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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.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Superstars As Star Comedians

Cinematic comedy can be considered the oldest film genre and one of the most prolific and popular. Comedy films are designed to elicit laughter from the audience. These are light-hearted screenplays crafted to amuse, entertain and provide enjoyment. Comedies observe the deficiencies, foibles and frustrations of life, providing merriment and a momentary escape from day-to-day drudgery of life. Here is a tribute to the heroes of Hindi cinema who apart from their remarkable performance in whatever role they played in a movie, also provided the funniest moments and scenes ever seen on screen.

Ashok Kumar
Reverently called Dadamoni, Ashok Kumar was one of the finest actors that India has produced. He has been awarded the Padmabhushan & the Dadasaheb Phalke Award. An iconic actor for over six decades, starting his film career in 1930s he starred in over 275 films and won several awards for his performance. A very natural actor, his comic timing was also impeccable in his most remembered comedies that include Choti Si Baat (1975), Khoobsurat (1980), Khatta Meetha (1981) and, of course, Chalti Ka Naam Gadi (1958), a true classic. Simple story, wonderful music, great acting, brilliant cast and phenominally hillarious. The story, like the 1928 Chevrolet in the film, ran amok. It gives you more laughs than you can handle. The movie stands tall amongst the greatest comedies ever.

Indeed, Motilal had a glorious record as filmdom’s smartest hero. For over two decades, he reigned supreme over the hearts of swooning fans. Noted for his mastery over histrionics, Motilal’s name became a byword for effortless acting. He even excelled in the light comedy roles. Motilal’s success in comedy was due to his air of gaiety and informality, which people had missed so far in the rigid, copy-book variety of film acting on the Indian screen. Even in sombre roles, a give-away twinkle in his eyes indicated that Motilal had the last laugh. He took the filmworld by storm with his comic role in Roop K Shorey’s comedy 'dhamaka', Ek Thi Ladki (1949), the biggest runaway hit.

Dilip Kumar
Comedy and action were, in fact, an escape route for Dilip Kumar. He provided audiences with his distinct brand of action- cum- comedy in Leader (1964). In Kohinoor with just a jerk of a shoulder while he is in disguise as Kohinoor baba, he sparked more comedy than any comedian can. It is difficult to say which performance was better— the slick, smooth-talking collegian of Leader or the bellicose villager of Gopi.The sedate, sober Dilip Kumar can be outrageously funny. He can be sharp and saucy. He can display his flair for comedy in many languages including Bengali, Marathi, Parsi, Gujarati, Punjabi, besi­des Urdu and English. Azad (1955), Ram Aur Shyam (1967), Sagina (1974) - these films catch him in other hues of comedy. He played these roles with compelling conviction, lacing humor with an inner meaning and social comment.

Raj Kapoor
Also known as The Show-Man, was an outstanding actor, producer and director of Hindi cinema, but above all an ace comedian. The winner of nine Filmfare Awards, his performance in Awaara, was ranked one of the "Top-Ten Performances of all time", by the Time Magazine. He went on to produce, direct and star in many box office hits such as Barsaat (1949), Awaara (1951), Shree 420 (1955), Chori Chori (1956), Jagte Raho (1956) and Jis Desh Men Ganga Behti Hai (1960). These films established his screen image as The Tramp modeled on Charlie Chaplin's most famous screen persona. Outside of his home productions, his most notable comedies were Anari (1959), Chhalia (1960) and Teesri Kasam (1963). He produced, directed and starred in his ambitious film, Mera Naam Joker (My name is Joker).

Dev Anand
The actor, writer, director and producer, is remembered for his work in Hindi cinema spanning more than 65 years with acting in 114 Hindi films.The Government of India honored him with the Padma Bhushan in 2001 and the Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 2002 for his contribution to Indian cinema. A rapid-fire style of dialogue delivery and a penchant for nodding while speaking became Dev's style in films like House No. 44, Pocket Maar, Munimji, Funtoosh, C.I.D. and Paying Guest. His style was lapped up by the audience and was widely imitated. He was often compared to the famous actor Gregory Peck the world over. Dev Anand and Nutan's four-film association in comedy roles, Paying Guest, Baarish and Manzil culminated with Tere Ghar Ke Saamne. Teen Devian (1965) was amongst Dev Anand's hilarious hits. This delightful musical romance revolves around a winsome guy, his inability to say 'no' and how it lands him in a spot with three pretty but clearly dissimilar women. Dev Anand is at his flirtatious best around Nanda, Simi Garewal and Kalpana in this lively pageant of May-the-best-girl-win.

Film star Dharmendra was first noticed in a Filmfare spot- the- talent contest and was signed by Arjun Hingorani for the film "Dil Bhi Tera, Hum Bhi Tere". At the start of his career Dharmendra was usually cast as a romantic hero. Dharmendra was also superb in comedy films like "Chupke Chupke", a masterpiece from Hrishikesh Mukherjee. Dharmendra's most memorable role as action-cum-comedy hero was in the blockbuster film "Sholay" where he was teamed with Amitabh Bachchan and Hema Malini. Apart from Amitabh Bachchan, no other film star can claim to be equally good in comedy and action as Dharmendra. In almost all his movies he shows his flair for comedy and succeeds in bringing big smile to the viewers. In his latest film Yamla Pagla Diwana, the family, Dharmendra, Sunny Deol and Bobby Deol, reunites for the second time and produced one of the most hilarious movies of 2011. This film was a huge success both critically and commercially and brought Dharmendra back in the limelight in a big way.

