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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.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Bollywood's Golden Era Architects

It is the post independence period that saw the golden era of Indian cinema with melodious socials and melodramas. Spirit of the golden era, propelled essentially by content-driven, thought-providing, emotionally enriching narratives, represent popular cinema of 1950s, 60s and 70s. Films with various themes were made during the period, which appealed to the masses as well as the classes. The theme of lost brothers was repeated in several successful films. Side by side went on the tear-jerking melodrama, mostly in the films of the genre of Meri Behen, Choti Behen and the like. The humble position of the Indian bride was highlighted in pictures like Biraj Bahu. Mehboob’s Aurat (1940) brutally exposed some of the rampant evils of the rural society. In 1957 he remade it as Mother India with all the color and grandeur that he could command; it was nominated for Oscar. At around the time when off beat cinema was breaking the shackles that commercial cinema had tied around it, was born the long lasting trend of the angry young man pitched against the establishment as represented by Amitabh Bachchan, the superstar of the Indian film industry. The golden era will always be remembered and written with pride in the pages of the history of Indian cinema. Here is a tribute to the leading architects of the golden era.

Raj Kapoor: Producer, director, actor, editor, Raj Kapoor was the greatest entertainer known to Indian films. Awara, made by him set the agenda for popular cinema and was a hit within India as well as overseas. At the age of 23, Raj Kapoor made his directorial debut with Aag (1948). His next film Barsaat (1949) was a runaway super hit. The fifties saw Raj Kapoor’s greatest work as a producer-director besides establishing himself as one of India’s biggest ever film stars along with Dev Anand and Dilip Kumar. With Awara Raj Kapoor created the Chaplinsque tramp. This image was used once again in Shri 420 (1955) tracing the corruption of an innocent soul who comes to the city to make his living. This film too was a great hit. In fact, most of the movies that Raj Kapoor made became big box-office hits besides winning him critical acclaim: Boot Polish (1954), Jagte Raho (1956), Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai (1960), Sangam (1964), Mera Naam Joker (1970), Bobby (1973), Prem Rog (1982) and Ram Teri Ganga Maili Hai (1985).

B. R. Chopra: Journalist-turned-producer, his first film Afsana (1951), a tale of mistaken identity with Ashok Kumar in double role was an astounding commercial success and B.R. Chopra was on his way. With Ek Hi Raasta (1956) he launched his production company B.R.Films. Chopra has always endeavored to make socially relevant films, yet his films have always catered to popular sentiments. He has also done several films that were regarded as bold and ahead of time. He dared to try a song less film with a hard-hitting suspense courtroom drama in Kanoon and made it a success. In another hit film Gumrah, he showed a woman resuming her affair with her lover after she is married. One of the most celebrated movie mavericks of the Indian celluloid scene in the golden era, B.R.Chopra created immortal classics like Ek Hi Raasta, Naya Daur, Sadhna, Kanoon, Gumrah, Humraaz, Pati Patni Aur Woh, Insaaf Ka Tarazoo and Nikah.

Bimal Roy: One of the most successful directors of Hindi cinema, Bimal Roy was famous for his romantic-realist melodramas that took on important social issues while still being entertaining. He was a filmmaker of great and in-depth understanding of human strengths and weaknesses. The most awarded director of the golden era, Bimal Roy’s ponder-worthy yet crowd-pleasing cinema did not rely on big budget grandeur. Awarded the first three Filmfare awards for Best Director over three consecutive years for Do Bigha Zamin (1953), Parineeta (1954) and Biraj Bahu (1955), he continued to win awards and acclaims for most of his films that followed: Devdas (1955), Madhumati (1958), Sujata (1959), Parakh (1960) and Bandini (1963).

Guru Dutt: Sensitive, poetic, magical, Guru Dutt’s directorial debut Baazi (1951) was not only a super hit but also a trend setter of the urban crime films that followed in the fifties. Aar Paar, released in 1954, established Guru Dutt as a director to reckon with. The film, a crime thriller, stands out amongst the best in the genre. Followed some of his best work: Mr. And Mrs. 55 (1955), Pyaasa (1957), Kagaz Ke Phool (1959) and Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam (1962) and Chowdhvi Ka Chand. Pyaasa won President’s Silver Medal, besides going to Berlin Film Festival and being India’s official entry for the Oscar.

