Raja Nawathe: Gumnaam (1965)

You know I had never quite been a huge Hindi cinema buff. No doubt, I had watched numerous films over decades of my life in India, but had never really bought film magazines, nor bought tickets from the fellas who paced up and down, muttering something under their breath while you’re waiting in queue with that occasional mood to go to the movies to watch a Hindi film.  More often than not, by the time you reached the ticket window, they would have no good seats left, except the stray ones in the first few rows, and you certainly did not ever want to sit that close to the screen… instead, we ended up going for lunch, or dinner. But that’s so far back I can barely remember what we did. Well, every now and again I seem to be writing something about Hindi cinema… nothing quite of consequence, I guess. But, this came as a surprise just now.

A few years ago, I had created this page about a not-so-widely-renowned film director, Raja Nawathe. Again, if I had told someone at the time I created that page, they would have said, “Yeah, so…  who’s that again?” Not much was known about him on the internet search at the time… so I pieced together the little I could. What do you know!  I just came across this scholarly article by Dr Iain Robert Smith, Lecturer in Film Studies at King’s College London. In it, I found a link directly to that page. So I’m smiling, at least someone found that page useful. 🙂 Although Raja Nawathe himself directed only a few films, the songs from his films are by no means gumnaam (or loosely translated, forgotten… ) e.g. here are a couple of Shankar-Jaikishan composed favorites, one is the haunting title  song that Lata Mangeshkar sang in the background song where actresses Nanda and Helen, hero Manoj Kumar and others  seem lost; and the other one is while feisty Laxmi-Chhaya is in rock-n-roll mode in a club scene for which Mohammad Rafi sings with such pizzazz.  🙂

Surprise, the lyrics for this one are written by Shailendra, while the sombre one is Hasrat Jaipuri’s writing. Enjoy both… listen to whichever you feel will fascinate you more. 🙂

 

 

 

Pancham’s Debut – Chhote Nawab

 

mehmood_helen_chhotenawab

Mehmood dances with Helen in a very classy performance. Both, a pleasure to watch, as she plays the castanets onscreen; as well as a joy to listen to. Pancham’s score for the comedian’s home production is wonderful.

Indeed, Rahul Dev Burman, ‘Tablu’ made his debut as a music composer with the film “Chhote Nawab” (1961) – an apt title for the young ‘prince’ who hailed from the royal family of Tripura. His father, Sachin Dev Burman’s unavailability to score music for this film was perhaps a blessing in disguise.

Although Chhote Nawab’s musical success did not bring a mad rush of film makers to Pancham’s doorstep, in no way does that undermine the beauty in the songs here; and speaks of a gifted RDB, as time would tell. Whether it was a classical-based “Ghar Aaja Ghir Aaye”or one with a Latin beat “Matvali Ankhon Vale”, here was a music composer making his mark in no uncertain terms. Deserving as much credit, in no small measure, are Shailendra’s lyrics, and the voices of the playback singers Mohammad Rafi, Lata Mangeshkar, and Shamshad Begum. But these were artistes who had arrived a long time ago. Some extra credit to the young Tablu is certainly in order.

वाहिला या या ला ला आ
ह ला ला ला ला लू लू ला या या
ला ला ला ला ला ला ला

हो ओ मतवाली आँखों वाले
ओ अलबेले दिलवाले
दिल तेरा हो रहेगा
गर तू इसे अपना ले
मतवाली आँखों वाले
ओ अलबेले दिलवाले
दिल तेरा हो रहेगा
गर तू इसे अपना ले
मतवाली आँखों वाले

हो ओ तुझको शायद होगा हो गया
सुन ऐ हसीं मैं वो नहीं
मैं वो नहीं
हो तू है तो महफ़िल में रंग है
तू जो नहीं कुछ भी नहीं
हाए हाए कुछ भी नहीं
हो ओ मतवाली आँखों वाले
हो अलबेले दिलवाले
दिल तेरा हो रहेगा
गर तू इसे अपना ले
मतवाली आँखों वाले

हो ओ जब से तुझको दखा एक नज़र
मुझे क्या हुआ मेरे दिलबर मेरे दिलबर
हो ओ मुझ पे अपना जादू न चला
कहा मेरा सुन कहीं और जा कहीं और जा
हो ओ मतवाली आँखों वाले
ओ अलबेले दिलवाले
दिल तेरा हो रहेगा
गर तू इसे अपना ले
मतवाली आँखों वाले

