Music has of course always been integral to Hindi movies, and several great singers have lent their voices to stars on the silver screen….this is a list of my personal favorites from the period 1950-2000.  Hence singers like KL Saigal and Pankaj Mullick who had their prime before that do not make the cut – nor do newer singers, most notably Shaan, from more recent movies.

Also, for me, a solitary classic trumps a career filled with many, but mediocre, songs – hence volume of songs sung is not a determinant of how highly I rate these singers.

Finally, this is my list – so am sure there will be disagreements. The list is in order – and I have tried and picked my favorite song, whether solo or duet, sung by this singer.

1.Kishore Kumar – The greatest ever.  Kishore had the ability to transform mediocre tunes and forgettable lyrics into classics with his voice and rendition, and is the voice indelibly linked to three of the greatest superstars in Hindi filmdom ever, Dev Anand, Rajesh Khanna and Amitabh Bachchan.  My personal favorite song by Kishore is however, the title song from Jhumroo.  I have seen brilliant singers struggle to pull off covers of this at live events, with the sheer effort leaving them perspiring no end.

2. Hemant Kumar – Like Kishore, Hemant was also a great music director.  His rich mellifluous voice had a soothing, lilting quality that has rendered the many songs he sang to be truly timeless ones.  However, my personal favorite of his is a duet with the late great Geeta Dutt to Mukul Roy’s music in Detective….Mujhko Tum Jo Mile

3. Talat Mahmood – I was introduced to this great singer’s songs by my mother growing up.  His songs have grown on me, his ghazals are a thing unto themselves and the many songs he sang live on.  My favorite is his great song from Taxi Driver to SD Burman’s music…Jaaye to jaaye kahaan… .

4. Manna Dey – that Manna Dey ranks 4th on this list is a tribute to the great singers who have lent their voices to Hindi movies.  It was his luck that somehow he got identified as a singer of classical/difficult songs….but the songs that he did get, he rendered them so well that he ranks high on any true fan’s list of leading male Hindi vocalists.  This song from Anubhav is so typical of Manna Dey’s singing.  Understated, lyrical and so aptly suited for the scene the song was being used in….Phir Kahin Koi Phool Khila

5. Yesudas – in a relatively brief career in Hindi movies, this great singer from Kerala left his stamp as a classically trained and versatile vocalist in the Manna Dey lineage. The song that truly stands out to me is the haunting one from Sadma, with Kamalhaasan and Sridevi living out Surmayee Ankhiyon Mein Nanha Munna Ek Sapna De Ja Re

6. SP Balasubramaniam – unlike Yesudas, this doyen of south Indian movies could not totally mask his Telugu accent.  But despite that, he was the voice behind many of the most successful songs and movies of the 1980s and 1990s.  My personal favorite song is his beautiful duet with Asha in Saagar, with Dimple looking stunning and Kamalhaasan showing his acting and dancing skills in ample measure….O Maria

7. Jagjit Singh…Talat Mahmood was the king of ghazals, but it was Jagjit Singh who made them truly accessible to the common man with the simplicity of the lyrics he picked for the songs he sang, usually scoring the lilting music as well.  A great example is his romantic classic from Saath Saath with Chitra Singh – Tumko Dekha to yeh Khayaal Aaya

8. Mohammed Rafi – I so loved Rafi’s early songs, especially in the 1950s when he sang so many beautiful duets with Geeta Dutt, and then later some of his great songs for OP Nayyar and SD Burman.  For this list, I am going back to my favorite Rafi number ever, the greatest ever romantic duet in Hindi movies which he sang with Geeta for Pyaasa…Hum aapki ankhon mein is dil ko basa de toh, Hum moond ke palkon ko is dil ko sazaa de toh….

9. Mukesh – so many great songs from this singer, the voice of Raj Kapoor.  My personal favorite however, is his duet with the one and only Sudha Malhotra.  Only Mukesh, singing for Sunil Dutt,  could have played second fiddle to such a mesmerizing talent as Sudha. joining only towards the end of the song,  and yet truly leave his unique imprint on the tune. In Didi to N Dutta’s music – Tum Mujhe Bhool Bhi Jao to Yeh Haq Hai Tumko, Meri Baat Aur Hai Maine to Mohabbat Ki Hai..

10. Amit Kumar – one of my personal favorites is this underrate singer.  He is the only one ever who could do justice to the Kishore Kumar style of music and yet he never got his due…..maybe if Kumar Gaurav had more success, Amit Kumar could have had a longer run (like Udit Narayan thanks to Aamir Khan’s success).  Still Amit’s songs stand out like this duet with Asha Bhosle from Love Story…Yeh Ladki Zarasi Diwani Lagti hai….

Honorable Mentions (in no particular order):

  • Abhijeet
  • Kumar Sanu
  • RD Burman
  • Chitalkar
  • Shailendra Singh
  • Mahendra Kapoor
  • Shaan

Many years back, I used to maintain journals.  Entries on paper, a line or many lines written daily and then occasionally re-read after the year passed and then in a few years consigned to the recycle bin.

