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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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Shakti Samanta – A Musical Tribute

ye kyaa huaa, kaise huaa, kab huaa
kyon huaa, jab huaa, tab huaa
chhodo, ye naa socho

humne jo dekhaa thaa, sunaa thaa
kyaa bataaye wo kyaa thaa
sapnaa salonaa thaa
khatam to honaa thaa, huaa

When the end came, it was really sorrowful. But as all good things come to and end, so did the life of Shakti Samanta. The above lines are from his movie Amar Prem and they are so true. Shakti Samanta made a humble start in the movie industry. He came to Bombay with dreams of becoming a hero, but he ended up becoming a producer/director; and he excelled at it.

The music in his movie was always great, he had a fantastic sense of music. These songs continue to be played by radio stations and people hum the songs to this day. But music was not his only strong point. Shakti da’s films had a very strong emotional quotient, sometimes they would turn out to be tear-jerkers as in Amar Prem. But in most cases, the emotional content was well-balanced with the romantic sequences that would leave a lump in our throats, as in Kati Patang, Amanush, Aradhana etc.

After the success of his initial movies like Bahu, Hill Station and Inspector, Shakti da launched his own production house in 1957 called Shakti Films. The first film under this banner was Howrah Bridge made in 1958, a nice suspense thriller starring Ashok Kumar and Madhubala. The song Aaiye Meherbaan of the movie is one of the most seductive numbers sung by Asha Bhosle.

Howrah Bridge had another hit song to its credit, Mera Naam Chin Chin Chu. The movie was a run-away hit and gave more muscle and money to Shakti da to continue producing and directing movies. His next big movie was in 1962 called Chinatown starring Shammi Kapoor, Shakila, Madan Puri and Helen. This movie was written by Ranjan Bose who had earlier written the thriller Howrah Bridge. Chinatown was again a thriller about look-alikes where one Shammi replaces another. This was among the first movies to come-up with that concept which was later copied in so many other movies like Don. Chinatown had a fantastic Rafi number Baar Baar Dekho which is counted among the best Rafi and Shammi songs.

Between Howrah Bridge and Chinatown, Shakti da had directed two other movies; Insaan Jaag Utha with Sunil Dutt which was a rare Shakti da movie about rural India and plight of farmers; and the other was a Dev Anand and Madhubala starrer Jaali Note.

Then came the era of Eastman colour and Shakti da came out with Kashmir Ki Kali in 1964. This time again, Ranjan Bose wrote this nice romantic movie which had a twist towards the end. The movie starred Shammi Kapoor and Sharmila Tagore in an unforgettable romantic journey. The movie had a beautiful soundtrack by OP Nayyar and the songs are evergreen with such richness and depth, they are such a pleasure to the ears.

Apart from Ye Chand Sa Roshan Chehra, there were other great songs like Isharon Isharon Mei, Subhanallah Haseen Chehra and Hai Duniya Usi Ki. The lyrics were penned by SH Behari, now totally forgotten. This movie established Shammi Kapoor as a romantic hero of this new era of color movies, especially because he could carry-off comedy scenes so well. A proof of that romanticism is evident in this song as well, Deewana Hua Badal.

This was one of the first hits of Sharmila Tagore and it entrenched her in the Hindi movie industry. And sparked-off a long movie making relationship with Shakti da. After the success of Kasmir Ki Kali, he worked with Sharmila again in his next movie Sawan Ki Ghata, co-starring Manoj Kumar. The movie was quite an indifferent work by Shakti da, who came back to his own self in 1967 with An Evening In Paris. This movie was again among the first few movies to be shot totally outside India. Sharmila was seen again with Shammi Kapoor, and this movie too had a marvellous musical score by Shankar Jaikishan and some great singing by Rafi. He had become the voice of Shammi by then, and he sang four solo songs for Shammi in this movie.

The title song saw Shammi going bonkers on the streets of Paris and infront of Eiffel Tower, but he carried it off very well. The movie had Sharmila playing double role Roopa and Deepa, a bad girl replacing the good one. Raat Ke Humsafar was a beautifully picturised song with slow and romantic moves, then there was the Deewane Ka Naam To Poocho where Shammi continues to prance around. But Asmaan Se Aya Farishta takes the cake in terms of song picturisation and the story of the song recording is legendary.
Shammi was not around when Rafi was in the recording studio. Shammi was unable to reach Rafi and was not sure what kind of nuances Rafi would add to the song. Shammi had that quirkiness which was so well captured by Rafi, but for that Shammi had to be around; that was the reason why Shammi was worked-up. But when he heard the track, Rafi had sung it just as Shammi would have liked him to. The way Rafi matched up Shammi’s madness was like two-body-one-soul.