हो ओ मैं तेरी दुनिया में अजनबी
कहीं और है मंज़िल मेरी मंज़िल मेरी
ओ कह-सुन ले दो बातें प्यार की
दुनिया तेरी महफ़िल तेरी महफ़िल तेरी

हो ओ मतवाली आँखों वाले
ओ अलबेले दिलवाले
दिल तेरा हो रहेगा
गर तू इसे अपना ले
मतवाली आँखों वाले
ओ अलबेले दिलवाले
दिल तेरा हो रहेगा
गर तू इसे अपना ले
मतवाली आँखों वाले

 

Drawing Parallels: “The Railway Man”

Last evening I watched “The Railway Man” (2014), a film based on the true story about this British officer, Eric Lomax from Edinburgh up north in Scotland, who at age 24 in 1943 was held PoW at a Japanese camp in the Far East. Inhumanly tortured while in the clutches of the Kempeitai until end October 1945, he suffered for several decades, long after his return to Britain, and after the war had ended. He was an avid railway enthusiast, almost obsessively so. In 1995, basically 50 years after those traumatic life-altering experiences during World War II, his autobiography was published. In the film, Lomax is portrayed as an engineer. Well, as a matter of fact, in 1939, Eric — all of 19 — had joined the Royal Corps of Signals!

Story: Eric Lomax | Screenplay: Andy Paterson, Frank Cottrell-Boyce | Director: Jonathan Teplitzky |
Actors: Colin Firth | Nicole Kidman | Jeremy Irvine | Hiroyuki Sanada | Tanroh Ishida | Sam Reid | Stellan Skarsgård (Stellar performances!)

Strange and far-fetched as it may sound, I just couldn’t help but think of Hindi film lyricist Anand Bakshi. Some segments of his early life cross my mind often, so here are some parallels. Long before our man reached popularity as song-writer, young Bakhshi, at age 14, had joined the Royal Indian Navy. Within two years, when the Empire was in free-fall after WW II, the uprising in the docks i.e. the Naval Mutiny of 1946 was essentially the hot-bed of revolt against Colonial power. Anand Bakhshi, from Rawalpindi (erstwhile North-West India)  participated in the Mutiny. This act of treason at the time, invited the wrath of the rulers, and he could have faced capital punishment, but ‘somehow’ (a story for another day) he had a narrow escape. He was ‘merely’ expelled from the Navy. The following year brought mayhem in the sub-continent, not unlike the atrocities of the Kempeitai which are likened to the infamous Holocaust in Europe. In the aftermath of India’s Partition, Anand Bakhshi joined the Indian Army, but now in what capacity? You bet… as Signal Man “Azad” in the Corps of Signals… for two years! Now wait… thereafter he attempted to find his place under the sun (oh, well… in “suneema-cinema“, but failed)… so Bakhshi was back in the Army and now, where did he join? He joined The Corps of Electrical & Mechanical Engineers (E.M.E.) when he was 21 and stayed on until 1956 when the film bug that had continued to bother him, he could bear it no more. That’s a long story that merits a biography.

Anand Bakshi was too busy writing film songs until he passed away on March 30th, 2002. He did not have time to pen an autobiography, alas… but he has expressed a myriad emotions through his songs… through characters in films –  men, women and kids — he lives on. Some of his most memorable songs are visualized on railway men, or using the train as a metaphor… but as a fan of this film song writer, I had to write this… let’s call this my tribute – a few weeks ahead of his 14th death anniversary. While Eric Lomax lived on until October 8th, 2012, and was born eleven years ahead of the Indian songwriter, they both lived with a deep pain in their heart that stayed with them for a lifetime… the biopic is poignant; as are the lyrics of many songs I have hummed for long.

Film: Vidhata (1982)

Composer: Kalyan ji-Anand ji | Lyrics: Anand Bakshi | Singer: Suresh Wadkar
Actors: Dilip Kumar | Shammi Kapoor

 

Film: Dost (1974)

Composer: Laxmikant-Pyarelal | Lyrics: Anand Bakshi | Singer: Kishore Kumar            Actor: Dharmendra

 

Trotting on your high horse?

