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Geek. Dilettante. Over-analyzer of Hindi movies. World music addict & DJ. Anthropologist of enthusiasms. Other stuff.
Interests: At the moment: India and Hindi films, languages and linguistics, world music, world history, health and fitness
Recent Activity
My two most recent columns in Outlook India cover some of my favorite movies. Two Films, One Maker pays tribute to Vijay Anand and revisits the timeless question: Teesri Manzil or Jewel Thief? For the Love of a Feckless Goofball... Continue reading
Posted 2 days ago at Filmi Geek
Aw, I'm so delighted. I happened to watch it again over the weekend (to show it to a friend) and it held up to the second viewing. Good question about what Tariq's parents might have thought about forgiving Gullu. ;) Tariq seems like the kind of guy who would be willing to stand up for her if he needed to. Daawat-e-Ishq II, perhaps!
Toggle Commented Feb 5, 2015 on Daawat-e-Ishq (2014) at Filmi Geek
Veena thank you so much for reading, and especially sparing me comments on my juvenilia, the posts from say 2007 and earlier, when I really had absolutely no idea what I was talking about and no understanding of who might be reading. :) If I had infinite time, I would go back and give many of the films I watched in those first two years a proper revisit. Anyway on Smita-Shabana - there is definitely a perceptible stylistic difference and that no doubt makes one's preference a matter of ineffable personal resonances. I think that to make the comparison today is a little unfair - unfair to both women - because our collective memory of Smita is frozen thirty years ago, while Shabana has added to both her oeuvre and her offscreen personality so dramatically in those years, for better or for worse. I have no fight to pick with anyone who doesn't love Shabana as I do (or maybe I should say, as I once did?). She struck me in a very personal way at a very volatile time and without her my life would be very, very different, because she is the sine qua non of Hindi films for me, and my love of Hindi films has shaped my life in innumerable ways over the past decade. The one thing I can say in her favor is this: When I first saw her, I was gobsmacked and deeply touched by her performance (this was in Deepa Mehta's film, Fire) and at that time I was completely unaware of who she was, the history, the persona, any of it - I just saw a striking woman, a stranger to me, who conveyed in a role with very few words a kind of loneliness and longing that spoke directly to my heart. So I feel with my love of Shabana that I come by it honestly; her performance style IS studied and self-conscious, I think you are correct about that, but it does seem to work for me. When I watch her today it is with the bias and also perhaps the embarrassment of those years of fierce love, but when I watched her in Fire that first time, there was none of that to color my perception. As for Smita, I respect her, I enjoy her work, and I wish she hadn't been taken so soon, because what a thrill it would be to see her with the dignity of middle age taking on some of the kind of roles that other actors with her level of presence - such as Shabana or Jaya Bhaduri or Seema Biswas - have been able to do at 40 and beyond. Some rambling early-morning thoughts for you. :)
Toggle Commented Feb 5, 2015 on Bhumika (1977) at Filmi Geek
Anu! Your comment didn't get caught in the spam trap. :) Yes, I think it's worth watching despite mostly lukewarm reviews. Since I posted this review a few other people have said they liked the movie as well. Maybe as Jess said it suffered from timing? Or maybe it's just not flashy enough to have become a big hit.
Toggle Commented Jan 30, 2015 on Daawat-e-Ishq (2014) at Filmi Geek
Thanks for the comment! Khuda Gawah strikes me as the sort of movie that is made to be loved without reason. It's just so MUCH.
Toggle Commented Jan 28, 2015 on Khuda gawah (1992) at Filmi Geek
Thanks for the comment, Nabeel. I haven't yet seen Hazaaron Khwahishein Aisi - I should add it to my list. I hated Highway, but you are right that it is an attempt to take internal conflict and bring it into the audience's line of sight. Actually it achieves that very well; that isn't what I hate about it. But yeah, with respect to Govind Nihalani and rest of the art-house generation of actors and directors in Hindi I agree completely. I do think some directors today are experimenting with different storytelling style, and while the relatively quiet approach of folks like Nihalani and Shyam Benegal and Mrinal Sen and the like is out of fashion right now in favor of grit and violence, they have had their influence in the encouragement of directors and actors to convey internal states with actions and expression rather than with flowery dialogue.
Toggle Commented Jan 28, 2015 on Ardh satya (1983) at Filmi Geek
Yes, that was Hasee to Phasee, earlier in the year. I have very good feelings about Parineeti and love that she is getting more interesting roles to play - even if they don't always work, she is pushing boundaries and getting the chance to try things. As for Daawat-e-Ishq, I think it came and went pretty fast to very lukewarm reviews. I left for Europe the day it opened so I wasn't as connected via Twitter and whatnot, but my impression is that it fell completely flat. It's a shame as it's a better movie than that, and that qawwali especially deserves to be remembered.
