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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, January 31, 2012

Bollywood's Breakthrough Songs - II

This is in continuation of my earlier blog on the topic wherein I listed breakthrough songs of Bollywood's legendary singers, the singing stars of the Thirties and Forties to famous playback singers of the Golden era of musicals in the Fifties, Sixties and Seventies. Apart from the legendary singers listed in the earlier blog, there were many more who enthralled their listeners no less in that period and deserve to be applauded as much. Here-below are the breakthrough songs of these immensely popular singers:

“Ab Tere Siva Kaun Mera” (Kismet - 1943)

Amirbai Karnataki: Famous as ‘Kannad Kokila’, Amirbai Karnataki was 15-years old when she came from Karnatka to Mumbai where her sister, Gauhar, was an actress. With the help of her sister, she came in touch with HMV who were impressed by her singing talent and made her sing a qawwali which became very popular. Initially she sang songs in films like Narsi Bhagat, Sardar, Darshan etc., but her big success as playback singer came with the release of Bombay Talkies’ Kismet (1943). Her songs, ‘Ab Tere Siva Kaun Mera’, ‘Dheere Dheere Aa Re Badal’ and “Door Hato Ae Duniawalo’ became a rage.

“Neend Humari Khwab Tumhare” (Nai Kahani - 1943)

G.M. Durrani: He was probably the first singer who emerged in the late 30s and 40s who showed an independent style as opposed to many other singers who tried to emulate K.L. Sehgal. It would be appropriate to say that he was the first major male playback singer in Hindi Films. He had a lovely soulful voice and slowly he developed a keen interest in Singing. He then got a job in All India Radio and used to sing songs there. He first got an opportunity to sing for a movie Saaed-e-Hawas in 1935/36 which was directed by Sohrab Modi with music by Bundu Khan. He did a few other songs in next few years but the year 1943 was very good for him. His song, Neend Hamaari Khwab Tumhaare Kitne Meethe Kitne Pyaare from movie Nai Kahani(1943) became a super duper hit which is remembered till date. This opened the doors for him in the industry in a big way and made him the number one male playback singer. He was considered an idol by many including Mohd Rafi who was inspired by his style in the initial years. His continued work led to lots of hits for him which cemented his position as the number one male playback singer. His songs for movies like Shama(1946), Do Bhai(1947), Mirza Sahiban(1948), Dada(1949), Aiiye(1949), Maang(1950), Dilruba(1950), Madhubala(1950), were very popular and he was quite respected in the industry.

“Ankhian Milake Jiya Bharma Ke” (Rattan - 1944)

Zohrabai: Popularly known as Zohrabai Ambalewali, as she hailed from Ambala City in Punjab, she broke into Bombay-based movie industry with a bang in the 1940s and recorded several successive hit songs. A certain kind of vivacity and aura characterized Zohrabai's ever-fresh voice, making her the envy of her contemporaries. It were these uncommon features of her vocals, which enabled her to rule the roost in the fast-growing art of female playback singing for well over a decade. There was a time when the use of her voice for the recording of songs in a film was considered a guarantee for its success at the box office. Such was the magical impact of her properly groomed voice on the listeners. Zohra's bright vocals were skillfully exploited by front-line composers of the decade. However, the big break came her way, when several songs recorded in her voice by composer Naushad for the film Rattan (produced in the year 1944) created new records in popularity at the box office. The songs were so palatable to mainstream taste in India that they were enjoyed by the people throughout the length and breadth of India, the most popular and hummed being 'Akhiyan mila ke jiya bharma ke chale nahin jaana' and 'Sawan ke baadlo unse ye ja kaho'.