Headed to Buckingham Palace? Chances are you’re more than likely not going anywhere near there. Then why this compulsion to speak the Queen’s English, eh?  Here’s what I think the issue is…

It’s an instant giveaway that although you’re a product of independent India, you haven’t quite broken away those shackles of your colonial past – even if you were born two generations later. See this invisible long chain… your parents’ thinking influenced your childhood. They in turn were a product of parents amid an entire generation who believed that speaking English with the appropriate vocabulary, specific diction, pronunciation – ‘a command of the language’ would get them in high places. What does ‘high places’ really translate into? It meant a better paid job, access to an ‘elite’ inner circle, a membership into a club reserved for those not just with the means, i.e. wealthy, but also with a certain ‘polished’ look and feel about them. In other words, knowing which spoon to ‘not slurp’ that mulligatawny soup with, which fork to jab the paper thin phulka roti, or dosa with… and which knife to stab the steak with. No… you can’t pretend to be shocked! This was hurtful… because it’s true…

Well, in a desperate effort to give their kids a head-start parents work even harder in urban metros, I hear, paying an arm and a leg to see their kids sail through an International Baccalaureate program offered by a school that may even be tens of kilometers away from their residence — which is hard on young kids. Ostensibly, there’s the  ultimate payoff i.e. easier access to an Ivy League School, or at least better chances of admission to a good university in the US; or even to Cambridge, Manchester, Stirling, Oxford in the UK; or even down under in Australia! Isn’t that true? On the other hand millions of kids and youth strive, struggle and must elbow their way to come out ahead through education at poorly-funded municipal schools (not ‘Public Schools’ since those in India are the elite schools), or ordinary primary, middle school and high schools that are  close to home. In rural areas, they have to walk miles and overcome challenges to get anywhere near a school.  And that’s another story. I’ve digressed.

What crossed my mind is the following. Remember Bharat Ratna Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam? 11th President of India? Ever listened to him speak, whether he addressed the nation, or in an interview on Knowledge at Wharton? He spoke in English, but with an accent that is construed as ‘thick’, not just in the western world, but among his own people – the ones from elite schools. Listen to him, and say you don’t think so… but wait, pay attention to the content and his line of thinking? Amazing…

The point is, with the spread of languages we are exposed to routinely, we are at such a huge advantage (as compared to those who speak only one language — English)! Even the Eastern Bloc folks learn English, but foremost each one speaks their own language, may be even a different dialect. We know that the Japanese, Chinese, in the Philippines, natives of numerous African nations, the French, Spanish, Greeks, Hungarians, Scandinavians, Portuguese… they all are proud of their respective languages. As Indians, to express ourself, if we don’t find an appropriate word in English, there’s always another language we can borrow from… I often do. Just dip into your ‘mother tongue’ – no, chances are English is not your mother tongue, even if your entire family speaks in English! The joy of sprinkling your everyday parlance with your native lingo is immense… it’s so satisfying. It’s like having a complete meal – tangy, salty, spicy, sweet, and oh, with even with some bitterness in the mix! It’s all made so very flavorful…

When I hear Indians say with a hint of pride, “Oh, I only speak English, and am unable to read or write in any other language”, it makes me sad. What if one day, our human race turns into a homogeneous society where everyone speaks and thinks in just one language… how boring will it get! Science, math, technology is all boiling down to zero and one (0,1, 0, 1, 0, 1…) If all the languages of this world are reduced to just one, society, I’m afraid may be reduced to zero. They world may feel, “Know thy English“, but all I would like to say is, “No, to thy English.” “Ride, no?” 😉
QE On Horse_archive_hourseandhound_CO_UK

On 11th June 2016, Happy Birthday to Queen Elizabeth II… Her Majesty turns 90! 🙂
Photo Courtesy: Horse and Hound

Watch your kite soar!

In Indian cinema, poets and lyricists have expressed the joys and sorrows of people, through songs using the humble kite as a metaphor. Watching your kite soar, caressing the skies on a clear day is a simple delight.

Across the oceans to the west, or bending far over in the orient’s east, you see kites in exotic shapes and sizes but with staggering prices. Father and son leaving the neighborhood park after an hour of structured fun, is a far cry from kite-flying around “Sankranti” – celebrated annually on 14th January, unfailingly. Restless kids practice to perfection their skills, honing them in anticipation of the battles that are waged on ‘The’-Day. 🙂 Onward of December, sales of colorful ‘patang‘ (kite) and reels of “maanja” (string) begin to soar.