Amitabh Bachhan
He is, undoubtedly, the Shehansha of Indian commercial Hindi cinema. His first appearance was in the movie Saat Hindustani (1969). He showed his mark in the Hindi film world with Zanjeer (1975), which set the trend for the ‘Angry Young Man’ action roles in Hindi films. With his tall and lean looks, Amitabh became emblematic of the new kind of action hero. This continued in his other films like Deewar, Muqaddar Ka Sikander, Hera Pheri, Shakti, Lawaris and others. So total was Amitabh's dominance of the movie scene in the 1970s and 1980s that the late French director Francois Truffaut called him a "one-man industry". The secret of the astounding success of this angry young-man has been his additional ability to make people laugh with his excellent comic timing. His subtle but very delightful style of comedy was behind his super hits like Amar Akbar Anthony, Sholay, Lawaris, Namak Halal, Silsila etc. With every scene rib-tickling, every dialogue hilarious, and a story that has the audience in splits, Chupke Chupke ranks as one of the top comedies in Hindi cinema. Performances in the movie are the backbone of the film. Dharmendra and Sharmila Tagore keep you spellbound for the initial part of the movie while Amitabh Bachchan steals the show in the later. The high point of this comic caper is his perfect timing.

Akshay Kumar
This Bollywood actor personifies the real life story of a guy next door who makes it big in the Bollywood. From the by lanes of Chandni Chowk in Delhi, where he was brought up, this actor has reached dizzying heights in his Bollywood career, more recently for his comic timing in hit comedies.
The comedies which did well were Hera Pheri, Awara Paagal Deewana, Mujhse Shaadi Karogi(co-starring with Salman Khan) and Garam Masala with actor John Abraham. The zenith of the actor's career was yet to arrive. 2006 saw the launching of Phir Hera Pheri which was again a big movie. Bhagam Bhag was a great comedy which was enjoyed by the audiences. 2007 was the most successful year in the career of Akshay Kumar. Namaste London was a lovely movie with Katrina Kaif. This movie was a big hit. Other super hits were Heyy Babyy, Bhool Bhulaiyaa and Welcome and, of course, Siingh Is King. Akshay Kumar has delivered many more hits and had his fans coming out laughing from his movies and his producers laughing to the banks.

Salman Khan
A great face, one of the best bodies in Bollywood and a smile which can charm anyone are his most visible assets. Maine Pyaar Kiya, a story of timeless love, was the movie that propelled Salman Khan to instant fame all over India. In Andaz Apna Apna, a light and frothy comedy, Salman Khan played his role with élan and poise. His comical timing was excellent and along with Aamir Khan he gave us one of the most enjoyable hits of 1993. The film was a lot of fun to watch and Salman proved his versatility as a comedian. In Hum Aapke Hain Kaun, one of the biggest Bollywood hits of all time, Salman was at his best in comedy sequences. His comic timing is truly fantastic. Mujhse Shaadi Karogi was another film where Salman proved that he was quite adept at doing comedy roles . The film had Akshay Kumar and Priyanka Chopra as his co-stars, and went on to become a great box office hit. Salman has also become renowned for his depiction of the strong angry young man with a flair for comedy. Wanted was among his best performances in this category. After Wanted came Dabangg, Ready and Body Guard which were made along the same line – lots of action, lot of stunts and loads of fun!

Aamir Khan
Aamir was first introduced as a child artiste in the 1970's hit Yaadon Ki Baaraat (1973) -- he was the youngest child in the trio. His debut movie Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak(1988) was a run away success and he achieved instant stardom. In the year 1990 he delivered the biggest grosser of the year in the form of Dil and since then he has not looked back giving several commercial and critical hits, like Dil Hai Ke Manta Nahin (1991), Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander( 1992), Hum Hain Rahi Pyar Ke( 1993), Parampara (1993), Andaz Apna Apna (1994), Baazi( 1995), Rangeela (1995), Raja Hindustani (1996), Ghulam (1998), Sarfarosh (1999), Dil Chahta Hai( 2001), Lagaan (2001), Fanaa( 2006) and Rang De Basanti (2006). Using classic "method acting", Aamir acts in all genres of Indian films - action, drama and romance, but above all comedy. His 3 Idiots is considered among the biggest classic comedies.

Sanjay Dutt
After seeing his performance in Vaastav: The Reality (1999) that earned him the Best Actor in a Leading Role award at Filmfare Awards, no one could believe that it was the same star who played Munnabhai M.B.B.S. ( 2003), one of the most uproarious and successful films in recent times. The comedy causes rip-roaring laughter. The emotions and comedy have been integrated perfectly. The film is one of the funniest to come from Bollywood and that is due to spot on comic timing by Sanjay Dutt, Arshad Warsi and Boman Irani. Sanjay Dutt puts on the performance of a lifetime as the title character, enacting a wide range of emotions with ease. When his parents visit him from the village, his transition from a Bhai to a doctor makes you roll with laughter. After the phenomenal success of this film, Sanjay Dutt has been sought after by producers for mainly comedy roles and he has proved his skills as a comedy avatar quite often.

It is said that in Bollywood fates are made and broken in just a matter of few Fridays. While we have seen several who were superstars of the year but just disappeared after a year, there were some old warhorses that trudged and moved along, giving guaranteed money spinners – if not critically acclaimed ones – year after year, month after month and in some cases, week after week, because they all had one common quality – their perfect comic timing.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Hilarious Hits Of Comedy Icons

Bollywood has carried on the tradition of discovering and rediscovering the comedians from the bygone era till today, who excelled in evoking laughter with their talent and perfect comic timing. Comedy is a tough thing to enact and to do a comic song is all the more demanding. Still, thanks to the comedy icons, especially of the bygone era of Bollywood, there is no dearth of such songs. These are joyous, naughty, swinging songs with deliberately clever wordings which were immensely enjoyed by the audiences. The way these songs have been sung with sparkling comic timing by some of the ace comedians, is what makes them classics in their own right and rage of their time. Here is a pick, my most favorite ten, from the long list of popular comedy songs, with a tribute to the comedians who made the magic happen:

1. Mere Piya Gaye Rangoon – Patanga (1949)
Even sixty years after the original song was sung by Shamshad Begum and Chitalker ( C. Ramchndra), many re-mix versions have been made till recently. Not only that, even the song seems to have inspired the Lady Gaga/Buoyancy hit duet “Telephone”. The screen version of the song was an instant hit, chiefly because of the charm of leading lady Nigar Sultana and the popularity of comedian Gope, on whom the song was picturised.

