Friday, 25 May 2012

Once Upon A Time in Lucknow

So I saw Chaudhvin Ka Chand.

This movie is part of a now dead genre, the Muslim Social. As such it is like watching something moth balled surfacing into the bright light, an anachronism but one so forgotten that it is not as dreadful as you thought. It also stars Fat Flashman who started as a joke but I have grown fond of him! Here his Book of Nawabi Tehzeeb serves him ill so we hope he is back in his red boudoir in his next outing:-) And away we go with our pictorial guide:

First let me say I love Censor Board certificates and totally think they should be on Tees and personalised and mine is going to be a certificate for Fat Flashman’s Lady in which I shall star as his Lady.  Dream, dream, sigh. Anyway coming back to the movie, Fat Flashman is a rich nabob called Nawab/Pyare Mian (Rehman) and he hangs out a fair bit with a bloke called Shazia (Johnny Walker) who is the kind of chap whose entire purpose in life is to loiter in the bazaars, chat up lines in hand, in search of comely ladies.  The ladies of Lucknow are all demure and shit though - unless they are old in which case they talk to strange men and don’t bother to shut the hatch. 

Jameela (Waheeda Rehman) here however has a propensity to remove her veil at all inopportune moments and here she is doing just that.  Nawab who until then has been reciting chapter and verse of Nawabi Tehzeeb to Shaiza the Sleaze suddenly forgets himself when he sees Jameela and is all happy and shit and thinking yay yay One True Pairing (OTP) and can't take his eyes of her and perhaps that smile is a bit creepy and Jameela thinks he is a perve and down goes the veil. Soon she is lost in the crowd and you are thinking fuck life was hard for the Truehearts of Lucknow. 

Nawab’s sister is around so its LADIES PARTY TIME! OTP Jameela rocks along to the party and just so you know that this is not an OTP, spies Nawab’s picture and calls him an ugly fool. And he spots her and hears this and is totes happy because everyone knows in lady talk ugly fool=Love Ya! OTP!  Meanwhile the ladies are all singing and eye rolling and Nawab is spying and hey has totally discarded that Tehzeeb Book.

What with spying and chasing Jameela, Nawab ends up with a piece of her dupatta.  And his lady maid is going to find out who the dupatta belongs to! Exciting! Only Jameela exchanges the dupatta with a friend. Everyone does this right, I myself have a stock of other ladies duppatas! So the lady maid gets it all wrong. Meanwhile Shaiza and Super Dost, Aslam (Guru Dutt) come along and Nawab is YAY boys now I want to fling fucking red hearts all around because I found my OTP!!  Also looks like Lucknowi Tehzeeb likes its lady servants unveiled.

This here is Nawab’s mother. All her dialogues consist of tumhari shaadi bas ho jaye, man it must be VERY TEDIOUS to be an old lady actor.  She’s found a match, the daughter of the maulvi but Nawab is no maulvi girls will stand between me and my OTP!! But nope the mom has promised the maulvi. So off he goes to meet Super Dost to convince him to marry The Maulvi’s Daughter. Turns out its Nawab who is the super dost who has helped Aslam a great deal.  I  am all mixed feelings here R, should I stay loyal to Fat Flashman or is that Aslam daku moustache a bit menacing or what? I feel the slightest degree of a swoon!

Nawab here has opened his book and figured out the correct gesture to be made per tehzeeb when trying to shut up a friend singing your praises and we can both agree he looks Stoopid. But let's abandon Aslam too since both are being all tehzeeby and deciding that Aslam gets to marry the Maulvi’s daughter. If you don’t know who the Maulvi’s daughter is, aap Hindi Cinema ki pariksha mein fail!

Soon Aslam is having a fancy schmancy wedding through which we have to Suffer the Shaiza and then he is in a non-red boudoir strictly meant for the ladies amongst us who like gauze, pink, moonlight, shairi – that is not us – and then its veil lifting time and this here is his bride.  You may please stop reading if you hadn’t like guessed the bride by now.

Meanwhile Nawab chasing the wrong dupatta thinks that this lady here is his OTP inamorta and manages to arrange a meeting. Except the lady gets all scared by the way too ardent admirer. Meanwhile Aslam is doing some boudoir seduction and while as 20 year olds we might have sat before TVs and been swoon swoon over Chaudhvin ka Chand Ho, now you are thinking does a song really need THAT many fucking similies?

So the wrong OTP inamorata doesn’t turn up and Nawab gets beaten up and the friends turn up to rally his spirits, keep your chin up lad, Mystery Lady shall soon be yours! Then they are all in a market place and Shaiza is in disguise all the better to trap the ladies.  Ladies, never trust a beard. 

Is Jameela a tease? She is forever unveiling herself in bazaars. And exchanging stuff, this time the burqa with this girl here. Shaiza who knows she is Nawab’s OTP but not Aslam’s wife, clicks a picture. And here’s the thing, THERE IS NO FUCKING FURTHER MENTION OF THIS PICTURE. I must now add that to IMDB bloopers. 

That burqa exchange means Aslam now thinks Mystery Lady is his relative and arranges a match between her and Nawab.  Meanwhile Shaiza seems to be sweet on a dancing lady who is – relief – unveiled. Though I have no idea why he gets around in this disguise like ALL THE TIME. 

Here’s Jameela again, a woman who clearly doesn’t know how to use her veil appropriately because she has rocked up to the front door of her house WITHOUT WEARING ONE! Nawab comes in and thinks she is the relative he is getting married to and is all refined Nawabi glee and this is getting on my nerves and I need to calm myself with a dose of Fucking Fat Flashman (though not perhaps the way I put it here as he is quite dead) but I will soon be back. 

But Aslam knows otherwise and is yay I am the Tragedy King and can now be sunk in gloom and look tortured because I know my best mate has his mitts on my wife and would like nothing more than to fuck her. Jameela - who STILL doesn't know that Nawab wants her badly - is all fuck my veil-less opening of doors has served me ill and there is nothing left to do but weep and mope. 

Is there something creepy in going to look at an erotic dance by your best mate’s girl in order to get your wife to want to divorce you so she can marry your super dost? Looks like Lucknowi Nawabi Tehzeeeb says no. But the friends are deeply concerned by the ruinous ways of Aslam. And that’s not another Shaiza disguise, he’s got himself a police job all the better to fancy the ladies.

Aslam's kotha hopping results in Jameela’s tough brothers rocking up and Aslam is all I will divorce your sister only you MUST re-marry her to Nawab. Jameela is not like Fuck why Nawab but I will never ever leave you. So that’s the end of Bad Aslam In Search of A Divorce for the sake of His Best Friend. But Aslam Super Dost has to do something so that Nawab gets his girl and that there is how you look when you are planning your own death.

Meanwhile Nawab is all set to marry the wrong girl but rushes off to pick up Aslam because he hasn’t bothered to turn up for the wedding party because well he is planning to die remember.  And inexplicably Aslam is not wife, disrobe at once, but wife dress up in wedding finery one last time.  I am beginning to have doubts about this Tehzeeb book. Though of course its helpful Jameela didn’t disrobe because like Nawab comes over and realises that his OTP IS ASLAM'S WIFE! 

Poor Nawab is all shattered when he thinks of all the lust filled days that came to naught and what could have been if he had said yes to the Maulvi’s daughter. I am afraid I was distracted by the velvet and embroidered hearts, don’t you fancy a man who is not scared of sequins?!

The Tehzeeb Book apparently said Shame on You for Lusting After Another's Wife! So poor Nawab  chooses Death by Diamonds and looking at that picture you know greater love has no man etc. and we have finally finally arrived at the correct OTP! Yay! And Aslam is all Jameela, enough of this unveiling shit, put that thing down RIGHT NOW! And Jameela STILL doesn't know what the fuck happened. 

And now that it is over Fat Flashman, you may please go back to The Sadist's Handbook and drinking games.

