Madhuri Dixit having extra-sensory perception ?

I am writing a review of this two and half decades old movie simply because I am a mystery fan. This is the only suspense thriller acted in by the screen goddess of Bollywood, Madhuri Dixit who is today’s birthday babe (turned 50 today). It was released in 1991 and due to my fancy for mysteries, I did not waste much time in heading towards the theatre (Priya) with my friend Sanjay Laddha in Kolkata (then Calcutta). It’s a murder mystery on the theme of extra-sensory perception or ESP.

I do believe that there is actually something like premonition or extra-sensory perception as I have experienced it to a very small level in my own life (seeing future events in dreams or imagination). And that’s why the reason of my belief that actually certain persons might be having such a quality at some higher level too. However our Bollywood filmwaalas are always ready to exaggerate anything to the dizzy heights for the sake of their cinematic liberty to present the intended story. So this movie presents premonition or ESP in an unbelievably exaggerated form.

The person possessing this quality in the movie is none else than Madhuri Dixit. In this movie, she is studying in a college in boarding whereas her elder sister, Moon Moon Sen and her uncle, Ajit Vachchhani are living away. Javed Jafferey and Sabeeha are her college mates and Javed loves her in his heart. While playing Tennis with Sabeeha, she suddenly gets the ESP of the murder of a woman. Later on the same scene comes before her eyes with the face of the victim also visible. And she is none else but Moon Moon Sen . However she is still not able to see the face of the murderer (able to see only his back). But the murder actually takes place, however the dead body of Moon Moon Sen is not found.Some years later, Madhuri comes into contact with Jackie Shroff and love blossoms between them culminating into eventual marriage. Jackie wins the court case of the ownership of a house and when he is out of town for some work, Madhuri moves to that house to clean it and bring it into a worth-living shape for the purpose of their residence. However there she sees many things already perceived by her in the visions coming upon her because of her ESP. And further, the vision of a woman’s murder starts coming upon her, courtesy her ESP only. She decides to save the life of that woman and seeks help of her old mate, Javed Jafferey in her bid for this noble cause. After a lot of chill and thrill, the murder mystery gets resolved.Actually the name of the movie is Sau Din and it appears in the credits also (written as such on the posters too when the movie had got released) but in English, it is mentioned as 100 Days. I don’t know whether the plot is original or plagiarized from some Hollywood movie. But the thing is that the screenplay has been excellently written. Had the writers and the directors avoided the temptation of some songs and hero-heroine romance, the movie would have been very crisp and thoroughly engrossing. However despite these regular Bollywood formulae including college life pranks and comedy (by Laxmikant Berde), the movie more or less keeps its focus on the real plot only and that’s why it’s so interesting. The editor could have made it shorter by 15-20 minutes and at least one song could have been avoided. All the same, the heartbeat-increasing thrills and the breathtaking suspense keep the viewers glued to the screen without any diversion.

The needle of suspicion points towards at least three characters and it’s not easy to guess the murderer. I had tried to guess in the interval while watching it in theatre but my guess failed. It’s a highly admirable murder mystery, no doubt. For this the director Partho Ghosh deserves a pat on his back.The songs composed by Ramlaxman are good. Especially the song of college boys and girls – Gabbar Singh Ye Kehkar Gaya and the duet of Lata and S.P. Balasubrahmanium – Sunn Beliya Shukriya Meherbani are praiseworthy. The suspense song – Pyar Tera Pyar Kheench Laaya Mujhe sung by Lata and picturized on Madhuri and Moon Moon is also quite impactful in listening to as well as watching.

Technically the movie is good. Production value is high. The narrative grips the viewer from the very first scene and the curiosity factor remains alive till the very end of the movie. Many scenes are simply spine-chilling (if seen in theatre).

Performances are praiseworthy. Dancing queen and extremely beautiful Madhuri has carried this movie on her shoulders alone though she has got able support from others. This is the only movie in which the dancing and action talent of Javed Jafferey has got ample footage. He is awesome and so is the ever-in his-controls, Jackie Shroff. Laxmikant Berde has generated a lot of laughs for audience.

100 Days (or Sau Din) is a very good suspense thriller with the mystery remaining unresolved till the very climax. Good narrative, good performances, good music, good comedy. A perfect entertainment spanning more than two and half hours, full of suspense, thrill and chill. Strongly recommended for all in general and mystery fans in particular.

