely failed in bringing the essence of the novel on the screen and the script written for the movie had several variations from the novel. The character of Keshav Pandit was removed from the movie and also the suspense factor which reduced the movie to an out and out average flick which was bound to fail on the box office.

However the novel has not lost its shine even after more than three decades of its publication. It is still as interesting and impressive as it was when published first and gained enormous success in the world of pulp fiction. With my tearful tribute to Ved Prakash Sharma, I unconditionally recommend it to the readers of Hindi fiction.

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This night will not come again

Yeh Raat Phir Na Aayegi (1966) is a suspense thriller from the black and white era starring chocolaty hero of the sixties – Biswajeet cast opposite Sharmila Tagore, the beauty with the dimples. Biswajeet had earlier done suspense movies like Bees Saal Baad (1962) and Kohra (1964) in association with Waheeda Rehman. This time he got paired with Sharmila Tagore who was also in her initial years in Bollywood. This is not a great movie but a good mystery all the same with simply superb music of late O.P. Nayyar.index1Yeh Raat Phir Na Aayegi (this night will not come again) starts with an archaelogist – Prithviraj Kapoor who is busy in an archaeological excavation with his assistent, Rakesh (Shailesh Kumar) in search of some old civilization. He has engaged his daughter Reeta (Mumtaz) to the son of his deceased friend who is our hero, Suraj (Biswajeet) who is a painter and going to inherit the wealth of his late father after marrying Reeta only. During the proceedings of the excavation work, a very old statue of a well-ornate female dancer is found and also found a seemingly equally old skeleton of some female with similar bangles in her wrists as in the wrists of the statue. The archaeologist who is addressed as the Professor in the movie, reads a book about that 2000 years old civilization in which there is a mention of a dancer known as Kiranmayi whose statue (and perhaps the skeleton with the bangles also) has been found by him.yeh-raat-phir-na-aayegi-original-motion-picture-soundtrack-various-artists-1965-rawmusic-inThe twist in the tale comes when Suraj happens to come across a mysterious damsel calling herself as Kiran. When Suraj invites this mysterious beauty (Sharmila Tagore) to a party thrown by him, she startles everybody including the Professor because she is in the get-up of that dancer (whose statue has been found) only and moreover, wearing the same bangles in her wrists as found on the wrists of the skeleton and which the Professor had kept for safekeeping. When the Professor checks their status, he finds them as missing from his safe custody. The real trouble starts when Suraj finds himself in love with this so-called Kiran who is getting more and more mysterious to him (and for the others as well). The suspense deepens when a seemingly jealous Reeta murders Kiran but she is found alive again. She tells Suraj as such and all others also believe that she is not a flesh and blood human-being. Instead she is the spirit of that deceased dancer – Kiranmayi who used to exist 2 millenniums back. Suraj’s life is in danger because that so-called spirit wants to unite with him (calling him as her lover in that millenniums-old incarnation) forever transcending the bounds of life and death. The mystery is resolved in the climax.yeh_raat_phir_na_aaygi_1469703632The title of the movie is as such because the so-called spirit of Kiranmayi wants to unite with Suraj forever on the full-moon night by making him get rid of his earthly existence, telling him – ‘Do it tonight as this night won’t come again (Yeh Raat Phir Na Aayegi)’.imagesYeh Raat Phir Na Aayegi has a very good script but after watching it, I felt that the narrative is not that much impressive as it could have been, considering the quality of the story. The songs block the flow of the story every now and then. The resolution of the mystery (and the unmasking of the culprits) in the climax is not very convincing (at least I was not satisfied). Better direction could have turned this movie into a spellbinding suspense movie. All the same, it’s a nice watch. Certain sequences are damn impressive. And good songs with good performances of the male leads (and of course, the curiosity regarding the resolution of the mystery) don’t allow the viewer to leave it before the ending scene.

