Monday, March 24, 2014

40 Retakes by Avijit Ghosh

Have you heard of Footpath (1953), perhaps the most left leaning film in which Dilip Kumar gave one of his most nuanced performances?
Of director actor Chandra Shekhars Cha Cha Cha (1964), a fascinating musical where the Harijan hero becomes a fabulous pop dancer?
Of Gaddar (1973), perhaps the finest example of film noir in popular Hindi cinema?
 Of the Amol Palekar directed Thoda Sa Roomani Ho Jayen (1990), a rare true blue musical with Nana Patekar at his best? 
Of Sehar (2005), one of the most undefeated gangster movies by Bollywood? Of Antardwand (2010), a movie on shotgun weddings that gobsmacks you with its authentic portrayal of mofussil Bihar? 
National Award winning film writer Avijit Ghosh takes a second look at 40 such compelling Hindi movies that have been largely forgotten. 
Speaking with the directors, producers, cinematographers, music directors and actors behind these, he explores how and why they have fallen through the cracks of our memory.
Insightful, racy and loaded with interesting tid-bits like for e.g. Simi Garewal was dating cricketer Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi during the making of Teen Devian; Amitabh Bachchans Majboor has shots directly inserted from Charles Bronsons film, Cold Sweat
This book is as much for Hindi movie fans as it is for serious.
[Source:  Back cover of the book]
 My Comments:
Very interesting and enjoyable stories  about the movies which deserved better in terms of critical appreciation and/or popularity.
I have seen 11 of the 40 movies described in this book and plan to watch the rest at the earliest.
I am particularly happy to see two movies - Hip Hip Hurray & Antardwand included in this book. The reason is purely personal. 
The shooting for Hip Hip Hurray  took place in Vikas Vidyalaya, Ranchi. I studied in this school for three years (1975-78). 
I was a hosteler. 
Sushil Rajpal the director of the film Antardwand (which is also featured in this book) was my room mate during my stint there.

List of films featured along with the reason why the author included them in the list :

1 Mr Sampat (1952)  - The film’s post-mortem of corruption feels cool and contemporary even today.Motilal gives  the performance of a lifetime in the title role.

2. Footpath (1953) - It is among the first films of post-independent India that asks why the poor are getting poorer and the rich richer? It is Deewar’s prequel with Dilip Kumar in top form. It has one of the finest ghazals in Bombay cinema: Sham-e-gham ki kasam.

3. Cha Cha Cha (1964)  - It breaks the stereotype of a Dalit in Hindi cinema. It has some of the finest Western dancing you will ever see in Hindi films. It has some unforgettable compositions by Iqbal Qureshi.

 4 Kohraa (1964) - In the garb of a murder-mystery, it is a fascinating study in power relations.  Its black and white photography is almost erotic. It has some of the finest tracks composed and sung by Hemant Kumar.

5 Teen Devian (1965) - It is an ahead-of-its-times urban romance with songs that refuse to age.
6 Yeh Raat Phir Na Aaygi (1966) - It is a single-malt suspense yarn that leaves you guessing till the very end.  Sharmila Tagore acts fab, looks stunning. It has O.P. Nayyar’s haunting melodies.

7 CID 909 (1967) - It is a very smart C-grade spy movie. The lead pair Feroz Khan and Mumtaz look like aphrodisiacs for each other. O.P. Nayyar’s signature compositions get you in the groove.

8 Sara Akash (1969) - It is a remarkable document of small-town life and attitudes in 1970s north India.

9 Dastak (1970) - It explores intimacy and social hypocrisies with passion and integrity.  Sanjeev Kumar and Rehana Sultan are rivetting as the lead pair.

10 Lal Patthar (1971) -  It takes a long hard look at feudalism without taking sides. The onscreen fireworks between Raaj Kumar and Hema Malini can light up a Diwali skyline.

11 Mere Apne (1971) - It captures the issues of aging and students’ unrest with quiet poignance. Meena Kumari delivers a premium performance.  
Haalchaal thheekthhaak hai is the great political film song that every government must listen to even today.

