Archive for the ‘books’ Category

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The book titled ‘Baat Niklegi Toh Phir’’ by Sathya Saran attempts to give us a peek into the man who mesmerized one and all with his innovative take on Ghazals. The book quotes liberally from another book that can be found here.

The book traces Jagjit Singh’s life from his childhood days. His name change, religious beliefs, his quirks, everything is mentioned liberally and for those who are long time followers of his work, it would be a good account to go through. I don’t intend to ruin the book for you but I didn’t know he was a good hockey player too.

The book beautifully captures his journey from college days to striking it big and becoming a genre in himself. As we go along this ride, there are moments of humor, insight and pain that shaped the man. The days of struggle are detailed  particularly  well. I didn’t know he was good friends with Subhash Ghai. Of course, after reading about this friendship in the book, I quickly reminded myself that about 3:29 minutes in Subhash Ghai’s ‘Hero’, you could hear a faint ‘la pila de sharaab ae saaki’ by Jagjit Singh. May be there is a story there. Anyway, coming back to the book, it also mentions a lot about other friends which you must find out as you go along the pages. There are only 200 of them so try to not finish them up quickly. There are a lot of pictures and trust me you haven’t seen most of them!

There is enough film world trivia in the book. Also, some ‘greats who had access to the industry’ and their rigidity is mentioned particularly well in the book. These days when people romanticize their ‘struggles’ on their smartphone and blame their bitterness to their ‘struggles’, it is heartening to see that the author hasn’t preached against the big bad film world. Keep in mind that Jagjit Singh was trying to make it big in the world of film music when the greats and their gatekeepers had defined what should a song sound like and no ‘exceptions’ were allowed.

The book bares all about the beginning of the relationship that Chitra Singh had with Jagjit Singh, and how it blossomed into a partnership which would go well beyond music. I don’t know about you but I always thought Chitra Singh had a prior knowledge of Urdu. I was wrong. Her Urdu diction was corrected by Jagjit Singh, and my God, was Chitra Singh a superb student or what!

What came as a surprise to me was that Jagjit Singh established himself as a live singer and then went on to cut albums when the record company gave him a green signal. This means, there should be a lot more ‘private recordings’ in the world. I wonder how to get them all. Of course the book touches upon this as well. Apparently Chitra Singh is trying hard to collect all of Jagjit Singh’s recordings and present it to the world.

What I absolutely liked is the fact that the book doesn’t try to paint the man as someone who had no human flaws. Some people might find the details of his charities quite overwhelming. Remember, all this was done when there was no internet and no one was bending over backwards to prove that they are being human. Also, we are reading about all this four years post his demise.

There are bits which I didn’t quite agree with, for example – the author feels Jagjit Singh signed on ‘any record company’ towards the later part of his career which resulted in poor quality of music from him. I feel every album had at least 3-4 ghazals which made it a worthy proposition for ghazal lovers to buy the album which is a stark contrast from Ghazal albums of today. It is a known fact that Jagjit Singh always looked for lesser known poets and showcased their work through his albums. The book makes a fleeting reference to this. It would have been great to hear from those poets about their interactions with Jagjit Singh. There are also some not so good facts about certain albums which might disturb an avid follower of his work, but then what is perfect?

Towards the end of the book, a rather touching description is given about Chitra Singh of today. Author tells us that Chitra Singh has resigned herself to a world where she treads cautiously because it is filled with old memories and the pain they bring along. She doesn’t meet anyone.

Jagjit Singh ensured ghazals reach a larger audience, and presently, Chitra singh is trying hard to bring all the recordings of the legend to listeners and she is having a tough time doing that. Irony loved Jagjit Singh in more ways than we can imagine.

Since the day he has left the world, I have heard him less. Probably because I started listening to him when I was 12, there are ghazal albums etched in my mind and that is why I don’t need to hear his work to remember how he lent a voice to millions like me, our lives, our happiness, our joys, our rhythmic claps in his concerts (and sometimes in our living room, alone) etc. The claps have long gone, the echoes remain.

For me there cannot be a bigger reward to stay alive than any new piece of information or a ‘rare and unheard’ piece from Jagjit Singh because I have lived my life with Jagjit Singh’s ghazals in the background. There can never be one definitive work that can encompass the whole life of an artist like Jagjit Singh.

This book is a ‘must-have’ for commoners and collectors, just like his ghazals were a treasure for both the breeds of music listeners.

Dear Jagjit Singh, you once said

मेरी आवाज़ ही पर्दा है मेरे चेहरे का,

मैं हूँ खामोश जहाँ मुझको वहां से सुनिए…

We are listening, we always will.

– Rohwit

(Thank you Prashant, for gifting this book well ahead of its release. Indebted)

Price : Rs 699

Pages : 200

Gangs Of Wasseypur – The Making Of A Modern Classic” by Jigna Kothari and Supriya Madangarli is finally out. Interestingly, the book also has the screenplay of both the parts of the film. Jigna tells us more about the book, and scroll down to read an excerpt from it. And if you find it interesting, have also given links below it from where you can order it online.

