Column: Indradhanush was our Stranger Things!

Sridevi, Karan Johar, Tabu… my week was all about time travel and pleasant encounters with the super young avatars of Bollywood’s famous folk.

Monday
Only a couple of days ago, I shared a random list of Hindi film songs that make me cry when a discerning aficionado brought up Zindagi Ke Safar Mein Guzar Jaate Hain.

Few compositions articulate regret like this one immersed in Anand Bakshi’s ink and Rahul Dev Burman’s melody — it’s like three-fourths of Aap Ki Kasam is a run-up to the song.

The lyrics continue to play on my mind as I recall them in the context of the film, a first-time directorial effort by J Om Prakash (also Hrithik Roshan’s maternal grandfather) starring Rajesh Khanna and Mumtaz.

Aap Ki Kasam concerns itself with the duo’s extensive courtship, subsequent marriage and trouble in paradise after Khanna suspects Mumtaz of an extra-marital affair with his best friend.

In the bitter confrontation scene to follow, a disgusted Mumtaz refuses to offer any clarification. She’s surprised by his callous behavior and rejects the idea of a relationship based on distrust. Eventually, she moves on while a remorseful Khanna spends a lifetime atoning for his actions.

Though far from perfect, the 1974 melodrama has its moments of merit. Beyond the vibrant soundtrack, glamour of its superhit star jodi and the moronic logic it subscribes to every now and then, it also examines the fragility of marriage as well as the repercussions of dark impulses.

A happy ending secured at the cost of self-respect is hardly triumphant. Impressive how Aap Ki Kasam doesn’t pander to audience expectations allowing Mumtaz to retain her pride and see Khanna for the cad he really is.

Mumtaz and Rajesh Khanna in Aap Ki Kasam

Tuesday
What’s that? OMG, a friendship request on Facebook from the writer of a cult show? Not just any but my favourite from childhood.

Flashback: In the 1980s, sleeping late on Sunday mornings amounted to sacrilege, wherein every kid’s ritual involved waking up early and stay glued in front of the television set all day.

One of my happiest memories from those days is watching the children’s sci-fi fantasy, Indradhanush on Doordarshan. For years I sulked about its hastily wrapped up final episode.

All its 12 episodes are now available on YouTube, it’s certainly aged in terms of SFX but the action and writing is solid. It’s amusing to witness filmmaker Karan Johar’s goofball as one of the uniform-clad boys, director Ashutosh Gowariker, ever fascinated by the past, as a lawyer in 1942 and Urmila Matondkar depicting futuristic fashion in a Rohini Hattangadi’s Chaalbaaz-reminiscent hairdo.

The serial’s plot revolves around a bunch of smart kids, their endeavours to build a computer, an alien prince inhabiting it, a time-traveling device and their adventures around the past and future.

School-going science nerds staying up late in a private hideout, mysterious disappearance of one of their friends, worried parents, squabbling siblings, protective older brother, curious school teacher, the 1980s — thematically it may be closer to Back to the Future but, in soul, Indradhanush is our Stranger Things, the Netflix original series that’s taken the world by storm.

A still from Indradhanush

Wednesday
It takes a lot to distract me from Khayyam’s exquisite score in Bazaar. Except I haven’t watched the film in ages and the visuals are too colourful to ignore.

Amidst a crowd of striking ladies engaged in the wedding sangeet ditty, Chale Aao Saiyaan, I spot a shy, self-conscious preteen — of smooth tresses and lyrical eyes. Who knew then how much depth they would convey?

A still from Bazaar

The sensitive looking girl is Tabu, of course, and I don’t have to wait for a close-up to confirm that.

Tabu in Bazaar

Thursday
It’s Janmashtami!

Krishna has enjoyed quite a range of representation in our movies — from baby Sridevi’s rendering of his Gopi-teasing phase in the S V Ranga Rao mythological Yashoda Krishna or as the focus of Hema Malini’s eternal devotion in Gulzar’s divine romance, Meera.

Baby Sridevi

Friday
Discovery of the day: Long before Miley Cyrus made twerking popular, Mala Sinha vigorously demonstrates how it’s done.

Is this why she was your favourite actress, dad?

