Bollywood classics very close to my heart

I present a list of Bollywood’s all time great classics which are very close to my heart. The list is bound to be subjective since I have to select a only a few out of hundreds. Besides, everybody can make his own list according to personal choice. Here comes my list of top ten masterpieces from Bollywood :

1. Pyaasa (1957) : Gurudutt read a poem – ‘Seven cities claimed Holmer dead, while the living Holmer begged his bread’. And he got the inspiration to make this movie which is not only one of the greatest movies of India but the world. Through the story of a Shaayar, Guru Dutt has portrayed the deterioration of values and ethics, the swiftly increasing selfishness overpowering everything else and the disenchantment from the Nehruvian idealism in the free India. This black and white movie is a classic example of cinematic excellence. Waheeda Rehman as Gulabo is adorable. The lyrics of Sahir, composed by S.D. Burman and sung by Rafi are hard-hitting. One song sung by Hemant Kumar – Jaane Woh Kaise Long The Jinke Pyar Ko Pyar Mila is also an immortal classic.

2. Khamoshi (1969) : This Rajesh Khanna-Waheeda Rehman starrer movie can be termed as the best of Waheeda’s career by any standards. A rare blend of psychology and a woman’s suppressed, untold emotions. The music of Hemant Kumar is enchanting with highly meaningful lyrics by Gulzar.

3. Taare Zameen Par (2007) : Aamir Khan’s masterpiece watching which I shed countless tears in the cinema hall. The highly sensitive story of the sentiments of a child suffering from dyslexia. A text book on child psychology. It stands with pride with the old classics of 50s, 60s and 70s.

4. Mother India (1957) : Mehbood Khan remade his own movie Aurat (1940) under the title Mother India with a big star cast and a grandeur immortalizing Nargis in the title role which starts from her teens and goes upto her 70s. Deserved an Oscar but the western jury could not grasp the soul of the Indian story and the Indian social values. Sunil Dutt also played the memorable role of Birju who is shot dead by his mother in the climax.

5. Haqeeqat (1964) : Chetan Anand’s classic which is inarguably the best war movie ever made in India. It’s the painful story of retreat of the Indian soldiers after the heart-piercing defeat in the China war of 1962. A tear-jerking saga with immortal music given by Madan Mohan. The song – Hoke Majboor Mujhe Usne Bhulaya Hoga is my all time favourite Bollywood song, listening and watching which is the experience of a lifetime.

6. Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam (1962) : Guru Dutt’s classic movie directed by Abrar Alvi, based on the novel of the same title authored by the legendary Bangla novelist Bimal Mitra. It presents a true picture of the deteriorating position of the landlords in 19th century Bengal and the social milieu of that period. Meena Kumari gave the performance of her life time in the immortal role of Chhoti Bahu. The songs in the voices of Geeta Dutt (Roy) are all time classics. Guru Dutt himself played the memorable role of Bhoot Nath in the movie.

7. Do Bigha Zameen (1953) : Bimal Roy’s classic movie on the plight of the poor Indian peasant destined to live and die in debt of the blood-sucking money-lenders. The heart-tearing saga was made lively on the screen with the outstanding performances of Balraaj Saahni and Nirupa Roy.

8. Mughal-e-Azam (1960) : The most grandiose movie of the Indian silver screen based on the Salim-Anarkali love saga, directed by K. Asif and acted by legends like Prithvi Raj Kapoor, Dilip Kumar and Madhubala. The music of Naushad is immortal the same way, the movie itself is.

9. Satyakaam (1969) : The hard-hitting realistic movie of Hrishikesh Mukherjee, baring the true face of the society and narrating the tragic destiny of a truthful and idealistic man in that. Dharmendra delivered a performance of his life time with Sharmila Tagore and Sanjeev Kumar ably supporting him. This movie is Hrishi Da’s best work by all means.

10. Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959) : A beautiful story which could not be told properly, a beautiful idol which could not be finished perfectly, a beautiful song which could not be sung properly; yet its greatness is beyond any argument. The last movie directed by Guru Dutt which was a flop but definitely the best movie made with the backdrop of the movie-world itself. Waqt Ne Kiya Kya Haseen Sitam is the immortal song which is the combined great effort of S.D. Burman, Kaifi Aazmi and Geeta Dutt whereas Bichhade Sabhi Baari Baari sung by Rafi is the song which bares the disgustful face of this selfish world and when played in the ending scene is simply tear-jerking. Guru-Waheeda chemistry is nothing short of amazing. The outstanding cinematography of V.K. Murthy is another highlight of this black and white movie.Other than these top ten, the following masterpieces from Bollywood are also mentionable :

1. 36 Chowringhee Lane (1981) : It’s not just a movie, it’s a pain-soaked poetry written on celluloid. A highly sensitive English movie by Aparna Sen, produced by Shashi Kapoor and acted by Jennifer Kendal (Kapoor) in the central role of a lonely lady with a superlative degree if sensitivity.