Hrishikesh Mukherjee: Known for a number of classic hit films, Hrishida’s films were realistic and did not have crime, violence and vulgarity. He directed about 50 films, most of which were valued by audiences and critics alike because of their heart-warming themes and literary sensibilities. Besides Anand, a masterpiece, Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s other famous films include Abhimaan, Guddi, Golmaal, Ashirwad, Bawarchi, Satyakam, Namak Haraam, Anari, Asli Naqli, Anupama, Mili, Chupke Chupke, Khubsoorat and Bemisal.

Yash Chopra: Writer, director and producer, Yash Chopra is regarded as one of the hippest and trendiest directors of Indian cinema who has successfully moved with the times right from his first film Dhool Ka Phool (1959) to his latest hit Veer Zaara. Though he has done films with different themes, it is when he is tackling love and its various elements that he has been at his best. Highly acclaimed and awarded director-producer, Yash Chopra has the distinction of winning nine Filmfare awards for Best Director or Best Producer: Waqt (1965), Ittefaq (1969), Daag (1973), Deewar (1975), Lamhe (1991), Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995), Dil To Pagal Hai (1997) and Veer Zaara (2004). His other famous films include Trishul, Kabhi Kabhie, Joshila and Silsila.

Nasir Hussain: Famous for making hit formula movies, Nasir Hussain was one of the most successful filmmakers of the golden era of Hindi cinema. His phenomenon track record of entertaining, romantic, musical super hits are ample testimony to his fine filmmaking skills and understanding of what the audiences want. His hit movies include: Tumsa Nahin Dekha (1957), Dil Deke Dekho (1959), Jab Pyar Kisi Se Hota Hai (1961), Phir Wahi Dil Laya Hoon (1963), Pyar Ka Mausam (1969), Caravan (1971), Yaadon Ki Baraat (1973) and Hum Kisi Se Kam Nahin (1977). He also produced the musical cult hit Teesri Manzil, starring Shammi Kapoor and Asha Parekh.

Manmohan Desai: Renowned producer and director of Hindi films, Manmohan Desai’s string of hits with Amitabh Bachchan made him one of the most successful directors of the golden era. He started direction with the 1960 Raj Kapoor starrer Challia. In 1970 he directed the Rajesh Khanna hit Saccha Jhoota. He also directed Randhir Kapoor in Rampur Ka Lakshman. His innings with Amitabh included Amar Akbar Anthony, Suhaag, Naseeb, Desh Premi, Coolie, Mard and Ganga Jamuna Sarswati. All except the last one were huge hits. 1977 was an exceptional year for him when four films were big blockbusters – Parvarish, Amar Akbar Anthony, Chacha Bhatija and Dharam Veer.

Prakash Mehra: He started in the late 1950s as a production controller. In 1968 he directed Hasina Maan Jayegi with Shashi Kapoor in the lead. Followed the hit movie Mela (1972) starring Feroz Khan and Sanjay Khan. In 1973 he produced and directed Zanjeer. The movie was a super hit and established Amitabh Bachchan as a solo actor and started an association that spawned six more movies – Hera Pheri, Muqaddar Ka Sikandar, Lawaris, Namak Halal, Sharabi and Jadugar. All except Jadugar being big hits. The hero in Zanjeer typified the raw seething anger of the youth of time – the angry young man.

Manoj Kumar: The patriotic face of Indian cinema, Manoj Kumar established his identity as “Mr. Bharat” with his unforgettable flick Upkaar (1965). Around the same year with Shaheed, a film based on the legendary freedom fighter Bhagat Singh, and all the films he produced and directed always carried his trademark stamp of nationalism and patriotic ferver. In Purab Aur Paschim (1970) he successfully pitted the occident and the orient in a trans-cultural drama. Roti Kapda Aur Makan (1974) was a terse commentary on the modern dilemma of morality and making both ends meet. Kranti (1981) was the high point of his career when he not only co-acted with his life-time idol, Dilip Kumar, but also had the opportunity to direct him.

Apart from the above listed filmmakers who mainly worked during the golden era, some of the pre-independence Icons of the Hindi cinema also contributed with their wonderful creations to add to the glory of the golden era: Vijay Bhatt (Baiju Bawra – 1952), Sohrab Modi (Mirza Ghalib - 1954), V. Shantaram (Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baje – 1955, Do Aankhe Bareh Haath – 1957), Mehboob Khan (Mother India – 1957), K. Asif (Mughal-E-Azam – 1960), Chetan Anand (Haqeeqat – 1964) and Kamal Amrohi (Pakeeza –1971). Besides, there were some other brilliant directors-producers whose creativity during the period cannot be overemphasized – Bhagwan (Albela –1951), Satyan Bose (Jagriti – 1954, Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi – 1958), Nandlal Jaswantlal (Nagin –1954), R. K. Nayyar (Love in Simla –1960), I. S. Johar (Johar Mehmood in Goa –1965), Vijay Anand (Guide – 1965), Mehmood (Padosan – 1968), Brij (Victoria No. 203 –1972) and of course, Ramesh Sippy (Sholay –1975).

