Rahul Dev Burman

And what a fall it was…..

Sometimes the dice don’t quite roll properly for a given person in life. Despite a horrendous situation that looks utterly unsalvageable, some rise, literally from the ashes, Phoenix like and end up scaling the tallest summits. Others who start off well, find themselves inexplicably and hopelessly adrift of their original trajectory.

Look at the lady who made a memorable  “debut” in films as Mala Sinha’s teenaged daughter in Anpadh with sublime music by Madan Mohan, prancing to the amazing Lata Mangeshkar timeless classic , Jiya Le Gayo Ji Mora Sanwariya , and had received 2 Filmfare nominations for her roles in Ittefaq and Do Raaste, in 7 years’ time, just the next year committed a horrendous mistake of acting in Shakti Samanta’s Kati Patang in this role which in a way defined her future in films. Even now I wonder why Bindu Nanubhai Desai ever decided to finish her own acting career by taking on such a crass and short role.

This song became very famous for all the wrong reasons. For starters, there were no real lyrics, but more like a single line of prose repeated amidst loud lecherous panting. The body language doesn’t leave much to imagination, doesn’t it? None of the blithe lissomness of Helen, the real progenitor of a “dance form” quirkily called Cabaret by Bollywood which was a poorly disguised show of flesh and skin. Bindu, Fariyal, Kalpana Iyer, Prema Narayan , Padma Khanna et al excelled (?!?) in this type of visual assault on the audience jiggling tons of lard just to provide cheap gratification for the testosterone charged members of the front rows in the sweaty theaters.

The impact of such visually distressing and utterly distasteful few minutes was expectedly very rewarding financially, but it all but finished Bindu’s career as a serious actress, which she undoubtedly was. Her acting in Imtihaan (with Vinod Khanna and Tanuja) was excellent in an otherwise challenging role. There was yet another fantastic role in Abhimaan with Amitabh and Jaya Bachchan.

Despite all these great and memorable roles, Bindu was sadly confined to virtually the dustbin of history. I don’t think her advisors were thinking right when she did a movie like Hawas which was a rather voyeuristic movie. ( Compare that character with Nargis’s grey character in her last hurrah: Raat Aur Din)

Both female characters were about an insatiable carnal appetite but was handled far more sensitively in Raat Aur Din.

From then on, Bindu went into a bit of a tailspin and despite acting in 160 odd movies, doesn’t have a monumental performance that she was definitely capable of.

Que sera sera….

You make one wrong choice in Bollywood and the sharks pounce on you.

Here’s to What Might Have Been..

Stay safe folks and enjoy catching up with your sisters. Today is the day of filial love.

Rahul Dev Burman Sad Film Songs Uncategorized

A duel to remember

I remember seeing this movie in Goregaon in Anupam theatre. I had seen the original English movie a few months ago and also watched the Marathi play (which was never credited sadly by Hrishikesh Mukherjee) . It featured a memorable acting duel in every one of its avatars.

It started off as a  1935 play by T S Eliot on the same subject, Murder in the Cathedral, which was intended primarily as a religious treatment. However, there are one or two similarities in the interpretation with the play by Jean Anouilh , Becket which was published and staged nearly a quarter of a century later , a world war apart and in French, but based on the same state vs religion conflict of It is a depiction of the conflict between Thomas Becket and the then King, Henry II of England,  that resulted in Becket’s murder (Contract Killing in today’s parlance) in 1170. The French play contains many historical inaccuracies, which the author acknowledged. But that was a liberty taken by a playwright to improve the dramatic effect of the narrative. Thomas Becket also known as Saint Thomas of CanterburyThomas of London and later called Thomas à Becket was the much respected and venerated Archbishop of Canterburyfrom 1162 until his murder in 1170. He is widely venerated as a Saint and even as a Martyr  by both the Catholic Church as well as the Anglican Church. He engaged in conflict (Church vs State) with the then King of England, Henry II, over the rights and privileges of the Church. The conflict started creating much discomfiture for the King who asked his cronies to bump off the Archbishop, ironically and cynically carried out in the Canterbury Cathedral itself, following which the dead Archbishop was immediately canonised by the then Pope, Alexander III. At that time, the British Monarchy still paid obeisance to the Vatican, the break and establishment of the Anglican Church happened during the reign of the polygamous and sex-crazed King Henry VIII who wanted the pope to solemnise his marriage(s) to a divorcee, which of course the Pope refused. So our man Henry broke away from the Vatican and established his own Church (shades of what is happening on the Political Scene in India?)

