April 27, 2009


[Aside: The current header is courtesy of the lovely Beth- thank you thank you!]

One cannot begin to speak of Bandini without first paying homage to its music. The soundtrack is one of SD Burman's finest, and accentuates the brilliant movie that may be safely called Bimal Roy's last hurrah.

Title: Bandini
Year: 1963
Cast: Nutan, Dharamendra, Ashok Kumar, Iftekhar

I approached this movie with skeptisicm- a movie so heavily lauded despite all these years past- overlauded perhaps due to the years past? But boy was I convinced otherwise.

The movie opens with female prisoners (female prisoner= bandini), entering a prison in pre-independence India, being met by the jailer, Chutti Babu, played lechorously by Iftekhar.

Inside the prison, we meet the head jailer and the prison doctor: Devendra (Dharam! smoking hot, at his beautifulest best!)- one of the older female prisoners has been diagnosed with tuberculosis (TB), and they are seeking another female inmate to volunteer as her nurse. This is a job with considerable risk- even through the 70s, TB was rampant and meant possible death.

The one prisoner to volunteer is Kalyani (Nutan), who seems to be hell bent upon taking the hardest of tasks- she is desperately seeking atonement for the crime which has landed her in prison. Kalyani works hard to cure the ailing woman, and impresses the handsome Devendra considerably.

Meanwhile we meet the first in a brilliant soundtrack, "O panchi pyare." A young imprisoned girl sings as she toils, addressing the free birds perching in the yard, comparing her own disbarrment to the bird's ability to fly. The song is a song of happiness, contrasted by the bleakness of the priso, and accompanied by some beautiful visuals.

Meanwhile, Iftekhar is smitten by Kalyani and flirts shamelessly, which she stoicly ignores.

While Kalyani tends to the TB-stricken woman, her troubles rise with the unwanted attentions of Iftekhar, the rumors of her affair with Devendra and the attraction she does sense from Devendra. In the midst of all this, there is a prison uprising, soon bought into control, and the first time we hear the guard's call "sab theek hai," (all's well)- when nothing really is quite well, in the country and within the prison.

The crisis passes, and Dr. Devenra proposes to Kalyani. She refuses, saying she is unworthy, and will not listen to reason- how can she resist that beautiful face?

Kalyani wont listen despite all the attempts of fellow-inmate Bela Bose (in a rare, beautiful role). Devendra resigns and leaves town.

Back home, Devendra looks appropriately sexy in his safari jacket, as he meets his mom.

Meanwhile, the kindly jailer coaxes Kalyani to cough up her story.

And out it comes: Kalyani was a village girl living somewhere in Bengal with her father (Raja Paranjpe playing a post master) and nephew. Kalyani meets a freedom fighter Bikash (Ashok Kumar), being house-imprisoned in her village, and falls deliriously in love with him, though he is clueless. She sings "O jogi tu aaya jabse," (She calls him a saint (jogi) since he is a self-less freedom-fighter, and sings of how she feel in love with him at first sight).

And he does propose and her father agrees to the wedding, but before that Bikash needs to go away to prison....

Months pass, and Bikash shows no sign of returning. At last, to Mukesh's "O Jaanewale Ho Sake To Laut Ke Aana" (you, who are leaving, come back home one day), Kalyani leaves home to go to town and seek Bikash out. She ends up in a nursing home, working as a servant, and attending primarily to one particular peevish patient. Kalyani's dad makes his way to town to find her, but dies in a car crash before he can make it. The same day, she realizes that her patient is Bikash's wife.

Devastated, unstable and furious, Kalyani poisons Bikash's wife in the night, and then unable to bear the guilt of her crime, gives herself up to the police in the morning.

And that's her story. The jailer, deeply sympathetic, secures judicial pardon for her and even convinces Devendra (remember him?)'s mom to accept Kalyani as her daughter in law. Kalyani is free now, and being accompanied by a female warden to Devendra's house.

