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. 🙂

 

 

 

Dev Anand, in conversation…

Varsha Bhosle, an ardent fan of Dev Anand interviewed the legendary actor somewhere around April 1997. Many others like her, and as fans of Hindi cinema may have already read this long interview, which I just came across minutes ago. As I do occasionally, on finding something interesting, especially unexpectedly, I share the treasure right-away; because in cyberspace one can never be sure, it may vanish from sight, and you may never find it again.

Just in case you’re new to Hindi film journalists, or to Indian reporters, Varsha Bhosle was a reporter/writer. She passed away four years ago on 8th October 2012, causes of which are shrouded in mystery, but broadly deemed as suicide. No doubt, she was known for her writing, but as the daughter of playback singer Asha Bhosle, also a living legend today at age 83, there was little secret about her lineage.

Now, Dev Anand, whom Varsha had interviewed so far back, also passed away on 3rd December 2011. Effectively, this interview carries even more weight today than when it was published on April 04, 1997.

 

devanand_varshabhosleinterview-_1devanand_varshabhosleinterview-_contd2devanand_varshabhosleinterview-_contd3devanand_varshabhosleinterview-_contd4

 accord. I have lost the battle of the ages

devanand_varshabhosleinterview-_contd5devanand_varshabhosleinterview-_contd6

 

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

 

The song: ‘Saanvre, Saanvre’ – Film “Anuradha” (1960)

Outstanding in every way, ‘Saanvre, Saanvre’ is a splendid example of lyrics, composition and the singer’s voice unifying into a sublime creation! Shailendra the poet-lyricist, sitar maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar, and melodious Lata Mangeshkar were all in their prime, as was the gorgeous actress Leela Naidu making her Hindi film debut with the title role “Anuradha” (1960). Paired with Balraj Sahni, my favorite actor from that era, the film has an interesting role for Abhi Bhattacharya also (I’ve surmised from another song that I listened to).

I was so overwhelmed by Saanvre Saanvre feeling compelled to transcribe it straightaway, lest it escaped me and was forgotten from my memory. Of course, it is in Hindi. Someday, if I get a chance, will transcribe in English as well… As the film begins, this ‘ten-year-old’ song plays on the radio, with the announcer/anchor introducing the listener to the singer “Anuradha Rai”. The film credits begin to scroll onscreen, but I’m not certain if this song appears again later. I should watch this award winner some point when I have time. https://youtu.be/ikeys1kkQCs

फिल्म: अनुराधा
गीतकार: शैलेंद्र
संगीत: पंडित रविशंकर
साल: १९६०
गायक: लता मंगेशकर

सांवरे … सांवरे

सांवरे सांवरे
जाओ सांवरे सांवरे
काहे मोसे करो जोरा-जोरी
बैयां ना मरोड़ो मोरी
दूंगी दूंगी गारी हटो जाओ जी
सांवरे सांवरे

संग ना सहेली, पाएके अकेली
संग ना सहेली, पाएके अकेली
अब ना जाहते मोरे शाम
रोको ना डगर मोरी
हा आ आ आ

सांवरे सांवरे
जाओ सांवरे सांवरे
काहे मोसे करो जोरा-जोरी
बैयां ना मरोड़ो मोरी
दूंगी दूंगी गारी हटो जाओ जी
सांवरे सांवरे
जाओ सांवरे

गोपी-ग्वाले, देखने वाले
गोपी-ग्वाले, देखने वाले
बिन विचारे कहेंगे सारे
पकड़ी राधा की चोरी
हा आ आ आ

सांवरे सांवरे
जाओ सांवरे सांवरे
काहे मोसे करो जोरा-जोरी
बैयां ना मरोड़ो मोरी
दूंगी दूंगी गारी हटो जाओ जी
सांवरे सांवरे

मुरली बजाओ, गैयां चराओ
मुरली बजाओ, गैयां चराओ
हमरी गैल छोड़ो ऐ छैल
मिलो जब आवे होरी
हा आ आ आ
सांवरे
हा आ आ आ
सांवरे
आ आ आ
सांवरे
आ आ आ
सांवरे

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

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Directors’ Diaries. Author: Rakesh Anand Bakshi

