Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Jodhaa Akbar (2008)

Two years in the making and clocking in at nearly three and a half hours, 'Jodhaa Akbar' is quite an impressive piece of movie making. Unfortunately though, every film of this type will invariably be compared to the legendary 'Mughal-E-Azam' and will therefore never be considered on it's own merits. I liked this movie and would recommend to anyone interested in watching it to enjoy it's opulence on the big screen. Ashwariya looked ethereal (when does she not?) and her outfits & jewelry alone probably outweighed her by a fair amount. Hrithik is not an actor that I have ever been too impressed with but he did a fair job in his role as the Mughal emperor who tried to unite India by marrying a Hindu queen. I could not help imagining what Abhishek Bachchan would have done in the title role but again, comparisons of what this movie should be like need to be left at the entrance of theater. For some more thoughts about this movie please visit the websites of our friends Beth & Carla.

The songs in the movie are composed by the Shehenshah of modern day Bollywood, Allah Rakha Rahman. The whole comparison of 'Jodhaa Akbar' to 'Mughal-E-Azam' comes full circle when you remember that A.R. Rahman's birth name was Dileep Kumar. He converted to Islam after an imam offered prayers to heal his ailing sister when he was younger. In fact the selection for today Kwhaja Mera Khwaja is not only composed by A.R. Rahman but sung by him as well.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Chaudvin Ka Chand & Happy Valentine's Day

On this most romantic of days (so says the greeting card industry) I present to you one of the most romantic songs ever sung.

The selection for today is Chaudvin Ka Chand sung by Mohammed Rafi. See the song below in all it's romantic glory with Guru Dutt singing it to his new bride, Waheeda Rehman, on their wedding night. Considered one of the most romantic songs ever recorded, the lyrics are translated below as well.

Chaudvin Ka Chand Ho, Ya Aaftaab Ho
whether you are the moon of the 14th (a rare beauty), or sunshine
Jo Bhi Ho Tum Khuda Ki Kasam, Lajawab Ho
whatever you are, I swear to God, you are incomparable

Zulfein Hain Jaise Kaandhe Pe Baadal Jhuke Hue
your hair is like clouds spilling over your shoulders
Aankhen Hain Jaise Maey Ke Pyaale Bhare Hue
your eyes are like cups filled with wine
Masti Hai Jisme Pyaar Ki Tum, Woh Sharaab Ho
you are the alcohol which contains the intoxicant of love
Chaudvin Ka Chand Ho ...

Chehra Hai Jaise Jheel Mein Khilta Hua Kanwal
your face is like the lotus flower blooming in the lake
Ya Zindagi Ke Saaz Pe Chhedi *** Ghazal
or like the beautiful song written on the melodius instrument of life
Jaane Bahaar Tum Kisi Shaayar Ka Khwaab Ho
blossom of my life, you must be some dream of a poet
Chaudvin Ka Chand Ho ...

Hothon Pe Khelti Hain T*a*b*a*s*s*u*m Ki Bijliyaan
on your lips play a smile of electricity
Sajde Tumhari Raah Mein Karti Hain Kahkashaan
the celestial sphere bows in your path to salute you
Duniya-E-Husno-Ishq Ka Tum Hi Shabaab Ho
you are the end all in the world of beauty and love
Chaudvin Ka Chand Ho ...

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Bawandar (2005)

The aptly named 'Bawandar' (Sandstorm) is the true story of Bhanwari Devi, a lower caste woman from Rajasthan whose honor is stolen first by men from her village and then symbolically by the legal system of her country and her fight for justice. Like India itself, the film is one of many contrasts. The beauty of the land versus the ugliness of it's people. The unwavering courage of one woman versus the cowardice of her attackers. The moral code that many Indians live by coexisting with laws that forbid the foundations upon which they are based. Those are the issues that 'Bawandar' grapples with and a spell-binding performance by the lead, Nandita Das, combined with the natural beauty of the 'Land of Kings' (or Rajasthan) make this a must see film that has won countless awards at film festivals worldwide.

The film opens with a scene depicting the age old (but now illegal) tradition of child marriage. It is shot with such rich detail and realism that one first feels that they are watching a documentary - which was the intent of the director, Jagmohan Mundhra. His goal was to capture the rich color of the land like a 'picture postcard' to contrast against the starkness & dark reality of the incident itself. He also made it clear to his financiers that if Nandita Das did not agree to star in the movie, he would not make it. After seeing this modern day Smita Patil in 'Fire' and 'Earth' he knew that she would not only be the face of the movie, but the heart and soul of it as well. It is interesting to note that the movie was shot on location and that many of the children who hung around the sets were already married & that some of the women watching were not allowed to stand near some of the upper caste men - a true case of life imitating art.

The soundtrack of the movie consisted of songs that were written by Rajasthani composers and consisted entirely of instruments and vocals native to that region. It was interesting to me as a speaker of Gujarati (my native state of Gujarat borders Rajasthan) that I needed the subtitles on this movie more than I thought I would. I am fluent in Hindi thanks to Bollywood but the Rajasthani language is an intoxicating combination of Hindi, Gujarati and something altogether different. The song for today is Ab To Jagna which is the centerpiece of the movie and makes an appearance several times, it is sung by Mahalaxmi Iyer.