Again, when the song was being picturised Shammi just could not hear the song because of the helicopter noises and yet his lip-sync is perfect. The song would start and Shmmi would immediately get the rhythm and keep the rhythm going in his mind till the time  the helicopter was lowered. This madcap genius was so fantastically captured by Shakti da.

That was the golden period for Shakti da, whatever he touched turned to gold. After the super success of An Evening In Paris, his next movie was Aradhana in 1969. He continued with Sharmila, their fourth movie together, and Rajesh Khanna was signed. He was barely new to the industry and still struggling, but this movie and a few others following this catapulted him to superstardom. Aradhana was a remake of To Each His Own which was made in 1946.

As with other Shakti da’s movies, this movie too had soul stirring music by SD Burman. The songs have become immortal and will be sung for eons to come. This movie was in a way the much needed boost that Kishore Kumar was looking for. Rajesh Khanna and Kishore Kumar together went on to write history with their face-voice combination. Rajesh Khanna breathed and Kishore sighed, Rajesh Khanna smiled and Kishore romanticized it, it was a rapturous collaboration. On hindsight, Shakti da was responsible for this historical feat which enthralled the nation. Songs like Baaghon Mei Bahaar Hai, Gunguna Rahe Hain Bhawre, Roop Tera Mastana and Kora Kagaz Tha Ye Mann Mera were on everyones lips. These songs continued to be sung despite the absence of any publicity from FM radio, internet, tv channels only because of its merit and melody.

The movie Aradhana again was a double role stuff, wherein Rajesh Khanna played father and son as the movie panned two generations. Sharmila as the mother with greying hairs was as adorable as she was when she danced around in her youth, in the movie. The critics had written off the movie, but against all odds the movie became a huge hit. This was the biggest hit of  Shakti Films and one of the best movies of Shakti da. The way the story unfolded and the way he handled Rajesh and Sharmila was wonderful, and his contribution in music sessions with SDB and RDB is commendable.

After the super success of Aradhana, Shakti da made Pagla Kahin Ka in 1970 with Shammi Kapoor and Asha Parekh. I felt the movie had some traces of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, but was quite different. The title song of the movie became popular, Ashiq Hoon Ek Mehejabeen Ka, Log Kahe Mujhe Pagla Kahin Ka and Tum Mujhe Yu Bhula Na Paoge. The movie was quite forgettable though, coming from Shakti da. But his next movie, also in the same year, Kati Patang was a huge hit.

Shakti da worked again with Rajesh Khanna but this time the actress was Asha Parekh. It was made on a short story called I Married A Deadman by Cornell Woolrich. The movie was made in Hollywood not once but twice, first as No Man Of Her Own and then as Mrs.Winterbourne. Anyways, this fact notwithstanding, the movie was a good entertainer. Asha Parekh plays a widow and Rajesh Khanna plays a misogynist because his wife turned out to be a runaway bride. But Asha sparks love in his barren life and he falls for her. The songs of the movie are sweet and there is a song on every conceivable mood. A sad song Na Koi Umang Hai, a Holi song Aaj Na Chhodenge Bas Humjoli, a picnic song Ye Shaam Mastani, a cabaret number Mera Naam Shabnam, a romantic song Pyar Deewana Hota Hai.

The movie had its own sad moments and Shakti da captured sorrowness with as much expertise as he captured happiness and romantic moments. His next movie turned out to be more of a tear-jerker than romantic. In 1971, Shakti da made Amar Prem whuch had Rajesh Khanna and Sharmila Tagore. The movie was a remake of a Bengali movie Nishipadma which starred the superstar of Bengali movie industry, Uttam Kumar.

Amar Prem had a bold theme about society and people’s insensitive and apathetic attitude towards prostitutes. It highlighted how people abhor such acts and call it immoral by day, but revel in their pleasure by nights. Rajesh Khanna as Anand Babu finds peace, love and comfort in the company of Pushpa, played by Sharmila. And Rajesh Khanna’s dialogue ‘Pushpa…I hate tears‘ has become legendary. The movie boasted of really good songs like Raina Beeti Jaye, Bada Natkhat Hai Re Krishna Kanhaiya, Chingari Koi Bhadke, Ye Kya Hua and Kuchh To Log Kahenge.

All the songs were soulful and beautifully written by Anand Bakshi. Once Javed Akhtar had said that he would like to have the pen with which Anand Bakshi had penned the song Kuchh To Log Kahenge.

Shakti da’s next few movies were social dramas like Jaane Anjane, Anuraag and Charitraheen. While Jaane Anjane was a story about reforming a petty thief to live a respectful life, Charitraheen was about how a woman scorned in loved ends up becoming a victim of circumstance and takes to prostitution. The starcast of the movies were topnotch. Jaane Anjane had Shammi Kapoor and Vinod Khanna, Anuraag had Rajesh Khanna, Nutan and Ashok Kumar while Charitraheen had Sharmila Tagore and Sanjeev Kumar.