Then along came the internet.  In the latter part of the ’90s, I wrote emails – long ones – that had now come to take the place of both the snail-mail as well as my journals as I could use the messages the “sent” folder to keep track of my own life.

And then blogs became common place and I really enjoyed the period in the mid-2000s when I blogged for a handful of close family and friends who read and commented on this.

It was all very well till Facebook came along.  The posts became shorter – and the audience dramatically larger.  People could like my writing at the press of a button and this fed a narcissism I had not experienced before.  It was easy to dialogue, discuss and argue points, and the relative brevity implied it became less burdensome to worry about expanding one’s ideas to the detail that was needed on a blog.  And one could post pictures  and links and anything else too.

But the pictures led directly to Instagram…..even less pressure to even describe what is in a picture, excellent editing aids to enhance pictures and render them just right,….and where Facebook still draws one in and causes you to engage in fruitless arguments with a bunch of strangers, Instagram is about appreciating a picture and moving on.

And now I realize I miss the extended prose of journals – and blogs. Have returned to this now, let’s see if I still have the vocabulary, structure and patience to keep writing longer thoughtful and hopefully thought-provoking pieces.

Finally made my second visit ever to the beautiful island nation of Barbados in April.

The eastern-most of the Caribbean islands – and one of the few coral islands in this archipelago of primarily volcanic islands – Barbados combines sophistication and commercialization with pristine beauty. A group of us went down there and the highlight was the companionship of 4 families that have come to know one another very very well over the past decade. The island itself provided the perfect backdrop for this reunion, with planned outings for a game of cricket – the Cricket World Cup 2007 was on then – and around the island.

Very few sports stadia around the world capture the history of the sport as well as the Kensington Oval in Barbados – from thoughtfully named stands (after legendary Barbadian cricketers of yore – Greenidge, Haynes, Worrell, Weekes, Wolcott, Sobers, Hall, Griffith,…) and actually naming the two bowling ends after Malcolm Marshall and Joel Garner, an intimate setting for the game that has been retained even as the stadium was totally rebuilt for the World Cup, excellent concession stands and the live Bajan crowd made for a gripping experience.

The highlight for my two little girls was going out turtle feeding in the Caribbean Sea – I guess the turtles have been practically domesticated but still the experience of snorkeling amongst a large group of sea turtles is something quite unique.

Amongst the spots on the island, one that every visitor should take in is the Nicholas Abbey.  A restored sugar plantation, it is a great experience for kids and adults.  Another is the Flower Forest, with its spectacular vistas over the Scotland District of Barbados.  The Wild Animal Reserve is slightly overrated, but the sea at Bathsheba is not.

Great views, friendly people, varied experiences – Barbados is one memorable experience!

One of the positives of the extensive travel my job entails is that I get to see a lot of hotels and airports around the world. It is a pain in that the trips typically are just the airport, a hotel room, the venue of the meeting(s) and back to the airport.

I have been to Japan over a dozen times over the past 2-3 years and seen Mt Fuji only once – from an aircraft as I flew from Tokyo to Seoul! I have been to Beijing and not seen the Great Wall and had actually been at least 5-6 times to Orlando for various conferences before I actually set foot inside one of the theme parks at Disneyworld.

But I digress. The huge positive is the sheer number of airports that I get to see. And my favorites are (in order):

1. The new Kuala Lumpur International Airport (http://www.klia.com.my/ ). An absolute masterpiece, the cornerstone and the flagship of the stated direction of the Malaysian government to ensure their nation is classified as a Developed nation in a few years. It is by and far one of the best airports for transit passengers – there is little else that I could have asked for from amenities, quality lounges, great shopping and very comfortable seating in the common areas. I have never been into Kuala Lumpur so unlike the other airports on this list, that one thing remains a question mark – on ease of access to/from the city.

2. The Incheon Airport serving Seoul, S Korea (http://www.airport.or.kr/eng/airport/) – which is a testimony to what the city of Seoul wants to become! Its 5th birthday is coming up on the 29th of this month and is a magnificent work of architecture with its soaring highlights. As one very well equipped terminal handling all the traffic, it is very very easy to navigate. The only drawback to this airport is that it seems rather lifeless, perhaps because though it does handle a very high volume of traffic (passengers and cargo), its construction and opening seemed to coincide with a downturn in the Korean economy which is now being overshadowed by the explosive growth of China and the emergence of Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport as an alternate hub.

3. The new Hong Kong International Airport (http://www.hongkongairport.com/eng/index.html) – beautiful struture, very lively and humming with activity, flights go to almost every corner of the world from here and one sees a veritable smorgasboard of nationalities and skin-tones in the transit halls. Slightly removed from the city – but that is its only drawback. With the floor-to-ceiling windows offering fantastic views of the Hong Kong Bay and more, this is truly an awesome airport!