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A classic which is the predecessor to Lagaan

I have got inspiration to write this review without further delay from the views of esteemed blogger and reviewer Sajit Nair (popularly known as ‘hermit‘) on my blog  regarding plagiarism. He has written – ‘General public excuse “biggies” even when they indulge in plagiarism. I endorse this view with my observation that “biggies” sometimes consider it their birth-right to plagiarize. Much acclaimed movie of Aamir Khan – Lagaan (2001) which missed winning the Academy Award in the foreign film categor by just a whisker is a classic example of shameless plagiarizing by the “biggies”. I have come to know that the movies based on original stories are only considered for any award at the Oscars. However our masterminds managed to carry this plagiarized movie to the last stage of Oscars without giving the minimum thanks to the original moviemakers, i.e., the B.R. Films who had made the all time classic movie Naya Daur (1957). Lagaan is a scene to scene (if not frame to frame) copy of this movie. Only the backdrop and set-up have been changed. Not only the basic idea but even the treatment and the characterizations is ditto that of Naya Daur. Had Lagaan won the Oscar, it would have been a classic example of a plagiarized story winning this prestigious and coveted award.Naya Daur (new era) is originally a black and white movie whose coloured version was released a few years back. It deals with the issue of unemployment because of mechanization in the Indian villages which was very much relevant and burning in that time. Tonga (horse-carriage) driver Shankar (Dilip Kumar) opposes the introduction of bus in the village because of the prospective unemployment of the tonga-drivers. The owner of the bus – Kundan (Jeevan) who is a wealthy businessman of the village enters into a bet with him that if he is able to defeat the bus by his tonga in a race, the bus will be withdrawn. How Shankar prepares for the race and finally defeats the bus by driving his tonga, forms the rest of the story which involves the factor of rivalry in getting the love of Rajni (Vyjayantimala) leading to betrayal of Shankar’s friend, Krishna (Ajit) also.Naya Daur is thoroughly engrossing and very impressive. Legendary director B.R. Chopra has directed the story of Akhtar Mirza quite nicely and maintained the momentum of the narrative throughout the duration of the movie which is a little less than three hours. The sets, costume designing, editing etc. are all praiseworthy. Production value is high, matching the great B.R. Films tradition.Performances are great and leagues ahead of their counterparts in Lagaan. While giving full marks to Aamir Khan and co. in Lagaan, I can safely say that the performances of Aamir Khan, Gracy Singh and Yashpal Sharma are no match for the respective performances of Dilip Kumar, Vyjayantimala and Ajit in Naya Daur. Only Paul Blackthorne, the villain has surpassed the performance of Jeevan in Naya Daur by his in Lagaan.The timeless music of Naya Daur composed by O.P. Nayyar (lyrics by Saahir Ludhiyanvi), boasting of immortal songs like Udein Jab Jab Zulfen Teri, Ye Desh Hai Veer Jawano Ka, Reshmi Salwar Kurta Jaali Ka, Saathi Haath Badhana, Maang Ke Saath Tumhara Maine Maang Liya Sansar and Main Bambai Ka Babu Naam Mera Anjana cannot be compared to the music of any other movie. leave aside Lagaan. Even  today listening to these songs in the enchanting voices of Asha and Rafi is a great experience.

Except the character of Rachel Shelley (the Englishwoman who is the sister of the villain but helping the hero), Lagaan is a ditto of Naya Daur. However neither Aamir Khan nor the writer-director of Lagaan – Ashutosh Gowarikar gave any credit (or even thanks) to the makers of Naya Daur. They left no stone unturned in blowing their trumpet and calling their movie as based upon an original idea. The truth is, they have just changed the bus-tonga race in the village to the Cricket match between the Indian villagers and the English team. Rest the complete story framework, characters, their mutual relationships, situations and climax, everything has been copied outright from Naya Daur.Though Ravi Chopra (son of B.R. Chopra) said lightly at the time of release of the coloured version of Naya Daur that Lagaan was inspired by Naya Daur, no such accusation has ever been made by B.R. Films upon Aamir Khan Productions perhaps because the makers of Naya Daur were also glad that Lagaan represented India at the Oscars and went very close to winning the Academy Award in the foreign films category. However it was the duty of Aamir Khan and Ashutosh Gowarikar to admit the inspiration (if not plagiarization) and give thanks to the writer and the makers of Naya Daur which they have not done and shamelessly enjoyed the credit of making an ‘original’ movie. However truth cannot be hidden forever. Anybody reading this review can watch these two movies consecutively and he will reach the same conclusion that I reached when I had watched Lagaan for the first time.

While recommending this classic wholeheartedly to the movie buffs, I give just one message to Aamir plus Ashutosh – You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time but you cannot fool all the people all the time.

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Not a love story but a suspense movie

Pyar Ke Rahi (1982) is a movie starring B grade actors like Kanwaljeet Singh and Padmini Kapila. Well, I do not believe in this so-called grading. In my opinion, a movie is either good or bad whether it’s a low budget one or a high budget one and whether it features popular stars or lesser known actors. Ultimately it’s the quality of the story and its presentation which matters for the entertainment-seekers. And Pyar Ke Raahi is an entertaining movie.Pyar Ke Raahi means travellers of love. It suggests that it’s a love story but contrary to the title, it’s not a love story. It’s a suspense movie, a mystery. Though the foundation / build up of the main story consists of a love story also, the main track is that of a mystery which is unravelled in the climax. Pyar Ke Raahi starts with a dam construction project in the Chamba valley (perhaps in Himachal Pradesh) where the work is being looked after by four partners of the construction company. One of them – Gupta (Sudhir Dalvi) comes into contact with a pretty worker girl – Champa (Shobha) and both fall in each other’s love. Gupta promises to marry Champa and they get physically intimate also. However Gupta is not able to fulfill his promise and retreats from it, bearing the curse and hatred of now pregnant Champa. Now comes the first twist in this tale.

