mini reviews

100 words each on the weird (even for me) assortment of films I've seen in the last two months. Gotta get the writing motor going again.

Lukochuri 1958
Kishore Kumar has a double role as twins in this Bengali film about the sisters they love,
twin-related mix-ups (surprise), parental approval, and the world of Bombay filmmaking. There are other good performers too (like Mala Sinha), but it's 100% his film. The best moments are the digs at the film industry
and this brilliant, loony song that the non-industry Kishore does while impersonating his singer brother, making a point about the lack of quality in today's films and music.
And lest you forget this is a Bengali film, the eyes of RabTag are upon thee even in Bombay!

Thana Theke Aschi 1965
I don't know how to say anything about this story of death, interrogation, and knowledge without spoiling it, so just know that you should reserve judgement of it until the very last frame.
Atmosphere!
If you don't speak Bengali (or don't watch with someone who does), you'll probably be incredibly lost. It's director Hiren Nag's first film; his fourth, Andha Atit, discussed below, continues this thoughtful, unconventional-ish use of Uttam Kumar.

Jibon Mrityu 1967
The Bengali original of the Dharmendra and Rakhee film of the same name, which I have seen twice and cannot remember anything about other than the two leads having a fun classroom debate and Dharmendra's disguises. Beyond the emo suffering and revenge-seeking by Uttam Kumar and the sparks he has in the romantic bits with Supriya Debi*, this version, also by Hiren Nag (his second film), doesn't stand out to me either. Aside: I find the Uttam-to-Dharmendra conversion fascinating—it makes little sense on paper, yet it works. Does it happen elsewhere in addition to Chadmabeshi/Chupke Chupke?

Sansar 1971
Another subtitle-less Soumitra film, apparently about industrial espionage with contrasting depictions of class (?)
Much of the runtime is spent in people's homes, and I like comparing these interiors and what they suggest about the characters. In these pairs, the left shows the middle-class family's home (the inventors of the textile equipment in the cycle rickshaw above) and the right, their bosses'. One plays music live, the other has a groovy hi-fi. One comforts each other, one clutches a fluffy lap dog.

Enjoy the Many Moods of Soumitra: relaxed, annoyed, action sequence, and menacing with a hockey stick.
Soumitra + sports equipment = cognitive dissonance.

Andha Atit 1972
Evidence that Uttam Kumar was not afraid to let himself age beyond romantic lead and simplistically heroic behavior...which is not to say this is his finest acting, because it certainly isn't. It's an interesting little mystery that spans about ten years and weaves together personal dramas that don't seem to relate. I had no idea where it was going. Supriya Debi is good as his determined, distressed wife.
Warning: if you watch this on the Angel youtube channel, be aware that the description on each upload has major spoilers.

Bond 303 1985
I simply do not buy Jeetendra as a spy, but this film is so full of other delights that I can overlook him. Plenty of bleep-bloop equipment, Parveen Babi bursting through a ceiling and kicking ass, vengeful Helen, a mangy bear-suit monster,
and Tom Alter being named Tom Alter. When a magician conjures up a backing band wearing black capes emblazoned with skulls, there is vast glee both in the thing itself and in the realization that there are still such wonders waiting to be discovered.
Not quite Wardat, but fun—and recommended.

Classic Dance of Love 2005
Babbar Subhash has directed Mithun in films like Disco Dancer, Dance Dance, and Commando, all terrible in their own way yet not a patch on this. Mithun has advanced into villain,
a hypocritical guru type who teaches people to eschew sensual pleasures to be successful, leaving "hero" open to this guy, who is utterly unqualified to attempt advanced filmi tasks like mesh shirts and arm-flings.
Sexuality is a weapon in this movie, used against and by women. It's an okay idea for a story, but there's zero chemistry, and the continual leering over the heroine's body feels exploit-y.

Ayynoorum Ayynthum (500 & 5) 2012 (?)
Five stories are linked by a 500 note. There are passages when this film is far too on-the-nose—a madman standing all alone in frame after frame shouting his manifesto about the evils of money before political thugs arrive to bludgeon him—but when it focuses on what 500 can mean to different people, it's pretty interesting. The middle segment about a confident young woman who values her friends's needs over workplace rules and demands is the most subtle and compelling.