I remember from my childhood days – a ‘fast’ friend of my maternal uncles. “Kanu” maama, was a seasonal ‘stockist’, but an immensely gentle soul who loved kids. During the summer season, just before the onset of monsoons, he stocked umbrellas and raincoats of all shapes and sizes. We always stopped by his Station Road store to say hello to him during our vacation in the summer holidays. Again, almost towards the end of a month-long Christmas vacation spent at my grandparents’ home, a visit to his store was a given. This time around it was more exciting for us kids.

What fun, all the way to the top were arrays of kites, neatly stacked. Hanging from the ceiling, in the store’s narrow, tunnel-like space were all these colored kites and reels of string that beckoned us! In awe, we wanted as many as Maa could handle carrying these fragile paper kites back to Mumbai on a crowded train. Without doubt, boarding a train headed back to Mumbai at the end of Xmas season would be a nightmare, but this shopping was a must! It did not matter – two kids in tow, a couple of carry-on (sans wheels) bags, a few pishvis packed with food – goodies that were a specialty of Surat — think Mazda bakery’s butter biscuits, naan khatai, surti papdi (for Maa to make undhiyoo), ghee-coated pistachio ghaari, and paunk (fresh soft grain from the fields) to be savored with a bunch of other delightful, sweet-n-savory items… and the firki-patang!  A stockpile of kites is a must.

Who wants to run out on kites when you could be running across the streets, or from the top, on your building’s terrace to match kite-flying skills, with that of your opponent’s — usually that guy across on the neighboring building! Slashing his maanja requires tact and skill, when that kite sails downward, you cry out – not unlike a war-cry “Kai-po-chhe“! Yes, those strings that you tie the papyrus thin kite with, in strategic knots, is actually coated with fine glass… you’d say that’s not child’s play… but oh well, politically correct or not… I haven’t heard of anyone being sued for flying kites this way in India. That said, for the urban lot — ‘occasional’ kite-fliers like us, maanja without the glass coating was mandatory. Kanu maama had ensured that.

The soaring kite, a hard feat to achieve, that comes with practice may be used as a figure of speech for dreams unlimited — masculine; while the fallen kite — “kati patang” may be a depiction of a crestfallen maiden.  The fun and fury of flying kites surpasses the delight of flying drones or remote-controlled airplanes… any day! So… here are some songs to last you week-long… hum along! 🙂

Here is a medley of moods, music, situations.

Film: Bhabhi (1957). Lyrics: Rajinder Krishan. Composer: Chitragupt. Singers: Lata Mangeshkar & Mohommad Rafi. Actors: Nanda & Jagdeep

 

Film: Zameen ke Taare (1960). Lyrics: Anand Bakshi. Composer: S. Mohinder. Singers: Sudha Malhotra & Asha Bhosle. Child Actors: Daisy & Honey Irani

 

Film: Raagini (1958). Lyrics: Jan Nisar Akhtar. Composer: O P Nayyar. Singers: Asha Bhosle & Kishore Kumar. Actors: Kishore Kumar & ?

No kite flying visible in this song… and yet…

Film: Nagin(1954). Lyrics: Rajinder Krishan. Composer: Hemant Kumar. Singers: Lata Mangeshkar & Hemant Kumar. Actors: Vyjantimala & Pradeep Kumar

Again, this is depicted as a dance ballet on stage. Lyrics speak of patang & maanjaa.

 

Film: Patang (1960). Lyrics: Rajinder Krishan. Composer: Chitragupt. Singers: Mohommad Rafi. Actors: Om Prakash

A hard fact of life…

Film: Kati Patang (1971). Lyrics: Anand Bakshi. Composer: Rahul Dev Burman. Singers: Lata Mangeshkar. Actors: Asha Parekh

This post would be incomplete without this one… the crestfallen maiden!

 

This is colorful — Gujarati flavors and colors. Sanjay Leela Bhansali, a Gujarati, whose opulent Marathi-flavored Bajirao-Mastani is playing to packed houses currently, was writer-producer-director of Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (1999). Ismail Darbar, the music composer debuted with this film. He is a Surti. Now, Surat, Gujarati and kite flying are virtually synonymous. Ask anyone… oh well, just enjoy this song! 😉

Film: Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (1999). Lyrics: Mehboob Kotwal. Composer: Ismail Darbar. Singers: K.K., Shankar Mahadevan, Jyotsna Hardikar, Dominique Cerejo.

