Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Shree 420 (1955)

There are few on screen pairings in Bollywood that are worthy of the label 'legendary' but Raj Kapoor & Nargis would be found at the top of any such list. They had chemistry that had never before seen on the Indian screen and it was no secret that their love affair extended outside of the movies as well. They were soulmates in every sense of the word but alas their love story (on and off screen) ended when she finally left him to make her swan song 'Mother India' where she met her future husband to be ~ Sunil Dutt. To those who think these old timers don't mean much in today's filmi world the following facts may be of interest to you. For the modern day Bollywood fan Nargis is the real life mother of Sanjay Dutt. As far as Raj Kapoor is concerned you know him as Shashi's brother, Rishi's father and the grandfather of both Kareena & Karishma. And his grandson (Nikhil Nanda) is married to none other than the former Shweta Bachchan (yes, Big B's daughter).

'Shree 420' was a worldwide hit at it's release and still retains it's place as one of the greatest Indian films of all time. The 420 in the title refers to the section of the Indian Penal Code that deals with fraud - it also is the code in certain circles for a particular kind of um, cigarette;) Coincidence? I think not. The movie follows Raj's popular everyman character (loosely based on Charlie Chaplin's 'Little Tramp') journey through all the good & bad that the world has to offer. It weaves a story that in the end, shows the audience that true love is the one priceless treasure in life. For a more in depth review please visit our friend Carla's wonderful website dedicated to all things Bollywood, Filmigeek.

The songs for today are like all songs from Raj Kapoor movies - evergreen classics that still resonate as strongly today as they did fifty years ago. Incidentally this movie was a particular triumph for the singer Manna Dey. Mukesh (the voice of Raj Kapoor for his other movies) was testing the acting waters and available for only one song. Ichak Dana is such a sweet tune and memorable for the wonderful interplay between our two stars as well as the (surprisingly) good drawing skills of Nargis. Pyar Hua is simply one of the greatest love songs in Bollywood history and the passion between the two leads while under an umbrella in a downpour is mesmerizing, watch it here. Sham Gayi Raat is one of my favorite Lata songs penned in classic Shankar Jaikishen style with lilting music and capturing Lata's voice beautifully. Ramaiya Vastavaiya is truly special and for me was the emotional centerpiece of the movie. It starts out with great joy, becomes wistful towards the middle, proceeds to break your heart before leaving you with hope at the end. It would be almost cliche to say if it wasn't true - but they simply don't make movies like this anymore - 'Shree 420'.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Rahat Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan

'It is an honour to be attached to my uncle's name'
~Rahat Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan

It's not always a guarantee of success to have a famous family member in Bollywood. For every Abhishek Bachchan that has made it - there are scores that started big and then fizzled out. Amit Kumar (son of Kishore), Nitin Mukesh (yes, that one), various Kapoors (from the lineage of Raj Kapoor) ~ the list goes on. These offspring seem to get the worst of both worlds - some fail for being too much like their predecessors and some for not being enough like them. The ones who do make it are the ones who carry over their family's talent but infuse it with enough of their own to make it something new and different all together. Such is the case with the nephew of the legendary Qawwali singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan - Rahat. Trained by his uncle in the classical style of Sufism starting at age ten - Rahat has become a name to be reckoned with in the classical world as well as in Bollywood.

Our friend, Daddy's Girl (who has a wonderful blog on Bollywood and was kind enough to give me a special award:) asked me to expound a little bit on Sufism after my last post on Kailash Kher. Sufism is a mystical practice that emphasizes certain unique rituals for guiding spiritual seekers into a direct encounter with God. Muhammad is considered their chief prophet and many consider Sufism to be a mystical brand of Islam. One of the important rituals in Sufism is the zikr. During a zikr, one remembers God through meditation, chant and movement ~ certain attributes of God are repeated until the seekers become “saturated” with God and this ritual supposedly shatters and transforms them. As they spin and whirl around for hours, they reach a state of ecstasy and purity where the heart is only conscious of God. The seeker surrenders his or herself to total abandonment -- a total emptying of self.

Today's song selection is Jiya Dhadak, an absolutely stunning song that I cannot listen to enough and still gives me goosebumps every time I hear it. It is from the 2006 movie 'Kalyug' ~ a movie I'll probably never see it but if you want to see the video click here. Or better yet - if you live anywhere near the Atlanta area go hear the song live in concert on 7/6/07 - I have seen him live and I promise it will be a concert you will remember forever.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Solva Saal (1958)

Some days I really have to think of a good topic for DMC and sometimes the topic just falls into my lap - today's selection did just that. Last week I posted a song from the movie 'Solva Saal' which translated means '16 Years' and yesterday was the 16th birthday of my baby cousin, Amee (who at 16 is not much of a baby anymore;) Happy Birthday Amee!!! The movie is a sweet one starring the evergreen Dev Anand (who even at eighty cannot stop thinking of himself as a sixteen year old) and the beautiful Waheeda Rehman (who has chosen to age more gracefully and who was most recently seen in 'Rang De Basanti'). Granted, their major hit together was 'Guide' and a topic for another day but this was their first collaboration.

Dev plays his usual roguish charmer, this time as a journalist in search of that one great story. He spots Waheeda, who is eloping with her boyfriend and figures this to be as good as anything else he is bound to find and thus follows them. The nefarious husband proceeds to steal an expensive necklace and ends up ditching Waheeda in the middle of nowhere, classy. What follows is an adventure over the course of one night where our dashing hero sings songs, fights the bad guy and retrieves the necklace. Dev promises Waheeda he will never will write about what happened and advises her to return home and make up with her family. What happens next? Well you need to see the movie to find out...

Today's selection is Hai Apna Dil sung by Hemant Kumar. Although not as famous as the 'Big Three' singers of the day (Rafi, Mukesh & Kishore) he had his own style and a silky smooth voice that was all his own. He is a favorite of my parents and I have come to appreciate him through their musical tastes. The video is a great one and can be seen here.