Sunday, May 5, 2013

Ten Hindi Movies Only I have Seen

Since I should not be left behind in the list-making that everyone is indulging in to celebrate 100 years of Indian Cinema, here is my list of 10 Hindi movies that only I have seen (or so I believe). Who else would want to see them- some of the most weird, most peripheral and some of the most dire (what-the-fuck-were-they-thinking variety of) Hindi movies ever made and released? Says something about me, I suppose.

Aman (1967)
Dir. Mohan Kumar, with Rajendra Kumar, Saira Banu, Balraj Sahani
and Bertrand Russell (as himself, died 1970, no connection)
The movie begins with a dedication to Jawaharlal Nehru (framed photo with rose), and this title slide appears anon: “Lord Bertrand Russell, courtesy Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation in Emkay Productions’ ‘Aman’”.
Here is a brief plot summary from Wikipedia: Dr. Gautamdas (Rajinder Kumar) attains his qualifications in London, England, and with the blessings of Lord Bertrand Russell (himself) decides to re-locate to Japan, which has been devastated by the explosion of atom bombs on two of its cities - Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

I saw this on Bombay Doordarshan, and it was notable for two guest appearances:
1. Laaard Bertrand Russell, whom ‘Jubilee Kumar’ Rajindr Kmar meets and gushes: "Iyyum Haanered! Iyyum incraged!"
2. Two half naked acrobats doing the most incredible splits (not at the same time as the above)

Birbal My Brother (1973) 
Dir.Raja Thakur with Sachin, Lilian, William Soloman and Poonam Vaidya
I saw this on Bombay Doordarshan, too.
This was an ‘English’ movie about a tour guide in Agra ferrying an English mem around. The movie would slip into Hindi at will, and return with locals speaking to locals in English. I remember that Sachin ends up being killed by dakus, and one incredibly risqué scene (to my childhood eyes) involving a lady in a choli and ghagra and a packet of itching powder.

Jeevan Sangram (1974)
Dir. Rajbans Khanna, with Shashi Kapoor, Padma Khanna, Jalal Agha, Iftekhar, Radha Saluja and Om Shivpuri
Screenplay and dialogues by Gulzar and Qamar Jalalbaadi
Almost nothing is available about this movie on the web, but this was probably the greatest action movie made in India before ‘Sholay’ (1975) rewrote the textbooks. The story involves the radicalization of one of the disembarked passengers of the famous ‘Komagata Maru’ steamship in 1914 (Shashi Kapoor), and his exploits as a revolutionary. Some amazing stunt work, as I recall, especially the taking down of a train carrying armament (reminiscent of ‘Lawrence of Arabia’, later also attempted rather poorly in ‘Rang De Basanti’) and a climatic Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid type shoot out.

I would like to see this one again.
The Komagata Maru incident involved a Japanese steamship, the Komagata Maru, that sailed from Punjab, India to Hong Kong,Shanghai, China; Yokohama, Japan; and then to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, in 1914, carrying 376 passengers fromPunjab, India. Of them 20 were admitted to Canada, but 340 Sikhs, 24 Muslims, and 12 Hindus, all British subjects were not allowed to land in Canada, and the ship was forced to return to India. 

The Komagata Maru arrived in Calcutta and was stopped by a British gunboat, and the passengers were placed under guard. The government of the British Raj saw the men on the Komagata Maru not only as self-confessed lawbreakers, but also as dangerous political agitators. When the ship docked at Budge Budge, the police went to arrest Baba Gurdit Singh and the 20 or so other men that they saw as leaders. He resisted arrest, a friend of his assaulted a policeman and a general riot ensued. Shots were fired and 19 of the passengers were killed. Some escaped, but the remainder were arrested and imprisoned or sent to their villages and kept under village arrest for the duration of the First World War. This incident became known as the Budge Budge Riot. From Wikipedia

Chala Murari Hero Banane (1977)
Dir. Asrani, with Asrani
with special appearances by (copied straight from Wiki, so don’t ask) :
Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Lal Krishna Advani, Dharmendra, Hema Malini, Premnath, Amitabh Bachchan, A.K. Hangal, Keshto Mukherjee, Jagdeep, Ashok Kumar, Paintal, David, Sunil Dutt and Kishore Kumar
Asrani directed this movie about a village bumpkin rising in the Bombay film industry to become a major star. Around this same time another similar film was being bandied about on Vividh Bharati called ‘Naya Bakra’ (Baaaaa!) but I am not sure that ever saw the light of day.

Lots of Asrani’s friends made cameos in this film, although I do not remember either this Vajpayee or this Advani fellow (which other films have they made?). This was a total ‘B’ movie that I saw in Bombay’s (now) only surviving ‘B’ theater  Edward, where the balcony had the cheaper seats, wooden benches that you had to run to catch.

