I’ve listened to this many times, because I downloaded several songs from Madurai Veeran via Cool Toad in the winter of 2008 (I think), and I have them on my homemadeTamil film comp, which I take with me to listen to on the subway. I’ve listened to this song particularly often on the subway, because it’s lively, loud, and fast (so it easily drowns out the rap or reggaeton coming from other people’s listening devices), and it’s nice music for watching the signs speed by while I’m looking out the window. But even though I listened to the song so many times, I don’t think I ever saw the film clip that went with it. (I have watched this one many, many times. Never had a chance to see the film, though. I understand the ending is kind of depressing if you’re not easily comforted by the thought of divinity after death.) But now, I finally can see the film clip – thanks to utirupathy. And need I even say(?) that Padmini is wonderful in this, doing a folk dance. (The guy is good too – I guess that’s MGR ? Looks a bit different here…) Music by G. Ramanathan, singers T.M. Soundararajan and Gikki.
Stupid judges gave her an 8… I think it’s fantastic that they got her on that show – they should have given her a 10.
Of course, I’m referring to her appearance on NBC’s Superstars of Dance:
Here’s a film on bharatanatyam that she made a couple of years ago:
And here’s a personal favorite, just among the clips that I’ve seen, posted at YouTube by the appropriately named Bharathanatyam:
1. The color and the cinematography – Not every picture I post from this is going to show how beautiful the film is. (Screen caps can be hit and miss that way, and I don’t always have time or energy to find the perfect ones.) But the colors and the scenes are often breathtaking. I’m someone who most appreciates the black and white films (in case people haven’t guessed that by now), but sometimes the color of a film can really grab me, especially because I’ve spent so much time with black and white. (Though, on the other hand, when I looked up the cinematographer for this one, I saw that it was Radhu Karmakar, who also did Shree 420, Awaara, and Jis Desh Men Ganga Behti Hai. So maybe I also like the visuals in this one so much for the same reasons that I like them in some of my favorite black and whites.)
2. Beautiful Padmini in an unconventional light – Padmini remains my top filmi goddess – she was the best dancer (though Vyjayanthimala was often just as good) and was more beautiful than anyone. I suppose strictly speaking, by most standards, she was most beautiful in the late 50s and early 60s, but she still was a sight to behold in the early ’70s. And after seeing her in so many roles showing a traditional kind of femininity, it was interesting to see her with short hair and masculine clothes – which she wore during one part of the movie because, unbelievably, her character had been passing herself off as a boy, fooling the Raj Kapoor character, even for a short time while they were living in the same shack (perhaps one moment of the film that was a bit funnier than it was meant to be). I think it’s fun showing the uncoventional and slightly older Padmini, still looking great. (And though the image header that I posted just before writing this does show her after she’s put on a sari (and got the sari wet, as Padmini often did), she’s still got that very short hair – quite different compared to the Padmini of years past.)
3. Beauty shown in the lives of characters who are homeless/poor – This is a tricky one. Some people might say it’s wrong to make the lives of two people who are supposed to be homeless look so beautiful and even glamorous sometimes. Homelessness is, after all, a terrible situation to be in, and it should not be glamorized or glorified. On the other hand, it is really nice to see characters who are poor doing so well, in terms of what they create – including their music, dance, etc. – and what environment they make for themselves, despite their very limited material circumstances. And in the phase of the movie that I’m thinking about most, the one that I’ve been taking pictures from, they’re not living in a footpath, either, but in an abandoned shack. It reminds me of some squatters I met in the late 1990s and early 2000s who actually did some interesting things, aesthetically speaking, in buildings that were not supposed to be occupied…
This aspect of Mera Naam Joker is also a specialty of Raj Kapoor’s – i.e., making something beautiful out of places where people without homes might end up living. Though Raj Kapoor isn’t the only one who does this… It seems to be very common in Indian movies, especially from the era between the late ’40s and the ’70s. Maybe it’s because it was/is such a common condition in India. But in a few more recent Indian movies that I’ve seen, a lot more attention was given to very comfortable, affluent surroundings, as with most American TV shows and films. (I’ve heard this phenomenon attributed to the rise of the Indian middle class and its values. Well, maybe, though I don’t feel qualified to judge such a generalization one way or the other.)
4. Mera Naam Joker is a good movie – People like to make fun of it because, of course, it is an exercise of Raj Kapoor’s huge ego (though he didn’t actually write it). And some people find it a bit pretentious with the allegories, etc. But it’s also admirably ambitious, and it’s so nice to see a movie that’s trying to be poetic in this way. It’s got a few cliches, but it’s all also very thoroughly thought out. The part involving the Russian circus (and the friendship between Russians and Indians) is charming and full of heart, even if Raj doesn’t look exactly right being romantically paired with that young, anorexic ballerina. And then his pairing with Padmini is almost perfect in this film. Meanwhile, her dancing is terrific as always, and sometimes she is very funny too. (Even if the character whom she plays is not the most sympathetic, by any means – which actually is a source of much of the humor that she displays.)
And I found the emotional content of the whole film to be quite satisfying. It definitely tugged at my heart strings.
Sometime, maybe I’ll write this movie up more thoroughly, in a way that will do it justice. I know it had some minor problems, and at the box office it was a terrible failure. But it’s also a classic, and maybe my favorite from the ’70s – maybe because it was a significant work by that old master from the ’50s.