Gangs of Wasseypur cover_3The book captures director Anurag Kashyap’s organised chaos during the making of this darkly comic tale of alley gangsters and their absurdities and idiosyncrasies. As the film traverses a fine path between myths and memories, fact and fiction, the book delineates these elements and introduces the men and women who inspired their celluloid counterparts.

It also shares the director’s exploration of his roots while making the film, and looks at the components of the director and crew’s vision of the design, soundtrack and songs, and most importantly, the locations that give the film its sense of time, and at times, irony.  The final pieces of the puzzle are blended in drawing upon narratives and anecdotes from crew and cast of the film.

Beginning with Anurag Kashyap’s foreword, and ending with the screenplay of GOW Part I and II, the book is divided into seven chapters and has some on location pictures as well. The seven chapters are as follows –

  1. Three Streets and a Saga
  2. Between Fact and Fiction
  3. The Not-so Stars
  4. How Anurag shot his Movie
  5. There will be Blood
  6. Wrap up
  7. In First Person: Anurag Kashyap

(On location pic from the book)

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Excerpt from the book

– You can order the book from Flipkart (click here) which is giving 25% discount (Rs 299) or from Infibeam (click here) which is giving 27% (Rs 291) discount. The book is priced at Rs 399.

NFDC (National Film Development Corporation) along with filmmaker Kamal Swaroop has just published his limited edition book Tracing Phalke

Researched, written and compiled by Kamal Swaroop, it’s a text-based visual treat that lends a magnified view into Dadasaheb’s life. The iconic coffee table book is an eponymous compilation tracing the life span of the Father of Indian Cinema, with rare details right through his schooling, places he visited, people he met and experiences that lent value to his innate genius and imagination that eventually lead to the birth of Indian Cinema.

– DearCinema is running a contest and giving away 5 copies of the book. Click here and try your luck.

– The book is priced at Rs 3000 and to order your copy, do write to  thirdpoliceman007@gmail.com

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कल चश्मे-बद्दूर देखी. असली वाली. सई परांजपे, फारुक शेख, राकेश बेदी, रवि बासवानी, विनोद नागपाल, सईद जाफरी, और (बे-इन्तहा सुन्दर) दीप्ति नवल वाली. दिल, दिमाग, और सिगरेट वाली. और इतना मज़ा आया जितना पिछले कई सालों में किसी हिंदी कॉमेडी फिल्म में नहीं आया.

बहुत से लोग कहेंगे वो इसलिए क्योंकि ये ईमानदारी से बनायी हुयी सीधी-सादी फिल्म है. लेकिन मेरे हिसाब से इसमें सिर्फ ईमानदारी, सादगी, और nostalgia जैसे कारण उठाकर फिल्म की तारीफ़ करना ज्यादती है. फिल्म में भर भर के craft और writing का जादू है. बहुत ही progressive, contemporary, और smart film है.  2013 में भी. फिल्म का पहला सीन ही – जिसमें एक जलती सिगरेट एक हाथ से दूसरे हाथ से एक पाँव का सफ़र करते हुए तीनों लड़कों को सिंगल टेक में introduce करती है – मेरे लिए हिंदी सिनेमा के इतिहास के सबसे शानदार opening scenes में से एक है. यहाँ से आप सई परांजपे की absurd, intelligent दुनिया में कदम रखते हैं. इस दुनिया में एक अत्यंत शास्त्रीय गीत (काली घोड़ी द्वार खड़ी) एक अत्यंत western visual (लड़की को impress करने के लिए पूरे स्टाइल से अपनी काली मोटरसाइकल पर आता हुआ लड़का) के साथ gel हो जाता है, हीरो-हीरोइन पार्क में बैठकर फिल्मों का मज़ाक उड़ाते हैं कि उनमें हीरो हीरोइन पार्क में गाना कैसे गा लेते हैं और कोई उन्हें टोकता भी नहीं और अगले ही सीन में खुद पार्क में गाना गाते हैं और अंत में टोके जाते हैं, और अरस्तु-ग़ालिब-औरंगजेब संवादों में ऐसी जगहों पर आते हैं कि अगर आपने इतिहास ठीक से पढ़ा है तो आपको सिर्फ इसी बात से ख़ुशी हो जायेगी कि अरस्तु-ग़ालिब-औरंगजेब की जिंदगियों का निचोड़ किसी हिंदी कॉमेडी फिल्म में भी हुआ था.