I expected to have lots of eyeroll moments given the theme of Chaudhvin Ka Chand but given everything it wasn't half bad.  I say this often but the way dialogue is written and delivered makes a difference and here it lends a natural flow to the film.  The film is also slightly ambiguous, ostensibly an ode to the culture of Lucknow its neither very flamboyant nor does it particularly milk its dramatic moments. Something else seems to flow beneath its surface though its not a critique of the culture either. If it is an ode, it comes across as a faintly subversive ode to Lucknow. As it stands, it seems intended to be a homage to male friendship, both on screen and off given the three actors worked together in a number of films. 

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Ra.Onestein or The Modern Franken.One

So I saw Ra.One.

The Ramayana had a flying monkey, a bad man with ten heads, monkeys building bridges, a flying machine, an illusory deer and a pair of slippers on the throne of Ayodhaya.  It’s a pretty hard act to top.  This “live blog”/ankhon dekha haal of a supposed modern adaptation skips along on its own time (yes I know the running time is 156 minutes!) because that’s how long it felt.  

9:00 pm: Good Lord, I am living with rays, frequencies, kikikirans! PARANOIA ALERT! OK a nice lady scientist just told me it’s digital data flying around.

9:05 pm:  Nice Lady Scientist Jenny (Shahana Goswami) is trying to beam in a picture without a computer, puncturing the real-virtual interface and so on at a presentation.  Old firangs in audience astonished/aghast at pure Indian brilliance.

9:20 pm: A superdude called Lucifer (Shahrukh Khan) is flying around. A desi girl in Red (Priyanka Chopra) is all Go Lucifer Go!

9:25 pm: Random insert from Hong Kong film of  Iski Lee, Uski Lee, Sabki Lee.  Lady relatives of Bruce Lee, I presume.

9: 35 pm: BIG DADDY vs LUCIFER is on.  Actually its Khalnayak-Sanjay Dutt (doing a tapori accent for the nth time) vs the Lucifer Mobile.

9: 40 pm: Sanjay Dutt has a BIG gun. Promised myself no dick jokes.

9:45 pm: Desi Girl in Red is falling through the time-space continuum. The Khalnayak may have been castrated, he is speaking in a girl voice.

9:46 pm: It’s the teacher speaking. D’oh! it’s all a dream. Boy dreaming it needs to see a shrink if this constitutes his classroom fantasies. 

10:00 pm: Prateek the Boy’s father is a Shekhar Subramanian (Sharukh Khan), resident of London Town. Antithesis of superhero. Eats thair shaadam and says Aiyo! Has curly hair. It’s all like Mehmood wore pant shirt but kept the nariyal paaniwala accent. Seriously people we are willing to train you so you have a proper Tamil Accent!

10:10 pm:  Shekhar also Sexless Tamil Man. Meets Busty Blonde Girl.  Doesn’t want to see her tits, just her keys. We are like that only.

10:15 pm: Is that a Sam Pitroda look alike as a tech honcho? Was this movie thought up in the 90s?

10:20 pm: Sexless Tamil Man all sexy at home. Because the wife Sonia looks like Kareena K.

10:25 pm: Feminist Sonia has a day job converting swear words relating to the female anatomy to its male version. Sonia, they already EXIST, we will email you a few!

10:26 pm: Sexless Tamil Man eating curd and noodles.

10:30 pm: Pleasant thoughts on my part of setting up a Curd with EverythingTM range ranging from mild to teeth tingling sourTM  bottled curd. Anytime anywhere your sushi/steak/Aussie pie/pizza etc. can be improved with a dash of our special curd! As Shekhar’s fingers rhythmically  mash mash also plan to rebrand Tamil cuisine. All Finger FoodsTM, Lick Them FingersTM – it’s all finger licking good!

11:00 pm In the meantime Prateek has been insolent, Shekhar  has done a Michael Jackson impersonation, there is a sexy teacher song, a video game was played – man, this kid seems a wee bit obsessed with villains, he might grow up to be a serial killer.  Blame it on the Sonia genes.

11:05 pm:  Sexless Tamil Man has Chinese colleague called Akashi. Insert Jackie Chan Jokes – only Chinese person us Indians know.

11:10 pm:  The Game is Afoot.  Shekhar, Jenny, Akashi making video game for Prateek. Send the insufferable child to Boot Camp instead!

11:15 pm: Bad Thing: Ra.One, Good Thing: G.One. There is a Hertz Amplifying Resonance Transmitter (HART). Yay for Science!

11:20 pm:  The game has a blue heart, a red heart and an Anti-Heart Gun (to kill exes, to inoculate against romance?).  You kill and be killed. It’s all in a lab that looks like Ajit the Loin-Hearted’s Den preserved in Liquid Oxygen.

11:25 pm: Dad and son meet the only English goon who speaks in Hindi. Sexless Tamil Man is also a coward and runs away. Resolves to make superhero game with badmash superstrong invincible villain to make up to villain fixated son.

11:30 pm: A little later the Pitroda look alike is presenting the Ra.One game in a shiny suit with satin lapels like a small town boxing promoter. 

11:35 pm: Launch party song with nary an AIYO in it. Apparently video games are launched with booty shake dances. Sonia I have no desire to see the colour of your panties. 

11:40 pm: I fear for the sanity of this film.

11:45 pm: Franken.One is showing signs of life.

11:50 pm: What the fuck. I hear the word Lucifer being bandied. Why is there a Lucifer in this homage to our beloved dear epic?!

11:55 pm: Game On! Boy Prateek as Lucifer faces off against Franken.One oops Ra.One but leaves midway. Ra.One is a J Lopez Level Diva who swears revenge for being so spurned.

11:56 pm: Did no one test the game before Prateek!

12:00 pm: Like in a 80s video arcade or bad horror film there is crackling electricity and portentous music as Shekhar and Akashi try to fix Game Gone Wild.  Game sensibly spits Ra.One out into the real world.

12:05 pm:  Now Akashi is dead and Ra.One looks like Akashi. Is this a metaphor for pan Asian rivalry?

12:10 pm: Ra.One/Akashi searching for Lucifer meets Shekhar. Who is all It’s me who is Lucifer and kapow he is dead too. Sigh, I was hoping they would disappear Prateek.

12:15 pm: Prateek is all Dad has been killed by the Game Ka Villian. Wonder Boy goes to lab with Jenny and finds that Ra.One=Akashi=Looking for Lucifer.

12:20 pm: Now there is a G.One who looks like Shahrukh Khan.

12:25 pm: G.One and Ra.One fight.  With lifted  cars. Pfft, Dharmindar BENT those cars before launching them as missiles.

12:35 pm: Just like that Ra.One is dead. And G.One is travelling to Mumbai as a pierced punk with Sonia and Prateek as their all-purpose bodyguard. The gays LURVE him. Pity the same can’t be said of audience.

12:45 pm: Why are there so many thugs at Mumbai airport? Why is Rajnikant there looking like his wax face might melt/disintegrate anytime leaving an old, bald South Indian actor?

12:50 pm: Several days later Prateek realises G.One looks like automaton Shekhar. Children too much game playing will addle your brains.  

12:55 pm: I think G.One just said Cunt Cunt Cunt Off. That’s how he says Control Off.  

12:56: G.One, Sonia and Prateek are bonding. But no I had Sex with an Automaton for the perverse.

1:05 pm: But look who’s here! Ra.One is in town for the Dusshera party (phew finally an epic nod!). He looks like Arjun Rampal. 10 heads is a LOT simpler than this endless shape shifting.

1:10 pm: Ra.One on Lucifer’s trail. Prateek is an unlikeable devil for sure.

1:15 pm: Briefly Sonia is Ra-One. Seriously.

1:25 pm: Ra-One G.One showdown!

1:26 pm: I think G.One’s crotch is on fire.  Is it matters of the HART or overheated circuitry?

1:35 pm: Ra.One is dead. So is G.One. Or alive. Or back in the game. Or cryogenically preserved for a sequel. Whatever. On the wall it says GAME OVER so it must be all over. 

1:40 pm: A few months later Prateek has revived G.One’s HART.  So not HARTed. I just wanted him G.One Baby G.One.