The greedy partners of the construction company have used poor quality materials in the dam and therefore, when complete, it suddenly collapses with several houses and hundreds of innocents getting drowned in the consequential submergence. However, despite being money-minded, this foursome still has its conscience intact. And because of the call of their conscience and a feeling of repentance only, they decide to do something as penitence although they escape legal punishment by bribing the government authorities. They form a charitable trust, pouring a part of their income into it, and start helping the poor through it. Thus these gentlemen responsible for the death of hundreds, become trustees of a charitable trust, earning blessings of the beneficiaries and goodwill in the society.

Years pass. Gupta has married a girl in the city and begot a son Jai (Kanwaljeet Singh) through that marriage. He still remembers Champa and feels guilty within his heart for betraying her. However, enough water has flown in the river of time now and the harsh fact of life is that you cannot unring a rung bell. His talented son Jai is in love with Poonam (Padmini Kapila) who is the daughter of Gupta’s business partner who, quite naturally, is a trustee of the charitable trust like Gupta. Jai has chosen journalism as his profession and he runs a magazine known as ‘Yeh Sach Hai’ (this is the truth). He smells some scam in the collapse of the dam in the Chamba valley years back and starts his quest for the truth. Now comes another and the principal twist in this interesting story.

Someone starts blackmailing the partners of the construction business who are also the trustees of the charitable trust. First this information is hidden from Jai but when he comes to know it, he sets about to search the blackmailer and help his father who is a victim of this blackmailing like his partners. One day, his father gets murdered. Now unmasking the murderer and his motive behind this murder also becomes Jai’s duty. His dying father confesses to him in his ending moments that he had loved a hilly woman in his youth but betrayed her and not married her. The activities of the blackmailer continue even after Gupta’s killing. Totally confused Jai keeps on hitting his head in the dark and following the clues whatsoever come his way, to find out the whole truth behind the dam scam, the blackmailing and the murder. The identity of the main person behind the contemporary criminal activities is known in the climax.

This movie has been directed by the younger brother of the legendary filmmaker Guru Dutt – Aatma Ram and his presentation of this admirable script on the screen is satisfactory though it could have been better. The real hero of this suspense movie is its script only and the script-writer (Ram Govind) deserves a big pat for that. The narrative runs slow in the initial reels but it is because of the build-up of the main track which starts thereafter and keeps the audience hooked till the climax of the story. However the initial reels containing a love story and a splendid Holi song, are also interesting.

Despite the doses of romance and comedy which are not a part of the main track, the story flows very well. Actually the problem of yesteryears’ filmmakers was that they could not avoid the undue insertion of these formulae in the narrative irrespective of the otherwise high quality of the script. Many good movies could not become very good or excellent because of this (not understandable) compulsion of the moviemakers. Pyar Ke Raahi is one such movie only.

It’s a low budget movie. Still the scenes of the hilly area, the dam and its collapse are quite impressive. Technically the movie is up to the mark with the length also being the optimum.

All the actors have done their respective parts satisfactorily. Kanwaljeet Singh was a hero material by all standards but he was not fortunate enough to get a good break and a hit movie in his prime. Ultimately TV only became his shelter. Padmini Kapila has filled heroine’s quota. Paintal has done good comedy. If I have to choose the best performer in this movie, I will choose debutante actress Shobha who is not only very pretty but also seems to have poured her heart into the role of Champa. Her performance only has made the Holi song – Daiya Re Daiya as an extra-ordinary one, a treat to watch.

Aziz Naaza’s music contains at least two good songs – the first one is the already mentioned Holi song, i.e., Daiya Re Daiya (sung by Anuradha Paudwaal) and the other one is the title track (sung by Jaspaal Singh, Dilraaj Kaur and chorus).

If you are sick of watching poor quality movies starring big names, then give a watch to this low profile movie of low profile actors. This suspense movie with a taut script will not disappoint you. Despite not being a great movie, Pyar Ke Raahi is definitely a cut above the regular Bollywood potboilers.