Asking a film director the right questions is key. The doors opened. 🙂

Until you’ve written a book, published it, (and hopefully a few have read it) you are not an author. You’re not a film director until you have directed at least one film, it has been viewed by a spectrum of audiences and perhaps a few critics – if you’re both, worthy and fortunate (indifference and silence are worse). Rakesh Anand Bakshi has shared through his Directors’ Diaries, not just one story but he has brought to us the stories of 12 film directors from Indian Cinema. These men and women who walked the walk and talked the talk. Yes, that phrase may sound clichéed, but every film has not just its fictional story, but together, it also takes forward the collective hopes and aspirations of its entire cast and crew. The film’s director, through his/her focus & point of view transports the audience into another realm – all with the synergistic efforts of this entire team.

Now, if you wanted to be a film actor, editor, a cinematographer, a story/screenplay writer, or even another crew member working with film directors, this book is for you. If you just enjoy reading stories about real people, here are 12 who may inspire you. For some of the directors, their journeys were distinctly uncertain, for some it was a gradual progression towards a hazy goal. But for each of them, the ride towards their dream was long, never a straight line; it was strewn with unforeseen events, or serendipity shrouded at times in disappointments. They made films that are purely entertaining, or even deep and thought provoking. But who, or what inspired these 12 successful film directors to venture into cinema? I haven’t finished reading all 12 stories, but even after reading seven, I felt compelled to post this review. I look forward to reading this author’s next book, because through this all, his personal passion and understanding of the landscape are visible. Four stars for Directors’ Diaries — three for the author’s sheer effort; + fourth for the research, putting it all together, and giving it a coherent structure.The 5th star I will reserve, because isn’t there always room for improvement? 🙂

(Also posted under Amazon Reviews)

A sassy lassie asked her sexy chum, “Umm, so what’s hidden behind the choli?”

Coyly her chum replied, “That’s my heart behind the choli”… Sassy lassie, saucy again, asks, “Pray, what’s behind the chunari?” Sexy lady shot back, “That’s my heart behind the chunari”. As these two rustic young girls danced away on screen over two decades ago, off screen, given a chance, some Indians still scream, “Blasphemy! Anand Bakshi, Bollywood’s lyricist stooped so low – depicting such disrespect towards our nation’s cultural heritage!” Now if that isn’t an attempt at cultural hegemony, what is! These sanctimonious critics never fail to condemn the songwriter who penned over 3500 songs in almost 650 Hindi films over 45 years since the late 1950s until the onset of the 21st century.

A few weeks ago, I touched upon a similar issue. Now didn’t songs penned by other acclaimed lyricists too have double entendre skillfully interlaced in their verses too? Somehow I believe that because those names were heavyweights of Hindi films in the ’50s-’60s-’70s-’80s, e.g. Sahir Ludhianvi stood his own ground, undeterred by critics or politics; or songwriter-poet Hasrat Jaipuri, intrinsic to the quartet team along with renowned lyricist Shailendra and composers Shankar-Jaikishan – each one of them most talented, but together whose careers took off in films largely promoted by actor-director-producer Raj Kapoor of RK Films. Critics may have been cautious and wary about voicing their concerns over their artistic presentations. We never witnessed such attacks when overtly sexual references were clearly visible in most of Raj Kapoor’s films… at that time it all passed under the guise of ‘art’ and brushed aside with one brilliant stroke that is coined as “showmanship”. Brilliant Public Relations, I say. It always amazes me that in the early ’60s — 30 years before ‘the choli song’ —  neither did the Indian janta raise their eyebrows, nor did the Censor Board clamp up at this depiction – a middle-aged man playing tricks with a bathing beauty à la Krishna… oh no, who could possibly dare to frown upon, or cause a furor over this!

Ironically, the following ‘evergreen’ ‘devotional’ song is from a film produced under the RK Banner in 1978; and the lyrics are penned by the same songwriter — Anand Bakshi. I doubt if critics ever pointed a finger to fault either the lyrics writer, or the film’s producer- director-editor… 😉

Don’t get me wrong… showman Raj Kapoor was ‘great’ more because he was astute. He had the finger on the Indian janta’s pulse. He knew what worked, and what made them tick. Behind their saintly facades weren’t these holier-than-thou types — in reality — virile men eager to ogle, just pretending to look askance? Given every chance each of them would certainly crave for more than one glance!