Mala Sinha

Saturday
Aryan and Suhana Khan, Navya Naveli, Sara and Ibrahim Ali Khan, Karan Deol, Jhanvi Kapoor, so on and so forth.

These kids are already part of Bollywood’s stinking tabloid culture where their photographs or random sightings become news. It’s like one section of the media has already declared them as stars. It won’t be long before another section of the media complains about the entitlement and nepotism.

Certainly, there was some interest in knowing a little about our favourite star’s family before too.

When I was growing up, I’d see a picture of Ranbir or Sonam Kapoor or Athiya Shetty in the magazines attending parties or an assigned family photo shoot but everything was well within the line of decency and privacy.

Today, the obsession is creepy.

Do these youngsters crave attention and ensure this sort of coverage? I haven’t yet reached that point of cynicism to believe that. These boys and girls are too young to be exploited for gossip. Let them willingly announce their participation in show business before the scrutiny begins?
Athiya Shetty in Hero

Sunday
I had created a Bollywood Mash Up Meme, where I mix and match one movie’s scene with another’s famous dialogue.

One look at this scene from Shahenshah, of baddies coming across the Big B’s costumed vigilante, and I knew I am going to have fun with it.

If you don’t recognise the lines, you’re probably from another planet.

Shahenshah meets Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron

This column was first published on rediff.com.

Previously on Super Filmi Week:
When Saif Ali Khan wore Rishi Kapoor’s sweater
Getting nostalgic about the 1980s, Winona Ryder & Kishore Kumar
Rediscovering Gulzar’s Ghalib & finding Free Love
Applauding NTR’s Superman on screen!
Tripping on A R Rahman
A millipede and Kimi Katkar’s monsoon romance
Udta Punjab, worst casting decisions, and naheeee…!
Of warring Khan bhakts and meeting Mogambo!
Ranbir’s forgotten romance in Bachna Ae Haseeno
Funnier than Aishwarya’s lips
Clashing superheroes and crying Khans
OCDing on Neetu Singh’s LPs!
Garam Dharam, Mantrik Origins, Rockstar Cruise

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Column: When Saif Ali Khan wore Rishi Kapoor’s sweater

Starring Raj Kapoor’s dream of a better India, Rishi Kapoor’s trendsetting sweaters and Ranbir Kapoor’s self-introspection, my week could well be titled Kal Aaj Aur Kal.

Monday
Dekha hai teri aankhon mein pyar hi pyar beshumar— Dharmendra fawning over Vyjayanthimala and her trademark kohl-lined eyes on the television screen catch my attention. Nothing overdramatic about his assertions except there is a lot more to the legend’s big, expressive eyes — easily her best feature — than ardour.

The yesteryear actress and doyenne of dance, who just turned 80, conveys a world of drama and depth through them. “I was taught to be a dancer. We speak with our eyes,” she told a newspaper in a recent interview.

Be it doubt, distress, desire, mischief, melancholy, conceit or coyness, the Madhumati star’s eyes mirror her on screen state of mind like few can. Made this collage as a tribute to the one about whom Kishore Kumar sang, “aankhon se sama gayi dil mein.”
Vyjayanthimala
Tuesday
Beta, sweater pehno!

What are the odds of Saif Ali Khan prancing about in a sweater Rishi Kapoor wore in the same year as him romancing the same heroine as him? As your friendly neighbourhood Bollywood trivia scavenger, I am more than happy to answer that.

So there’s this off-white sweater with large maroon, blue and green spheres sported by Kapoor, championing the cause of knitted fashion since forever, in a lake scene of Saajan Ki Baahon Mein (1995) co-starring Raveena Tandon. It’s one of those rotten melodramas you think you’ve forgotten about completely until they return to haunt you on YouTube.

Now I’ve watched the lovey-dovey Chaha Toh Bahut in Harry Baweja’s Imtihaan (1995) way too many times to get it wrong. As suspected, Saif is wearing the exact same jumper whilst cozying up to Raveena before a campfire in the concluding bit of the melody.

Wonder if their common love interest noticed any similarity and pointed it out to either of her co-stars.
Saif Ali Khan, Rishi Kapoor
Wednesday
An intricate mystery from Hollywood’s collection of golden classics goes a long way in shaking off some of the disappointment of three consecutive movies (Rustom, Mohenjo Daro, Suicide Squad).