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Thrill but no suspense

Right Yaaa Wrong (2010) is a Hindi movie under the thriller genre. However it is not the routine run of the mill Bollywood suspense thriller. It is not an original story either. The filmmaker has lifted the story from a Hollywood movie – Above Suspicion (1995). All the same, he can be given the credit for indianizing it proficiently and making a grossly watchable thriller for the Hindi movie audience. The director (Neeraj Pathak) has revealed the suspense just after the crime. Leave aside making it a whodunnit mystery, he has not even allowed it to remain a howdunnit mystery. Audience is well aware of who did it and how did it, much earlier than the climax of the movie. Nevertheless the movie is interesting and able to make the viewers sit on their seats till the last scene.Sunny Deol plays the usual ideal (and superman like capable) cop who works in association with his colleague cum close friend – Irrfan. In between the initial action sequence of Sunny, the director starts unfolding the plot as if he is in a hurry. The infidelity of Sunny’s wife and the loose character of his cousin give a hint of the forthcoming storyline. However a paralysed Sunny’s making a scheme for his backstabbers to implement which should result in his own death, confuses the viewers albeit for a very short while. This is the interval. Soon after the interval, the twist in the tale is very much within in the knowledge of the audience. Here the narrator demonstrates his commendable skill to maintain the interest of the viewer for the remaining part of the movie. Irrfan comes into active role, accusing his friend and colleague to mastermind a cold-blooded double murder and vows to get the guilty booked. Konkona Sen Sharma, his sister, enters the screen in the role of a sympathetic lawyer believing in the innocence of Sunny. Investigation, interrogation and trial scenes follow culminating in exoneration of Sunny and mental break-down of his dutiful friend, i.e., Irrfan who feels defeated and wounded with a painful sense of not being able to protect the honour of the law of the land.

The beauty of the narrative is that it fully justifies the title of the story. There are difficult moments in an otherwise straightforward and clean-hearted person’s life too when he faces the moral dilemma of deciding what is right and what is wrong. Flowing with the events of the movie in the post-interval session, the viewer starts feeling that both the leading gentlemen are right in their own ways and none of them can be labelled as wrong.  Sunny’s making his enemies work upon the plan of their own murder, mistaking it to be the plan of Sunny’s murder, is simply breathtaking. And after the murder(s), the happenings and the developments in the story envelop the attention of the viewer in a different manner because the cat and mouse game between Irrfan (the cat) and Sunny (the mouse) is different from n number of such games shown in other movies. This cat and this mouse are emotional for each other and the bone of contention is only their individual perspectives of right and wrong and the storyteller has added spice to the already interesting tussle by bringing the cat’s sister – Konkona on the side of the mouse. Despite lack of mystery or suspense, the eagerness remains for the climax. However the climax, though not a let down, is not so impressive as it should have been after a sensational court-room drama.The director, instead of picking his script ditto from Above Suspicion, could have amended it a bit and kept the mystery (of at least the howdunnit aspect) alive till the climax thereby making it a genuine suspense thriller. Had he done it, the movie would have been a better one. All the same, I make no attempt to snatch the credit from him for making an entertaining thriller. The events related to the double murder reminisce me of Sanjeev Kumar starring thriller of 1986 – Qatl as well as another Sanjeev Kumar starrer of 1980 – Be-reham alongwith a relatively recent Bollywood thriller – Maharathi which was released in 2008 and of course Hollywood classic – A Perfect Murder (1998) with its Bollywood rip-offs like Humraaz (2002) and Vaada (2005). Yet it resembles them only in bits and pieces and overall it is able to carve out another, different niche for itself.Right Yaaa Wrong (right or wrong) is a food for thought also. Can ethical values and laws of the land be considered as absolute in their own right or they need to be given a second look according to the tricky situation at hand demanding resolution ? Should an honest, sincere and loving person not be given a chance to judge them differently when life compels him to do an unethical thing or take the law into his own hands ? And how should a dutiful cop think ? Should he allow himself to get carried away by the noble and virtuous personality of the criminal or the etiology behind his crime and become a silent party to his crime by not performing his sacred duty of catching the law-breakers and presenting them before the court of law ? The answers are not easy.

The music of the movie is by no means excellent, however the very few songs inserted into the movie are well integrated with the narrative. The lead characters – Sunny, Irrfan, Konkona, Isha Koppikar as the unfaithful wife and the actor playing the backstabbing cousin; all have played their parts with utmost sincerity. Irrfan as always, is able to steal the show with his genius. Sunny has been given a chance to exercise his old and well-known action talent in the beginning part of the movie in which he has done well, making his action fans happy. But more importantly, he has done full justice to the real, meatier role of a cheated husband and a loving `n’ caring father in the later reels of the movie as well. Full marks to him. Deepal Shaw (lady police officer), Suhasini Mulay (magistrate) and Govind Namdeo (public prosecutor) are also first rate.

The technical departments of the movie are up to the mark. Editing has made the movie crisp and engrossing. Sunny’s wardrobe also needs a mention. The dresses selected for him give him a younger (though he was 53 years old at the time of this movie) and smarter look.

Overall a good movie. Doesn’t matter that it is a copied one.

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A professional chases his dreams against the odds

Whenever a youth obtains a professional degree (B.E. or B. Tech / M. Tech or C.A. / MBA or like wise), he has already become a dreamer – a dreamer thinking big, just too big. ‘Think big, think better’ is his watchword now. I was also like that when I obtained my C.A. degree way back in January 1992.

However the dreams of a young (Indian) professional are, in all likelihood, going to clash the feudalistic Indian work culture and the politics-hit Indian organizations. The youngster is skilled in his work, knowledgeable in his field. However to rise in his career (if he opts for serving in some organization), something else is also required. What’s that ?