Beginning his career in the early 1930s, Gope Kamlani went on to become one of Hindi cinemas most popular comedians. Such was his appeal that at the height of his career, he shared credits with the films lead actors. His first film was Insaan Ya Shaitan (1933), which starred among others Jaddan Bai, the mother of actress Nargis. Gope soon won critical and popular acclaim for his comic roles and became the leading comedian of his time. Amongst his better-known films are Hindustan Hamara, Patanga, Mirza Sahiban, and Chori Chori.

2. Lara Lappa Lara Lappa Layee Rakh Da - Ek Thi Ladki (1949)
The song meant instant fame for Meena Shorey and the film, in which she shares the screen with legendary actors such as Motilal and I. S. Johar .This light-hearted funny Punjabi-Hindi song became immensely popular because of the lyrics and the free flowing tune and not to forget the magic of Lata and Mohammad Rafi. The film gave break to the legendary comedian I. S. Johar.

3. Ye Do Diwane Dil ke, Chale Hain Dekho Milke - Johar Mehmood In Goa (1965)
Comedians Mehmood and I. S. Johar hit a surprise jackpot with this rollicking number that made Johar Mehmood in Goa a runaway hit. The film is remembered for Mohd. Rafi and Manna Dey's hit duet.

I. S. Johar
Johar made his acting debut with Roop K Shorey’s, Ek Thi Ladki (1949). He acted in numerous Hindi films from the 1950s through to the early 80s, and played cameos in international films such as Harry Black (1958), North West Frontier (1959), Lawrence of Arabia (1962) [4] and Death on the Nile (1978), besides acting in Maya (1967), a US TV series. I. S. Johar also wrote and directed films in which he co-starred with comedian Mehmood. Comedians Mehmood and I. S. Johar hit a surprise jackpot with the rollicking entertainer Johar Mehmood in Goa. Mehmood's no-holds barred comedy provides the perfect match to Johar's subtle, cynical humour and the sparks flow. The comedy team clicked in a big way and the comic duo went on to make several more capers which immortalized them. He also starred in films with his own surname in the title such as Mera Naam Johar, Johar in Kashmir and Johar in Bombay, which is a testament both to his immense egotism, as well as his popularity with the common masses.

4. Bholi Soorat Dil Ke Khote - Albela (1951)

This song is funny in its own way. The lyrics are one of the most meaningful songs considering the way of life is in this era. And the tender dance steps of Bhagwan Dada became his trademark dance step. In fact, every major star from Amitabh Bachchan and Govinda to Mithun Chakraborty and Rishi Kapoor has copied Bhagwan-style slow-moving dancing in their movies. Even today crowds go hysterical every time they hear Shola jo bhadke, dil mera dhadke … or Bholi surat dil ke khote, naam bade aur darshan chhote… from the film.

Bhagwan Abaji Pandav, better known as Bhagwan or Bhagwan Dada, was acknowledged as an ace comic actor. Bhagwan was different from our concept of a romantic hero. He was portly, slow-moving and had bulging eyes. But in "Albela" he clicked well with Geeta Bali. The film became a super hit and Bhagwan had everything he had dreamt of — money, fame and friends. A veteran actor of about 600 films in the course of more than five decades, Bhagwan ultimately gave up as he could not adapt to the indiscipline of the present set-up. Bhagwan was in particular grateful to Dilip Kumar who would stop his car and honk whenever he passed by his window and would not move till they greeted each other. Some other industry folks too would salute him on the odd occasion he attended a public function.

5. Charandas ko peene ki jo aadat naa hoti – Pehli Jhalak (1954)

In this song, Kishore Kumar enacts Charandas as well as Charandas’ harassed wife. And needless to say, he sings the song too (lending voices to both the characters). The lyrics by Rajinder Krishan are very amusing and his description of the behavior of a drunkard is quite realistic and life like. C Ramchandra is the music director.

6. Paanch Rupaiya Barah Aana - Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi (1956)
Kishore Kumar has to recover five rupees and twelve annas which Madhubala owes for getting her car repaired in his garage. But he also uses this opportunity to profess his love for which he can sing dadra. And now he chooses SD Burman’s classic Dheere se jana bagiyan mein to give it a comic twist. Kishore Kumar is not done yet. In the end he declares he can become a jogi for her love – and now he chooses KC Dey’s iconic Teri gathri mein laga chor.

7. Mannu Tera Hua Ab Mera – Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi (1956)
This song sung by Kishore and Manna Daa has to be one of the most beautifully sung songs ever. It talks about the haves and have-nots as far as having a girlfriend is concerned. Kishore having besotted Madhubala with his boyish charms belongs to the haves while the eternal bachelor Anoop bemoans his lack of a girlfriend, and the ensuing duet makes for compulsive rib tickling viewing.