“Ghabra Ke Jo Hum Sar Ko Takrain ” (Mahal - 1949)

Rajkumari: She was just 10 years old when she recorded her first song for HMV in 1934 and she started her career as a stage artiste. Vijay Bhatt and Shankar Bhatt of Prakash Pictures spotted her during one of her shows. They liked her voice and persuaded her to discontinue acting on stage as it would spoil her voice (In those days, there were no mikes and you had to shout to be heard). So she quit theatre, and became an employee of Prakash Pictures as an actress and singer. Period of 1940s was revolutionary for singing in films. Singing stars tradition changed to playback singing, thus bringing in great new talented singers. After she quit Prakash Pictures, she began playback singing for actresses like Ratnamala, Shobhana Samarth, etc. and soon she became the First Female Playback Singer of Indian Cinema. Such was Rajkumari’s success that even before partnerships like Mukesh - Raj Kapoor or Talat Mehmood - Dilip Kumar or Rafi - Dilip Kumar were formed, heroines like Shobana Samarth insisted in their contracts, that Rajkumari would sing for them. In 40s she sang songs for many movies but her most famous film was Mahal (1949), where she sang 'Ghabra kai jou hum
sar kou takrayien tou acha hou' and 'Yeh raat phir na aayge', the songs that put her amongst the top playback singers of the era.

“Roun Mein Sagar Ke Kinare” (Nagina - 1951)

C.H. Atma: The legendary singer started singing as a hobby at College. and little did he realize at the time that what started off as his hobby would one day become his career. C.H. Atma made his debut way back in 1945, with what is probably his best known song even today “Preetam Aan Milo”. His deep, rich voice bore a distinct resemblance to his idol KL Saigal. Film producer Pancholi happened to hear his recording of this very soulful & melodious song and was very impressed. He later gave him a chance to sing in his film “Nagina” that led to a brilliant film career for Atma. it was in this film that he scored a big hit with the song “Roun Main Sagar Ke Kinare” under the music direction of Shankar and Jaikishan. After this he sang and acted in many films, including Bilwa Mangal, Dhake Ki Malmal, Bhai Sahib and V. Shantaram’s famous film Geet Gaya Patharone. He successfully developed a wide circle of admirers by his frequent performances, both in India and abroad.

“Yeh Raat Yeh Chandni Phir Kahan” (Jaal – 1952)

Hemant Kumar: "Listening to Hemant da, I feel as though a sadhu sitting in a temple is singing a Bhajan," comments the nightingale Lata Mangeshkar about the unique Hemant Kumar, who was not only a fabulous singer but also an equally indomitable composer. In Hemantda's voice one could experience an amalgamation of Rabindra Sangeet, Bengali folk music, modern and classical elements. Every distinguished creative artiste is born with one gift, but, Hemantda was born with several gifts. As a singer he reigned supreme in Calcutta and Bombay. As a composer his versatility and staying - power in the charts were astonishing. From Naagin and Jaal to Bees Saal Baad and Kohraa the 50's and 60's were decades that 'belonged' prominently to the unique talents of Hemant Kumar. As a singer in Bombay, Hemantda became a voice to record with in 1952 when he sang 'Ye Raat Ye Chandni Phir Kahan..' in the thriller Jaal for the debinair Dev Anand. In 1957, Hemantda sang one of his career's best solos 'Jaane Wo Kaise Log The..' for Guru Dutt in Pyaasa. Songs like these branded Hemant Kumar as the melancholic romantic.

“Chand Chhupa Aur Tare Dube” (Sohni Mahiwal – 1958)

Mahendra Kapoor: For the last 50 years Mahendra Kapoor is a leading playback singer of the Hindi film industry. In 1957 Metro Murphy singing contest was organized. It was a very important occasion because all judges were topmost music directors of film industry, like, Anil Biswas, C. Ramchandra, Madan Mohan, Vasant Desai and Naushad. Mahendra won the first prize in the contest and he received a lot of appreciation. Naushad recorded the famous Sohni Mahiwal climax song 'Chaand chhupa aur tare doobe, raat milan ki aayi' penned by Shakeel Badayuni. C. Ramchandra recorded four songs with him for V. Shantaram's Navrang, the songs were, 'Ja re hat natkhat', 'Na raja rahega na rani rahegi', 'Shyamal shyamal baran', 'Aadha hai chandrma raat aadhi'. These songs established Mahendra in the film industry. Noted director B. R. Chopra offered him songs of Dhool Ka Phool and these song proved to be super hits, 'Tere pyar ka aasra chahta hoon' is still remembered and appreciated. The same performance was repeated in B. R. Chopra's next venture Dharamputra and Gumraah. Mahendra won his first Filmfare award for best playback singer for the song 'Chalo ek baar phir se ajnabi ban jaayen hum dono' penned by Sahir Ludhianvi for the film Gumrah. Since then Mahendra Kapoor has never looked back and sung thousands of songs. Who can forget songs like, 'Mere Desh Ki Dharti Sona Ugle'? The song got the National Award for him.

