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 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


You can replay your favorite song, but…

Life moves on, and you can never rewind nor replay it, ever. That is a fact, my friend, even if this song is drawn from fiction.

Aap Ki Kasam
Rajesh Khanna in “Aap ki Kasam” (1974). Background score “Zindagi ke Safar Mein Guzar Jaate Hain Jo Makaam”


Over four decades ago, for a film situation, a very special lyricist wrote a song sprinkled with beautiful metaphors. Today is his 86th birth anniversary.

Story Context: A man, blinded by suspicion, throws his wife out from his life. Much later he realizes his folly. Alas it is too late; she is now married to another man. Deeply saddened, forlorn, he wanders around, regretting his rash decision, aching for the love he had recklessly abandoned.

Here is my transliteration of that iconic Hindi song.

Flowers will bloom, but some will fall off in autumn, to never bloom again next spring. Consider this, you meet thousands of people along life’s journey, but although you call out for some over a lifetime, alas, they may never return… you may never again meet those who had parted – disappointed with you – a long time ago some day.

A note of caution. What your eyes see may not be the entire truth. Don’t open your doors to suspicion… it is the darkest foe of friendship. Pay heed, ’cause if you don’t, you will regret it deeply, and all through your lifetime. No matter how often you call out to your friend (read ‘beloved’), your ‘hello’ will meet a deep ‘silence’. Those who have gone, will never return… ever. Refrain from such recklessness.

A new day will dawn, and dusk will bid goodbye, then another day will dawn, and this cycle of night and day will go on. Time moves on, the moment is here, and before you realize it, it’s gone… it won’t ever return. Man barely takes in the scene on screen, but in a flash it’s gone.

In life, the milestones that go past, will never return.

Here’s the song, I’ve just transcribed in Hindi.

ज़िन्दगी के सफ़र में गुज़र जाते हैं जो मक़ाम
वो, फिर नहीं आते, वो, फिर नहीं आते

ज़िन्दगी के सफ़र में गुज़र जाते हैं जो मक़ाम
वो, फिर नहीं आते, वो, फिर नहीं आते

फूल खिलते हैं, लोग मिलते हैं
फूल खिलते हैं, लोग मिलते हैं मगर
पतझड़ में जो फूल मुरझा जाते हैं
वो बहारों के आने से खिलते नहीं
कुछ लोग इक रोज़ जो बिछड़ जाते हैं
वो हज़ारों के आने से मिलते नहीं
उम्र-भर चाहे कोई पुकारा करे उनका नाम
वो, फिर नहीं आते, वो, फिर नहीं आते

आँख धोख़ा है, क्या भरोसा है
आँख धोख़ा है, क्या भरोसा है सुनो
दोस्तों, शक़ दोस्ती का दुश्मन है
अपने दिल में इसे घर बनाने न दो
कल तड़पना पड़े याद में जिनकी
रोक लो रूठ कर उनको जाने न दो
बाद में प्यार के चाहे भेजो हज़ारों सलाम
वो, फिर नहीं आते, वो, फिर नहीं आते

सुबह आती है, रात जाती है
सुबह आती है, रात जाती है यूँही
वक़्त चलता ही रहता है रुकता नहीं
इक पल में ये आगे निकल जाता है
आदमी ठीक से देख पाता नहीं
और परदे पे मंज़र बदल जाता है
इक बार चले जाते हैं जो दिन-रात सुब-ओ-शाम
वो, वो फिर नहीं आते, वो, फिर नहीं आते

ज़िन्दगी के सफ़र में गुज़र जाते हैं जो मक़ाम
वो, फिर नहीं आते, वो, फिर नहीं आते

The melancholy that seeps through Rahul Dev Burman‘s music composition, and Kishore Kumar‘s voice, along with the visual portrayal of Rajesh Khanna‘s helplessness, his forlorn state in the film, especially during the height of his career, has made this song from “Aap ki Kasam” (1974) memorable. These lucid lyrics, the mastery of Anand Bakshi saab’s metaphors in this film’s context are endearing, easy to sing along, soulful.