I remember my ex-boss Mr. S. Alaguvel telling me in 2005, ‘Mathur, you work good but you do not possess the knack of keeping people happy and that’s the obstacle in your career.’ What did he mean ? If someone performs according to the expectations levied on him, then why should it not count for his rise in the career ? What’s this ‘knack of keeping people happy’ ? Definitely, it’s not something taught in some school or college or institute. It is to be learned on one’s own.

Plus the old and shrewd peers (or superiors or even juniors) are seldom happy with the young entrant in the organization especially when he is well-qualified and intelligent. He is perceived by them as a threat to their dominance and conspiracies to pull him down start in no time. Status counts more than the ability and flatterers almost always have the day. Then what should the really capable one do ? He should do what I could not do. Just be shrewd and use others as a ladder to climb the height of success. Khwab (1980) tells one such story of a young B. Tech engineer only.Khwaab (dream) starts with the journey of our B. Tech qualified hero – Prataap (Mithun Chakraborty) from a small town to Mumbai (then Bombay) with dreams in his eyes and enthusiasm and self-confidence filling his heart. He stumbles upon Indrani (Ranjeeta) during this journey and impresses her in this very first encounter of theirs. In Mumbai, he straightaway visits his old friend – Gopal (Nasiruddin Shah) who has nobody in the world except his younger sister – Maya (Yogeeta Bali). Gopal works in the same factory whose employment is sought by Prataap. Unfortunately Gopal is an alcoholic and remains frustrated with his life for most of the time. Maya gets smitten by Prataap from the very outset but Prataap does not look upon her in the same manner.

Prataap had to get the job anyway because his father has been the college-friend of the managing director of this company – Mr. Prasaad (Madan Puri) and due to the M.D.’s recommendation, the general manager of the factory – Khanna (Sujit Kumar) had no option but to recruit him as a supervisor. Now the real test starts for our hero when he is pulled down and humiliated by the old and cunning foreman – Tripathi (Yunus Parvez) who is the trusted lieutenant of the general manager. These guys are always interested in grinding their own axes instead of improving the things in the factory. Prataap comes to know about the danger to the workers’ lives through the union leader – Comrade Lobo (Dinesh Thakur) and he prepares a plan of renovation and change in the factory layout. But he is shocked to see that Khanna tears his plan (which he has prepared by devoting a lot of time and energy) before his eyes and warns him ‘to stay in his place’.

Now our young hero realizes that getting a professional degree and being knowledgeable is not sufficient to grow in career. He vows to settle his score with Khanna and Tripathi and make it big in the company. He visits the house of the M.D. , i.e.,  Mr. Prasaad on the ground of his being his father’s friend and here the luck smiles at him when Indrani turns out to be Mr. Prasaad’s daughter. She is fond of swimming and fortunately, our hero is a skilled swimmer. He wins the swimming contest held for the employees of the company and thereby wins the heart of first Indrani in order to find his way to the heart of his father then. He gets his renovation plan passed directly through Mr. Prasaad (bypassing Khanna, the general manager) and by implementing that, impresses the board of directors of the company to this much extent that he is elevated to the post of the deputy general manager of the factory, getting a new spacious flat to move from his present residence (in the neighbourhood of Gopal) and also a car. Now Gopal feels that his old friend is distanced from him because their statuses are no longer at par. He also feels that Prataap is too selfish.

In between these developments in his career, one night Prataap happens to have sex with Maya in a highly intoxicated state of his. He feels guilty upon coming to his senses the next morning but Maya does not feel guilty about it because she has been in love with Prataap in her heart. What she is unaware of is the fact that Prataap is romancing with Indrani. She is shocked first to know that she is pregnant and thereafter that Prataap is going to get engaged to Indrani after becoming the general manager of the factory. Now she calls Prataap to meet her at the boat-club where they had once enjoyed boating in the lake (despite Prataap’s not being a member of the boat-club). And when their boat is in the middle of the lake, Maya falls from the same in the lake and gets drowned.

Prataap now faces the murder-charge. Gopal believes that Prataap only has murdered Maya and thus backstabbed him. In the courtroom drama that follows, Prataap’s defense lawyer – Mr. Joshi (Ashok Kumar) is pitted against the seasoned public prosecutor – Mr. Dalaal (Utpal Dutt). Indrani stands by Prataap through thick and thin and finally he gets exonerated. However his own heart gets repose only when Gopal forgives him.Director Shakti Samanta who used to make movies with high profile heroes like Shammi Kapoor, Rajesh Khanna and Amitabh Bachchan, made this movie as a change with less popular actors (at least then). This movie is an example that prior to the nineties, a lot of effort was devoted to script-writing and not just pump and show with an ugly display of money.  Loosely inspired by the Hollywood movie – A Place in the Sun (1951), the script of this movie has been penned by Ranjan Bose with good application of mind and a proper study of the work culture in the Indian factories and the offices. The complete set-up is realistic but the journey of the hero to the heights of success is too fast as well as too smooth and that’s why less reliable. That’s unlikely in the real life.Since the basic theme was dry, the angles of friendship and love have been inserted to make it a proper Bollywood potboiler with regular entertainment. However that has gone against the movie because it left it as neither a typical masala entertainer nor a truly different movie.