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बड़े परदे पर देखने से ढेरों नए details भी मिले. लड़कों के कमरे में लगे पोस्टर्स में शबाना आज़मी और सुलक्षना पंडित (सई की पिछली फिल्म ‘स्पर्श’ में सुलक्षना ने शबाना के लिए २ गाने गाये थे), मद्रासी रेस्तौरेंट में सचमुच की तमिल बोलने वाला वेटर, बाईक हमेशा फारूक शेख की किक से ही क्यों स्टार्ट होती है इसका कारण, दीप्ति नवल की आँखों की असली गहराई, और सिगरेट के लहराते धुएं का फिल्म में एक पूरा किरदार होना. ऐसा कहा जा सकता है कि उस कमरे में तीन नहीं, चार दोस्त रहते थे. और एक आज की हालत जहां फिल्म में कोई किरदार अपने सपने के third level पे भी सिगरेट पीने की सोचे तो सेंसर बोर्ड की कुत्तापने से भरी वाहियात warning स्क्रीन पे तैरने लगती है, चश्मे-बद्दूर में सिगरेट का इतना खुला इस्तेमाल अपने आप में एक full-fledged reason है फिल्म देखने का.

लेकिन बात चली है चश्मे-बद्दूर की तो मुझे याद आई मिहिर पांड्या की शानदार किताब ‘शहर और सिनेमा – वाया दिल्ली’ (वाणी प्रकाशन), जिसमें मेरा सबसे पसंदीदा चैप्टर इसी फिल्म पर है. इस किताब पर बहुत दिनों से कुछ लिखने की सोच रहा था. आधा अधूरा लिखा भी है जो अब नीचे चिपकाने जा रहा हूँ. और साथ ही में है इसी किताब से लिया हुआ पूरा लेख चश्मे बद्दूर पर जिसमें मिहिर चश्मे-बद्दूर को ढूंढते ढूंढते तालकटोरा गार्डन तक गए (जहां की टूटी-फ्रूटी खा खा कर फिल्म में फारूक शेख और दीप्ति नवल को प्यार हो जाता है और जहां का वेटर दिबाकर बनर्जी की ओये लक्की लक्की ओये के वेटर का पुरखा लगता है) और एक नयी ही कहानी ढूंढ कर लाये इस फिल्म को समझने की.

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(मिहिर की किताब ‘शहर और सिनेमा वाया दिल्ली’ पर मेरा छोटा लेख)

शहर, सिनेमा, और उन्हें देखने वाला

मुझे ठीक से नहीं पता कि उन्होंने ये क्यों किया लेकिन हाल ही में मेरे पापा ने मुझे कुछ पुरानी तस्वीरें भेजीं. अखबार में फुटबॉलर फर्नांडो टोरेज़ की अपने बच्चे को गोद में उठा कर फुटबॉल खेलते फोटो आई थी. उसको देख कर पापा को मुझे कुछ पुरानी तस्वीरें भेजने का मन किया. इनमें से एक है जिसमें उन्होंने मुझे लगभग उसी तरह से उठाया हुआ है जैसे टोरेज़ ने अपने बच्चे को उठाया है. एक में ४ साल का मैं अपने हिमाचली घर के आंगन में उदास सा खड़ा हूँ. आधी धूप, आधी छाँव के बीच.

इन्हीं तस्वीरों के बीच एक तस्वीर अजब सी है. यह सुंदरनगर (ज़िला मंडी, हिमाचल) की बहुत ऊंचाई से, शायद आसपास की किसी पहाड़ी से, ली गयी फोटो है. फोटो के पीछे उसके खींचे जाने का साल १९७८ लिखा है. इसमें पेड़, सड़क, मंदिर, गुरुद्वारा, सरकारी क्वार्टर, और सामने वाला पहाड़ दिख रहा है. और एक जगह एक गोदाम जैसी दिखने वाली बिल्डिंग के आगे एक पैन से हरा क्रॉस का निशान लगा हुआ है. यह निशान भी १९७८ में ही लगाया गया है. यह निशान वही पिक्चर हॉल है जहाँ मैंने अपनी ज़िंदगी की पहली फिल्में देखीं थी. यह अध-पीली तस्वीर, जिसे किन्हीं इमोशनल कारणों से पापा ने अब तक संभाल कर रखा था अब मुझ तक आ गयी. यह तस्वीर अब मुझे गूगल पर आज का सुंदरनगर ढूँढने पर मजबूर करती है. मैं ढूँढता हूँ और किस्मत से लगभग वैसी ही एक पहाड़ी से ली हुई आज की तस्वीर मिल भी जाती है. लेकिन मन नहीं भरता. अब यही तस्वीर मुझे वापस सुंदरनगर लेकर जायेगी, ऐसा लगता है. १९८५ में सुंदरनगर छोड़ने के बाद पहली बार. जल्द ही.

