Friday 17 September 2010

Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baaje (1955)

The next set of films up for review on this blog are those of the legendary filmmaker V. Shantaram. So far I've seen just six of his films but if there's something I've noticed about his work, its the fact that all his films give you bang for your buck, if not story wise then definitely in terms of sets, costumes, and top notch songs and dance. Jhanak Jhanak Paayal Baaje (Tinkle tinkle the anklets sound) is cited as his first commercial and most successful venture to date, the film won him a Filmfare Director award as well as Filmfare award for best film, best art direction (Kanu Desai) and best sound (A.K. Parmar)

Mangal Maharaj (Keshavrao Date) a well respected dance master who holds the prestigious title of Bharat Nataraj considers dance a spiritual discipline, and for him dance other than Indian traditional dance is vulgar, he also trains his son Girdhar (Gopi Krishna) who's due to partake in a national dance contest held once in every ten years

Girdhar is due to do a solo dance but he is also required to a second dance which requires a female partner, his father is disappointed when his first choice Roopkala seems to have sold out to commercial style dances

When his son notices the dance of Neela Devi he considers it vulgar and goes about showing her how real dance is done, Neela Devi is taken aback by his talent and in turn comes to see her own dance as vulgar too

Beautiful Sandhya

She meets with Mangal and pleads about wanting to be his disciple. Mangal tells her training would result in hardwork, practice, penance and lots of sacrifice including any talks of love. Neela agrees to his conditions and the the Guru takes her under his wings

Manilal (Madan Puri) who is Leela's benefactor and also in love with her tries to raise doubt in Mangal's mind by bringing up the idea of love but Mangal reassures him that Girdhar has danced with many without falling in love and perhaps only after the competition is over can they discuss love plus they don't marry out of love but rather out of duty

handsome and young Madan Puri

Thus Meera and Girdhar start practicing everyday and the inevitable does indeed happen they start falling for each other, his father the Guru notices the bond between them and warns Girdhar

Trouble arises when Mangal realises for a fact that they're both in love, he accuses her of pretending to love dancing just to make Girdha fall in love with her. A guilty Leela in order to stick to her promise and conditions set out in the beginning starts giving Girdhar the cold shoulder, followed by huge amounts of self sacrifice all in the name of encouraging Girdhar in his art

With months left before the dance takes place will Girdhar be reunited with Neela? Will Girdhar be able to win his competition without her? Will all of Leela's sacrifice for the sake of Girdhar's act pay off? Will she be rewarded or will her sacrifice be in vain?

Jhanak Jhanak payal baaje was a film i watched for its historical place in hindi cinema more so than anything else, at first i thought what the hell is this, but despite a slow start it proved to be entertaining in a musical fairytale kind of way, it does get very melodramatic towards the end but trust me the sets, the colours and the songs and dances especially if you're into Indian classical dance will keep you entertained

Though on the surface it feels like a glossy fairytale there are multiple readings which have been observed by filmi philosopher extraordinaire 'Philip Lutgendorf' who notes that the film's take on love especially sacrificial love as practiced by Leela to encourage Girdhar's art is

"preoccupied with and ultimately affirming of the value of romantic love—and the audience can readily sympathize with Neela’s unjust treatment by Giridhar, Mangal Maharaj, and Mani Babu—it also seeks to endorse conventional ideals of both patriarchal family and nation. For Mangal Maharaj, love is a distraction from the austere path of art, which is closely associated with both family honor and “national culture,” and which requires strict celibacy, at least during the student phase—the ideal ofbrahmacarya so prized by Gandhi and other nationalist thinkers. This celibacy is valorized within a patriarchal and sexist ideology. For although both Giridhar and Neela express their budding love, it is Neela alone who must assume responsibility for being a “distraction” to her male partner and must be chastened by asceticism and suffering nearly-unto-death."