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O.P. Nayyar’s compositions hinder the flow of the narrative but on the other hand, they are the biggest strength of this movie. The movie contains gems like Mera Pyar Wo Hai Ki Mar Kar Bhi Tum Ko Juda Apni Baahon Se Hone Na Dega (Mahendra Kapoor), Aap Se Maine Meri Jaan Mohabbat Ki Hai (Rafi) and Phir Miloge Kabhi Is Baat Ka Vaada Kar Lo (Rafi-Asha duet). But it’s the Asha’s enchanting solos which makes the essence of the music album viz. Huzure Waala (with chorus), Mohabbat Cheez Hai Kya, Yahi Wo Jagah Hai Yahi Wo Fizaayen, Har Tukda Mere Dil Ka Deta Hai Duhaai and finally, my favourite – Main Shaayad Tumhare Liye Ajnabee Hoon Magar Chaand Taare Mujhe Jaante Hain. The beautiful lyrics have been penned by S.H. Bihari.indexTechnically this black and white movie is good. The art director has successfully exasperated the environment of excavated sites and nearby places, the caves, the lake etc. according to the requirement of the script. The cinematographer has also done his job well in association with the art director, creating a mysterious atmosphere for the audience. The length of the movie is according to the norms prevailing for Bollywood movies in that period.

Performance wise talking, Prithviraj Kapoor, the great actor of Hindi cinema, takes the cake. He has delivered a highly impressive performance in the role of an archaelogist as well as the father of a grown-up daughter. Dashing and charming Biswajeet has done well, especially in the romantic scenes and songs. Mumtaz and others have also done perfectly. Though the story revolves around Sharmila Tagore, I found herself only as miscast in this movie. Perhaps an actress like Waheeda Rehman would have been a better choice for the role of the mysterious leading lady.

Yeh Raat Phir Na Aayegi has a repeat value for the music lovers because both the songs and their picturization are just very good. I recommend this interesting black and white suspense movie to both the music-lovers and the mystery-lovers alike.

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Tragedy King and Tragedy Queen present a comedy