शहरों से हमारा रिश्ता ऐसा ही होता है. हम उनमें रहते हैं लेकिन उनके छूट जाने के बाद वो हम में रहने लगते हैं. मैंने कहीं पढ़ा था हमें सबसे ज़्यादा सपने १२ से २२ की उमर के बीच के अनुभवों के आते हैं. मतलब छोटे शहर/कसबे छोड़कर आए लोग ज़िंदगी भर बड़े शहरों में रहते हुए उन्हीं पुरानी जगहों के सपने देखते रहते हैं. या कहें तो आधी ज़िंदगी फिर भी उन्हीं जगहों में बिताते हैं. बस वो ज़िंदगी नींद में होती है इसलिए नॉन-लीनियर और कम वैल्यू की होती है. अपनी नयी किताब, ‘शहर और सिनेमा – वाया दिल्ली’ के लिए मिहिर पांड्या ने भी बार बार दिल्ली छोड़ी और फिर वापस उसमें लौटे. दिल्ली से सीधी जुड़ी एक-एक हिंदी फिल्म के ज़रिये शहर में घुसे और निकले. इस किताब में ऐसा उन्होंने १६ बार किया. शहर के रास्ते सिनेमा को देखा और सिनेमा के रास्ते शहर को.

किताब पढते हुए आप देख सकते हैं मिहिर को अपने नॉर्थ-कैम्पस के बरसाती-नुमा घर को ताला मारकर बाहर निकलते हुए. सड़क पर चलते-चलते हर जगह की एक मैंटल तस्वीर खींचते हुए और उस तस्वीर को किसी फिल्म में ढूंढते हुए. आप देख सकते हैं गुडगाँव तरफ के खाली मैदानों में बन रहे नए रिहायशी इलाकों से गुज़रते मिहिर को ‘खोसला का घोंसला’ याद करते हुए. आप देख सकते हैं मिहिर को आइवरी मर्चेंट की ‘हाउसहोल्डर’ में जंतर-मंतर का सीन आते ही कूद पड़ते हुए. मिहिर ने फिल्म में जंतर-मंतर पर फिल्माए गए इस सीन का गहरा symbolism खोजा है. फिल्म में एक जगह पर हमारा हिन्दुस्तानी हीरो जंतर-मंतर में जौगिंग करते हुए एक अमेरिकी बंदे से टकरा जाता है. देश अभी-अभी आज़ाद हुआ है. माहौल नयी उम्मीद का है. दोनों में बात शुरू हो जाती है. हीरो (शशि कपूर) अमेरिकी बंदे अर्नेस्ट को बता रहा है कि आज़ादी के बाद हम कितने आधुनिक हो गए हैं. और अमेरिकी है कि आधुनिकता को भाव दिए बिना हमारे अनंत-ज्ञान, योग, आध्यात्म की तारीफ़ किये जा रहा है. मिहिर का कहना है कि यह सीन जंतर-मंतर की वजह से जादुई हो जाता है क्योंकि – “दिल्ली के ऐन हृदय में बसे जंतर-मंतर को आधुनिकता और परंपरा का सबसे सुन्दर प्रतीक कहा जा सकता है.” और निर्देशक ने “इस विरोधाभासी आदान-प्रदान के लिए” ही ऐसी जगह पर सीन रखा है.

फिर आप देख सकते हैं मिहिर को राजघाट और इण्डिया गेट और संसद भवन और राष्ट्रपति भवन और चांदनी चौक और सरोजिनी नगर और पीतमपुरा को जोड़कर दिल्ली की एक बड़ी तस्वीर बनाते हुए. और उस तस्वीर से दिल्ली के दो बड़े विभाजन – दिल्ली की सत्ता (“काट कलेजा दिल्ली”, “पिछड़े-पिछड़े कह कर हमको खूब उडाये खिल्ली, दिल्ली” वाली सत्ता) और रोज़मर्रा (“सिंगल है कि बैचलर”, “मसकली” वाला रोज़मर्रा) को अलग-अलग फिल्मों के आधार पर छाँटते हुए. आप देख सकते हैं देर रात अपने कम्प्युटर पर अपने गैर-दिल्ली दोस्तों से बतियाते हुए भी मिहिर के अंदर चलते ‘शहर’ को. किताब की भूमिका में ही मिहिर ने लिखा है:

“मैं एक रात आभासी संजाल पर मुम्बई की कुछ आकाशीय तस्वीरें लगाता हूँ. अचानक पहली बारिश पर कविता लिखने वाली एक लड़की जवाब में लिखती है कि यह दुनिया का सबसे शानदार शहर है. मैं रवि वासुदेवन का कहा उसके लिखे के नीचे उतारता हूँ, “बच्चन की देह मुम्बई की लम्बवत रेखाओं के वास्तु से एकमेक हो जाती है.” लड़की चुहल करती है जवाब में, “फिर शाहरुख को कैसे एक्सप्लेन करेंगे?” मैं जानता हूँ, लड़की इन नायकों पर नहीं, उस ऊँची महत्वाकांक्षाओं वाले महानगर पर फ़िदा है. कहती है, “ये शहर नहीं, फलसफा है.””

