Which is the most popular letter to start a Hindi film title? My not-so-random sample of 50 suggests that 12% of Hindi film titles start with M (P too is 12%). This blog post combines L with the first three M posts (always in alphabetical order as readers must have noticed).
So there are these two boys in school squabbling over something trivial. The squabble becomes a fistfight – that doesn’t horrify, and in fact evokes nostalgia. Who hasn’t had at least one decent brawl in school?
But suddenly something horrible really happens. Boy 1 pushes Boy 2 down from the terrace, and Boy 2 dies an instant ghastly death. Boy 1 runs away in fear … he runs and runs till he boards a departing train. Still shocked and disoriented, he fears the cops will catch him. That’s when there’s this reassuring pat on the shoulder: “No one will catch you. No one can catch you!”
Easy to guess that the pat is from K N Singh (KNS) – he was such a suave don – and Boy 1 will grow up to be garam Dharmendra (D).
Loafer (1973) starts promisingly, and the promise endures. D becomes an absolute master at picking pockets, then diamond necklaces from rich maharani necks, and eventually wads of notes from bank lockers. He does all this effortlessly while oozing great charm. KNS is pleased as punch with D; his evil eye even acquires an affectionate glint.
But KNS’s rival Premnath (P) is angry like hell. P gets especially angry when his informer in the KNS gang, Roopesh Kumar, is exposed. Roopesh is attacked at home, smashed to pulp, taken away and locked up. When he doesn’t return home, his sister Mumtaz (M) starts worrying. M goes to P and says “I’ll do whatever you want, but release my pyaara bhaiyya“. P asks M to become his new mole in the KNS gang. “Do whatever you need to do, but get intimate with D and share all his plans with me”, he orders.
But D’s be-imaan past is catching up too. He finds that Om Prakash (OP), who gives him his ‘good luck apple’ before every smuggling mission, is actually the father of Boy 2. The grief of Boy 2’s death killed off OP’s wife and business and made him a complete sharaabi selling apples. To make matters worse, OP’s bitiya Farida Jalal, who’s in a rich boarding school, still thinks her baap is ameer.
You can see it’s getting complicated … but everything ends predictably. D gets reformed, and after a rather clever jewel robbery, admits his guilt and surrenders to the big cop Iftekhar. KNS dies of a heart attack, after seeing all the jewels that D robbed, and P is gunned down by the cops. OP accepts D as his other beta, and M discards her hot pants for a coy sari, and promises to wait till D is released from jail.
Main Chup Rahungi
They called Meena Kumari (MK) the tragedy queen, and I’m beginning to understand why. She had such an expressive face, she could shed tears effortlessly, and she had a voice that was truly sensual.
Best of all, she was an accomplished performer who looked an absolute natural in front of the screen, especially with crisp B&W photography. My mission today is to figure out why MK promised to remain silent in Main Chup Rahungi (1962).
It starts in a railway compartment. MK has a third class ticket but, in her hurry, ends up in a first class compartment, in the company of the dashing Sunil Dutt (SD). SD is the rich zamindar’s son, MK is the daughter of a poor farmer in the same gaon – who, incidentally, is completely indebted to the zamindar and treats him like a god.
SD quickly figures out that he can’t advance a possible friendship unless he introduces himself as a common electrician working in the zamindar’s haveli. But the deception is doomed to fail. SD looks far too aristocratic – and also rides a glorious horse.
When MK discovers SD’s true identity she wants to back off, but SD’s charm is electric and he convinces MK to marry her in the Shiv Mandir on the hill.
Suddenly, unexpectedly, SD has to go to Singapore to revive a failing business. And, less surprisingly, MK has already started getting fainting spells that point to pregnancy. The zamindar has to act fast. He tells the farmer to start a new life in the shehar, and makes MK promise that she’ll never talk about what happened to SD and her. When MK gives birth to a baby boy her baap leaves him in an anaath ashram and tells MK the baby died immediately after birth.
The rest of the film is tiresome and painful. It required a considerable effort to reach the end. It ends happily with the little boy bringing MK and SD together, but the torture was avoidable. Someone should tell me why they dragged the film so long.
If you think this is about the 1979 Manzil with Amitabh Bachchan getting drenched in the rain with Moushumi Chatterjee, then please stop reading right now.
I’m talking of the Manzil (1960) with Dev Anand (DA) and Nutan (N). I quite liked the film. There’s no way I’ll ever see it again, but I don’t regret seeing it once.
It’s supposed to be 1929. DA, son of the rich businessman K N Singh (KNS), is back home after studying in England. He’s supposed to take over his father’s business and marry his childhood friend N; but he’s determined to become a musician and that’s something his old man can’t digest.
DA and N meet as grown-ups for the first time at the Simla railway station. As DA walks on the practically empty platform, he can see the mountains with snow-covered peaks just across. It is gorgeously beautiful. Then a train with a steam engine chugs in. N steps down. When she recognizes DA, her face lights up with the most illuminating smile.