2. Parzania (2005) : Acted by Nasiruddin Shah, Sarika and others, it is perhaps the best movie on the communal hatred in India. Made with the backdrop of the Gujrat riots, the story is a quest for humanity and sensitivity in the wilderness of hatred and sin.

3. Jagte Raho (1956) : The most realistic movie from the prestigious R.K. banner of Bollywood, directed by Sombhu Mitra-Amit Maitra, showcasing the best ever performance of Raj Kapoor. The complete chain of events takes place in a residential complex and during one night only, baring the disgustful face of the hypocritical urban society.

4. Anand (1970) : Hrishi Da’s classic whose story is based on the never-say-die spirit of human-being who is going to die within a few months. Pronouncing affirmatively – Zindagi Zinda Dili Ka Naam Hai, the movie showcases the best ever performance of Rajesh Khanna in the lead role. The movie boasts of certain immortal songs in the voice of Mukesh, composed by Salil Chowdhury and penned by Yogesh.

5. Deewar (1975) : Gulshan Rai’s classic movie directed by Yash Chopra which seems to be inspired from Dilip Kumar’s Ganga Jumna (1961) showing two brothers on two polar ends of the continuum of law. Established Amitabh Bachchan as the perennial angry young man and Shashi Kapoor’s dialogue – Mere Paas Maa Hai became immortal.

6. Umrao Jaan (1981) : The classic movie based on the novel of Mirza Haadi Ruswa, acted brilliantly by Rekha in the title role and made excellently by Muzaffar Ali. The team of Khayaam, Sheheryaar, Asha Bhonsle and Talat Aziz created an everlasting musical aura.

7. Garm Hava (1974) : A touching movie on the plight of innocent Indian Muslims in the period just after partition when they were finding the surrounding milieu and the environment seemingly hostile to them and they were in a fix whether their decision of not leaving their country for Pakistan was right or wrong. The debut movie of Farooq Sheikh boasting of the best ever performance of Balraaj Saahni. This hard-hitting, sensitive and very very realistic movie was made by M.S. Sathyu.

8. Mere Apne (1971) : Writer-director-lyricist Gulzar’s realistic maiden venture whose theme based on the misleading of unemployed urban youths is still relevant. Contains great performances by Meena Kumari, Vinod Khanna and Shatrughan Sinha.

9. Gangaajal (2003) : Prakash Jha’s hard-hitting movie on the Indian police system, loosely inspired by an incident taken place in Bhagalpur in 1979 in which some policemen had blinded some suspects in the lock-up. Utterly realistic from the very first frame to the very last frame. A great performance by not only Ajay Devgan but the whole performing team.

10. Sholay (1975) : The greatest commercially successful movie whose characters, events and dialogues have become a part of the Indian folklore.

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My favourite Bollywood mysteries

It’s raining here (in Hyderabad) and rains have a special bond with many Bollywood mysteries. Being a mystery fan, I jot down my favourite Bollywood mysteries or suspense thrillers.My favourite top ten mysteries from Bollywood :

1. Hamraaz (1967) : Hamraaz is the numero uno in my list as I rate it as the best suspense-thriller I have seen in Bollywood movies. The length of this 3 hours plus long Sunil Dutt-Raaj Kumar-Vimi starrer is never felt because all the highly melodious (and very well picturized) songs are in the first one hour only and after that the 2 hours and odd minutes long fast-paced suspenseful drama is nowhere hindered by any song. The suspense of the white shoe wearer is simply amazing. Remade as Imtihaan in 1994 starring Saif Ali Khan-Sunny Deol-Raveen Tandon.

2. Mera Saaya (1966) : You love mystery ! You love court-room drama ! You love melodies ! You love romance ! You love emotion ! You love comedy ! Mera Saaya presents all rolled into one with each one of these aspects perfectly in place. The on-screen chemistry of Sunil Dutt and Saadhana makes you fall in love with this pair. The best directorial venture of Raj Khosla.

3.100 Days (1991) : Not seen Madhuri Dixit in a murder mystery revolving around herself only ? Watch this highly gripping murder mystery starring gorgeous Madhuri opposite dashing Jackie Shroff. The plot is based on premonition or ESP by whatever name you may call it. But the thing is that you are just lost in the narrative and may not be able to guess the culprit till the climax.

4. Kohra (1964) : A rip off of Rebecca but truly a watchable suspense thriller with highly melodious music by Hemant Kumar starring Waheeda Rehman and Biswajeet. The interesting thing is that the actress playing Biswajeet’s dead first wife is not known because her face is never shown in the movie, only the torso is shown to the audience. Remade as Anamika in 2008 starring Dino Morea and Minissha Lamba.

5. Gumnaam (1965) : If you have not read Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians (also published as And Then There Were None), Gumnaam is there for you. It is plot based movie, not character based (though Manoj Kumar and Nanda have been cast as a romantic pair, actually no actor in the movie can be considered as in a lead role). The mystery deepens after every fresh murder. The scene of murder of Helen had sent chills to my spine when I was watching it in the theatre.

