[No plot summaries today. That’s the best thing about “mini” reviews. I'm not obliged to give something one can often get on Wikipedia or other, senior, blogs.]
Ok, and I also saw Shesh Anka (1963), a thriller starring Uttam and Sharmila. It's been written about extensively elsewhere, and so I was sort of spoiled as to the outcome. Still, I enjoyed how it integrated aspects of Hitchcock's Rebecca and some of the tropes of his work in the 50s with a South Asian filmi moral code. The scenes with Sharmila and Uttam driving about on dark country roads are fun just for the witty repartee, but might also send chills up your spine. As they pause at a train-crossing, Uttam has an inadvisable (and fabulous) fit in the driver's seat, and you really start to wonder what kind of man it is that Sharmila's character has decided to marry.
|Dear Shashi, baristas are nice in Minnesota. Actually, most everyone is.|
But for all of the empowerment, it's a bit sad, too. It's especially sad in it's truest moments. This woman isn't going to be as downtrodden as before, but she's also locked into a social situation that is never going to give her the opportunities she deserves. She's going back to India, and yes, doors will open to her through English skills... but it seems to me that her family will never give her much room to spread her wings. Once a condescending and controlling husband ... probably always so.
*Note: Are desi weddings EVER as chill as the one in English Vinglish? Wait no, are non-desi weddings ever as chill as this? Because this was the least believable aspect of the film for me. English in three weeks? (Maybe, when you've spent a lot of time around it). Families having a change of heart? (Well, filmi comeuppances are nice fantasies and I won't complain too much.) BUT. Wedding days (much less the month beforehand) are madness and the sister of the bride definitely would NOT have time to help aunty with her problems, much less drive her to school or try to make up for her absence ... etc. etc..
I enjoyed Hasee To Phasee (2014) quite a lot (even though I felt the actual plot was not as strong as the characterizations), but then so did everyone else, I think. Both the hero and heroine are unconventional in a non-glamorous way. They're still over-the-top film characters ... but near enough to resemble the messy person you feel like on the inside. (Or maybe that's just me.) It's a story that delights in human imperfection ... and seems to make the case that love of imperfection is real love ... or perhaps, that when you love someone's flaws (not just their socially acceptable facade), you know you have found something real. Also, coming from a society (like India) that too often prizes a narrow range of male/female qualities, I appreciate a film that advocates for broader tastes.
Chaudhvin Ka Chand (1960) has finally been conquered. Now, to bitch about the work involved. Hmm, yes, Waheeda and Guru should have a hard subbed "Warning: Electricity!" in the screen below them at all times. And Johnny Walker was (surprise! or not) the most sensible person of the bunch. But I can't get past a deep hatred for Rehman as a "sympathetic" figure. He's not. Sorry. Just, you can't make me feel for him. His characters are irritating and repulsive, and best when playing to those strengths. And the "humorous" Muslim social side plot is only bearable because of Johnny Walker. Can someone just edit out like 70 min of this film? Thanks, much.
|Ha. I see what you did there.|
Actually, most things in this movie arrive in perfect syncopation. You'd be hard pressed to find another film of this era more attuned to the marriage of score, shots, and script. It's a pleasure to watch, and wherever it lacks in likable characters (you know, when Pran, Madan Puri, and Ashok Kumar aren't around) it will so thoroughly drench you in verbal or visual symbolism that you can't possibly walk away without feeling something.
This was also the film that *almost* made me like Saira Banu ... if only in contrast to Manoj Kumar's pompous Bharat. Is it possible that Bharat is the corporeal manifestation of an entire generation of desi-parent's secret fantasies? Actually, transplant his patriotism to America, change his religion to Christianity, and he fits pretty well with the good-Christian boy next door mythos. "No person he can't convert! No woman he can't win! No temptation he can't resist! All while mysteriously finding time to graduate with honors!" For all that, Manoj is believable in the role (make of that what you will).
Or, perhaps it's just an elaborate after-school-special starring Pran.