Bollywood Shuffle

The joys of YouTube — simply search for Bollywood musical 1940s and you get something like this, without really doing anything to deserve it.

My Bollywood knowledge stands at a degree or two above absolute ignorance, which means at least I’m aware there’s something there, and it’s worth looking at. I have a vague impression that even some people who know a lot more about Indian cinema than I do tend to disparage and/or ignore the commercial product — and the older films aren’t so easy to see or learn about.

This is KALA PANI, directed by S.D. Burman Raj Khosla, with some beautiful tracking shots and a feeling of lavishness despite the scene being mainly close-ups and medium shots, in a nondescript nocturnal wasteland setting. It’s the variety of angles, the movement, and the luminosity of the lighting that makes it seem paradoxically opulent.

As for the rest, I’m afraid somebody else will have to write it for me as I don’t know anything about this film or the national cinema it comes from. But it’s sweet.

15 Responses to “Bollywood Shuffle”

  1. […] the rest here:  Bollywood Shuffle « shadowplay Tags: bollywood, entry, facebook, film, log-nbspout, resize-on-first, tag, […]

  2. Burman was the musical director, not film director…kala pani is from 1958.

  3. Thanks! Should’ve checked that, many of the other clips that popped up were 50s. So the director is Raj Khosla, and the film is based on an AJ Cronin story! (Author of The Citadel.)

  4. Madhubala is lovely, isn’t she? But for my money, I still prefer Waheeda Rehman and Nargis. Maybe it’s just because they were in two of the first “Golden Age” Bollywood films I saw, Pyaasa and Awaara, both considered classics. Richard Corliss agreed, putting Awaara in the new All-TIME Top 100 list.

    Here’s one of my favorite numbers from Pyaasa with Waheeda where she and Guru Dutt (the director and star) meet on a lonely waterfront and he follows her home.

    And as I know you like dream sequences, here’s Guru Dutt with his other leading lady in the film, Mala Sinha.

    The whole movie is on Youtube for free, now.

    And here’s an Awaara song for you with Nargis. Enjoy!

  5. Thanks! I had at least heard of Guru Dutt, and have a couple of his films on standby.

    A plethora of lovely clips.

  6. Hope there weren’t too many…my pet genre and all. Couldn’t help myself, and actually, for me, that was restrained :-)

  7. Please, add more! I enjoyed those immensely.

  8. Okay, you can’t say you weren’t warned…Strolling through the decades.

    Do Bigha Zamin (1953) was director Bimal Roy’s Cannes prize-winning portrait of the hard life of farmers who are forced to leave their farms during drought to seek their living in the big bad city. Love Mohammed Rafi’s vocals in this one.

    Waheeda Rehman again, in Guide(1965). This is one of the classic snake dances that get parodied in movies like Bride and Prejudice, but she shows us how it was meant to be done. My favorite movie with Dev Anand, too.

    And Bollywood had it’s Sixties “Beach Movie” phase, too, and Shammi Kapoor(Raj’s brother) and Asha Parekh were sort of the Frankie and Annette of India, but with more range. Teesri Manzil(1966) which gives us this hysterically silly number, is actually quite a nice, tight little murder mystery, as well.

    Moving into the Seventies, we have the classic comedy of Amar Akbar Anthony(1977), where Manmohan Desai directs soon to be superstar Amitabh Bachchan as he dances his way out of a kingsize egg, dressed like Abraham Lincoln. No, I don’t know why, but somehow, Big B has the panache to carry this off. Perhaps he’s just trying to attract the attention of the lovely Parveen Babi. The things they made him do…personally, I like his more recent numbers even better, his mileage just enhances his performances like this one in Bunty Aur Babli(2005) dancing with his real life son and daughter-in-law.

    One of my way guilty pleasures of the Nineties is the movie Khal Nayak(1993) starring Sanjay Dutt (Nargis’ son) as a fugitive prisoner being pursued by a fetching prison official, Madhuri Dixit, deep, DEEP under cover as a nautch dancer. Not sure I can recommend the whole film, it’s WAY over the top and an acquired taste, but this number is justly famous.