Toggle Commented Jan 28, 2015 on Daawat-e-Ishq (2014) at Filmi Geek
दावत-ए-इश्क़ Dir. Habib Faisal If Daawat-e-Ishq has a lesson for me, it is not a lesson about the grim injustice of dowry practices. Rather, it's that there is no substitute for seeing a film for myself before I judge it.... Continue reading
Posted Jan 27, 2015 at Filmi Geek
Not too long ago I went on a bit of a tear and watched about half a dozen Govinda movies in the space of a couple of weeks. My latest column in Outlook is my brain on Govinda, comparing his... Continue reading
Posted Jan 22, 2015 at Filmi Geek
"IMHO most of his early movies are best watched muted for the lovely cinematography and only unmuted for songs." --> This made me laugh out loud! Thanks for the great comment. I am pretty sure I have Chhalia and will watch it sooner or later, with expectations accordingly lowered after suffering through Aag and Barsaat (the alphabetical death-march of RK films). I'd love for you to write an essay about the effect of RK movies on gender norms. I was recently reading an essay that described Aag and Barsaat as portrayals of "young love" and that made me pause and think for a bit. Certainly all of Barsaat's Byronic tortured-artist, love-is-pain indulgence could be seen as an adolescent fantasy of what love is like. Aag is even more narcissistic but possibly young people could have related to its "search for the perfect woman" idea (because only young people are naive enough to think such a person exists) and to the overdramatic "my-face-is-disfigured-my-life-is-over" theme (because pimples are the end of the world when you are a teenager). The idea makes me chuckle. It doesn't at all elevate the films' art in my mind; it just makes it silly, to present such immature ideas in such earnest and thoroughly uncritically. It's not like a Twilight movie where the audience IS teenagers and no one is under any illusions that they are making art for the ages. But RK, man, his notions of love were possessive and objectifying and immature and it sure does show in his movies.
Toggle Commented Jan 16, 2015 on Barsaat (1949) at Filmi Geek
I thought the script was rather tight. Shatrugan does have a good complex role, I agree with that. I actually like everything about this movie.
Toggle Commented Jan 16, 2015 on Kaala patthar (1979) at Filmi Geek
Amitabh ji, many people disagree with me about Anand. I am truly glad that the movie touches you, even though it didn't work its magic on me. I thank you for reading and for expressing your disagreement kindly. If you read some of the other comments on this post, you can see that not everyone is confident enough in the validity of their own opinions to handle difference with civility! :-)
Toggle Commented Jan 15, 2015 on Anand (1971) at Filmi Geek
Glad you could find it - I can't get "Look Inside" on the book but maybe that's a limitation in the USA only. I did pick up a print copy of the book so for anyone else reading these comments, the essay on Deewaar is by Susmita Dasgupta, and is excerpted from Amitabh: The Making of a Superstar. As to the movie, I have largely forgotten the details you mention - just underscores that I need to watch Deewaar again!
Toggle Commented Jan 15, 2015 on Deewaar (1975) at Filmi Geek
Mubarak, that is lovely stuff. Thank you so much for sharing all of that here. Your point about Kalyani's death wish is interesting - it had occurred to me as well, that her eagerness to serve the prisoner with TB might not be the selfless act of generosity that Devendra interprets it to be, but rather the product of suicidal despair. I also loved your observation about how awful pre-prison life must be for women that they can find happiness in being imprisoned. I might read that differently, though, in light of Kalyani's evident despair - it's a way of saying, Kalyani's misery is because of what happens inside Kalyani's head, not just because she's in prison. Other people prisoners know how to find a sliver of hope or a small piece of beauty and hang on to it, but Kalyani is too depressed for that. And "Mat ro Mata" provides yet another window onto imprisonment, as you note; its singer finds purpose in his imprisonment and execution and is therefore also not despairing as Kalyani is. Great stuff, thanks.
