Sunday, February 28, 2010

70's week: And everything else...

So what else did the 70's have to offer besides the brilliance of Parvarish which I think has now been captured adequately?

Of course, early 70's were as I understand it, the height of Rajesh Khanna mania. I haven't figured out why yet! Dude's a nice actor, can be charming .. but letters in blood, really? Here he is in Sachaa-Jhutha as a kind-hearted simpleton.

Helen item numbers is something that Parvarish lacks and that I haven't therefore discussed. Here she is, trapping a fly in Inkaar. That foxy woman!

70's was also a time for different cinema, or I should say, not-totally-batshit-actionpacked-masala. Here's a screencap from Achanak, which I really need to rewatch because it's very short and is a poetic, interesting Gulzar movie about taking lives and the paradoxes of it. Young Farida Jalal as Vinod Khanna's nurse was suberbly adorable in this. For more on Gulzar, I refer you to Old is Gold's 70's week post about the director/lyricist.

This quote appears ahead of Mera Gaon Mera Desh, and reflects the change from the gentler films of the past to the more violent, action-filled masala of the 70's. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, what would you think about being quoted to fuel the career of Bollywood's He-man, Dharmendra?

Well, I'm sure greater crimes have been made citing Gandhi. Speaking of Dharam, check out DG's post about his 70's career.

And so we ride off into the sunset..

--but wait, you Hindi film-centric nuisance, you may yell! What about Tamil/Telugu/Malayalam etc films?

Sad to say I haven't seen a single 70's film in languages other than Hindi. I have seen one Tamil film from 1968 and one Telugu film from the early 80's but that's about it. The films are barely available with English subtitles, to find recommendations is difficult and as fascinated as I am with Sivaji Ganesan, I'm not ready to take the plunge and just buy a bunch of his movies...

Saturday, February 27, 2010

70's week: Fangirl Pause.

There seems to be some sort of consensus among female film viewers of the heterosexual persuasion that post-1990's Hindi cinema is where you find the hotties, or even more specifically, the newer heroes, think after 2001 or so. Southie stars are disregarded for having moustaches and being too old, based on the massive star status of Rajnikanth, Chiranjeevi and the like.

You know, to each their own and it's true that the gym-going hero in the style of Hrithik Roshan or John Abraham is a fairly recent trend. Emphasis on dancing abilities, which a lot of people find attractive, is also a recent invention - the level of choreography has risen considerably when compared to older films where a lot of songs had no dance choreography at all.

So in a sense I can understand this idea of male eyecandy only being found in newer Hindi films. But at the same time, I don't undersign this that much - the most handsome Indian actors I know are an older Southie actor and an actor whose primary career was during the 70's.

So there.

But as anybody who finds these pre-fitness craze stars attractive will probably tell you, the perceived superficiality actually has layers to it. I mean, I know personally I can't find an actor physically attractive unless I also find something enjoyable in their acting. There has to be something there - a talent, an intensity, character, personality..

And while this may all sound like hopelessly pretentious waffling about, it's just how I see it. There has to be something there beyond handsome exterior. If there isn't, then I might as well look at a magazine, not moving pictures. On celluloid you have to give out some emotion - otherwise what's the point?

Of course, it's all subjective. Which is why I can't make any judgments against other people's tastes, and why I hope nobody will make any against mine; some people see what I don't, and I'll see what they do not.

And before you quit reading this post thinking, "Wait, this is your idea of a fangirl post? This stupid reflective ramble?", I'll stop writing and instead let you enjoy screencaps of 70's Vinod Khanna films without my commentary.

Because the man is tall and handsome and intense and yeah, guh. I'll save the rest of my honest-to-god-fangirling (sans thinkythoughts!) for Khanna Week in May (brainchild of Beth but in co-operation with yours truly & Old is Gold and anybody else who wishes to join!).

Not sure who coined the term "thinking angry young man" to describe his work in the 70's but I like it a lot. And Bollywood501's description is also forever apt.

Friday, February 26, 2010

70's week: Villains, action, general badassery.

I just realized I'm not really sure what villains in Parvarish do, apart from wearing swanky suits, hanging out in submarines, smuggling diamonds and smoking in lavishly decorated villain lairs, plotting smuggling more diamonds.

But who cares, right? As long as we get dishoom-dishoom. I could lapse into some thinky thoughts on how it's interesting that the villain is the rich fat cat smuggling diamonds, drinking expensive foreign booze and entertaining dancing girls, and nowadays it's the hero who has money to throw around, despite no diamond smuggling.