12 27 Down (1973)-  It explores urban alienation just like French writer Albert Camus did in his novels; something no Hindi film had done before. Cinematographer A.K. Bir’s camera travels inside the mind of the protagonist.

13 Aavishkar (1973)- It is among the most honest and searing examinations of marital discord in Hindi films. Rajesh Khanna and Sharmila Tagore outdo each other on screen.

14 Gaddar (1973) - It is one of the most painstakingly detailed thrillers in Bombay cinema. Because it is an anti-morality tale that seems to say, there are no bad guys, only points of view.

15 Majboor (1974) - It is a sophisticated thriller sans fluff. You have Big B at his natural best. Every song by L-P is worth humming.

16 Dillagi (1978)  - It is a clean romantic comedy with an inventive plot and uncommon tunes. It is a rare movie where Dharmendra holds a rose, not a revolver, in hand.

17 Ek Baar Phir (1980) -  It is a bold movie that refreshingly speaks out for women’s freedom of choice in a failed marriage at a time when Bollywood was still making Maang Bharo Sajna.

18 Namkeen (1982) - This brilliantly acted movie is a guided tour through the hearts.

19 Hip Hip Hurray (1983) - It is the rare Bollywood movie centred around sports that also quietly examines teen psychology and offers roadmaps to decipher the noise inside their heads.

20 Aghaat (1985) - It shows how cinema can be a free and frank discussion on ideology. 

21 Khamosh (1985) - It proves that a great whodunit is all about bright little ideas.

22 Janam (1986) - It showed how a gripping family drama can convert the small screen to 70 mm. Anita Kanwar delivers a gobsmacking performance that can rival the best in Hindi cinema.

23 Dacait (1987) - It is a sensitive and well-crafted dacoit drama with a dose of realism.

24 Trishagni (1988) - It proves that good cinema can make even religious philosophy engaging.

25 Disha (1990) - It captures the melody in the life of migrant workers with sensitivity.

26 Thoda Sa Roomani Ho Jayen (1990) - It redefines the idea of ‘musical’ in Hindi cinema.

27 Raat (1992) - It is a smartly crafted supernatural movie that manages to rationalise the irrational. Revathi is simply outstanding as the girl possessed.

28 Aaina (1993) - It is a brave, clean family feature at a time when double entendre and crude comedy were essential ingredients even in a romantic family drama.

29 Naseem (1995) - It makes you understand how the demolition of the Babri Masjid also destroyed a certain idea of India.

30 Is Raat Ki Subah Nahin (1996) - It creates the much-imitated template for the new Mumbai mafia movie. It is a gripping  amoral thriller that India was too immature to enjoy in the mid-1990s.

31 Aar Ya Paar (1997) - It has the most real anti-hero in mainstream Hindi films.

32 Hari Bhari (2000) - It proves that a first-rate director and a great script can create an engaging film even on female reproductive rights.

33 Haasil (2003) - It is the precursor to a brave new Bollywood. Irfan’s sledgehammer performance.

34 Sehar (2005) -  It sets the benchmark for all gritty gangster movies set in the badlands of eastern Uttar Pradesh.

35 1971 (2007) -  It is a gripping movie on a disturbing subject—forgotten prisoners of war—but minus any jingoism.

36 Hulla (2008) -  Few films have shown the urban mind’s ghettoisation so succinctly.

37 Rocket Singh (2009) - It is an intelligent and engaging film that philosophises on two ways of conducting business without ever appearing to do so. It  has accomplished acting by the entire ensemble, especially by Manish Choudhary.

38 The Stoneman Murders (2009) - It manages to recreate the horror, terror and mood of 1980s’ Bombay when a real serial-killer terrorised pavement-dwellers.

39 Gulaal (2009) - It makes the cut: Because it creates a bunch of unforgettable characters in a surreal setting. No film tells you more about the elusiveness of love.

40 Antardwand (2010) -  It is a searing examination of patriarchy. It is a rare authentic document on rural Bihar.


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