Posts Tagged ‘Movies’

The foundations of our civilization are quivering. Homo sapiens are faced with a mental health crisis of gigantic proportions. There is widespread concern about the pace at which the twin epidemics of Filmitis and Serialitis are spreading across countries and continents. Medical researchers of all hues are twiddling their thumbs, trying to figure out a cure for these afflictions which happen to be not only highly addictive but also pleasurable.

These afflictions affect all human beings, irrespective of their age, sex, cast, creed, or ethnicity. Post-2020, when a pandemic struck humanity, the spread of these virulent challenges has posed a serious challenge to humanity. These are said to be highly contagious. A word of mouth is all that is required to lead one to contract it. Even an inane post on a social media platform in a Facebook group like The Reviewer Collective could nudge one to start watching a movie or an OTT series and then get hooked to it. Often, a long period of bondage ensues. Frequent viewers of the delightfully diverse content on the OTT platforms gladden the hearts of many a producer-director duo. The shareholders of such platforms can be seen laughing all the way to their banks.

To put it simply, once the germs of Filimitis and Serialitis have managed to find a foothold in any neuro-system, one’s fate is sealed.

Most people suffer from Serialitis these days. The OTT platform throws an infectious suggestion. We decide to check it out. We get sucked in. The directors and the scriptwriters ensure we never get to leave the confines of their alt universe. We get stuck with it. At night, we shudder to think of what may happen next. ‘Filmitis’ is far more tolerable. Whatever happens, it gets wound up in around 120 minutes.

Often, we worry about kids spending too much time on their screens. When a kid starts believing that he/she has super-powers like those possessed by either Batman or Spiderman, our brows get furrowed. However, when it comes to addictions like Filmitis and Serialitis, we, the so-called adults, are no less.

The Symptoms

These ailments manifest themselves in many ways. A mood of apathy towards one’s near and dear ones sets in. Public interactions are often given a skip, unless mandated otherwise by an overbearing spouse. One develops a strong tendency to compare on-screen characters to those one comes across in real life. At work, haughty bosses get likened to such villains as Gabbar Singh (Sholay) and Mogambo (Mr. India).

A perpetual state of intoxication envelops one. Meticulous notes get made of the varied recommendations which keep pouring in from all sides. Lists showing the yet-to-be-watched offerings by our dream merchants get updated regularly. A pitiless analysis of the scintillating characters on the screen gets done. Wikipedia gets searched for more offerings featuring a favourite actor on the screen. Speculations get made as to what would have happened if they had responded to a situation differently.

Even lay viewers suddenly evolve into seasoned reviewers, offering insights into such aspects as acting proficiency, script writing, cinematography, music, lyrics, editing, and the like. I, for one, upon coming across an offering which sound exciting to me, would be in the transient grip of a ‘Eureka’ moment, rushing to share the information with aficionados who may devour it with much glee. Archimedes would surely be squirming in his grave.  

The most serious symptom happens to be the disinclination of all those suffering from Filmitis and Serialitis to seek a cure for these maladies. Once contracted, one is apt to remain happy and contented to continue in a state of perennial addiction. Medical fraternity is yet to find a solution to this unique kind of viral resistance.

Three Stages

There are three stages of these diseases which have been identified and catalogued so far.

Stage 1

In the first stage, one displays occasional signs of having any of the symptoms described above.

Stage 2

In the second stage, one shows grave signs of many of these symptoms, but is still considered treatable by a heavy dose of socializing. Quite a few in this category practice detachment and can leave a series mid-way, without any feelings of remorse or any desire to get back to it, ever. Lord Krishna, were He to come to know of such souls, would be pleased for them to have acquired this spiritual trait.

Stage 3

The third stage is the most critical one, with no cure in sight as of now. Medicos continue to be baffled. In this stage, one is obsessed with all facets of the production of the collages of moving images, much to the exclusion of every other kind of arts. In every situation of life, a streak of one of the narratives is invariably noticed.

All relatives, friends, seniors, colleagues, and juniors get identified with one or the other characters created on the screen. Lawyers sound like either Mickey Haller (The Lincoln Lawyer) or Woo Young-woo (Extraordinary Lawyer Woo). When visiting a hospital, female doctors get likened to Meredith Grey (Grey’s Anatomy). Nurses who go out of their way to assist us sound like Amy Loughren (The Good Nurse). When visiting a shopping mall, mumbling managers get likened to Glenn and smart salesgirls to Amy (Superstore) fame.   

A person suffering from the last stage of these disorders often complain of a stifling sensation. Nothing else in life appeals any longer. The allure of catching up on the latest on-screen fate of the characters often makes one lose sleep. Binge-watching becomes the norm. During days, when life really happens, one goes about the mundane affairs of life like a zombie with frayed nerves, bleary-eyed, and lost in one’s own thoughts.

Weaponizing these maladies

Do we need de-addiction centres to counter these viruses of Filmitis and Serialitis? Do we wish our medical research honchos to come up with a vaccine to keep the foundations of our civilization from quivering incessantly? Not necessarily. Instead, an innovative deployment of these viruses would help humanity in more ways than one.

The day is not far off when governments the world over may end up weaponizing these diseases.

Tackling obdurate enemies

Leaders as well as soldiers of armies wanting to attack a country could be easily lulled into a sense of complacency and inaction if facilitated by the border area networks offering free streaming of OTT content dished out by the country under attack. Wars would then be a thing of the past. Money being spent on arms of all kinds would eventually get deployed to eradicate poverty and illiteracy across all our continents.

Improving internal security

A similar treatment, if meted out to criminals, terrorist groups and internet warriors who keep spreading fake news, would ensure peace and harmony in the society. Crime rates would nosedive.

Providing joyful healthcare

Seriously ill patients awaiting a surgery while lying on a hospital bed, if fed with such stuff as Wagle Ki Duniya and Happy Family…Conditions Apply, would happily wait for their turn to come up, thereby improving the billings of private hospitals and nursing homes.

Building a chivalrous society

If such movies as Ghar, Chhoti Si Baat, and Veer Zara get promoted aggressively by our Movie Mughals, members of the so-called sterner sex would end up being more chivalrous, thereby minimizing misdemeanours directed at the delicately nurtured. Divorce rates would plummet. Loving husbands would be more likely to follow the example of Dr Anand (Silsila), ensuring that the doves of peace keep their wings flapping over their humble abodes. Parents who are brought up on a healthy diet of such movies as Gunjan Saxena and Babli Bouncer may give up their patriarchal mindsets and encourage their daughters to scale newer heights in their lives and careers.

Improving political discourse

Politicos in power might keep the opposition leaders similarly engaged, thereby reducing their propensity to keep making defamatory speeches or hurling choicest abuses upon them. Those cooling their heels in jail, if shown an offering like Dasvi, may even get motivated to improve upon their academic record. A general improvement in the quality of political discourse may thereby ensue. Better degree of sanity may prevail around election time.

Population control

Health ministers who are having sleepless nights worrying about their country’s galloping birth rates may consider targeting their denizens in the reproductive age group with such offerings as Basic Instinct, The Dirty Picture and Lady Chatterley’s Lover, thus keeping them distracted from their amorous impulses.

Cocking a snook at the First World countries  

When meeting the leaders of countries which keep showing their disdain towards an emerging economy, the premier of such a country merely needs to present his/her hosts with video recordings of such serials as Scandal, The Designated Survivor and The Diplomat.

By an innovative and clever deployment of these afflictions, the score of Gross National Happiness of all countries may improve drastically.

In other words, disorders like Filmitis and Serialitis need neither be contained nor cured. On the contrary, these need to be spread as quickly as may be possible. This would ensure that we continue devouring inane as well as cerebral stuff on our screens while slouching in our sofas, flowers are forever in bloom, God continues to be in heaven, and all remains well with the world.

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Music is the backbone of Hindi movies and OTT series, whether by way of songs and dances, or in the form of the background variety. However, there are very few offerings dished out by our Dream Merchants which are devoted to the subject of music itself, where the life of most of the characters revolves around the practice of music. Such human emotions as love, hatred, animosity, jealousy, pride, prejudices are all there, but music forms the central theme. The key characters get success after a great deal of practice. In the interim, they often taste heart-breaking failures. But spurred on by their immense talent, ardent passion, and sometimes by either a teacher or a muse, they persevere in their efforts and eventually achieve the recognition they deserve.