“यहाँ से शहर को देखो”

मिहिर के ही लिखे एक पुराने लेख (जयदीप वर्मा की ‘हल्ला’ पर) का शीर्षक है – यहाँ से शहर को देखो. यह इस किताब का unused title भी कहा जा सकता है. किताब का हर निबंध एक नई रोशनी में दिल्ली दिखाता है. लेकिन चमत्कार सिर्फ इतना ही नहीं है. मेरे हिसाब से असली उपलब्धि यह है कि किताब दिल्ली के ज़रिये हमारे सिनेमा को भी परखती है. जैसे कि ‘सत्ता का शहर’ हिस्से के एक निबंध, जो कि शिमित अमीन की ‘चक दे इण्डिया’ पर है, में मिहिर दिल्ली के elitist bent को फिल्म में भी देखते हैं और एक झटके में ही इस National Integration Film का खोखलापन सामने ला पटकते हैं.

मिहिर के अनुसार ‘चक दे इण्डिया’ में “दिल्ली के आसपास के इलाकों और ‘ऊँचे’ बैकग्राउंड से आई लड़कियाँ ही फ़िल्म के केन्द्र में हैं. दिल्ली के लिए हाशिए पर रहने वाले इलाकों को जगह तो दी गयी है लेकिन पूरी फ़िल्म में वे किरदार हाशिए पर ही रहे हैं.”

यह एक नयी चाबी है. यह चाबी बिना दिल्ली, दिल्ली की पॉलिटिक्स, और उस पॉलिटिक्स का काइयाँपन जाने नहीं लगेगी. और ऐसी चाबियों से उन्होंने लगभग हर निबंध में शहर-और-सिनेमा के नए ताले खोले हैं.

जैसा कि मैंने कहा मिहिर ने किताब को दो बड़े हिस्सों में बाँटा है. दिल्ली को सत्ता का शहर (६ फिल्में, जिनमें ‘हज़ारों ख्वाहिशें ऐसी’ और ‘रंग दे बसंती’ शामिल है) और रोज़मर्रा का शहर (१० फिल्में जिनमें ‘ओए लक्की..’, ‘डेल्ही बेली’ और ‘तेरे घर के सामने’ शामिल है) कह कर दो अलग नज़रियों से देखा है. हर फ़िल्म पर निबंध ७ से १० पेज का है और हर निबंध दिल्ली और सिनेमा पर ढेर सारे keen observations से भरा-पूरा है.

इसी किताब का चश्मे-बद्दूर वाला लेख आपकी नज़र हो रहा है.  फिल्म देखकर इसे पढ़ें या इसे पढ़कर फिल्म देखें….दोनों मामलों में आपकी ही जीत होगी.

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चश्मे बद्दूर पर मिहिर का लेख:

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वरुण ग्रोवर 

(Also, many thanks and congratulations to Shiladitya Bora of PVR Director’s Rare for putting his time and passion behind the re-release of such classics.)

A new book titled Mother Maiden Mistress – Women in Hindi Cinema, 1950-2010 is out in the market. The co-writer of the book, Jigna Kothri, writes about it and shares an excerpt from it.

The first woman protagonist in Hindi cinema was Taramati, in Dadasaheb Phalke’s Raja Harishchandra (1913) enacted by a man since cinema was considered a profession beneath the dignity of ‘respectable’ women, even if she was playing a pious, and ideal wife on screen. It would seem Hindi cinema has come long way since then, though, the journey that Mother Maiden Mistress makes through six decades of cinema, finds that the more things have changed, the more they have remained the same.

The book  brings to life the women characters that peopled cinema and the popular imagination, and shaped fashion and culture. The book records and reviews the woman in Hindi cinema – the mythical, the Sati-Savitri, the rebel, the avant-garde and the contemporary. To get a better idea of where these characters come from, the book shows the society that the the filmmakers lived in, the socio-political milieu of the particular decade. We look at what kind of films were made during that decade and what were the dominant features of women protagonists at that time. In this context, certain protagonist are chosen and dicussed in detail.

It’s not just the character that is discussed, one section of the chapter, looks at the way women were dressed in the films of the decade, the high and lows of fashion in Hindi cinema. There is also the first-person narratives of a leading actress from each decade – Waheeda Rehman, Asha Parekh, Hema Malini, Shabana Azmi, Madhuri Dixit and Rani Mukherjee – all close-up examinations of how some of the iconic characters of Hindi cinema came to be.

The following is an excerpt of Chapter 3: Seventies – Look Back In Anger. These paragraphs are from the section that discusses the roles accorded to women characters in the popular films of the decade and attempts to record and review not just the stereotypes but also the exceptions.