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Bollywood's Overseas Achievements

Bollywood’s International Achievements

Karan Johar’s Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna – Never Say Goodbye - on the subject of infidelity has been declared the biggest Indian hit overseas. It is said to be doing roaring business in U.S.A., U.K., Australia and the United Arab Emirates. The box-office figures of Bollywood films in the foreign market establish the fact that Bollywood films have finally carved a niche for themselves internationally, especially in the U.S. where they do more business than films from any other country. Besides, many big Hollywood studios want a share of the action in Bollywood’s busting film industry. While Bollywood’s growing global business may be a recent phenomenon, its international connection dates back to decades ago when top Hollywood stars like Stewart Granger, Ava Gardner and Barbara Rush came to India to star in films like Bhowani Junction, Harry Black and the Tiger and so on. French director Renoir shot his award-winning film River in India while more recently Richard Attenborough won eternal fame for his Gandhi, which had a huge Indian cast. On the creative side, there had always been an exchange of actors between Bollywood and the Western countries, especially Hollywood. In the 1950s Sabu, the ‘Elephant Boy’ from Mysore made a name for himself in Hollywood while comedian I. S. Johar was featured in character roles in films like Harry Black and Death on the Nile. Toby Stephens played an important role of a British officer in The Rising – Mangal Pandey. Australian actress Tania Zaetta caught attention playing Arshad Warsi’s foreign wife in Salaam Namaste. The key role of a foreign documentary filmmaker in Rang De Basnti went to the British stage actor Alice Patten. Aishwarya Rai continues to make the whole country proud of her achievements with many international film projects of big banners, besides winning the British Government’s The Next Step World Diversity Champion Award (2005) and invited to be member of the International Jury at the Cannes. For the first time in 25 years, Bollywood producer Yash Chopra was invited as a member of the International Jury at the Berlin International Film Festival. Apart from these exchanges which are increasing every year, Bollywood has the distinction of achieving awards and acclaims in international film festivals which are chronicled hereunder as a tribute to Bollywood’s 75 Years of Excellence:

Karma (1933): Made by Bombay Talkies’ founder, Himanshu Roy, Karma has the distinction of being the first Indian film to have premier of its English version in London. The film gave Devika Rani, the heroin and Hindi cinema’s first lady, instant fame and rave reviews by the press in London for her outstanding performance.

Amar Jyoti (1936): V. Shantaram’s adventure classic featuring Durga Khote in the most memorable role as the Pirate Queen, has the distinction of being the first Indian film to be screened at the Venice Film Festival.

Sant Tukaram (1936): Directed by Vishnupant Govind Damle, the classic film that chronicles the life of Tukaram, Maharashtra’s famous 17th century poet-saint won the Special Recommendation Award at the Venice Film Festival.

Ram Rajya (1943): Vijay Bhatt’s alltime greatest mythological is the first Indian film to have been premiered in USA at the prestigious Museum of Modern Art in New York. Cecil B Demelle, one of the greatest makers of historical and mythological movies (Ten Commandments, Sampson and Delilah) wrote a personal note to Bhatt after attending the premier, “Greetings from one director who is still trying to make good pictures to another director who will make great ones long after I am gone.”

Neecha Nagar (1946): The film directed by Chetan Anand and written by Khwaja Ahmed Abbas was the first Indian film to win the coveted Grand Prix Prize at the Cannes Film Festival (1946).

Awaara (1951): Raj Kapoor’s wonderful film swept people off their feet not only in India but also in Russia, China and many European countries. In Russia especially, Raj Kapoor became the living legend of cinema and received tumultuous welcome after the release of the film in Moscow.

Do Bigha Zamin (1953): Bimal Roy’s brilliantly directed film, beautifully photographed and most touchingly acted by the entire cast, was the recipient of a Special Mention at Cannes (1954) and winner of the Special Progress Award at Karlovy.

Boot Polish (1954): This R. K. Films production, the life affirming and rich cinematic experience, won Special Mention at Cannes Film Festival and its director, Prakash Arora, nominated for Golden Palm.