The idea here is not to recall and list movies which may be termed as musicals. Nor would I like to mention the ones which have provided uplifting music. In the list that follows, you will not find the ones where either music merely serves the purpose of entertainment or even where the main characters may be music teachers.

Thus, movies such as Dholak (1951), Phagun (1958), Jahan Ara and Chitralekha (1964), Heer Ranjha (1970), Pakeezah (1972), and Umrao Jaan (1981), do not appear here.

I have instead tried to focus here on the movies where music forms a core part of the script. Many of these depict the trials and tribulations of an artist who is enthusiastic about this form of fine arts. Many others capture the gravitational force exerted by music in making a relationship either blossom or wither.

Consider the following movies which are music-based offerings from our dream merchants.

Street Singer


Direction: Phani Majumdar

Music: R. C. Boral

Baiju Bawra


Direction: Vijay Bhatt

Music: Naushad

Mirza Ghalib


Direction: Sohrab Modi   

Music: Ghulam Mohammed



Direction: M. Sadiq

Music: Naushad

Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baje


Direction: V. Shantaram

Music: Vasant Desai

Basant Bahar


Direction: Raja Nawathe

Music: Shankar–Jaikishan



Direction: Bibhuti Mitra

Music: O. P. Nayyar



Direction: V. Shantaram

Music: C. Ramachandra

Barsaat ki Raat


Direction: P. L. Santoshi

Music: Roshan

Sangeet Samrat Tansen


Direction and Music: S. N. Tripathi

Meri Surat Teri Ankhen


Direction: R. K. Rakhan

Music: S. D. Burman

Geet Gaya Pattharon Ne


Director: V. Shantaram

Music: Ramlal



Direction: Ramanand Sagar

Music: Kalyanji–Anandji

Jal Bin Machhli Nritya Bin Bijli


Direction: V. Shantaram

Music: Laxmikant–Pyarelal



Direction: Hrishikesh Mukherjee

Music: S. D. Burman

Geet Gata Chal


Direction: Hiren Nag

Music: Ravindra Jain



Direction: Hrishikesh Mukherjee

Music: Jaidev



Direction: K. Viswanath

Music: Laxmikant-Pyarelal



Direction: P. Sambasiva Rao

Music: Kalyanji–Anandji

Sur Sangam


Direction: K. Viswanath

Music: Laxmikant–Pyarelal

Naache Mayuri


Direction: N. T. Rama Rao

Music: Laxmikant–Pyarelal


(1990 TV series on Doordarshan)

Direction: Hema Malini



Direction: K. Vishwanath

Music: Anand Milind

Sardari Begum


Direction: Shyam Benegal

Music: Vanraj Bhatia



Direction: Subhash Ghai

Music: A. R. Rahman

Dil To Pagal Hai


Direction: Yash Chopra

Music: Uttam Singh



Direction: Sai Paranjpye

Music: Yashwant Deo, Bhupen Hazarika, Zakir Hussain, Raj Kamal

Sur – The Melody of Life


Direction: Tanuja Chandra

Music: M. M. Keeravani

Aaja Nachle


Direction: Anil Mehta

Music: Salim–Sulaiman

Rock on!


Direction: Abhishek Kapoor

Music: Shankar–Ehsaan–Loy



Direction: Imtiaz Ali

Music: A. R. Rahman

Aashiqui 2


Direction: Mohit Suri

Songs: Jeet Gannguli, Mithoon, Ankit Tiwari

Music Teacher


Direction: Sarthak Dasgupta

Music Original Composition: R.D. Burman

Music Re-created by: Rochak Kohli

Gully Boy


Direction: Zoya Akhtar

Music: The 18-song soundtrack, involving an estimated 54 contributors, was supervised by Ankur Tiwari

Bandish Bandits

(2020; Amazon Prime Video)

Direction: Anand Tiwari

Music: Shankar–Ehsaan–Loy,



Direction: Anvita Dutt

Music: Amit Trivedi

I am reasonably certain that there are many more which I might have missed out here. However, as the listing shows, over time, as Hindi cinema has moved away to modern settings, India’s rich cultural heritage is perhaps no longer getting the attention it deserves. That is how, a series like Bandish Bandits and a movie like Qala come like a whiff of fresh air in our turbulent times.

The price one pays for success

Some of these movies, like Saaz and Qala, depict the kind of competitive spirit which prevails in the field of music. A character even ends up jeopardizing the career of another, resulting in overpowering guilt. Such movies also capture the kind of cunning, guile and nerves of chilled steel needed to achieve success in a highly competitive world. Perhaps many of the famous artists we know of might have passed through quite a few such phases in their careers.

Like any other profession, the world of music is also replete with rivalry. It would be naïve to assume that success comes cheap. Often, the price it extracts from an artist’s inner being, especially in terms of a compromise on one’s ethics, beliefs, and values, is heavy.

For us, the audience, music is indeed an enriching food for the soul. However, the soul of an artist may carry a few scars, not known to us. But ignorance is bliss, as they say!


Inputs from Purva Agarwala, Dileep Raina, Madhulika Liddle, Avantika Nirupama, Sunil Jain, and a few others are gratefully acknowledged.

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Never have I had the privilege of being invited to a panel of judges which decides which movies an award goes to. But there are several which leave me, a lay viewer, a bit fogged. Consider the following:  

In the year of The Lunchbox, The Good Road represented India at the Oscars.

In the year of Dharm, Eklavya represented India at the Oscars.

In the year of All the President’s Men, Rocky won the best picture award.

In the year of Citizen Kane, How Green Was My Valley won the best picture.

In the year of Saving Private Ryan, Shakespeare in Love won the best picture.

It’s A Wonderful Life flopped when it was released and did not even garner much critical acclaim. And that is how it lay – till a copyright clerical error gave the world a right to screen it freely, making it an annual Christmas staple, and it grew and grew on the masses and the classes and the critics – so much so that today it is considered Frank Capra’s masterpiece.

Shawshank Redemption did not wow the public or the critics much during its original theatrical release. Then came its TV premiere, and then DVD, and finally OTT – where it found phenomenal traction and the world finally fell in love with it.

Sholay received a very lukewarm response upon the week of its release, and in desperation Ramesh Sippy was about to the reshoot the end and keep Amitabh alive. The cast and crew had one final meeting, and it was decided they should wait out the weekend at least. And lo and behold – during the weekend all hell broke loose, and Indian cinema witnessed its biggest phenomenon – the birth of the blockbuster.

Casablanca was a pretty last-minute effort, with Warner Bros trying to cash in on the war situation, and the resultant fervour of patriotism that was spreading across the English-speaking world. An unpublished play, Everybody Comes to Rick’s, was adapted for the movie and Bogart’s agent liked it. But neither Bogart nor Ingrid Bergman was keen on doing it because they did not think it would really turn out to be good. They thought the dialogue was ridiculous and the situations were unbelievable. They were constantly trying to think of ways to get out of the movie. Bergman was then focused on For Whom the Bells Toll which she thought would be a big movie. And Bogart was not enjoying the fact that Bergman at 5’10 was two inches taller than him, and that he was made to stand on top of wooden blocks or sit on extra cushions by director Michael Curtiz because of it. And to top it all, neither the director nor the scriptwriters (the Epstein brothers) knew how the movie will end even while they were shooting it. In fact, Ingrid Bergman did not know how much love she should exhibit for Bogart’s character because she did not know whether they were in love or not (though that ambiguity ultimately gave the performance more stature). And to know now that the movie won multiple Oscars and is on all ‘Best Movies of All Tmies’ lists and is the movie with the maximum all time favourite quotes (7)!

About the Author

Shouquot Hussain is an educator and has been raising the intellect level of young students in India, as also in Kenya and Indonesia, since quite some time. He loves to read books. He dabbles in writing poetry, making the literary critics keep a keen eye on his progress. He is also a keen observer of movies; new OTT platforms keep licking their lips in anticipation of his valuable subscriptions. His son, like the proverbial fruit which does not fall far from its tree, is currently pursuing a BSc in Film Making. He is a self-proclaimed foodie. Like him, his spouse is also in the field of education. The couple infest the environs of Jakarta these days. 

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Charles Darwin, were he to be around in the exciting times that we live in these days, and if commissioned by a prominent Hollywood studio to study the manner in which Hindi movies have evolved over time, might have come up with some unique insights into the matter!