4. The Greater Pittsburgh International Airport

I first flew into the PIT in 1974 – remember flying on the Allegheny Airlines to NYC then but that is all. My more conscious memories stem from my visit there in 1987 – it was a tiny airport still then serving this burgeoning region of western Pennsylvania, South-Eastern Ohio and West Virginia.

But all this had changed when I flew in again in the late 1990s – by now they had built this spectacular new airport (http://www.pitairport.com/AboutUsServlet?option=pit_background) and actually made it like a complete mall inside. No airport’s retail initiatives were harder hit by the security restrictions post-9/11 than PIT. The volume of transit passengers has never been too high – this has mainly comprised regional travellers from the immediate catchment area transitioning over to a longer-range jet at PIT. Hence the airport mall was designed for the good denizens of the Pittsburgh area to come in and shop at. Now they cannot even enter the terminal.

Pittsburgh is where I was introduced to the concept of “landside” facilities v/s “airside” facilities. Thus an airport restaurant may be considered “landside” if it is located outside the security check area where visitors and so on can also access its services. “Airside is just the converse”.

That being said, PIT is one of the most efficient airports for passengers planning this as a destination, and is an outstanding option for those planning to only transit through. By and far the best airport in the US, surpassing even the newer ones in Minneapolis and in Detroit. The sheer length of my association with this great city makes the Pittsburgh Airport one of my personal favorites.

5. Amsterdam Schiphol Airport: An airport that is still very good inspite of its advanced age – the only one on this list that was constructed primarily before 1990. Inspite of that, it has a unique character, ease of access, an in-airport casino and an actual in-airport edition of the Rijk Museum with original Rembrandts on display, and so much more. Must be one of the great all time airports simply for its longevity and continued relevance.

6. Sydney Airport: A relatively small airport, but beautifully equipped and maintained

7. Singapore’s Changi Airport: The general seating is not very comfortable, the signage not very clear and the shopping very very in-your-face. Also, very small and thus crowded always. That being said, it is like all things Singapore – very controlled and correct, every check-box for a good airport ticked off including orchids all over to provide some pale imitation of greenery and so on.

8. The new McNamara Terminal at the Detroit Metro Airport: If you must fly into Detroit, the only way you should do so is by Northwest Airlines so that you get to land in the new McNamara Terminal there. Spacious and sumptious, this is everything the old Metro Airport is not. With a single one-mile long terminal, the elevated tram linking end to end complemented by moving walkways at the floor level, great eateries and more, this is truly amazing. There is very little local feel to it however, and also the fact that this is only used by NW Airlines (and its alliance partner) passengers prevents it from securing a higher ranking. However, it is by and far the best airport in the US after Pittsburgh International.

9. Honolulu Airport: This is exactly how the gateway to Hawaii should be. Very wide open, low-slung and spread out, the excellent vistas and more make it much better than San Diego’s Lindbergh Field with which it shares several attributes. The Honolulu Airport has actual greenery growing all over the terminal (and much more natural, not force-fitted into the structure as at Singapore’s Changi). It is however, much more of a domestic airport in terms of amenities and shopping – plus as an airport in Hawaii, it is intended as a destination airport and not a transit one.

10. Zurich Airport: One of the most family-friendly airports in the world. Very well appointed with observation decks to watch flights take off and land, great children’s play area well designed to address the need of the tired parent, excellent shopping and fabulous views of the Alps outside.

Yet there are some airports that are distinctly overrated. The prime example of this category is Shanghai’s PuDong International. Now if one goes by the assumption that China and its amenities (till a few years back) were comparable to the pathetic ones provided in India, then the PuDong International (as also the Beijing National) are both evidences of a magnificent transformation.

However as compared to the great ones around the world today that China is truly vying with, the PuDong International is at best very functional and adequate, lot of the Soviet/Mao era design features continue including shapeless open halls and more; shopping very very limited; ok destination airport especially with the new high-speed MagLev connnection to downtown Shanghai

The bad ones:

1. Frankfurt Airport: Very busy, very cluttered, very poor quality seating, the smell of cigarette smoke pervades all over the terminal, the signage is pathetic with way too many ups and downs, the airline lounges, esp the Lufthansa ones, are utterly substandard in space, amenities and seating

2. Tokyo Narita International: An airport that has by and far outgrown its purpose. The biggest positive is the high speed Narita Express train connecting it to downtown Tokyo but even this is undermined by the enormous number of escalators one needs to climb (with your baggage) to get to the checkin area. When you land there, god forbid you are forced to land at one of their so-called “bus-gates” on either a cold day in winter or a wet day in July…

3. Bangkok International Airport: Another airport showing signs of its age. Or perhaps that it is still a 3rd world country’s airport and that it is not yet fair to compare it with the ones in Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong and Singapore. For those in the US, this is like the old Detroit Metro Airport where it was possible to check in on time and miss a flight by the time you walked to the gate proper.