Like its tagline suggests, The Honey Pot, directed by Joseph L Mankiewicz, “cordially” invites you to enjoy and perhaps even solve a “perfectly elegant case of murder.” It’s a sophisticated, sharp whodunit peppered with romance, intrigue, humor and seductive Rex Harrison as the millionaire –both controlling and at the centre of all the action transpiring inside his palatial abode in Venice.

Based on two plays (Mr Fox of Venice and Volpone) and a novel (The Evil of the Day), the 1967 film blends its multiple resources to weave a shrewd tour de force enriched by terrific performances, lush production values and delightful dialogue.

If you haven’t watched it but plan to, the lesser you read about it, the more satisfying its surprise.
Rex Harrison in The Honey Pot
Thursday
It’s Raksha Bandhan! And since it falls on the same day as my classics column, I pick Raj Kapoor’s fifth film as producer Boot Polish, which, among other things like desire for a India’s progress post-independence, poignantly highlights the affectionate bond between a brother and sister. As stated in my article, what I like most is how their relationship plays itself out naturally without relying on stereotypical symbolism.

Later that evening, I attend the screening of Happy Bhag Jayegi, directed by Mudassar Aziz for producer Anand L Rai. The latter’s Tanu Weds Manu is a visible influence on this Indo-Pak comedy of chaos, especially Jimmy Shergill’s once again rebuffed by the bride character.

Despite the potential of its ambitious premise, Happy Bhag Jayegi doesn’t quite soar. Like I wrote in my review, its “creativity has the texture of a well-meaning school play, where kids generate excitement by reacting excessively to any situation or yelping at the top of their voice. What’s cute there seems daft here.”
Happy Bhag JayegiFriday
Subconsciously one knows that it’s only a matter of time before Ranbir Kapoor bounces back in a manner show business measures success. This belief is only strengthened after hearing his views in a fascinating new interview to journalist Rajeev Masand where the 33-year-old talks about his flops, future, heartbreak, love for football and two dogs –Leo and Guido.

The duo caught up at his grandfather Raj Kapoor’s sprawling Chembur home. At some distance, I spot an old porch swing facing the neatly mown lawn. It’s the same one you’ll see in Simi Garewal’s documentary on the showman, specifically a clip of the latter’s birthday celebration sitting on the said swing flanked by his knee-high grandkids – Kareena, Riddhima and Ranbir.

At one point in the video, RK Sr tells a reluctant Ranbir to go inside and change into a nicer outfit.

Years later, it’s surreal to see his grown-up self welcoming the need for change, (even if for completely different reasons) “I am in that phase where I have to change, my films have to change, my pocket of expressions have to change, the tricks in my magic bag have to change.”

I don’t know if this is Ranbir at his most candid or critical. But I cannot think of a more self-aware actor in this industry.
Ranbir Kapoor in TamashaSaturday
A curiosity to know the true colour of a costume, worn by stars of black and white movies, takes over me every time I see something I like.

There’s an utterly graceful Sadhana on screen singing Tera Mera Pyar Amar from Asli Naqli draped in a lovely woven sari. I’ve always imagined it to be mustard yellow with a black border.
Sadhana in Asli NaqliThen there’s Madhubala frolicking to Main Sitaron Ka Tarana in Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi in a heavily sequined gown. Could it be a shade of mauve?

Madhubala in Chalti Ka Naam GaadiSunday
A fiercely swaying lamp producing a stunning show of light and shadows, a wistful flute playing in the background, a cascade of memories of love lost and never forgotten, a bumpy bullock cart ride from the railway station to Paro’s house and a devastated, dying passenger restless to reach his destination.

I often revisit this scene from Bimal Roy’s Devdas for the sheer craft of its filmmaker and Dilip Kumar’s tempered intensity as the doomed hero of a tragic romance. My blood pressure dips every single time I witness his severely exhausted body language and sorrow-filled eyes underlining the exasperation of his inquiries —Arre bhai, kya yeh raasta kabhi khatam nahi hoga? Simple and yet so profound.

