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Kaala Patthar : Adaptation of Lord Jim

Joseph Conrad’s novel Lord Jim, first published in 1900, finds a resonance even today; so timeless was his tale. And many a movie has been based on this book, only the setup has changed with the changing times.

It’s a tale of living an ignominious life and how the protagonist redeems himself. Very recently, we saw this theme being played out in Chak De India, with SRK in the lead role. And before that, Abhishek Bachchan in Zameen got an opportunity to re-live the character of Lord Jim.

But many years ago, it was Salim-Javed who brought this fine tale to Yash Chopra, Indiansed it, added the much needed entertainment quotient by introducing new elements into it and roped in Amitabh Bachchan to breathe life into the character.

After Deewar, Kabhi Kabhie & Trishul, this was the fourth collaboration of Yash Chopra, Shashi Kapoor and BigB. But for this movie, where Amitabh & Shashi gel well and are on the same side, in the three previous encounters they have always crossed swords with each other. In this movie, we don’t get to see that. Here we see Shashi’s calm and cool attitude being the best response to Amitabh’s smouldering anger, equal and opposite in effect.

Among the star cast, Rakhi and Neetu were again regulars who had worked with Yashji earlier; but Shatrughan Sinha and Parveen Babi were new to his school of direction. Their discomfiture in the movie can be gauged by the fact that neither of the two acted in a Yash Chopra movie again. Shatrughan has always indulged in theatrics in his characterisation, as seen in Vishwanath & Kalicharan. And such characters are rarely found in Yashji’s movie. And what can one say about Parveen Babi; she always had the looks but lacked substance.

Much before Coalgate scam and mine block allocation, there was a Seth Dhanraj, played by Prem Chopra, a capitalist who believed in making money by looting the mineral resources and depriving the coal miners of a decent livelihood. And the entire story revolves around this coalmine setup.

Before getting branded as the tour guide of Switzerland, Yash Chopra was known for capturing various industries with good detailing in his movies. In Deewar, the movie begins with a trade union meeting in the rain, and how they discuss the terms and conditions of the factory owners. Later, the movie goes onto capture smugglers lifestyle and how wheeling and dealing goes on in the underworld. In Trishul, Yashji dives deep into real estate development, opening and closing of tenders, and what underhand tricks are used for winning a tender etc. In Kabhi Kabhie too, poet Amit retires into a life of an industrialist. Even in later years, the movie Vijay had the modern outlook on Mahabharat with the backdrop of competitive industrial war. That’s the mark of a good director, they work hard on the characters and the detailing. They are never afraid to try a new setup, a different storyline or unique situations.

Here too, the coalmine workers and their living conditions are captured pretty well. Their working environment, the siren that marks the start of the working hours, the tea stall and the entire setting and backdrop is done with lot of effort.

We see a brooding BigB, playing Vijay Pal Singh, who is nursing a deep pain in his heart, some guilt of the past, a hurtful truth that he cannot runaway from. In his attempt to hide from the world, he takes up a job at a nondescript location where nobody would recognise him. He goes about his job silently, without interacting with fellow workers. The only person who seems to understand him is doctor Sudha, played by Rakhi, and she is the only person with whom he ever speaks.

Sudha can see through the hollowness in his heart and the vacuum in his life, but she can do nothing to fill it as he has built a wall around himself that nobody but him can break. In such a situation, Salim-Javed drops in two characters – Ravi, an engineer who marks the mining zone and looks into the concerns of the workers, and Mangal, an escaped convict who is just looking to have some fun while he keeps the police busy.

Mangal, played by Shatrughan Sinha, annoys Vijay, challenges him to a duel and behaves cocky just to cause an imbroglio, but for no particular reason. And on the other hand, Ravi, played by Shashi Kapoor, tries to assuage the animosity between Vijay & Mangal. BigB and Shatru were pitted against each other just for some whistles and cheap thrills. But it didn’t add much value to the movie. It was just the coming together of two huge actors, UP ka bhaiyya and Bihari babu.

The movie keeps you interested as we are still unaware of the cause of Vijay’s inner turmoil. But the additional characters of Ravi’s & Mangal’s love interests weighs down the movie. It not only reduces the pace but also the intensity of the movie.

Just when the movie starts drifting, Salim-Javed pull another fast one to bring about a sudden mood swing. A mishap takes place and how the lead characters change themselves for the better, and how they all come together to help save lives of the coalminers, takes the movie forward.

Vijay’s hour of redemption finally arrives, where he faces fear dauntingly and exorcises the demons of the past. The shadow of his inglorious act finally vanishes as the sunshine of guilt floats behind the clouds of a brave act, and he is ready to face the world again, with his head held high. He had the author backed role, and Amitabh Bachchan did complete justice to the character.