4. The Abu Dhabi Airport: Which would not have figured at all but for two trips in-transit through this of all available airports. It is a strange design – with tiles more akin to bathroom tiles (in shades of deep blue and white) plastered all over the dome shaped (actually more donut like with a dip in the middle of the dome) ceiling. Very jarring on the eye and characterized by a clutter for seating.

5. London Heathrow: Distinctly showing signs of age now. A creaky, outdated structure redeemed by the excellent connections to downtown London and the very lively passenger waiting area. However, moving between terminals is a time-consuming challenge, and the signage pathetically inadequate.

6. Atlanta’s Hartsfield – badly designed relatively new airport with the sole redeeming feature being the excellent train connection into downtown Atlanta

7. La Guardia and JFK -in New York enough said.

8. Boston’s Logan International – unless you are landing and taking off on Delta out of the completely rebuilt Terminal A, the terminal experience is pathetic. Compound this with the hopeless traffic arrangements, the difficult to reach rental car terminals and the totally inadequate Blue Line connection to the city, this is a pity of an airport.

Then there are ones that are so bad that they are off the charts entirely.

This category has to be headlined by the Indian airports. All the Indian airports – Bangalore’s is a joke but even Chennai, Delhi and Mumbai are hopelessly inadequate and out of keeping with the increasingly global role India plays – are absolutely pathetic. Ranking the airports in India from best to worst is an interesting exercise in itself but worth doing…

1. Chennai’s Meenambakkam Airport: Easy transfer between the domestic and international sections, adequate though small lounges, like all Indian airports pathetic in-airport retail, all are compensated by the relative efficiency and cleanliness of the airport. Getting around is another thing entirely, with the Madras cabbies and auto drivers historically notorious and only getting worse.

2. Mumbai’s Santa Cruz Airport: The Sahar International is bad and badly in need of a total overhaul – the Santa Cruz Domestic Airport, esp the new departure terminal, is quite modern though badly architected. The big plus here is the ease of getting to the city from here and the in-airport retail and lounges are nice. A big reason to use the airport is the Hotel Royal Orchid just outside – just what the doctor ordered for tired transit passengers.

3. Hyderabad’s Begumpet Airport: One of the most accessible of Indian airports, this has a very elegantly designed (and adjacent) domestic and international terminals a la Chennai. Very clean bright lines characterize this airport – only rumors have it that it will be “retired” once the new airport comes up in the southern outskirts of the city near Shamshabad. I hope it is not – it still has a key role as the urban airport quite like Chicago’s Midway and the Washington National.

4. Kolkata Airport

and the comments from back then…

Aruna said…
Very interesting! Was wondering why any aiprort from Africa and South America dont feature on this list?? Your travels havent taken you there or they are completely off the radar?!!!What are your thoughts on Soekarno-Hatta aiport, Jakarta? I have found their domestic airport quite passenger friendly. Was amazed to see the number of domestic airlines that fly in that country!

12:48 AM

Buck said…
You were spot on with your first observation – that my travels have never taken me into either Africa or continental South America. In fact the only place I have been south of the Equator is Sydney……have not been to Jakarta either – though you have just provided me with incentive to accept the next invitation to head there!

One can understand the exuberance of Vishal Bharadwaj and the ones who (mis)managed the publicity for Omkara that caused them to play up the Othello angle.

Mismanaged because by simply calling Omkara an adaptation of Othello, they are doing a great disservice to the multi-talented Mr Bharadwaj. Yes, it is a great juxtaposition of that great Shakespearean tragedy into the rough and tumble of politics in Western UP. One appreciates the cleverness of the character names – so that Othello becomes Omkara, Desdemona transforms into Dolly and so on.

But what this over-emphasis on Othello does is to totally undersell the ability of a great director to interweave every possible element of a masala Hindi movie into a gripping, blink-and-you-miss-something narrative. The music (by Vishal Bharadwaj himself) is epic in its own right, and Gulzar’s lyrics are brilliant as always. The dark light effects, the sweeping panoramas, and the mercilessly coarse and blistering dialogues all contribute to the making of one of the great Hindi movies of our generation. Bipasha Basu’s beautiful cameo with Beedi Jalaile ranks along with Aishwarya Rai’s Kajra Re from Bunty aur Babli and Rekha’s Kaisi Paheli Zindagani (Parineeta) as one of the great “item numbers” in Hindi movies.

Kareena Kapoor is adequate as Dolly, Viveik Oberoi looks his part (though his histrionic limitations come forth in the more dramatic scenes, of which there are many), but the 3 I would pay to see again and again are Ajay Devgun as Omkara (and to think that the first time I went to see a movie starring this worthy – Jigar – I actually walked out 45 minutes into the film), Saif Ali Khan in the much-appreciated role of Langda Tyagi and Konkona Sen Sharma as Indu Tyagi.