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.





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.



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?

“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


Christian Bale as Moses; Christian Bale as Steve Jobs!

Confounding. Compelling. Colossal.

Christian Bale is confounded by the personality of Moses while playing the role for Ridley Scott’s film, “Exodus: Of Gods and Kings”. What could happen when he turns into “Steve Jobs” for his next film?


Photo Courtesy: Amazon.com

Walter Isaacson’s portrayal in his now three year old biography of the Apple co-founder is the basis for the film – a biopic, as referred to by the media.

Now consider the timing. Various versions of this biography were released between September 10, 2011 and October 24 2011. Between that period, on October 5, 2011, Steve Jobs died – it seemed, an era had ended. Could this ring the death knell for Apple as well? Well, any speculation on that front is irrelevant. We now know that has not happened. Apple exists today. The biography had already appeared on bookshelves – both virtual and at Barnes and Noble. Now they were all being shipped fast and furiously. Now think of this…  The biographer was once chairman of CNN; he has also held the position of managing editor for Time magazine. A man with talent, with clout, without any doubt. The various editions of this book – the biography – together seem to have received some astounding star reviews. His portrayal of Jobs seems to ring well with readers.

Back to Bale… he faces a challenge. He cannot fail, in fact, he must not fail. To play the role of Steve Jobs requires real talent, guts, and a track record. Like Steve Jobs, Christian Bale has a proven track record. This may well be one of the most critical roles of his career.

I like Christian Bale. Good luck. A word of caution though… bold as you are, now’s not the time to stir the pot. Just play your roles, do them well, and as Americans often say, “Just do your job”. 😉

Simon and the Oaks (2011)

Blame it on our staggered viewing of the film, or to the small viewing screen of the laptop — with the 46″ TV screen shattered and now beyond repair — or attribute our discordance with this film to its confused theme, I’m not quite sure.


On the film critics’ list of The New York Times, Simon & the Oaks (2012) took off with a splendid, larger than life but almost magical beginning. The film is about this young boy raised in occupied Sweden, during World War II. Well, the story also draws in another young boy – affluent, but of Jewish background. The two boys are buddies at school and soon, in a strange twist and turn of events, each of the boys gets drawn to the other boy’s father. Simon, who used to spend his leisure time in solitude, conjuring images in his mind sitting on the branches of the oak is suddenly disgusted with this intimidating tree. Instead, he begins to enjoy the company of his friend Isak’s father. Introduced to concerts and culture, Simon easily gets used to the fine living. On the other hand, Isak, bored with history lessons at their elite school tries his hand at carpentry. He spends long hours building hundreds of chairs in the shed, under the tutelage of Simon’s father. Simon and Isak grow into young teenage men, while war wages in Europe under dark clouds of the Holocaust.

All along, the smothering from mother Karin, and well-meant sermonizing from his hardworking father Erik, irk Simon. The audience sees that they seem to be hiding from him a deep secret which they share with Inga – Erik’s sister. Simon thinks Inga is weird and stays away from her when she visits. On the other hand, Isak’s father Ruben has some dark secrets hiding behind blazing curtains.

Set against a backdrop of a serene Scandinavian seaside town in Sweden, during the period of much historical drama, surprisingly the film depicts almost none of the carnage. It departs from films set in this period, sparing the audiences from the visual horrors of say, The Pianist, or Schindler’s List and many others.

The story has the main plot and layered sub-plots with the families intertwining, the characters emoting superbly, and yet… towards the end of the film you’re left with a feeling of incompleteness. I’m not sure why. Perhaps I was not quite in the mood – yeah, with Diwali celebrations ongoing, perhaps this was a wrong choice of films we’d picked to watch through NetFlix. But if you’ve seen the film, or will watch it some point then do share your views here. I’d love to read and perhaps watch the film again with a fresh mind or in a different mood. 🙂

For a peek, or a preview, watch the trailer.