Kishore Kumar
Kishore Kumar was a genius who died before his time. He was a comic par excellence and if you have not seen films like Chalti Ka Naam Gadi, Padosan, New Delhi then do yourself a favor and watch them. Of course he sang romantic melodies, sad songs and children’s songs and sung them all with unmatched talent, but he was by far the best in his uproariously funny songs. Kishore Kumar did not need to do an act. He was mad. He was crazy, he was wild. He would sing – in Hindi, in English, in Bengali, in Gibberish; he would dance, he would squat, he would jump, he would roll, he would sleep – all in the same song of 3 minutes. The man who started in 1948 in the KL Saigal mould under the baton of Khemchand Prakash with Marne ki duayen kyun maangun (Ziddi) and Jagmag karta nikla (Rimjhim) carried on for twenty years trailing behind Rafi, Mukesh etc, when suddenly post-Aradhana he zoomed off like a rocket redefining playback singing as the voice of Rajesh Khanna and later, Amitabh Bachchan and everyone else, leaving the great singers far behind. But singing was only one part of his multifarious talents. He was an actor, writer, producer, director and composer. It is the mad, crazy, wild and funny Kishore Kumar singing for himself on the screen that was absolutely adorable.

8. Sar Jo Tera Chakraaye - Pyaasa (1957)
The song "Sar Jo Tera Chakraye" was developed during a visit by Guru Dutt and Johnny Waskar to Kolkata (Calcutta) before the filming of Pyaasa. While once having breakfast at a roadside joint, they happened to watch a local masseur apply his talents to a gentleman's head, and Guru Dutt asked Johnny to keep that scene in mind. Even after more than five decades the legendary comedy song from the classic movie is rhymed and is an inspiration to many lyricist and composers.

Johnny Walker
Anyone who’s seen Hindi movies of the ‘50s and ‘60s would remember Johnny Walker in several films enacting a particular scene. His dialog during the sequence, his expressions and his andaaz make him a scene stealer and it must be very few people who cannot remember Johnny Walker for his ability to evoke a laugh in us. However, the man we knew as Johnny Walker is not really so. That’s just his screen name, given to him by famous film actor and director, Guru Dutt, who first gave him a break in his film Baazi. After Baazi, he acted in several films such as Aar Paar (1954), Mr. & Mrs. ’55 (1955) and in 1956, he starred in Guru Dutt’s C.I.D. From his entire career, Johnny is remembered most of all for his role in C.I.D in which he sang the famous song, Yeh Hai Bombay Meri Jaan, a tribute to the citizens of this city. In the 1950s, film producers always had a song picturized on Johnny because he was the audience’s darling. All in all, he acted in 300 films and won many awards as a comedian or supporting actor.

9. Hum Kale Hain To Kya Hua Dilwale Hain - Gumnaam (1965)
A phenomenally popular song sung by Rafi and picturized on Mahmood and Helen in a dream sequence (of Mahmood). This is an out and out tapori song that became an out and out evergreen classic song. In fact, Mehmood’s comedy and Rafi’s this song made this movie a huge success. And let us not forget the contributions of the lyricist (Shailendra), the music directors ( Shankar Jaikishan) and, of course, Helen too, who dances along with Mahmood in this song, and does a great job as always.

10. Ek Chatur Naar - Padosan (1968)
In the film, Kishore Kumar has graduated into a love guru. But his task is now immensely more difficult. He has to help his protégé, the village idiot Bhola (Sunil Dutt) wean away the next window neighbour Bindu (Saira Bano), to whom he has got infatuated, from the influence of Mehmood. The only reason why she should have any tolerance for the clownish Mehmood is his music capability which has helped him get into her proximity as her music and dance teacher. Teaching music to the tone deaf Bhola was impossible, so the Guru KK sets up this duel with Mehmood, with Bhola lip-synching while KK and his team sing in playback mode. Padosan was a Mehmood film, but an understated, cerebral Kishore Kumar holds his own against over-the-top mannerisms and slapstick of Mehmood.

After Paravrish, Mehmood came to be recognized for his comic talent. He landed himself meatier roles in films like Gumnam, Pyar Kiye Jaa and Pyar Hi Pyar. In 1961, he played the lead comedian in Sasural. He was paired with a character actress named Shobha Khote. Their zany combination was so successful, that they went on to become a “comedy pair” in many hit films thereafter – hits like Love in Tokyo and Ziddi. Later, Aruna Irani replaced her in the comedy team. As the 60s progressed, Mehmood kept expanding the role of the comedian in Hindi movies and a time came, when he was so much “in demand” that producers approached him, offering him full-length comedy films. By the early 70s, Mehmood was at the peak of his comic career. He exhibited a rare ability to gauge the moods of the cinema-going audience – especially the front-benchers! This was the time when Mehmood decided to concentrate on his own production house. He had already started his company in the early 60s, with his first production called Chhote Nawab (1961). This had been followed by a suspense-comedy–thriller called Bhoot Bangla, in which Mehmood had taken the director’s chair for the first time. His company’s Padosan – in which Mehmood locked horns with Kishore Kumar in a South-Indian-versus-North-Indian war – became a massive hit in the 70s. At that time, Mehmood’s star was at its zenith. By the time the 90s set in, Mehmood had played his entire hand -- as actor, director, storywriter and producer. But Mehmood will forever be remembered as he appeared in his heydays – as the King of Comedy.

