Tag Archives: tribute

Hindi films as I saw them


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.


Strong and shaping me

A few years ago, I met a girl in my office. She was interning and I was heading the desk. She was smart, good with language, had a terrific sense of humour, and was pretty. She was in her early twenties. Because she was proficient and had a degree in journalism, my boss asked her to join the desk as a trainee. I used to talk to her a lot and not always about work.

Soon, I learned that she had a boyfriend. When I teased her about that, she would say that they were “on a break” like in the series, Friends, in which Ross and Rachel go on a break from their romantic relationship to preserve their friendship.

In the months that followed, we kept in touch and I would often ask her about her boyfriend. I realised it was an on-again-off again relationship that my friend didn’t want to take forward even though they had been intimate.

During the time she was there, she even started an affair with a married man not knowing he was married. Somehow, the winds had shifted around her foundation.

Why do I tell you this story? This is the template on which women often base their relationships. They may not marry men with whom they once were in love with . Or were intimate with. The modern woman craves for more.

Parents have little choice other than marrying their daughter to the man of her choice. My friend married a guy of her choice in a way they wanted to. The parents had no other option other than to bless the couple.

The latest trend is that women look all things their parents traditionally looked in a prospective groom and much more. My friend chose a guy who was close to her in age, dark and handsome, and was attuned to her temperament. Like the movie, O Kadhal Kanmani, my friend moved in with her boyfriend much before marriage. That she was bold enough to do that is a testimonial to her courage and others like her. She also waited, like many others like her, for her to be mature enough to live with her partner forever. But she made the choice to tie the knot mostly on her own.

The modern woman especially in cities doesn’t vote lest the government take over her duties..

There are 497 million women in India, which is 48% of the total population, according to the latest Census data. At least a few million must be calling the shots despite making bad decisions. This only makes them stronger.

My friend married and was divorced within a few months, much to my shock and dismay. From being an example to girls her age, she had, in a way, become a fallen angel.

I had a close friend in college while doing my bachelor’s degree in Nagercoil. She was romantically interested in me and I was not particularly keen. My friends used to tease me about her for hours together even as I tried to keep a straight face. I think I did underestimate her quite a bit. Recently, I saw her on social media and she was in the US happily married. She had made it in life in way I never would have imagined. She was sweet the same way she was in college. We were polite with each other and moved on.

Again, that is an example of a woman putting the pedal down on what she wanted. Even while coming from an ordinary family in Nagercoil, my friend had landed a life she most craved for. Well, time to say, congrats.

Nowadays, I shamelessly watch Romedy Now. I can’t say I hate all the movies. Some are particularly good and soul satisfying. I wish they served more of that fare.

I think of these friends while watching TV or taking a bath. They creep into my thoughts unbidden and stay there for an uncomfortable time. As much as I admire their roller-coaster of lives, it feels unseemly to be thinking about them, now that I am a husband and father. I mean for this post to be a tribute for all the strong women I have met in my life.

My mother was one. Soon after the birth of my brother, my mom was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a disease difficult to diagnose and nearly impossible to cure. My mom didn’t have much to hang on to. Her relationship with my dad, especially in the last few years of her life, was hard on her and him. Yet, she remained tough till her last breath. She died when she was 39. I don’t want to end this post without a mention of her. She was probably the strongest woman I know. She made sure that my brother and I turned out alright. My early childhood is strewn with happy incidents, which she stage managed. I do wish she was still around. She would have guided me in all my relationships with women, who were just like her. RIP, mom.

Missing Balu Mahendra

Balu Mahendra with Bharatiraaja

A few years ago, I accompanied my grandfather to a literary meeting. That’s where I laid my eyes upon the late Balu Mahendra for the first time. It was funny as a character in my grandpa’s novels was named Balu. There was no connection. Mahendra was familiar with the novel. He read voraciously. Much before he was a Pune film school student, he was the editor of a magazine.

Going through the Wikipedia entry on the director, I realised that he was a great director, but not a particularly gifted screenplay writer. Also, he remade films that were hits.

But during the 70s and 80s, Mahendra was unvanquished. His influence on a host of new age directors and cinematographers is beyond doubt.

I have seen Veedu, Moondram Pirai, Marupadiyum and a host of other films. When he dabbled with comedy, he was inimitable as was evident in the Kamal Hassan starrer- Sathileelavathi.

He was a sensitive director. He had strong opinions on how women should be portrayed in cinema.

Mahendra developed naturalism as his style of filmmaking. Also, he kept it real. He knew that he need not sacrifice drama for realism. He could be both real and dramatic at the same time. I think he desisted melodrama.

One day, I ran into him at the now defunct Cinema Paradiso, a video store. I told him about my grandfather. He then instantly remembered me. I told him I was a journalist. He joked that he had to stay away from my tribe. That was the last time I met him. I am sad to see him go.

K Balachander – A tribute


KB with the superstar

It is been a few months since KB died. Here’s a tribute to the director. Readers,  please forgive this blogger for the delay.

Grandma loves Iru Kodugal. It took K Balachander, already one of most promising directors in Tamil, to a creative peak. When I saw Uthama Villain I knew we had lost one of our promising actors as well.

When I was young, I hated Balachander. All he seemed to make were triangular love stories– Duet,which flopped, being a case in point. I rarely visited the theatre to see Tamil movies and was very disappointed with Duet. A R Rahman’s songs were great, but the film sucked.

By then, Balachander had already moved to cable TV. His direction made the serials stand apart and audiences crowded around the TV. But I pined for Rail Snegam, which had been aired on DD years earlier.

I simply loved Apoorva Ragangal , Oru Veedu Iru Vasal, Sindhu Bhairavi, Unnal Mudiyum Thambi and a slew of other movies. I also adore him for the strong female characters he created on screen like Suhasini in Sindhu Bhairavi. That was probably KB’s peak in the colour era.

Here was a director who mourned the loss of black and white. And, he was right. For indoor shots, black and white was irreplaceable. Example: Moontru Mudichu.

But by then Bharathiraaja, the other great of Tamil cinema, had taken his camera outdoors and whatever KB did, he couldn’t match the camerawork  of Pathinaru Vayathinile.

KB’s camera moved closer. Many of shots were close-ups. Every single muscle movement on the actor’s face was recorded. So it was nothing new when actor Sivakumar, sitting on an easy chair, looks at the bottle, pining for a drop.

As a director, KB would often cut to a shot of a statue or the clock or a calendar to illustrate his scenes better. These became his trademark shots and the audience applauded. But is it right for a director to create his own style?  Many directors choose their style in accordance with the movie, but not KB.

KB had a great ear for music. And, an ability to create superbly executed song situations. He worked his songs, first composed by Viswanathan-Ramamoorthy and then Ilaiyaraja,  seamlessly into the movie.

It must me mentioned that AR Rahman got his break with a movie produced by KB (Roja).

KB also famously introduced, among the host of actors, Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan. More about his career and life is on Wikipedia. Make a note of awards and accolades he won.

Unlike more of his offbeat movies, Sindhu Bhairavi was wholesome entertainment. I remember falling in love with the movie after watching it a couple of times.

KB’s entire focus during his long innings was on relationships. He started on stage and then made many of his plays into movies. Comparisons can be made to Woody Allen. KB did in Tamil, and occasionally in other languages, what Allen did in English.

The Iyakkunar Sigaram’s movies truly were some of the best in Tamil cinema. I understand there is an award already named after him. We will do good to remember him.