6. Dhund (1973) : This B.R. Chopra directed Sanjay-Zeenat Aman-Naveen Nischal starrer is a good murder mystery with certain very good songs and a power packed performance by Danny Dengjongpa. Remade as Chupp in 1997 starring Avinash Wadhavan-Somi Ali-Jeetendra (with Om Puri in the role done by Danny in Dhund).

7. Kanoon (1960) : B.R. Chopra showed courage by making this movie sans songs and dances in that black and white era. This Ashok Kumar-Rajendra Kumar-Nanda starrer is not only an engrossing murder mystery but it had laid down certain thoughts regarding the capital punishment also. It is still remembered for its dramatic court-room scenes.

8. Woh Kaun Thi (1964) : This Raj Khosla directed movie engrosses the viewer from its very first scene filmed on Manoj Kumar and Saadhana in heavy rainfall. Saadhana’s amazing performance and the extra-ordinarily melodious songs composed by Madan Mohan makes it enchanting for the audience. Loose ends left untied and certain questions left unanswered in the end, are its weak points though.

9. Anita (1967) : Same director with same cast and even Saadhana in the same mysterious woman type role when we compare it with Woh Kaun Thi. The difference is that B&W movie Woh Kaun Thi is better than this coloured one. The music is melodious here also. The weak points are also the same as WKT.

10. Anamika (1973) : This Sanjeev Kumar-Jaya Bhaduri starrer also portrays the female lead as Ms. mystery and rightfully names her as Anamika (the lady without a name). However the narrative is gripping, the songs are melodious, the performances are hilarious and the climax is definitely spine-chilling.Some more mysteries which are very good in my opinion:

1. Teesri Manzil (1966) : A classic murder mystery directed by Vijay Anand starring Shammi Kapoor and Asha Parekh with very good music.

2. Jewel Thief (1967) : Mystery of double identity, directed by Vijay Anand only starring Ashok Kumar, Dev Anand and Vyjayantimala with great songs. Not seen Ashok Kumar in a negative role ? See it here.

3. Shikar (1968) : An outstanding murder mystery starring Dharmendra-Sanjeev Kumar-Asha Parekh with a forest backdrop, will keep you guessing about the murderer till the very end.

4. Bees Saal Baad (1962) : Based on Arthur Conan Doyle’s novel – The Hound of the Baskervilles, this Biswajeet-Waheeda Rehman starrer got fame for its horror at the time of its release but now it can be seen on DVD for its mystery. Its songs are definitely great. Listening to them is no less than a treat.

5. Mahal (1969) : A thoroughly engrossing mystery starring Dev Anand and Asha Parekh directed by Shankar Mukherjee.

6. Baat Ek Raat Ki (1962) : Again directed by Shankar Mukherjee starring Dev Anand only but opposite Waheeda Rehman. This B&W movie is a very good murder mystery with some good songs.

7. Raaz (1967) : The debut movie of Rajesh Khanna and Babita. Some very good songs and a good mystery. However the treatment of the plot is not that good.

8. Soldier (1998) : This Bobby Deol-Preity Zinta starrer is perhaps the best mystery directed by the Indian Alfred Hitchcock, Abbas Mustan.

9. Gupt (1997) : Gupt is not only a very good murder mystery but this Bobby Deol-Manisha Koirala-Kajol starrer also provides good comedy through several characters in cameo roles.

10. Yeh Raat Phir Na Aayegi (1966) : This Biswajeet-Sharmila Tagore starrer mystery having all time classic melodious songs composed by O.P. Nayyar alongwith the impressive performance of the acting legend, Prithvi Raaj Kapoor, is thoroughly enjoyable.

11. Duniya (1968) : This Dev Anand-Vyjayantimala-Balraj Sahni starrer is a sensational murder mystery with some very good songs. The court-room tussle between rival lawyers Dev Anand and Balraj Sahni adds spice to the mystery.

12. Poonam Ki Raat (1965) : This Manoj Kumar-Nandini-Kumud Chhugani starrer directed by Kishore Sahu, is also a murder mystery whose psychological basis may sound interesting to the psychiatrists.

13. Apradhi Kaun (1957) : This black and white movie is a mesmerizing murder mystery starring Abhi Bhattacharya as the investigator hero and Mala Sinha as the female lead.

14. Baharon Ki Manzil (1968) : Meenakumari-Dharmendra-Rehmaan starrer engrossing mystery which, despite its flaws and untied loose ends, keeps the viewer guessing regarding the truth behind the curtain till its very end.

15. Khamosh (1985) : This Vidhu Vinod Chopra directed murder mystery is highly engrossing as well as spine-chilling with brilliant performances from many highly respected artistes of Bollywood viz. Shabana Aazmi, Nasiruddin Shah, Amol Palekar etc.

16. Khiladi (1992) : This Akshay Kumar-Ayesha Zulka-Deepak Tijori starrer murder mystery is more or less a take on Rishi Kapoor-Neetu Singh-Rakesh Roshan starrer Khel Khel Mein (1975) but courtesy good comedy, it is better than its predecessor.