Superb movie – and not surprisingly not a great success at the Box Office. I am sure in the years to come, like Guru Dutt’s Kagaz Ke Phool, Omkara will be pulled up for reference as one of the great movies in Bollywood history.

Over the past 3-4 weeks, I ended up seeing 4 Hindi movies from 2006 that really shook me out of my ennui in their own unique ways and left me appreciating one of the most wonderful year’s in Bollywood cinema.

One Rang De Basanti would have sufficed to make 2006 memorable, the year saw other movies vie for the sublime – Omkara, Dor, Lage Raho Munnabhai and Gangster are the 4 I have had the pleasure of viewing thus far – and I have not even seen the big box office grossers such as Fanaa, Krrish and Dhoom 2 nor other acclaimed ones like Khosla Ka Ghosla and Pyar Ke Side Effects.

Nagesh Kukunoor’s journey into the Hindi film industry is itself worth a movie one day. How many of us engineers had the courage of conviction, and the passion, to chuck it all and get back to following one’s heart. Where Nagesh Kukunoor’s heart has taken him is to the very apex of Hindi filmdom. I always thought having Subhash Ghai produce a movie (Iqbal) would be difficult to top. I liked Iqbal a lot, as much as I have liked every movie made by Nagesh from his first Hyderabad Blues. “Dor” is something in a league of its own. A must-watch movie if ever there was one.

The three central characters, Gul Panag, Ayesha Takia and Shreyas Talpade, have together delivered one of the most plausible, lilting and uplifting human dramas in Indian cinemas since Ketan Mehta’s Bhavni Bhavai (with the likes of Naseeruddin Shah and Smita Patil in key roles!). Not once does Dor degenerate into the maudlin, and not once does the cerebral director ever let his intellect come in the way of a simple and straightforward narrative.

Girish Karnad as Ayesha’s decadent father-in-law is a classic case where the director could have been tempted to put more meat into a character. By leaving this under-developed, the focus stays squarely on the interplay of emotions and attitudes between Ayesha and Gul Panag. The story of “Dor” is that of these two young women, diametrically opposite in temperament, upbringing and experience, joined together by sheer destiny. In their very tragedy is the triumph of human spirit and attitude. Gul’s stately and measured approach to life is brought to its knees when confronted with the otherwise demure and waif-like Ayesha’s unexpected intransigence.

Salim-Sulaiman’s outstanding music, Shreyas Talpade brilliant cameo as the bahuroopiya who takes Gul Panag to her destination, and everything else fades into the background as the riveting evolution of the personalities of Ayesha’s Meera and Gul’s Zeenat occupies centerstage in this outstanding movie from one of the great years in Hindi Cinema.

I doubt whether we will ever see better performances from either Ms Takia or Ms Panag than this. I hope I am wrong though – there is so much inner steel in the petite Ayesha Takia’s histrionic ability that she could easily emerge as the Shabana Azmi of this generation of actresses. Likewise, I cannot think of too many contemporary actressses who could have essayed the character of Zeenat without giving in to the temptation to overact – that she could do so in what is only her second movie to date is a real tribute to Gul Panag.

Above all, this marks the high-point in the continuing evolution of Nagesh Kukunoor, the film-maker. He has stayed true to his intellectual roots by not sacrificing the plausible at the altar of expedience. Can’t wait to see what he has up his sleeves for 2007!

and the comments/discussion…

Aruna said…
I am so glad u liked this movie! Could manage to see it only on my flight back from London and i loved it…Ayesha Takia was a revelation wasnt she?!! Every bit of that movie was fantastic…But there was one thing in this post of yours that i kind of dont agree with…rang de basanti making 2006 memorable. no doubt it was refreshing movie, full of fresh energy and vigour…i couldnt kind of bring myself to accepting that the youth of today have no option but to take to violence to get their message across… somehow i couldnt digest that even though it was only a movie!!

11:29 AM

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Anonymous said…
Lage Raho!I’m quite a movie buff and enjoy movies of various genres, be it drama, comedy, action, romance…the comedy lot is much more enjoyable than the rest! Chupke Chupke, Gol Maal, Angoor, Padosan are memorable hindi comedies ever made. Rarely though have I come across a movie that left me with a ‘WOW!’ feeling. ‘Lage Raho Munna Bhai’ is one such movie that is going to remain on the top of my ‘WOW!’ list for some time to come.

There are good movies and bad movies. Hilarious. Thought-provoking. Fun. Sad. Terrible. All sorts of adjectives are possible. My top-of-mind adjectives for LRMB are: Extraordinary and brilliant! Extraordinary because of the sheer enjoyment and entertainment that the movie provides. And brilliant, because I’ve never seen a better balancing act of comedy and a serious social message. This movie touches the Gandhi ideology without even one hurting slang!! Even the first Munna Bhai got too serious and tragic in parts – you felt like skipping those bits during the second or third watch. But in this one – you just can’t miss any of it…. again and again!!