Gosh, it's so glamorous, diamond smuggling.

Of course, the baddies are bad. They have no regard for human life, and all of that bad bad bad stuff but still. Diamond smuggling. That's just kind of cool.

Plus if there were no baddies, when would Amitabh get to make his "shooting people" face?

If there were no villains, we wouldn't have the awesome Vinod Khanna performance where he's half-hero, half-villain. Redemption is naturally always just around the corner, but why bother when it's so fun to be evil? You get to smuggle diamonds, smoke in lavish lairs and threaten people with hand-grenades.

And if you are lucky enough to be a Vinod Khanna fan watching this movie, you get the best of both worlds - he's perfect fit for both sides of the coin, as the calculating criminal and as the romantic hero/good guy.

And when he has his change of heart? The whole scene is a delicious manpain buffet. Just so good.

I really love the action scenes, whether it's firearms or plain old physical mano-a-mano. Sadly these scenes typically fail to screencap well and me being a total screencap snob always fail to save the blurrier ones. But instead have this aftermath one from Sholay.

And speaking of which..

Just like you can't discuss heroines in the 70's (in my opinion) without mentioning Seeta Aur Geeta, I don't think you can discuss villains without mentioning Gabbar Singh. But I'm trying to keep this post short so you can read more of what I think of Gabbar from this post.

And badassery? Well, it kind of goes without saying. The villains are evil and the heroes are active, so you get epic chase sequences, shoot-outs, high-kicks and the works. The viewers all learn the Hindi words for "bullet" and "blood" (goli and khoon if I remember correctly).

You might want to skip tomorrow's 70's Week post if you are not an obsessed Vinod Khanna fangirl/fanboy. Just a fair warning!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

70's week: Music and song picturizations.

Some of the first Bollywood music I ever heard was from the groovy 70's, when my friend gave me Rough Guide To Bollywood, about the only Bollywood music you could find at a Finnish store. Since I was such a newbie at that point, I hadn't heard any of these songs apart from DDLJ's Tujhe Dekha To and embraced this new music. And so I grew to love the classic 70's songs. Dum Maro Dum... Roop Tera Mastana (oh Kishore Kumar in this track!).. Chura Liya Hai Tumne.. Great stuff.

But of course, besides having the luscious vocals of Asha Bhosle, Kishore and Lata, and many great soundtracks composed by my favourite oldie composer R. D. Burman, these great tunes also have context.

The first song of Parvarish has our heroine sisters Neetu and Shabbo pocket wallets and watches from various people, while singing that everything belongs to the public ("Sab janta ka hai"). Shameless, you might think, but curiously both the lyrics and picturization elude to societal issues, like the rations where the government had grain behind locked doors but it didn't trickle down to the people who needed it the most (I may be over-simplifying this due to my shoddy understanding of Indian history - feel free to correct me).

The next song, Jaate Ho, is if at all possible even more brilliant. The girls have one-upped the guys by plotting their own marriages but the when the guys refuse, Neetu and Shabbo melodramatically decide to kill themselves. The guys show up to tease them, as each of their suicide methods go stale, and then offer them help. "Don't light yourself on fire with those matches, have this lighter!" I am hysterical watching this song but not laughing at suicide; I think at the core it is the heroines' over-dramatic behavior that elicits the laughter, and of course the fact they never really want to kill themselves - it is an act that the guys are participating in by teasingly offering them more efficient methods. And it is hilarious.

Every so often you encounter people who fast-forward songs in movies and think the songs offer absolutely nothing to the overall plot. Very well, I say, they have a point about some films, and with some songs. But sometimes, the song is a scene like any other, even with the song-and-dance, and it contributes to the logic of the film just as the scene that preceeds it and the one that comes after it.

Such is the song Hum Premi (dreadful quality on the youtube video, my apologies!), which at face value is a typical love song. In context of the movie, however, it becomes an incredibly clever dialogue between Amit and Kishan, heavy with dramatic tension as Amit suspects Kishan of being a crook. Even in terms of acting, the scene is fascinating, to see how they react to each other. Naturally, the DVD subtitles probably don't capture half the poeticism of the original lyrics, but even in their blunt form they make this a great scene to watch.

One of the best scenes in the movie, easily.