 

 

 

 

Another Take on Art, Music, Film, Remix… Priceless!

“… Remix voh hota hai ki kisi ka bhi banaya hua gaana aap pakadiye, yaa chura leejiye. Phir uss mein chaar naye saaz ander daaliye, phir ussey record keejiye, remix keejiye, aur khud maalik ban jaaiye. Bhai kalaa toh kalaa hoti hai, chaahe apni ho yaa paraayi; buss, Laxmi aani chaahiye, chhan-chhan, chhan-chhan, chhan chhan…” ~ Vikrant Kapoor’s dialogue in Taal (1999).
Screenplay written by Subhash Ghai, Sachin Bhowmick and Javed Siddiqui. The film was also produced and directed by Subhash Ghai. He has high regards for the larger than life lyricist, the late Anand Bakshi ji and respects his work immensely. Hence, the songs in his movies are a huge draw…just fabulous – lyrical, aesthetic, evocative and fun… all at once. They had collaborated in numerous movies ever since Karz (1980) until Yaadein (2001), which was released soon after Bakshi ji’s last birthday on July 21st, 2001. A few months later, on March 30th, 2002, Anand Bakshi saab paased away, leaving behind numerous memories for this film director, screenplay writer, producer, and his dear friend.

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After over 14 years I am watching this film again; the last time was with a bunch of friends, at the cinema, its glamor sparkling from the silver screen in Toronto. We had missed several minutes of its beginning. This evening, I was drawn to it again — a bit of nostalgia, and for the added treat of its memorable music.
Watching this alone, enjoying it in the quietude of a Saturday evening, was jolted by this dialogue, halfway through the movie. Essence of the dialog for non-Hindi speakers – “… Remix songs are those where you get someone’s song – by hook or by crook – add a few notes to the original, record the song, remix it, and become owner of that song. Call it your own creation. After all, art is art, whether it’s your own, or belongs to another. All that counts is the jingling sound of money money money…”
Recognize the satire, the irony? All those artists — creative souls — who accidentally find their work portrayed by someone else as their own, will recall the pang, the hurt, the anger, the frustration. There’s no solution… those who have no qualms, will carry on with their Re-Mix. Will you be party to this song-and-dance?

O Machalti Arzoo… Salil da

usnekahatha_collage_chitralekhan_sept2012

Vivacious, filled with youthful joy, refreshing, with an element of awaiting to live life to its fullest. Joie de vivre… just enjoy this song, its exuberance and actress Nanda, bubbling, day-dreaming, in Usne Kaha Tha (1961)… a black and white film.

ओ ओ ओ ~

मचलती आरज़ू
खड़ी बाँहें पसारे ~ ओ
ओ मेरे साजना रे
धड़कता दिल पुकारे
आ ~  जा

ओ ओ ओ ~

मचलती आरज़ू
खड़ी बाँहें पसारे ~ ओ
ओ मेरे साजना रे
धड़कता दिल पुकारे
आ ~  जा

मेरा आँचल पकड़ के कह रहा है मेरा दिल
मेरा आँचल पकड़ के कह रहा है मेरा दिल
ज़माने की निगाहों से यहां छुप छुप के मिल
यहीं तन्हाई में दिल की कली जाएगी खिल
ओ हो ओ

ओ ओ ओ ~

मचलती आरज़ू
खड़ी बाँहें पसारे ~ ओ
ओ मेरे साजना रे
धड़कता दिल पुकारे
आ ~  जा

मिलन के मदभरे चंचल ख़यालों में मगन

मिलन के मदभरे चंचल ख़यालों में मगन
मैं तो तकती हूँ तेरी राहों ओ मेरे साजन
बहारों के लिए हो मुंतज़िर जैसे चमन
हो ओ
मचलती आरज़ू
खड़ी बाँहें पसारे
ओ मेरे साजना रे
धड़कता दिल पुकारे
आ ~  जा

हो ओ
मचलती आरज़ू
खड़ी बाँहें पसारे ए
ओ मेरे साजना रे
धड़कता दिल पुकारे
आ ~  जा