The rise of item numbers after the phenomenal popularity of 'Munni badnam hui' and 'Sheila ki jawani' and their increasing popularity has a damaging effect on comedy songs in films. But thanks to some of the present day filmmakers like David Dhawan, Priyadarshan, Rajkumar Hirani etc., who distinguish with their blockbuster comedies filled with the innovative vigor and creativity of the classic comedy, we still have an occasional comedy song, that comes quite close to hilarious hits of comedy icons.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Early Icons Of Item Numbers

The Dirty Picture released on Dec 2nd, transports back the audience to the 80s when item girls stole the hearts of the nation. In the film, Vidya Balan plays the role of Silk Smitha, an up and coming item girl of southern cinema and follows her rise to fame. Down memory lane, I'm reminded of the early icons of item numbers of Hindi cinema, from Cuckoo in the 1940s and 1950s, to Helen in the 1960s and 1970s, but especially the now forgotten father of item numbers, Mumtaz Ali.

Mumtaz Ali
Renowned choreographer, actor of ‘Bombay Talkies’, Mumtaz Ali was famous as a dancer and character- artist in 40s and early 50s, when he was sought after by producers for dance numbers and training new entrants in the industry as item girls. His item number, Main Dilli Se Dulhan Laya Re, became the rage of the time. Although a familiar figure of item numbers in Bombay Talkies' films, he had formed his own group and started doing stage shows all over the country, performing popular Hindi songs as dance numbers. The show travelled from city to city and was called Mumtaz Ali Nites. His son Mehmood, who later became the most famous comedian of Bollywood films, would most of the time accompany his father to these shows. His job was to sit outside and sell tickets and then to make announcements on the stage. His daughter Malikunissa, who was later known as Minu Mumtaz, the well-known dancer and character actor, also accompanied her father but did not perform till the circumstances forced her to. Indeed, Mumtaz Ali was not only the father of his famous children Mehmood and Meenu Mumtaz, but could rightly be called the king of item numbers in Hindi cinema.

Meenu Mumtaz
Addiction to drinking had proved detrimental to Mumtaz Ali's show business. In Benares, all the actors working for Mumtaz Ali refused to work. They had been working without any salary, but were now at the end of their tether. The show was about to begin and Mumtaz Ali was the only actor. Malikunnisa said she was willing to work with Mumtaz Ali. At first, he refused. He knew that Malikunnisa was fond of dancing and singing but what he did not know was that when the actress Sheela Nayak came to Mumtaz Ali to learn dancing, she would watch her father’s steps closely and then practice them alone before the mirror. Malikunnisa auditioned before Mumtaz Ali. She danced and sang Mumtaz Ali’s famous song “Main to dilli se dulhan laya re…” and convinced him that she could indeed perform on stage. By now, Mumtaz Ali knew that he had winner in his family and presented her to perform on the stage that evening. This was the beginning of Malikunnisa’s career in dancing. Malikunnisa gained a great deal of experience and self-confidence in facing an audience, having travelled with Mumtaz Ali’s stage shows and worked on stage. She now began doing the rounds of studios to find work and soon became a star in her own right. Minoo Mumtaz, the name Minoo given to her by Meena Kumari on the sets of Bandhan, started out as a dancer and subsequently as a character artist in quite a lot of films. Her debut film was K Amarnath's Baradari (1955), which also had her brother Mehmood in the cast as a comedian. They both, the children of Mumtaz Ali, subsequently ended up acting together in about 10 films together including Chitralekha, Jahan Ara, Akeli Mat Jaiyo, Faulad, Jagir, Kaagaz Ke Phool, Qaidi No. 911, Howrah Bridge, Ek Saal and C.I.D. Meenu Mumtaz appeared in many films of the 50s and 60s, mostly as a dancer. In many films she was paired with comedians including Johnny Walker and in few films she was also cast as the leading lady including Black Cat (1959), opposite Balraj Sahni.

Cuckoo Moray, popularly known as Cuckoo, was the first major dancing star who ruled the cabaret scene in the Forties and Fifties. Maybe because of the era’s social dynamics — or perhaps it was a novelty that filmmakers introduced an unconventional face —this petite Anglo-Indian danced her way into Bombay filmdom. Cuckoo’s vivacious demeanor and lusty moves were completely in sync with the playful dance numbers she starred in — cabaret, club and party. Be it that mesmeric dance sequence in Aan (1952) or in Kabhi Haar Kabhi Jeet in Shabistan (1951), she had her moves for all occasions. Cukoo was the queen of film dancing in the 1940s. Her talent made cabaret a must in the Bollywood films during the 1950s and 60s. Cukoo made her screen debut in the film Arab Ka Sitara in (1946). The turning point in Cukoo's career were in Mehboob Khan's films. Her dance numbers in his film Anokhi Ada established her as the lead dancer of the era. Andaz (1949), a romantic drama starring Nargis, Dilip Kumar, and Raj Kapoor, gave the dancer an opportunity to display her acting skills. Cukoo was a family friend of the Anglo-Burmese dancer and actress Helen. Cukoo had introduced a 13-year-old Helen into films as a chorus dancer in the films like Shabistan and Awaara(1951). Cukoo and Helen most notably appeared in song and dance sequences together in Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi. Her most popular movies are: Andaz (1949), Barsaat (1949), Arzoo (1950), Hamari Beti (1950), Hulchul (1951), Awaara (1951), Aan (1952), Mr. and Mrs. 55 (1955), Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi (1958), Yahudi (1958) and Mujhe Jeene Do (1963).