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Watch it for Akshay Kumar

At the very outset, I sincerely thank my friend Suketu Shah for inspiring me to write a review of this emotional musical which was released in the year 2000 and I had watched it in the theatre (at Jodhpur) with my family (my wife and my little daughter).Dhadkan (heartbeat) is based on triangular relationship between a husband, his wife and her ex-beau. Dev (Sunil Shetty) is poor and is in love with a comparatively well-off girl, Anjali (Shilpa Shetty) who gets married to Ram (Akshay Kumar) as per the wishes of her parents. After getting troubles in her married life for some time, she is able to adjust there and starts loving her husband too. Her idealistic husband is totally alone in the hostile environment of the family consisting of his step-mother (Sushma Seth) , step-brother (Parmeet Sethi) and step-sister (Manjeet Kullar). Anyway, three years pass after their marriage when the twist in the tale comes.

The twist is the return of Anjali’s erstwhile poor ex-beau, Dev who is no longer poor and has become a big businessman, working in association with Sheetal (Mahima Chaudhary). Dev feels that he can win Anjali back from Ram through his wealth and he makes attempts in this direction through many negative steps. However, in the end, he realizes that Anjali can’t be his now and without any bitterness in heart towards Ram, he moves back abroad with an intent to marry Sheetal now (who had been loving him in her heart despite knowing about his passion for Anjali).The story starts interestingly and there are many impressive sequences in the movie, beautifully intertwined with the melodious songs. However there is little doubt that the direction is poor on overall basis. The story could have been told much more convincingly. Instead, it has been told in a stupidly theatrical way and appears utterly unreliable even on the screen. All the supporting characters appear like robots having human faces with mechanical gestures, activities and dialogues. In the scene of wedding of Ram and Anjlai, Navneet Nishaan has been shown as the sister of Ram. However in the very next scene (and for the balance part of movie), Manjeet Kullar is shown as playing that role. Well, the viewer can only pity at the brains of the director for this continuity-jerk.It is told that when Anjali had left Dev, he had only 50 paise in his pocket. After three years, he is showed as owning a business empire worth Rs. 500 crores which is the height of exaggeration. Further he goes abroad so comfortably as if he had to go to Chinchpokli through a local train. He is so egoistic that he meets Anjali’s father (Kiran Kumar) wearing a slipper containing a hole. Even this is not sufficient, he shows that hole to his prospective father-in-law with pride. While watching that scene, I was feeling like taking that slipper (with the hole) from Dev and hitting the moviemaker hard with that only.

The face-saving grace of this movie are Akshay Kumar and music. Nadeem-Shravan have composed highly admirable songs for this emotional saga. Dil Ne Ye Kaha Hai Dil Se, Tum Dil Ki Dhadkan Mein Rehte Ho, Na Na Karte Pyar Haay Main Kar Gayi, Aksar Iss Duniya Mein and finally the wedding song – Dulhe Ka Sehra Suhaana Lagta Hai, all are worth listening to again and again. The picturization of the songs is also good.Cinematographer has done a remarkable job. There are several eye-soothing scenes capturing the beautiful landscapes. The art-direction is also praiseworthy. The movie is not unduly long but the editing still leaves a lot to be desired (the continuity-jerk mentioned above is an example of the poor editing).

Akshay Kumar has excelled in the role of an idealist. His character has been crafted on the lines of the name given to his character (Lord Rama). His restrained performance evidences that his acting talent remained unexplored during his initial years in Bollywood. His perfomance in Dhadkan is unarguably one of his best acting performances. Sunil Shetty and Shilpa Shetty (today’s birthday babe) have also delivered admirable performances. Mahima Chaudhary is strictly ok. However the complete supporting cast has done NAUTANKI in the name of acting. Everybody is over the top and irritating.

Still I recommend this movie to the audience liking emotional stories and family dramas. The music and the performances of the key characters have made it worth a watch despite its flaws. And it is also not to be missed by the fans of Akshay Kumar (and the fans of Shilpa Shetty and Sunil Shetty as well).

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Romance in old age ! Why not ?

Male-female love is an eternal truth reappearing every moment and at every place in this mortal world since the times of Adam and Eve. In science, it is asserted that opposite charges attract each other and similarly the opposite ends of the magnets attract each other. And perhaps in the similar fashion (designed by the Almighty), opposite sexes attract each other, irrespective of cast, religion, race, province, language, appearance and age as well. Love has been facing challenges and opposition from multiple sides for ages, yet it survives. Kuchh Baat Hai Ki Hasti Mitati Nahin Hai Pyar Ki. Whether it’s a palace or a hovel, whether it’s a metro city or a very small remotely placed village, whether it’s a posh area or a slum and finally whether the involved persons are children or youths or the aged ones; love happens. It’s the biggest gift of the Almighty to the mankind (in fact, almost all the creatures in this world). Even the people creating a havoc (in India) on every Valentine’s Day and troubling the dating couples, find themselves struck by the cupid’s arrow one fine morning in their lives.