The feel-good element in the Munna Bhai movies is so strong precisely because none of its characters are ever bad; they have flaws but are never evil. Boman Irani’s Lucky Singh is a conniving builder, but is ultimately a doting father to Simran. Boman Irani, having less to do here than he did as Dr. Asthana in Munna Bhai M.B.B.S., is terrific yet again. He slips easily into his Punjabi character and displays peculiar ticks that are a treat to watch. The other actor from the original making reappearance is Jimmy Shergill who is just as earnest as he was in the previous. One hopes that he’s written a meatier part in the third installment. Various other supporting actors come back in different avatars, and fans of the first will have a good time identifying them. Of the newer lot, Dilip Prabhavalkar makes the most of his role and gives us a Gandhi that we have never witnessed before. Those familiar with this Marathi theatre stalwart’s work know that his supreme asset is becoming the character he plays without falling back on reference points. Dilip does exactly that with his portrayal of Gandhi. His Gandhi is not a cheap impersonation of Ben Kingsley, or a mimic of the several other Gandhi acts that we have witnessed. Dilip plays Gandhi in his own style, and in doing so creates an authentic one. In addition to working on his body language, he has also put in an effort into talking like Gandhi. Kudos to the make-up artist (Vidyadhar Bhatte) who against convention chooses to present Gandhi the way he was, and not as we have been led to believe. Vidya Balan as the love-interest has little to do, but she does well with what she has. Special mention must be made of Vidya’s voice-modulation; she truly sounds like an RJ. Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Saurabh Shukla and Parikishit Sahni turn up in supporting roles. Abhishek Bachchan makes a cameo appearance too!
This movie prompted a long-winded discussion among some friends and then the whole of India about the man himself – the Mahatma, Bapu, Gandhiji. Was the man great, or were his ideals? Was he right because history worked to his advantage, or was he right irrespective of the outcome? Are his values relevant today? Or, his macro-economical vision for the nation, for that matter? In the same situation today, would what he did back then work? Well, it’s a matter of debate with no real black-and-white answer.

One of the thoughts that came to my mind during this conversation regarding his approach: He advocated sticking to one’s stance without resorting to violence. I feel that the greatness of this idea is in its contradiction to the two most natural and instinctive human reactions – fight or flee. He preached a third path – simple, but difficult and requiring great strength and resilience.
Look forward to more of such “Wow” movies…

To sign off with a quote from the man himself:

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win
– MKG

7:41 AM

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Music is one of the great unifiers – and dividers. It appeals to something so deep within us that it is difficult to rationalize and understand the why of a choice. It is as personal a choice that people make as any.

For as long as I can recollect, I have been an avid fan of the late great Geeta Dutt. Don’t get me wrong, I love listening to Lata (esp to the music of Madan Mohan or RDB), there are Asha Bhosle songs I can hear again and again, a few memorable songs from the likes of Aarti Mukherjee, Noor Jehan, Mubarak Begum, Shreya Ghoshal and even Alka Yagnik. But with the possible honorable exception of Kishore Kumar, there is no other singer in any language or style I would rather listen to than the former Miss Geeta Roy.

Whether it be her solos or her duets, her great tragic songs and her scintillating ones in a lighter vein, whether she was singing for SD Burman, Madan Mohan, OP Nayyar or Kanu Roy, there is a magic and a pathos in her singing that is unmatched.

She had her first great hit at the tender age of 17 singing “Mera Sundar Sapna Beet Gaya” for SD Burman in “Do Bhai” (1947). It is a tribute to both the music director and the singer that nearly 60 years thereafter the song still stands out as one of the all-time great tragic songs of Indian cinema. In a sense Geeta Dutt got typecast as the singing version of Meena Kumari, as a tragedienne supreme, and why not – only one singer in the history of Hindi cinema could have done justice to songs like “Waqt Ne Kiya, Kya Haseen Sitam” or “Jaane Kya Tune Kahi” and SDB knew it all along!

Yet, it is her lighter vein tunes that are as memorable – and probably greater in number and diversity. The great duets with Mohd Rafi in particular – ranging from “Jaane Kahan Jigar Gaya Ji” to “Udhar Tum Haseen Hon, Idhar Dil Jawaan Hai” and the great pseudo-duet “Aankhon Hi Aankhon Mein Ishara Ho Gaya” (where Rafi sings only the initial two lines of the mukhda and the rest of the song is all Geeta – wonderful juxtaposition of two gifted voices by OP Nayyar!) stand out. And of course the song that is for me is perhaps the pre-eminent romantic song in Hindi cinema, the unmatched “Hum Aap Ki Aankhon Mein” from Pyaasa.

One can never forget the lilting Madan Mohan number, “Ae Dil Mujhe Bata De”, or that quintessential lullaby “…Nanhi Kali Sone Chali, Hawa Dheere Aana” which has probably been sung by more Hindi-film music loving Indian moms (and Dads!) than any other.

