I have posted some songs from the Marathi classic Amar Bhupali before, but thanks to the incredibly comprehensive (and relatively new) Trini Rama channel, I have a much bigger assortment to choose from now. This channel is quite remarkable, by the way. I wonder who started it (whether it is a person or a company)… There are something like 2,500 videos up now, all posted within the past three months, and they cover a very big period of classic Indian cinema, going back as early as 1932. It’s too bad that nothing has subtitles, but it is still a treat!
I am hoping that some day I will be able to find this movie in full (with subtitles, of course). But for now, I am just enjoying the songs a whole lot. I thought of giving a summary of the film based on things that I read (including the full descriptions on YouTube below the film clips), but I found a very good one of just the right length from Indiancine.ma Wiki (which I also am adding to my blogroll and plan to get back to quite a lot).
Shantaram’s hit musical biopic of Honaji Bala (played by Marathi stage star Nagarkar), a legendary Marathi poet from the Gawali caste in the last years of the Pune Peshwai. Known mainly for having popularised the musical dance form of the lavani in Maharashtra and esp. for his classic composition Ghanashyam sundara shirdhara, addressing a new dawn in the morning raga Bhoop. The piece later acquired revolutionary associations alluded to in the film’s anti-British discourse. Set in the Pune-based Maratha empire just before it succumbed to the British, the story shows the poet’s involvement with lavani music, which the film associates with prostitutes, winning recognition when the peshwa’s wife at the Pune court gives him an award for his Bhoop composition. His love life with Tamasha dancer (Sandhya in her debut) is intercut with the Maratha wars against the British, his music spurring on the soldiers. Shantaram contrasts Honaji’s erotic and militant poetry with the prevailing ‘decadent’ brahminical effusions. Replete with Shantaram-type calendar art compositions (when pigeons descend around Sandhya’s body in the forest) the film ends like a mythological, showing the infant Krishna and Yashoda, when his Ghanashyam composition is immortalised. Additional songs were written by the radical poet and performer Amar Sheikh, associated with the militant powada form and with the IPTA’s left wing in Maharashtra.
By the way, outside of Trini Rama, I actually did find a post with an English translation of “Ghanashyam Sundara Shirdhara,” which I am posting last. Unfortunately, though, in that video, the words on the screen block out much of the visuals, which are often beautiful. Naturally, while watching the other clips, I loved seeing Sandhya in her 1951 debut (doing mujra dances – the only time I have ever seen her playing that role). Though she may not have been conventionally beautiful (as a few people have remarked to me, in rather strong terms), and though she may not have had a life full of skillful training in classical dance (just a crash course with Gopi Krishna, which did not happen until 1955), I think she is very distinctive – certainly one of a kind – and always a joy to watch. Plus, while we watch her dances, we get to hear great music provided by Vasant Desai and Lata Mangeshkar (among others). But those are only a couple of the reasons that this film looks very appealing to me.