As I have mentioned in the first para itself, opposite charges (and sexes) attract each other. Hence mutual attraction, infatuation and finally love can take place between a male and a female at any age and in any phase of life. When it can happen in young age, then why not in old age ? The functioning of heart and the sentiments embedded therein remains the same in the old age as it is in the young age. In fact, the fascination and the love in old age tend to be more mature and meaningful because it gets more platonic than sensual. I don’t know about females but being a male, I frankly admit that I always feel more comfortable in sharing my private feelings, pains and anguishes with a (like-minded) female than a male.And that’s how this beautiful and touching movie has been made which I had seen in its year of release itself (2005). I sincerely thank esteemed reviewer, Deepa Swaminathan  for inspiring me to write the review of this movie which I found very close to my heart when I watched it. It reminded me of a classic Hindi novel penned by esteemed Hindi authoress, Usha Priyamvada – Pachpan Khambhe Laal Deewaaren (fifty-five pillars and red walls) which narrates the stuffiness and loneliness of a lady who gives away her whole life as holocaust for the happiness and prosperity of her family members, not a single of whom (not even her mother) gives a damn for her feelings, desires and needs and even her sacrifices are never acknowledged by them. It happens with many ladies (and gentlemen too) who, after devoting decades of their lives, including the complete youth phase, get nothing in return from the beneficiaries. What should such lonely people do when life provides them a second chance to get their happiness and some worthy fellow’s love ? Pyar Mein Twist provides the simplest answer – they should not let the opportunity slip out of their hands and grab their share of joys and satisfaction which they, as human-beings, are entitled to.Initially titled as Pal Tham Gaya (the moment paused) and later retitled as Pyaar Mein Twist (a twist in love), this movie tells the story of two lonely fellows – Yash (Rishi Kapoor) and Sheetal (Dimple Kapadia) who are single parents and have spent almost the entire period of their golden years, fostering their children and managing their lives, ignoring their own. Life brings them together and then they have to make a decision whether to lead the remaining part of it as the erstwhile one or choose the option of living together with the love of each other. The negative and non-understanding attitude of their children is the biggest obstacle with an additional one for the lady whose daughter (Soha Ali Khan) is engaged and she can ill-afford to let her image maligned before the would-be in-laws of her daughter lest the matrimonial alliance should be broken. However, her aunt (Farida Jalaal) gives her strength and encourages her to spend her remaining life for herself and not for the sake of others. And then our (now) aged pair of Bobby (1973) repeats its teenager act of Bobby itself by fleeing away from their homes without letting their family members know their whereabouts. The exercise of their respective families of searching them reduces the mental distances between the concerned people and finally they come to understand that their parents too are, after all, human-beings only and possess a right to love and be loved.

Director Hriday Shetty has handled this simple script quite skillfully and maintained interest for the viewers throughout. Technically the movie is okay. Music by Jatin-Lalit has nothing much to boast of other than the repeated (in piecemeal) song – Pal Tham Gaya and the remix of a hit song from Rishi Kapoor’s old movie, Khel Khel Mein (1975)Khullamkhulla Pyar Karenge Hum Dono. However the biggest strength of this movie is its lead pair only. Obese, yet attractive, Rishi Kapoor and the ever-gorgeous Dimple (today is her birthday) have proved that they can recreate the Bobby magic even after a long gap of 32 years. They deserve a big hand indeed. The supporting cast, including the debutante Soha Ali Khan, has done its part well. Satish Shah and Farida Jalaal stand out and make their presence felt.Abraham Maslow kept love in the middle of the pyramid of his need hierarchy starting from the physiological needs (at the bottom) and reaching upto the need of self-actualization (at the peak). However I consider it as the basic and the most important need for a sizable chunk of the human-race. As stated above, even those who do not love or give importance to love, also need love. And there is no rule that you cannot date with or romance with someone of your choice in the mature age. I salute Sahara India for producing such a lovable and touching movie. If you put a premium on love, this movie is just for you only.

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Serial murders in a college with a ‘CHALLENGE’

Mr. Challenge is a murder mystery written by renowned Hindi mystery writer – Ved Prakash Sharma. It’s a novel under the Vibha Jindal series of the author in which the role of the detective is performed by an intelligent lady – Vibha Jindal who is actually the head of a big industrial house. In the novels of this series, the author has portrayed her as his college buddy. She is a widow and the mother of a son. She solves mysteries just out of her interest in this line.