“Kabhi Tanhanyon Mein Yun Hamari Yad Ayegi” (Hamari Yaad Aayegi - 1961)

Mubarak Begum: Some years back, Films Division had made a documentary on her which was premiered in the Goa Film Festival. Her name is taken with deep respect among music lovers even today and they enjoy the songs sung by her till today. She started her career with light music recitals with All India Radio. Her career as a playback singer with Hindi film industry started when she got a break in the movie Aaiye (1949) with the song "Mohe Aane Lagi Angrayi, Aja Aja Balam." She also sang a duet 'Aha Aao Chalen Wahaan' for the same film with the then upcoming Lata Mangeshkar. In the 1950s, apart from singing most of the songs of Phoolon Ke Haar, she sang solos and duets for many other movies, but it was the title song of Kedar Sharma's Hamaari Yaad Aayegi(1961), Kabhi Tanhaaiyon Mein Yun Hamaari Yaad Aayegi which brought her overnight glory. The song, till this day, is regarded as a classic rendition. The Sixties was Mubarak Begum's most successful period of her career when she sang many popular songs like Mujhko Apne Gale Laga Lo (Humrahi), Neend Ud Jaaye Teri Chain Se Sone Waalon (Juaari), Shama Gul Karke Na Ja (Arab Ka Sitara), Nigahon Se Dil Mein Chale Aaiyega (Hamir Hath), Humen Dam Dai Ke Sautan Ghar Jaana (Yeh Dil Kisko Doon), Bemuravvat Bewafa (Sushila), Mere Aansuon Pe Na Muskura (More Man Mitwa), Ankhon Ankhon Mein Har Raat Guzar Jaati Hai (Marvel Man), Itne Kareeb Aake Bhi Kya (Shagun), Ae Dil bata Hum Kahaan Aa Gaye (Khooni Khazana) and Wada Humse Kiye (Saraswati Chandra).

“Beeti Na Beetai Raina” (Parichay - 1972)

Bhupinder: Early in his career, Bhupinder performed on All India Radio, Delhi. He was also attached to the Delhi Doordarshan Center, Delhi. He learnt guitar and violin. In 1964, music director Madan Mohan heard him over AIR, and called him to Bombay. He gave him a chance to sing the song Hoke Majboor Mujhe Usne Bulaya Hoga with Mohammad Rafi in Chetan Anand's Haqeeqat.[1] Although the song was hit, Bhupinder didn't get much recognition. Later, Bhupinder joined Rahul Dev Burman's orchestra and played guitar for many of his popular scores including Dum Maro Dum. He became a good friend of R D Burman, who gave him a chance to sing ' Beeti Na Beetai Raina' in Gulzar's Parichay (1972), which gave him recognition as a singer. Bhupinder sang some more popular songs in Gulzar's movies. Some of these songs included "Dil Dhoondta Hai" from Mausam, "Naam Gum Jayega" and "Ek Akela Is Shaher Mein". Apart from being popular as a playback singer, Bhupinder, along with his wife Maitali, gave very successful live performances in India and abroad.

“Bombai Se Aaya Mera Dost” (Aap Ki Khatir - 1977)

Bappi Lahiri: Pioneer in the use of disco music in Indian cinema with an Indian flavour, Bappi Lahiri, is a renowned singer and music composer of more than 465 national and international films . He has worked with top Hollywood personalities such as MC Hammer, Samantha Fox, Adam Sandler. Recently he made an album called “World Peace Love & Harmony” released in USA from Planet LA records in USA with Grammy nomination. Portions of his song "Thoda Resham Lagta Hai" were included in a 2002 single "Addictive" by American R&B singer Truth Hurts. The first Hindi film for which he composed music was Nanha Shikari (1973). The turning point of his career was Tahir Husain's Hindi film, Zakhmee (1975), for which he composed music and doubled as a playback singer. He sang a duet with Mohammed Rafi and Kishore Kumar called "Nothing Is Impossible" for the same film. The songs of his next film, Chalte Chalte, became hits. However, the song that established him as a singer, besides being a compaser, was 'Bombai se aaya mera dost' from film Aap Ki Khatir (1977).