For more on his take on the movie click here (Warning: contains spoilers)
Acting wise all the cast were rather theatrical, but Sandhya definitely stands out for her quirkiness and rubbery facial expression's they are a treat, i also find her very beautiful and I'm well aware Richard S is a fan, so here Richard i collected lots of screen caps for you (Get them here)

Gopi krishna who played Girdhar was rather effeminate with all his sulking and posing but what a graceful dancer, he was also the film's dance director, such a fabulous dancer he is, watch as he twirls, spins and does some amazing dance moves in fact i commented a while back on Dance on the footpath that some of his dance moves had elements of the dance phenomenon referred to as voguing

Also interesting was the film's or should i say Mangal's view of western style dance being vulgar, check out his reaction to Girdhar, Leela and co in this clip below
to which Philip Lutgendorf again notes

"that the tradition of classical dance that the film celebrates is almost entirely invented and in fact heavily inflected by western influences"

Well deserved award for the Art director from the colourful fountains to pastel coloured interiors an heavily detailed columns, Jhanak Jhanak has lots of eye candy

And lest i forget some elaborate costumes such as the puja lamp ones and Sandhya's amazing peacock outfit

The Puja lamp outfits

Wow!! leapard prints and peacock feathers, talk about Exotic

Absoultely fabulous score from Vasant Desai, highlights are the title track 'jhanak jhanak payal baaje' with its Rangoli style opening credits, the beautiful 'mere ai dil bata' & 'saiyaan jaao' , a lovely Hemant Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar duet'nain ko nain', my favourites are 'O Suno suno' with Sandhya in an amazing peacock costume and lots of male dancers on stilts

and 'Kaise yeh mohabbat'

Total Score: 7/10( extra points awarded for the songs, costumes, songs, dances)


bárbara said...

I... I love this. OO

Nasir said...

JJPB has always remained a conundrum for me since 1955 when I watched it as a kid when it was first premiered at the Royal Opera House in Bombay (Mumbai). What had struck me then were the riots of colours - beautiful colour, springing foutains, and the fact that I found that there were some dances every now and then. Even the songs were beyond me since they require mature minds and emotions to be appreciated.
It's only now, after having read your beautiful review BD, that I know what that movie was all about.

I used the word "conundrum" for a special reason: I had this habit as a kid of reading the movie-page in the daily where I used to note which pictures were released and where and how many weeks they were running into. I distinctly remember that I read that JJPB was into the Last 16th week at the ROP. My parents went to watch this movie and they took me along, and I was attired in a Black Sherwani and Churidar. When we stepped inside the theatre (movie-halls were commonly called theatres or Talkies)I found hardly anyone there.

Nasir said...

BD, I haven't finished, LOL....
That was the night of Diwali too. Here comes the conundrum: This movie was positively into its last 16th week but despite that it went on and on for two years, celebrating Radium Jubilee. That was something.

Vasant Desai has indeed given good music. I just love NAYN SO NAYN NAAHEE MILAAO, MERE AY DIL BATAA, JO TUM TO.DO PIYAA, while the title song instead inadvertently takes me to the Mere Huzoor song: JHANAK JHANAK TORI BAAJE PAAYALIYA sung by Manna Dey and filmed on Raj Kumar.

Gopi Krishna also figured in Shree 420 (1955)and Mughal-e-Azam (1960).
As you know, he happens to be the nephew of Sitara Devi the famed Kathak Dancer who holds a Guiness Record for the long hours of dancing. She also happened to be one of the wives of K.Asif if my memory serves me right. She acted in several movies too. As for Sandhya she settled down with Shantaram who was already a married man. I think Jaishree was his wife at that time.

Anyway...your subject and review took me down the memory lane.

Rum said...

Oooo now I definitely want to see this! I saw Do Aankhen Barah Haath once and found it to be a good social masala film, which got the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film too! And since they're always advertising this on dvds I should be brainwashed into buying this now!
I really like dance films like these so I know I'd enjoy Gopi Krishna sassing it up!

Sharmi Adhikary said...

My father used to talk about Sandhya's all the time. That she was a brilliant dancer, a beautiful woman and a tolerable actress. I guess I have to see all her films now that I see in the screen caps that she really looked beautiful. I love these kind of films. They are OTt but very very colourful. Thanks for the post

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the post and YouTube clips and many thanks for the Sandhya screen caps!

This film had such wonderful music and dancing - and probably not much else that made it worth watching, but that music and dancing made it more than worthwhile. :)

I think Sandhya was a good actress as well as a good dancer, and I am glad you agree that she was beautiful, because not everyone does. (I've discovered that her appearances are a bit controversial, for some strange reason.) And by the way, I saw and posted a picture of her from an awards function last December, and she still looks pretty cute there, and she's got to be pushing 80 by now. :)

Re. Nasir's comment... Shantaram already had two wives (including Jayashree) when he settled down with Sandhya - and married her too!

