Tilak Rishi's weblog

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Tilak Rishi, born in India, has been working as a career corporate executive, after doing his MBA. Passionately pursuing his hobby for writing, he also remained a regular contributor to newspapers in India and the U.S. Many true happenings and characters he came across in life, including interaction with former president Bill Clinton, inspired Paradise Lost and Found, his first novel. A family saga, it starts from Kashmir, when this paradise on earth is lost for the tourists who thronged in thousands every year to enjoy its scenic splendor. Terrorists have turned it into one of the most dangerous places in the world. The family is not only a witness to the loss of this paradise, but also to another tragedy of much bigger magnitude. In the aftermath of the partition of India, along with millions uprooted from their homes in Pakistan, the family leaves behind all that it has in Lahore. Starting from a scratch on the difficult path to progress, it still has many joyful moments when along the way it makes a difference in many a life. The survival-to-success story climaxes in California where the family finds the paradise that was lost in Kashmir.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Bollywood's Icons

Life in India would not be the same without the exuberance of cinema, song and dance, melodrama, relevent messages- Indian films have them all, and usually all together in one film. Stars and super stars, hits and failures, outright commercial films and the art genre of films- all are woven together as entertainment supreme. Of the numberless individuals associated with cinema, some are eternally identifiable. Their image and hallmark style render them unforgettable. Some of these marvels are presented here- Bollywood's big three icons of the early years.

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The image “http://media.santabanta.com/newsite/cinemascope/images/vshantaram_big.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.V. Shantaram (1901-1990)

Born Rajaram Venkundre Shantaram in Kolhapur, he hardly had any education. He started his career in theatres as a curtain puller with the Gandharv Natak Mandli. He joined Baburao Painter's Maharashtra Film Company and learnt the intricacies of film making from Painter, incuding acting. In 1929 he formed Prabhat Film Company with the help of some friends. Initially Shantaram followed Painter's formula of mythologicals and historicals. However, his visit to Germany changed his entire outlook as he made Amrit Manthan (1934) on return from Germany. The film beautifully depicted the tension between Budhism and established religious creeds. The close ups and long views were particularly effective. He was one of the early film producers to realize the efficacy of the film medium as an instrument of social change and used it successfully to advocate humanism on one hand and expose bigotry and injustice on the other. Amar Jyoti (1936) was an interesting feminist film about a woman who rebels against injustice by becoming a Pirate Queen. Dunia Na Mane (1937) was the story of a young woman refusing to accept her marriage to a much older man. Admi (1939), a love story of a policeman and a prostitute is regarded his finest film. The film was significant not only in terms of thematic content but also as work of motion picture art, technical innovations and artistic integrity. Padosi (1941) made a strong plea for communal harmony. Its interesting that Mazhar Khan, a Muslim, plays the Hindu and Gajanan Jagirdar, a Hindu, played the Muslim in the film. Shakuntala (1943) was one of his biggest grossers, the first film to run for more than hundred weeks. Jayshree who played the title role in the movie became a top star overnight. Shantaram took her as his second wife and repeated her as leading lady in his next movie, Dr. Kotnis Ki Amar Kahani (1946), in which he himself played the title role. The film based on K. A. Abbas's short novel And One Did Not Come Back was an impressive anti-war effort. The film received international recognition in Toronto Film Festival 1947. Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baje (1955), his first color film was a box-office smash. The message of the film that India must preserve her artistic tradition and not be swayed by the West was lapped up by the audiences. Do Aankhen Barah Haath (1957), a brilliant film, depicted the true humanbeing within. A policeman (Shantaram) sets up a farm with six murderers. The venture is successful and the murderers prove themselves to be essentially simple people. The film won many national and international awards including Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival besides President's Gold Medal as the best feature of 1957 in India. A prayer song in the movie, "Ai Malik Tere Bande Hum" became a big hit and was adopted by most schools as their morning prayer. Pinjra (1972) was Shantaram's last most acclaimed movie which gave a strong and convincing message against capital punishment.