Helen (Richardson Khan), of Anglo-Burmese origin, is best remembered as the Bollywood item dancer of the 60s and 70s. She entered the industry as a chorus dancer in films like Shabistan and Awaara (1951). Helen in the years following was in high demand with many successful roles as a cabaret dancer which lead to the nickname Cabaret Queen. If transformation was an art, Helen perfected it. She could be the sexy siren calling for her lover in Piya Tu Ab Toh aaja (Caravan, 1971), the avenging angel in Yeh Mera Dil (Don, 1978) or the gorgeous gypsy queen shimmying unabashedly to Mehbooba in Sholay (1975) — all with equal ease. Although she had little success as a leading lady, her seductive dancing made her a star and is still respected today for her contribution to cinema. Long before the concept of item dancers was established, the coquettish Helen had etched herself in the Indian cine-goer’s mind as the eternal item girl. As beautiful as her namesake from Troy, Helen was graceful, but never lewd; sexy, but never vulgar. She lent the concept a level of artfulness and sensuality that all the other item dancers who followed her, can only aspire to reach, but never really can. Evergreen Helen, the queen of cabaret, remained for more than three decades an essential part of almost all first-rate movies, with at least one hot dance and song scene, that was invariably the star attraction of the movie. Her role in Don will ever be remembered for the depth of emotion and the height of characterization the 'vamp' could reach in a movie. She has worked in over 200 films, starting from Awara (1951) to the recent production Marigold. Dancing all the way to unprecedented heights of popularity in her half a century of career in Bollywood has baffled many, including the renowned producer director of documentaries in Canada, Eisha Marjara, who has produced a full length movie on Helen, Desparately Seeking Halen (1999).

In the early part of the 1970s actresses Aruna Irani, Bindu, and Padma Khanna entered into what was Helen's monopoly. The range extended from the likes of the sexy Asha Sachdev and Prema Narayan, to out-and-out garish Kalpana Iyer and Jayshree. Between them, these beauties had the item song market cornered, and many a famous tracks were picturized on them. If Jayshree had songs like ‘Naach Meri Jaan’ with Mehmood from Main Sunder Hoon, then Asha Sachdev had the suggestive ‘Jis Kaam Ko Dono Aaye Hain’, from the Jitendra-starrer ‘Ek Hi Rasta’, while Kalpana Iyer had the disco genre cornered through the ‘80s and Prema Narayan sizzled her swimming costume with a host of other beauties in ‘Mausam Mastana’ from Satte Pe Satta…

After Sushmita Sen, beauty queen turned popular star, was roped in for the sensational super-hit item number of Fida, “Mehboob Mere...”, the vamp and the heroine merged into one figure and the lead actress had begun to perform the bolder numbers. The vampy item girls were thus outpaced by the heroines performing item numbers. The most beautiful actress in Bollywood, Aishwarya Rai showcased her seductive moves in Bunty Aur Bubbly super hit item number “Kajra re...”.. , followed Bipasha Basu's hit number “Bidi jalaile...” in Omkara. The super hot Bebo turned an item girl in Shah Rukh Khan starrer ‘Don’. The actress looked extremely hot and sensuous in ‘Yeh Mera Dil…’ which was earlier done by dancing diva Helen. Deepika Padukone in a rainbow of bikini tops and leather pants danced on 'Love Mera Hit Hit' with Shah Rukh Khan in 'Billu Barber’. Deepika and Shah Rukh looked amazing in this one. Priyanka Chopra did a sexy item number for Shah Rukh for his Billu Barber. This foot tapping number showcased Priyanka in her super hot avatar. The super hot Lara Dutta did an item number for Khakee. Her super sexy moves in Aisa Jadoo drives you crazy. Shilpa Shetty flaunts her figure on a sunny beach in ‘Shut up and bounce…’ song in Dostana. Bollywood is no longer about the Shah Rukh Khans and the Salman Khans, but rather the tantalising twirls and twists that the Sheilas and the Munnis are bringing to the big screen. Now, everyone's hooked, hawking out their shakin' skills in exchange for the instant fame a hit song can bring. The female superstars seem to be having cat-fights over bagging an item number in a Bollywood film, but it is doubtful if they can ever match the mesmerizing dancing moves of the early icons of item numbers.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Legendary Leading Ladies Of Bollywood

“Just a few smart male actors can completely change the face of a commercial, star-driven film industry. Looking at the one playing the female protagonist here, Vidya Balan – Paa, Ishqiya, No One Killed Jessica, and this – it appears, that change could well originate from the leading lady instead. This is Balan’s, or for that matter any contemporary Bollywood heroine's, ballsiest role so far.

Though Conrad Hilton didn’t put it this way, Silk (or Balan) concludes – There are three things you need for a successful film: entertainment, entertainment, entertainment. Over here, “I am the entertainment.” She is absolutely right, beyond first-rate.”
- Mayank Shekhar's review: The Dirty Picture in Hindustan Times

Bollywood is basically a hero oriented industry. Male leads would often see that their female co-stars got less footage, less meaty roles, less publicity, that they do not turn scene stealers. Nevertheless, some of the most memorable films have been those that were women-centric. These films have given some great female stars who commanded an equal position with the male leads and also no less a superstar status. They are some of the most beautiful actresses, many of them Beauty Queens, who emerged as superstars, with their awards- winning talent and some very successful films to be proud of :

Devika Rani: First Lady of the Indian Cinema and an acknowledged beauty, Devika Rani goes down in the annals of Hindi films as actor par excellence. Karma (1933) gave her instant fame and rave reviews for her performance. She made a very successful team with Ashok Kumar - Jeevan Naiya, Janma Bhoomi, Achut Kanya, Izzat, Savitri and Anjaan. For her contributions to Indian Cinema, Devika Rani was the first recipient of the prestigious Dada Sahib Phalke Award in 1970.

Naseem Banu: Daughter of the legendary playback singer Shamshad Begum, Naseem was one of the most beautiful figures to grace the Indian screen. She was the Beauty Queen of her time and a superstar of her days. Starting her career in Khoon Ka Khoon (1935), she was an overnight sensation on release of Sohrab Modi's all time classic, Pukar (1939). Her song in the movie 'Zindagi ka saaz bhi kya saaz hai, baj raha hai aur beawaz hai' was a big hit. Her other hit movies include Talaaq, Ujala, Begam, Jeevan Sapna, Anokhi Ada, Chandani Raat and Sheesh Mahal. She retired in the mid-50s so that she would groom her daughter Saira Banu for an acting career.