Toggle Commented Jan 14, 2015 on Bandini (1963) at Filmi Geek
ख़ुदा गवाह Dir. Mukul S. Anand There are certainly some ways in which this movie is a hot mess, but it really doesn't matter; Khuda gawah is thoroughly enjoyable in its bombast and excess all the same. As a ferociously... Continue reading
Posted Jan 12, 2015 at Filmi Geek
Folks, it was my great pleasure to join Sujoy Singha and Beth Watkins for Sujoy's "Best of Bollywood" podcast roundup for 2014. Please listen and share, and let us know what you thought was remarkable - for better or worse... Continue reading
Posted Jan 10, 2015 at Filmi Geek
अर्ध सत्य Dir. Govind Nihalani About two-thirds of the way through Govind Nihalani's Ardh satya, a retired rural cop (Amrish Puri) laments the difficulties that his son, Anant Velankar (Om Puri), is having as an urban police officer in Bombay.... Continue reading
Posted Jan 8, 2015 at Filmi Geek
Ha! Maybe I can turn that into a column for Outlook. I do think you can give Barsaat a miss especially if you've seen Aag already and know how dreary RK films can be at their worst. Shree 420 is just so much - bigger, I guess. There is a narrative scope beyond the star himself and his grandiose philosophies of life and art. There is Nadira (yum) and the whole world of temptation and greed and Maya that she represents, but there is also the marvelous Lalita Pawar character, that present reminder of the distance between the worlds that RK traverses in the film. And Nargis, showing some spine, refusing to engage with RK when he loses his grounding in the values that matter to her. Shree 420 has so much to say. The early films are adolescent and self-absorbed by comparison. Even Awaara, which I do not love, is far, far better than Aag or Barsaat. I will watch Chori Chori with reasonably high expectations and then I might declare myself done with early RK.
Toggle Commented Dec 29, 2014 on Barsaat (1949) at Filmi Geek
Toggle Commented Dec 29, 2014 on Barsaat (1949) at Filmi Geek
This is great stuff, Arvind ji, thank you. "Take it to his son Pancham who was better suited to give music for a film about hippies, drugs and estranged siblings" made me laugh out loud. Even though I don't think Hare Rama Hare Krishna works on all facets, I have a lot of respect for it as a film and what it set out to do, and I've actually enjoyed it more and more each time I watch it.
Toggle Commented Dec 29, 2014 on Hare rama hare krishna (1971) at Filmi Geek
बरसात Dir. Raj Kapoor Of all the dreary and pretentious Raj Kapoor movies I've watched, Barsaat has to be the worst – at least it's a solid tie with the unbearable Aag. It's hard to believe that this is the... Continue reading
Posted Dec 28, 2014 at Filmi Geek
Just yesterday I read a marvelous essay about Deewaar(*) that reminded me once again that if I tried to cover everything of interest in such an amazingly rich text, I would have had to watch the movie a dozen times and then written an essay so long you would not have bothered to read it. The essay also gave me a profound itch to rewatch the movie, and your comment has given me another angle to think about when I do so. I don't need convincing of the fierceness of Nirupa Roy, though - I'm already sold. Your use of quotes around "standard-issue" made me nervous that I had used the term in my review - I was relieved to see that I had not (though I wouldn't be surprised if I have said things like that about other filmi moms). There is more here of the fierceness of Mother India than the shrinking, helpless, indulgent ma of the more stereotypical variety. (*) Collected in Jerry Pinto's "Greatest Show on Earth" - I bought an audio edition of the book and sadly do not have access to a table of contents, cannot even find one on line - so I can't give you the name of the essayist at the moment.
Toggle Commented Dec 28, 2014 on Deewaar (1975) at Filmi Geek
Thank you for this, Arvind ji. Vijay Anand rather snuck up on me to become my favorite director, even though I've cited Jewel Thief as my single favorite Hindi film almost since the day I saw it. At the time years ago that I first watched Guide and wrote this post about it, it hadn't hit me yet. It wasn't until I was bowled over by Tere Ghar Ke Samne that I put it all together and realized how very special was Vijay Anand's talent. Even though some of his films, like Guide or Blackmail, do not fire on all cylinders for me, even in those his unique style and craft are evident.
Toggle Commented Dec 28, 2014 on Guide (1965) at Filmi Geek
I promise, Arvind, I meant it as a compliment - the diversity of your selections made me smile. As it happens both Pratigya and Dharamatma are in my collection waiting to be watched but as that collection is rather large I cannot promise it will be soon. :) Dirty Harry, I have to admit, is unlikely.
Toggle Commented Dec 28, 2014 on Chhoti si baat (1975) at Filmi Geek
लहू के दो रंग Dir. Mahesh Bhatt I chose this movie out of Shabana Azmi completism, but what I got turned out to be pretty satisfying masala in its own right. Its backstory is set forth with rare specificity in... Continue reading
Posted Dec 27, 2014 at Filmi Geek