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A man of humble beginnings and little formal education, Mehboob Khan, like many other filmmakers of his time, learnt his craft in the Theatre. Born Ramjan Khan in Billimoria, Gujarat, he ran away from home to Bombay and spent his earlier youth scrounging work in studios. He started his career with the Imperial Film Company as a bit player, graduated to acting then directing, to become one of India's greatest filmmakers. The common motif in his movies usually was the oppressed poor pitted against the oppressive rich, be it the poor peasant woman against the slimmy zamindar in Aurat (1940), the poor tribal against the money-grabbing capitalist in Roti (1942), or the commoner agaist the prince in Aan (1952). Mehboob was a great lover of music and in all his movies he paid greatest attention to music. Manmohan (1936), his first big musical hit was inspired by Barua's Devdas (1935), and its leading actor Surendra, was declared Saigal of Bombay on release of the movie. Mehboob produced many musicals thereafter repeating his favorite singing star Surendra in most of them- Deccan Queen (1936), Jagirdar (1937), Alibaba (1940), Aurat (1940), Anmol Ghadi (1946), Elan (1947) and Anokhi Ada (1949). Anmol Ghadi created a stir because of its casting coup of three singing stars together, Surendra, Noorjehan and Suraiya, bsides all time great musical track by mastreo Naushad. Andaaz (1949), his next masterpiece, also had a casting coup with three top stars, Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor and Nargis coming together in the most modern movie even by today's standards. Mehboob followed Andaaz with Aan (1952), the first Bollywood film in technicolor, perfect in its technique, spectacular in its sets and fights. It was dubbed in French as the film Mangla Fille des Indes. His last greatest hit Mother India (1957), the remake of his most acclaimed film Aurat, was the immortal story of a woman's suffering and endurance while bringing up her children- harsh poverty, a runaway husband, a scheming moneylander, a wayward son whom she is compelled to shoot in the end. It was the first Indian movie nominated for Oscar and won him many awards including Filmfare Award 1958 for best film and best director.

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Born in Bombay, Sohrab Modi was a stage actor of Parsee Stage. Theatre was his first love. In an attempt to take it to a wider public in the aftermath of talkie films, he set up Stage Film Company in 1935. Plays were filmed and shown- Khoon Ka Khoon (1935), an adaptation of Shakespear's Hamlet, marked Naseem Bano's entry into filmdom. He launched Minerva Movietone in 1936. His early films at Minerva dealt with contemporary social issues such as alcoholism in Meetha Zaher (1938) and the right of Hindu women to divorce in Talaq (1938). Though the films did well, what attracted Modi was the historic genre. Minerva Movietone was famous for the triology- Pukar (1939), Sikander (1941) and Prithvi Vallabh (1943). Pukar was set in the court of the Mughal Emperor Jehangir, where his much vaunted 'an eye for an eye' brand of justice was put to test when his queen accidentally kills a washerman. It was filmed in Mughal courts and palaces which added grandure to the film. The film's heroin Naseem Bano, the first beauty queen of Bollywood, became an overnight star. Modi's greatest film was Sikander which immortalized Prithviraj Kapoor playing the title role. Sikander's lavish mounting, huge sets and production values equalled the best of Hollywood's then, particularly the spectacular battle scenes. Prithvi Vallabh was based on K.M.Munshi's novel of the same name. The film's major highlights were the confrontation between Modi and Durga Khote, the haughty queen Mrinalvati who tries to humiliate him publically, then falls in love with him. The transformation of a rational man into a tyrant was chillingly portrayed by Modi in Jailor (1938). Modi's other notable movies were Bharosa (1940), Parakh (1944) and Jhansi Ki Rani (1953). Sohrab Modi's last most famous movie was Mirza Ghalib (1954). Repleat with the immortal poetry of Mirza Asadullahkhan Ghalib, the film records his foray into the court of Bahadurshah Zafar, the last of the Mughal Emperors. The film won President's Gold Medal in 1954. Dialogue delivery and rich voice set Sohrab Modi apart from others.
Sources: Encyclopaedia of Indian Cinema (Oxford University Press), India Heritage.com

