Today marks the 92nd birthday of the most dominant singer of my lifetime in Bollywood. One whose iron will combined with a clear focus, a God given enviable talent, sheer perseverance in the face of apparently insurmountable adversity and an unparalleled desire to excel helped her lift herself (& her family that was mired in misery after the tragic early demise of a legendary father) and rise to the very pinnacle of success as no one before, and indeed no one after her scaled (& given the stuff that is dished out and passes for music these days, I daresay, unlikely to in future). Lata Mangeshkar, is the lady who with her amazing voice ruled Bollywood for six decades. https://youtu.be/Sm_tmr7cYQk..
Choosing a few hundred songs to capture her amazing career would be in itself difficult, but I decided to choose just one, unfortunately less heard these days, a duet she sang with Rafisaab on her birthday. The duet is a true timeless classic. https://youtu.be/H8qENpk2GuE
An unlikely lead pairing with one of the most beautiful, animated and tragically shortlived beauty to be ever seen on the silver screen, Madhubala with the proud bearer of the unique class of stoic, impassive males ( स्तिथप्रज्ञ) who carried one or two expressions throughout the movie and not allow their faces to register any other, no matter what befell the characters they portrayed, Bharat Bhushan.
The movie, Gateway of India, was written, produced and directed by a highly respected man in Bollywood, one Mr O P Chibber. A black comedy that he wrote with just one person in mind – Madhubala. He went with the plot and story to meet her father, Ataullah Khan, a notoriously tough cookie, refused as he controlled Madhubala and her career and didn’t allow night shoots at all. This movie was one of the earliest where the entire storyline ends in a few hours, needed extensive night shooting, the Writer/Director/Producer was adamant and perseverant, finally getting the nod of the tough dad. Madhubala was then given a suite in the Taj Mahal Hotel for the entire duration of the shoot, and the movie completed. The cast is like a who’s who of the time: Madhubala, Anita Guha (as the pimp’s Moll), Pradeep Kumar (Pimp and drug dealer- sounds like a young politician from my state, doesn’t it?), Johnny Walker, Chandrashekhar (a brother owner Manorama’s brother/talent scout), Bhagwan (the man who marries many women and then proceeds to kill them serially before deciding to marry one, settle down and have kids- no prizes for guessing who transforms his cruel heart into one desirous of procreation), Shyamlal (her uncle who wants to kill her for the money, the character in the film is surprisingly called by the same name), & a few worthies in guest appearances. The director/producer puts in a Hitchcock style appearance as a street gangster. The movie has a taut,pacy storyline and deserved much more commercial success than came it’s way. The music by Madan Mohan is sublime as are Rajinder Krishna‘s lyrics. The movie is definitely worth a watch and actually figured in a 2015 list of “50 films that deserve a new audience”
Amazingly the movie had Bharat Bhushan in a short role of a poet that Madhubala flips for and actually runs after him at the end and (in a bold break from tradition for the times) actually proposes to the man.. (Why him???????)
Go watch the movie , a unique one made by O P Chibber, a man all hundreds of millions of Bollywood fans know very well….
For that’s the name of the iconic, legendary character actor, Omprakash.
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