Tuesday, March 30, 2010

dil diya dard liya .barsaat ki raat . baiju bawra . mr x in bombay . dil diya dard liya

more dilip kumar. this time in colour in the really distorted hindi version of ‘wuthering heights’- ‘dil diya dard liya’. childhood romance between him and waheeda rehman goes sour and he is thrown out as the servant of the house until he . he turns out to be the heir of millowners and returns as raja sahib to make her suffer. tons of unnecessary melodrama and high pitched wails. dilip kumar offsets it all by staying almost still and mumbling almost incoherently in a deep bass to giving his presence gravitas in the potboiler. the song of the film- mohammed rafi and ‘koi sagar dil ko behlataa nahin’. sometimes it is only about the music. otherwise ‘barsaat ki raat’ has nothing really to redeem itself as a story- what with ridiculous coincidences, swooning women, irate parents and bharat bhushan. his face has but one dumbfounded expression but when he opens his mouth in front of the mike there is mohammed rafi’s voice. the title track has always been one of my favorites and the rainy sequence which inspires it is lovely. but the film is most fun when the tiresome melodrama just stops somewhat half way thorugh the movie and instead we get three qawallis non stop. each one is fabulous especially ‘yeh ishq ishq hain’. in ‘baiju bawra’ the real hero is the music. not so much the ‘ganga ki mauj’ or even the strident ‘duniya ke rakhwale’ but for me the bhajan ‘man tarpat hari’ where the music makes a lame man walk; and ‘mohe bhool gaye saawariya’. she had the sweetest voice then without a glimpse of the sharpness of some of the later songs. in the film the music can do anything- make stone idols cry and make stone dissolve and explode in water.ragas even appear in the sky as meena kumari as apsara. and besides lata and rafi there is also amir khan and dv paluskar to make excess of plenty. banno says she cant get kishore kumar humor and i cant agree with her more. ‘mr x in bombay’ stretched one gag into a film. so- he is invisible and slaps people around. also cars fly around on marine drive and head straight into rajabhai tower. good special effects for its time, i guess. but if i begin to use the ‘for its time’ to be able to appreciate a film then it means i am trying too hard. cool scenes no 1. when at the end of ‘mere mehboob qayamat’ sung at the gateway of india he disappears (for the cinema city map); and no 2: the high hopping act in front of shireen gandhi’s kekkee manzil. pushpamala also jumped off it in a much later avatar as phantom lady.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

amar. kohinoor . jhumroo . lsd

whats not to like about dilip kumar? starting off as the classic hindi film hero of the 1950s in amar- debonair lawyer saving poor villagers in ‘amar’ he ends up raping a young girl, getting her pregnant, manipulating everyone around him, lying to his fiancĂ©e and only when he racked by guilt at the end confesses to his crime. by contrast the only sin of the villain is his obsessive love for the nubile village belle. dilip kumar’s amar is a real anti-hero. there are no excuses for his behavior other than his lust and his urge for self preservation. and he is fantatstic as this screwed up man. around this central character are arranged all the icons of possible salvation- the temple and the courtroom, marriage and the home, innocence and sex. most of these dramas are played off in beautifully choreographed long takes in hard close ups of faces in chiaroscuro black and white or in the forest that separates all the spaces where encounters between the actors occur- whether that is the gorgeously shot opening sequence when the lawyer first meets the girl; or the chase sequence on the stormy night; or the actual killing at the end.

in ‘kohinoor’ nothing taints dilip kumars sunny smile. when meena kumari is kidnapped by the evil prime minister of her kingdom he disguises himself as a singing saint and is actually very funny. otherwise the film is swashbuckling swordfights, song and dance after song and dance and fun enough. she is lovely.

'lsd' gave me nightmares. more than i could take for most of the film, the film wallows in the ugliness of people. all the three stories are a cynical nasty and dark look at north indian machismo and its darker new avatar in the digital age. the characters are spot on, the acting is brilliant and although the stories have been heard before i haven’t seen them like this. the new landscape of the city with its tacky malls and faux greek details shot in the grainy skewed hyper real eye of a digital camera. great film. but i don’t think i have the stomach to see it again.

after all that darkness ‘jhumroo’ was so benign it went by so easy it made no impact in any way on me. aother encounter between the domineering father/city and the submissive/ kindly mother/village. kishore kumar jumps around and makes faces and most comedy songs are really not that funny. thandi hawa hey chandani suhani is the only song i really liked , and the 'katmandu' song.. maybe i just dont have a sense of humour.

Friday, March 19, 2010

aan. andaz . ponyo on the cliff . where the wild things are. nine

in both films mehboob seems to have an ambivalent relationship with modernity. modernity in both cases inolvbes a woman in trousers. in ‘aan’ it is the feisty rajkumari played by nadira; and in ‘andaz’ it is nargis who believes in the possibility of a platonic relationship between the two sexes. as much as he loves both these women he cant help but tame the tigress in the first film and make the innocent seductress suffer for blurring the lines between the romantic and the platonic. it is the nargis character who actually voices the question- when at the end before she is taken away to be hanged for her brazen disregard for the rules of a society caught between the traditional and the modern. while mehboob does let her hang, you cant help but feel sorry for the free spirited woman done in by the suspicion of a regressive society.