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Bollywood's malodious magic

We are a nation of music lovers and in music lies our national unity. From Kashmir to Kanyakumari and Maharashtra to Meghalaya, we can drown all our differences of cast and creed, communal and cultural, political and provincial, and live together as one people, playing or listening to popular music. Whether it was the verse of Sufis and Saints or the melody of Lata Mungeshkar, folk-lore of Ila Arun or the Indi-pop of Daler Mehndi, music has been the biggest binding force for all age groups and all times. Music has also helped in bringing India, Pakistan and Bangladesh on one stage, as was demonstrated in Oakland (California, USA) recently. Many in India may not go to bed without listening to Mehdi Hussan or Ghulam Ali of Pakistan. It was left to Runa Leila of Bangladesh to bring out the best of "Jhoole Lal". Reshma always remained a rage in India whenever she came from Pakistan and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan produced one of his best albums in India. And, of course, melody queen Lata Mungeshkar is a household name not only in India but also in Pakistan and Bangladesh. The list goes on and on.... While we all love the living legends of today, let us also salute the singing stars of the vintage era, who were the pioneers to bring together and bind the people of all regions and religions with the magic of their melodies.

The image “http://courses.nus.edu.sg/course/ellpatke/images2/saigal.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.K. L. Saigal: Recognized as the greatest singer-actor of the last century, the musical genious became the first to bring music to the masses with his God-gifted voice. His unforgettable melodies continue to enthrall millions of listeners and have become a part of our heritage. Saigal became an overnight super star with the release of the first Devdas in 1935, not so much for his histrionics as for his soulful singing of "Balam Aan Baso Mere Man Main" and "Dukh Ke Din Ab Bitat Nahin". Followed hit movies after movies which became the musical hits for all times, and Saigal, who started his career in Calcutta, became a house-hold name in all corners of the country. The entire nation was spellbound by the haunting melodies: "Main Kya Janu Kya Jadoo Hai", "So Jaa Raajkumari, So Jaa"(Zindagi), "Dunia Rang Rangili Baba", "Main Man Ki Baat Bataun"(Dharti Mata), "Karun Kya Aas Niras Bhai"(Dushman), "Babul Mera Nayahar Chhooto Jaye"(Street Singer), "Ek Bangla Bane Nyara", "Ek Raaja Ka Beta Leke"(Badi Behen), "Prem Nagar Mein Rahane Wala"(Chandidas), "Aye Katibe Taqdir Mujhe Itna Batade"(My Sister) and so on. On persistant demand and irresistible offers of producers, Saigal moved to Bombay in the year 1941. He sang some of his greatest numbers from films produced here:"Rein Gayee Ab Hua Basera", Nainheen Ko Rah Dikha Prabhu", "Madhukar Shyam Hamare Chor", "Maiya Mori Mein Nahi Makhan Khayo"(Bhakt Surdas), "Diya Jalao"(Tansen), "Toot Gaye Sab Sapne Mere"(Parwana), "Gam Diye Mustakil", "Chaha Barbad Karegi" and his last soul-stirring song from Shahjehan, "Jab Dil Hi Toot Gaya, Hum Ji Ke Kya Karenge", before he breathed his last in 1947 at the age of 43.