The unique characteristic of the novels under this series is that the author himself also remains present alongwith his (real) family members showing himself and his family as interacting with Vibha Jindal and taking part in the proceedings of the story. This feature renders a realistic flavour to the novel and adds spice to the story, increasing its entertainment value.Mr. Challenge starts with the author’s trying to write a whodunit under the same title (Mr. Challenge) when his wife (Madhu) enters his study and finds that for the past four days, her husband has not been able to even start the novel. Then she shows him a newspaper headline which is regarding a murder taken place in their own city – Meerut (U.P.). The murder has taken place in a college and the victim was a lady lecturer. She was stabbed by someone in the morning of the previous day and in her attempt to save her from the murderer, she fell from the roof of the college. The most intriguing thing that happened after that was that she wrote (using her own blood as ink) – CHALLENGE on the floor before dying. Since the author had closed himself in his study (to write the novel), virtually disconnecting himself from the world, he did not come to know of it till his wife make him read the news in the newspaper of the following day. Now our author feels that this real life incident can become the perfect plot for his new novel which is to be titled as Mr. Challenge. He, therefore, comes out of the house and enters the field.

He meets the investigating officer of the case who is a police inspector and also meets the prime suspect who is a student and was suspended from the college for a week at the recommendation of the victim. The inspector had arrested him under suspicion after the murder but he tells the author that even after giving him a brutal third degree treatment, he has not been able to get the confession from him. He takes the suspect to the college and the author accompanies him. The author meets different people there and gathers the facts in his bid to guess as to who can be the murderer. However the same night, the author is shocked to know that the same student has been murdered. A piece of paper is found from his pocket on which the word ‘CHALLENGE’ has been written with the handwriting appearing to be of himself only.

The author now suspects the principal of the college to be the guilty and he tries to get the truth out of his mouth but fails. Further twist in the tale comes with the author’s himself getting kidnapped. Now the wife of the author talks over phone to Vibha Jindal who has also come to know of this incident through the newspaper. She arrives at the author’s home and sets to her work of investigating the whole chain of events covering the murders as well as the author’s kidnapping. Shortly, she succeeds in finding the author and releasing him from the confinement of the kidnappers. However the bigger task is ahead because the murderer is still at large. Now many more murders take place in the college and every time the victim writes (or appears to have written) the word ‘CHALLENGE’ before his / her death. In the given scenario, there is no dearth of suspects including the principal, a young lecturer who was in love with the first victim, the peon of the college, the watchman of the college and some students. Finally, the heroine of the novel, i.e., Vibha Jindal solves the intricate mystery of these serial murders.

Despite admiring Ved Prakash Sharma’s skill of writing an engrossing whodunit, I speak with pride that I was able to guess the murderer before the revelation in the ending pages of the novel. Well, that does not dilute the quality of the novel which is damn impressive as well as entertaining. The author has created some caricaturesque characters while penning the novel in the style of a masala movie made in Bollywood (he used some elements of this novel in writing the story of a Bollywood movie released alongside the publication of this novel only in 1998). Thus the novel renders a Bollywoodish entertainment to the reader. In addition to the whodunit element, there are other things too viz. friendship, sentiments, comedy etc. in the story through which the author has tried to turn the novel into a spicy dish instead of its being reduced to a traditional murder mystery.

And indeed the novel proves to be a delicious dish for the consumer, i.e., the reader whom it thoroughly entertains. Alongside the mystery of the serial murders, the mysteries of the word ‘CHALLENGE’ written by the victims before dying and the kidnapping of the author are also quite intriguing. The plot of the novel may not be the original idea of the author and he might have borrowed the basic grains from somewhere but the style and the tassels are his own. The complete novel has a clear stamp of his style which had become very popular during the late seventies and the eighties, taking him on top of the world of Hindi pulp fiction.

As said earlier, the author’s making himself and his family members as the novel’s characters (participating in the proceedings and remaining present during the various happenings alongside the lady investigator) makes it much more entertaining than otherwise. It’s a unique art developed by Ved Prakash Sharma to add value to the novels of this series. He shows himself as a normal human-being with a modest IQ but the lady investigator, Vibha Jindal as extra-smart and sharp-minded (after all, she is the heroine of the novel).

The author has used normal language (Hindi) of day-to-day use while narrating the story and creating the dialogs between characters. One character uses peculiar lingo though (to create a smile on the lips of the reader). The novels grips the reader from the very first scene and the narrative flows freely towards the desired destination.

I wholeheartedly recommend this interesting whodunit to the Hindi readers who like crime-detection stories.

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Sunil saves an innocent from the gallows

Popular novelist Surendra Mohan Pathak has penned around 295 books till date out of which more than 100 are his Hindi novels authored under the Sunil Series, the investigating adventures of a crime reporter who works for a national daily, Blast as a full time employee. Among these hundred and odd novels of this crime journalist hero, the most popular one is Meena Murder Case which is based on the the plot of a divorcee woman’s murder for which her ex-husband is sentenced to death by the court. The high court confirms the capital punishment awarded to the accused by the lower court and when the due date of his execution is only six days away, he, being innocent, decides to seek the help of the kind-hearted reporter who always takes the side of the truth and firmly believes that truth always triumphs. How Sunil is able to expose the real murderer and save the innocent man from the gallows, forms the bulk of the novel which is thoroughly engrossing for a reader of murder-mysteries.