The movie based on the late 50s play was called, expectedly, Becket, a must-watch for all serious students of cinema. It has a feast of acting talent: Richard Burton as Thomas Becket, Peter O’Toole as King Henry II and the legendary John Gielgud as King Louis VII. It won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay and was nominated for eleven other awards, including for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, and twice for Best Actor. Jean Anouilh’s play was adapted by the great Marathi Playwright Vasant Kanetkar as Beimaan. Satish Dubhashi and Prabhakar Panashikar were just terrific in the original Marathi Play and every one of my generation (and one senior) who has seen the play will remember and relish their acting duel. Sparks flew and I was very influenced at the time and used some of the lessons in my own attempts. Hrishikesh Mukherji was a very big fan of Marathi dramas. Theatre, Literature and Music are all shared passions for all Marathi and Bangla speaking people. He adapted Beimaan to make Namak Haram but didn’t credit Vasant Kanetkar properly. This song is from the same movie.

The movie has a fantastic acting duel between Rajesh Khanna and Amitabh Bachchan, the movie was made soon after Anand. It is said that according to the initial script, Bachchan was supposed to die at the end. When Kaka got to know this, he insisted that Hrishikesh Mukherjee to change the ending so he dies in the end instead of Bachchan. It was Khanna’s view that death in the end gets viewers’ sympathy. The same had happened in Anand, and had succeeded in getting a lot of popularity for Khanna. Although Mukherjee did not want this change, Khanna was such a big star, he had to do this. This made Amitabh very angry and he vowed never to work with Khanna again. I personally don’t believe in this version at all on the grapevine. The original story from history has the priest getting killed by the King’s men and so it would be logical for the poor worker being killed by the rich milliner’s henchmen by logical continuity.

Great lyrics by Gulzar, Great composition and singing by R D Burman and Kishore Kumar, respectively.

All in all, a great movie despite the alleged controversy.

Take care, folks, and stay happy and healthy

Introspective melodies Kalyanji Anandji

Time is up, pack up…..

These were apparently his very last words that he uttered 10 years ago this day in a bungalow named Aashirwad. Undoubtedly, by all accounts and yardstick he led a blessed lifetime. He experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows in his -in some ways blighted- life. Born in Amritsar in 1942, he was named Jatin. He passed away after a very memorable life, 5 months short of his 70th Birthday.

He was one of the 8 finalists of a nationwide talent search organised by United Producers and Filmfare, along with two FTII students, Subhash Ghai and Dheeraj Kumar. He won the contest with one of my favourite actresses in Bollywood, the bright eyed, bedimpled, vivacious Farida Jalal, whose smile would light up a room. His debut film Aakhri Khat was -in retrospect aptly enough- the very first official entry from the country to the Oscars. The film was directed by Chetan Anand and a trailblazer for its extensive use of footage from a handheld camera close to the ground. He also acted the lead in a movie directed by Ravindra Dave, which was part of his predetermined prize as part of the talent hunt. The contest was judged by the founders of the United Producers organisation: BR Chopra, Bimal Roy, GP Sippy, HS Rawail, Nasir Husain, J.Om Prakash, Mohan Saigal, Shakti Samanta and Subodh Mukherji and a few others. Being under contract with United Producers, he got projects such as Aurat, Doli and Ittefaq. The latter was a taut suspense thriller , in a movie genre created as a mould- breaker by B R Chopra, a movie without any songs!