Revolver Rani 2014
At this point, the only thing that could make me want to see another corrupt politician from a Hindi-speaking non-metropolis is flipping something in the formula, so the idea of Revolver Rani is attractive. I'm not sure the film contains and supports all that goes into and out of Kangana's wild, violent, passionate Rani.
The film does not question a woman running in a man's world or cornering a male love interest in ways heroines often get treated,
but what is intended as complexity feels like scattered pieces (I wrote "Gabbar Singh/Miss Piggy/Lucille Ball" in my notes).

Happy New Year 2014
Save for a few very precise, specific moments—the Shalimar nod, Abhishek's snake dance, Sonu Sood at the steam pipes, the giant Indian flag on the jumbotron, SRK handing Jackie Shroff a [spoiler]—HNY disappoints me. SRK's character is a total ass (such hatred that movie expressed for Deepika's character's vocation and social position), Boman's too clownish, and everyone's underdeveloped. Thieves hiding as dancers is a great concept for a filmi spectacular, but here the heist and the dance competition distract from one another somehow. Come on, Farah.

* I know.

Comments

Miranda said…
How does one write about Supriya and Uttam without gossipy comments? Solved: asterisks.

Also, speaking of Kishore and Bengali films, I've heard there's only one Hemanta + Kishore duet in Bengali films "dustaro parabar periye "... which I have a hard time believing. Any idea of the veracity of that? The above song is so great, I hope not.
Beth Watkins said…
Their romance was ruined for me when I read in a bio of him some quote of his about how he was her cloud-capped star and she was the cloud and gag gag gag.

Re: duets: I am TERRIBLE at remembering anything about songs. My impression is that Kishore did not sing in all that many Bengali films, relatively, but that would still leave plenty of room for more than one such duet. I'll ask around.
Filmi Geek said…
Miranda I have a Bengali friend who would likely know the answer to your question - I will ask her later today.

Beth, you managed to say in one paragraph what it took me 1000 words to say about Happy New Year. Also, thank you! for the link to the "brilliant, loony" Kishore song.

One more thing: The text that the captcha below is asking me to enter to prove I'm not a robot? 420.
Beth Watkins said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Beth Watkins said…
Miranda - I hope FG's friend can tell us!

FG - Thank you! And you will love Lukochuri - I thought I told you about it when I watched it, but in case I didn't, count this as a recommendation that you specifically will love it very much. :)
Miranda said…
Thanks to both of you :) Looks like I need to check out Lukochuri, as well.

It is funny, this Uttam to Dharmendra remake track. [But I guess, if I were a producer picking someone for early Soumitro, I can only think of Shashi.] I wonder how much that helped D. in his early career! Obvs. Rajesh and Raaj Kumar both remade Uttam films, too--but then, Lal Pathar is clearly a departure from Uttam's usual image. Dharmendra is the only Hindi contemporary that marginally fits Uttam. All the other "gentleman" stars are aging rapidly (Ashok, Dilip) or out of the picture (Guru). I guess maybe Rajendra Kumar or Joy Mukherjee? Nice, yes, but *snore*

Do you know of other Bombay stars that remade Uttam's or even Soumitro's commercial films?
Beth Watkins said…
The only early Soumitro remake I know of is Akash Kusum, which stars Amitabh in the Hindi remake (many years later). http://bethlovesbollywood.blogspot.com/2014/05/akash-kusum-and-manzil.html
I'm not sure I agree that Dharmendra is the only Hindi contemporary that fits Uttam…for starters, which era are they supposed to be contemporary to? Like, if we're talking early or mid 50s, I think Dilip or Dev could do it. IMO Joy Mukherjee should not do anything ever because of said snore. SO MUCH OF SNORE. I found a big remake list recently…must go look for it.
Beth Watkins said…
Oh duh, I totally forgot: Saat Pake Bandha becomes Kora Kagaz, with Vijay Anand in Soumitro's role and Jaya Bhaduri in Suchitra's.

