Monday, March 26, 2007

Dor - My favorite movie of 2006

Dor (Strings) literally fell into my lap with absolutely no advance notice. My mom sent me this movie before she left for a visit to India. I asked her what it was about and she said to trust her and to just watch it. It sat around for several weeks and since I hadn't heard too much about it, I wasn't in any particular rush to see it. We put it on one night with the idea of watching just part of it and viewing the rest later - 2 hours later we were still watching but not yet ready to part ways with the three characters we had grown to care so much about. Our friend Beth agrees, see her take on the movie here.

The story is a simple one yet grows to be quite complex - two women from very different backgrounds meet through a twist of fate and are faced with the question - just how far are you willing to go to save the one you love? The film's mood can be quite intense at times but under the steady hand of director Nagesh Kukunoor it is also tender, humorous and at times full of pure and unbridled joy. The female leads are played by model turned actress, Ayesha Takia and former Miss India, Gul Panag. The male lead is played by Shreyas Talpade who was also in the director's last movie, the award-winning 'Iqbal'. His relationship with Gul's character is truly one of the sweetest and most tender I have ever witnessed on the silver screen - that it was a non romantic one makes it that much more touching.

It is so refreshing when a movie challenges the viewer with more than the standard 'boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl in the end' plot line. Dor is one of those rare 'perfect' movies in which each actor is brilliant in their role, there is not a single line of extraneous dialogue, where the background photography makes one feel as if they were actually there and every scene moves the story along as if one is turning the pages of a book. Watch this movie, encourage your friends (whether they love Bollywood or have yet to see an Indian movie) to watch it and hope that we are lucky enough to have more movies like this made. The song Yeh Honsla is the standout selection and compliments the movie rather than be the extraneous add on for the actors/actresses to model different outfits while dancing in the rain. Not that there is anything wrong with that but sometimes you just don't need all of that - sometimes less is more.

"Dor is my most challenging and dramatic film to date - the pristine locales, the spectacular cinematography and the soaring music all add up to make it a larger than life film. However, at its core, as in all of my films are the human element, the simplicity of the basic emotions that bind us all."
~ Nagesh Kukunoor.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Farewell to O.P. Nayyar :::

The name Omkar Prasad Nayyar doesn't mean much to today's Bollywood fans but his passing on January 28th marks the end of an era for Hindi cinema's golden age. Born in Lahore in 1927, he was almost as famous for what he did not do in Bollywood as he was for his unforgettable melodies. What he did not do was to record a song with the legendary Lata Mangeshkar - ever. He felt her voice did not suit his compositions and instead made a star out of Asha Bhonsle (Lata's younger sister) who was a virtual unknown before becoming his favorite chanteuse. O.P. Nayyar stopped composing songs for the most part in the late 1970's but he remains an indelible part of Bollywood's musical history.

The two selections for today are from Bollywood's golden era and while the songs may have been released over thirty years ago there is a reason why they are remembered as 'evergreen'. The timeless vocals and melodies remain as fresh and vibrant today as they did when my parents heard them via shortwave signals on All India Radio every evening. Like I have said before - if you haven't heard a song before - it's new for you.

The song for today is Uden Jab Jab, a duet by Mohammed Rafi & Asha Bhonsle from 'Naya Daur' starring Dilip Kumar & Vaijantimala. This album won the Filmfare Award for the best soundtrack of the year (1958) and remains one of the sweetest duets that ever graced the silver screen - see it here.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Do Aur Do Paanch (1980)

Today's review is another joint venture with our friend Beth over at Beth Loves Bollywood. 'Do Aur Do Paanch' is a favorite of mine from 1980 and pure Bollywood comedic gold. The plot is convoluted to say the least and the movie is a typical masala one. In food masala generally refers to a hodge-podge of elements mixed together to add spice to the final product and in movies masala refers to a film with comedy, action and drama - something for everyone.

What I remember on my first (of many) viewings of this movie is that it marked the first time I had heard cursing in Hindi - music to my adolescent ears since it was mostly being done by my hero, Amitabh Bachchan. The competition between the two main actors (AB & Shashi Kapoor) and the way they set each other up for humiliation was a fresh break from the melodramas that were so prevalent during that time. My favorite part remains the food scene (you will know it when you see it) where Amitabh breaks the third wall between him and the audience - just a wink to let you know that he gets it and to not take all this so seriously. As an aside, I met the Kader Khan (who plays the mob boss) at Bombay's Sahar Airport a few years ago and asked him for an autograph. I didn't have any paper on me so I asked him to sign a 1 rupee note that I had - he declined politely saying that it was against his religion to write on money. The things you learn because of Bollywood... For some more thoughts & pictures on this movie check out this post from our friend Maja.

The most famous song from the movie also happens to be my favorite, Tu Ne Abhi Dekha sung by Kishore Kumar (the voice of Amitabh for most of his career). My mama (uncle) who is generally a big critic of Bollywood and decries most of what comes out of there musically as 'crap' told me this song was extremely difficult to sing as it is made up of so many different melodies. Go see it at Jaman which is a new South Asian portal for world cinema. The setup for the song involves AB sabotaging Shashi's attempt to impress everyone with his singing and then singing the song himself. Starring as AB's love interest is my favorite heroine of the time (as well as crush) - Parveen Babi (whose sad life story was recently picturised in another Hindi film but that's for another post).