The train station and the shipyard share a common waiting-house. And who should Kalyani meet there but Bikash, sick with TB himself now (good thing she knows how it nurse it, right?) Further, she is informed by Bikash's friend that Bikash only married the other woman since she was a policeman's daughter, and he could ferret secrets for the freedom movement via her.

And as the last, and one of my favorite songs plays, "mere sajan hain us paar" (my lover is on the other side of the shore, and I am here- o boatman), sung by SD Burman himself. Kalyani must decide now- does she go to the waiting Devendra, or follow Bikash?

I have to admit, the movie made me angry initially. Nothing seems to workout for our protoganist, and there is despair in almost every shot. The impending sense of tragedy looms strong even in the happiest of songs, and it appears as of Kalyani is wilfully embracing sadness.
And yet, the reasoning behind Kalyani's choices isn't too hard to understand- SPOILER ALERT: Her independent spirit is unbreakable- rather than choose Devendra's loving kindness, she prefers to master her own destiny and Bikash's by choosing the latter and fighting for his life END OF SPOILER. That at least is understandable- she chose to fall in love with Bikash whom she hero-worshiped. Driven to crime, she chose to atone for it. Her choices are her own and she stands by them, and the movie conveys that brilliantly.

In Seema (1955), Nutan had captured the ignorance and trauma of the character beautifully, and her Kalyani seems to be an extension of that character, just more matured. The fact that she married in 1959 and gave birth to Mohinish in 1963- her personal growth is apparent on screen for us to see; both movies got her Filmfare best actor awards.

1- Its a incredibly compelling movie- every time Nutan's character goes through a hardship, you desperately want things to work out for her, all the while knowing they wont.
2- All the actors work beautifully to highlight Nutan- the movie is tailor made for her. And yet, they fulfill themselves as well: Dhamram, Bela and Ashok are all they could be and very effective- specially Bela, who seldom got such an acting opportunity.
3- The cinematography is brilliant. Color had come to India, but not all directors could afford it. And Kamal Bose, the cinematography doesnt let us miss color for an instant- shadows and light are optimized, as are the outdoor scenes. Angle shots make the drab prison intriguing, and even bring interest to the stagy sets. The shots may remind you of Khamoshi, which he would do a few years later.
4- Bimal Roy (1909-1966) clearly died too early, at a mere 57. He gave us Parineeta, Beegha Zameen, Devdas, Yahudi, Madhumati, Sujata, Naukri- no doubt he could have given us so much more. Like Guru Dutt, a life lost too early.
5- Bandini is an important movie, for the fact that it is one of few Bollywood movies that have focused on the life in a women's prison, and attempted to bring a consciousness of rehabilitation for inmates who had done their time. Their acceptance and integration into society is at least discussed, if not fully conveyed.
6- Can enough be said about its music, its lyrics and songs? Bandini is also important for the fact that it marked almost a 6-year stand off between SD Burman and Lata, where she sings both the love songs, "O Jogi" and "More gora rang lai le,"- and continued to sing for him for years to come. As mentioned, he himself sings the brilliant "Mere Sajan," something he was known to do when he was convinced that he could find no one else to convey a song to his exact specifics. The lyrics for "O Jaane Waale" were by Shailendra, known for his sad songs of separation (his mom died when he was a child- he could never recover from the pain). However, during filming, Bimal Roy and Shalendra argued, leading the then assistant director Gulzar to come up with the rest of the lyrics- his first attempt, and a brilliant one.

1- Dharam's love for Nutan is portrayed so delicately and adorably- I wish it had been developed more, and I wish he had more to do than this extended cameo.
2- Nutan is a brilliant actor, but she has a natural elegance that makes her scenes as a village girl hard to believe. Her inherent poise seeps through the rusticity. Despite that, her portrayal of a inmate is par excellence, her pain and misery are palpable.
3- Seriously- !!!!!SPOILER ALERT: Why would a woman choose Ashok over Dharam, blind as she she may be in love?????????? END OF SPOILER!!!!!