He was noticed by many for his performances in films such as Baharon Ke Sapne, Aurat , Doli, Aradhana and Ittefaq. In Baharon Ke Sapne, the response from the public in the first week of run forced the film’s ending to be changed from a tragic one to a happier one from the second week. Later, no less a person than one of the leading actresses of the time, Waheeda Rehman asked (after she had been signed for the remake of Deep Jwele Jaai by the director who had also made the Bangla original) Asit Sen to cast him for the lead role in Khamoshi, one of his career best movies. Through Shakti Samanta’s Aradhana he rose to “instant national fame” and film critics referred to him as the “First Superstar of India” owing to the crazy fan following he built up and the big crowds he could pull into the theaters. He created new norms of success and was part of a run of 17 consecutive Jubilee Hits, an unmatched run till today.

During the unparalleled run of 17 consecutive hits, ( These were Aradhana, Doli, Bandhan, Ittefaq, Do Raaste, Khamoshi, Safar, The Train, Kati Patang, Sachaa Jhutha, Aan Milo Sajna, Mehboob Ki Mehendi, Choti Bahu, Anand and Haathi Mere Saathi, these 15 had him as the sole lead and he also starred in 2 non-solo hero films; Andaz and Maryada) He acted in a film about elephants Haathi Mere Saathi, which became that year’s highest-grossing film and the biggest grosser ever in the history of Bollywood till then.

He is actually credited with giving Salim Khan and Javed Akhtar their first chance to become screenplay writers by offering them work in Haathi Mere Saathi.

Javed Akhtar himself narrated this in an interview: “One day, he went to Salimsaab and said that Chinappa Devar had given him a huge signing amount with which he could complete the payment for his bungalow Aashirwad. But the film’s script was far from being satisfactory. He told us that if we could set right the script, he would make sure we got both money and credit.”

He bought the then Big Actor ( “Jubilee Kumar”) Rajendra Kumar‘s bungalow that was providentially named Dimple on Carter Road Promenade for 31 lakhs in 1970 and renamed it Aashirwaad

Few know that he was adopted and raised by Chunnilal and Leelawati, who were actually relatives of his biological parents. His father had migrated from West Punjab to Gali Tiwarian in Amritsar.

His biological parents were Lala Hiranand and Chandrani. His biological father worked as headmaster of the MC High School in Burewala (in present-day Vehari District, Punjab, Pakistan).

His adoptive parents belonged to a family of railway contractors who had moved from Lahore to Bombay in 1935.

He actually lived in Saraswati Niwas, in Thakurdwar, Mumbai.

He attended St. Sebastian’s Goan High School with his friend Ravi Kapoor, who later took the stage name Jeetendra.

While still in school, he started taking interest in theatre, and acted in many stage and theatre plays in his school and college days, and won many prizes in inter-college drama competitions.

In 1962 He played a wounded mute soldier in the play Andha Yug and impressed so many with his performance; that the chief guest actually publicly suggested that he get into films soon.

He became a rare newcomer who had his own MG sports car but really struggled to get work in theatre and films in the early 1960s. Unbelievable looking at his career, but true.

Few know or remember that he was a Punekar for a while, pursuing the first two years of Bachelor of Arts in Nowrosjee Wadia College in Pune from 1959 to 1961. He later studied in K. C. College, Mumbai while his schoolmate and buddy Jeetendra studied from Siddharth College. Amazingly, being a stage actor, he actually tutored Jeetendra for his first film audition. His uncle KK Talwar insisted he change his first name when he decided to enter films.

His friends and his wife called him Kaka (meaning a baby faced boy in Punjabi).

Of all the hundreds of famous songs from his slew of hits, I opted to choose this one song for the song of the day, as it shows a man in the throes of terminal cancer, a role he most famously essayed in two of his most famous films, Anand and Safar.