Perhaps, he might have proposed that movies do change over time, that new movies often pop up from some of the pre-existing ones, and that all movies share two common ancestors – an Adam who keeps providing the producers with healthy returns on their investment and an Eve who keeps nourishing wide-eyed-and-glued-to-their-seats kind of denizens with wholesome entertainment. He might have proposed that the concept of entertainment itself has undergone a major transformation. If the audience in the past used to get entertained by movies based on classical music and dance forms – like Baiju Bawra (1952) and Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baaje (1955), the flavour of the season now is that of item numbers, say, something on the lines of ‘Laila o Laila…’ in Raees (2017), which are meant for momentary gratification only, soon to be forgotten.

Recently, Bandish Bandits (2020) came as a whiff of fresh air.

He might have pointed out that there are indeed movies which try to convey a social message as well, but these belong to a different genre/species. When it comes to caste-based prejudices, we have had Sujata (1959), Masaan (2015) and Article 15 (2019). A movie like Jhund (2022) showcases the everyday struggles of vagabond Dalit youngsters, haunted by the humiliating gaze of society. Speak of the disadvantaged and we are apt to think of Ankur (1974), Akrosh (1980), Chakra (1981) and Nil Battey Sannata (2015). Think of the angst of the educated unemployed and we discover Albert Pinto Ko Gussa Kyoon Aata Hai (1980) and Rang De Basanti (2006). Speak of sex workers and movies like Chandni Bar (2001), Chameli (2003) and Gangubai Kathiawadi (2022) pop up in our minds.     

He might have even concluded that there is no universally applicable formula for whipping up a blockbuster, that past success does not guarantee future conquest, that such formulae have a rather short shelf-life, and that one must factor in the then prevailing social mores, the economic condition of the target audience and the impact of disruptive technology which has its own pace of evolution. If a delectable mix of sex and violence worked at a time, and if star power was the magnet which kept the box office aflame, content, acting prowess and slick editing work the magic now.

He might have pointed out that each genre/species has its own unique characteristics, that each one has its own path of evolution, and that the onset of the multiplex phase, followed by the OTT-era, has enabled our dream merchants to climb newer heights of imagination. Those of us who have loved such series as Gullak (2019-2022) and Panchayat (2020 onwards) might concur with this thought.   

Specifically, he may have made a few general observations about the evolution of our Hindi movies over time:

Some Tectonic Shifts

In the pre-partition days, the audience lapped up offerings which were based on values, patriotism, mythology, or religious beliefs. Raja Harishchandra (1913), Bhakt Vidur (1921), and Amar Jyoti (1936) can be mentioned in this context. Kismet (1943) was a different cup of tea altogether.   

In the years followed by India’s independence, hopes for a new country ran high. Besides romantic ones, idealistic movies steeped in socialistic thinking – like Awara (1951), Boot Polish (1954), Jagte Raho (1956), Do Aankhen Barah Haath (1957), Mother India (1957), Pyaasa (1957), and Phir Subah Hogi (1958) – came up. Mythologicals like Sampoorna Ramayan (1958) and Mahabharat (1965) also kept the audience engaged.  A primarily agrarian economy liked such offerings as Do Bigha Zamin (1953).  

In the next decade, we loved seeing movies like Mughal-E-Azam (1960), Hum Dono (1961), Sangam (1964), Guide (1965), and Aradhana (1969).

During the 1970s, the angst of the common man was identified by our dream merchants to be a key point of attraction. Movies like Deewaar (1975) and Sholay (1975) came to rule our collective psyche. Thanks to the likes of Shyam Benegal, Govind Nihalani and others, the parallel cinema stream catered to the tastes of the intelligentsia. We also had some Hollywood-style movies with a taut script, such as Ittefaq (1969) and Achanak (1973). The critics loved these, but not the non-discerning audience sold on cheap melodrama.

Thereafter, many of us would remember Tezaab (1988), Chaalbaaz (1989), DDLJ (1995), Lagan (2001), and Bunty aur Babli (2005). Somewhere down the road, cheap, low budget movies aimed at the front benchers also flooded the market. Many of these were South Indian productions made on tight budgets starring the likes of Jeetendra etc. in this phase, the production sources were dubious, and films were tasteless and crass. Over time, the upper classes withdrew from cinema halls and started devouring movies on VCRs.

Thanks to economic liberalization, we started becoming Westernised to an unrecognisable extent. Consumerism started blooming. The joint family system started disintegrating. Individualistic themes gained prominence. Gradually, we found ourselves faced with the reality of living not only in ‘Bharat’ but also in ‘India.’  The former was catered to by single-screen theatres. However, thanks to upward mobility, rising incomes, and ready availability of international merchandise, the culture of shopping malls and multiplexes sprouted. The multiplex phenomenon opened the doors for shorter and crisper flicks, based mostly on urban-centric themes. The cinematic landscape changed, offering ultra-commercial masala fare dished out by the likes of Subhash Ghai and Sanjay Leela Bhasali to the ultra-niche cinema of Vishal Bhardwaj, R Balki, Anurag Kashyap and Madhur Bhandarkar. 

Over time, internet became easily available and then OTT followed. We, the audience, exposed as we were to international media offerings, became choosier. Now, our critical eye looks at a wider range of the cinematic offerings – its genre, storyline, acting prowess of the characters, music, camera movements, technical excellence, and so forth.

The Yin and Yang Balance  

Most of you who have examined the phenomenon of falling in love would agree that in the earlier days of Bollywood, those belonging to the tribe of the so-called sterner sex happened to be the dashers and the knights in shining armours who could do nothing wrong. All the hero had to do was to flex his muscles, and a coy member of the tribe of the so-called delicately nurtured would swoon and fall in his arms. Most of the times, the females would not be dashers but merely dormice, exerting their soft power occasionally. Only once in a blue moon, when pushed with their backs to a wall, did they strike back.

Cut to the present. The heroes are no longer diffident about shedding their macho image and reveal their softer side on the screen. The heroines have now become far more decisive and assertive. They resist amorous advances. They call the shots. They continue to be as beautiful as ever but have become far bolder. Now, they come into their own out of sheer free will, revealing the inner strength they possess.

Even though the fight against a deeply entrenched patriarchal mindset is far from being over, the Yin-Yang balance has tilted in favour of the females. They rule the roost. On the other hand, the males are no longer shy about showing their vulnerabilities. The male rabbit often gets attracted by a female dasher. He no longer has the luxury of concentrating on some mild, gentle dormouse with whom he could settle down peacefully and nibble lettuce. In the past, we had Arth (1982) where the heroine chooses to lead a life independent of either her well-wisher or her ex-husband. Of late, we have had such movies as Astitva (2000), Aitraaz (2004), Wake-Up Sid (2009), Inkaar (2013), Queen (2013), Dedh Ishqia (2014), Ki and Ka (2016), English Vinglish (2012), Thappad (2020), and Jugg Jugg Jiyo (2022), which speak of women empowerment. On the OTT platforms, we have had Delhi Crime (2019), Bombay Begums (2021), Modern Love Mumbai (2022), and Modern Love Hyderabad (2022).

Not to forget such stand-alone female-centric movies as Kahaani (2012), Gulaab Gang (2014), Mardaani (2014), Parched (2015), Nil Battey Sannata (2015), Jai Gangaajal (2016), Neerja (2015), and Gunjan Saxena (2020), where males play either a supplementary or a villainous role. 

Of late, script-backed roles for heroines have gained better traction. The effeminate side of males has garnered better prominence. Heady days are here!

Mamma Mia!

The image of the Indian mother has got a 180-degree makeover.

From a weepy, sacrificing Sulochana (Dil Deke Dekho, 1959) and Nirupa Roy (Do Bigha Zamin, 1953) to a dictatorial Dina Pathak (Khoobsurat, 1980) and Supriya Pathak (Goliyon Ki Rasleela Ram-Leela, 2013), we have seen her role metamorphosing over the decades. Now, we even have a mother who hatches a plan to torture/murder an abusive son-in-law, a la Shefali Shah (Darlings, 2022)!

Yes, we have always had the morally upright mother who goes to an extreme to restrain her errant son, like Nargis (Mother India, 1957) or Reema Lagoo (Vaastav, 1999).

Sex Education

No more flowers swaying in a gentle breeze touching other flowers. We are not only beautiful; we are also bold. Steamy scenes are now an essential part of a movie/series. Several movies use the services of an ‘Intimacy Director’ to manage the delicacy of such scenes, when getting shot. Teenagers no longer need to necessarily depend upon unreliable sources to learn the nuances of love making.