1- This was Gulzar's third and last work as assistant director, before he took off on his own.
2- Dharam is called "Devendra"- the same name as Abhay in "Dev D." Coincidence?
3- Bleak as it is, Bandini gives us hope- to persist and follow our dreams, impossible as they may seem. I need that just now.

April 26, 2009

Feorz Khan (1939-2009)

Nothing is right in the world any more: Feroz Khan has passed away.

Let's pray that his family finds solace and his soul rests easy.

My depression just escalated here.

April 19, 2009

Abhay's doppelganger- or vice versa!

Watching old episodes of Law & Order: Criminal Intent now that I have nothing to do, and felt that Abhay bears a slight resemblance to Vincent D' Onofrio- or maybe its just me.

UPDATE (later the same evening): If you think the 2 bear resemblance to each other, say "yes" in the comment box- if not, say "no- if you cant decide, say "eh" :D
then I can do us a bar chart :D

UPDATE II: Its official! 99% of viewers, twitters and folks I spoke with agree- Abhay may resemble Vincent 20 years from now!

April 16, 2009

Mid-fest Abhay News

Every film festival has its share of gossip, so how could we resist a mid-fest edition of Abhay News?

Lately, the news media have had a field day speculating about Abhay's girlfriend- sometimes she has been "someone in New York," at other times a "British Beauty Queen" (BBQ anyone?), along with the luminous Sonam Kapoor. Which is all rehashed news in bits and pieces from his old interviews and is all good, but then there are the ladies I WISH he would go out with:

1- Minissha Lamba- they look so cute together!

2- Soha Ali Khan- v cute too.

Who do you prefer him with?

Matchmaking done (which I suck at in real life), there is finally insight about his next, which apparently IS curently titled just "Road Movie"- it sounds deliciously surreal and interesting: It’s a film about a journey of a guy who drives a truck of moving cinema through the expanse of Rajasthan and Gujarat. On his way, he meets three characters — a boy, an old man and a woman. It’s a film where reality and fantasy meet. You can read the rest of the interview from which this is extracted here.

Also, by now most of us know of his lecture at Wharton, which incidentally is the B-school I've aspired for a few years now- one day soon I hope.

Meanwhile, the cousins are having their say; Sunny is being appropriately brotherly and complementary (he was in SoCal earlier this month! I suspect for a hair weave!) and prepping for Cheers, which I cant wait for already. Esha says is aspiring to Manorama and Dev D- seriously woman, take an acting class first, and learn to emote with the face, the eyes. She is obviously not getting acting gigs, and should maybe stick permanently to dancing, which she IS good at.

Last on the radar is Dibakar Bannerjee, the brilliant and honest director of "Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!" "and "Khosla Ka Ghosla," who in a interview has discussed potentially making a political thriller with Abhay. Yay!

April 15, 2009

Ahista Ahista (2006)

Abhay's second movie, Ahista Ahista followed a year after Socha Na Tha,and is an important indication of Abhay's inclination towards indies. The big-movie spectacular of his first movie was gone, and in its place was a small, yet significant movie, which I agree with Beth, is a forerunner to Saawariya, (which movie I have been unable to appreciate much, to put it politely). It is also interesting that Imtiaz wrote this as well as Socha ... , and later Jab We Met- the similarities make me wonder if he keeps writing stories around the same basic theme- his next, "Love Aaj Kal" due later this year should help clarify that.

Title: Ahista Ahista
Year: 2006
Cast: Abhay Deol, Soha Ali Khan, Shayan Munshi

The majority of Abhay's movies seem to be based in Old Delhi, and this was the first of the lot. Ankush (Abhay Deol) is one of the tens (if not hundreds) of unemployed young men who make their living by hanging out at the marriage registrar's bureau (its for real, at: Additional District Magistrate, 14, Darya Ganj, Delhi - 110002), and acting as witnesses to weddings for money.