Durga Khote: A strong woman, Durga Khote had a glorious career that spanned 50 years, which included acting, production and direction. Starting her career in Ayodhecha Raja (1932) she acted in over 200 films. Her powerful performance in Amar Jyoti (1937) made her an overnight star who was thereafter sought for woman-centric films, especially historicals. Her major films include Rajrani Meera, Nand Kumar, Adhuri Kahani, Maya Machindra, Patit Pawan, Jeevan Natak, Inquilab, Saathi, Narsi Bhagat, Geeta, Vijay, Bharat Milap, Prithvi Vallabh, Mahatma Vidur, Pannadai, Mirza Ghalib and Mughal-E-Azam.

Shanta Apte: Whanever films about strong women are discussed, V. Shantaram's Dunia Na Mane (1937) tops the list. In the film, Nirmala, an orphan girl is given in marriage to an old rich widower. She revolts and refuses to consummate the union with her husband. Shanta Apte played perfect Nirmala. This was her third most memorable performance in a row - the earlier two being in Shantaram's classics, Amrit Manthan (1934) and Amar Jyoti (1936). Shanta Apte's other great movies include Zamindar, Apna Ghar, Mohabbat, Duhai and Subhadra. She was also a great singer of her time, who sang her own songs in films.

Madhubala: The most beautiful star of Hindi cinema, she was brilliant in both, comedy as well as in high dramatic performance. While she matched Kishore Kumar step by step in his madcap antics in Chalti Ka Naam Gadi, her performance as the doomed courtesan Anarkali in Mughal-E-Azam equalled that of Dilip Kumar as Prince Salim. Madhubala began her Bollywood life in Kidar Sharma's Neel Kamal (1947) opposite Raj Kapoor and became a superstar in Mahal (1949), a super super suspence thriller. A spate of hits followed - Amar, Howrah Bridge, Kala Paani, Phagun, Passport, Half Ticket and Sharabi. Madhubala's memorable career in Hindi films was cut short by her untimely death.

Nargis: One of the greatest Indian actresses, Nargis started her Bollywood journey with a break by the ace director Mehboob in Taqdeer (1943), but real stardom came her way with Mehboob's Andaaz and Raj Kapoor's Barsaat. Both movies were mega hits. Nargis played the lead in a spate of super hits opposite Dilip Kumar - Mela, Jogan, Babul and Deedar. After Awaara (1951) she worked exclusively with Raj Kapoor - Aah, Anhonee, Ashiana, Bewafa, Shri 420, Chori Chori and Jagte Raho. Her magnum opus Mother India (1957) represents the pinnacle of her career and won her the Best Actress award at the prestigious Karlovy Vary Festival. Nargis was the first film personality to be awarded Padmashree.

Meena Kumari: She was one of the most beloved actresses of Bollywood. She took performance to new heights with her classic contributions including Parineeta, Baiju Bawra, Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam, Daera, Ek Hi Raasta, Sharda, Dil Apna Aur Preet Parai, Dil Ek Mandir, Aarti, Kajal, Phool Aur Pathar and Pakeeza. She also excelled in light hearted roles - Azaad, Miss Mary, Shararat and Kohinoor. She won Filmfare awards for Best Actress in Baiju Bawra (1952), Parineeta (1953) and Sahib Bibi Ghulam (1962) and made history in 1962 by bagging three Best Actress nominations - Aarti, Main Chup Rahungi and Sahib Bibi Ghulam. She was called the Tragedy Queen for playing the suffering woman to perfection.

Vijayantimala: The first South Indian actress who made it big in Bollywood, Vijayantimala's greatest legacy to Indian cinema is that it has become a must for any inspiring actress to be an accomplished dancer. She started her career in Hindi films with Bahar (1951), a big hit, primarily because of her dance numbers. In Devdas (1955) she played dancing girl Chandramukhi and won Filmfare award for Best Supporting Actress. Naya Daur (1957), a mega hit, made her the most sought after star. Bimal Roy's Madhumati (1958), shot her to the highest echelons of stardom. She won Filmfare awards for Best Actress in Sadhna (1958), Ganga Jamuna (1961) and Sangam (1964). After her last big hit, Jewel Thief (1967), she retired from films.

Waheeda Rehman: Another great dancer from South Indian films, Waheeda Rehman was spotted by Guru Dutt in a Telgu film and brought to Bombay to work in his production, C.I.D. (1956). The film was a big hit but her role of a vamp was not that big. The real srardom was offered to her on a platter in Guru Dutt's masterpiece Pyaasa (1957), followed by two more classics from Guru Dutt, Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959) and Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam (1962). Her hit movies include Chowdhavin Ka Chand, Kala Bazaar, Bees Saal Baad, Mujhe Jeene Do, Kohra and Ram Aur Shyam. With Guide (1965) she reached the peak of her career, playing the difficult role of a desperate housewife.

Nutan: Launched in Hamari Beti (1950) by mother Shobhana Samarth, Nutan's major breakthrough as an actress par excellence came with Seema (1955), which won her Filmfare Best Actress Award. Whether it was the light hearted Paying Guest (1957) or Bimal Rai's intense Sujata (1959), brought out the best in her. She continued with her bright career with Tere Ghar Ke Samne, Anadi, Chhalia, Milan, Khandaan, Sarswatichandra, Saudagar, Sajan Bina Suhagan and Main Tulsi Tere Aangan Ki. Her greatest performance was in Bimal Roy's Bandini (1963). She won record-breaking 5 Filmfare awards for Best Actress - Seema (1957), Sujata (1960), Bandini (1964), Milan (1969) and Main Tulsi Tere Aangan Ki (1979).