Looking through my DVD collection to stall as I try to pack for the second leg of my dreaded move, I glanced through (though didn’t comlpetely re-watch) Amar Deep (1958). I’ve written about this movie before, and it’s got both good and not-as-good things about it… It’s very touching in places and is driven by some fine ideals, but, of course, it gets very melodramatic, with an ending that reminded me of a couple of South Indian films (so it made sense when I found out later that it was, indeed a remake of a Tamil film – which figures, as it was directed by T. Prakash Rao). But I think it does have consistently great song-and-dance numbers, with the best cast in some of them that you’ll see anywhere.
So take a look a this musical number, “Is Jahan Ka Pyar”… It’s got Padmini and Ragini and Dev Anand and Johnny Walker… And if that isn’t enough, watch it to the very end, and there, looking on (with some anguish), is Vyjayanthimala! (Pran is in this film too, by the way, though not in this scene.) The vocal cast is impressive too: Mohammed Rafi, Asha and Lata, and Manna Dey. Music by C. Ramchandra.
By the way, when I saw this last summer (and when I watched clips from it last spring), I was already mad about Padmini and very fond of Vyjayanthimala, and I was watching a lot of movies with Dev Anand. Since then, I’ve developed a greater appreciation of Ragini and Johnny Walker, too. I liked them well enough before, but now I can especially appreciate that they get a good share of the spotlight in this song.
I’ve found a new room. I am looking at this change with some trepidation, and it’s taking a long time for me to move out of the present place (which I must do at this point). Part of the reason for that is circumstances beyond my control – such as waiting for someone else who is going to help me, etc. And for various reasons, the accommodations are not what I would have hoped for, plus the timing is bad, because I should be looking for jobs. But the good thing is that the room I have chosen is less than ten blocks away, and it will enable me to stay within my neighborhood; in fact, it will be even closer to stores in Jackson Heights that sell classic Bollywood DVDs for $5 a piece. (And what could be more important than that?) I am planning to move most of my stuff today, Tuesday. I haven’t decided yet whether that will include the computer. I have more things to do in the old place, so I might keep it here for a little while (and stay here for some more days). (Yes, we’ve gotten into a new month – goodbye to two weeks of old deposit money.) When I do move, I am supposed to get “very good” wireless access. But my experience tells me that every move brings with it some unforeseen problem with the Internet. So, if I happen to disappear for a little while starting Wednesday or Thursday, that’s the reason. However, given my present Internet dependency, I seriously hope that there actually will be a smooth transition, with no interruption in my virtual space.
Note on 1/10, 3:45 AM (NYC time): Blogging from a new location, seven blocks away. Oh, this is exciting! :) One worry out of the way, time to move on to many others…
No, not in any films, I don’t think. My first contemporary music post in a while… Though I’ve been listening to Sheila Chandra‘s voice on and off since about 1982 (when she had a hit with the Indian-flavored British synth-pop group Monsoon). I think that her performance in the clip above is great.
Anybody who’s listened to carnatic music or has seen a bharatanatyam performance will know what she’s doing here (unlike the YouTube commenters who think she’s doing something totally “weird” or “surreal”), and her vocal rendition of the tabla beat is very impressive. I’m not crazy about certain parts of this visual presentation… It’s nice that the up-facing images allow us to see her expressions (on strategically placed screens – which I first thought were mirrors) even when the camera is above her (allowing us a good look at that pretty hat, too), but it all looks a bit too modern-arty for my tastes. Something about the presentation makes me think of Laurie Anderson or some other “downtown” kind of act that I came into contact with more back in my youth – i.e., not my favorite kind of ambience these days. (If I’m going to see something with hip and high-tech artiness, let it be fun, glaring, over the top – like, you know, M.I.A.!)
On the other hand, in terms of the music itself, I am actually more impressed by the stuff that many people might assume to be Sheila Chandra’s most avant-garde or arty. That’s because, in that more “experimental” work, she’s done very interesting things with real classical Indian influences. Though, at the same time, the music is often kind of playful…
There are two limited-edition experimental EPs that were issued in 1999, and at least one of them, the first (the one that I was able to find and buy), is probably my favorite of her releases… These discs had no title except Sheila Chandra with the Ganges Orchestra (the Ganges Orchestra being Sheila’s artistic collaboration with her frequent, longtime producer, Steve Coe – who also happens to be her husband), followed by the specification “EEP1” or “EEP2.” Those two EPs were were later developed and revised into an album called The Sentence Is True, released into 2001. The album is good, too, but I prefer the original work, which is a bit less glossy. It contains a lot of good Indian beats in both the vocals and the electronics – but the electronic beats sound very different from the usual drum machine material that you find in either Indian electronica or more artificial stuff such as “psytrance” or, for that matter, some contemporary filmi music.
Sheila Chandra has recently drawn a lot on traditional British/Celtic music too. She recently did the soundtrack for a Tolkein adaptation which, I assume (though I haven’t heard it) would have to include some of those influences. I’ve heard some of her Celtic songs in other places, and I think they’re all right, though not as interesting to me as her Indian material… I liked the work she did in the ’90s that mixed Celtic and Indian influences, showing qualities they have in common. (Dead Can Dance and a few other very good acts did a similar thing during the same time period.)
Apparently, Sheila Chandra is no stranger to film – or television, for that matter (as I was reminded at Wikepedia, she even started out as a minor TV star) – though I don’t know if she ever would be considered a film music composer…