In his memoirs The Substance and the Shadow, Dilip Saab writes, “the dialogues of Devdas are replete with a haunting sensitivity, spontaneity and meaning. They came from the pen of Rajinder Singh Bedi, one of those rare writers whose syntax was so perfect that the simple lines he wrote inspired actors to build up deep emotions in their rendering. Being myself not given to superfluous speech, I appreciated the precision and brevity of the lines he wrote.”
Dilip Kumar in Devdas
This column was first published on rediff.com.

Also read on Super Filmi Week:
Getting nostalgic about the 1980s, Winona Ryder & Kishore Kumar
Rediscovering Gulzar’s Ghalib & finding Free Love
Applauding NTR’s Superman on screen!
Tripping on A R Rahman
A millipede and Kimi Katkar’s monsoon romance
Udta Punjab, worst casting decisions, and naheeee…!
Of warring Khan bhakts and meeting Mogambo!
Ranbir’s forgotten romance in Bachna Ae Haseeno
Funnier than Aishwarya’s lips
Clashing superheroes and crying Khans
OCDing on Neetu Singh’s LPs!
Garam Dharam, Mantrik Origins, Rockstar Cruise

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Happy Bhag Jayegi: Too few laughs, too much mess!

Happy Bhag JayegiThere’s a lot of love for the whimsical girl in our movies. People in the movie are floored by her charming irreverence. People outside the movie are fans of her offbeat rebellion. But, bank blindly on her myth without a lively subtext for her actions and the template is as exciting as flat soda.

In writer and director Mudassar Aziz’s Happy Bhag Jayegi, the titular Happy (Diana Penty) appears to be a hodgepodge of Kareena Kapoor’s boisterous Punjabi girl in Jab We Met, Kangana Ranaut’s audacious rebel in Tanu Weds Manu, Parineeti Chopra’s runaway specialist in Shuddh Desi Romance and Sonam Kapoor’s sneakers-preferring bride in Dolly Ki Doli. As fun as these inspirations are, the end result is a sloppy protagonist who’s neither convincing in her mischief nor original in her exploits.

Penty, best remembered for her dazzling subtlety in Homi Adajania’s Cocktail returns to screen after a considerable gap to play a complete contrast. As breathtaking she is, her performance lacks the necessary humour and sass to salvage a lazily written sketch. All her relentless screeching and tantrums prove grating around a script that sees some odd virtue in her cantankerous ways.

What happens is Happy, an Amritsar resident, is inadvertently transported to Lahore in the course of a failed attempt to elope with her jobless boyfriend Guddu (Ali Fazal) on the day she’s due to marry corporator Bagga (Jimmy Shergill) but lands in the living room of Bilal (Abhay Deol) an aspiring politician and ex-Governor’s son in Pakistan.

Panic ensues, both back home and across the border leading to lies, chaos, hectic traveling between Amritsar and Lahore, make-believe cousins and ghosts, bossy/ jealous girl friends, intimidating fiancés, infatuated do-gooders, blockheaded beaus, lumbering kidnaps and an over-the-top climax worthy of a Priyadarshan movie.

If only it wasn’t so witless and flimsy, I’d buy it too.

While I appreciate the jingoism-free setting, Happy Bhag Jayegi’s creativity has the texture of a well-meaning school play, where kids generate excitement by reacting excessively to any situation or yelping at the top of their voice. What’s cute there seems daft here.

Such a pity, especially when the actors flanking Happy are so talented and endearing to watch. If Happy Bhag Jayegi succeeds in delivering a few laughs, it’s entirely to their credit.

Happy Bhag JayegiJimmy Shergill gamely lampoons his bride-bereft boastful groom from Tanu Weds Manu (Director Anand L Rai is the producer of Happy Bhag Jayegi) and looks visibly chuffed dancing to Sunny Deol’s Yaara O Yaara from Jeet. Ali Fazal does well as the sweet-natured dolt. Abhay Deol is saddled by half-hearted writing, where it’s never too clear if his repressed desires and expressed views are of any consequence to the plot. Still, his easy-going charisma pitted against Penty’s raucous outbursts is quite a relief.

There’s also Pakistani actress Momal Sheikh, quite the radiant presence and the source of needless romantic complication. Piyush Mishra’s distinct dialogue delivery, this time in chaste Urdu, provides some comic wordplay wherein mousiqui becomes mausi-ki.

It’s silly but this is the most humour you can expect.

The review was first published on rediff.com.

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