But the movie didn’t do very well at the box office. Only if Shatrughan Sinha or Shashi Kapoor had been given a meatier role, the movie might have fared better. It was Bachchan’s show all the way. Although, Rakhi did well to get noticed. Rest of the characters just became a supporting cast, in this show largely driven by Vijay.

The movie had some rather mediocre music and forgettable lyrics. Rajesh Roshan was the composer and Sahir Ludhianvi was the lyricist; needless to say, they never worked together again. Ek Rasta Hai Zindagi, sung by Kishore Kumar is the only memorable number from the movie. Rest of the songs were passé and uninspired. One of the few movies of Yashji with such indifferent musical score. Later, Faasle and Vijay were added to this list.

Overall, the movie was no great shake. Salim-Javed probably missed out on that elusive x-factor, which they usually get it right in most movies, but not this time. This was the beginning of a long and listless time that Yashji had to endure for a whole decade. From 1979, when Kaala Patthar released, to 1989, when Chandni released, was a muted period for Yash Chopra. All his movies fared badly in this 10 year period, starting with this movie. Silsila flopped, Vijay and Fasle were disasters and Mashaal was average.

But the story of Lord Jim is eternal, and it shall be played out again and again, in different regions with different flavours and a different backdrop. And Kaala Patthar will always be mentioned, even as a footnote, only because of its honest effort and a good adaptation.

This post was also published on MadAboutMoviez

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Posted by on November 8, 2012 in bollywood, movies

 

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Discerning Few : Rafi Sings For Bachchan

Today is Rafi’s 29th death anniversary. Hope his soul is in peace.

na fankaar tujh sa tere baad aya
mohammed rafi tu bahut yaad aya

– A song from movie Kroadh

Just the other day I was watching the song and something struck me. I felt that the song was ironical in so many ways. Although its a tribute to Rafi Saab, it was sung by Md.Aziz, a so-called Rafi clone, whose voice is such a far cry from the soothing and melodious voice of Rafi. And the fact that the song was filmed on Amitabh Bachchan, whereas Rafi hardly sang a dozen songs for him.

That got me thinking of all the songs which Rafi Saab rendered for AB. Among the pearls of Kishore da songs, I really had to try hard to find the gems that Rafi had sung. And quite truly I found very few of those. I still wonder why the legendary singer was given such few songs to sing for the megastar. While I do agree that Kishore had become the defacto voice for AB, but you still had Mukesh singing for him in Kabhi Kabhie, Manhar Udhas sang a song in Abhimaan, Shabbir Kumar sang a dozen of them during the mid-1980’s in movies like Coolie and Mard, Md.Aziz sang for him in Khuda Gawah and more, Kumar Sanu gave us a nasal AB in Jaadugar and Geraftar; then why did music composers of 1970’s not give more songs to Rafi Saab? Anyways, instead of cribbing about what did-not and could-not happen, let us just enjoy whatever little that’s available of this actor-singer combination.

While I was making a quick list of the songs, much to my surprise I found that Manmohan Desai was the only director who got Rafi Saab to record for a lot of those BigB songs. And invariably, Laxmikant-Pyarelal was the music composer for the Desai flicks like Desh Premee, Naseeb and Suhaag. In fact, even outside of Manmohan Desai films, LP made use of Rafi’s tones for Dostana and Ek Nazar.

Let me start with one of the most melodious duets of Indian cinema, Teri Bindiya Re, what a composition it is! Everytime I hear it, I go into a wonderland of my own dream sequence. Lata-Rafi, at their very best, just take us back to the basics of classical training; and without straining a single chord deliver such fantastic melody. SD Burman, the music director who made this possible, should be given huge credit for this evergreen song. I only wish that Majrooh Saab had written a few more stanzas so that Lata-Rafi could cast a longer spell of magic. Why the hell is this song so short? Under 4 minutes! Ok, here I go cribbing again….forget it. Let me enjoy, thanking God for those little mercies that the song still exists in the hearts and minds of people.

Another Lata-Rafi duet, which did not get much airtime because the movie did not do well, was the song Patta Patta Boota Boota from the movie Ek Nazar. It was a LP composition, much in sync with the movie but not with the times that were. Its a forgotten song which comes up only when people talk about Mir’s poetry and/or Rafi’s voice and the effortless rendition. What a fine song, and it does not look odd on Bachchan’s persona either.