Jagte Raho (1956): A chillingly honest and stark Raj Kapoor film, Jagte Raho won Karlovy Vary International Film Festival (1957) Crystal Globe Award for its director, Sombhu Mitra.

Do Aankhen Bareh Haath (1957): One of the finest movies ever made, V. Shantaram’s DABH won Silver Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival (1958) and Samuel Godwyn Award at the Golden Globe, USA (1959).

Mother India (1957): A gem from Mehboob Khan in the Golden Age of Hindi cinema, Mother India was the first Indian film to be nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Film in 1958, which it missed by a single vote.

Teesri Kasam (1966): A sensitive and poetic film produced by renowned lyricist Shailender, Teesri Kasam won nomination for Grand Prix at the Moscow Film Festival (1967).

Ankur (1974): Shyam Benegal’s unforgettable debut in Hindi, Ankur was nominated for Golden Bear Award at the Berlin International Film Festival (1974).

Nishant (1975): Yet another brilliant film from Shyam Benegal, Nishant was nominated for Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival (1976).

Mrigaya (1976): Mrinal Sen’s most artistically made movie, Mrigaya won nomination for the Golden Prize at the Moscow International Film Festival (1977).

Bawandar (2000): Based on real events, Bawandar – Sandstorm, directed by Jag Mundhra and dominated by Nandita Dass’ compelling performance and the visually shining deserts of rural Rajasthan, won the Bermuda International Film Festival Award for Best Film.

Lagaan (2001): Ashutosh Gowarker’s classic, set in India in 1893, the film won Academy Award (USA) nomination for Oscar – Best Foreign Language Film.

Apart from the above international awards and nominations won by films from Bollywood, Indian cinema is also proud of the achievements of filmmakers of Indian origin settled abroad, who have either gained from their initial experience in Bollywood or have grown up watching Bollywood movies:

Mira Nair: Born in India and based in New York City, Mira worked on her own independent short films, eventually winning the Best Documentary prize at the American Film Festival for India Cabarets. Her feature film Salaam Bombay was nominated for Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1988. It won the Camere D’ Or for Best Feature Film and the Prix Du Publique for Most Popular Entry at the Cannes Film Festival. Mississippi Masala – an interracial story set in the American South and Uganda, starring Danziel Washington and Sarita Chowdhry, won three awards at the Venice Film Festival including Best Screenplay and Audience Choice awards. Monsoon Wedding became one of the most popular foreign language films in U.S.A. and U.K. It was the winner of Golden Lion at the 2001 Venice Film Festival and Golden Globe nomination for Best Foreign Language Film. Hysterical Blindness – HBO original film, won Golden Glob for Uma Thurman and three Emmy awards.

Deepa Mehta: Described as “Canada’s most internationally renowned woman filmmaker, Deepa produced and co-directed Martha, Ruth and Edie, a film based on works by Alice Munro, Cynthia Flood and Betty Lambert. It was screened at the Cannes International Film Festival and won the Best Feature Film Award at the 11th international Film Festival in Florence in 1988. Fire (1996) won International Jury Prize for the Best Film at the Verona International Film Festival (1997). Water, starring John Abraham, the final film in Deepa Mehta’s trilogy on the elements following Fire (1996) and Earth (1998), had world premier at the Toronto International Film Festival and selected as Canada’s entry for the Best Foreign Film at the Academy Awards (2007).

Gurinder Chadha: Born in Punjab (India), former BBC reporter Gurinder Chadha is being labeled as the mascot of Punjabis in England as her film Bend It Like Beckham reflects the aspirations of a generation of Briton-born Indians caught between their roots and British surroundings. This most gloriously quirky and delightfully feel-good British Indian movie became a rage in the U.K. and the U.S. Earlier Chadha created a sensation in the British cinema circles with her first movie Bhaji On The Beach (1994) which won Jury Prize at Locarno, a BEFTA nomination for Best British Film of 1994 and Best Newcomer to British Cinema Award for Gurinder Chadha. This film was the opening night film of 2000 Sundance Film Festival and also won Chadha the award for the Best British Director in the London Film Critics’ Circle.

Shekhar Kapoor: After winning awards and acclaims for his Bollywood movies Masoom, Mr. India and BBC’s Bandit Queen, Shekhar Kapoor shocked Hollywood Cinema by winning eight Oscar nominations for his film Elizabeth, which he made in England. He is now working on his next grand project Buddha with the blessings of Dalai Lama and support of Hollywood superstar Richard Gare.