This movie must appeal to someone but for the life of me I can’t say who will actually like this bewildering mess, including the 15-25 male demographic at which such films are aimed.  The movie veers erratically from kid flick to frat boy humour to masala pichar with item songs (all equally hateful) to homage to superhero/sci-fi flicks churned out by Hollywood.  And like with most superhero movies all the tech wizardy distinctly underwhelms. And Mr. Khan, a reliably bad actor, sends the Ham-O-Meter (that’s the kind of dated American slang this movie likes) way, way off the chart here.   

And this is no updated Ramayana.  It’s more likely the result of an afternoon spent watching numerous DVDs, drinking a whole case of cheap wine until all your brain cells are soaked in alcohol and then making a movie.  Pity they weren’t handing out shots of that cheap wine to us before the film.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Mahatma in Madras

So I saw Naam Iruvar.

Mr&Mrs 47: Sukumar and Kannama
Smoke break for Hanuman and Hanumantha
This movie was released in the January of 1947 when feelings of nationalism presumably ran high and independence was imminent. Judiciously, AVM took a play on estranged brothers and social ills, added a dash of Bharathi by way of songs and smothered the whole thing in Gandhi worship to come up with Naam Iruvar (We Two). 1947’s patriotic masala pichar unfolds thus. Note: The links are to film clips (the entire film is on youtube) - not to the songs.

Yippee, straightaway CYCLE SONG! Sukumar (TR Mahalingam) and Kannamma (T.A. Jayalakshmi) are pals. Sukumar is an adorable cherub of the kind girls chastely kiss at sixteen and Kannamma is the kind of girl whose sari is carefully in place and she is wearing sensible shoes. When they part, they say JAI HIND! Ah 1947 lovers!

Sukumar then meets his sister, Kamala (Kumari Kamala) and they are off to a Subramanya Bharathi felicitation. DANCE! CHARKHA FLAG! PATRIOTIC SONG! SPEECH! Mr Bharathi is great and Mr Gandhi is super great! JAI HIND!

Meanwhile Sukumar’s brother Jayakumar (B.R. Panthulu) is aghast at his rich old man (A.K. Sarangapani?) who wants to marry a girl young enough to be his granddaughter. Since the Dad is bent on his lecherous ways and won’t listen to Jayakumar’s voice of reason (albeit a very dull one) they soon part ways. Sukumar and Kamala are also all "Appa, this is too much I say!" and throw in their lot with the very uptight and very honourable Jayakumar. Soon they are all nicely settled in a new house and young Kamala has even set up a shrine for Mr. Gandhi.

Enter Vishwam who is Kannamma’s maama and hoping to marry her. He is a thoroughly bad sort because he is in vellakaran suit boot and hangs out with a gang in English suits one of whom egads has a very fluffy white dog (such symbolism, remind me to keep company only with brown dogs!). Vishwam is trying to convince Kannamma to marry him.  Clever and witty Kannamma gives him the slip - but not before saying JAI HIND, Maama!

Jayakumar and Sukumar are like Raam-Laxman. That is Sukumar has little to do and lives on allowances from his brother. Mrs Jayakumar is a bit unhappy with this but that hardly deters Sukumar from his evening fun. His idea of fun is to sit in parks with lakes and ducks and sing at the top of his voice with the utmost ease. Soon he is joined by Kannamma and they are singing a sweet ditty. January 1947, swing, love duet, Sukumar of the melodious voice. HEAVEN! And Kannamma’s sari ornaments – hearted!

Now time for Kannamma’s parents. Kannamma’s mother wants her to marry her brother Vishwam, her dad, Mr Shanmugham Pillai (V.K. Ramasamy) is no way am I getting my daughter married to that good for nothing rascal living off me! Plus the Dad is worshipping at the shrine of MONEY and is contemplating a marriage proposal from a Mr. Ramaswamy Pillai. Who is none other than the dad of Jayakumar and Sukumar. The parents quarrel, the maama behaves inappropriately and is thrown OUT! So off he goes to meet his Gang but not before exposing Kannamma’s dalliance with Sukumar. Poor Kannamma now has her movements restricted though Sukumar does appear from time to time in her dreams. Though he is not making violent love just singing songs (any resemblance to ankhiyan mile ke purely umm coincidental).  The dilemmas of romancing a singer!

The Maama and his Gang are now in need of easy money and Sukumar is the idiot they choose to fleece of his wealth. This however requires his estrangement from Mr Purse Strings aka Anna Jayakumar. Sukumar shall no longer be a su-kumar! Watch Sukumar’s slow corruption! Here is Sukumar smoking! Here he is in a club! Here he is drinking! Here he is watching a dancing girl! And now he is agreeing to finance a Mr Hanumantha Rao’s film! Never trust the Gultis!

Now everyone is singing “There is no greater BROTHER than a FRIEND” which is what you do when you fall into English ways and call everyone Brother. And sucks to tightwad Tamil Annas who dole out allowances!

So Sukumar returns home and tries to steal money for the film but is caught by Jayakumar who misguidedly gives a high minded speech. At which Sukumar is sod it, he is a moralising freak with devious intentions and totally wants to keep my share. He then drinks some more, slaps Kamala, misbehaves with Jayakumar and demands the splitting of their wealth. And Jayakumar cries and speechifies but Sukumar stands firm in the midst of brotherly histrionics and takes away his share. Oh Sukumar you are a very bad boy.

Meanwhile Mr. Ramaswamy Pillai’s proposal for Kannamma is not all smooth sailing. Kannamma’s Dad, the Greed is Good guy, is holding out the carrot of marriage but not delivering - all the better to divest Mr. Ramaswamy Pillai of his wealth. And Kannamma herself is all sadface now that she can no longer meet Sukumar but this is soon remedied when she confesses all to her mother and her mother is all ditch Vishwam, you go girl and marry Sukumar. But Sukumar is too busy being bad.

Time for Sukumar’s film venture! Mr Hanumantha Rao is going to make a mythological called Veera Hanuman! The Gang goes berserk with Hanumantha-Hanuman jokes, Vishwam hires a top shot actress who is a bit of a diva and has a Telugu prompter, 1947 style.  No Telugus were offended in the making of this film! Soon the diva has walked off and its pack up!  Now Sukumar calls the Gang for a meeting for he is in deep shit as he is over budget and way behind schedule. The meeting is disrupted by his creditors and he is soon in prison and all Woe is Me, my "brothers" have deserted me and now let me sing I want my Anna!

Sukumar’s Dad fixed on his pursuit of Kannamma as his wife couldn’t care less about Sukumar’s fate. But all is well on the Jayakumar front for he gets Sukumar out of prison and his little bro  is all Anna Jayakumar you are a GREAT SOUL who I have utterly wronged! And Kamala is yippee three cheers to Karuna Murti Gandhi Mahatma for reuniting us and let’s sing another song!

The gang disperses and the Maama resumes his pursuit of Kannamma who is all sadface about Sukumar not having bothered to meet her ever since he turned bad. But still feisty enough to ward off the Maama. Meanwhile Kannamma’s mother, sick of the sadface encourages her to write to Sukumar. Sukumar in turn confesses all to his brother and everyone is ta da MARRIAGE! Except Kannamma’s father who obsessed with money making schemes turns away Jayakumar when he arrives with a proposal. 

There is also the small matter of Mr. Ramaswamy Pillai pressing his suit, unbeknowest to all. Soon he figures out that Kannamma’s father is leading him on and is Tamil Nadu ka No. 1 blackmarketeer and has no intention of arranging a marriage with Kannamma. He walks away furious and hell bent on revenge.

Now everyone is getting their just desserts! Kannamma’s father loses his money! Now he has been shot by Sukumar's Dad! Kannamma finds the body! Sukumar sees her with a knife in her hand! Both get arrested for the murder! COURT CASE! Both want to hang for the murder! But so does Mr Morals, Jayakumar, who is busy emoting "I am the murderer and such a saintly prick!" But just then the boys’ father, Mr. Ramaswamy Pillai, arrives and confesses to the murder and is dispatched to the Andamans but not before like reforming completely and blessing Sukumar and Kannamma. And soon everyone is at a Gandhi felicitation, spinning charkhas, donating to Harijan welfare etc. And just like that, rather randomly, we get treated to a long Kumari Kamala performance tacked on to the end of the movie. JAI HIND!


