Monthly Archives: July 2016

The timeless appeal of Hank Williams, a little botched

I picked up a DVD of I Saw The Light a couple of weeks ago. It is about the rise to fame of country singer Hank Williams, who was an inspiration for Bob Dylan, probably my favourite artiste. The movie, which runs for just two hours, starts with the marriage of Williams to Audrey Sheppard. It was released to negative reviews, perhaps unfairly so.

Hiddleston, more famous for playing Loki in the superhero film Thor, plays Williams. I remember watching I Walk The Line based on the life of Johnny Cash and Ray based on Ray Charles. This doesn’t come close to either movie, but cannot be dismissed either.

Hiddleston and Elizabeth Olsen, who plays Sheppard, put in great performances and the movie is caught up with the women in Williams’ life. His music, sometimes, takes a back seat. Hiddleston, however, sang all the songs himself. The title of the film is from a famous gospel song by Williams.

The film makes no mention of Hank’s father or the street musician he learned the trade from — Rufus Payne. This seems inexplicable, especially since Payne is the only one credited as his teacher by Williams.

Hank Williams has an appeal that has cut across generations and an easy yet insightful writing style. This has not been captured by the pic, despite the talented Hiddleston’s scorching performance.

Directed by Marc Abraham, the film doesn’t get anywhere close to get near the Hank Williams legend or what makes the singer tick. A number of scenes show him drinking, which is later revealed to be because of a condition known as spina bifina occulta, which means that the songwriter-singer’s vertebra were not closed. He was born with the condition.

Sheppard is shown as not caring for him when he falls ill, leading to their divorce during which husband and wife trade absurd charges against each other.

Williams began recording at 23 and died of heart damage at 29, while being driven to a performance. He has sold 11 million albums.

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Hindi films as I saw them

bobby

Some of the earliest Hindi movies I saw were Bobby, Shehanshah and Aradhana. I saw Shehanshah on video in the house of our family friend in Mumbai. The tape was available in a provision shop and, along with essentials, it was rented out for a few bucks. I was very impressed with Amitabh Bachchan in that movie, and to my memory it is the first movie of his that I watched. The shallow heroics stunned my young mind. I had just turned 11.

In those days, original sound tracks of Hindi movies were not available in Nagercoil, my hometown. So my dad used our own National Panasonic two-in-one to record the songs of Bobby when it was telecast on DD, which itself was a new channel then. He put the device in front of the TV and taped the songs. He had already seen the movie many years ago and knew when the songs would come on. I listened to those noisy recordings for months together and in love with the songs, and the movie as well. The lead pair were cute, don’t you think?

Aradhana also received the same treatment. Then I saw Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak and Hum. Both left an impression on me. The passion between the protagonists — Aamir Khan and Juhi Chawla — is still etched in my mind. And, you simply got to watch the scene with the cockroach in Hum. Amitabh is at his comic best in it.  Hum was adapted as Badsha in Tamil later on.

I also distinctly remember watching on VHS Maine Pyar Kiya for the first time. I fell in love with the movie and its songs. I was enamoured by Bhagyashree too, just like Salman in the movie. Looking back, I am ashamed of how poor my taste was. It is too mushy and corny now. In my teens, it was something to die for.

I don’t know if Hum Aapke Hain Kaun and Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge will stand up to scrutiny now. But the picturisation of ‘Didi Tera Dewar Diwana’ really attracted me to Madhuri Dixit. Besides, this was not the TV anymore. It was the big screen in Nagercoil’s best theatre. There was that sensual underlying to the whole business that even Rajshree Pictures is unable to capture again.

So, where do I fit in Sholay? Or Dil To Pagal Hai? I am only aware I can’t name them in the same breath. But these are films I saw around the same time.  I don’t think I can say anything about Sholay  which hasn’t been said. I never had the chance to watch Sholay in the theatre, something I regret. And, at least according to me, DTPH is quite forgettable.

I remember dragging my dad to watch the national award-winning Bandit Queen. The film was heavily edited and the print that landed up in Nagercoil wouldn’t have been exhibited in a good theatre. But despite this, I loved the film’s cinematography by Ashok Mehta.

Khamoshi was another mature movie I saw. It was exhilarating. I saw it in the theatre. The songs were damn good. The story was off beat and I developed a crush on Manisha Koirala. It broke my heart when she did Baba after all those years. But I don’t think even Khamoshi belongs in anyone list of all time great flicks in Hindi. And I haven’t seen the all-time greats as Mother India. I have to get around to doing that someday. But Khamoshi was classic Bansali and was a soul-satisfying watch.

1942: A Love Story was another movie that I saw in the theatre and simply loved. It was a movie that began my courting of Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s films. I loved the songs and listen to them till this day. I also thought the movie’s climax was mounted on a massive scale. I vividly remember walking out of the movie with my cousins, all of us slightly giddy with joy for some strange, unknown reason.

Then I remember watching Kareeb and Di Se in Thiruvanathapuram, while staying there to spend time with dad. I saw both movies multiple times since I had nothing better to do. Kareeb’s love affair between two innocent people captured my imagination, though the lead pair never matured into major actors.

I have always been a Manirathnam fan. So I didn’t mind long queues to watch Dil Se. The film ran only for a couple of weeks, but the initial crowd was maddening. A R Rahman’s rendition of ‘Dil Se Re’ is still among my favourites of the music composer.

I saw Pukar in Chennai while studying at the Madras Christian College. My friend had seen it and rubbished it. I nevertheless saw it and thought it was better than the average song and dance movie. Moreover, it had a score by AR Rahman. What’s not to like. But that was one of the few Hindi movies I watched that year. My friend and I always preferred the latest Hollywood blockbuster to the Hindi movie.

Other movies I remember watching are Dil Chahte Hai, which won an unexpected national award. I also saw Black, which I found to be a little pretentious. I didn’t like Devadas outright. I didn’t think Bansali showed feel for the material. There are probably many more movies which I have seen and liked. But this blog will go on and on if I write about all of them.

I will just end this with short notes on two movies I saw recently. One was Tamasha. I liked the movie quite a bit, despite the mixed reviews. I am happy that it had at least this much of depth, which is not often noticed in mainstream fare.

I will end with a note on Bajirao Mastani. The dialogues were complex and I had to struggle to keep up. But with the movie being such a massive hit, it is clear that there will always be people in the Hindi film industry wanting to be alag and people ready to embrace their fare. And that is a happy thought.