“Films dominated by male superstars often reduced women to uni-dimensional figures. The action films of the seventies revolved around action/angst-ridden, disenfranchised hero/heroes who took over all the rasa/bhava of the narrative. The women were passive constructs whose fate and circumstances lead to the hero’s heroism. The multi-starrer phenomenon – films like Manmohan Desai’s Amar Akbar

 Anthony, Suhaag, Dharam Veer and others – further reduced the woman’s impact on the narrative. Love stories and big-budget musicals were no exception. The same was seen in buddy films where the so-called feminine emotions and feminized virtues of love and sacrifice usually accorded to the heroine were taken over by the heroes.

In Hindi films, friendship among males always involves tender emotions. The friends are separated by circumstances or a woman, and the film usually ends with one sacrificing his life/love for the other.

The men would have their respective romantic interest keeping in mind the interests of heterosexuality. Sholay (1975) became the definitive and probably the first ‘action-buddy’ film in which the two heroes, united against the forces of injustice, carried the narrative.

To seek a definitive feminist or even a progressive representation of women characters in mainstream cinema in the seventies would be futile. However, several traits were seen in women characters that were definitely a breakthrough in commercial cinema.

Yash Chopra’s heroines were well-sketched, realistic individuals who could compromise but never suffer to be victims. In Kabhi Kabhie (1976), Pooja (Raakhee) and Vijay (Amitabh Bachchan) choose duty over love and decide to part. Pooja accepts the new relationship in her life and grows into the role of doting mother, wife and career woman whereas Vijay continues to nurse his hurt over his lost love and neglects his wife. His wife, Anjali (Waheeda Rehman), married to an indifferent man and forced to play second fiddle to her own daughter, has also to come to terms with the guilt of abandoning her first-born child. Her instinctive reaction on meeting, for the first time, her adult daughter born out of wedlock is to hide the truth from her husband. Pinky (Neetu Singh), that daughter, puts her marriage plans on hold when she learns about her biological mother and embarks on a journey to meet her.

In Trishul, the heroines Geeta (Raakhee) and Sheetal (Hema Malini) have their individual personalities, being neither subservient to nor dependent on the heroes. Kaala Patthar, a film about a man’s cowardice and redemption (the story is partly based on Dhanbad’s Chasnala Colliery tragedy in 1975 that killed 372 miners and on Joseph Conrad’s Lord Jim), did find space for characters such as Anita (Parveen Babi), a photo-journalist investigating the conditions of coal miners, Dr Sudha Sen (Raakhee), who serves the mining colony, and the street vendor Channo (Neetu Singh). Nisha (Raakhee), a single woman and successful professional in Doosra Aadmi  (1977), falls in love with a much younger, married man who resembles her late beloved.

Significantly, most of these characters were created by Salim–Javed, whose iconic creation in Sholay  – the loud-mouthed tangewali Basanti (Hema Malini) – was a departure from the stereotypical village belle. Earning her own keep, she certainly does not believe that women should be seen and not heard, and does not surrender to her fate, choosing to fight instead. Hema Malini, dubbed the ‘Dream Girl’, was one of the rare heroines who pulled off action scenes in films such as Seeta Aur Geeta  (1972) and Paraya Dhan  (1971) in which the heroes occupy the usually feminine passive space.

Films in which the women not only take control of their life and their space but are active participants in the fight against the system are rare. Usually, the heroines either hold the hero back or garland and send him off to the battleground. There were rare examples, such as some roles essayed by Asha Parekh, which often broke away from the stereotype. In Aan Milo Sajna  (1970), the lead character pretends to be betrothed to the villain but falls in love with the hero and actively pursues him, complete with an eve- or rather Adam-teaser of a song: ‘Palat meri jaan’. It is the hero who is suspected of immoral behavior and has to prove himself to the heroine – a reversal of Sita’s taint.” 

DETAILS : Written by Bhawana Somaaya, Jigna Kothari and Supriya Madangarli.

Publishing Date: 2012.  Publisher: Harper Collins.  Number of Pages: 272. Language: English. Price – Rs 299

We will be reviewing the book soon. If you are interested, you can order it from Flipkart here or from Infibeam here.

When i pinged Kartik Krishnan on GTalk yesterday, he told me has busy reading a new book. Film book ? Yeah. As always, i asked him if he could write a (recco) post and as always, he replied with a hmmmmm, which is a difficult expression to decipher. What to write about a book where every page is delicious ? Now that’s a genuine excuse, and difficult argument to win. So he wrote something and typed some excerpts from the book. Knowing him so well, I should have guessed it ( Click here to read Kundan Shah on Renu Saluja. And click here for  Guru Dutt on Classics and Cash) Typing out excerpts from a book may sound simple but is really a painstaking job. And is also a service for less privileged human beings who don’t have access to the book but are e-connected. And now his side of the story and more..