One day he spots Megha (Soha) looking lost at the bureau. Turns out she has run away from her home in Nainital (in the Uttarkhand hills) to get married to her Dheeraj (Shayan Munshi- argh) her boyfriend. I should add here that I have deep-seated dislike for Mr. Munshi- looks like a bit of a humanoid mosquito, and not a cute one either. Hence my natural dislike for his character.

Ankush does the gentlemanly thing and tries to have her stay at his friend's house for the night, since she has little money and nowhere to go. When that doesn't work out, he spends the night at a dargah with her. Megha has little choice but to agree since she isn't prepared to go home quite yet.

Soon enough, the two begin to rely on each other. Ankush finds Megha a job with accommodation at the local church's old age home. Megha in turn inspires Ankush to get a real job: he is soon employed by a bank as a salesperson, opening bank accounts.

More time passes, and Ankush and Megha begin to fall in love, ahista ahista (slowly slowly).

But when one day Ankush runs into Dheeraj- it turns out Dheeraj was delayed but did follow Megha to Delhi, and has been looking for her.


So of course Ankush does the honorable thing, and brings Dheeraj to Megha. They walk away together, while he- apparently goes back to loitering in front of the bureau- it is indicated, though one hopes he gets over it (like he does in Dev D :D).

  1. It is impossible not to empathize with Abhay's character in the movie- so charming, so brilliant- he looks back and smiles and wins you over every time.
  2. The atmosphere- very low key, and in character with lower-middle class Delhi.
  3. The story and scripting- again, low key and honest- it delivers.
  1. Its slow, and can drag in parts if you don't enjoy every frame (as I do) that Abhay breathes life into :)
  2. I have a personal dislike for Shayan Munshi because of his backtracking in the Jessica Lall case. And his acting and voice suck. And he just looks so so- ratty. ughh. I just cant buy that a woman could choose him over Abhay- I know Soha sleepwalks through the movie but her character must have some brains- [sigh].
  3. Soha can do so much better than she does here- maybe she didn't get enough dialogue (though I dont think so), but she just doesn't deliver enough here.
  4. Himesh's vocals, though popular, can drive anyone up the wall, and didn't work for either Abhay or Shayan.
  1. As mentioned before, this was the first of Abhay's Delhi-based movies. It was also in the first wave of Bollywood's current penchant for Delhi locales- what is usual now was very refreshing then.
  2. Abhay's character here is easily the precursor to his Lucky in Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! The difference of course is that Ankush seems to hanker for reform- and Lucky doesnt- both are utterly charismatic.
  3. Abhay and Soha do look cute together- I realise now that their appearance in the tentatively titled "Cheers" is bound to be no more than cameo-status, but I look forward to it nevertheless.
  4. Watch out for singer Sukhwinder Singh's cameo- I think the man really enjoys doing them, but probably doesn't get enough opportunities :D
  5. Abhay's styling is very important in this movie- he has moved from the madness in Socha Na Tha to where we would find him in subsequent movies- regular clothes that work for him (even though he was totally stying in Dev D). I need hardly add that the improved hair gives me complete satisfaction.

Conclusion: See it- the movie is definitely a stepping stone for all involved: Imtiaz went on to Jab We Met, Soha began to delve deeper in Indies and Abhay began to soar!

April 14, 2009

2nd Anniversary!

This past weekend (April 11) was this blog's second anniversary! I thought it was a good thing it was falling alongside the Abhay-fest- very appropriate. Every film festival has little asides, and this can be one of those :)
I've always liked watching movies- but not necessarily Bollywood. And it amazes me how far I've come, introducing myself to the pleasure of Indian movies, so far away from home.
And it is really a relatively recent occurrence.

I grew up watching Jackie Chan, British movies and Hollywood, interspersed with whatever Bollywood offering my mom chose to throw into the video player on a lazy Saturday. This was routine through high school, and I would barely watch 4 movies a month, if that, with 1 of 4 being Bollywood.

Then came moving to Delhi and between work and school and the boyfriend and partying, I had barely time to do laundry, forget visiting the theatre. Since I was living alone and on my own earnings (which were almost nil), couldn't watch movies online (who could afford getting a Internet connection?! me??? hah!) either.