Geeta made the monsoons come alive with “Rim Jhim Ke Taraane”, cool summer nights with “Thandi Hawa Kali Ghata…”, sang one of THE original item numbers with “Mera Naam Chin Chin Choo”, the soothing “Chale Hum Kahan..” with Hemant Kumar, and that wonderful song from Detective “Do Chamakti Aankhon Mein”…

She died shockingly early in 1972. However, her swan song was one for the ages, matched only about 20+ years later by RD Burman’s exit with “1942 – A Love Story”. The songs for the Basu Bhattacharyya’s Sanjeev-Tanuja starrer “Anubhav” had been scored by the relatively unsung great Music Director Kanu Roy – and one cannot imagine any other singer even attempting to sing and do any justice to “Meri Jaan Mujhe Jaa Na Kaho…”, “Mera Dil Jo Mera Hota…” or “Koi Chupke Se Aake” from Anubhav.

My Top-10 Geeta Dutt songs are:

1. “Waqt Ne Kiya Kya Haseen Sitam”
2. “Hum Aap Ki Aankhon Mein” with Rafi
3. “Meri Jaan Mujhe Jaa Na Kaho”
4. “Hawa Dheere Aana”
5. “Thandi Hawaaon Mein” with Talat
6. “Tum Jo Huey Mere Humsafar” with Rafi
7. “Mujhko Tum Jo Mile” with Hemant Kumar
8. “Koi Chupke Se Aake”
9. “Yeh Lo Main Haari Piya”
10. “Jaane Kya Tune Kahi”

Very very honorable mention – “Aankh Milane Ke Liye”!

Geeta Dutt came in with the advent of the golden age of Hindi film music – and with her passing away in 1972, the era came to an end. Her music lives on, a reminder of a bygone era and a troubled soul who still rose above her personal tragedy to regale and entertain generations to come.

….comments…

Anonymous said…
Geeta Dutt did some ad jingles too, do you’ve them or any knowledge about it?
I also want to know about her stage shows, which she did in her later years for survival!

12:47 AM

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Buck said…
I have always tried to block out the personal tragedy that Geeta Dutt lived through and focus on her music – but I guess it is difficult to separate the two!I have read that Geeta did some jingles for some soaps (Hamaam and Rexona, I believe) – with the music by Salil Chowdhury so they must have been pretty good. However, I have no personal recollection of those jingles.

Re stage shows, I have heard she used to perform at Durga Puja events and do other stage shows in the tail end of her short life…sometimes I wish Anubhav had been made about 5-6 years earlier and it might have given her the new lease on life post-Guru Dutt.

11:39 AM

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I think in the normal course, I would have faulted this flick mercilessly.

But as it emerged, as the first movie that my wife and I saw in a cinema hall in over 7 years without any little ones to care for, this one escapes.

Plus it is tough to totally pan a movie featuring a standout performance by Abhishek Bachchan, who is quickly emerging as the gold-standard for the post-Khans generation of Bollywood heart-throbs, a phenomenal cameo by Amitabh (difficult to believe he played this high energy role so soon after recovery from the latest ailments), Preity Zinta really living her role and to perfection, and music for the ages from Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy…

What detracts from the movie are slipshod editing, a weak story line that leaves too many characters inadequately etched, lazy direction from Karan Johar that results in needlessly abrupt dialogues and interventions, shockingly unconvincing performances by Rani Mukherjee who sleepwalks through her (admittedly poorly crafted) role and Shahrukh Khan, who comes through only in patches….

…if nothing else, this movie shall mark the formal passing of the baton from King Khan to the jr Bachchan, in the same way that exactly 30 years back, Sholay saw the baton of the numero uno star in Bollywood transition from the so-called hero of the movie, Dharmendra, to the one who stole the hearts…Bachchan Senior.

…there are enough arresting scenes and sequences in this 3-hours-plus opus to ensure that Karan Johar recovers his investment and more. It is also a much better movie than the disastrous Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gam. Karan’s continuing love-affair with New York City comes through in his wonderful picture compositions across the East River – he captured all seasons and Fall in particular is spectacular. I had a tough time picking my favorite song – Mitva, the title number, and the two party songs featuring the Bachchans are all superb.

…it has been rumored that King Khan is not very happy with the attention that Karan Johar accorded Abhishek…hopefully Shahrukh realizes that he has had a worthy run as the second (and thankfully improved) coming of Dilip Kumar, and that all good things must end….

…and the comments when first published….

Jaunty Quicksand said…
I have not seen this movie and probably will not. I think KKKG did it for me as far as Karan Johan was concerned, with Kal Ho Na Ho striking the last nail in the coffin.Instead I would recommend – Samay – a Sushmita Sen movie which is surprisingly slick and engrossing. (The ending is “inspired” but there is more than enough meat in the story itself to forgive this fact).