He asked me to ‘review’ this book written by Jai Arjun Singh (a superb writer-blogger who should write as frequently about cinema as literature – cos when he does – he nails it)

“Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro – Seriously Funny since 1983 – By Jai Arjun Singh” – click here to buy it

Now how does one try an encapsulate more than 250 pages devoted to the making of one of the oft quoted cult classic films of our times, in about 500 words ? How much trivia do we JBDY Bhakts know already, that we need a book to tell us ? What good could it possible tell which would be new ?

Turns out – Lots !!! My knowledge of the film is a measly 1% of what is there in the book. And I claimed to be one of the biggest JBDY bhakts among my circles-have even met Kundan Shah and tried to squeeze out maximum information out of him on the film. Clearly I’m wrong 😛

Trivias, Background history of the players, the director, writer, actors, scripting, NFDC, pre production, fights, troubles, ultra low budget shooting, post production, release & reviews, the legacy – it has it all – all summed up in an unputdownable read.

And when you read such a revelation – how do you write a post on it ?

May be stop endlessly raving about it and simply give some snippets of the book. May be hope that seduced by the ‘trailer’ of the book, people will go and buy it. Because at 188 bucks (film books normally cost Rs 500,800,1500 or more) this book is a steal. Highly Recommended. Cash on delivered to you doorstep in 3 days! Flipkart rocks!

So instead of a recco post, am transcribing quarter of a chapter here & there, hoping that this will contribute to the sales of the book. I hope I’m not offending the author of the book or the director.

Over to the book’s Intro –

The Artist as a Store Attendant (talks about the initial days of Kundan Shah- the humor streaks – the beginning transcribed below)

“Take this hypothetical situation”, Kundan Shah tells me at our first meeting in his Bandra office. “You want to write a book about this film I made years ago. So you call repeatedly and ask me to meet you and I keep putting you off, and you are getting fed up but you aren’t in any position to say anything. You’re the underdog in our relationship.”

“Then, finally, I do call you over at a very inconvenient time, say 10.30 at night. You travel a great distance to get here, but then find that I’m busy-I have people over. I brush you off with the words :”Hey listen, can you come later?”. It’s an inconsequential matter for me – your book isn’t going to make my 25 year old film more popular than it already is- but for you, it’s as if the world has come crashing down.”

“But you don’t want the people sitting around to see that you’re hurt. So you put on a brave face, turn the whole thing into a joke. “Okay, sir,” you say with your dead pan expression, “should I go back and come again at one am?” So now your humiliation has been transferred into another medium -sarcasm, whatever. And it’s for me to respond because, suddenly, I’ve become the butt of the joke”

Comedy and cruelty often go hand in hand, stresses the man who wrote and directed a very funny film that ends with its two most likeable characters heading for the hangman’s noose. “When a person slips and falls, he might -speaking realistically – have broken his hip, or worse, but people laugh. You create humour out of something painful.”

The Corpse, The Chess Game And The Flush Handle

Given how popular the ‘laash’ sequences would become, it’s a pity that the crew never got around to shooting some of the zanier scenes with the dead body, especially after the inebriated Ahuja takes it home with him. The scenes at the guesthouse were to include one where Ahuja – eager to entertain this strangely shy mehmaan who doesn’t say a word-initiates a game of chess with the body.Naturally, the drunkard ends up losing to the dead man. (Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal had established a precedent for Death winning cinematic chess games, though it is unlikely that Kundan and Ranjit Kapoor had this in mind when they wrote the scene).

Ranjit also fondly remembers a sight gag that begins with Ahuja encouraging the corpse to have some whiskey. When the drink inevitably spills on the floor, the builder slurs, “Arre yaar, tu yahaan susu kar raha hai? (‘You’re peeing on the floor?’), but regains his courteousness and, in the tradition of the good Indian host, carries his guest to the bathroom. There he puts the deceased commissioner’s hands through the flush chain, comes back to his room and falls asleep. The next day, when Vinod and Sudhir are looking for the body in the guesthouse, they are alerted by the osund of the flush: the body has been upright in the bathroom all night, the weight of its arm pulling down the flush handle every time the tank fills. Rinse and repeat, so to speak.

The climactic chase offered endless possibilities for droll use of the laash, one of them being a planned scene where Vinod and Sudhir disguise it as a beggar asking for alms. In a fine touch, Tarneja, Ahuja and the other crooks – who have built a career by cheating people out of crores of rupees – interrupt the chase to conscientiously put money in the ‘beggar’s’ bowl. But pehraps the funniest laash moment that didn’t make it to the final cut was a scene where the partners hide the body in a doctor’s clinic. The physician, described in the script as ‘a Jiri Menzel type’ (a reference to the Czech director of such movies as Closely Watched Trains), gives the body a complete check-up (temperature, blood pressure, pulse etc) and then proclaims, in the self assured, avuncular manner of the typical Hindi-film doctor : “Ghabraane ki koi baat nahin hai. Do din mein theek ho jaoge” (“Nothing to worry about. You’ll be fine in two days”)

Naseeruddin Shah Ko Gussa Kyun Aata Hai ? The Mirror Crack’d

But the next scene with which Naseer had problems might have worked better if he had been allowed to have his way. This is a sequence that ranks among the films weakest, most awkward moments – the faux mushy exchange between Vinod and Shobha as they stand in front of the mirror and she plays victim (‘Main ek akaylee abhla aurat hoon …’) to mine his romantic-hero feelings and manipulate him into helping her.