Now that I have thought about it a bit more, here is the problem with talking about Bengali films as remake sources: they so often come from novels or short stories that it's hard to say whether a subsequent Hindi film is a remake of the Bengali film OR just another adaptation of the same source. I assume that at least in some cases the success of a Bengali film based on X would prompt the Bombay filmmakers to try X too, so some of these are probably sorta-remakes at least in spirit, and maybe also in particular details, approaches, changes to the stories, etc. With that in mind, here are some:
• Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam, where Uttam Kumar becomes Guru Dutt.
• Sabar Uparey is based on an English novel; in Kala Pani a few years later, Dev Anand has UK's role.
• Comedy of Errors appears in Bengali as Bhranti Bilas with UK and in Hindi as Do Dooni Char with Kishore Kumar and then Angoor with Sanjeev Kumar.
Beth Watkins said…
Aaand I am an even bigger idiot for not remembering that Prem Patra with Shashi is a remake of Uttam-Suchitra's Sagarika! I haven't seen the Bengali version yet and I somehow fear that Uttam will be in ACT!ING! mode. Which is no hindrance. :)
Aparna said…
Thana Theke Aschhi stayed with me for a long time - maybe because I watched it when I was 18-19. Not too sure of the source of the story, but it was "different".
Beth Watkins said…
Aparna - Yes, definitely not a story I'd ever read/heard/seen before!
Miranda said…
This remake topic is so massive, I'm constantly running into it :D
I recently watched the Tamil original of Sadma (starring the same leads), and happened across a quote from Sridevi. "Nothing could equal the improvisational magic of the original," or something like that.
Accurate or not, it's interesting that Sadma is the one that gets the attention and the Hulu slot.

Sagarika-Prem Patra, Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam, and Akash Kusum I knew about--but managed to forget. And that's a great point about the ongoing phenomenon of separate regional adaptations of original source material and the murkiness of tracing inspiration.... Even Deep Jele Jai and Khamoshi fit into that category.

A very MESSY category. Who's to say whether SLB was more inspired for Ram Leela from the play, from Gujarati folktales, or from Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet? But then BL was reportedly inspired by Bollywood (so now my head hurts).

Originally, I was thinking Dharmendra, not b/c I am particularly fanatical about him, but b/c:
(a) His oft urbane image that sort of straddles the ideals for 50s and 70s stars
(b) and a shaky assumption that a lot of remakes in the 50s-60s often happened 4-6 years after the original film. If that happened with Uttam, then late 60s stars would have been "contemporaries" for his late 50s-early 60s work.

But obviously, whenever they happen, remakes aren't carbon copies, even if they go the frame-by-frame route. In another language with different stars, a director just can't really reproduce the first film's artistic equation, and probably shouldn't try. So I guess when I say that only Dharmendra "fits" in the late 60s (altho, I could see Guru or Dev c. 1958 *adapting* Uttam characters easily) I really mean that no one else reminds me of Uttam. Which is circular and silly, now I see it boiled down, lol.

In reality, as soon as Joy *cough* or Guru is cast in the role, it becomes *theirs*, and no longer Uttam's, you know? I feel like there are very few stars with enough cross-regional clout to repel contemporary adaptations of their own work. SRK and Rajnikanth perhaps? I personally wouldn't want to be a producer trying to remake their stuff.
Miranda said…
Oh, I forgot. On Prem Patra, and Sagarika, I haven't been able to stomach the premise, either. I can't say I'm against ACT!ING! in principle, but sometimes I make the mistake of reading the first half of plot summaries. Silly-Miranda, forgetting that summaries love to talk about rape threats, lost loves, angry parents, and not all the potential good stuff in between ;)

Beth Watkins said…
Accidentally just deleted this comment from wutheringwillow (https://apaperbacklife.wordpress.com/):
Aparna, 'Thana Theke Aschhi' is based on the 1945 play 'An Inspector Calls' by J. B. Priestley. My mom absolutely loves this movie but then she loves anything Uttam.
Beth Watkins said…
Miranda -
This is not really on topic, but I am completely befuddled by the love of Moondram Pirai (Sadma). I find it creepy in the extreme. It's not magic. It's pedophilia.

Anyway. There is no arguing with the very subjective and personal concept of who someone is reminded of, and I too find something Uttam-y about Dharmendra sometimes. As you say, Dharmendra is not always a tough guy and have some very romantic turns.

