Saturday, 25 September 2010

Jal Bin Machhli Nritya Bin Bijli (1971)

First of all what a fabulous poster that is, i hope to make it into a Tshirt one of these days, in fact i've been doing a lot of that, wearing some of my favourite bollywood posters as Tshirts, i'll share the images on here at some point, now back to Jal bin Macchli Nritya Bin bijli (Fish without water, lightening without dance), is yet another V. Shantaram film that is very much an acquired taste, from what I've gathered from the comments on my blog this seems to be a lot of people's least favourite V.Shantaram film

The film starts with the memo of "No art form is great if there is no imagination behind it"

Alaknanada's (Sandhya) mother had given up her love for dancing for the sake of her husband Dr Verma (Iftekhar) all in the name of not wanting people to label her as characterless. Before she dies she urges Akalnanda to fulfil these dream of hers

the ever so quirky but undeniably lovable Sandhya

She impresses Kailash (Abhijeet) a wealthy artist/musician who sees her dancing, he's taken aback and says its the kind of dance he wants for a show he's working on as her dance comes from the heart and is full of passion

Her father thinks she can take up whatever dancing as much as she wants after marriage, thus refusing to let her go to Kailash but she overrules him and starts meeting Kailash for dance lessons, over time they both fall in love

Meanwhile Kailash parents are matchmaking him with foreign returned Princess Roopmati (Minal), his mother Rajamata (Dina Pathak) had promised Roopmati's mother she would be her daughter in law

Despite his parents choice of Roopmati, Kailash only has eyes for none other than Akalnanda which leaves Roopmati frustrated adding to her frustrations even more is when Akalnanda saves Kailash's life from a tiger which makes him love her even more

When Akalnand's uncle Mr Rai blabs about Kailash and Akalnanda's love to her father he reprimands her but she refuses to leave him as she wants to stay not only for her love but for the sake of her art

Also trying to break them up is Kailash's mother who tries to buy her out Akalnanda refuses, but when her mother in a case of "why don't you just let her go ahead and do it" attempts to swallow poison, Akalnanda in order to prevent her death decides to sacrifice her love (yawn!!)

On the day of her dance , Uncle Rai sabotages her performance which results in her breaking her spinal cord

She's taken to hospital where after treatment she's left with the support of crutches. Kailash goes to her with his marriage proposal (Gotta love him, broken spines and all) but she turns him down (Silly girl) saying she never loved him and had only been leading him on for the sake of learning dance from him

Kailash is angry and thus decides upon hating all womankind

Will kailash find out the truth behind Akalnanda's lies? Will Akalnanda be able to dance again? Will Kailash ever love womankind again? Will Akalnanada and Kailash end up together? Watch Jal Bin Macchli Nritya Bin Bijli to find out

There's melodrama and then there is hyper-melodrama, this film is the latter of the two, I'm not surprised this ends up on the bottom pile as a lot of people's least favourite V.Shantaram movie, its completely zany.

Of Course the major theme of the film is on the passion and sacrifice of dance, especially Akalnanda's struggle to prove the purity of her art since it was considered dirty for her mom, a little bit of emphasis on the spirituality and sacrifice needed for one's art just like in Jhanak Jhanak Paayal Baaje. Overall i don't know if i'd recommend this for everyone, let your tastes do the talking, if you do love your flamboyant art as well as costumes this might be the film for you. Personally as much as i enjoyed the music and the dance sequences some of it especially the second half was rather exhausting to sit through, it took a lot of effort on my part not to forward through some scenes

Here are some of the flamboyant costumes we were treated to, which i have to say i found rather interesting

a human snake

a peacock man

and Sandhya in an amazing holographic skintight Green Lantern-esque jumpsuit complete with troll like green wig hair and glittery mask, if you're stuck for inspiration this halloween perhaps watching the clip which i've embedded below will help you decide on what to wear (the actual song starts at about 3.20)

And imitation as they say is the sincerest form of flattery, that is in fact the case with this 'Kajra laga ke' song which i'embedded above, everything from the costumes, the choreography and the song itself was copied in the 1981 Telugu movie 'Agni Poolu' with Jaya Prada in Sandhya's role in the dance above

Finally one of the best things about this film asisdes from the flmaboyant costumes and art are Laxmikant Pyarelal's music. My favourites are 'Taron mein sajna ke' with its clever use of Ennico Morricone's The Good, the bad and the ugly theme , 'kajra laga ke' which i've embedded above with English subtitles, the cabaretesque 'Ek to jawani ke din char' my favourite of the whole lot though is 'Jal bin mahhli (Man ke pyaas)' where Sandhya dances like a fish out of water, she even colour coordinates her outfit with that of the fish