Rest well, Kaka, the world knows you by your on-screen name, you remain my most favourite male lead in Bollywood. The one whose Anand I have seen and cried countless times, despite knowing every sequence and virtually every line. Stay happy, healthy and enjoy the monsoons, folks, as I stay wrapped in my memories of the First Superstar of My Lifetime, Rajesh Khanna.

Rahul Dev Burman Romantic Duets

The indescribably intoxicating petrichor

I remember this movie for multiple reasons. It was actually the first “hit” movie that Rajesh Khanna made early in his career that helped define it. He went on to have an unequalled run of hits as the male lead ( 19 in a row!!). In an industry where success is an unpredictable and notoriously fickle, this was a truly amazing feat, one that hadn’t happened before, hasn’t been replicated thus far, and given the metamorphosis technology is bringing in now, with the very parameters of success being redefined rather radically and evolving rapidly like a mountain stream in full spate in the monsoons, what with longevity and commercial success no longer linked to one other, unlikely to happen in the future, either.

Baharon ke Sapney was made by Nasir Husain. There is a very interesting story behind the movie’s coming into existence. The superhit (as it turned out to be) film Teesri Manzil was originally supposed to be directed by Nasir Hussain and was to star Dev Anand as the male lead. Another of Nasir Hussain’s productions Baharon Ke Sapne was being planned and was to be directed by Vijay Anand. However, on the occasion of Sadhana’s engagement party, a chance overhearing (by Nasir Husain) of a rather dismissive and derogatory off-the-cuff remark by Dev Anand led to bad blood   between Dev Anand and Nasir Hussain. Dev Anand purportedly said “The film which Nasir is making with me is coloured and he has given Goldie some black-and-white film to make. Goldie is making the movie with some new boy, Rajesh Khanna”. Colour film was an expensive (& therefore less used) medium in the 60s, and was reserved for the most prestigious and bigger projects. Most movies were still being shot in monochrome.  Nasir Husain was enraged and the very next day requested Vijay Anand to direct Teesri Manzil but sacked Dev Anand. He swapped the directorial baton for  Baharon Ke Sapney, with the lesser known male lead.  It was only then that Shammi Kapoor was approached for Teesri Manzil. Asha Parekh remained the female lead for both films, with her famous personal equation with Nasir Husain.

Baharon ke Sapney had only one song shot in colour ( Kya janoon sajan, which is a dream sequence and has a very interesting story related to Pancham‘s innovative nature in its recording) & the maestro Jal Mistry picked up the Filmfare for his lensmanship. Both movies had the same music director: Rahul Dev Burman, who stamped his class and ingenuity. I love this amazing folk song which exudes petrichor. Starting off with a rhythm straight from the Maharashtrian Lavani, it shows Lakshmichhaya pirouetting to the steps of Lavani and has been shot  amazingly as a duet with Manna Dey (THE most undercelebrated of the top male singers in Bollywood but the one whose panoply of singing was truly the most varied and impressive) & Lata Mangeshkar. While Rajendranath is busy panting lecherously (an effect used to even greater effect by Pancham later in another Rajesh Khanna starrer Apna Desh) a bemused Anwar Hussain steps forward to sing and dance with the gorgeous belle, (surely a rare occasion for him).

Rajesh Khanna clearly looks very boyish. The billboards reflected the star value at the time, with Asha Parekh getting top billing ahead of Kaka.

The song itself is so very rooted to the rustic environs it is aptly picturized. The rhythmic intro is reminiscent of SDB and Jewel Thief. I am sure Pancham was assisting his father on that project. Smoking had still not fallen into public disrepute and you can see Kaka in the background puffing. The song, I daresay looks much better in monochrome, rather than in its colorized form. The basic beauty and Jal Mistry’s skilled monochrome photography is negated by the colorized version.

Have fun, folks, the early morning drizzle has brought the mercury down to mid 20s and the breeze adds to the nip in the air.

Stay healthy and happy.