Consider the 1953 version of Parineeta (Ashok Kumar, Meena Kumari) wherein the mere act of garlanding signifies a matrimonial alliance. However, in the 2015 version (Saif Ali Khan, Vidya Balan), the level of intimacy between the couple goes to a different level altogether.

LGBT relationships are out of the closet and no longer make us raise our eyebrows, like Fire (1996) managed to do in the past. Whether it is a series like The Fame Game (2022) or movies like Badhai Do (2022) or Maja Ma (2022), such affairs are now out in the open.  

Technology Rules

No more dacoits on real horses. Thanks to our new-found sensitivity towards other species, most scenes depicting animals depend on technology, which has made things easier. Compare the magnificent battle scenes of Mughal-E-Azam (1960) with those of Samrat Prithviraj (2022). In the latter, whole battalions of soldiers can be seen marching ahead in perfect unison, putting our brave soldiers who participate in the Indian Republic Day parade each year to shame. The absurdity and the sheer artificiality of the scene made me laugh out aloud, prompting my multiplex co-viewers look at me with scorn, their shapely highbrows raised more than an inch.   

‘Dishoom-dishoom’ scenes have all but vanished. Instead, what we have now are gravity-defying stunts which would be leaving Sir Isaac Newton shaking his head in disbelief and perhaps even squirming in his grave.

The day is not far off when AI-backed tools will be churning out innovative scripts, screenplays, and lyrics, leaving many of the Bollywood writers and lyricists crying all the way to their respective banks.

The Diminishing Returns of Tragedies

One of the side-effects of the arrival of economic liberalization has been the reduction in the audience’s appetite for outright tragedies. When the aspirational upwardly class is obsessed with chasing economic goals, there is a greater need for positive narratives and happy endings. Tragedies like Andaz (1949) and Sahib, Bibi aur Gulam (1962), featuring such actors as Dilip Kumar and Meena Kumari, gradually become passe. While feel-good and revenge-oriented themes continue to be popular, movies like Matto Ki Saikil (2022), which depict the harsh realities of life, receive critical acclaim but meet with open disdain at the box office.

Many Shades of Grey

Gone are the days when we would be shuddering in our seats in a theatre while listening to Amrish Puri saying ‘Mogambo khush hua…’ while drumming his heavily ring-infested fingers on one of the arms of his throne, or Gabbar Singh calling out ‘Arre o Sambha, kitne aadmi they…?’ while prowling around menacingly with a pistol aimed at three of his terrified cronies, or Prem Chora pouncing upon a damsel in distress with clear intentions of outraging her modesty while mouthing such dialogues as ‘Prem naam hai mera, Prem Chopra’.

If Pran was a suave but scheming villain unleashing his vicious plans on a hapless couple, Ajit, duly attired in a white coat and even wearing white-coloured shoes, sent quite a few shivers down our spines. In each story, there was a good guy and a bad guy. When the ‘angry young man’ happened, the hero’s character itself took on an unapologetic black shade.

If Sholay set a new benchmark in the action sequences, directors like Vidhu Rahul Rawail, Vinod Chopra, and Ram Gopal Verma gave us gut-wrenching fights and dreaded villains in such movies as Arjun (1985), Parinda (1989), Satya (1998), Shool (1999), and Shiva (2006). These showcasedraw cycle chain and knuckle duster fights.

The advent of characters with negative shades has further accentuated this transformation; think of Shahrukh Khan in Baazigar (1993) and Darr (1993), Kajol in Gupt (1997), Aishwarya Rai in Khakee (2004), and Aamir Khan in Fanaa (2006), just to name a few.

I am skipping flicks in the horror genre here because I have never watched any of these.

Once liberalization happened, nobody had the nerve to lash out at a rich guy. Wealth ceased to be a liability; instead, it became a desirable goal and a badge to be unabashedly worn on one’s sleeve. Blacks and whites disappeared from our screens, and shades of grey became predominant. Movies moved closer to the real world and ceased to be pure fantasies. 

The brain started kicking on all its six cylinders and eventually started ruling over brawn. In the past, cerebral offerings such as Jewel Thief (1967) were few and far between. Now, we have the likes of Kahaani (2012), Andhadhun (2018), Raat Akeli Hai (2020) and Drishyam (2013, 2022) keeping us biting our nails and twiddling our thumbs trying to figure out what will hit us next.  

This trend gained further traction owing to a seminal change brought about by OTT. Think of Abhishek Bachchan playing Bob Biswas in Breathe: Into the Shadows (2020) series.

The original script of one of our epics, Ramayana, is still there. But the shades of the hero and the villain have evolved. Achieving the goal has become supreme; means be damned. Just like the characters in Mahabharata, different shades of grey prevail.

Lingua Franca

Given the delightfully rich diversity of Indian languages and dialects, movie makers obviously do a smart thing by resorting to the local dialect when presenting different characters on the screen. For example, Aamir Khan mouthed dialogues in what is alluded to as the tapori dialect of Mumbai (Rangeela, 1995). Tamannah Bhatia aped the Haryanvi dialect in Babli Bouncer (2022).  

But when the characters start using cuss words, things go a bit too far, especially in movies which are meant for general viewing. Take the case of Vidya Balan in Ishqia (2010) or Rani Mukherji in No One Killed Jessica (2011).

However, with the plethora of movies and serials which capture the endeavours of northern hinterland warlords inundating our screens of late, this appears to have become a trend. The warlords wait till the end to jump into the fray directly. They let their henchmen do the dirty work, while they enjoy a public life which is as pure as freshly driven snow.

Likewise, urban-themed offerings now ape the American way, routinely using such words as sh*t, fu*k, and the like. This is the new normal.

Consider Gangs of Wasseypur (2012), Jamtara – Sabka Number Ayega (2020), Masaba Masaba (2020), and Hush Hush (2022) for instance.

The Loo Mania

Relieving oneself in open is rather common in India. However, to have it depicted on our screens, is rather nauseating and appalling. By doing so, the message given out is that it is perfectly normal to do so.

Even our top-notch actors have not shied away from performing such acts. Many of us would remember Akshay Kumar gleefully doing it in Singh is Kinng (2008), Madhavan and Sharman Joshi in 3 Idiots (2009), Ranbir Kapoor in Besharam (2013) and Yeh Jawaani Hai Diwaani (2013), Aamir Khan in PK (2014), and Anupam Kher in Baby (2015).

The fact that a tactic of this kind needs to be resorted to merely to improve the Comic Quotient of a movie goes on to show our directors and script writers to be woefully short of imagination at times. 


The Sounds of Music

Over the decades, the music in Hindi movies has evolved in more ways than one.

Mother Nature Gets a Short Shrift

Elements of nature (moon, rains, lakes, rivers, seasons, clouds…) have gone missing. High rises, cityscapes, interpersonal relations take the front seat. So do emotions, feelings, and the like.

Songs like ‘‘Ye raat ye chandni phir kahaan…’ (Jaal, 1952), ‘Aaja sanam Madhur chandni mein hum…’ (Chori Chori, 1956), ‘Ye raatein ye mausam…’ (Dilli Ka Thug, 1958), ‘O sajana, barkha bahaar aayi’ (Parakh; 1960) and ‘Chalo dildaar chalo, chaand ke paar chalo…’ (Pakeezah, 1972) have almost vanished from the silver screen. Once in a while, we get treated to such songs as ‘Suraj hua maddham’ (Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham; 2001), ‘Barso re…’ (Guru, 2007) and ‘Hawaayein…’ (Jab Harry Met Sejal, 2017).

Visual Appeal Elbows Out Our Ears and Minds 

Gradually, the orchestra and the sound have elbowed out the lyrics somewhat. Songs which appealed to the audience not only for their deep layered meaning but also for their soulful music have become part of a rare breed. Philosophical truths of life have got relegated to the background. Thus, we have become used to getting entertained by offerings which accord a higher priority to our ears than to our minds.

Moreover, with the new-found zeal for quick cuts, adroit camera work and the razzle-dazzle of a heightened visual appeal, we have virtually stopped hearing songs and have willy-nilly become reconciled to seeing them. Cinematography rules. Locations keep changing in quick succession. Even before we have had the chance to savour one, the next one pops up. The camera has become obtrusive. Even if a patriotic song like ‘Teri mitti mein mil jaawan…’ (Kesari, 2019) comes up, we are exposed to a visual world which is in the fast forward mode. Since our eyes are constantly being bombarded with visual information, the hapless ear often has no other option but to take the back seat. 

Actors no longer need to worry much about their lip-synching abilities. Most songs get relegated to the background.

