Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Shaan (1980)

Today's songs are being accompanied by a review of the movie from our good friend Beth over at Beth Loves Bollywood. Even though the movie being reviewed is from 1980 - like all great art, the first time you experience it - it is new for you.

It was inevitable of course that five years after the mega-success of 'Sholay' (Bollywood's tribute to the spaghetti western) the powers that be would get together and attempt to do the same tribute for 007. The result was 'Shaan' which took over 3 years to make, brought back many of the same people that made 'Sholay' and was one of the costliest films of it's time (barely making back it's original budget). The movie itself is just one breathless sequence of events that combines romance, buddy flicks, great songs, implausible plotlines and of course the thing that no Bond picture would be complete without - a signature villain. Seeing Kulbushan Karbhanda now cannot be done without picturing Mike Myers' famous Dr. Evil from 'Austin Powers'. But in his debut film, Karbhanda handled the role perfectly and proved to be more than just a caricature in his alligator infested lair. Amitabh is his usual uber cool hero - fans of AB 2.0 should watch this film to see what made his dad such a star. This film also stars Shashi Kapoor (brother of Raj & Shammi) and my favorite heroine from the 80's, the angelic Parveen Babi.

Try to make this movie today and you can just imagine the pitch... "Ummm - I need the biggest actor of the day, an unlimited budget, great songs, melodrama, side-splitting comedy, action sequences never attempted before in Indian cinema - and oh, did I mention the lead actor will have to wrestle an alligator in the final sequence?". Yes, this movie (like all great Bollywood masala films) is like many movies rolled into one - but with all cylinders firing. The end result is inspired madness that will keep you entertained until the final reel. At times the editing and plot development will challenge your logic but the film has so much energy and enthusiasm you just won't care.

R.D. Burman provided the music for this movie and is universally regarded as one of the true legends of Indian cinema inheriting his talent from another legend - his father S.D. Burman. The song for today is Janu Meri Jaan. The song unfolds in a scene in which our 2 heroes have to get our 2 heroines back after being caught in a lie. The setting? Try a double decker bus then a two seater bicycle followed immediately by a machine gun shootout, view it here.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Thoughts on 'Umrao Jaan' and 'Don'

I was very apprehensive about seeing both of these movies having such strong affection to their respective originals. There are two prevailing schools of thought on remaking classics - one says to leave well enough alone & one says that it will help the original gain a whole new audience. I used to be in the latter group until I realized that most Desis in college today had never seen the original to either of the remakes being discussed today.

Watching 'Umrao Jaan' was like seeing a painting come to life. The cinematography and colors captured India circa 1850 like few other movies before. Aishwarya Rai (looking ethereal) proved to be a formidable Amiran and despite mixed critical reviews of the film, her acting was universally praised. Abhishek Bachchan holds his own against his future bride to be as the Nawab (prince) and gives one of his strongest performances to date. The costumes & dialogue were said to be painstakingly done to recreate Lucknow of that era. Especially lauded was Ash's command of the Urdu language - not bad for a girl from the South who grew up speaking Tamil! The song from the movie is 'Salaam' - see it here. Official movie website here

'Don' on the other hand was something that didn't need to be remade. It's not that the movie was that bad (it wasn't) or that SRK didn't do an adequate job of playing Don (he did). It's that Amitabh so made this role his that no one could do it better and if anyone tried he would just be compared to AB - an unfair thing to say the least. The remake was quite faithful - not only copying the story, but also some of the most famous dialogues and in the ultimate homage, remaking two of the original songs. But while watching it I found myself remembering the way AB said the line or acted the scene - and wishing I was watching the original instead. The movie had some substance - but unlike the remake of 'Umrao Jaan' - it had no heart. The song from the movie is Maurya Re - see it here. Official movie website here.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Kabhie Kabhie (1976) - Part II

The second set of songs from this movie are sung by Kishore Kumar & Lata and given life to on the screen by Rishi Kapoor & Neetu Singh. These songs are much more energetic than the songs from Part I and match the mood of the second half of the film as well. The first half told the story of unrequited love from the viewpoints of the parents and in the second half that shattered love is left for their children to mend and heal. The two stars mentioned above fell in love (onscreen and in real life) during the shooting of the movie and got married soon after it's release.

Both of these songs, Tere Chehere Se & Tera Phoolon Jaisa Rang, helped the lyricist and the musical director win Filmfare Awards (India's equivalent of the Oscars) for 'Kabhie Kabhie'. See the songs here & here. Interestingly, both of these songs were shot in Kashmir during different seasons showing the beauty of this land in more than one mood. Watching these videos, one can almost feel the two stars falling in love - little wonder that they were one of the most popular screen duos of their day.