In 1974, Shakti da came up with Ajnabee where Rajesh Khanna and Zeenat Aman were paired. The movie dealt with marital discord and the re-union of two hearts that love, but not without some suspense and a murder mystery.

Ajnabee had some really good songs like Bheegi Bheegi Raaton Mei, Ek Ajnabee Haseena Se and Hum Dono Do Premi, the music was by RD Burman. The Bheegi Bheegi Raaton Mei song was remixed by Leslie Lewis and Anupama Verma featured in the video, thereby giving it a new lease of life, people had forgotten about it.

The next year, 1975, saw the release of Amanush starring Uttam Kumar and Sharmila Tagore. The movie was bilingual, in Hindi and Bengali and Uttam Kumar with the help of Sharmila and Shakti da did total justice to the character. The Bengali version was a mega success in WB, but the Hindi version did not do all that well. Kishore’s vocals, though, gave us a very haunting sad song which is sung time and again by us.

Utpal Dutt was seen in a rare negative role, but he was awesome in the movie as the conniving merchant.

Shakti da’s next movie in 1976 was a reincarnation story called Mehbooba. The movie starred Rajesh Khanna and Hema Malini who play a singer and a courtesan in a palace. A tragic accident sends them down a valley, and how they are reincarnated years later. Since it was based on singer/courtesan it had to have good music by RD Burman with songs like Gori Tori Paijaniya sung by Manna Dey, Jamuna Kinare sung by Lata Mangeshkar and of course Mere Naina Saawan Bhadon sung by Kishore and Lata, in their own versions and not as a duet. This song formed the recurring theme of the movie as Rajesh was trying his hardest to help Hema recall their past birth.

After the success of Mehbooba, Shakti da made the movie Anurodh in 1977, continuing with the singing character of Rajesh Khanna where he sings for AIR and works as auto-mechanic as well. The movie also starred Vinod Mehra, Ashok Kumar and Simple Kapadia. The movie did not fare well at the box-office and interestingly enough, the reason given out was that Rajesh Khanna was married to Dimple in real life and in the movie he romanced Simple, this did not go down well with the audience. Anyways, the music was just about ok but lacked the punch of previous Shakti da’s movies. This time the music director were Laxmikant-Pyarelal, and two of their memorable songs were Aate Jaate Khoobsurat Awara Sadkon Pe and Aapke Anurodh Pe.

Anand Ashram was Shakti da’s next movie but was a disaster. It spoke of spiritual healing and starred Uttam Kumar. This disaster pushed him to come back with a blockbuster and so came The Great Gambler in 1979. Shakti da was back with another movie about double-role and look-alikes changing camps to get the roller-coaster going. Amitabh Bachchan played Jai and Vijay, one a cop and other a gambler; and the co-stars were Zeenat Aman and Neetu Singh. The movie was extensively shot outside India. Although the music was by RD Burman, just one song registered in the minds of everybody Do Lafzon Ki Hai.

Shakti da worked with Amitabh Bachchan again in Barsaat Ki Ek Raat in 1981. It was a simple story of a forest officer who marries a blind girl played by Rakhi, and how their life is shattered by Amjad Khan who harms his wife. Though the movie was very predictable, it mad e for a good watch. The movie was a bilingual, it was made in Bengali too.

The last time that Shakti da collaborated with Rajesh Khanna was in 1985, their 9th movie together was ironically titled Alag-Alag. The movie co-starred Tina Munim and had Bindu in a vamp role. RD Burman was back as the music director and Kishore sang some very good songs for the movie. Rajesh again played a singer, a street talent whom Bindu finds and wants to groom him for the movie industry.

Shakti da also went on to make some Bengali movies like Anyay Abichar, Debdas and Geetanjali. But he did not enjoy the great success that he had enjoyed through the 1970′s. Although his directorial capability was never in question, nor was his production of movies but the overall quality of movie writing had led to his downfall. Also, age was not on his side. So, he was unable to act with the same energy and vigour.

All these musicals point to the fact that he had a deep sense of music and understood it so well. Shakti da being the producer and director always must have had tough choices, whether to be honest to the movie as a director or become saleable because he was the producer as well. Its to his credit that he has handled movies of such varying themes. It really saddens to see such a poor response to the loss of such an eminent movie-maker. In fact, the last video-song Kabhi Bekasi Ne Maara is quite apt here, especially the second stanza. But let me also add that, whenever anyone sings a song from Shakti da’s movie they will be paying a tribute to him, his works.

 
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Posted by on April 12, 2009 in bollywood, movies

 

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