10:03 AM

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Anonymous said…
Did you watch the same movie I did???? What *I* saw was a poorly crafted movie with a wafer thin plot, needless (and pointless) characters and eminently forgettable music (except for Mitwaa).I do agree with you, though, that Abhishek is shaping up to be a *really* good actor.

Rupa

1:45 AM

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Buck said…
RupaI think we saw the same movie – except for our diametrically opposite opinions on S-E-L’s music, we are on the same page!

I think the desire to be sensational got the better of Mr Johar and the end result reflects the lack of quality in the screenplay and direction.

4:25 AM

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…to open this discussion, a disclaimer.

This opinion is mine, formed through various conversations, reading and also first-person observations….the bulk of my first-person observation has been in Bangalore, though Hyderabad, Gurgaon/Delhi and Pune and Mumbai (to a lesser extent) also figure…

…the reason I have often heard being voiced for the sustainability of the Indian economic miracle (esp in contrast to the Chinese one) is the fact that India is finally a functioning democracy where the deprived ones have a legitimate non-violent means of effecting a regime change when desired. I have myself often cited the several changes in the ruling coterie in Delhi, all brought about by a supposedly uneducated and ill-informed population.

…12 months into a closer interaction with India, I am less convinced of this. The democracy seems to work in fits and starts. In most parts of the country, the rule of the mob prevails. Karnataka, supposedly the destination for most IT majors worldwide, rules the roost in terms of the pervasiveness of corruption. Gujarat, my favorite state and once the industrial hub of the nation, is riven by a communal divide that will take a lot of statesmanship to heal….

…even within the little conclaves that are being formed by the elite around the country, the operative term is their unsustainability. The mall-worker syndrome, as my friend Pallab most eloquently described it in a conversation, will catch up. As the humble mall-worker, often living miles away from the mall where he/she works at, usually unable to even dine at the same mall where he/she works, always unable to live the life of the nouveaux riche in their spaghetti straps and designer jeans, comes to terms with the hopelessness of his/her existence, I am dreading that he/she will snap one day….the outcome is terrifying….whether one thinks of Gurgaon or Koramangala or Phoenix Mills in Mumbai.

…the gap between the haves and the have-nots has become untenable…even amongst the haves, the gap between those enriched by IT and related services and those unable to partake of the dollar-driven wages of the IT/ITES sector is growing…the country is still blissfully celebrating the 25th year of Infosys’ existence – and not dwelling enough on the disaster waiting to happen…

…it will take a lot of political fortitude and seasoned statesmanship to stem the rot. Someone needs to call Mulayam Singh Yadav’s bluff. Someone needs to contain Narendra Modi. Someone needs to tell Deve Gowda that enough is enough, and that the time has come for true champions of the farmers to emerge. Someone needs to tell Sonia-ji that backseat driving is ok if it is a Karl Rove doing it; if the Prime Minister of the country has to start his day by paying obeisance to her, it is not acceptable or appropriate….

…I doubt whether such persons exist…will the businessmen of today take on a different hue if they get into politics – or will they change politics for the better? Rajeev Chandrashekhar of BPL is an MP, Vijay Mallya is an MP, Anil Ambani of ReliAAnce is into active politics – and yet while leveraging power for their business interests, they have done little to leverage their business savvy to improve the body politic….

…this has been the story of my life…

I am not sure why, but especially on matters sporting, i have always been a die-hard fan of the second best (or second most visible…)

When the second-best one, through dint of hard work ends up becoming numero uno as well, as Rahul Dravid has done now and Stefan Edberg has done in the past, my cup runneth over…

Otherwise, even when I have been an aficionado of the undisputed numero uno (eg Michael Jordan) my loyalty has always been with the second gun (Scottie Pippen with the Bulls, VVS Laxman throughout his illustrious career that has delivered but only 10 splendid centuries, Leander Paes,…)

The sole exception I can think of is Steffi Graf…she came out of the gates strong, something about her hard-working no-nonsense clean and crew-cut style appealed to me and she remained a favorite till she called it a day several years later…for once, Gabriela Sabatini and Monica Seles never supplanted her in my eyes….

…perhaps this is the reason why I am rooting for the Portuguese soccer (or should we say real football?) team, Michael Schumacher, Vijay Singh and Shivnarine Chanderpaul (over his more heralded fellow-south-paw skipper)…

Comments

Jaunty Quicksand said…
Except for Laxman and Edberg, the common trait with all your favourites is that they lacked the talent the alpha-dogs of their sport did, but that did not deter them from carving a niche for themselves. If Laxman had been treated better by the selectors and management, he would have more than his 10 centuries. Though to be fair, many of his splendid innings have been 50’s, proving to be the difference between victory and defeat, like Dravid’s twins in the Kingston Test.

2:40 PM

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Kaiser said…
why was Schumacher pushed to an underdog Status ? He never was and will never be so

2:04 AM

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