Nam Iruvar is a film with its eye very firmly on the Box Office but engaging enough as a social drama. Its theatrical origins are quite clear though the dialogue is a lot simpler and cleaner than the high, pretentious language of later Tamil films. It reinforces sentiments dear to the middle classes but none of this is mockable though the virtuous elder brother shtick drags down the film at times (it doesn’t help that there seem to be different styles of acting at play in the film with Panthulu/Jayakumar delivering his lines in a rather archaic manner). It’s cast is presumably drawn from the stage and they are all on good form. TR Mahalingam is in it of course for his singing – I had never heard him before but he is very good and seemingly at ease even when singing a difficult song (though perhaps he is not to the taste of modern audiences).  And in spite of its populism, the movie does capture something of the feel of the country on the eve of independence.

Two things struck me about the film. First, how normal the women are in the films I have seen from the 40s. There is little hint of excessive coyness or reinforcement of notions of servility and the like. Sukumar and Kannamma (by the by the Kannamma name seems to be a nod to Bharathi)  for e.g. are like a modern couple, their relationship playful and equal. Kannamma’s mother is pragmatic and encouraging.  Kamala is a normal teen (well apart from her propensity to dance and sing but her devotion to Gandhi is much like any impressionable teen embracing causes). Second, to almost everyone in my family familiar with the Tamil language Subramanya Bharathi is God. My Tamil is inadequate in the face of poetry but you need to know just a little to understand that Bharathi is a writer par excellence, his verse lends weight to this film. His life is complex and tragic in itself but this was the only interesting account I found (damn google, its search function is hopeless these days) of a poet who inspires hagiography - and the odd bit of scorn in the caste divided Tamil Nadu of today.

Monday, 9 January 2012

A Few Good Men

So if I was 22 and knew everything I know now and set out to make a list of actors who are totally hot but for some reason lurk below the hotness radar never ever to have knickers thrown at them or girls screaming out their names in their dreams and all - and this is a good thing because they are meant for a select few - this is what the extremely random list would like.

The Most Excellent Fat Flashman! Sigh! Rehman's best role was possibly as the extremely bored and extremely debauched husband in Sahib, Bibi aur Ghulam and indeed the man has the air of someone who should have totally paired up with Nigar Sultana to play an Indian Valmont corrupting innocent lasses.

Here's Mr Iftekhar looking very suave and urbane and the sort of man who would not bat an eyelid at a menage a trois. Also excellent sugar daddy material. He would probably be totally cool about employing butter in Last Tango in Simla. But this is India, this is the 70s and we have Mr. Police Inspector and Daddy.

This man is conventionally hot what with that sqaure jaw and the ability to sing silly romantic songs with Ms Suraiya. But Shyam died young and his hotness is quite quite forgotten so he makes the list. Plus he was Manto ka dost.

Mr Sahni here is not the romantic hero. But in his time he was the actor most women thought would make an ideal husband.  And Mr Sahni's assertions to the contrary did not quite dissuade them of this notion. Balraj, we like you too, who can be immune to that professorial hotness! But perhaps we will stop short of sweeping your floors like at the end of this movie.

The 70s was all Mr Khanna and Mr Bachchan and the old types soldiering on. Pity folk like Kiran Kumar who did a few films as a romantic lead as an ineptly cute sort before all that charm was wasted on  Dracula.  Not all wasted though, wiki informs us he was a "ladies man" in his time. Plus if this pic is any indication, he is like Mr Iftekhar 2, a damn fine aged wine most would be happy to drink.

Mr Anant Nag here was the Rajesh Khanna of parallel cinema and wiki tells me he was wildly popular in Karnataka.  But damn if I can get a hot photo of the man off the Net. Mostly Mr Nag seemed the good looking sort indulged by women, a spoilt spoilt rake and totally good enough for Rekha. So let's just admire the flop of hair and the dreamy eyes and ignore the bad Hindi accent.

And damn if I can find a picture of KK Raina (on the right here).  KK Raina should have been the Balraj Sahni of the 80s but inexplicably he was cast only in side roles. Though it is entirely possible that there is an Indian Mel somewhere with a scrapbook of Mr Raina's every appearance on screen.  Damn, it could have been me!

Let's take a detour. So Mr Raina was in Suraj ka Satvan Ghoda looking reliably and reassuringly and regularly cute and that book was written by Dharamvir Bharati and doesn't the man look fine here in pomaded hair and a moustache!

Mr Shaikh was way cuter than Amol Palekar. But Mr Palekar ruled middle class cinema of the Basu Chatterjee/Hrishikesh Mukherjee sort leaving Farooque here to do the odd good role.  But you can catch him in a few Sai Paranjpe movies being totes cute. Saved from being a "chocolate hero" by the bad boy hints.

Let's just say that slightly creepy uncle charm is way way more hot than the boring heroes of movies in which Mr Rajat Kapoor is cast.

Its possible Mr Khan here is hot in certain circles. And knows it. Still, we look forward to the next Irfan-Tabu outing. Folks, if you are not married, hitch up instantly.  The universe will explode with all that alternative hotness. OK it will just glow a bit more brightly.

It is a truth universally acknowledge that Shashi Baba here is hot and cute. But what with older actor brothers and always playing second fiddle to Mr Bachchan, the man is not sufficiently recognised as the cutest thing EVER in Hindi cinema. Which is why he is here. Go watch him being cute. NOW.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

But A Short Time to Live

So I saw Majboor.

In the 70s you would get compilations of stories, I think by Readers Digest, which often had stories of innocent folk in peril (think The Desperate Hours). These apparently provided fertile ground for Hindi cinema of the time for Majboor is one such film where Amitabh Bachchan is at work plucking petals - I am innocent, I am guilty, I am innocent…..And what’s the verdict?! Here goes!

Let’s play look for a trope! For the beginning of this film is full of them.

The man himself is Mr Ravi Khanna, the only name allowed for heroes in the 70s, a travel agent in pomaded hair, Tinopal white shirts and flared pants. He mans a desk with a colleague and is Mr Efficient. Ah innocent times when people booked on Air India and flights went to Perth!

Mr Ravi Khanna  has a dysfunctional family – I kid, I kid – they are fucking super loving OK! His mother is a widow in white with no name apart from Maa and played by Sulochana. His sister is a girl in a wheelchair called Renu played by Farida Jalal. His kid brother is played by Master Alankar and you know in your bones that he will have a song which he will sing in the voice of an aged female singer because she is so fucking popular that she sings for everyone except the hero. And they all love each other massively and play sweet games and rib each other and the mother always has a sweet, saintly expression and if ever anyone is sad - especially the girl in a wheelchair who can always be teased and who will ALWAYS FORGET THAT SHE CANNOT WALK and will then be reminded that she can’t walk and will then weep beautifully and for a long time - then everyone will sing a song and be happy and complete domestic bliss shall reign. I am thinking hard about this, Family why do we not have a FAMILY SONG?! How can we ever be happy without it!

Mr Ravi Khanna also has a girlfriend called Neela (Parveen Babi) who is DEEPLY ANNOYED with her man because he is always late or standing her up or forgetful or something. But this was way before He’s Just Not That Into You and Totally Into His Family so the silly girl is all happy after some random folk have sung a song (this movie is SO REAL they ACTUALLY got paid to sing-ex boyfriends who never realised this can we time travel for the sadak chaap serenade!). Then again, Neela has it right, a girl must never pass up petting time (that’s what they did in the 70s, pet, you know like I am petting a dog right now and he is a canine). Also Neela girl, I don’t care if it’s the 70s but ginormous bright yellow flowers are NOT earrings!