Let me stepback for a minute, one of the first songs which Rafi sang for BigB was for the movie Parwana and the song was Yu Na Sharma . Madan Mohan was the music composer and the situation was party-like where Kishore da sang the happy version of the song picturized on Navin Nischol. The same song is later sung in a sad version by Rafi for AB. The mood changes, the flavor changes, the voice changes, face changes but the melody remains. AB’s sullen expression and Rafi’s tones of dismay makes for such a beautfiul watch.

Another somber song which Rafi rendered wonderfully for AB was Mere Dost Kissa Ye Kya ho Gaya in Dostana. The strained relationship between AB and Shatru is brought out so well in this song. A restrained Rafi and a clean-shaven, boyish hair-cut and yet a grave-looking Bachchan was a treat. There is so much emotion in those words sung by Rafi and the expression on AB’s face is just unforgettable. In fact, except for this song, all other songs of Dostana were sung by Kishore da; including the title song, Dillagi Ne Di Hawa etc. And yet, for this song LP chose Rafi who did total justice to this gloomy song.

Having mentioned the above songs, let me now come to the Manmohan Desai and LP combo. Desh Premee was quite a long winded movie with so many twists and turns, typical of any Desai movie. The movie was based on patriotism, regional, caste, creed and racial differences. Kishore da sang the fun songs Khatoon Ki Khidmat Mei, Gore Nahi Hum Kaale Sahi etc. But it was Rafi’s song of unity in diversity that won hearts. The title song, Nafrat Ki Lathi Todo, was symbolic of Desai’s movies. Though this song may not count among best of Rafi songs, but its the perfect song for national integration. And keeping in tradition with all the patriotic songs that Rafi has sung.

Teri Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi song, which later gave the title to Adi Chopra’s movie, was sung by Rafi for another Desai movie Suhaag, with music by LP. BigB in the disguise of a ek tara strung sardar and Rekha behind the garb for almost the entire song could have spelt disaster. But AB and Rekha carried it off, with Rafi crooning this playful number and Shailendra Singh lyrically rebutting him.

Another song from the same movie was the dandiya number, Sabse Bada Tera Naam O Sherowali, was devotionally sung by Rafi. Much later, Mehul Kumar copied the same sequence in Krantiveer, where the hero sings for Maa Sherawali while waiting for the villain to arrive on the scene. Anyways, Suhaag was an exceptional case where Rafi sang entirely for AB. There were two other songs, Athra Baras Ki Tu Hone Ko Ayi filmed on AB and Rekha in her kotha; and Aye Yaar Sun was a silly song where AB was training a blind Shashi Kapoor to ride a bike on his instructions, basically AB literally doing a backseat driving. Nowhere in the movie do we feel that Rafi’s voice does not suit BigB, at least this movie should have opened more doors for this combo. But probably the box-office report and producer’s superstition held them back from doing so.

Betwixt Desh Premee and Suhaag came Desai’s Naseeb. And much before the Hey-Baby’s and the Om-Shanti-Oms, there was John Jaani Janardhan. A star-studded song which was opportunistically filmed during the golden jubilee celebrations of Desai’s Dharam Veer. Desai made the best of the situation by shooting the song as guests kept coming in; they swayed a little, lip-synced a little and the song created history. This was another song which is a symbol of Desai’s secular credentials and all-inclusive approach. And Rafi singing to the tunes of LP was icing on the cake. He gave the song the much required gaiety and enjoyment without missing a single beat. It was one of the more overtly commercial songs of Rafi that went very well with AB’s merriment.

I would like to mention two more songs which were not sung for AB, but nevertheless AB was the proxy of the voice. The song was filmed on unknown faces, but the thoughts and feelings were of AB. One of the song is Deewane Hain Deewano Ko Na Ghar Chahiye from Zanjeer which reflected AB’s thoughts in the movie; and the other is Ruthe Rab Ko Manana Asaan Hai from Majboor. Both songs were sung with great enthusiasm by Rafi Saab, although they were not to be shot on the main lead. That goes on to show the humility of this man who valued the song for what they were, nice compositions.

Amidst all these amusement let me not forget one of my favourite romantic songs of Rafi which also happens to be picturized on AB, which is Tumse Door Rehke. The movie was Aadalat and the music composer was Kalyanji-Anandji, perhaps the only time that the duo got Rafi to sing for AB. The song has such a nice ring to it, filled with fondness and yearning and the magic of Rafi’s voice and expression.

Although Kishore da has sung more songs of AB, memorable ones too, I cherish these Rafi tracks as well. These songs should not be lost in the vast ocean of AB songs.

This post was first published on PFC

 
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Posted by on July 31, 2009 in bollywood, movies

 

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