Cabarets have metamorphosed into ‘item numbers’.

Lullabies Lose Out to Screen Time for Kids!

No longer do we have scripts with room for any lullabies. Remember ‘Aa ja ri aa, nindiya tu aa…’ (Do Bigha Zamin, 1953), ‘Mein gaoon tum so jaao…’ (Brahmachari, 1968) and ‘Pyara sa gaon…’ (Zubeida, 2001)? Of late, the only lullaby we got treated to was ‘Jo tum saath ho…’ (Salaam Venky, 2022).

Kids are smarter these days. They need only their technical gizmos to get to sleep. Parents may rest easy. Inspired by ‘Mere buddy…’ (Bhootnath, 2008), grandparents of all hues, sizes and shapes are busy honing their dancing skills!

Like real-life kids, reel-like kids have also become far more intelligent, often mouthing dialogues which would leave us twiddling our thumbs trying to figure out their real age. Gone are the day of innocence epitomized by Baby Naaz, Daisy Irani and Baby Farida.

Species Which Have Become Extinct

Besides vamps and villains, poor comedians have also become mostly extinct. Though we still have the likes of Raghuvir Yadav and Rajpal Yadav entertaining us, the separate comedy tracks have all but vanished from our screens. Such roles have been usurped by mainstream heroes and heroines.

The comic timing of such talented artists as Sridevi (Chandni, o meri Chandni…Chandni, 1989) and Akshay Kumar (Hera Pheri, 2000 onwards) has consigned the parallel comedy track in which we earlier had such character artists as Johnny Walker, Mehmood, Mukri, Agha, Tuntun, Aruna Irani, Manorama et al, to the dustbins of history. In the past, even some villains had tried their hands at comedy, and successfully, at that. I refer to Amjad Khan in such movies as Qurbani (1980) and Chameli Ki Shaadi (1986).

An interesting phase was that of the Wodehousian comedy of a subtle kind, presented to us by such artists as Om Prakash, Utpal Dutt, and David in such movies as Chupke Chupke (1975), Golmaal (1979) and Baaton Baaton Mein (1979)

Even the golden hearted house help, popularly known as ‘Ramu Kaka’,has all but vanished.

Of Political Headwinds

Our politicos have never shied away from influencing the kind of messages which need to be conveyed to the hoi polloi through the powerful medium of cinema. Our dream merchants have also been sensitive to the political thinking of the day, coming up with movies which are relevant to the theme of the times.

The first Chinese aggression in 1962 prompted Chetan Anand to come up with Haqeeqat (1964) which tugged at our heartstrings. 

Naunihal (1967), directed by Raj Marbros, was about Raju, an orphan, who believes that his only surviving relative is Chacha Nehru. The film’s music was composed by Madan Mohan, with lyrics by Kaifi Azmi, including the song ‘Meri Aawaz Suno, Pyar ka Raaz Suno’, sung by Mohammad Rafi. The song captured not only the funeral procession of the first Prime Minister of India, Jawahar Lal Nehru but also his study and his office; a loving tribute, indeed, to a towering personality then.

Much later, in 1988, one of his seminal works, The Discovery of India (1946), was presented by Shyam Benegal in the form of a television serial, labelled as Bharat Ek Khoj.

Rewind back to 1965, when Pakistan attacked India. Mr Lal Bahadur Shastri, the then Prime Minister, came up with the slogan ‘Jai Jawan Jai Kisan’. He is said to have persuaded Manoj Kumar to come up with a movie based on the slogan. That is how we got to see Upkar (1967).

Assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1984 led to riots in Delhi and elsewhere. The same were covered in the recent movie Jogi (2022) and were also briefly touched upon in Laal Singh Chadha (2022).

Mani Ratnam gave us Bombay (1995), based on the riots which took place in the city between December 1992 and January 1993 after the demolition of the Babri Masjid led to religious tensions between Hindu and Muslim communities. Gujarat riots in 2002 led to movies like Parzania (2005) and Firaaq (2008)

In the recent past, many of us have been swayed by the political headwinds and movies with a jingoistic nationalism have caught our imagination. A movie like Kashmir Files (2022) which shows a minority community in a negative light has been openly promoted by the present ruling dispensation. Another one, Samrat Prithviraj (2022), went a step further and highlighted the bravery and sense of nationalism of the majority community. The Accidental Prime Minister (2019) attempted to show the previous Prime Minister in a negative light, and now we wait for Emergency (2023).

Come to think of it, the worlds of movies and politics have several common traits. Dream merchants thrive in both. So does star power. Funding and returns on investment are fundamental concerns. Eventually, the onus of sifting the wheat from the chaff obviously falls on the common public. 

A Rich Cultural Heritage Getting Lost?

It may not be out of context to mention here that in the days of yore, the kings used to consciously nurture fine arts and culture by patronizing poets, musicians and dancers. However, the way successive governments are turning a blind eye to the essential task of preserving our cinematic heritage, and even gradually withdrawing support to creative cinema, while continuing to gobble up the revenue generated by this industry, is a travesty of justice and common sense. Remember the outfit known as the National Finance Development Corporation, which gave us a stream of gems in the past – Ankur (1974), Manthan (1976), Mirch Masala (1987), Ek Din Achanak (1989), Train to Pakistan (1998), Mammo (1994), and the like? The future looks bleak on this front.      

Acting Prowess and Content: The Ultimate Winners

Even though star-power, presentation and packaging continue to be important, content has now come to rule the roost. Acting is also back on its throne, where it rightfully belongs.

Now, if we root for a blockbuster like Pathaan, we also love an actor-driven movie like Laal Singh Chadha. If we like to see the trials and tribulations of the heroine in Gangubai Kathiawadi, we also empathize with the dilemmas faced by an elderly couple in Vadh, besides appreciating such off-beat offerings as Doctor G and Kantara.

As we sit bleary-eyed in front of our smart TVs, we now have the best of both the worlds – glamour, duly backed by razzmatazz, as well as the depth of genuine art.

(Some inputs from a few members of the Best of Cinema and OTT group on Facebook are gratefully acknowledged.)

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Many of our Bollywood heroines have waltzed into our hearts and minds based not only on their acting prowess but also owing to their knowledge of classical dance forms. The latter skill has enabled them to present some unique dances on the silver screen, with due support from their directors, music composers and choreographers. If some have been accompanied in their performances in the past by such stalwarts as Gopi Krishna, others have had the backing of legendary figures like Pandit Birju Maharaj.  

Allow me to share with you some dances which I would label as being unique. Either because these are based on classical or semi classical forms of Indian dances, or simply because the presentation as well as the sheer attention to detail leaves one awestruck. Quite a few are solo performances, backed only by instrumental music. Collectively, these present a vibrant rainbow of various human emotions, ranging from love and passion to a gutsy fury.

The Drum Dance (Nagada dance) here is the grand celebration of a royal marriage. It was well choreographed and presented in an era which did not have access to the kind of technology available these days. The story was about a feud between two brothers over their right to rule their father’s kingdom. Each of the huge drums acted like a Trojan horse, hiding soldiers from the rival’s camp. Apparently, it took six months’ practice to get this dance ready for the silver screen.

Chandralekha (1948)

Lead Dancer: T R Rajakumari

Music: S Rajeshwar Rao

Uday Shankar and Amala Shankar entertained us with quite a few classical dances in another movie released in the same year. It was the first film to present an Indian classical dancer in the leading role and was entirely shot as a dance ballet and a fantasy. Here is one gem of a dance which depicts Lord Shiva and Parvati gyrating to their heart’s content.

Kalpana (1948)

Lead Dancers: Uday Shankar, Amala Shankar

Music: Vishnudas Shirali

V. Shantaram’s offerings were invariably based on classical forms of music. Even the design of the titles was highly innovative, often summarizing the key message of the movie in a poignant manner.  

When Lord Shiva flies into a rage, he is believed to break into a special dance form: tandav. Part of this dance depicts the same. Eventually, a timely intervention by the feminine force of the universe – shakti – saves the day.  

Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baaje (1955)

Dancers: Gopi Krishna, Sandhya

Music: Vasant Desai

These are two unique dances. One speaks of the extent of imperfection in our lives. Another captures the playful spirit of Holi – the festival of colours – and even features an elephant trying to match the dancing steps of the heroine.  

Navrang (1959)

Dancer: Sandhya

Music: C. Ramchandra

Based on the classic play Abhigyan Shakuntalam from Kalidasa, this dance captures the feelings of a woman spurned in love.  