Sharmila Tagore: She won a timultuous welcome to Hindi cinema when she appeared with her glorious dimples and sassy smile in the romantic comedy Kashmir Ki Kali (1964) opposite Shammi Kapoor. With Evening in Paris (1967), she went on to become one of the hottest and most glamorous actresses. She won Filmfare Best Actress Award for Aradhna (1970) and National Award for Mausam (1975). Her other great movies include Anupama, Waqt, Chupke Chupke, Satyakam, Khushboo, Griha Pravesh, Namkeen, Desh Premi and Mississipi Masala.

Rakhee: One look at Rakhee and you are immediately drawn to her gaze. There you find the fire as well as melancholy, depending on her mood of the moment. In Sharmeelee (1971), her debut film, the cameraman devoted half an hour to her close-ups. She is truly a photographer's dream. She has a long list of super hits, to her very successful career spanning 30 years in the industry - Reshma Aur Shera, Lal Pathar, Be-Iman, Heera Panna, Daag, Black Mail, Banarsi Babu, Joshila, Angarey, Tapasya, Kabhi Kabhie, Muqaddar Ka Sikandar, Jurmana, Kala Pathar, Lootmaar, Shaan, Laawaris, Shradhanjali, Bemisal and more. She won Filmfare Best Actress Award for Tapasya (1976), Best Supporting Actress Award for Daag (1976) and Ram Lakhan (1989).

Hema Malini: She entered Bollywood as the 'Dream Girl' of Raj Kapoor in Sapnon Ka Saudagar (1968), but became dream girl of multitude of movie goers with Johnny Mera Naam, the mega hit of 1970. Then came Seeta Aur Geeta (1972) and she was the top female star, winning the Filmfare Best Actrss Award for the film. Her stocks went high with a string of hits opposite Dharmendra - Raja Jani, Jugnu, Solay, Pratigya, Phandebaaz, Dream Girl, Dillagi, Charas, Azaad, Aas Paas, Andha Kanoon etc. Gulzar brought to limelight Hema's histrionics excellence in Khushboo (1975), Kinara (1977) and Meera (1979). Hema Malini has the distinction of bagging Filmfare Best Actress Award even for her comeback film Baghban, more than 30 years after she won her first award. She was awarded Padma Bhushan in 1999.

Shabana Azmi: One of the greatest actresses of our time, leading light of the Indian New Wave cinema, she dominated the films of the 'parallel cinema' in 1970s and 80s made by India's famous arthouse directors Shyam Benegal, Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen, Aparna Sen and others. Her most memorable movies include Ankur, Nishant, Junoon, Atithi, Sparsh, Mandi. Madam Sousatzka, City of Joy, Fire, Earth and Morning Raaga, besides the Filmfare Best Actress Award winning films Swami, Arth and Bhavna.

Rekha: Superstar of South India, Gemini Ganeshan's daughter Rekha entered Bollywood with a bang, with her first film Sawan Bhadon (1970) becoming a super hit. Her most memorable movie is Umrao Jaan in which she played the role of the poet-cum-court dancer with the charm that captivated the audience as never before. She won the National Award for the film. Her big hits include - Mr. Natwarlal, Khoon Psina, Muqaddar Ka Sikandar, Namak Haram, Suhag, Ram Balram, Kasme Vaade, Do Anjaane, Alaap. Khoobsoorat and Khoon Bhari Maang won her Filmfare Best Actress Awards. She also won Best Supprting Actress Award for Khiladion Ke Khiladi (1998). The icon of beauty and glamor in Bollywood, she credits Yoga and balanced diet as the secret of her ageless face and figure.

Sridevi: Stunning beauty and an accomplished dancer, Sridevi came to capture Bollywood in the 80s, after conquoring the South Indian cinema. In fact, she is the only actress to have attained superstar status in Hindi cinema and the South Indian regional cinema at the same time. Dance has always been Sridevi's forte in all her films. Her dance number in the mega hit Chandni - Mere Hathon Mei Nau Nau Churiyan - made the dance mendatory at every marriage in any nook and corner of the country. Childlike, spontaneous and comic, she excelled in the art of slapstick and physical comedy - Mr. India (1987) and Chalbaaz (1989). She won Filmfare Best Actress Award for Chalbaaz and Lamhe and nominations for Sadma, Chandni, Khuda Gwah, Gumrah, Laadla and Judaai. She is now more active as producer than as an actress.

Madhuri Dixit: N. Chandra's Tezaab (1988) - Ek Do Teen Char - took the nation by storm and celebrated Golden Jubilee. The sensational newcomer, Madhuri Dixit, who performed the super hit song-cum-dance number, became a superstar overnight. The Ek Do Teen girl, as she came to be known, gave another stunning performance in Dil (1990) and Madhuri was now the most sought after star. An ultimate beauty and a wonderful dancer, she has achieved milestones in her career with her flawless performance, winning Filmfare Best Actress Awards for Dil (1991), Beta (1993), Hum Aapke Hain Kaun (1995), Dil To Pagal Hai (1998) and Best Actress - supporting role for Devdas (2003). She also got nominated for Best Actress for her Tezaab, Prem Pratigya, Saajan, Khal Nayak, Yaraana, Pukar and Lajja.

The great performance of these actors and their glorious and shining artistry par excellence have made Indian cinema unparalleled. Dirty Picture proves beyond doubt that Vidya Balan may be the next to join the league of legendary leading ladies of Bollywood.