Now we have An Inspector Calls. Fuck me, why am I so surprised that it is Mr. Iftekhar! Hey man, haven’t seen you in ages - well at least not from the time when I was 13 and my mother dragged me to Hindi movies - looking good, nice voice, if I was 22 and an obsessive, I would totally have you up there in a list of supporting actors who were strangely hot and ignored by idiot women mooning over Mr Rajesh Khanna. His sidekick is perennial policeman, Mr Jagdish Raj. Anyway, back to bijness. Mr Inspector is back because a man who went missing a few months before is now DEAD IN A DITCH. Ravi has been questioned before as he was the last person who saw him alive. Mr Surendra Sinha (Rehman aka Fat Flashman, my dear girl I am averting my eyes, all that excellent evil depravity has gone amiss, I am shattered!) had dropped by to collect his tickets and as it was bucketing outside, offered Ravi a lift. Ravi got off to ahem pick up MEDICINES FOR DEAR MOTHER and then went home but not before noticing that Mr Sinha has a massive rock on his fingers. Turns out some time after that Mr Sinha went missing, a ransom note was sent to his brother but he stayed missing and is now a bloated corpse.

Ravi, sensible man, goes to meet his lawyer. And on the way is overcome by the Mother of All Headaches. The audience is thinking BRAIN TUMOUR but Ravi is thinking that was one mother fucking migraine and let me go back to being loving son and marginally less loving boyfriend.

Another migraine later Ravi, sensible man, is also meeting his doctor. A few X Rays later, the doctor is shaking his head. We called it! The doctor is Science thou art WONDERFUL! Human Body, can I keep studying you! Now let’s see shall I do a world first operation and leave this man an invalid or an idiot or should I just let him DIE! For Ravi, yeh tumour ek khatarnak bomb hai! Faced with this dispassionate analysis, Ravi naturally chooses his own annihilation and hey man sensible of you for it’s better to cease to exist than wear orange safari suits! BUT WHAT OF MAA, BEHEN AND BHAI who are all dependent on him?! Their life now looks like a veritable vale of tears.

Ravi goes to Neela’s house and sings a song on our fucked up lives where NOTHING GOES TO PLAN and we must all submit to our fates. Inexplicably his audience is looking happy instead of thinking that’s it, sod all, I shall drain all these bottles of whisky especially since it’s on the house and pass out and never wake up.

Random conversation in office only so dim audience can know that any one who catches Mr Surendra Khanna’s khooni shall get Rs 5 Lakh from his loving brother Narendra Sinha (Satyen Kappu-good or bad, what would 70s experts think?!). Then Ravi has a PLAN. He shall plead guilty to the crime of killing Mr Surendra Sinha and collect the money so MAA, BEHEN AND BHAI can live happily ever after. KYA IDEA HAI, Sirji! So an elaborate plan later which includes setting up a kidnapping scene in some ruins, Ravi is all I kidnapped but did not murder Mr Surendra Sinha and the baby brother is also in the court because you totally want a young lad to sit through a murder trial and soon Neela’s father (Sapru) who is the clerk, NO THE JUDGE! says Dafa 302, Sazaye-E-Maut and its time for a bitter laugh and Ravi is sent to the clinker and Rs 5 Lakh is with his lawyer .

Maa goes to plead with Mr Narendra Sinha to lessen Sazaye-E-Maut but he is like Mataji, its tit for tat in these parts! So of course baby bro is now THE MAN OF THE HOUSE and singing in an old female voice, quelle surprise!

In jail, Ravi has another head fucking, forehead popping migraine which goes on for a very long time so audience can think THAT is ACTING! He’s sent off to his old doctor who inexplicably operates on him after previous dire warnings. The operation is a success and Ravi is completely cured (what was that, a tumour, a massive boil, a defused bomb, a badly read X-ray?!) the Doctor is ha ha I am a genius, I will be famous, while poor Ravi wakes up thinking that’s a fine pickle, I will be swinging and quite DEAD soon in spite of never having been more alive.

Ravi is in the hospital under police guard and he confesses all to Neela and the lawyer. Now there is nothing left but for Ravi to break free and find the real killer. Which he does by way of a hospital trolley, a contraption purposely designed for filmic escapes. Soon Neela and he are in Khandala where Ravi is totally blending in with the 70s crowd in a tomato red suit. And he meets up with a Mr Mahipat Rai (Madan Puri) who he recognises as the husband of a rich woman. Uh huh, he is here with a comely mistress though! And also has Mr Surendra Sinha’s massive rock on his fat fingers! Ravi thinks easy peasy I have already found the killer but that ring is from a Mr Prakash (MacMohan, man the 70s films were DOMINATED by the exact same lot who possibly went from set to set saying the same thing all day long).

Doctor, doctor, that operation of yours? Its reconfigured Mr Khanna’s brain and turned our man into a quick with fists sort! Ravi is like a Red Bull in Prakash’s contraband oops antiques shop and all I shall wring your neck, you murdering bastard and Prakash is Boss, just leave for I got this ring from Michael (Pran).

Michael. Totally boozing. Totally petty crim. Totally Catholic. And totally time for Mumbai Pichar Goan Gaana jisme na to log na to accent is Goan. Soon Michael who arrived in Mumbai by way of the Punjab and could never shake the accent is fighting fighting with Ravi Khanna and then they stop and Ravi is like Boss this is getting tedious and you have to be the murderer and Michael is my only crime is being A Cool Cat in a Vomit Yellow Skivvy and besides my gun always has blanks. But I know who the murderer is for I am a carjacker and the day Mr Sinha gave you a lift I stopped a car and the fucking moron driving it had no cash and handed over this ring from an asleep soul in the back seat. So of course the fucking moron is the murderer and the sleeping soul was dead Mr Sinha!

So now Michael can lay his hands on the 5 Lakh. Perhaps he can snitch on Ravi and send him back to prison as Prakash suggests? No way, he is Catholic! He is a drinking, thieving noble soul!

Michael goes to meet Mr Narendra Sinha to discuss the matter of the Rs 5 lakhs reward. And of course the man was driving the car on that fateful rainy night. Fuck me, why did I not see that coming! Turns out Narendra Sinha is not even a proper brother but just a stray cat paloed and posoed by Senior Sinha. And being a stray cat he can’t keep his paws off the Senior’s missus. And the missus is also eagerly pawing back leading to Narendra being thrown out by his brother. So that’s it, it is decided by the two that the Senior Sinha MUST GO. Which is why he is dead in a ditch. Michael and Narendra Sinha then arrive at a deal, they will meet at a ruined cottage on a dirt track somewhere far away and Michael shall get 7.5 lakh for delivering Ravi. Why does no one meet at coffee shops or chai dukans?

Michael meanwhile pays a visit to the Khanna household which is super sad what with a disappeared brother and no regular pay checks and pledges on the wheelchair sister’s head that he, Ravi’s long lost friend, shall return him to them. No one looks remotely surprised, really random people walk into my house and promise me all kinds of things too and I always believe them!

That beloved finale of 70s pictures, THE CLIMAX is upon us! Like the stereotypical female orgasm, 9 times out of 10, you will recline on your chair and think of going home and ending this super long misery of moves, counter moves, punches, wild throws, chases, cars, bullets, token heroine participation and the final police whistle which is like a sudden jolt of excitement and you are finally moaning and crying because you will soon see The End. Luckily you don’t have to fake interest – unless you are on a first date and the boy you are with is mad keen on Amitabh Bachchan doing a Fight Scene, then again you wouldn't date such a boy. But this Movie is all this here is LIKE HOLLYWOOD and we shall have tense long silent standoffs! So Michael gets shot but uses his empty gun to keep Narendra Sinha at bay while Ravi (who is STILL in that red suit like some elongated Santa Claus sans beard) is wildly careering over the countryside to fetch a doctor because no one had the excellent idea of meeting at a chai dukan. Hours later the doctor arrives, Michael dies, Narendra Sinha and Ravi fight and the police arrive and you have forgotten about orgasms of any sort and it’s all over and the curtain closes on the happy family (No Neela in it, yup totally not that into her). And just when you are thinking it’s the End it says “The Beginning”. And I say no thank you movie, that was a pleasant enough cup but I am not fucking drinking it again!

For the title, I wanted to play on a Chase title but eventually retained the original title. And why when a man could have titled himself Count Rene Brabazon Raymond did he stick to the commonplace JHC!

This movie has three things I am lukewarm towards – the 70s, thrillers and Mr Bachchan. Despite the tropes and the predictability of it all, it is a fairly decent watch that is played in a natural fashion and I have a vague recollection of most people liking this film, if only because it was possibly better than most films of the time. Mr Bachchan is on pretty good form and everyone else does what is expected of them without being too irritating.