The image “http://www.downmelodylane.com/sngstar_files/surendra.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.Surendra: Bombay, although the movie capital of India, was left behind at the Box Office by Calcutta film makers because the former had no singer to match Saigal's mass appeal. The directors here were desparately looking for a singer to play a lead in their movies when Surendranath, B.A.LL.B, landed in Bombay to start his practice in law-courts, but, as destiny would have it, was picked up by producer-director Mehboob Khan from a party where he was singing some of Saigal's songs . Surendra, as he was credited by Mehboob in his movies, became a part and parcel of Mehboob's Sagar Movietone, after his very first song, "Birha Ki Aag Lagi More Man Mein"(Deccan Queen) became an instant hit. Since the song was inspired by Saigal's hit song, "Balam Aye Baso More Man Mein", Surendra became to be known as Bombay's Saigal. However, when "Tumhi Ne Mujh Ko Prem Sikhaya"(Manmohan), from his second movie with Mehboob, became hugely popular with the masses, Surendra made his place for himself as a very talented singer-actor, independent of the Saigal tag. Then followed Surendra's hit musicals, Jagirdar, Gramophone Singer, Jiwan Sathi, Alibaba, Aurat, Gharib, Jawani etc. and Bombay was on top of the Box Office charts, the place it had been missing for want of a singing talent. Surendra's peak time of a popular singing star continued into the 40s when two of his movies became the greatest musicals of that time. "Bhartrihari", a mythological with music by Khemchandra Prakash, and Mehboob's alltime musical hit, "Anmol Ghadi", with music by the maestro Naushad. "Bhiksha De De Maiya Pingla' from film "Bharthari" is still played, after 60 years of its rendering, wherever the classic play on the life of the king-turned-saint is staged every year during the festival season. The duet from "Anmol Ghadi", "Aawaz De Kahan Hei" has immortalized both Surendra and Noorjehan as the most popular singing pair in movies. After the Partition when Noorjehan moved to Pakistan, the popular pair of Lal Haveli and Anmol Ghadi never got another chance to sing and act together. Surendra did sing some solos in movies thereafter, including the haunting melody, "Teri Yad Ka Dipak Jalta Hei"(Paigam), but eventually switched over to character-actor roles which he continued to play till his death in 1987.

The image “http://www.downmelodylane.com/sngstar_files/noor.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.Noorjehan: The musical diva of the 1940s, she was given the title of the Melody Queen much before Lata Mungeshkar came to be known by the same title. In fact, Lata Mungeshkar's early singing style was inspired by Noorjehan. Starting the career in Lahore, she mesmerized the masses with her very first film Khandaan and the instant hit, "Tu Kaun Si Badli Mei Mere Chand Hei Aaja". Producers in Bombay raced to capture the prize catch, and soon the singing star conquered India's film capital with her vibrant voice. Hit followed hit: Dharti, Nauker, Nadaan, Dost, Badi Maa, Village Girl. With the Zeenat quawali, "Aanhien Na Bhari, Shikwe Na Kiye" she reached her peak popularity. Then followed her two greatest hits, Lal Haveli and Anmol Ghadi, both co-starring Surendra, with whom she delivered the all time hit duet, "Aawaz De Kahan Hai", besides her ever popular numbers, "Jawan Hai Muhabbat", "Mere Bachpan Ke Saathi", "Kya Mil Gaya Bhagwan" and "Aaja Meri Barbad Mohabbat Ke Sahare". That was in 1946, an year before she migrated to Pakistan, when the masses were still humming her last hit in India, "Yahan Badla Wafa Ka Bewafayee Ke Siva Kya Hai"(Jugnu). She continued to sing great songs to become the Pride of Pakistan and retained her title of Mlika-e-Tarannum till her death in December of 2000.

The image “http://www.bbc.co.uk/hindi/specials/images/1744_obit_pix/2182731_suraiya300.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.Suraiya: As Noorjehan was the queen of melody, Suraiya was the peoples' choice as the most popular singing star. She generated hysteria amongst the masses that no other singing star, not even Saigal, could generate. The young and the old, the man in the street or at work, they all enjoyed singing to Suraiya's tunes, so captivating and easy to copy. "O Door Janewale", "Woh Pas Rahen Ya Door Rahen", "O Likhnewale Ne Likh Di", "Bigdi Banane Wale", "Murliwale Murli Baja", "Tu Mera Chand Mein Teri Chandni" and many more were hummed in every nook and corner of the country. Every one started believing in their natural talent for singing. Although much younger to Saigal in age, she was given the lead against the legendary singer in Tadbir(1945), Omar Khayyam(1946) and Parwana(1947), that was known more for her hit, "Jab Tumhi Nahin Apne", than for any of the songs Saigal sang in the movie. She was part of the casting coup, along with Noorjehan and Surendra, when Mehboob made his all time musical hit Anmol Ghadi in which she matched her singing talent with the other two great singing stars- "Socha Tha Kya Kya Ho Gaya". Suraiya was still on her peak in the 50s when her contemperory singing stars had moved to Pakistan(Noorjehan and Khursheed) or swithed over to charecter-acting(Surendra) or passed away(Saigal). She too retired from films after giving her greatest hit "Mirza Ghalib" and the great hits "Dile Nadan Tujhe Hua Kya Hei" and "Yeh Na Thi Hamari Kismat". This prompted Pundit Nehru to pay her the ultimate compliment by telling her that she had brought Mirza Ghalib to life-"Tumne Mirza Ghalib ki ruh ko zinda kar diya!" Suraiya preferred to lead a very private life after winning laurels for her last film and passed away in January 2004 after a brief illness.