Re: a role becoming someone else's: I kind of doubt most contemporary audiences of Hindi films ever thought of these roles as Uttam's (or otherwise Bengali). I can't prove it, but I just don't get the sense that lots of Hindi film fans at the time are watching (or have the chance to watch) Bengali films. Unless they're Bengalis, and then, if we go by stereotypes, very little would be likely to unseat the idea of a role or film being Uttam's. At least one attempt by Uttam to remake his own role in Hindi that I know of (Agni Pariksha/Chhoti Si Mulaqat) was a financial disaster. He has the same role in Bandie as in Jhinder Bondi; not sure how successful it was (not very, if a general lack of awareness of its existence is anything to go by) or if anyone viewed it as a remake (back to the question of source).
Miranda said…
Sadma/Moondram Pirai is absolutely gross if you read it the way most people seem to--as a love story. OR even if you see it as another in a long line of films where heroes get their female iconography all muddled. No, a woman does not (cannot)be child, lover, mother, saint all at once. Stahp. To me it seemed like a fractured fairytale or fable with unnecessary romance mixed in.
Beth Watkins said…
Totally. "Dear sir - please stop imagining the mentally five-year-old woman (whom you know full well is as such, because otherwise she wouldn't be at your house) as a bride." Ughghgh - he's a teacher, too, on top of all that, isn't he?
Miranda said…
Good point. Perhaps children (ick) are the only people he relates to. Thru-out the film he's only happy when acting like a child himself. So there's a VERY possible reading that HE'S the emotionally stunted one, not her. After all, she gets over it.
Beth Watkins said…
I'd have to watch it again (which I won't) to comment very intelligently, but that makes (relative) (filmi) sense I suppose. Except he knows he's adult, unlike poor Sri.
wutheringwillow said…
Balu Mahendra said that ‘Moondram Pirai’ was based on his relationship with actress Shobha. According to him they had been married for two years when she committed suicide. She was 19 when she died. So, she must have been about 17 when ‘that’ happened. He was 23 years older than her. Even though she wasn’t 5 years old but at 17 years she still was a kid. Taking a leap here but maybe he thought there was nothing wrong with a 40 plus man being involved with a kid. (Yuck!)
Beth Watkins said…
Ha! You're probably right. Gah.
Timothy Liebe said…
RE: HAPPY NEW YEAR

Boman Irani's too clownish? SRK's an ass? Say it ain't so, Beth! :D

SRK's always rode that rolling log between "likable" and "asshole", and while he's rarely fallen off I guess it was just a matter of time before he did spectacularly. I like him in the same way I like American B/Television actors like Nathan Fillion and Bruce Campbell - except both of them are very much B/C List performers with a loyal but not huge cult following, not One Of The World's Richest Actors so nobody can pull him back if he goes too far.

Irani has always been "clownish" and larger-than-life, even in roles where he's probably not meant to be (like HUM TUM AUR GHOST or SORRY BHAI). At this point it's what you get when you cast him....
Beth Watkins said…
I honestly can't say whether I have never found most of SRK's characters to be an ass OR whether other things in the film distracted me from putting my mind to it. :) Except for DDLJ, in which I think he is a total ass.

I can't agree with you about Boman Irani. I have seen him in some roles where I thought he was truly very nuanced and subtle OR in which hammy tendencies are harnessed for good - 99, the Don films, Honeymoon Travels, Khosla Ka Ghosla, Bluffmaster, Being Cyrus, maybe even Jolly LLB. It's not a majority of his performances (or in the scripts he chooses to take), but I won't label him with the "always" brush.
Aparna said…
Thanks Beth, that explains it - the movie seemed too different to be original.
It is true that many hindi films were made from bengali films, which were adapted from literary stories. Of course that can lead to confusion whether the hindi film should be considered a remake or adapatation of the original source (story/novel). But this confusion only arises if one goes just by the story and not by the screenplay of the film.

It's quite simple actually. If the screenplay of a hindi film based on a bengali film, is similar?same by 50 percent or more, and both the films have the same literary origin, then the hindi film is by all means the remake of the bengali film. Eg. Take Deep Jele Jai & Khamoshi. The screenplay, even the frames are almost identical in both the films, thus making it a clear case of remake rather than adaptation, even though both the films are based on the same story-Nurse Mitra by Ashutosh Mukhopadhyay. This goes for films like Jeevan Mrityu, Padosan, Chupke Chupke, Mere Apne, Bawarchi, Prem Patra etc too.

On the other hand, Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Devdas cannot be called a remake of Bimal Roy's Devdas, simply because the screenplays of the films are very different. The same logic applies for Bimal Roy's Devdas too, when one compares it with P.C.Barua's Devdas. In this case, its only fair to say that all 3 versions are adapatations of the original novel, rather than remakes of each other. But this logic cannot be applied to films like Chupke Chupke or Kora kagaz. It is fair only to say that such films are remakes, not adaptations of the original story/novel.
Beth Watkins said…
MAD - That's definitely a very clear way to look at it, but it might not always take into account the role one film might play in inspiring a later crew to look at the same story, whether or not the second film re-does the first film's script OR re-does the first film's source material. I wish there were another term for that relationship, even if it's one that relies on the creative team talking about the film rather than anything we can observe and know with certainty from outside the process.