Why did I see this? Probably this was the age when we saw anything with Amitabh Bachchan in it, however fleeting his presence, a trait we would soon learn to regret.

Besharam (1978)
Dir. Deven Verma, with Amitabh Bachchan, Sharmila Tagore, Amjad Khan, A. K. Hangal, Iftekhar, Nirupa Roy and Deven Verma
Every comedian in Hindi films has probably directed one movie, lost everything and retired with tail-between-legs. Here is another one. One of the direst. Even as we watched this, we were appalled at the kind of things Bachchan was in. Typically, a movie without a story, probably put together as the shooting went on. Not helped at all by Deven Varma in triple role- of a comedic sidekick and his mummy and his daddy; and a scene with Sharmila Tagore in black-face.

Devata (1978)
Dir. S. Ramanathan, Sanjeev Kumar, Shabana Azmi, Danny Denzongpa and Sarika
Music by Rahul Dev Burman
Alas, I remember this well.
A kind of channelling of ‘Les Miserables’ set in a Katlick community, where in the first half a 40 year old Sanjeev Kumar (as a 21 year old Jean Valjean) in a half-chaddi spends time romancing Shabana Azmi, with the over the top song: ‘Chand chura ke laya hoon, chal baithe Churrrch ke peeche’.
The second half is all about Danny Denzongpa (as Javert) trying to expose the identity of Sanjeev Kumar, now returned from the dead with a French beard and a three piece suit.
And this final dialogue: "Mere andar ke jaanwar ko mat jagaao Inspecktuuuuurr!" 

Jurmana (1979)
Dir. Hrishikesh Mukherjee with Amitabh Bachchan, Raakhee and Vinod Mehra
Terrible, this movie, whose central regressive conceit is a bet between Vinod Mehra and Amitabh Bachchan to get Rakhee inside Amitabh's bedroom. What was Mukherjee thinking?

This movie opens with a completely gratuitous fight sequence in a pub whose only reason seems to be to get the Bachchan fan to buy a ticket.  Incidentally, the shooting of this very scene would make a reappearance in HM’s epical ‘Golmaal’ made the same year, where Amol Palekar is taken by Deven Varma to meet Mr. Bachchan.

Morcha (1980)
Dir. Raveekant Nagaich, with Ravi Behl, Aruna Irani, Suresh Oberoi, Jagdeep, Shakti Kapoor,
Music by Bappi Lahiri, Lyrics by Ramesh Pant & Faruk Kaisar
Silly enough story of a prepubescent snotfaced kid who turns to karate after his family members are raped/murdered (by rote). Had one song in which Jagdeep rhymes karate with ‘parathe’. I went to see this perhaps taken in by the director’s previous film ‘Suraksha’, the camp James Bondish caper with Mithun Chakravorty as Gunmaster G9, but this was a disappointment.

Except for one thing:
The awesome tribute song by Bappi Lahiri ‘Let’s Dance for the great guy Bruce Lee’ (click on link above), sung by Bappi and Annete Pinto, full of ‘Hoo! Hah!’ kung fu-style, and bubbling electro sounds like an upset stomach.

Spandan (1982)
Dir. Biplab Roy Chowdhury, written by Biplab Roy Chowdhury (story) and Vijay Tendulkar (screenplay), with Amol Palekar, Utpal Dutt, Anita Kanwar
This was a relentlessly morbid ‘art’ film that book-ended the phase of 1970s indie films and the rise of the VHS cassette, which is how I came to see this film.

Spandan (pulse) is about a good for nothing type who resorts to smuggling aborted foetuses to medical colleges. Towards the end he tries to make his pregnant wife believe that she has a tumour instead of a baby, to harvest this foetus too.

I have done many things in the cause of art, as you can see.

Star (1982)
Produced by Biddu, Dir. Vinod Pande, with Kumar Gaurav, Rati Agnihotri, Raj Kiran
Music by Biddu, songs sung by Nazia Hassan and Zoeb Hassan
This, of course was, for Nazia Hassan (and Biddu, seen in cameo above), the only other paradigm apart from A R Rahman more than a decade later to seriously challenge the entrenched Hindi film music stronghold. ‘A Star is Born’ garden-variety film, which should have run on its music alone, but after the high of ‘Aap Jaisa Koi’ and the album length ‘Disco Deewaane’, Biddu could not sustain an entire movie of platitudes and songs that went ‘Ooie Ooie’ and ‘Boom Boom’ (which is the only thing from this movie that has survived, thanks to the remix).
This tanked so badly that it would be 26 years before a similar attempt was made with ‘Rock On!!’

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

So much full of win that I can't even begin to express it. Kudos!