PostScript: The movie is based on an American movie Zigzag, you can see how the plots differ especially in the latter’s downbeat ending, at this link.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

The Bandit's Bride-A Dravidian Romance

So I saw Manthiri Kumari.

In this Mu Karunanidhi takes an old Tamil Buddhist tale (Kundalakesi) and reinvents it by adding early DMK propaganda and theatrical elements. And Ellis R Dungan keeps a steady hand on the directing and editing so that for a near three hours you go along for the ride. Lovely Amudhavalli (the eponymous Minister’s Daughter), how did you fare? Let’s tarry no further!

A convoy of Mullai Nadu merchants is on its way, laden with goods, when it is set upon by bandits who best them fairly quickly and make off with the spoils. Included in this is a pretty lass set upon immediately by the lascivious bandit chief (what flashing eyes you have, you WOLF!). But she has a little sword on her and is all Thus I Die Cruel Man which leaves the bandit chief very cross indeed for he must have his daily FEMALE FLESH!

As it appears must the king and his coterie. For back in the palace, a bevy of girls is giving new meaning to the lotus position. And the King, his Rajaguru (Nambiar) and his Minister are quite enjoying this pre TV entertainment of the Rich and Powerful. Just as the lotus closes, the remnants of the convoy hobble in and inform the King that the bandits have killed, raped and looted their group. The Rajaguru is huffy and dismissive, the King is a cretin and is hey you folks are way too careless but before they all disperse the Minister intervenes and the Good General Veeramohan (MG Ramachandran) has been entrusted with the task of catching the bandits.

Veeramohan addresses his troops who appear to be at ballet with swords practice. They are now completely motivated to give a performance. Or catch bandits. Whatever.

The King’s daughter Jeevarekha (G Sakunthala) meanwhile has little else to do but sing (and I spy Kumari Kamala dancing). And watching on is the bandit chief who is in town and smacking his lips and thinking I am a Big Bad WOLF and I shall fix my eyes on this thidippu morsel, hypnotise it and ravish it. NOW! But even bandit chiefs have to resort to more civilised means so he sits down to write Jeevarekha a LOVE LETTER. No use! For Jeevarekha is right now catching up with Veeramohan for the young folk are having a TOP SECRET LOVE AFFAIR. Why is the fish instrument so much more fascinating than Mohan the Makku? Boy, lift your game!

Enter Amudhavalli (Madhuri Devi) the Manthiri Kumari aka Minister’s Daughter. She and the princess are besties and spend time lolling around in their bedchambers. And this one time the bandit chief’s flunkey delivers the love letter by throwing it into the Princess’ bedchamber. It is picked up by Amudhavalli who is all MUST MEET MAN who writes love letters.

The bandit chief goes to meet Dad aka EVIL BRAHMIN PRECEPTOR aka the Rajaguru. Turns out he is Parthiban (S.A. Natarajan) who chucked a massive tantrum that has lasted several years because he was not made the General instead of Veeramohan. The banditry is to make Veeramohan seem inept though truth be told banditry runs in Parthiban’s blood. It’s what happens if the Dad is a priest, folks! Dad is all my darling darling son the General has been asked to catch you, I fear for you, leave these bad ways but Parthiban is all sardonic, cynical and cruel rapier wit. Sigh, Bad Boys!

Comic Interlude. The first one involves a bandit, a girl, a boy and a stern mother. And a bed. I am totally joining the lowly sorts up front and booing. And whistle podu for girl!

Amudhavalli rushes off to meet Parthiban who is initially annoyed at Jeeva’s non arrival but also thinking FUCK, I have good luck with the ladies and this Amudhavalli here is one Extra Juicy Jangiri! Oh Parthiban your voice is like a raucous, shrill bird its notes shattering in a million pieces, each winging its way to Amudhavalli so that she is tingling all over and thinking lady parts BEHAVE for I have no knickers! And Parthiban is thinking this is one lovely lady with a pretty turn of phrase and boom they are in love and boating in a very fancy floater. But no love can make Parthiban abandon banditry and FEMALE FLESH.

Veeramohan now takes matters into his hands and is doing GOOD DEEDS. His army has set out to capture the bandits. Ballet discarded for fancy dress. Everyone is now dressed as a MERCHANT! In his lair Parthiban is informed of the approaching convoy and he and his gang falls down on them you know like WOLVES on the fold only to be bested by the Army in disguise. Yippee, Parthiban and Mohan Sword Fight where everything moves FAST FAST FAST. Move aside Rajnikanth you clod, you are getting in the way! Veeramohan, good soul, wins and de-masks Parthiban and is all Fuck Mate hiding in a cave, albeit luxurious, is perhaps not the best form of revenge!

Parthiban is brought before the king – Oi I want his one-shouldered mini! He totally wants to say things like Veeramohan I want to dip your balls in nalla yennai and fry them and grind them in the fancy Sumeet mixer from my last haul into chutney which I shall smear on my idli and that way they will never come near Jeeva but this being a DECENT FAMILY MOVIE, he SNARLS and makes a speech and calls Mohan a PALACE DOG. The Rajaguru is all upset and trying to browbeat the king into releasing Parthiban. The King is a cretin and vacillator and is fuck I can’t decide. The Minister believes Veeramohan however and soon Parthiban is sent off to prison. His Dad rushes along and tries to coax Parthiban to leave banditry but he is all Bwahahaha you Old Fool, It is not a JOB it is an ART and I it’s SUPREME PRACTITIONER! Hey there Parthiban don’t make so many clever speeches, don’t flash your eyes you WOLF, we so do not want to join the Bad Boy Seduction that Amudhavalli is engaged in! And now Amudhavalli is here and all I can’t believe you are a bandit and Parthiban is suck it up lady. And Amudhavalli is all if I release you will you promise to give up banditry? And Parthiban is all first you are a Very Boring Savithri and second Bwahahaha Stupid Woman Banditry is an Art and I it’s SUPREME PRACTITIONER. And I am happy to SWING for it!

Now that Parthiban will swing, the Rajaguru is raining curses and abuses on all and screaming that the kingdom will be DESTROYED!

Comic Interlude. This one involves a girl dressed as a boy, a boy and a stern mother being fooled. And a bed. I am totally joining the lowly sorts up front and booing.

Amudhavalli believes in the power of her love. That and she likes a WOLF in her bed. Since everyone is totally like Parashakti has the answer to EVERYTHING she hides behind a statue of the goddess and is soon informing her Dad in her Special Goddess Voice that Parthiban is innocent and Veeramohan is guilty. Uh huh lady way to betray your bestie! The General is all Fuck Statues DON’T TALK but the king and the minister are all of course they do, the GODDESS HAS SPOKEN! So Parthiban doesn’t swing and becomes the General and Veeramohan is banished from Mullai Nadu. Hey good thing the other states have no illegals policy! At this Jeevarekha also runs away and joins Mohan.

Now Amudhavalli and Parthiban are married. And there is a song about the deep deep love of Amudhavalli and Parthibhan. And Parthiban is thinking ow ow a trio of tasty tasty mitaai and I can’t touch them! Lovely as Amudha is, this is AGONY!

His son saved, the Rajaguru is now plotting to kill the King and make Parthiban the King. Like Iznogoud.

Comic Interlude. In Parthiban’s cave. Where a layabout anoints himself chief and everyone else is a minister. A STATEMENT ON DEMOCRACY! Lots of Whistle Podu!

Parthiban inspite of his promises is soon tiring of his insatiable bride and takes to nocturnal disappearances for banditry with the old gang. And Parthiban is still thinking of ravishing Jeeva so he plans to abduct Jeeva. Parthiban you are a charming wolf and you have a charming turn of phrase:

Bandit Flunkey: Princess Jeevarekha is the embodiment of TRUE LOVE.


We feel for poor deluded Amudhavalli! Girl, no matter how charming the wolf, we are with you!

Comic Interlude. Stern Mother is a Pain. Boy and Girl have now run away. Meh. Yawn. Cigarette Break.