Here’s yet another iconic song – nothing obscene about the song nor its depiction. It was written by another heavyweight lyricist, Majrooh Sultanpuri. Picturized on a much-revered actress, Meena Kumari, I doubt if most listeners have ever given a second thought to the deep implications of the lyrics… with a smile on her face, dancing amidst debauched men, the courtesan narrates the sad tale of how her modesty was compromised, and how her state came to be.

Many a film has been made with ‘mujra’ dance songs that either tell a sad tale (Umrao Jaan, Baazar, etc) or forever wooing the degenerate male for money money money. Sometimes even filmmakers like Yash Raj Films have brought in top-rated stars in special appearances to perform an “item-number” – any fingers pointing at these “first families” of Indian films? Dekho dekho… a stark scenario — resplendent with dark kohl, kajra, and plenty of oomph. Censors, critics, the young and old – they all danced to ‘their’ tune, “chunari” was cast away… the question of “chunari ke peechey kya hai” just did not arise… was it the free-fall of lyrics, the descent of decency, or is it… “Hey, to each his own; get a life!”

Yesterday I had the opportunity to watch a show, “100 Years of Bollywood 1913-2013”, an interesting production, a retrospective montage – a representation, a depiction of Hindi cinema through the decades — all the way from its nascent, silent avatar to its current day melée between dance, drama, music, action — each of the elements jostling for attention.

I was thoroughly enjoying the music – both, the very old music from my grand-parents’ era continuing through my parents’ youth, to my childhood, youth and adulthood; but one thing struck me as odd, even as I was watching the audio-visuals,  listening to the live music, tapping my toes and clapping my hands in sync with the rhythm of songs that are almost a part of me now — credits were given to the music composers, to the actors and filmmakers but what about the lyricists? What about those who had penned the words that we uttered, and sang? Why no mention or credit to the film poets? Even as this thought quietly rankled, suddenly I felt some harsh brakes that caused a jolt and hurt like whiplash! 

A slide in the presentation had singled out Anand Bakshi and mocked himcondemned him thus — A lyricist who was renowned for writing good lyrics, had stooped so low in the ’90s with these lyrics — “Choli ke peechhey kya hai, chunari ke neechey kya hai”. Translated literally the song wold read: “What lies beneath the blouse?” “What lies beneath the veil?” But as in poetry, in film lyrics too one goes beyond the literal. Obviously, in this case, this director/writer of the staged show preferred to interpret the lines literally. For a moment I wasn’t sure whether this was a backhanded compliment to Anand Bakshi, or if it was a deliberate attempt at singling him out to deride the man who has been long gone, but not before he had contributed much to Hindi Films over his lifetime; and one who reached great heights — all on his own strength, merit, determination and steam. He rode his own horse. His written words spoke for him and surpassed any “showman” in Bollywood.

Shouldn’t those who presented this show at a fundraiser for Ekal Vidyalaya in the US yesterday, have displayed better judgment than to pass judgment on a contentious issue such as this? To a packed house of 1100 people — young, middle-aged, as well as senior Indians — surely this could have been left for the audience to gauge the rise or demise of aesthetics in Indian cinema. After all, Indians or not, this was US soil the show was presented on… both national anthems were recited – The Star Spangled Banner, as well as Jana Gana Mana… did they not factor in the sentiments of all who were present? Finally, I’m sorry to say, as far as I’m concerned, this single instance was the show’s undoing. What could have ended on a fun note… ended with a jarring sound.

Sorry, some folks – twenty years ago, or twenty years hence can’t pull away from ‘choli’… perhaps that is why they do not remember this song in the same film, penned by the same lyricist. He wrote a heart-wrenching song – an ode to all mothers. Even Anand Bakshi ji himself had asked his critics the same question – why were they hung up on the choli song? Did they even notice the poignant words — Every mother loves her child – be he the devil incarnate, or God himself. “Apney bachchey tujhko pyarey, Raavan ho ya Ram”.