How the lawyers are never hesitant to vilify the character of a girl or a woman just to save their client from the charge levied, has been shown quite realistically and effectively in the courtroom drama when Prataap’s defense counsel (Ashok Kumar) tries to portray (Late) Maya as a seductress. The friendship and camaraderie of Prataap and Gopal is damn impressive. Romance could not be properly exasperated by the director despite two heroines being shown in love with the hero. The movie does not provide any relief moments despite some effort made by the veteran comedian of Bollywood – Birbal.

All the four main artistes of the movie alongwith the complete supporting cast have performed satisfactorily. Nasiruddin Shah and Mithun Chakraborty have complimented each other very well, playing close friends with one of them being very ambitious (Prataap) and the other one being highly frustrated with his life (Gopal). Yogeeta Bali is Mithun’s real life wife but his amazing own-screen chemistry has always been with Ranjeeta only. That’s true for this movie too.

Ravindra Jain’s music is not excellent but two songs stand out – 1. Banjara Main Nahin Magar Mujhe Har Nai Dagar Bulaaye Apni Or which is a heart-winning journey song sung by Yesudas, 2. Ek Aas Liye Vishwas Liye Mera Mann Manzil Ke Nishan Dhoondhe sung by Suresh Wadkar, Yesudas and Hemlata. In fact, Ravindra Jain as a lyricist is more impressive than as a composer in the context of the music of this movie.

I recommend Khwaab as a decent timepass to all the movie buffs.

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A Rajasthani experience outside Rajasthan

I am a Rajasthani villager. Born and brought up there (Sambhar Lake) and after taking my professional degree from Kolkata, again spent several years in my home state due to my own job and again enjoyed village life courtesy my posting in a small town – Rawatbhata and my wife’s Govt. job at a sandy village – Baitu which I visited many times and spent many days there. And I got amazed to feel like revisiting the rural life in my home state when I visited Dhola Ri Dhani on 25.12.2011.

Dhola Ri Dhani is a tourist attraction on the outskirts of Hyderabad in a locality called Kompally. We, living in Lingampally, drove our car by taking our route to that place from Miyapur on the road going towards Dindigul airport.The place is named after Dhola who is the hero of one of the most famous Rajasthani folk-stories – Dhola Maaroo (it’s a legendary love story). Dhani (in Rajasthani language) means a rural colony or a very small village (just a cluster of some houses). Hence Dhola Ri Dhani means Dhola’s colony.

Dhola Ri Dhani opens for the visitors twice in a day. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 4.30 p.m. to 10 p.m. The ticket price includes the price of the food also which is either lunch or dinner (depending upon which timing you choose to visit this place). Food is served at the meal time in a place inside called Maan-Manuhaar in purely Rajasthani style of hospitality. The guests are made to squat on the floor and served food in Thaalis put on Chowkis in front of them. The servers offer the guest all the delicious food items with extremely politeness and pursuade him / her to consume the served stuff sumptuously. Since the food is indeed of very high quality with several Rajasthani dishes involved, the entry ticket rate seems to be quite reasonable. Children up to the age of 8 years are not charged for entry but food coupen is to be taken for them by paying separately.

The layout of Dhola Ri Dhani is exactly on the lines of a Rajasthani village and the architect has done a brilliant work in presenting the rural Rajasthan before the eyes of the visitor. As it’s titled as Dhaani or a very small village, true to its title, the area covered is very less and the visitor can cover it by foot within 15-20 minutes. In fact, it’s the feeling that one gets which is important.The number of attractions are less. There is an auditorium made in the old-fashioned style where the singers sing (on the day of our visit, a singer was paying tribute to late Mohammed Rafi by singing his songs) and a stage for folk-dances. There is a magic show of purely folk-style and the puppet-show which is a specialty of Rajasthani folk-culture. There is a marriage hall also where real marriages might be taking place (people might be hiring that place for matrimonial ceremonies) which is well-decorated and pleasant. There is an old-fashioned swimming pool also because in villages, villagers swim also in the water-bodies available in the vicinity. I also enjoyed swimming with my son.

There is a fancy garden (with a small cave and statues of animals) whose path moves through a bridge over a small water-body. There is a normal children’s park with natural fireplace like facility provided for the visitors to warm themselves in the cool nights (we also did so because after the sunshine had gone and darkness prevailed, 25th December, 2011 brought a pretty cool weather in Hyderabad). To provide a rural feeling, very simple Rajasthani cots are laid at many places for the visitors to relax. Camel-ride and Tonga-ride are available. A tea stall is also there where tea and snacks are served. The quality of tea, Samosas, Kachoris and Mirchi-Badaas (a fried snack made of gram-flour with a green chilli inside) is very superior. The tea seems to be prepared in exactly the same way as it is made in Rajasthani villages and tea-stalls in rural areas. The payment is to be made at the stall according to what and how much the visitor consumes. Jal-jeera (a spicy, refreshing drink) is served to the visitors without charging.