There are some other utterly fun songs in the film certainly worth discussing - like the qawwali of sorts with the heroines - or the utterly fun Neetu-in-a-maid's-outfit song as Amitabh harrasses her - but I think I'll skip ahead... plug this brilliant fanmade video that takes the best bits of Parvarish and sets it to the Neetu-maid-outfit-song (Aayiye Shauk Se Kahiye). It's definitely spoilerous because it has all the best bits, pretty much, but nevertheless, well worth checking out if you need to refresh your memories of the film.

Friday's post will be about villains, action and all things badassery.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

70's week: Romance and awesome heroines.

Sometimes, perhaps unfairly, I contribute most of my initial interest in 70's Hindi cinema to the Veeru-Basanti storyline of Sholay. I saw it and just like when I first saw K3G and Kajol-Shahrukh, I thought, "This? I really like. I want more of this." If I hadn't had that initial overwhelming interest to see more of the two actors, I might've never explored 70's films as much as I have so far. So in the humble beginnings of my golden oldies watching were these two things: romance and awesome heroines (because Basanti certainly is that).

I took a class on Bollywood cinema once and even though I'd seen nearly 200 films when I took it, it really helped me see some of the broader lines of Hindi cinema history to this day. One thing our teacher (very sweet female filmi fan who had majored in Hindi/Urdu, not Film Studies) brought up about heroines when we discussed character archetypes was that the heroines could be seen as corresponding to the hero character. When the hero is an angry young man type, this active hero of the 70's, the heroine must be an ally to his cause. (As opposed to being the indignant young lady who gets teased by the Krishna-type hero, or the independent woman who deserts the tragic hero.)

The girls in Parvarish wield guns, have plenty of wit to themselves (I mean, they are thieving sisters who sing about everything being the public's property!) and seek revenge the same as any hero would. They do have their share of damsel-in-distress type moments, but it's clear that often they're the ones running the show.

Consider first meetings, for example. Kishan (Vinod) runs into Shabbo (Shabana), who pretends to be blind to lift his wallet. She spins a tale about a tragic life, along the lines of the one she later tells Kishan's mother at the temple, and the one Neetu (Neetu!) recounts to both Amit (Amitabh) and the family's father. The beginning of the movie where the girls shamelessly steal is an absolute riot.

Of course, Neetu gets caught by Amit and placed in lock-up, where she tries many a strategy to talk her way out of behind the bars. Including one where she hilariously suggests marriage to Amit, because, as she tells him "When girls get spoiled, they should be married. Why don't you try to find somebody [to marry me]? If you can't find anyone, marry me yourself! If the law embraces crime, then crime can be eliminated forever!".

Flawless logic there, Neetu. Unfortunately this tactic doesn't bear fruit least in this scene.

The glitch in the romances for the guys seems to the girls' thieving - which is pretty rich on Kishan's part, considering he's leading a double life as a crook smuggling diamonds in toys and god knows what else. But once the girls promise to correct their ways, this problem is out of the way.

This post would be incomplete without the mention of Seeta Aur Geeta, in many ways the heroine film of the 70s, starring none other than Hema Malini as two sisters. If you're a newbie when it comes to 70's cinema and want to start with something that has awesome heroines, go for that one.

Tomorrow's post will be about music!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

70's week: The fashion, the decorations, are wah!

My first post on the plot aspect of Parvarish might've been a little drab in tone but here we are at the epicentre of the many joys that 70's masala has to offer. The clothes! The villain lairs (as pictured above, with the all-around-the-clock dancing girls and pit of quicksand!), the lavishly decorated funky rooms!

The must-have red phones. For us goris and goras this might mostly bring to mind the 60's Batman television series, but be honest, doesn't that just make it all the more awesome?

The fat phobics of today may dislike Neetu's jeans tummy but I for one adore it to pieces.

"Do they have any non-tight pants in the 70's?" I asked my friend Mog as we were watching this film.

"I'm trying not to look at the pants region," she replied. "My eyes are constantly drawn towards it."

"I've stopped trying," I admitted.

This room is awesome and totally fit for the song where Amitabh has a creepy blond wig on and he sexually harrasses Neetu who pretends to be the maid.

And she's wearing this, naturally. Also note round bed. Now if only it spun.

German flag sweater! If only he could see into the future of international Hindi cinema fandom and realize that Shahrukh is that country's choice of Bollywood star. Come on, Deutschland, Amitabh liebt ihr auch!

I don't know what this ensemble is but I guess Amjad can rock it, too.

..just not as hard as these guys.

While the leather cap might be the most outrageous thing worn in Parvarish, and it's certainly not the most famous 70's flick, fashionwise, there's something great about it, nonetheless.

