It was brilliant casting, IMO… There is a point in the film at which Vyjayanthimala’s character, Pushpa, decides to find a new star to cheer up the theater director, Loknath (Balraj Sahni), after he has been mourning the death of his child. (Pushpa herself has just had a child and has ostensibly quit dancing – not that the viewer can possibly believe that, but never mind.) So who could follow up an act like Vyjayanthimala, especially if Padmini isn’t around? The second dance gives you an answer: Kamla Lakshman! (Or Kamala Kumari, as she was billed then.)
The first dance is “Itne Bade Jahan,” with Vyjayanthimala. The second, at about 4:45, is “Hai Tu Hi Gaya Muhe Buhl” with Kamala Lakshman. (For some reason, both get Lata Mangeshkar’s voice.) Then, at the very end, there’s a brief superimposed glimpse of Vyjayanthimala doing “Bum Bum Bum Baje Dumro,” a dance that I posted back on her birthday, which is also screen capped in the present image header.
And believe me, I’ve seen a bunch of them at this point!
I left it a “mystery” for a little while (for those who didn’t go to the YouTube post), but I’m sure the puppets gave it away. The movie is Kath Putli; the song is “Bol Re Kathputli.” This movie exceled in the qualities that I love most in old Indian movies: supberb dancing – by Vyjayanthimala, mostly, but also by Kamala Lakshman in a couple of scenes; great, sob-producing melodrama; fine social consciousness, especially about the struggle to get out of poverty (and what it takes or means to do that by becoming a star). I also enjoyed the very charming performance by Balraj Sahni as the theater mentor who turns out to be remarkably sensitive and kind-hearted (absolutely not a Svengali!). Add to that beautifull music by Shankar Jaikishan (one of their best soundtracks, I think) and some good scenes, near the end, of Vyjayanthimala speaking out as a woman in opposition to some bad male behavior. (Her character is arguing with a husband who has turned into a bit of a jerk. But her arguments seem to have a universal quality, bemoaning the plight of woman in general – maybe even foreshadowing Vyjayanthi’s role in Sadhna the following year).
And, of course, there are the puppets! This movie certainly should appeal to anyone who saw the prior year’s Chori Chori and enjoyed that scene for “Jahan Mein Jati Hoon.” But this time around, the puppets are imbued with a much heavier dose of metaphor.
I was hoping to write this up with screen caps and all that good stuff. But that may or may not happen… I’m a bit tired right now, having had to do some gruelling job-hunt-related chores the past couple of days. Struggling against an unfortunate pull of (global) fate, trying to make ends meet just like almost everyone.
I guess it’s a good time for me to see a movie like this too. And for many people… The tears should flow more easily if you’re struggling as well.
P.S. There’s some great copy on the Eros package, discussing that overriding metaphor:
“Are we all puppets in the hands of fate? Have we no free will? Are we all victims of circumstances? These are big questions & let’s leave them to the mataphysicians…”
They must have put some thought into that. If only they’d put some more thought or effort into quality-checking the subtitles, which get way out of sync before the end. But, a relatively minor quibble there…
P.P.S. [2/1] And speaking of quality checking or lack thereof, I have also noticed that a little further down in that wonderful copy on the DVD package, it says that Pushpa’s husband, Shivraj, is played by “Kamala Laxman.” Huh?! (By the way, credit to Memsaab for initially providing this perfect phrase “quality checking” (over on her blog) to describe something that so many of these Indian DVD makers seem to lack (though, fortunately, that problem never realy detracts from my love of the films themselves).) Then, to make matters worse, when I did a search to see what other information people had on the film, I saw about a half a dozen links exactly repeating this sentence that said Kamala played the role of Shivraj!
P.P.P.S. [2/1] More thoughts on the contents of the film in my dialogue with Bollyviewer. Well, I think I have now already thoroughly written up the film, “unofficially.” Actual blog posts have wandered into a different direction now – though not entirely unrelated…
And this is just a fantastic rock’n’roll number from Shankar Jaikishan. Jaikishan is in the clip, conducting the orchestra. Singing by Kishore Kumar (duet part with Asha Bhosle, I believe). Dancers Jayshree T. and Mehmood (Minoo Mumtaz’s brother).
This seems to be a very worldly number, especially in the Hawaiian part and the part involving the other kind of Indians.
Jayshree T.’s wearing blue; I don’t know who the other dancers are. Singers are Asha Bhosle and Usha Mangeshkar, musical director Ravi.
Dhund was directed by B.R. Chopra. There are moments in this dance that remind me strangely of a couple of mujras in a much earlier film that he directed, called Sadhna. But then sometimes it’s very different, too.
Jayshree T. is very unique. Every so often, I look at a bunch of dances of hers that I haven’t seen before, and I end up liking her even more. Out of the dancers who came up in the late ’60s through the ’70s, she is one of the very best.
The topic of this post popped into my mind after I read a post at Memsaabstory about a movie scene in which Hema Malini has a doll that looks just like her that starts to sing and dance. Although obivously in a very different context, that’s the same kind of thing that happened in “Jaane Kahan Gaye Woh Din” from Mera Naam Joker!
P.S. I originally intended to mention this only in comments at Memsaab’s post, but at the time anyway, the comments function didn’t seem to be working (for that blog or others, for that matter). So… A nice excuse to take it to my blog and post an unusual scene in a movie that I’ve lately been wanting to get back to repeatedly.
Thiruvarutchelvar is a Tamil devotional movie following a format I’ve seen in a few of these already. The film basically consists as a series of vignettes that fit into a sacred piece of literature or poem that is being related by one of the characters. In this particular case, the vignettes get underway when a king (Sivaji Ganesan) embarks on a quest to devote himself to God, beginning this quest with the recitation of a poem about God and a number of his disciples. (I believe the number was 60-something – quite a few of them.)
