Earlier this month, while I was putting the list of clips together for my Pakistani cabaret post, I did some research and saw that we were not far away from the death anniversary of Rani. I had been wanting to honor Rani for a while, and I had also talked about this exceptional dancer-actress with another “Bolly” blogger, Miranda, who does Filmi~Contrast. Actually, Miranda had sent a comment in February on a post that I had put up three and a half years earlier for the Pakistani film Umrao Jaan Ada (1972) because she had also become a fan of Rani and was busy working her way through Rani’s films. Miranda said to me, “I’m so happy I’m not the only one who likes her,” and I kind of felt the same way, because, in these blogging circles that focus mainly on Bollywood, it’s not so easy to find people who appreciate an actor, actress, or dancer from Pakistani cinema (unless it is a performer who had also made some contribution to Bollywood). But after I did a little more (minor) research on Rani, I found out that she actually had been well appreciated in Pakistan (at least), and so I had, indeed, been on to something. (For a good example of this appreciation, see the article that appeared last year in Dawn.com, In Memoriam: The Rani of Our Heart Lives On.) Meanwhile, I know that Miranda has done more of her own research on and off, and she will be writing a post about Rani in the near future, too. I will link to that post from here when it appears, and I am almost certain that it will be a more thorough post than the tribute that I am doing here, which consists of just a few clips. Nonetheless, I hope that some readers out there find these scenes as enjoyable as I did and might also at some point become fans of Rani…
The first dance I wanted to post here is a rerun from the last post. Rani won an award for this film (the Nigar Award), and it was a breakthrough for her after a few years of having a not-so-spectacular start. The film was Mera Ghar Meri Jannat. Before I had seen this dance, I had mainly seen Rani in semi-classical dances and folk dances, but I was not surprised that she was versatile enough to make a breakthrough with a mod cabaret dance. She was a very good dancer, with a lot of energy, and she had a distinctive face, with very expressive eyes (and eyebrows, as the Dawn article pointed out).
It took me a few minutes to decide which dance to post from the film where I first really noticed her, Umrao Jaan Ada (1972). I was thinking about a very dramatic dance that she did with playback from Noor Jehan, but I decided in the end to post this mujra scene that she did with playback from Runa Laila. She is very fun and charming here, and the song is also pretty nice to listen to (in fact, I understand that it was a hit.)
The film Anjuman (1970) had a few exceptional dances by Rani, and it was even more difficult to narrow my favorites down to one. In fact, I couldn’t. It was difficult to narrow them down to two also, but that’s what I did.
This first dance is a sweet semi-classical number… Though I think it is far from real classical dance, and it would be fair to say that it merely contains references to Bharatanatyam. Nonetheless, it is very enjoyable to watch. We also get some nice close-ups of those expressive Rani eyes and eyebrows.
By the way, it should be noted that the song sung by Noor Jehan for this scene had also been sung by Lata Mangeshkar for the same music director, Nisar Bazmi, in the film Kar Bhala (1956).
The other dance from Anjuman that I had to post is a more modern, seductive dance, in a scene with her frequent co-star Waheed Murad. The song is another delightful hit by Runa Laila.
Now for a somewhat different sort of scene, here is Rani being wooed (I would assume) in a rural setting in the Punjabi movie Chan Makhna (1968). There is another scene in which her character is singing this song, but I like Rani in this scene more. (Her expressions are wonderful!) The singer both on-screen and off is Inayat Hussain Bhatti. And by the way, this song can really get stuck in my head – the way many good Punjabi songs do.
The same pair starred in the film Sucha Souda (1971). This is a crazy scene from there… Rani isn’t the one doing the mod dancing this time, but she is getting great playback singing from Noor Jehan:
And now for the last selection… Actually, I didn’t know that I would be closing this post with several film scenes starring Rani and Inayat Bhatti, but as I looked for good Rani clips, I realized that there were a lot of good Punjabi films starring these two together. This final sequence is a quintessential Punjabi song from Sajjan Pyara (1968)…with vocals by Noor Jehan (of course) and terrifically energetic dancing and emoting by Rani.
I guess that most of the Rani selections that I have decided to post here come from the early side of her career (though even these films were released a little later than most of the films from India and Pakistan that I tend to favor). I gather, from what I have seen, that she actually did reach her peak in the ’60s and ’70s (at a normal age for a movie actress in this time and place to do so), but she continued to act in films as well as a TV serial up until the early ’90s. Then, in 1993, cancer took her, when she was only 46 years old. Like a few other of our favorite actresses, she died a tragically early death and went through a lot of difficulties before that. But according to the accounts that I have read, she faced it all with great strength and vitality.
P.S. 5/30: Miranda’s Rani post is up now, and it is good: some very good general writing about Rani along with a nice, detailed review of Ek Hi Rasta (1967).