It's all good.

But if your heart does desire more outrageously unique 70's fashion, take a look at these..

Tum Haseen Main Jawaan - Maa - Dharam-Veer. Nice!

Wednesday's post will be on romance storylines & heroines.

Oh and as you'll notice I put the brilliant 70's Week badge by V Love Movies in the sidebar under "currently..." - I think I'll keep this feature even after 70's Week ends, to highlight recent cool posts or whatever. It's a feature I think Filmi Girl had up at some point which I really liked.

Monday, February 22, 2010

70's week: Lost-and-found, maa ka pyaar and so forth.

I'm going to take a bit of a different approach to 70's Week 2010. Instead of covering a bunch of different 70's films, I'll mostly be covering one - Parvarish directed by Manmohan Desai, released in 1977. Not because I think this is the 70's film and no other film is as important but because I rewatched this recently and it hit me this is everything a 70's film can be, and so much more. It's just really good, and yet it doesn't quite have the name a lot of 70's classics have made for themselves.

So I'll be doing thematical posts of 70's masala traits that Parvarish ("Upbringing") has - to promote it among those who haven't seen it yet and to give those who have a chance to share their love. I mean I guess theoretically some of you might dislike this film or be 'blah' about it. But ..I can't imagine that anybody actually is.

The posts WILL include spoilers. But you can skim and look at the pictures if you don't want to be spoiled!

First up is the building block to most Manmohan Desai masalas; the lost-and-found family drama.

Parvarish, like a lot of 70's films, starts from the backstory. A bandit Mangal Singh (Amjad Khan) finally gets nabbed by the police, specifically DSP Shamsher Singh (Shammi Kapoor) just as Mangal's wife has given birth to a baby boy. She asks the DSP to take the baby and make sure Mangal never gets his hands on that baby, so that the boy won't grow up to be a crook like his father. Shamsher Singh takes the baby home and adopts it, the boy Amit (Amitabh Bachchan) growing up alongside his own son Kishan (Vinod Khanna). Due to some confusion, Kishan mistakenly believes he is the son of Mangal, and thus grows up leading a double life as a crook unbeknownst to his family, while Amit becomes a police officer like his adoptive father Shamsher.

Just typing that plot wore me out, as complexity of relations is inherent to these sorts of lost-and-found stories. The idea is always that a child gets separated from their parent(s), for better or worse, and later reunited. This is usually laid out up-front, but sometimes the plot twist is only delivered later (though the audience usually guesses it's coming). In Parvarish, it's never unclear that Amit is Mangal's son, but of course, his ignorance of the fact makes Kishan's double life all the more interesting.

Even if we know the truth, it doesn't take much away from the viewing experience, because Parvarish, as most 70's masalas, is jam-packed with all the required masala ingredients. An awesome villain's lair, car chases, diamonds, songs, romance, comedy.. I think predictability is too often taken to mean bad script-writing, but I think with the case of the lost-and-found story trope, all it adds is anticipation for what's to come. With Parvarish, you want to see what happens when Amit finds out he's Mangal's son, and Kishan discovers he isn't. With Seeta Aur Geeta, you want the twins to meet.

Another common 70's masala trope of "maa ka pyaar", that is, accentuated love of a mother, or a hero's love for his mother, is quite weak with Parvarish. Indrani Mukherjee (also the mother in another Desai classic, Dharam-Veer) plays the mother who loves both his sons but this love doesn't play a huge part in the story.

The main tension is that between the two brothers, one devoted to serving the law and the other to breaking it. Kishan manages his double life with relative ease, even if there are many close calls to Amit finding out the biggest crimes are run by his very own brother.

Whether upbringing decides a person's character, the film is very clear about. Kishan is a criminal, not because a criminal's blood runs in his veins, but because he is essentially brought up by Mangal Singh. Amit, believing Shamsher to be his father, grows up to believe in following the law.

The awesome reveal of Kishan's double life happens at a hotel apparently named Bhai Bhai (brother brother) - or outside the hotel you have this blinking signs because Manmohan Desai is no euphenism for subtlety, but what about sisters?

Our heroines Neetu Singh and Shabana Azmi share a very tender but goofy sibling relationship, and the fact there's quite a lot of them in the film seems quite rare based on my (limited) 70's film watching. The only other film with sisters in it I can think of is Seeta Aur Geeta, so it certainly feels awesome that this film has some. Go sisters!

Tuesday's post will be about fashion and decorations, so see you then!