To cater to the needs of the urban people, there is a regular restaurant and a coffee-dispencer with regular packed fast-food items also.

Before the time to live in the village is over, there is a 30 minutes long spoof of the movie – Sholay staged live at a place called – Meena Ki Dhani (Meena’s colony) titled as ‘Meena Ki Dhani Mein Dhani Ke Sholay’. I found it entertaining only in parts.

I enjoyed the trip very well as I felt like revisiting rural Rajasthan once again. Ultimately, wherever I may live, I cannot be cut from my roots. However I found some minus-points which the owners of this place should strive to remove :

    1. The entry-arrangement of guests at the food place is quite clumsy. Since the guests have to put off their footwear also, better arrangement is desirable for the guests waiting for entry. The behaviour of the crowd waiting for its turn for food (since the food is served in batches at half-hourly intervals) is very distasteful because the space at the gate is quite limited and after the food, you have to locate your footwear too (there is no arrangement for keeping the guests’ footwear).
    2. The puppet-show which is an essenntial part of Rajasthani folk-art, is of a very short duration (barely 10 minutes). It should be of at least half an hour.
    3. The number of attractions are very less, given the fact that the guests have to spend at least five hours inside. More attractions should be added without disturbing the basic format of the place (rural Rajasthan).
    4. At the main entry gate as well as at other places, at least one employee should be ensured who can speak and understand Rajasthani because then only, the true Rajasthani culture is reflected. Finding the people at the gate (who sell tickets) speaking in Telugu (or English) dilutes the real flavour of the place which it is meant for.

I advise anybody touring Hyderabad to make a visit to this place. Just go there with a modest expectation and see how Rajasthani rural-folks look and behave and what Rajasthani culture ‘n’ hospitality is all about. I have not visited Chokhi Dhani at Jaipur but heard that it’s much better than Dhola Ri Dhani.

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Shehenshaah-e-Soz with a velvety voice

February 1991. I was in the final year of my C.A. and as a part of my articleship training, had been sent by my principals from Kolkata (then Calcutta) to audit the tea gardens of M/s Jayshree Tea and Industries Limited in the lower Assam region (Cachar district of Assam). After reaching there (Kalline Tea Estate), I came to know that those gardens did not have any guest house for the auditors. The practice was to arrange the stay of the auditors (young boys, either in their teens or early twenties) in the residences of the estate officers who were compensated for the boarding expenditure of the guest or the guests later on. I was made to stay in the house of a good-natured officer, Mr. Arun Chaturvedi. At night, I retired to the guest room of his residence, arranged for me. It was around 10 p.m. I was alone as my other team members were doing work in the other estates. There was nobody to talk and being a new place with a different climate and environment for me, sleep was a bit away from my eyes.

Not being able to sleep, I put the light on and my eyes fell on the small tape recorder kept on the writing table. I found that one audio cassette was already there in the system. Casually I pressed the play button, put the light off again and lay down on the bed again under the expectation that while listening to the songs, I may fall asleep as I used to in my childhood while listening to the Lori  (lullaby) of my mother.

My expectation did not come true because with the movement of the tape in the cassette, very sensitive words woven in highly melodious compositions started pouring into my ears but the maximum impact came from the voice of the male singer, taking me into a state of trance. Leave aside sleeping, I felt as I was forgetting everything – about me, about the work, about the things around, about the time, about the place. I was simply floating away with the voice which was so soft as if it were made of velvet. So tender, so soothing, so caressing ! Half an hour long A side of the cassette got over and then the B side started. It also had the same type of songs – sensitive words, high melody and the same velvet voice. Most of the songs were sad songs but I did not feel sad by listening to them as alongwith the listening of the singer’s voice, my heart vent out all my accumulated sadness, pain and frustration in the cool air outside the window, unknowingly I shed a few tears too and now I was feeling quite light in myself as if the burden of grief had flown out of me through those tears.