Stree (1961)

Dancer: Rajshri 

Music: C. Ramchandra

Here is yet another enchanting dance performance.  

Chhaya (1961)

Dancers: Baby Farida, Asha Parekh

Music: Salil Chowdhury

Many movies have depicted the folklore of love between Radha and Krishna. Songs like Hamen gop gwala kehte hain…(Navrang, 1955) and Mohe panghat pe…(Mughal-E-Azam, 1960) readily pop up in our minds.  Here is another such performance.

Phoolon Ki Sej (1964)

Dancers: Gopi Krishna, Vyjayanthimala

Music: Adi Narayana Rao

What we have here is a classic snake dance. A unique presentation, indeed, superbly crafted and rendered.

Guide (1965)

Dance: Waheeda Rehman

Music: S. D. Burman

Arthashastra of Kautilya mentions the grooming of visha kanyas (Poison Damsels) whose blood and body fluids had poisonous properties. They were used as assassins to eliminate powerful enemies of the state. This dance performance depicts one such case.  

Sagaai (1966)

Dance: Rajshri

Music: Ravi

When a proficient dancer gets challenged in a royal court, she leaves us spellbound by her dancing skills.   

Amrapali (1966)

Lead Dancer: Vyjayanthimala

Indian actress

Music: Shankar–Jaikishan

Yet another solo dance which leaves one mesmerized.

Chhoti Si Mulaqat (1967)

Dance: Vyjayanthimala

Music: Shankar–Jaikishan

A captivating dance performance by a multi-skilled actress who went on the become a member of the Indian Parliament.

Kinara (1977)

Dance: Hema Malini

Music: R. D. Burman.

Versatile directors like Hrishikesh Mukherjee had a knack of presenting character artists who are otherwise famous for their negative roles in a positive light on the silver screen. In this dance sequence, we find Shashikala joining hands with Rekha.    

Khubsoorat (1980)

Dancers: Shashikala, Rekha

Music: R. D. Burman

What happens when an introvert and shy person gets prodded by her well-wishers to showcase her dancing skills at a social gathering?

Chaal Baaz (1989)

Dancer: Sridevi

Music: Laxmikant–Pyarelal

This one is a temple dance by late Sridevi. Unfortunately, I am yet to trace the name of the movie.

Dancer: Sridevi  

Yash Chopra, known as the King of Romance, had a unique way of presenting his heroines at their sensuous best. His name always reminds us of the colour white and of gorgeous heroines draped in plain colour chiffon saris and sleeveless blouses, swaying to rhythmic beats composed by eminent classical musicians.

Chandni (1989)

Dancer: Sridevi

Music: Shiv-Hari

Lamhe (1991)

Dancer: Sridevi

Music: Shiv-Hari

A sophisticated way of telling the ruler to behave himself when it comes to visiting the ‘other woman’.  

Lekin (1991)

Dancer: Hema Malini

Music: Hridaynath Mangeshkar

This one captures the inner anguish felt by a woman who is part of a highly patriarchal family which tries to protect the name of a male member who, along with his friends, had gang-raped the maid servant.   

Damini (1993)

Dancer: Meenakshi Seshadri

Music: Nadeem-Shravan

Two more captivating dances from the stable of Yash Raj Films.

Dil To Pagal Hai (1997)

Dancer: Madhuri Dixit

Music: Uttam Singh

Dil To Pagal Hai: The Dance of Envy

Dancers: Madhuri Dixit, Karishma Kapoor

Sanjay Leela Bhansali is yet another director whose movies are lavishly produced and mounted on a larger-than-life canvas. Consider this song and dance sequence.

Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (1999)

Lead Dancer: Aishwarya Rai

Music: Ismail Darbar

Here is yet another offering from Bollywood based on the Radha-Krishna folklore. This version brings in the dancing skills of Madhuri Dixit, duly backed by Birju Maharaj’s choreography, music, and lyrics.

Devdas (2002)

Singers: Birju Maharaj, Madhuri Dixit, Kavita Krishnamurthy

Composer/Lyricist: Birju Maharaj

The memories of a distant past come flooding back when the passion for dance resurfaces after the dancer runs into an old love interest.

Dedh Ishqia (2014)

Lead Dancer: Madhuri Dixit

Music: Vishal Bhardwaj

A solo dance, sans lyrics, surely leaves the entire burden of a sparkling performance on the shoulders of the heroine. Our multi-talented divas have never failed us on this count.   

It is not that our heroes do not possess outstanding dancing skills. However, these are very few. The names of Kamal Hasan, Hritik Roshan, Ranbir Kapoor, late Sushant Singh Rajput and Tiger Shroff can be mentioned in this context.  

Here are two video clips which some of you may relish.

Ek Duuje Ke Liye (1981)

Dancer: Kamal Hasan

Music: Laxmikant–Pyarelal

(Courtesy Aman and Swasti Sharma) 

Lakshya (2004)

Dancer: Hritik Roshan

Music: Shankar, Ehsaan & Loy

These days, most male actors can also shake a leg or two, though the trend is towards disco, break-dance, and such newer forms of dances as hip hop, lyrical, freestyle, and fusion.

Gaining proficiency in any form of art needs talent, passion, mentoring, and years of continuous practice. What we get to see for a few minutes on our screens is the culmination of a long-drawn-out effort towards conceptualization, synchronization, persistence, and hard work by all the crew members. One is filled with a feeling of reverence towards all the directors, choreographers, artistes, and technicians who bring such unique offerings to us.   

Recently, at a private party, some youngsters had to work assiduously for about two hours to eventually come up with a dance sequence which ran into merely 53 seconds!

One can well imagine the magnitude of effort artists, choreographers and directors put in to come up with unique dance sequences which keep us enchanted. Imagine creating something as elaborate as, say, Pyar kiya to darna kya… (Mughal-E-Azam, 1960), Hothon mein aisi baat… (Jewel Thief, 1967) and Dola re… (Devdas, 2004). The mind boggles!  

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In one of her several tributes to Hemant Kumar, Lata Mangeshkar, one of the God’s supreme gifts to our musical ears, had likened his voice to that of a monk singing a devotional song in a temple.

She could not have been much off the mark. His repertoire of songs covers a wide range of the spectrum of human emotions. If some bring out the unalloyed bliss of love, others highlight some philosophical truths of life. Some are like soothing lullabies whereas others are highly patriotic. Many others convey the acute pain of loneliness while few caress us with vibes of positivity arising out of the despondency one feels after facing the harsh slings and arrows of fate. In many cases, his haunting voice even teases the listener with a mystery of sorts.

Here are some of his songs I have relished from my childhood. Even today, these never fail to either soothe my frayed nerves or uplift my spirits. Dimming the lights around and simply listening to one of these songs envelopes me in a comforting ambience. The decaying cells of a bruised soul get regenerated and perk up, just like a recently watered flower would.

Non-film Songs

Bhala tha kitna apna bachpan…

Singer: Hemant Kumar

Music: Kamal Dasgupta

Lyricist: Faiyyaz Hashmi

Kal teri tasveer ko…


Music: Kamal Dasgupta

Lyricist: Faiyyaz Hashmi

Anchal se kyon baandh liya…

Music: Kamal Dasgupta

Lyricist: Faiyyaz Hashmi

Film Songs

Yaad kiya dil ne…

Movie: Patita (1953)

Music: Shankar Jaikishan

Singers: Hemant Kumar, Lata Mangeshkar

Lyricist: Hasrat Jaipuri

Zindagi pyaar ki do chaar ghadi…

Movie: Anarkali (1953)       

Composer: C. Ramchandra

Singer: Hemant Kumar

Lyricist: Rajendra Krishan

Na ye chaand hoga…

Movie: Shart (1954)

Music/Singer: Hemant Kumar

Lyricist: S H Bihari

Tere dwaar khada ek jogi…

Movie: Nagin (1954)

Music/Singer: Hemant Kumar

Lyricist: Rajinder Krishan

Chandan ka palna…

Movie: Shabaab (1954)

Music: Naushad

Singers: Hemant Kumar, Lata Mangeshkar

Lyricist: Shakeel Badayuni

Teri duniya mein jeene se…

Movie: House No. 44 (1955)

Music Director: S.D.Burman

Singer: Hemant Kumar

Lyricist: Sahir Ludhianvi

Jaane wo kaise log the…

Movie: Pyaasa (1957)

Music Director: S D Burman.