‘aan’ was over the top glorious madness. the sets oozed over with colours and patterns that justified the technicolour madness. the reptile jaws over the dungeon in the palace and the swimming pool with the lotuses and statues were only two such examples in a film packed to the brim with ideas. but even within this excess the dream sequence where nadira plays the village girl to nimmi’s princess is really the icing on the cake.

no one can call ‘where the wild things are’ a children’s film really. spectacularly produced and absolutely original in the way that it is conceived the film is still a complete downer. a lonely child finds friends and gets lonely again in a group of wild animals on an island in the middle of the ocean. these animals themselves are suffering as much as the lonely boy himself. unfortunately in spite of all the visual genius at heart the film remains a precocious mind’s fantasy about escape from suburban ennui into a childrens fantasy. and it has been done before.

the childrens fantasy of ponyo on the cliff is far more satisfying. ponyo being the lost fish-girl who develops an intense affection for a little boy and follows him home turning the whle world upside down and flooding the island on which he lives. the animation like so many miyazaki films is gentle and gorgeous.

not that i am a fellini puritan in any way- but if you really want to remake a film that makes so many films buff’s hearts beat faster you need to have a little more reason to do it that having ten hot women who can sing and dance (well- most can) in your cast. besides penelope cruz who sizzles thorugh every frame that she is in none of the other women get to do more than shake their derrieres in different versions of the same big show stopper. the songs are uniformly awful- even the supposed hit ‘cinema italiano’. and poor judy dench. so incredibly unimaginative it makes you weep.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

photo post - pink and blue

like the logo of a long lost 1950s film company

photo post - bharat nagar

on the banks of one of the branches of the mithi; adjoining bandra kurla complex and on the verge of redevelopment. munier lives here. he is already a lakhpati many times over because of that very fact.

photo post - andheri link road

photo post - house under construction

photo post - college

24 city . road, movie . white heat

i am at mukul’s house and from the window i can see the huge tata steel campus slowly being dismantled for a housing project. it is a similar story in ‘24 city’- jia zhang ke’s most recent meditation on china and globalization; and like all his films they simultaeneously ogle at the spectacle of the transformation and rue the disappearance on an earlier time. i could not but help think of the mill lands and acts of collecting stories as testimonies of a disappearing people. but in this case some of the stories were told by the people themselves and others by actors playing these people. the line between the self and the performer- the real and the enacted. what do we expect from a testimony told directly to camera? the ‘truth’is muddied by the gaze of the camera that creates expectations about the story that the performer thinks she/he should tell.
road, movie did not do anything for me. i could not get into the characters, the plot, the over pretty desert landscapes or believe in the 'magic of cinema'.
in ‘white heat’ james cagney plays the psychotic killer gangleader of a bunch of thieves with a serious mother complex. and he is fantastic. when the double agent from the police get to him, you cant help but feel sorry for the man. the chase sequences in the film make a map of los angeles first mapped over police radio; and the last chase to the huge globes of fuel tanks for the final shoot out occurs over some complicated radar triangulation. i guess that might be the only was to figure out that sprawl.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

guru dutt retrospective: kaagaz ke phool . sahib biwi aur ghulam . mr & mrs 55 / awara / push

what’s with his women? absolutely stunning to look at and completely pointless otherwise. whether it is the ditsy airhead madhubala plays in mr and mrs 55; who actually in a later part of the film finds it possible to bear a husband who beats her up because the stri should be rightfully with her devta pati; or meena kumari in ‘sahib biwi aur ghulam’ who sacrifices her good hindu character by drinking wine to get her man who eventually walks out on her and she is punished by being killed; or waheeda rehman in kaagaz ke phool who willingly gives up everything on this older man who is so self involved that he prefers the melodrama of self flagellation than embracing the women who love him – whether that is his demanding and manipulative daughter who turns over a new leaf too late in life, or the actress star who worships him. and all of this because his wife don’t give him no loving. lovingly made though and gorgeous to look at. as much as he hates his women to think or have any kind of identity of their own he makes them absolutely gorgeous to look at- whether it is madhubala dancing around a swimming pool; or meena kumari’s entry that cuts form the floor and her feet to her face; or the shringar scene in which she dresses up for his love; or waheeda rehman walking in on the set of devdas looking to return the overcoat of the director. of the three films while ‘kaagaz’ was all light and shadow dance the story and guru dutts character were much too self indulgent; ‘sahib’ managed the erotic tension between all those complicated and complex relationships that kept stretching what was taboo brilliantly- especially the relationship between bhootnath and choti bahu; while ‘55’ was silly enough most of the time to be fun.

in ‘awara’ nargis is treated much better. first of all she is a lawyer and even when he slaps her on the beach for calling him and ‘junglee’ the image is reversed later when he is at her feet the sexual tension between them is sizzling. terrific film- especially memorable was the entire flashback scene in dreamlike imagery in the beginning.

The superhero / mutant film ‘push’ takes full advantage of the dizzying spectacle of hong kong- the high rises, the labyrinthine market streets and the dizzying speed of it all. Something like a story connects essentially a chase film about pushers, shadows, bleeders.. nothing exceptional but what a city! I have to go there.