I had the brainwave of taking a sabbatical of 6 months between graduation and work, during which time I flew back to Delhi, lazed, read, travelled and watched zillions of movies.

And I'm really not sure what happened then- the crazier the movie, the better it felt, which made the 60s and 70s my favorite Bollywood period. And they all came rushing back- Shashi, Joy, Feroz, KN Singh, Dev- along with the ladies- Praveen, Dipti, Rekha, Sri- how could I have stayed away from them this long? Why had I not missed them in the interim? I jumped headlong into watching more and more of them, and never looked back.

Much as I loved watching Bollywood, I also had a need to analyse what I was watching- blame it on too many years of analyzing agreements. Plus my only point of reference at the time were the screamingly awful Times of India reviews, which I abhor to this day. Hence the blog.

Two years on, this blog is a blessing that seems to keep on giving. It has meant knowing the amazing people whose blogs I love to read (they're on the blogroll! and those that aren't there are on my favorites!) and who are really fabulous individuals. It has meant watchalongs full of intelligent, witty companionship. It has meant a slight improvement in my communication style, which has always tended towards being blah-wordy.

So here's to another great year, featuring tons of reading and writing!

April 13, 2009

Socha Na Tha

Its great to be posting again, after a work-focussed hiatus of almost a month now. Appropriately, the posts recommence with Socha Na Tha, the first of the long-promised Abhay-festival.

Title: Socha Na Tha
Year: 2005
Cast: Abhay Deol, Ayesha Takia, Apoorva Jha, Ayesha Jhulka, Suresh Oberoi, Sandhya Mridul, Rati Agnihotri, Raj Zutshi.

Despite considerable flaws (but those later), Socha Na Tha avoids being a cliched "young love," story. Here's how-

The movie opens with Abhay and Ayesha primping away in the mirrors of a club's restrooms (separately of course, we are still in Bollywood).

We follow them from the club to the street the next morning to a mall later that day- we are being taught the "so near yet so far" catcheism which will apply to these two through pretty much the rest of the movie. Nicely done, with music taking the place of dialogue, binding scenes seamlessly.

But Abhay has other things to be worried about, besides almost running into Ayesha. No, it isnt his terribly stylist's choice in hair or clothes (which is what SHOULD have annoyed him- it annoyed me no end).

Abhay's worry is Karen, who he has been dating for 3 years, but cannot bring himself to propose to.

Meanwhile, things arent particularly lovely at home either. Abhay's dad, who he addresses by name (a harbinger of scenes to come in Dev D? yes definitely) wants him to quite wasting time and join his office (the family is KKKG status rich- a cliche well if any). Mom agrees, sitting tight in hair-rollers (and scaring me) while sister-in-law Ayesha wears gorgeous sarees throughout the movie, demurely buttering toast (here) or cutting vegetables (elsewhere) [sigh].

The family decides that the best way to make Abhay grow up is have him marry(!) and so they trott him to Ayesha's house, where she lives with her Uncle, Aunt (Rati Agnihotri, too young to look her Aunt or Raj's mom), her cousin (Raj Zutshi), his wife and her cousin Sandhya Mridul (in a role she is wasted in). Surrounded by their teeming relatives, Abhay and Ayesha are both bored and uninterested, but nevertheless end up in Ayesha's room talking, where Abhay tells her about Karen, they agree that he will refuse the match and they become friends.

Abhay's refusal sits badly with the families- they move in the same social circles, and begin to feud all over town, badly though genteelly.

Meanwhile, Abhay and Ayesha also begin to meet, but as friends. The adjacent changing rooms was a cute idea reminicent of 12 O' Clock (1958)'s bathing scene. It makes little sense here (men and women have separate changing stations pretty much in most of India I believe), but is cute regardless.

Soon enough, Ayesha witnesses Abhay's helplessness around Karen, and agrees to help him.