And the Gopi Krishna/Sitara Devi family actually has had a few more prominent kathak dancers or kathak promoters in it, inlcuding Sitara's father, her two sisters, and her daughter. (I started a post on that after doing some research, but there was so much, it was too time consuming! :) )

I am looking forward to the rest of the Shantaram set, wondering what the other five films will be. Off the top of my head (and looking at my shelf), I can come up with ten that I've seen, but I may have missed something and I've seen great song-and-dance clips from quite a few more over on YouTube.

harvey said...

In my teens I was completely in awe of all Shantaram films and also the one which Sandhya starred. And I was completely entranced by Sandhya's dancing and was shocked to hear on DD a critic say that though the film extolls the virtue of indian classicla dancing it rather just copies poses from mughal and rajasthani miniatures.
But one look at Jal bin Machali Nritya bin Bijli cured me of all my Sandhya craze. I adore Shantaram's movies, since they always havea message, though at times I can't really identify with it, mostly his post 60s films. Love his Navrand for weaving in so many layers and patterns into it, though one is oftne distracted form it by Sandhya's dancing, which I find to jerky!

memsaab said...

Early Shantaram films from the 30s and into the 40s were very different---very socially relevant with progressive messages. I love the eye candy in his later ones, but I don't think they hold the weight or importance of his earlier ones. But still---eye candy is good! :D

Ava said...

I bought a six-set of Shantaram's films because I wanted to watch Navrang and Jhanak-Jhanak again. AND I wanted to see Boond Jo Ban Gayi Moti and Jal Bin Machchli.

Amazing music here and the dances are awesome. Apart from some song-less dances, I like Nain so Nain a lot.


guess "jhanak jhanak payal baaje" was bollywood's technicolor movie..n undoubtedly one of shantaram's best movies he made in d 50's..very nice of u 2 review it as well as highlight d role played by sandhya n gopi krishna!!

Anonymous said...

I'm with harvey - Jal Bin Machhli put me off Sandhya and the V Shantaram-and-commercial-film craze. I hated that film (though Sandhya's dances were good), which is why I've never gotten around to watching this one. But I have seen some of the song and dance sequences on TV, and like them a lot. Aadha hai chandrama raat aadhi, for one - those seven waterpots on her head are quite something!

bollywooddeewana said...

@ Barbie o Thanks its a feast for the eyes

@ Nasir I love when you share tour personal filmi experiences, indeed i agree with you on the similarity between this and Jhanak Jhanak from mere huzoor i mentioned the exacrtsame thing on Sunehri's blog a while ago

@ Rum For a film buff like you, definitely try it, i'm sure you'll come up with some clever readings on it and oh yes i loved Do Ankhen as well i need to rewatch it before i dare dream about posting it

@ Sharmi definitely give it a go, i was dran to it in particular because of its history and at first i thought what the hell but then eased up

@ Richard S. You're welcome, and you're so right the songs, dance and the costumes and sets amde it an enjoyable feast

@ Harvey Really, i actually quite liked Jal bin the dancing and the songs plus costumes did it for me as opposesd to the story or acting. i hope to write it up by next week

@ Memsaab Yesindeed, your point is spot so on, i remember reading somewhere that he turned away from such films as he wanter commercial succcess but i'm sure if he really wnated he could have found a wayto make meaningful but yet crowd drawing films

@ Avdi Looks like we bought the same Moserbaer set, i bought it mostly because of Do Ankhen Barah haath and just to have a look at his songs and their picturizations which i've about for ages

@ Thanks The Bard if i had to vote for his best film in the 50's i'd pick Do Ankhen Barah Haath

@ Dustedoff I actually didn't mind Jal bin soo much i'm rewatching it to refresh my memory for its upcoming review

bollywood news said...

i Video i like bollywood films

Arjun Narayanan said...

I once asked film scholar VAK Ranga Rao why Shantaram did not take someone like Vyjayanthimala or Waheeda for this role. His reply was that sandhya was his muse. Without her, this movie would not have been made.

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