The image “http://www.downmelodylane.com/vin_files/khursheed.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.Khursheed: The first of the singing stars, she started her career in 1931, the year when India's first talkie film Alamara was released. She was the only singing actress in the 30s, who captivated the hearts of million with her melodious singing of the immortal songs: "Mohabbat Mei Sara Jahan Jal Raha Hei"(Shahashah Babar), Pahle Jo Mohabbat Mei Inkar Kiya Hota"(Pardesi), "Mori Ataria Hei Sooni"(Beti), "Ghir Ghir Aye Bidaria"(Shaadi), "Jo Ham Pe Guzarti Hei"(Mumtaz Mahal) and many more. Her best period came in the 40s when she was selected to play steller role with the legendary K.L.Saigal in Bhakt Surdas and Tansen. Matching her melodious voice to the one and only one, Saigal, she sang some of her greatest hits in these two movies: "Panchi Bawra Chand Se Preet Lagai", "Madhur Madhur Ga Re Manwa", "Chandni Raat Aur Tare Khile Hein", Ghata Ghanghor Ghor", "Mere Bachpan Ke Saathi" and "Barso Re". Khursheed migrated to Pakistan after the Partition where she eventually faded away from her glorious career in films. She died in April 2001 at the age of 87.

The era of the singing stars practically ended with the Partion in 1947 when two of the three finest female singers, Noorjehan and Khursheed, opted to settle down in Pakistan, and the greatest singer of all times, K.L.Saigal, passed away the same year. Their memory may have faded out of many a minds, and even their existance may not be known to the new generations, but what no one can take away is their contribution to Bollywood's melodious magic, especially to the golden age of film music of the 50s and 60s, that was inspired by the great singing stars of the 30s and 40s. Here is a salute to the singing stars of yester years.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

"What a wonderful world!"

An old friend of mine calls me only when he has a bad news to give. He tries to cut short the conversation if I want to give him some good news. When unable to get sleep at night, he starts counting scams instead of the proverbial sheep crossing the fence. You may also be having someone in your circle like him- quite a common trait amongst true friends! They are like the Opposition in a democracy- all their statistics are Satanic, all prophecies pronounce arrival of Doomsday, whatever the business of the House for the day, they would insist on the Speaker to first let them have their say on the depressing news, they were able to dig out of the day's newspapers. And if Members from the ruling party are ready with some really good news to share, they are sure to manuplate a Walkout under some pretext or another. If they can, they would just jam all those channels that carry cheering news and would rather request media Moguls to come up with new 24-hour TV channels that will only cover the worst news from world over. Print media is already very supportive of them to specialize in hiding all the inspiring happenings behind the bad news printed prominently under bold headlines.

For my friend and alike, nothing works in this world, not even the marriages, which they would like to be solemnized with a slightly amended vow, "...till divorce do us apart!" All their love stories end with-"and they lived miserably thereafter". It is beyond them to believe that family pride is still a first priority with most of the people, and old family bonds are back, like the old fashions in clothes, old classics in movies and old hits in music. The youth, experimenting with 'live-in' arrangements are out-numbered by couples committed to make marriage a lifelong experience in sharing and nurturing love and affection. Indeed, all old values are still alive, except for those who choose to be blind to their existence and believe them to be dead and buried long back. In democracy we have learnt to live in the House with an Opposition, depressed as my friend. I wish and pray that he will one day open his eyes to perceive the other side and exclaim-" What a wonderful world!"