I couldn’t take my eyes off N thereafter. Oh, there’s something so captivating about her. She isn’t glamorous, she isn’t pouting, she isn’t wearing a tight-fitting dress, and yet she has such dazzling allure.
What amazed me was the wonderful togetherness that DA and N exuded; there’s such unbelievable bonding between them. They don’t have to hug or blow kisses to announce their love and affection. It’s there for everyone to see: In their eyes, in the way they gently hold hands, in the way they walk together. As they romance in the dark they’re hardly visible. But when you briefly see them, as the moon passes by, you see electric intimacy.
This couldn’t go on forever … I mean who can live with such divine love ad infinitum?
The bubble bursts when DA tells KNS to smoke any pipe he wishes, but he’s not joining the family business. KNS responds by throwing out DA and his piano from the house. Poor N has to be the loser, and that is so bloody unfair. DA takes the train to Bombay even as a distraught N pines for him.
Bombay is tough for DA as he’s robbed on the very first night. But he meets good friends: Mehmood, the paanwala, who could possibly be an even more accomplished singer; David, the veteran music director who gives DA his early musical breaks, and Zebunissa (Z), the beautiful call girl, who falls madly in love with DA and invites him to stay in her house. DA, on his part, makes it clear that he has only respect for Z, but real love only for N.
As rumours spread to Simla that DA is ‘married’ to Z, N is shattered. Exploiting N’s broken heart, an army captain offers to marry N.
It’s all going wrong. DA is desperately lonely and drinking heavily (but his sorrow is creating outstanding music) and N most reluctantly marries the captain. Alas the bechara captain can’t even enjoy his suhaag raat with N because war breaks out just as he’s completing his seventh phera.
But this is a Hindi film, so everything sorts out nicely in the end. A glowing newspaper report (and abundant wealth) persuades KNS to embrace DA. And the Captain most conveniently falls off a building and drops dead so that the childhood friends finally marry. And remember – if you need to – that it is a pristine virgin N who finally marries DA.
Mera Gaon Mera Desh
You thought Salim-Javed got into a creative and enticing maze to come up with the Sholay plot? Wrong! They probably only saw Mera Gaon Mera Desh (1971) again and again. The similarity is embarrassing.
Dharmendra (D) is a small-time chor who’s living his life in and out of jail. He’s an orphan, good at heart, and devastatingly good-looking. A retired fauji Jayant (J), who’s lost one hand in a war, invites D to stay with him in his gaon. Why? Because J realizes that D is a good soul, and, more importantly, because the gaon is terrorized by dacoits, and, with just one haath, J is rather helpless.
D tosses a coin, it shows heads, and so he decides to go to the gaon. But his plan is rather simple: have a good life, ogle at the kudis bathing in the river, and get drunk night after night.
One kudi he especially fancies is Asha Parekh (AP). He woos her by sending messages via a little boy who’s visibly nanga. The bachhu faithfully delivers messages, but AP doesn’t reciprocate. D wonders if AP is being distracted by his nangapan. So, he gives the bachhu a chaddi.
Alas, the bachhu‘s first chaddi day is also his last. First the bachhu’s baap and then the bachhu himself are brutally gunned down by the chief daaku Vinod Khanna (VK). The scene is chilling; it left me quite disturbed. VK then proceeds to gun down AP’s baap too, because the baap had vowed to testify against him in court.
All these events shake up D. His soul wakes up. He declares that he will protect his gaon and his desh from these killers. In preparation, J teaches him how to shoot with a gun, and D, in turn, teaches AP how to shoot. Love blossoms. Soon AP is so besotted that she promises D all her gold, silver and money.
VK gets news about D preparing to take him on. He sends his girlfriend Laxmi Chhaya (LS) to entice D with song and dance. LS begins promisingly, but then herself starts falling in love with D. So, she promises VK that she’ll identify the disguised D in the mela, and promises D that she’ll identify VK. She’s living dangerously, but that’s her way.
The film thereafter becomes quite a blood bath. Bullets fly, bombs go off, horses tumble and bodies fall off. There’s collateral damage with houses on fire and J shot through the head. D is an earnest warrior, VK is more lethal and decidedly more charismatic.
As the final battle approaches, VK kidnaps AP and lures D to his den to rescue her. Both AP and D are tied up and death seems around the corner. But VK first wants some entertainment that LS happily provides. LS asks D if she should kill him or let him free, but her master plan was always to free him after getting all the dakus drunk and unconscious.
The gun battle in the climax is gripping as the adversaries have a shoot-out on narrow winding alleys, rooftops and bridges. LS dies as she had to, and VK dies after being horribly cornered and watching each of his fellow dakus drop dead. As promised, D kills them all chun chun ke; and he does a far better job than he would do a few years later in Sholay.
LP’s music is pacy and enjoyable, the photography is awesome, and Raj Khosla’s camera and angles make Rajasthan look breathtakingly beautiful.