The suspects are many. Right from the two partners of the accused who run the stock brokers’ firm with him to his fiancee, his servant, his cousin, the lady-secretary of the firm, the accountant of the firm etc. make a good list of suspects out of which Sunil has to unmask the murderer. There is an airtight case against the accused with nothing in his favour except the truth and that’s the most important thing for our truth-loving, idealist hero. Digging out the hidden truth within a short time-span of 5-6 days is a Herculian task which, in normal circumstances, is next to impossible especially when the real culprit has framed the accused in the charge of his ex-wife’s murder through a fool-proof and carefully designed plan. However Sunil, being a staunch optimist who never loses heart over anything, makes it possible and able to ensure a stay on the execution of the accused at the eleventh hour through the order of the governor of the state.As I have said in an earlier review too, the most fascinating thing for me in the Sunil Series novels is the lively portrayal of the fictitious city of Rajnagar where Sunil is settled and carries out his acts pertaining to his investigative journalism profession. He is always in search of a sensational news for his employer newspaper, i.e., Blast. However he is the perennial supporter of truth as well as the underdog. We may not believe in the dictum – Satyamev Jayate (given the present state of affairs in our country) but this hero of Mr. Pathak does. He is never ready to do anything for a liar and ever ready to do everything to reveal the truth behind any mystery at hand and help the framed innocent.

It’s said that Surendra Mohan Pathak had lifted plots of many of his novels from British / American pulp fiction. May be. That’s why I do not proclaim that the plot of the novel is his original idea. However the treatment of the plot bears a stamp of his own which nobody can copy. The engrossing flow of the narrative, the twists placed at the appropriate places; the elaborative description of the personalities of the different characters involved, allowing the reader to peep into their minds and make a guess as to who can be the culprit; the humorous interactions of Sunil with his Punjabi friend, Ramakant and finally the spicy language which is a mix of Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu and English; all sum up to a very interesting reading which is worth the time and money spent by the reader. It provides the wholesome entertainment that we expect from a typical Indian movie.

Meena Murder Case is the 76th venture of Sunil which had been written in the late seventies by the author and it still maintains a fresh look in a fashion similar to the Agatha Christie novels written 70-80 years back. I unconditionally recommend this novel to the Hindi fiction readers who are fond of murder-mysteries / crime-detection novels.

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The naive golden bird and the exploitative world

In my review of a classic Hindi novel – Pachpan Khambhe Laal Deewaarein, I have highlighted the pain of being lonely but not alone, the pain of being so sensitive and noble that you keep on caring for others without a single one caring for your bare minimum needs and the fact that it’s bad to be excessively good. People may be around a noble-hearted person in the form of relatives or friends but they are more like parasites, drawing the blood of that naive, benevolent and sensitive one. They emotionally blackmail him / her for own vested interests. They exploit him / her to the hilt and prove that he / she must have been better as alone than with them. The world is like that only. Good people are quite less with the major chunk of the world’s population being made of the selfish and the exploitative ones. And it’s the good, sincere and sensitive ones only who usually find themselves at the receiving end. The triumph of truth, justice and good is a myth with the evil seen as victorious on most of the occasions in the routine worldly life.Sone Ki Chidiya (1958) is based on this theme only. It’s a cinematic adaptation of a story of eminent Urdu authoress – Ismat Chughtai. This brilliant movie, despite certain deficiencies and minuses, is a classic piece of art. It pinches you, it pains you, it moves you and make you relate to it if you are also a sufferer in the hands of the exploitative world around you. It’s an eye-opener for every talented person who is unfortunately surrounded by the selfish who are interested in exploiting his / her talent to fill their own pockets and nothing else.

Sone Ki Chidiya (golden bird) is the term used for its protagonist – Lakshmi (Nutan) who is an orphan girl whose guardians throw her into the house of another distant relative whose wife treats her as a maid-servant whereas the alcoholic and gambler younger son tries to sell her to his creditor against his debt. Fortunately her talent comes to the fore and she gets a movie contract and becomes a film-heroine. Then all of a sudden, this unwanted girl becomes a Sone Ki Chidiya (golden bird) for this greedy family in which but for her sensitive uncle, everybody is after her earning only. However being quite naive and sensitive by nature, she does not mind giving her earnings to them only without keeping anything for her. However being a young girl, she is also starving for the love of opposite sex and wants to tie the sacred knot with a suitable boy which is, quite naturally, not acceptable to her ‘family’ members who can’t afford their golden bird to fly away.

An ambitious youth named as Amar (Talat Mahmood) enters her life and she falls in love with him under an expectation that he’ll marry her but soon she comes to understand that she’s only a ladder for him to become a hero in movies and build a glamorous and lucrative career through her. After seeing his real face, utterly disappointed and lonely Lakshmi decides to end her life but a song authored and being sung at that moment by a poet Shreekaant (Balraaj Saahmi) stops her from taking that extreme step. Shreekaant does not know her because he’s not fond of movies but she knows him due to being the fan of his poetry. Both come close and Lakshmi suddenly starts feeling that she’s ascertained her final destination, i.e., being the life-partner of Shreekaant who is a man of principles and definitely not after her wealth and earning capacity. But still certain shocks and twists of destiny are there in store for her. However the movie ends on a happy note with this golden bird (Sone Ki Chidiya) flying away in the free air with the love of her life, breaking open the cage of vested interests and greedy ones which had kept her captive hitherto.