Singer: Hemant Kumar

Lyricist: Sahir Ludhianvi

Ganga aaye kahaan se…

Movie: Kabuliwala (1961)

Music: Salil Chowdhury

Singer: Hemant Kumar

Lyricist: Gulzar

Na tum humein jaano…

Movie: Baat Ek Raat Ki (1962)

Music: S D Burman

Singers: Suman Kalyanpur, Hemant Kumar

Lyricist: Majrooh Sultanpuri

Bequaraar karke humein…

Movie: Bees Saal Baad (1962)

Music Director and Singer: Hemant Kumar

Lyricist: Shakeel Badayuni

Jagat bhar ki Roshni ke liye…

Movie: Harishchand Taramati (1963)

Music: Laxmikant Pyarelal, Hridaynath Mangeshkar

Lyricist: Kavi Pradeep

Ya dil ki suno…

Movie: Anupama (1966)

Music Director and Singer: Hemant Kumar

Lyricist: Kaifi Azmi

I am not mentioning four of his songs which I have already covered elsewhere. These include Ye raat ye chandni… (Jaal, 1952), Aa neele gagan tale… (Badshah, 1954), Nain so nain… (Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baaje, 1955) and Tum pukaar lo… (Khamoshi 1970).

According to Wikipedia, Hemant Kumar (16 June 1920 – 26 September 1989) was a legendary Indian music composer and playback singer who primarily sang in Bengali and Hindi, as well as other Indian languages like Marathi, Gujarati, Odia, Assamese, Tamil, Punjabi, Bhojpuri, Konkani, Sanskrit and Urdu. He was an artist of Bengali and Hindi film music, Rabindra Sangeet, and many other genres. He was the recipient of two National Awards for Best Male Playback Singer and was popularly known as the “voice of God”.

Hemant joined the Bengal Technical Institute at Jadavpur (now Jadavpur University) to pursue Engineering. However, he quit academics to pursue a career in music, despite objections from his father. He experimented with literature and published a short story in a Bengali magazine Desh. He focused on music by the late 1930’s.

The US government honoured Hemant Kumar by conferring upon him the citizenship of Baltimore, Maryland; the first-ever singer of India to get USA citizenship. He refused Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan awards but had won so many other awards and accolades for his work.

By the end of his life, he had become an institution, a beloved and revered personality who was a courteous and friendly gentleman. His philanthropic activities included running a homeopathic hospital in memory of his late father in their native village in Baharu, in the South 24 Parganas district of West Bengal.

Creative geniuses like him surely descend upon this planet from a higher plane of consciousness. They help us to wash off the dirt which gets accumulated on our souls while living our mundane lives, thereby enabling us to reconnect us with our inner beings and enjoy a state of unadulterated joy and bliss.

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Come Valentine’s Day and the air is fragrant with thoughts of love, caring and compassion. The movie buffs amongst us are literally spoiled for choice. For example, we can catch up on one of the breezy romcoms, like 50 First Dates (2004, Peter Segal), Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi (2008, A Match Made by God, Aditya Chopra), No Strings Attached (2011, Ivan Reitman) or Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani(2013, Crazy Youth, Ayan Mukerji). Movie 50 First Dates

Or, we can delve into our personal collections and rediscover classics such as Gone With the Wind(1939, Victor Fleming, George Cukor, Sam Wood), Mughal-e-Aazam(1960, K Asif, The Emporer of the Mughals), The Sound of Music(1965, Robert Wise) or Guide (1965, Vijay Anand).Guide_poster

We also have the choice of curling up on a love couch and savoring romantic escapades of the mature and ripe kind. Here are some movies…

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Often, we complain about the inane offerings of mainstream Bollywood cinema. We bemoan the fact that we are expected to spend our hard-earned money, leave our brains outside a cinema hall, give our common sense a commercial break, temporarily suspend our beliefs and just enjoy the proceedings on the silver screen.

Some scripts make us go through the romantic upheavals in the lives of the hero and the heroine. Few others offer us unique insights into the world of crime and gore. Others thrive on keeping us glued to our seats wondering as to what may happen next. The thrill of a car chase, a saga of revenge and dollops of suspense make the experience worthy of our time, cost and attention.  

But there has always been a tiny segment of intellectually inclined directors who have kept regaling us with their unique insights on ills which plague our society as well as our economy. Call it the Parallel Cinema, the Consciousness Movement or the Cinema on the Fringes, if you will.

When Cinema on the Fringes becomes Meaningful

When it comes to caste-based prejudices, we have had Sujata (1959), Masaan (2015) and Article 15 (2019). A movie like Jhund (2022) showcases the everyday struggles of vagabond Dalit youngsters, haunted by the humiliating gaze of society. Speak of the disadvantaged and we are apt to think of Ankur (1974), Akrosh (1980), Chakra (1981) and Nil Battey Sannata (2015). Think of the angst of the educated unemployed and we discover Albert Pinto Ko Gussa Kyoon Aata Hai (1980) and Rang De Basanti (2006). Speak of sex workers and movies like Chandni Bar (2001), Chameli (2003) and Gangubhai Kathiawadi (2022) pop up in our minds.

When it came to our criminal justice system, movies such as Do Ankhen Barah Haath (1957), Kanoon (1960), Bandini (1963) and Achanak (1973) stood up for bold reforms. A cooperative movement leading to a resounding success in brand management inspired Manthan (1976). Difficulties faced by marginal farmers formed the central theme of such movies as Do Bigha Zameen (1953) and Heera Moti (1959). Challenges based on disabilities were poignantly captured in such movies as Koshish (1972), Black (2005) and Guzaarish (2010).

If the plight of rural migrants was showcased in Jagte Raho (1956), movies like Garm Hava (1973) and Pinjar (2003) brought home the trials and tribulations of those affected by Partition. Patriarchal maladies formed the crux of such movies as Sahib, Bibi aur Ghulam (1962). The plight of a widow moved us in Ek Chaadar Maili Si (1986). Swades (2004) spoke of using innovative frugal engineering solutions to the issues faced by villagers.

The Winds of Change

However, jingoistic nationalism, often camouflaged as patriotism, is the flavour of the season. In the past, movies like Haqeeqat (1964), Shaheed (1965), Lakshya (2004) and Mangal Pandey (2005) led to a rise in patriotic fervour amongst movie watchers. Upkar (1967) was all about ‘Jai Jawaan Jai Kisaan’. In the recent past, we have had Bajrangi Bhaijaan (2015), Raazi (2018) and Kesari (2019).

In tandem with the political headwinds, Islamic terrorism has come under a sharper focus. Gone are the days of such socials as Chaudvin Ka Chaand (1960), Mere Mehboob (1963), Mere Huzoor (1968) and Jodhaa Akbar (2008), wherein our composite Ganga-Yamuna ‘tehzeeb’ (culture) was lovingly portrayed. Instead, we now rejoice in people of a certain faith being portrayed as violent aggressors and anti-nationals. The recent successes of such movies as Padmaavat (2018) and The Kashmir Files (2022) form a part of this trend.

It is not that riots and genocides have not been captured by Bollywood before. A wonderful example which stands out is that of Mr. and Mrs. Iyer (2002). Movies like Mission Kashmir (2002), Parzania (2007) and Firaaq (2008) brought home the futility and tragedy of hatred. Some of these have attempted to uncover the inner turmoil experienced by the main protagonist. Many such movies have been banned. However, the focus now appears to have shifted on widening our social fissures rather than mending the same. Perhaps, a deeper cleaning of sorts of our social fabric is taking place.   

The rise of OTT platforms, thanks partly to a pandemic, has broadened the scope of offerings. If Jalsa (2022) keeps us on tenterhooks, The Fame Game (2022) gives us a sneak peek into the lives of celebrities. If Bombay Begums (2021) captures the ambition of gutsy females wanting to break the proverbial glass ceiling, Panchayat (2020) took us back to the countryside and showed us the kind of challenges which rural folks face. Bandish Bandits (2020) was a brilliant ode to the prowess of classical music.  

Even outside the traditional channels of cinema halls and OTT platforms, several talented directors keep coming up with offerings which show the day to day challenges faced by us in an inspiring mode. Those of you who have heard of Nirmal Anand Ki Puppy (2021) directed by Sandeep Mohan would heartily agree with me.

The line between conscious cinema and not-so-conscious cinema (in other words, ‘masala’ movies!) often gets blurred.  

