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Thursday, December 08, 2005

waq't ne kya kiya haseen sit'm

Ah the magic of movies, bioscopes as they were called in the early days of the silent movies. There were traveling 'companies' that would roam from village to village, propping up white bed sheets for a screen. A 'mushki' a water-carrier stationed himself behind the screen. In the sultry summer heat the screen was liable to catch fire. His job was to moisten the screen to prevent it from heating up.

Sometimes, a team of musicians accompanied the bioscope to provide live musical interludes. The popularity of the medium soon made way for permanent cinema houses. First open air, then enclosed, then with fans billowing, followed by air-conditioned theatres and finally completing the cycle, the drive-ins.

The 'silent' were followed with 'talkies', then colour, cinemascopes, which is the norm now. Don't know if any Todd-AOs or 70mms, or 16mm or straight-on-video were attempted.

Dadasaheb Phalke is generally acknowledged as the Jinnah of Indian Cinema (thought I would throw it in and check your pulse.) He made the first feature film Raja Harischandra. Ardeshir Irani's Alam Ara (1931) has the distinction of being the first talkie. The first colour film is a toss up between Mehboob Khan's Aan and Sohrab Modi's Jhansi ki Raani.

(As a purist of sorts, I dislike the term Bollywood. I like Indian classics. Hence Bollywood---- mid 80's onwards has diminished relevance for me----for the moment.)

There is magic in them old stalwarts, V. Shantaram, A.J. Kardar (Pakistani Cricket Captain A.H. Kardar's brother or cousin?), Sohrab Modi, Mehboob Khan and others.

German art noveau surrealism of the mid to late 30's appeared in late 40's in India. If you watch some of the movies made circa 1950, you will notice their impact. Guru Dutt's Kaghaz ke Phool epitomized this trend. For the song sequence Waqt ne kiya kya haseen sitam (Sung by Geeta Dutt:Music by Sachin Dev Burman: Lyrics by Kaifi Azmi) Guru dutt had half the roof of Mehboob Studios knocked down to get the exact light and shadow effect. Attention to detail, mastery over direction and excellent cinematography are the hall mark of this period.

My biggest criticism of Indian Movies is their unrealistic story lines. Here I would have to concede that some movies made by the 'alternate' film makers, dubbed as art films, in the eighties and nineties have much more realistic story out lines.

But even the best of these somehow fail in comparison with the best of the rest in world cinema.

I would be hard pressed to compare Yimou Zhang's Raise the Red Lantern (with Li Gong), Fellini's Amarcord or 8 1/2, Henri Clouzot's Diabolique, Kurosewa's Seven Samurai, Rainier Fassbinder's marathon 930min long Berlin-Alexanderplatz, Ingmar Bergman's Cries and Whispers, Luis Bunuel's Golden Age, Vittorio de Sica's Bicycle Thief, or even little known gems such as Patrice Leconte's Hairdresser's Husband, Gabriel Axel's Babette's Feast or action movie like Wolfgang Petersen's Das Boot with the best in Indian Cinema.

Why? I will be honest. I don't know the answer. Can only speculate. Perhaps it has to do with culture. Movies are a reflection of their surroundings. Suspension of disbelief, someone once said of movies. Shall have to do some more soul searching.

Here is my list of favourite classic Indian Hindi/Urdu movies. This list surfaced first in Veeresh's articile. This is a partial list in no particular order.

Balraj Sahni:...................Garam Hawa
Nargis (Fatima Rashid):.........Mother India
Nur Jehan:......................Anmol GaRRhi
Gulzar (Sampooran Singh):.......Maachis (film)
................................Mirza Ghalib(teleplay)
Guru Dutt (Padukone):...........Kaghaz ke Phool
Mehboob Khan:...................Mother India
Madhubala (Mumtaz Jehan):.......Mughal-e-Azam/Barsaat ki raat
K (Karimuddin) Asif:............Mughal-e-Azam
Dev Anand (Devdutt Pishorimal Anand):..Guide
Waheeda Rehman:.................ChaudhwiN ka Chand
Meena Kumari (Mahjabeen Bux):...Dil ek Mandir/ Sahib, Bibi aur Ghulam
Raj (Ranbirraj) Kapoor:.........Jaagte Raho
Amitabh Bachchan:...............Sholay
Muzaffar Ali:...................Umrao Jaan Ada
Dilip Kumar (Yusuf Khan):.......Devdas or Ganga Jumna
Shabana Azmi:...................Ankur
Satyajit Ray:...................Shatranj ke Khialri

Honourable mention: Shyam Benegal, Nasiruddin Shah, Smita Patil, Nutan, Sanjeev Kumar, Aamir Khan, Shah Rukh Khan, Nanditi Das, Ashok & Kishore Kumar, Shashi & Shammi Kapoor, Kamal Haasan, Om & Amrish Puri, Mani Raatnam, Nana Patekar, Givind Nihilani.

And now, some drum roll please...am torn... between Garam Hawa, Kaghaz ke Phool, Mother India, Sahib, Bibi aur Ghulam, Umrao Jaan Ada and Mughal-e-Azam.

Help!

2 Comments:

Blogger Vivek said...

Beautiful blog.

When I was a kid, I watched a few movies from bioscope: education and culture department brought movies to small towns through this means (shown in Swadesh too).

You've missed out on Basu Chatterjee and Hrishikesh Mukherjee as well as Bimal Roy and Rajkapoor. Without them, we lose out on some of the best movies of fifties, sixties and seventies!

February 03, 2006 8:34 AM  
Blogger temporal said...

yes indeed!

thanks

February 05, 2006 2:18 PM  

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