Via a lot of convulated reasoning, Ayesha'a efforts to bring Abhay and Karen closer involve her going with them and their friends to Goa, where we only see Abhay and Ayesha getting closer, though no complaints there.

Unfortunately for them, Ayesha's family finds out and to make matters worse, Abahy shows up at her house to explain matters, but behaving like a jerk instead (shades of Dev D anyone? Yep, I think so). When her family shows up at his house to complain, he behaves even more badly, making things really tough for Ayesha, who pretty much agrees to get married to whoever her Aunt and Uncle decide for her.
Meanwhile, Abhay does well for himself: proposes to Karen, meets her parents and wins their approval.

But he begins to miss Ayesha, preferring to watch her videos from Goa rather than focus on getting his family to agree to his wedding with Karen.

And he does win Ayesha over as well,

... but too late- he has come back to where he started at: his family has agreed to have him married to Karen, and hate Ayesha wholeheartedly.


So follows comedy with Abhay insulting karen's parents in the hope that they'll break off the wedding,

and cladestine meetings with Ayesha (very cute)...

... and when Karen's parents still dont break off the wedding Abhay basely jumps off the roof and runs away...

... to Ayesha's house where her aunt has match-made her (Ayesha's) wedding with her (Ayesha's) ex-boyfriend. [Love Ayesha's bedroom wall- its tribal art from Bastar, Madhya Pradesh- am going to paint 1 wall in my house the same way.]

Not wanting her aunt and uncle embarassed further, Ayesha throws Abhay out, and for once the hero of a Bollywood movie does the smart thing, which saves the movie again by preventing a time-tested cliche. He confesses all to Karen's family, who throw him out as well.

And again unlike a Bollywood hero, he goes back to hearth and home,

... and goes to work like a decent person.

Meanwhile, Karen upholds the tradition of the Bollywood "other" "nice" "Christian" woman, and goes to tell off Ayesha- that Abhay loves only her and she should see sense.

And of course Ayesha does, after a quick hug to her sympathetic cousin- couldnt resist another screenshot of my favorite wall, sorry.

By divine intervention (I kid) she knows Abhay is in his office, being congratulated by his dad and brother for a job well done.

Abhay is very cool and properly dismayed to hear that Ayesha has run off from her engagement party to be with him, and wants him to elope.

Nevertheless, he argues with her right into the waiting taxi....

.... as his dad and brother watch with mellow resignation.

And that's it! Love abounds and wedding pix follow :D

  1. Ayesha who glows and shines and steals the scenes she is in.
  2. Abhay, who rises ABOVE the awful stying and makes a really decent acting debut.
  3. Imtiaz Ali, who prevents the story from becoming the potential cliched disaster it could, and uses camera angles and sets to refreshing goodness.
  4. The music, while not a classic for the ages, ties the movie together, tightening the narrative, taking away nothing. Intelligently done.


  1. I am so tired of older female actors being delegated aunt/sister roles when their male counterparts still play heroes. Granted, the ladies in question here (Ayesha Jhulka, even Rati, though her contemps are mostly all playing "character" roles now) arent known for their brilliant performances, but its still a legit crib.
  2. The fashions all around- seriously, I cant imagine what they were thinking. Special slam to Abhay's stylist (last time I promise)- he looks like he has a receding hairline here!
  3. The sets, along with #2 con, end up giving the movie a mid-late 90s feel.


  1. Apoorva does well as Karen, but it was hard to notice her with Ayesha and Abhay owning every scene they came in.
  2. Its obvious that Abhay uses his Viren here to portray his Dev in Dev D. The little mannerisms and quirks all evolved into the later character beautifully.
  3. I've seen very few men, on screen and for real, who look better when they are thin and gangly vs. when they are well-built. There is muscle on Abhay here (though he aint ripped, no), but he loses tons of weight and muscle to look vastly better in his very next movie, Ahista Ahista. Go figure.

And In Conclusion: Watch it, and even if you get tired somewhere in the middle (as I did), muster through for the refreshing end.