Of Creative Consciousness

Creative juices need several favourable conditions which enable these to spring forth and eventually reach their target audience. When it comes to the powerful medium of cinema, a good script, backed by proficient actors, lilting lyrics and music, adroit editing and good production values surely helps. We may call many of these as meaningful. But if a movie entertains, educates and even goes on to address our deeply embedded social concerns and prejudices, it plays a useful role in shaping the values which govern our society. Such movies originate from a higher level of consciousness. Personally, I would prefer to call these movies as being the real meaningful ones!

A question may be asked as to whether it is possible for producers and directors to churn out socially relevant movies even when commercial considerations rule the roost. In Awara (1951), Boot Polish (1954) and Shri 420 (1955) Raj Kapur showed us how. So did B. R. Chopra when he came up with Nikaah (1982), and Yash Chopra when he offered us Dharmputra (1961) and Veer Zara (2004)!

Eventually, it all boils down to the level of consciousness of the producer-director duo. Awareness, Care and Intent alone are the enabling factors. These alone act as catalysts of Creative Consciousness. Those who have the courage and conviction to offer such movies pay back to the society what they get from it. 

Some Neglected Areas

There are three areas of strategic concern which appear to have been given the short shrift in the scheme of things.

What we lack is a vibrant children’s film movement. Movies like Aakhri Khat (1966), Makdee (2002), The Blue Umbrella (2005), Tare Zameen Par (2007) and Bumm Bumm Bole (2010) are few and far between. In the rat race of commercial considerations, this segment of the audience has lost its appeal. The outcome is that the age of innocence has got brutally cut short. The advent of internet and animation movies has further eroded the interest in child-friendly offerings. Children are losing the opportunity of imbibing rich values from such ancient texts as ‘Hitopadesha’ and ‘Panchatantra’. Poor souls are getting sucked into adult entertainment right away.   

Secondly, state funding for socially relevant and meaningful cinema has all but vanished. Unlike countries such as France where state support ensures that movies steeped in consciousness keep getting made, the rulers of today turn a blind eye to their own soft power.

Thirdly, the interest in preserving the history of cinema for the sake of posterity is singularly absent. It is an irony that not even a single print of Alam Ara (1931), the first ‘talkies’ to be churned out by Bollywood, is available in our archives.

If such strategic issues are left to the manipulations of the private sector alone, Bollywood will keep marching ahead with bolder and bolder themes, wooing their audience with exotic locales, sex appeal and special effects which leave the viewers in a state of shock and awe. Return on investments alone would count. The movies it churns out may be entirely soulless, so to say. Viewer tastes will keep getting manipulated by our dream merchants.

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Mr Schnellenhamer, the head of the Perfecto-Zizz-baum Corporation, the leading movie studio, is reported to be having an odd disagreeable feeling these days. Perhaps, it is caused by what Roget’s Thesaurus would describe as  agitation, fury, violent anger, wrath and similar emotions listed under the heading ‘Rage’, that too of an impotent kind.

Having struck a deal with Coronavirus Global Corp (CGC in short) to unleash upon the public a movie based on the current pandemic, he believes things to be moving a tad sluggishly. He is not able to gather enough goofy ideas to add a sparkle to the script. Discussions with his team of directors, script-writers, music composers, yes-persons, deputy yes-persons, junior yes-persons, nodders and trainee nodders have led to finalization of the basic outlines of the movie. But he feels much more could be done. CGC had mandated that the movie should get released before any…

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Branding is a term which originates in the realm of marketing management but is generally applicable to any product, service, entity or person which stands out amongst the crowd and calls out for any Unique Selling Proposition of its. It could be applied to countries, movie directors and even to some fictional characters from literature!

Here are some examples which demonstrate this point better.




After the Trump era (2016-20), studies have popped up claiming that the USA has slid down significantly on its soft power in the world. Same is said to be the case with many other countries where brutal suppression of dissent has become a way of life and where human rights have been trampled upon.

China keeps expanding its soft power by promoting movies out of Hollywood exposing the world to its culture. India offers spirituality and its own culture to the world.

The movie Eat, Pray, Love (2010) illustrates the point rather well. A heart-broken heroine travels through different countries. She discovers the true pleasures of the table in Italy, the soothing power of payer in India and the inner peace and balance of love in Indonesia!

Movie Directors 

Apart from other celebrities, those who wield the megaphone in the movie industry often exude soft power.

I confess I am a movie buff. Quite early in life, I discovered that a movie should be selected for viewing not based on its cast but based on its director. Each director has a distinctive perspective on life, and the manner in which he/she presents a theme is as unique as, say, one´s finger prints. Admittedly, the core brilliance of a movie is determined by the producer-director duo. But the unmistakable stamp on the narrative is that of the director. The script, the screenplay, the music, the camera work, the background score, the sets, the costumes, the editing, all these transport us to a different realm for a limited time.

To put it simply, if you sit down to watch a movie by either Steven Spielberg or Gulzar saheb, you know what to expect. Seeing a movie which is directed by, say, David Lean, is as much enriching an experience as seeing one directed by either Hrishikesh Mukherji or Basu Chatterji.

Over a period of time, a movie director builds up a brand equity for himself. It comes from the uniqueness of his style, the choice of his scripts, consistency in quality of his directorial ventures and sheer attention to detail in all the departments of movie making. This earns a well-deserved respect from the discerning viewers, crowned by some degree of commercial success.

The CEO of a Dream Merchandise Factory

A director’s role in shaping a movie would perhaps be comparable to that of either the CEO of a company or the conductor of an orchestra. A CEO’s mindset determines the business strategy of a company. His style of functioning and his value system permeates across all levels of the company. Likewise, the conductor of an orchestra blends the notes of stringed, percussion and other instruments, creating a symphony which is unique. Like a CEO guiding a company or a conductor presenting a symphony, the director also balances the strengths and weaknesses of his team members and comes up with a movie which is entertaining – and possibly educative – in the social context.

A director surely knows how to touch our heart-strings in a meaningful way. In the process, he delivers deep messages, whether social, political, economical or the spiritual kind.

Some Literary Brands

Those of us who have admired the exploits of Sherlock Holmes and Reginald Jeeves are occasionally overawed by the kind of popularity these literary figures enjoy. Both may be fictional, but the influence they exert on our consciousness is exemplary. One would not be wrong in perceiving both of them to be brands in their own right.

Sherlock Holmes: An Honorary Citizen of Meiringen

Ever heard of the charming Alpine town of Meiringen in Switzerland? It is a municipality in the Interlaken-Oberhasli administrative district in the canton of Bern in Switzerland. Ringed in by snow-covered peaks, it is located on one of the most important trade routes through the Alps for centuries.

One of Meiringen’s attractions is the Sherlock Holmes Museum which recreates the detective’s abode at 221A, Baker Street in London, besides Victorian era memorabilia. The nearby Reichenbach Falls are where, in The Final Problem, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle made his hero suffer a premature death at the hands of his adversary Dr Moriarty, only to resurrect him later in The Adventure of the Empty House on persistent demands from the detective’s fans. Well, quite some time back, it had granted an honorary citizenship to Sherlock Holmes.

It stands to reason that the town had granted an honorary citizenship to Sherlock Holmes. A certificate to this effect is displayed in the museum. Also, at the base of the falls, there is a rock inscription to this effect!

When one picks up a Sherlock Holmes story, one is assured of good value for one`s time and effort. Backed by hard-nosed judgment, insightful observations and above-par analytical skills, he delivers. Go to him with a mystery and he demystifies it. His methods and skills have provided clues to investigators in many countries. He is utterly reliable. He delivers. These are the very attributes which go on to build up a brand.

Gentlemen’s Personal Gentleman

Likewise, Jeeves, created by P G Wodehouse, stands for impeccable service and a capacity to deliver results beyond the expectations of the bosses. The manner in which he helps his boss Bertie Wooster retain his bachelor status is a sterling example of his feudal spirit as also an inner cunning. His methods are often rough, but there is no doubt as to his capacity to deliver satisfactory results. He believes that bosses are like wild horses; they need to be managed with tact and resource.

In the United Kingdom, one is apt to run into laundry and other services which bear his brand name.

Many examples can be quoted from literature, fine arts and other creative fields of human endeavour.

In an earlier post, we had considered the perks of building and sustaining a shimmering brand in the market place. The focus there was on companies and individuals. Examples cited above go on to reveal to us the kind of hard work, consistency of effort and persistence which enable a softer brand to emerge. The essential principles underlying the creation and sustenance of a brand remain the same.



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