Amudhavalli is deluded but also SMART. She follows Parthiban one night in disguise, just the day Parthiban has thidippu morsel Jeeva delivered to his lair. But here is Amudhavalli to the rescue, here is her rousing sword fight with Parthiban till he de-masks her and goes Tchah, Nee Ya! And is all the sun may forget to set but  this woman is incapable of leaving me ALONE for my NEFARIOUS DEEDS-MARRIAGE SUCKS! And all Fuck I am over you now Amudha please go and inform everyone I am a bandit!

Amudhavalli takes Jeeva back to her house to hide and is all repentant at betraying the bestie for Rapey Parthiban. It’s OK, Amudhavalli, you are simply the first of the BadBoyPhiles, in fact you are their FUCKING PATRON SAINT!

Meanwhile Boy, Girl and Veeramohan meet up and set a trap for the bandit flunkey who discloses the whereabouts of Jeeva. So they all are sneak back into Mullai Nadu in disguise.

Parthiban and the Rajaguru are all impatient now and worried about being caught. So Parthiban decides to kill Amudhavalli and the Rajaguru the King. Parthiban returns to the marital bedchamber and is all cooing and sweet and all Perhaps the scorching blaze of my anger has given way to Cool Moony LOVE and Amudhavalli is thinking Damn, Damn man your words make me hot and wet and I have quite forgotten that you are Rapey Parthiban. So they reconcile and plan a PICNIC!

Comic Interlude. Stern Mother. Boy. Girl. Veeramohan in disguise. Boy and Girl Marry. WHISTLE PODU!

Shock Horror! Amudhavalli has set off for the picnic! And the rascal badawa (but still quite the charming WOLF, eh!) Parthiban is going to frolic with her on a cliff top – all the better to fling Amudhavalli to her death. Parthiban singing a song - Amudhavalli that is NOT a love song, he is sending you off to your ETERNAL REST! On the cliff top Parthiban reveals his plan as well as the plot to kill the King and Amudhavalli is all Goddamn I have been so very very foolish and ladies here are my last words NEVER NEVER trust your lady parts! Then Amudhavalli is all can I have a last wish and Parthiban is all yeah whatever and Amudhavalli is can I circle you thrice and Parthiban is Yawn OK I know I am GOD. And right at the third turn she pushes Parthiban to his DEATH! Oi Amudhavalli you are one kickass lady, WE DIE WE DIE!

Elsewhere Veeramohan is his usual idiot makku self and manages to insert himself into the attempted assassination of the King by the Rajaguru with the result that he is soon in chains for attempted murder.

But here is Amudhavalli to the rescue! She returns to the palace to announce the plot to kill the King and pronounces Veeramohan to be innocent . Veeramohan is reunited with Jeeva, Jeeva with her cretin father. But just when all is going swimmingly the Rajaguru maddened by Parthiban’s death throws a knife and poor Amudhavalli is all Thus I Die Cruel Man but the nation is SAFE! But oh no a far worse fate awaits your heroine! For here she is as a BUST a la Mayawati and here is Jeeva singing a song and there is Mohan Makku and inexplicably the cretinous king is still KING and it’s THE END! WHISTLE PODU!

Manthiri Kumari is way too much fun for me to be objective. I know of the film through my mother who introduced me to a lot of the early DMK films that mixed cinema and politics. Manthiri Kumari was one of the first to do so and it is witty, inventive and rarely didactic. Though there is an element of showboating and sophistry in the way Karunanidhi uses language it all remains highly enjoyable and would have been more so for an audience attuned to the nuances of the language and familiar with the politics of the day. Perhaps the man should have kept his day job. And perhaps he and the party took that “Banditry is Art” a little too literally :-)

There are a lot of other interesting elements to Manthiri Kumari and none more so than its American director Ellis R Dungan who has a comprehensive biography at wiki, astonishingly the man directed films like Meera and Sakunthalai. Dungan keeps things moving at a brisk pace even though the interludes and songs are far too many. But there is also something of the theatre about these interludes, the tradition of fillers while the next scene is being set up. And the movie so obviously draws from the theatre that there is a charm in these set pieces addressed directly to the audience.  Mixed in with this are a lot of outdoor shots which save the film from being static.

The movie is at its best when Parthiban and Amudhavalli are on the screen (as also the Rajaguru). SA Natarajan is in fact very good, all exaggerated evil as called for in a historical but reining it in just so and somehow also being entirely credible as a romantic lead.

PostScript: Vaarai Nee Vaarai is indeed an excellent song, at once a song of love and a coded song of death. It would not be surprising if it had sat at the top of the 1950s charts:-)

Friday, 4 November 2011

Anita and the Woman Question

So I saw Mr and Mrs 55.

This is yet another Guru Dutt flick where he is a sweet little cupcake with lots of flinty bits so that the eating is not as enjoyable as that cute exterior may make you believe. And it deals with that Great Assault on the Holy Edifice of Hindu Marriage aka Divorce! In this film the cupcake finds himself facing the tragic prospect of losing the super beauteous Madhubala. Away we go!

In 1955 the Hindu Marriage Act is likely to be passed paving the way for divorce under certain conditions. Simply put the ANGREZI VIRUS has been let loose on good Hindu society! And the foremost proponent of this Bill is a Ms Sita Devi (Lalita Pawar) aka RICH BITCH FEMINIST whom we first meet in the middle of a meeting with fellow travellers. Women of the World you Rock, you are Awesome! One minute you are discussing the Bill, the next the world’s best facials! For let it be said NOW. Wrinkles have NO place in the revolution!

Just at the moment Sita Devi is savouring her triumph, her niece – lovely spoilt heiress and orphan Anita Verma (Madhubala) - sneaks out of the house to lustily cheer on her heartthrob of the moment, Ramesh, who is playing the most leisurely tennis match in history. If Anita was on Facebook she would have liked every page dedicated to hunky sports stars and littered their pages with Eeek, so cute! I DIE! HOTTTTTT! Marry me! I want your babies! ☻/ღ˚ •。* ♥ ˚ ˚✰˚ ˛★* 。 ღ˛° 。* °♥ ˚ • ★ *˚ .ღ 。/▌*˛˚ღ •˚ ˚…just sprinkling a little LOVE on your pages. ~♥~˚ ✰* ★ / \ ˚. ★ *˛ ˚♥* ✰。˚ ˚ღ。* ˛˚ ♥ 。✰˚* ˚ ★ღ ~...:)~ ♥ etc. Sita Devi on the other hand…..well if she ever joined Facebook it would be to promote her book On the Forthcoming Eradication of the Male of the Species. This is why Sita Devi has sent out trusted lieutenant Mona to remove Anita from the scene of her complete abasement.

Anita spots Mona and in a frantic bid to escape tumbles into the arms of our sweet cupcake Pritam Kumar (Guru Dutt). Pritam is entranced and in instant pyaar. For let’s face it, Ms Anita is all perfection, like an irresistible piece of the purest chocolate nom nom nom that cupcakes can only aspire to. So Anita is all eyes for Ramesh, Pritam is all eyes for Anita, Ramesh is all eyes on the ball but all must part for such is young love! But Pritam recovers a token of his lady love, a handkerchief setting the scene for future hanky panky (can a girl resist a bad bad pun?!).

Pritam then runs into old friend Johnny (Johnny Walker) off whom as a struggling unemployed artist he is mooching. SONG FUCKERY! Oh Pritam, we understand we understand, Ms Anita makes us want to bust out a tune too!

Pritam is kadka, de rigueur for cupcakes, and renting with a fat landlady (Tuntun). Some elaborate charade fuckery establishes cupcake cuteness and Pritam wins a rent reprieve. In the meantime, Anita gets a dressing down from Sita Devi who warns her against the supreme EVILITY, the veritable EVILISHNESS, the awful EVILDOM that is the male. For the Aunt has been SCORCHED and wants to protect Anita, lover of all things boys.

