Parties, Sarees and Melodies has a poll up now. One of the questions on there was to pick the best movie soundtrack of the 1950s, at least among those that have been posted to that blog. That was a very, very tough choice for me, but I picked one. And it wasn’t one of the three great ’50s soundtacks from Shankar Jaikishan (no, not Awaara, Shree 420, or Chori Chori). It wasn’t Navrang, either, much as I love that one. When I had to make a final decision, I just had to pick this:
(That’s Sadhna, 1958. Starring Vyjayanthimala, Sunil Dutt, many others. Music director N. Dutta. Vocals Asha Bhosle, Lata Mangeshkar, Geeta Dutt, Mohammed Rafi, Balbir…)
P.S. Fortunately, that poll has an initial question for which you can pick ten favorite albums – for which I did pick all of the above-mentioned… But there was a whole lot of other great stuff coming out of Bollywood in the ’50s too. And some incredible muisc from Kollywood also (as I think I’ve said before)…
(Starring Vyjayanthimala and Kishore Kumar; music by C. Ramchandra; singing by Asha Bhosle and Kishore Kumar (Asha sang this, the female version of the song; Kishore sang a male version in this movie too); directed M.V. Raman.)
Look at how dark everything is…and yet so beautiful. Mahal (1949), a ghost story; the song is “Ye Raat Phir Na Aayegi.” This is another movie that I will have to find!
I understand that this was one of the early breakthrough movies for Lata Mangeshkar. But I’m very much enjoying the vocals by the two women in this song, Zohra Zmbalawali and Rajkumari (two women singers out of many who were very popular in Bollywood before Lata, then Asha, took over, and also before more attention shifted to the male stars).
And, of course, there’s that splendid music, by Khemchand Prakash…
P.S. Directed by Kamal Amrohi; starring Ashok Kumar, Madhubala, Vijayalakshmi, Kanu Roy. There’s a very fully and informative review of this over at Upperstall.
The words that I put up for the title of this post are from a great Gandhi quote that appears on the screen at the beginning Naya Daur. I’d been looking for this movie for a while (about five months, since the recommendation by Sita-ji), and had some unexpected difficulty finding it – first at all, then in a copy that I would consider affordable. (As a displaced worker, I try not to pay $18 or $20 for a DVD, thanks.) But I finally got it, in glorious black and white, and judging by the clips I’ve seen of the colorized version, I think I prefer this one, strangely enough. (But, then, I know a few people do. Anyway, “you” be the judge. Certainly, it’s highly enjoyable in black and white even if you do prefer the new bright colors that were added recently.)
I guess I expected to love this movie (as I most certainly did). I knew it had a few things that would almost guarantee that I love it: a contest of the poor joining together to defeat the villainous rich (yea!); a humanistic critique of “progress”; a sweet, tear-inducing love affair; an intriguing sub-plot about friendship turning into rivalry/animosity (but, not to give anything away, maybe that’s a not permanent transformation either); fine music – by O.P. Nayyar, sung by Asha Bhosle and Mohammed Rafi; great dance by Vyjayanthimala…
On top of that, I really liked most of the actors in this… Vyjayanthimala (as I think I just mentioned), and Dilip Kumar, of course; but I thought Jeevan was also really good as the automating/downsizing villain, and I started to realize how much I appreciate Johnny Walker…
Altogether, I have to say it’s way up there on my list, maybe one of my top five (all of which, I think, were made between 1955 and 1960 – something I might talk a little more about sometime later)… So if anyone out there hasn’t seen this one yet, I recommend that you do your best to get it – in either black and white or color.
P.S. Naya Daur was produced and directed by B.R. Chopra… And there’s an interview with him added as a “special feature” to the edition I got. I may get back to that…
The song is “Maar Gayi Re Hamein Teri Najariya.” Per comments at the YouTube, in addition to Noor Jehan, this might include the voice of Shamshad Begum, one of Bollywood’s first playback singers, who recently celebrated her 90th birthday. I should mention that these songs from “Khandan” were written by Ghulam Haider, a groundbreaking musical director who also provided the first big breaks for Lata Mangeshkar.
Anyway, this clip is fun too – with delicious-looking food, and so many candles!
I was walking past the movie sale bin outside a place called Raja Sweets on 73rd Street and 37th Avenue in Jackson Heights, when I spotted two copies of Navrang in the front, just calling out to me. Having seen a couple of the scenes from this movie (which were fantastic, in every sense of the word), how could I resist? And I was very glad that I didn’t. The shop itself, as its name implies, is just full of sweets, spread out everywhere. But probably none of those sweets are as sweet as this movie.
Certainly one of the most visually inventive films I’ve ever seen (made in 1959, directed by V. Shantaram), it also has one of the most unusual plots: The main character, Divakar, is a poet who adores his wife Jamuna (or at least greatly desires her), but she won’t pay any attention to him and always seems to be annoyed at him. So, to inspire his imagination and therefore his poetry, he conjures a phantom/fantasy version of his wife, Mohini, who then inspires him to have the most incredible daydreams. (By the way, the contrast between that fantasy wife and the real one is sometimes hilarious.) This results in some scenes at a very far-out level of fantasy (downright psychedelic in places), as well as some beautiful dancing by Sandhya. (Sandhya is an actress-dancer whom I’d like to learn more about. Unfortunately, searches are complicated – there is a more recent Bollywood/Kollywood Sandhya who’s getting much more attention now.) And there is great music – composed by C. Ramchandra, with some of the finest singing by Manna Dey and, especially, Asha Bhosle. (Just checking a few comments here and there, I see that a few people are positively stunned by Asha’s singing in this movie. And I can see (or hear) why. I”ve been enjoying that soundtrack for a while myself, since I got it at Parties, Sarees and Melodies.)
Navrang also contains a secondary plot: This is the late 18th Century, and the British are coming. There isn’t any real action here, though, which is just as well, because it probably wouldn’t have fit. The most interesting thing about the depiction of this conquest is the portrayal of the sellouts – the low place to which some men sank to retain their high status.
Yet the conquest and resistance (or lack thereof, mostly) seem almost like an afterthought. The tale of unrequited married love – and the way this must be overcome – is much more important here. And obviously, the most important subject in Navrang is Divakar’s imagination.
P.S. The song above is “Je Re Hat Nakhat.” This scene happens after Divakar’s friends ask him to write a song for a holiday celebration in the royal court. (And what holiday that might be? Hmm…) Divakar has not written the song yet, so one of his friends sort of prays for help from the elephant-headed god, Ganesh. But once again, Divakar gets his inspiration from Mohini…
P.P.S. The store where I bought the video actually seems to have a few different names posted. The front of the blue awning above the store says “Raja Music House,” but the side of the awning says “Raja Sweets & Fast Food.” Then the sign right next to the front door says “Raja Sweets.” “Raja Sweets” seems most appropriate when you walk into the place. (There are some music CDs there, but not many, and I didn’t really look at him. It’s funny… About year ago and earlier, the first thing I looked at in these Indian CD/DVD places was the music. Now I’m hardly looking at the music because I’m so captivated by the films.)
Within the same couple of pages in which he talks about Nur Jehan, Bose also tells the real identity of Nadira, the “bad woman” in Shree 420 (the actress-dancer starring in this clip, for the famous song “Mud Mud Ke Na Dekh”). Her real name was Farah Ezekiel, and she was a Jewish woman whose family had origins in Iraq. She became sort of famous for a while but did not really take off as a heroine/leading lady and she kind of declined later in life. But she certainly was great in some things…
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