Think deep… whether a newborn infant, or an aging adult, isn’t it hard to break away from Mom?

Now I wouldn’t like to disappoint the few who may be interested in this other song… I mean the ‘mother’ song. So here it is, in its entirety.

“Robyn Davidson” quotes I love… but who is Robyn?

“And there are new kinds of nomads, not people who are at home everywhere, but who are at home nowhere. I was one of them ”
― Robyn Davidson, Desert Places

This quote caught my attention right away. I knew I had to watch the film until the very end… no falling asleep like I often do when we begin a film as late as when it’s time for most folks to call it a day, especially on week nights. Robyn is a nomad first, a writer later — that’s how I view her. This is an opinion I’ve formed last night after watching just this single film, “Tracks”, based on her own book, “Tracks: A Woman’s Solo Trek Across 1700 Miles of Australian Outback”.

It was not as much the cinematography, nor some fantasy depicted on celluloid… it was this young girl’s arduous journey that was utterly fascinating. No one urged Robyn to embark upon this long trek… an idea that was preposterous in itself. Was it the turmoil within her that spurred her into seeking camels, training them to accompany her across the desert — miles and miles and miles of land that would eventually lead her to the Indian Ocean. Yes, she had chalked out her route, and with a compass that her father – an explorer (or gold digger) – gifted her before she left Alice Springs, a town located in the geographic heart of the continent, Down Under, she set afoot on her journey.

Referred to as “The Camel Lady” by those who saw her walking with Diggity, her best friend – her dog, (you guessed right) and a train of four camels lugging all she would need along the way, she went on and on relentless… Dookie, Bub, Zeleika, and Goliath followed her. Somewhere along the line her trek was sponsored by The National Geographic Magazine – no less. She disliked the idea – intensely – but finally relented, accepting their assistance, and Rick Smolan’s attention — albeit, sparingly. She wanted to be alone. Period. She did not set off on this journey for money, and nor did she seek fame. But those who seek not, shall receive.

Robyn Davidson — I looked her up this morning – and voilà, what do I find? An accomplished author in her own right, for some time she was in a relationship with Salman Rushdie… really! My guess is it must have been during the time he was writing The Satanic Verses, but before his book was published in 1988. Just my wild guess… no doubt, Robyn’s trek across the wilderness of the outback had been long completed in the late 1970s – in fact, during the most part of 1977 – nine months in all. She had been there, done that, and then some… shot wild camel bulls, traversed through land of the indigenous Australians (but respecting their ‘secret’ rites and rituals) – but not without ‘Eddie’, her Warakurna guide and companion for many hundred miles.

“FOR THE NEXT TWO DAYS Eddie and I walked together, we played charades trying to communicate and fell into fits of hysteria at each other’s antics. We stalked rabbits and missed, picked bush foods and generally had a good time. He was sheer pleasure to be with, exuding all those qualities typical of old Aboriginal people — strength, warmth, self-possession, wit, and a kind of rootedness, a substantiality that immediately commanded respect.”
― Robyn Davidson, Tracks: One Woman’s Solo Trek Across 1,700 Miles of Australian Outback

People, if there’s even a little of the Bohemian in you, a dash of daring, or the armchair curiosity to see the grit and gumption of this ‘dynamo’, here’s a film you must watch. Mia Wasikowska, who plays the lead role of the adult Robyn will keep you glued to the edge of your seat, while she gazes at the stars above, laying on her sleeping gear in the wilderness of Australia.

Yes, “Tracks” (2013)  brings drama, adventure and the zest to tread into the unknown… all at once, in your living room.