Perhaps this movie was made long after the story had been written by Ismat Aapa (who is also the producer of this movie) . That’s why some things appear to be out of place in this movie. In those days, it might have been possible for a talented girl to become a film-heroine due to some stroke of luck but the protagonist of this movie, i.e., Lakshmi becomes a heroine or screen-diva because of her singing talent and not her beauty or acting talent. Thus this story appears to be of the era of the thirties when playback singing had not come into existence. But from a different angle, this movie bares the truth of the Indian film industry as it was in those days.

The story is a highly touching one all the same, baring the harsh reality of the selfish world. The message given by the so-called matured elders to the innocent children is -‘live for others’ but the poor child who learns to live for others finds himself (or herself) as the biggest sufferer in life with everybody taking advantage of him (or her). Not only in that era but even today, this world appears to be meant for only those who know how to use others and the poor ones who do not know it are reduced to the used and exploited ones only with the cunning ones usurping all the rewards of their toil and talent.

The director (Shahid Lateef) has done complete justice to the excellent story of the great Urdu authoress with every frame of the movie appearing to be shedding tears for the pain and loneliness of the protagonist. The complete movie is a tear-jerker and penetrates the sensitive hearts like anything. Any sensitive spectator can’t help weeping for the pain, loneliness and stuffiness of Lakshmi who has a heart of gold but a luck made of dust only.

The movie highlights the exploitation of the junior artists in the film-industry. Now this exploitation must be less considering many associations working to protect their interests but in that era, it was at its peak. The filmmaker has very skilfully and realistically highlighted that the major part of the budget of the lavishly made movies is usurped by the stars signed for them only and that’s why the hard-working major chunk of the unit barely gets its due. This true even today also with the stars being paid in billions and the hard-working cast working without any limelight not being paid enough to lead a reasonable life. Such injustice and exploitation has never stopped since the time this movie was made.

Through the character of Shreekaant, the filmmaker has cursed the film-industry which does not allow a poet to create in natural way (he has to write lyrics at the instructions of the composers) and presenting artificial life and characters taking the audience into a false world. Yes, it was true and it is true for the bulk of the movies made. This medium of art has its value all the same. Shreekaant is also shown as coming to understand it.

Despite being written by the bold authoress who was always ahead of her time, this story could not escape male-chauvinism. Shreekaant misunderstands Lakshmi when he comes to know of her identity without trying to see her point of view. In the end, he is shown as sacrificing his love for the sake of others’ good but firstly, his love for Lakshmi has never been shown as passionate as Lakshmi’s love for him and secondly, he had no right to sell her sentiments and leave her alone in the stinky, suffocating environment for whatsoever noble purpose. Sacrifice is genuine only when it adversely affects self and not when it adversely affects some other one.

Technically, this simple and low-budget movie is overall up-to-the mark though editing jerks are there in a post-interval sequence when Shreekaant visits the film-producer regarding the assignment for penning the lyrics for his movie. A major part of the movie appears to be out and out real with no artificiality (it may not be in sync with the contemporary cine-industry though). The movie is not unduly long. It ends at the appropriate moment and that too in a highly impressive manner.

O.P Nayyar has composed very good music with the help of damn good lyrics. The great inspiring song of Mohammed Rafi – Raat Bhar Ka Mehmaan Andhera, Kiske Roke Ruka Hai Savera is the best song which has been authored by the great Shaayar Saahir Ludhiyanvi. It also contains the memorable romantic duet of Talat Mahmood and Asha Bhosle – Pyar Par Bas To Nahin Hai Mera Lekin Phir Bhi Yeh Bata De Ki Tujhe Pyar Karen Ya Na Karen. The only song of the music album of this movie whose lyric has been penned by Majrooh Sultaanpuri is Bekas Ki Tabaahi Ke Saamaan Hazaaron Hain which is a very touching song sung brilliantly with minimal number of percussion instruments. Among others, the song that stands out is Asha’s song – Chhuk Chhuk Chhuk Chhuk Rail Chale which is a children’s song but appeals to the elders too.

Sone Ki Chidiya is one of the best performances delivered by Nutan in her illustrious acting career (today is her birthday). She is the heart and soul of this movie and the title is meant for her only. Hers is the performance of a lifetime which remains with the audience forever. The ever-dependable Balraaj Saahni has performed according to his reputation. Talat Mahmood as the gold-digging fake-lover has been less natural, more theatrical. This is the last movie as an actor of this legendary singer. The complete supporting cast is well in place.

This classic black and white movie is meant for all those who are fond of sensitive and meaningful cinema.

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