Dilip Kumar is known as the Tragedy King and Meena Kumari is known as the Tragedy Queen of Hindi cinema. It’s because of the intense roles played by them on the screen with excellence. Who can forget Dilip Kumar in Devdas or Meena Kumari in Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam ? However despite this labelling on them, these two stalwarts of Hindi cinema were equally proficient in comedy too. Today I reviewing a classic black and white movie with these two legends in lead roles which is a hilarious comedy. It’s Azaad (1955).indexAazaad (free) is the Hindi remake of a superhit Tamil movie – Mallikkallan (1954) starring M.G. Ramachandran. It tells the story of a youth, Kumar (Dilip Kumar) who has to don the persona of a bandit, Aazaad in order to take on the real baddies directed by Sunder (Pran) who is known as a wealthy and respectable person. Kumar aka Aazaad has one more persona and that’s of an aged Muslim – Abdul Rahim Khan. The story takes off when the heroine of the movie, Shobha (Meena Kumar) is abducted by the men of a bandit, Chander (S. Nazir) but before she could be taken to Chander, Aazaad intervenes and rescues her from them, taking her to his place. He promises her to take her to her guardians (she is an orphan) when the time is right for that. Quite naturally, romance blossoms between the lead pair. After many twists in the story, Aazaad not only reveals his true identity to the police (who is after him and other known bandits since the very outset) but exposes the reality of the villain also before the law-enforcing agencies and the society at large. The lovers unite (and live happily thereafter).dilip-meena-azaadAazaad is not a great movie but it provides wholesome entertainment which may sound old-fashioned to some but still this logic-defying movie is a decent romantic comedy. Modern directors like David Dhawan seem to have learnt to make pure entertainers sans any logic from such movies only. The movie starts interestingly and despite dragging of the narrative, entertains the viewer through comedy, romance and songs and dances. The romantic track of the lead pair is heart-soothing and the comedy of Om Prakash makes the spectator laugh time and again.index1It appears to be a low budget movie with the beautiful places in the scenes mostly being created in the studio instead of real outdoor locations. Art direction is all right alongwith the costumes of the characters suiting the time frame (fifties). The movie is unduly long which, I feel, is due to the trend of long movies in that era. Director Sriramulu Naidu has done his job well but he could have done better.index2Dilip Kumar had won the Filmfare Award for the best actor for this role. He is at his romantic best with an admirable comic timing. The great tragedy king has shown in movies like Aazaad that he could do comedy with no less proficiency than he could do tragedy-stricken and profound roles. Ditto for the tragedy queen, Meena Kumari who, with her raw and immensely beautiful looks, has romanced hilariously with the hero and played her part very well in tickling the spectators. Her dance numbers in this movie are considered as classics. Pran is utterly hateable. Shammi, Raj Mehra, S. Nazir, Jaanakidas etc. have played their parts satisfactorily. The actor who has generated non-stop laughters for the audience is Om Prakash who has played the role of a policeman.index3The biggest strength of this black and white movie is its music. C. Ramachandra has composed music of a lifetime for this movie with gems in Lata’s voice. Her unforgettable songs viz. Aplam Chaplam Chaplaai Re (sung with her sister, Usha), Baliye O Baliye Chal Chaliye (again with Usha), Kitna Haseen Hain Mausam Kitna Haseen Safar Hai (with Chitalkar who was C. Ramachandra himself), Dekho Ji Bahaar Aai, Ja Ri Ja Ri O Kaari Badariya, Radha Na Bole Na Bole Na Bole Re, Kitni Jawaan Hai Raat, Kabhi Khamosh Rehte Hain etc. are a perennial source of pleasure for the music lovers. There’s a awesome Qawwaali also in the movie, sung by Raghunath Jadhav and others – Marna Bhi Mohabbat Mein Kisi Kaam Na Aaya. Most of Lata’s songs are based on Indian classical Raagas with the beautiful lyrics being penned by Rajinder Krishan. All the dance numbers have been choreographed in the most impressive manner. It’s the music which adds immense value to the movie and covers the shortcomings of the script.azaad-1955-old-hindi-songs-downloaddilip-kumar-230x300Aazaad has a repeat value due to its comedy, romance and above all, music. Not only the fans of Dilip Kumar and Meena Kumari but movie buffs in general also will find this black and white movie as thoroughly enjoyable which was a huge box office hit of its time. I unconditionally recommend it to all who seek clean and healthy entertainment.

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Dil Chaahta Hai ! Rock on ! Dasvidaniya !

I was too much eager to watch Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (2011) because I had liked its director, Zoya Akhtar’s maiden directorial venture – Luck By Chance (2009) very much. Hence I went to watch it with heavy expectations. The movie did not live to the level of my expectations, yet I found it as quite nice, enjoyable and impressive.index Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (you won’t get this life again) is based on the lives (and their joint vacation as bachelors) of three friends – Hrithik Roshan who is a finance broker, running after money only; Farhan Akhtar who is stressful after knowing about his biological father and Abhay Deol who is going to marry Kalki Koechlin, the daughter of a rich businessman. There has been a resentment between Hrithik and Farhan in the past due to their common crush for a girl. Now they decide to have a vacation in Spain and that vacation not only makes them cross path with a sea-diving instructor – Katrina Kaif as well as Farhan’s biological father – Nasiruddin Shah but also provides them a new outlook for their lives. They learn to live ‘TODAY’ to the full instead of worrying about ‘TOMORROW’ or getting too much into ‘YESTERDAY’.bollywood-roadtrip-travel-adventure-movie-zindagi-na-milegi-dobara-5This movie seems to be a mix-chaat of Dil Chaahta Hai (starring Aamir Khan, Saif Ali Khan and Akshay Khanna), Rock on (starring Farhan himself, Arjun Rampal, Purab Kohli and Luke Kenny) and Dasvidaniya (starring Vinay Pathak). Like the first two movies contained a rift in the past between two friends from the group concerned, this movie also has one. Like the first two movies again, it also contains their friendly teasing, pranks, flirting the girls and joint merry-making before facing the harsh reality of life. And like the last one, it also underscores the importance of living the life at hand to the fullest before the dying moment arrives. However it does not reach to the level of any of these three. It is because of the weaknesses in the script which the director – Zoya has tried her level best to cover with the help of beautiful locales of Spain, Shaayari of her (and Farhan’s) father – Javed Akhtar, some style generated through the language and culture of Spain and finally, good thrill in the end. The same message had been conveyed more forcefully in Dasvidaniya through a different story. The second half of the movie is lengthier and better than the first one. The story takes off quite slowly in the first half and bores for the first 15-20 minutes.zindagi-na-milegi-dobara-01Abhay Deol’s telling his friends that he had not proposed Kalki in the first place and she had misunderstood his showing her the ring bought by him for his mother, as proposing her; is contradictory to the opening scene in which Abhay persuades Kalki a lot to marry him.49280-znmd2-largeI liked Hrithik’s repetitive saying to his friends in a scene – ‘Ye bhi likha tha’ (it was also written) very much because he echoed my views only. I firmly believe in destiny. Whatever is written (destined) , is bound to take place when the proper moment arrives.