“I could not get used to the idea of there being classes of people inherently inferior to oneself, to whom one could be as odiously condescending or downright brutal as one likes, yet with whom one lived as intimately as family.”
― Robyn Davidson, Desert Places

“… It is better to proceed with one’s duty in the service of others than wallow in the pain attachments bring”
― Robyn Davidson, Desert Places

“To be free one needs constant and unrelenting vigilance over one’s weaknesses. A vigilance which requires a moral energy most of us are incapable of manufacturing. We relax back into the moulds of habit. They are secure, they bind us and keep us contained at the expense of freedom. To break the moulds, to be heedless of the seductions of security is an impossible struggle, but one of the few that count. To be free is to learn, to test yourself constantly, to gamble. It is not safe. I had learnt to use my fears as stepping stones rather than stumbling blocks, and best of all I had learnt to laugh.”
― Robyn Davidson, Tracks: One Woman’s Solo Trek Across 1,700 Miles of Australian Outback

“Because if you are fragmented and uncertain it is terrifying to find the boundaries of yourself melt. Survival in a desert, then, requires that you lose this fragmentation, and fast. It is not a mystical experience, or rather, it is dangerous to attach these sorts of words to it.”
― Robyn Davidson, Tracks: One Woman’s Solo Trek Across 1,700 Miles of Australian Outback


 

A bundle of verve, pizzazz… Helen!

Speaking of ‘vamps’ in Indian cinema’s “golden era”, I can’t help but think of Helen… the epitome of verve and pizzazz! It will be hard to extoll virtues about this most elegant lady — a contradiction, eh? But I only saw her on the Hindi cinema screen, usually in the role of the “other woman” – who would be held solely responsible for the itinerant ways of the ‘virtuous’ male hero/protagonist represented not unlike  “Ram” – epitome of the perfect Indian male. Her goal in life (in the film) would be to seduce this hero. If he was wayward, she was to be blamed, wholly and solely. Holey moley… but that’s baloney. You bet! 😉

Here are a few songs I enjoy thoroughly… many of these I may have seen in more recent years. I’m sure, I’d watched these films with my parents – oops, sorry, correction, father never watched Hindi movies with us. Beyond the nineteen fifties he had little interest in them. As for why I was with Maa, obviously she would have wanted to go to the movies and with no one to baby-sit us – the kids – we all must have often tagged along when she (with her friends and their kids) all went together for the afternoon show, or for a 6-9 p.m. I would have shut my eyes – aghast, or asleep – eyes covered with Maa’s pallu… to this day, I often fall asleep towards the end of a film. 🙂

Aghast! 😉 But after all it’s a story of revenge! “Intaqam” (1969) Aa jaane jaa (seduction personified, but would it be politically correct to depict thus today, I wonder). 😉

Lyricist: Rajinder Kishen; Music Director: Laxmikant-Pyarelal; Playback Singer: Lata Mangeshkar 🙂 Oddly so 😉

How vivacious is Helen here – prancing, pouting, perhaps in collusion with Pran – the villain who seemed to feature in every film, it seemed to my kiddie brain then. Much later, I learned that this ‘sly’, ‘devious’ character was in reality a man of immense class. Alas… he too is now away… remaining as a memory, visible only on the silver screen.

Lyricist: Hasrat Jaipuri; Music Director: Shankar-Jaikishan; Playback Singer: Lata Mangeshkar yet again. 🙂 Based on Agatha Christie’s novel, “And then there were none“, the Film: Gumnaam (1965) directed by Raja Nawathe.

Helen’s version of a “loving feeling” — “Rassa Sayang Re” from the Hindi film “Singapore” (1960)… truly endearing, especially the outfit goes well with her semi-oriental (Burmese) genes.  🙂

Music Director: Shankar-Jaikishan; Playback Singers: Lata Mangeshkar & Mohommad Rafi; Actor: Shammi Kapoor

Now, going forward, backwards, upwards or below…  if this is a drunken ‘awara badal’ – Helen… I’ll take her. 🙂 Adorable. But here are some surprise elements! Wow… Lyricist: Anand Bakshi; Film: Awara Badal (1964);  Music Director: Usha Khanna; Playback: Asha Bhosle

We all have our favorite “Helen” songs… overtly or kept a close, closet secret! 😉 But here’s one easy to share… just lovely. Ooi Maa… (I could not have slept through this one unless I never did see the film!) Filled with energy… and ‘love’ is hard to keep as secret for long!

Film: Parasmani (1963); Playback: Lata Mangeshkar; Music Composers: Laxmikant-Pyarelal; Lyricist: Farooq Qaisar

Sources: YouTube, Hindi Geetmala, Wikipedia, and of course… Google.