Now head over to My music Movies and Mutterings blog for an amazing write up of the soundtrack and to get the music for free

Total Score: 6/10 (Extra points for the sake of the costumes, songs and sets)

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Navrang (1959)

Going by the films I've seen so far from V. Shantaram i can say without doubt that his later films apart from say the music is very much an acquired taste, this is particularly true in the case of Navrang (Nine Colours). V.Shantaram set about making this eye candy of a film following an accident which almost made him go blind on the sets of his previous film 'Do Ankhen Barah Haath' (which i hope to review at a later date) upon regaining his sight he set upon making this technicolour feast for the eyes

The movie begins at the time of British rule in India when Indians started adopting British mannerisms, the film goes on flashback mode where an old man looks back at his life as a colourful youth where we are introduced to his life as Diwakar (Mahipal) a gifted poet who is deeply in love with his wife Jamuna

However, whenever he wishes for her to dress up she shuns his advances but an imaginary muse very much like his wife called Mohini help bring his fantasies to life

When the ruling Thakur of the time Bahadur singh is relieved that the British aren't invading his territory he holds a holi party where people can play with colours to their hearts' content Leelu Rangbaz is commissioned to write the holi song, Leelu knowing the depths of Diwakar's talents asks him to write the song

Diwakar writes the fantastic Holi song which goes down so well that he's made the royal poet, his new post in the King's courts court singer Manjiri (Vandana) takes a liking to him and tries seducing him but he lets her down gently and the two become good friends

The British invade India and during battle with them Thakur Karan Singh dies at the same time Diwakar gives birth to a son Munna. The British take over India and a new system is declared Divakar is asked to sing a congratulatory song instead he sings a song about the west (The British in this case) and the east (India) not being able to come together, he's threatened by Diwan Daulatrai (?) who keeps him on the pay roll despite his actions

but when Diwan Daulatrai asks him to write a song that would cause his name to be glorified in all of India, Diwakar refuses on the basis of Daulatrai's corrupt ways and quits his job as the royal poet

As he earns no money his family are forced to live on rations and his wife Jamuna out of frustrations and unable to put up with his artistic visions of Mohini who she doesn't realise is herself leaves him taking their kid Munna with her

With his wife gone Diwakar finds his creativity stifled, plus he has to perform will he be able to find inspiration without Jamuna

Like Jhanak which i reviewed a few days ago, this film works as a musical fairytale, the colours are sumptuous and everything from the costumes to the sets seemed well planned out, the song picturisations are excellent and creatively done, that said you need to have some appreciation for art to appreciate this film fully as its unlike other bollywood movies from this era, i wouldn't even describe this film as melodramatic as there's hardly anything dramatic about it but theatrical and eccentric oh yes

Lots of Visual Eye Candy from the Pastel palace interiors

To some lovely backdrops and jaw dropping sets similar to what you'd see in a bugsby Berkeley musical

To Sandhya's amazing range of make up and costumes as the muse

Everyone just seemed to be in sync with one another, the set decorator, costumier and dance directors, if you love and appreciate classical filmi dance here's a film for you

Also added to our enjoyment are two lovely animals which were included in the credits as Moti the smart Pony

and Ramchandra the wonder Elephant who even manages to shake a leg with Sandhya

the songs by C.Ramachandra are absolute classics and this film is notable for giving Mahendra Kapoor his break in the film industry as well as for Asha Bhosle singing all the female vocals which was quite unheard of at a time when Lata Mangeshkar was the dominant female playback singer. Highlights are the beautiful ballad 'tu meri mai teri', the beautiful 'ae dil se milale' & 'tu chupi hai kahan' a wonderful holi song 'Are ja re hat' which i've included with English subtitles my favourites and ones i've chosen to embed are

the fabulous 'Tum saiyan kulake phool' (o darling did you call me a flower) to which Moti the smart Pony nods accordingly like he can hear what she's actually saying (or maybe he can)

'Shyamal shayamal baran' which is the only filmi song that I've heard so far which celebrates Dark complexion all the songs i hear about complexions tend to be Gori this Gori that, also lovely is how Sandhya incorporates dancing into her housework

a gorgeous Asha bhosle & Mahendra Kappor duet 'Adha hai chandrama raat adhi' where Sandhya manages to balance about 7 pots on her head while still doing some serious classical dances, it just has to be seen to be believed

Now head over to My Music Movies and Muttering's blog who has uploaded all the songs on download for free and also to find out why Lata didn't sing any songs on this album

Total Score:7/10
Buy the dvd here

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)