This movie is a visual treat. The scenes under the sea-surface as well as in the heights of the sky are marvellous. Not only the production value is exceedingly high but the cinematographer has done a remarkable job from his side also alongwith the art director. Technically the movie is just superb. Even when the narrative seems to be boring a bit, the beautiful scenes passing on the screen keep the viewer hooked. The running of the deadly bulls in the climax and the heroes running (alongwith several others) to save themselves from them, is sensational.

The music is according to the mood of the movie. The song – Senorita has a clear stamp of the song – Hum Hain Naye, Andaaz Kyun Ho Purana from Farhan’s maiden directorial venture – Dil Chaahta Hai (whose composition was also created by the same music directors – Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy). The songs have been picturized well.

Performance wise talking, it’s mainly the movie of the three heroes. Hrithik has matured enough since his Kaho Na Pyar Hai days during the past one decade and his looks as well as performance is very impressive. Farhan Akhtar is not just a good director, he is a good actor also and he proves it again. But the show-stealer, in my opinion, is Abhay Deol who effortlessly acts and enters the skin of his character.

Among others, Katrina Kaif is not bad but her dialogue-delivery still leaves a lot to be desired. Kalki Koechlin is okay as an over-possessive and nagging would-be wife but she is definitely a misfit for the roles of Indian girls. Ariadna Cabrol is much better than these two (in the role of the Spanish girl). Nasiruddin Shah is fine in his cameo whereas a great actress like Deepti Naval has been wasted.

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Well, the message to live every moment of your life to the full without worrying too much for the future or regretting the past is all right but the way the heroes easily move from place to place abroad, spend generously and always remain in eat-drink-and-be-merry mood without any monetary constraint; makes me think whether enjoying your life or brooding peacefully is also a luxury of the filthy-rich only. Can the people who have to earn daily to make both ends meet, afford such a luxury as the trio in the movie could do ? That’s why, myself, being a middle-class person with a modest earning; liked the movie but could not relate to it.

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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 Tawayaf (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 dialogs of this movie in association with Shama Zaidi and Jaaved 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 Tawayaf in an amazing manner.

Farooque Sheikh as Umrao Jaan’s lover and all the other characters have also done exceedingly well. Even the small characters of Maulvi Saheb (Gajaanan Jaagirdaar) and Bismillah (Prema Naarayan) are able to leave their imprint in the movie. The romance between Farooque 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 Shaharyaar 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 Leejiye, In Aankhon Ki Masti Ke Mastaane Hazaaron Hain, Zindagi Jab Bhi Teri Bazm Mein Laati Hai Hamen, Justujoo 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.

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