Actually the scene begins with Vinod trying to cosy up to Shobha, who swiftly makes it clear that theirs is a ‘professional sambandh’, that of ‘maalik aur naukar’ (hence the famous shot of Shobha placing her foot under Vinod’s chin). But then, realising how important these photographers are to her grand design, she changes tack. Some of the dialogue that follows – “Mere sapnon ka sathi, main bhi bhookhi hoon…pyaar ki” and “Suno mere dil ki dhadkan” – plays like a parody of mainstream melodrama.

When Kundan wrote the scene, his idea was that it would be a game of charades between Shobha and Vinod. Obviously, Shobha is the devious one, but Vinod isn’t entirely innocent either: he wants the fun of being seduced by this attractive woman but at the same time he vaguely senses that this might be a trap and he doesn’t know how far he can trust her. The scene was to be driven by this conflict. In fact, it was the thought of this scene which had inspired Kundan to cast Bhakti Barve – when he saw her on stage in Hands Up!, he realized that she was an actress who could handle the required nuance.

However when it came to shooting, Naseer said he wanted to play the scene seriously – Vinod would take everything Shobha said at face value and fall hook, line and sinker for her trap. A major arguement followed.

Naseer: There has to be a serious moment between these two!

Kundan: I agree. But this isn’t it! The serious moment can come afterwards, once she has backstabbed them.

Naseer: Let’s put it to a vote. The whole unit can decide whether I should play this scene straight or crooked.

So everyone voted and it turned out that almost everyone was on Naseer’s side.

Kundan: This is ridiculous. So what if everyone agrees with you. I’m the bloody writer of this thing and I’m also the director – I’m using my power to overrule the vote.

Naseer: Fine, then I won’t have dinner!

Okay, it probably didn’t happen exactly that way, but the upshot is that things were threatening to fall apart. As it is, this was never going to be an easy or straightforward take. When you are shooting a scene where two actors face a mirror together and the viewer sees only their reflections, the camera set-up is complicated. The actors have to look at predetermined spots rather than at each other, which can make performing the scene somewhat tricky since they can’t directly respond to each others facial expressions. A lot of preparation is required, and it is probably a good idea if the overall mood on the sets is congenial.

Eventually, Naseer agreed to play the scene the director’s way – and even had his food – but the results of the disagreements are sadly visible in the film. The sequence begins very well – Bhakti is outstanding in the shot where she realizes that she has to put on an act for this lovelorn fool and slowly starts drawing the curtains – but it quickly deteriorates into something clunky and inconsistent. Temporarily deprived of his simplicity, Vinod has a sly, cocky look about him that goes against the character, and Naseer doesn’t look at all convinced about what he is doing. Watching the scene today, one cringes at the sight of one of India’s finest actors so obviously out of sorts.

But this is the only scene where the actor’s discomfiture shows: though his role in the film is relatively subdued compared to those of Ravi Baswani, Om Puri and Satish Shah. He has a gala time in scenes such as the one where he pretends to be an American reporter for DeMello’s benefit, and as the fake ‘Duryodhana’ in the Mahabharata scene. In some ways, his achievement is all the more notable because he wasn’t to the genre born, so to speak. Besides, his commitment to the movie never flagged. Crew members remember him as being constantly encouraging towards the younger members of the unit, and very keen not to be treated as a big-shot (which he was, in the context of non mainstream cinema). Anytime there was a problem with money – as there frequently was – he would tell Kundan: “Take this out of my salary”. His attitude was emblematic of the overall approach to the making of Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro: fume and curse about specific things going wrong, but then get over it and put in your best.

PS – This post is NOT sponsored by the author, the publishers of the book or by Flipkart. If you are good, we will shout out from roof top and let the world know.

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Also, click on the play button to check out an interview of Jai Arjun Singh…talking about the book…

First, lets get the facts correct. Lot of reviewers in their reviews have mentioned that the Ajay Devgan-Konkon Sen starrer film Atithi Tum Kab Jaoge is based on Sharad Joshi’s short story. NO, its NOT a short story! But its based on a short essay written by him.

We still havent seen the film. But our walkie-talkie-moviepedia from Jaipur, Pavan Jha alerted us on this one. The essay is titled Tum Kab Jaoge, Atithi. It was published in his book  “Yatha Sambhav”  and also made it to other compilations.  The makers of the film have taken due permission and have also given him credit in the film, even if its just an idea.

The film has got average rating. But do read the essay. Or do we still need to sell you Sharad Joshi’s writing ?