    I’m skipping the Eighties, because I came of age during the era, and it scares me.

  9. Sugar rush! Here’s something I do know, via Mark Cousins’ The Story of Film: Bachchan asked his father to define the appeal of Bollywood movies. “The appeal is, you get poetic justice in three hours. Whereas normally you can wait your whole life and not get poetic justice.”

  10. Ah, yes, the sugar! You have to pace yourself when you’re not used to it. Work your way up.

    I haven’t read the Cousins work, though of course I’d heard of it. If he includes Indian film, I’d better get on it. I hadn’t heard that particular quote, but I appreciate it. From that same speech, I find, having looked it up, is another quote Bachchan gave that I had heard and has stuck with me.

    ”Once I asked a Russian, why are his folks so crazy about Hindi cinema, he told me that when he comes out of the theatre he has a smile on his face and a dry tear on his cheek,” Amitabh said.

  11. Oh, the quote was from Cousins’ accompanying TV show. He interviewed Bachchan, “perhaps the world’s most famous movie star.”

    Oddly enough, I’m one handshake away from Mr B, either via Mark or by another completely unrelated source.

  12. Lucky you :-) The closest I’ve gotten to that was when he picked mine from a sea of flailing hands at a film showing here in DC, and granted me a question. Not really an introduction, but I did get my question answered, even if I don’t remember any specifics…I seem to have lost my brain for the minute or two he was staring at me. Ah, to have that effect on women when you’re just about to turn 70!

    Still and all, I am not quite certain about his being cast as “Meyer Lansky” in Baz Lehrman’s Gatsby. BTW, have you seen that trailer? Long Island looks awfully monolithic in it’s architecture. When did Jay Gatsby move into the lobby of the Empire State Building?

  13. Oh, you’re ahead of me, I’ve never actually been in a room with AB! I only know people who have.

    Yes, the Gatsby trailer (with misspelled Ziegfeld Follies neon sign) didn’t really appeal to me. But I haven’t liked anything from that guy since Strictly Ballroom. Moulin Rouge really wanted a pitch invasion of Mel Brooks cowboys to punch the crap out of everybody.

    If Jack Clayton, an intelligent and sensitive filmmaker, struggled with the Fitzgerald (which I admit he did) I really don’t see how this numpty is going to pull it off.

    Amitahb’s casting is cheeky, no doubt, but I can’t see it being a huge problem. Redford’s casting as Gatsby’s was wilder, in a way (though he brought a resonant emptiness to the role).

  14. Love the “resonant emptiness”…poor Bob. I liked him in the film, too, and agreed that he did seem to fit the role pretty well when I saw it. Mia didn’t really seem to me to be your standard Twenties ideal of feminine pulchritude, or even a Seventies ideal, for that matter. Not a bad actress, but not one to pine after and die for, either.

    I agree completely with your assessment of Baz Lehrmann. I feel the same way about Kate Beckinsale, haven’t liked much that she’s done since Cold Comfort Farm. I loved Strictly Ballroom, and kept taking people to see it when it was in the theaters, so have seen it more times than I’d care to think about. Alternatively, I’ve never even made it through Moulin Rouge, not once. Despite it’s supposed Bollywood inspired excesses, he went too far for me. Too much going on, and I’d rather go back to the original…I think he was aiming for something like this (you know I wouldn’t be able to resist another clip :-)

  15. Beckinsale’s learned to act a bit since her earliest days, but I don’t see many of her films. Given her beauty, it feels like she should have had a better career, but it’s the lack of a powerful onscreen personality that’s held her back.

    Bollywood movies are choreographed, including the camerawork. Luhrmann just splurges chaotically — I’m sure those numbers made sense on the set, but by the time they reach the screen they’ve been diced into fruit salad.

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