I stood up, put the light on again and took the cassette out of the tape recorder. The cover of the cassette was not available and being an old cassette (might have been handled several times), the letters engraved upon it had got dimmed and not very legible. With a lot of difficulty, ultimately I came to know the title of the cassette – ‘The Best of Talat Mahmood‘. Talat Mahmood ! I was listening to the magical voice of Talat Mahmood. I had heard a lot about this singer and his quivering voice but this was the first occasion of listening to his voice for continuous one hour in the silence of the night, all alone. What an experience it was ! I wondered – ‘Whether this man is a singer or a magician ? He could make me feel the sadness and the grief of the protagonist through the song for real. While listening to the songs, I was able to not just sympathise but empathise with the aggrieved person for whom the singer had given his voice.’ That day and today. I have been and will always remain a very very big fan of Talat Mehmood. The songs listened by me on that night included – Aye Mere Dil Kahin Aur Chal, Shaam-e-Gham Ki Kasam, Meri Yaad Mein Tum Na Aansoo Bahaana, Aye Dil Mujhe Aisi Jagah Le Chal, Jaayen To Jaayen Kahan, Andhe Jahaan Ke Andhe Raaste, Ye Hawa Ye Raat Ye Chaandni, Mera Qaraar Le Ja, Mohabbat Hi Jo Na Samajhe, Main Dil Hoon Ek Armaan Bhara, Raat Ne Kya Kya Khwaab Dikhaye etc. All these were Talat’s solos and the last song of the cassette was a duet with Asha Bhonsle – Pyar Par Bas To Nahin Hai Mera. After becoming his fan, I listened to more and more of Talat songs and never was I disappointed to listen to any of his song. I came to know of the reason for lack of my disappointment later on after reading about his life and personality – he never used to sing a song which was not meaningful. Born in the City of Tehzeeb – Lucknow on 24h February, 1924, this legendary singer whose quivering velvet voice was a boon of the Almighty, never compromised upon this principle throughout his career which might have cost him dearly since he sang very less (around 750) Bollywood songs whereas his rivals sang thousands. Talat always sang songs with very high quality lyrics. His devotion to the Hindustani Tehzeeb (Indian culture) never allowed him to sing senseless or poor quality songs or the songs in which the soul of music was suppressed by high beats. For Talat, music was never his career or profession, it was Ibaadat (worship) for him.By reading about Talat, I came to know about the title – Ghazal Samraat (King of Ghazals) bestowed upon him. However it was something that remained not understandable for me for many years since I always felt that Talat was singing filmi songs which barring the exception of the songs of Mirza Ghalib (which are nothing but the Ghazals created by the immortal Shaayar himself), were Geet (non-Ghazal songs) only. Years later, I happened to listen to the non-filmi Ghazals of Talat Mahmood. I got one such album personally created for me with the help of the cassette shop owner whose first Ghazal was – Tasveer Teri Dil Mera Behla Na Sakegi. Most of these non-filmi Ghazals have been completed by the music composers within a time frame not exceeding 3 to 3.5 minutes. And in this very small time frame too, Talat is able to render a highly sensitive and soothing experience to the Ghazal listener. That’s the quality of his voice and that’s his singing talent which brought the honour of being called as Ghazal Samraat to him. A rare talent indeed. However I call him Shehenshaah-e-Soz (King of Pain) because the quality of conveying the Soz (the pain) through the words of the song enveloped in his voice is something I have never seen in any other male singer.Talat’s talent and the amazing quivering quality of his velvet voice was first recognised by the music director – Anil Biswas and the movie – Arzoo (1950) was the big break given to him by Anil Biswas only. Since then there was no looking back for Talat and he ruled the Bollywood with his velvety voice for more than a decade.Talat was an actor too and he played hero in many movies opposite top Bollywood heroines like Suraiya, Shyama, Mala Sinha, Nadira and Nutan. . He played the lead roles in movies like Lala Rukh, Dil-e-Naadaan, Ek Gaon Ki Kahaani, Waris and Sone Ki Chidiya. However his passion for music did not allow him to pursue his acting career which could have been great courtesy his handsome personality.

After the timeless classic songs of Jahan Ara (1964) including Phir Wohi Shaam Wohi Gham Wohi Tanhaai Hai, Teri Aankh Ke Aansoo Pee Jaaoon and Main Teri Nazar Ka Suroor Hoon, Talat’s time started walking into sunset because now the focus shifted from melodies to beats and Talat was not built that way to change himself according to the changing times. I have already mentioned that music was his Ibaadat (worship), not his money-making profession. Interestingly my favourite Ghazal from Jahan Ara – Kisi Ki Yaad Mein Duniya Ko Hain Bhulaye Huye has not been sung by Talat but Rafi. And in my most favourite Bollywood song – Hoke Majboor Mujhe Usne Bhulaaya Hoga from the movie Haqeeqat (1964), Talat has sung one stanza out of the four stanzas sung by four different singers. Talat sang very less in the late sixties and the seventies. His last song was – Mere Shareek-e-Safar Tera Khuda Haafiz from the movie – Wali-e-Azam (1985).

Talat passed away on 9th May, 1998 and now he is survived by his singer son – Khalid who has made a website for his father too containing all the information of his songs (Talat had married Bengali actress of the forties – Latika Mullick). Today we have several clones of Rafi, Mukesh and Kishore and late Gulshan Kumar had filled the Indian music market with cover version cassettes prepared by getting the songs of these singers sung by their clones. However, Gulshan Kumar could not do it with the songs of Talat because nobody can copy his voice. Talat has been and will always remain one and the only one. Even the Almighty could not produce another Talat.

While remembering him today, I simply say to his soul in the words taken from a Ghazal sung by him – Kaun Kehta Hai Tujhe Maine Bhula Rakha Hai, Teri Yaadon Ko Kaleje Se Laga Rakha Hai (Who says that I have forgotten you, I have kept your memories close to my heart).

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