Anita is to inherit fucking tons of money at age 21. Which is like the next day. Time to open the will! Will stipulates that she will inherit only on the condition that she marries within the year. Because the dead dad knew his EVIL BITCH SISTER wants to keep Anita a spinster. So happy happy Anita runs off to the swimming pool. Watch girls in swimsuits! Watch shapely legs! Watch the cheesecake! Watch everyone singing a song! For Anita is free at last for Ramesh Romance Fuckery! Ladies ladies patience! You shall have some perve time too! Uh huh it’s just plank of wood Ramesh in briefs. Oh Anita its not too late, perhaps a soft cupcake is better, eh?!

Anita has a “Future Mrs Ramesh” T shirt on but Ramesh is not taking the hint for he is ummm like thick wood all over. Besides he is off to Wimbledon and the dirty dirty pleasures of Paris. But Anita cannot be fobbed off and arranges a rendezvous with him in a cinema theatre.

Johnny Fuckery! Johnny, newspaper shutterbug, is quite the ladies man who woos women with….lollipops. Here he is laying some thick thick charm on new girl, Julie. But it’s all cut short for Johnny needs to take some professional piccies of his old mate Ramesh poolside. They get talking, Ramesh agrees to get Parisian dirty pictures for Johnny and Johnny agrees to meet Anita and hand over Ramesh’s letter . Which says “Anita I like you but I don’t like you THAT way”. I am calling it, GEIGH!

The cupcake, who is a cartoonist, is up to his usual “I am a fabulous artist and yet tragically unemployed”. He does have a sweet Editor though who reviews his work. The Ed knows RICH BITCH FEMINIST Sita Devi who has hatched a plan to keep the niece flying solo and yet inherit by hiring a faux husband who can be divorced. The Ed sends Pritam along for the job. Pritam first throws a hissy fit at the idea of being a bikau husband. Until he spots a pic of the proposed wife who is of course Anita. Then Pritam is all UNBELIEVABLE! FUCK! YES YES YES! FIST PUMP!

Pritam is still living by the credo of unsung artists. MOOCH OFF YOUR FRIENDS! So somewhere along the way Pritam ends up with the cinema ticket and a meeting with Anita. Anita now has Ramesh’s note and is all sobbing and ooh more Pritam hanky panky! Pritam thinking I am totes going to be married to this girl in a few days. Anita busy updating facebook status – Ramesh, you are a COLOSSAL DICK! And I am not getting any of it! It’s unfair!

Sidetrack. Johnny and the Office Charmer are going swimmingly; all lollipops are now going her way. Heck they even get to sing a lunch time song, Chak De Mera Lollipop – oops no that is from Mr and Mrs 95 starring Govinda and Karishma – this one is just OFFICE FLIRT TIME! Shall we kiss, shall we lose our hearts? On the typewriter or under the desk?!

RICH BITCH FEMINIST Sita Devi has deigned to enter male lodgings so Pritam can sign off on “I shall be married for a fraction of a moment to the supremely beauteous Anita and then shall waive all marital rights but that’s OK because that moment will be HEAVEN”. Also such scintillating conversation between them!

Sita Devi: Tum communist ho?

Pritam: Nahin, cartoonist.

More serendipitous Pritam-Anita meets. LUSH LADY SINGING A SONG! Time for the gradual transference of Anita’s hormonal impulses from Ramesh to Pritam!

Sita Devi informs Anita of her Rs 250 a month faux bridegroom. Anita is all upset and then OK whatever because well there’s the fortune to be inherited. Anita and Pritam get ready for their tryst with matrimony at the courthouse where Anita is fuck me I didn’t see that coming, the bridegroom is Pritam! She is deeply annoyed to think he is less lovelorn and more lalchi but we soon have Mr and Mrs Pritam Singh and Sita Devi is like OK Tata Bye Bye and don’t bother us anymore and just keep cashing the cheques.

The marriage is lucky for Pritam for he gets a job as a cartoonist. So irate and wife less Pritam draws an unflattering cartoon of Sita Devi. More rich bitch feminist drama when Sita Devi sees the cartoon. Everyone all together DOWN WITH FEMINISM! Also time for Pritam, Johnny and Julie celebrations where they run into Anita who is a friend of Julie. Anita is still stroppy and is waltzing with strange men who are not her lawful husbands while Pritam sulks in the sidelines. Now Johnny and Julie know that the two are married.

Johnny now imparting advice to Pritam on how to woo back Anita. A fooled chauffeur later, Anita and Pritam are off to the countryside. Sort of like a nice sweet Mills and Boon called FORCIBLE HONEYMOON. But enroute there is the FOREPLAY SONG of the She is Pouty, He is Lusty sort. The forcible honeymoon (not really forcible, the cupcake is a gentleman and knows that eventually all women BEG for his love) is ummm at Pritam’s bro’s place. His sister in law is a adarsh nari, an ANTI RICH BITCH FEMINIST with three kids. Who like plucks flower petals. You know of the sort He beats me, He beats me not, He just beat me for Oooh he loves me so! Anita is soon convinced that happiness lies in having a husband, kids and some gentle slapping. Oh good here’s the LET’s HAVE SEX song! Triple Yay for 50s sluttery where everyone looks like they will have a month long fuck once the cameras are turned off! But just as they are about to tumble into bed, Sita Devi turns up because Anita – before you know deeply desiring some gently rough sex - sent her a telegram screaming RESCUE ME! So Pritam gets all sulky and hearts are ASUNDERED. RICH BITCH FEMINISTS, implacable enemies of TRUE LOVE!

Now Pritam is all I can’t slap Anita to stay married and I am FUCKING NOBLE and I will provide grounds for a divorce. Yippee its Man Slut Picture Time where Pritam gets to hang out with two dames and an alcohol bottle! Pritam hands the photograph over as evidence to Sita Devi. Who passes it on to Anita who is all sob sob but this time there is no cute Pritam hanky panky. Also time to fulfil SAD SONG quota requirement. Plus Pritam is still kadka as FUCKING NOBILITY demands he return all those uncashed cheques.


Time for a court case and some blah stuff about women, society, inequality, marriage, sanctity blah blah so that you almost expect Fat Flashman to turn up and whisk Anita off for his debauched games while Pritam walks off into a sunset with a floozy. Hey Fat Flashman can you also arrange for Fat Lady Debauchery – we can’t stand the landlady’s tone deaf comedy fuckery!

Anita is all oh no I am soon to be a SAD DIVORCEE! And Pritam plans to leave town so Johnny and Julie meet Anita and tell her that the slut pic was staged. Time for showdown with the RICH BITCH FEMINIST aunt and Anita is all like yay yay yay I am standing up for myself and now I shall fall at Pritam’s feet and we will keep a dear little house and sit around drinking darling cups of misogyny topped up with romance fuckery. Rich Bitch Feminist Aunt is not one to give up and locks Anita up in the service of feminism but she escapes. And hey here is the Airport scene where Pritam looks like he has flown but has not and Anita is sobbing and ooh look Pritam has a ready hanky and so we arrive dear reader with society INTACT and the movie is all FUCK YOU Divorce Bill and FUCK YOU RICH BITCH FEMINISTS because the Bhartiya Nari wants nothing to do with you so go sit in a corner and do not speak EVER for you have been VERY VERY NAUGHTY!

Curious about the title? Go here.


There is the Guru Dutt who makes films that are charming, coherent and naturalistic in tone (though the dialogue here is by Abrar Alvi it is clear the man knew how to assemble and keep a loyal, gifted team). There is the Guru Dutt who is on top form when filming song sequences. And whose films are sweet, believable odes to Mumbai and its people. But there is also the Guru Dutt who brings a heavy hand to themes of social justice. And is a regressive traditionalist when it comes to gender.

A good part of this film is the former Guru Dutt. But it is blazingly misogynistic. Of course art forms are not required to be purged of misogyny. But there is something unpleasant in the Guru Dutt take, perhaps more so because of his otherwise progressive politics.

If you set aside the misogyny it is because of Madhubala who transcends both the cloying cuteness and the notes of servility that is required of her role so that she seems a naive, sheltered girl opening up to the possibilities of love. Plus Guru Dutt and she are a very easy on the eye pairing in what is essentially a romantic comedy. This was the only movie they did together which is a pity because they seem ideal for screwball comedies.