But the events leading up to this recitation are quite amusing and probably comprise the best part of the film: After witnessing a wonderful bharatanatyam dance by a “Queen of the arts” played by Padmini (see above), the king becomes “mad” with desire to the point where he makes very inappropriate advances on her. The dancer shoots him down rather soundly and brilliantly, and the king, feeling remorse for being turned into “an animal” by his desire for her, asks his court sage/poet to teach him more about how to renounce such sinful ways and serve God. But the king, still somewhat arrogant, also insists that the poet provide him answers to three questions regarding God: Where can one find God, in what direction is he facing, and what is he doing now? The poet is stunned, unable to think of convincing answers, but his pre-teen granddaughter manages to go in his place and teach the king a few lessons to show him facts that he had failed to understand.
By pointing to a mixed milk drink and asking the king to show her one ingredient separate from the rest in the drink, she shows him that you can’t point to a place where God is because God is mixed into everything. By showing the king a candle and asking him to tell her which direction the light is shining in, she shows him that you can’t tell someone the direction that God is facing in because he faces everywhere. And by playing some game through which she gets the king to let her be king for a moment and then threatens to imprison him, she points out how God is constantly determining everyone’s fate, so you can’t say what God is doing right now. (Yes, that one’s a bit more difficult to explain, but it kind of works as the scene plays out.) The king, thus humbled even more by the encounter with this child, embarks on his truly holy mission, which begins with the recitation of verses.
The vignettes that result are admittedly not all that interesting plot-wise. Mostly, they consist of one scene or another in which people are tested and are convinced as a result to follow a path of greater devotion to God. (Sometimes God is identified as Shiva, though I’m not sure if this variation is due to the original text or just changes in the subtitles. And these Hindu concepts can get a little complicated for a western agnostic like myself.) But whether or not the plot of the vignettes remains intriguing (and I don’t think it’s gnerally as intriguing here as it is in a similar film Aathi Parasakthi (1971)), the movie remains impressive because of the performances.
The Padmini dance above, to the song “Mannavan Vanthandi ,” is one of her most famous and could be counted as one of the greatest dance scenes in classic Tamil cinema. (Part of the reason for that, by the way, is the great singing performance by P. Susheela, with music by K.V. Mahadevan.) But Sivaji Ganesan also does a fantastic job all through the film, using different, unique methods to make his acting stand out.
I’ve read that Sivaji was an actor who could distinguish characters very well with a walk. And in this film, it’s hard not to notice the different Sivaji walks. At the beginning of the opening dance number with Padmini, Sivaji does this very amusing arrogant king’s walk that is perfectly timed to the music; I would bet it is one of the most memorable walks in Indian cinema. And much later in the film, Sivaji puts on this very convincing hunched-over kind of walk as he plays a wandering sage/poet who is 80 years old.
The walk is just one of Sivaji’s techniques, of course. In his gestures, expressions, etc., he really can create compelling characters. Some people do seem to think that he can be a bit “over the top.” And I’ve heard/seen some people (well, one, at least) say that MGR was a better actor. Personally speaking, though, I have to say that I have always enjoyed Sivaji’s performances. And I’ve seen a few now – first, really, because I was looking for Padmini, but now I’ll gladly watch a film just for Sivaji, too.
While the dance at the beginning might be the best remembered from this movie, there are a few other song-and-dance performances that are also great fun to watch. There’s one fantastic number, actually at the beginning of the first of the vignettes, that involves a bunch of men and women who are washing and drying clothes or fabrics by the water… The fabrics are brilliantly colored, and they become an important part of the song and dance, which is extremely colorful, in more ways than one. (All helped along, once again, by fine music by K.V. Mahadevan.)
The skit that this leads into is a comedy scene that I found a bit difficult to follow. (It’s something about a reversal of gender roles – a guy is doing all the washing and his wife is ordering him around while she counts clothes and money. And then there’s some banter with a midget. I think there must have been a bit lost in translation.) But this is a kind of movie that can be enjoyed for many different reasons, whether or not certain elements work for you.
I think that can be said of most of these devotional films. Certainly, a viewer like me isn’t going to enjoy it or understand it in the same ways as someone in India who was raised on Hinduism (or is being raised…as I think a lot of these movies were meant to appeal to children at least as much as to adults). But there’s still plenty to enjoy in many of these, and for performances alone, this was one of the best.
A nice slide show that mkayitschole put together for the song “O Saya” from Slumdog Millionaire… Just so we don’t forget whom this blog’s name came from… Though I am still interested in changing that name sometime (and continue to welcome suggestions), just to better reflect what I’m doing here these days. But that doesn’t mean I don’t still appreciate…
P.S. All you A.R. Rahman fans, the soundtrack album has been released by N.E.E.T./Interscope records. N.E.E.T. is a label founded and managed by you-know-who.
P.P.S. I added a new image header after putting up this post, and the guy in that image header is Sivaji Ganesan. (Of course, we all know who the woman is.) I didn’t realize until after I did that that there might be some amusing irony in putting a picture with Sivaji right above a picture/slide show of Maya Arulpragasam…
Ajit 45555 didn’t credit them, but I believe that’s Sai-Subbulaxmi again. Voices Lata and Usha Mangeshkar, music by C. Ramchandra; movie directed by Sriramulu Naidu S.M., starring Meena Kumari (also in this clip), Dilip Kumar, and Pran.
Looking at this, it must be the same scene as the song ”O’Ayye O’Amma” in the original, Tamil version of this movie, Malaikallan, which clip I posted here (though, unfortunately, it became “unavailable” when Tom got kicked off YouTube again).
The movie overall looks like a lot of fun… I almost picked it up a couple of months ago, hope to get it soon.
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