“Honto Se Chhoo Lo Tum” (Prem Geet - 1981)

Jagjit Singh: Known as "the Ghazal King", he gained acclaim together with his wife, another renowned Indian Ghazal singer Chitra Singh in the 1970s and 1980s. Their combination album comprising music from the films, Arth and Saath Saath is the HMV's largest selling combination album of all time. Sajda (An Offering, 1991), Jagjit Singh's magnum opus double album with Lata Mangeshkar holds the same record in non-film category. Jagjit Singh is considered to be the most successful ghazal singer and composer of all time in terms of both critical acclaim and commercial success. With a career spanning over five decades and a repertoire comprising over 80 albums, the range and breadth of his work has been regarded as genre-defining. Jagjit Singh's work in film encompassed playback singing, after his breakthrough hit song and composition 'Honto se choo lo tum” for Premgeet (1981) followed by another super hit song "Tum Ko Dekha To Yeh Khayal Aaya" (Sath Sath - 1982). He also composed and sang songs for the TV serial Mirza Ghalib that was based on the life of the famous poet, Mirza Ghalib.

Lest there is any doubt amongst my dear readers around the above listed breakthrough songs, I wish to clarify that the blog is not intended to pinpoint the particular singer's best song out of the hundreds and, in some cases, thousands of songs sung by him or her, nor to pick my most favorite out of them, but only to highlight the ones that proved a turning point in their career, just a stepping stone in their jump to stardom. Since many of my readers are Bollywood buffs, may be much bigger than what I boast to be, I would request them for a further feedback on Bollywood's Breakthrough Songs.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Bollywood's Breakthrough Songs

The birth of the Hindi film songs may be traced to the advent of India’s first ‘talkie’, Alam Ara, in 1931,which ushered in the era of singing stars: K.L.Saigal, Surendra, Noorjehan, Suraiya and Khursheed. Their memory may have faded out of many a minds, and even their existence may not be known to the new generations, but what no one can take away is their contribution to Hindi cinema's melodious magic of the 30s and 40s. It was in the late 1940s that the playback singing was introduced. Many notable playback singers came to prominence: Shamshad Begum. Geeta Dutt, Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosle, Manna Dey, Talat Mehmood, Mukesh, Mohammed Rafi and Kishore Kumar. These playback singers and the singing stars of the earlier era, because of their immortal melodies, became legends in their lifetime. Here is looking at the breakthrough songs of the legendary Bollywood singers that became their first step to stardom in film music.

"Balam Aan Baso Mere Man Main" (Devdas - 1935)

K. L. Saigal: Recognized as the greatest singer-actor of the last century, the musical genius 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".

"Birha Ki Aag Lagi More Man Mein"(Deccan Queen - 1935)

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.

"Tu Kaun Si Badli Mei Mere Chand Hei Aaja" (Khandaan – 1942)

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".

"O Door Janewale" (Pyar Ki Jeet - 1942)

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.

"Mohabbat Mei Sara Jahan Jal Raha Hei"(Shahashah Babar - 1944))

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.

“Naina Bhar Aaye Neer” (Humanyun - 1944)

Shamshad Begum: The legendary classical and playback singer of yester years, Shamshad was born in Amritsar. Making her debut in AIR Lahore in 1937, the singer captivated the hearts of listeners with the enchanting depth of her voice. Lahore based composer Ghulam Haider used her voice skillfully in some of his earlier hits like Khazanchi (1941) and Khandan (1942). When he shifted to Mumbai in 1944, Shamshad went with him as member of his team. In 1944 Ghulam Haider used her voice in Mehboob’s Humayun. The song ‘Naina Bhar Aaye Neer’ captured the imagination of the audiences.

“Mera Sunder Sapna Beet Gaya” (o Bhai - 1945)

Geeta Dutt: Geeta Roy came to Mumbai with her parents from East Bengal in 1942 when she was 12-year old. When she was only 15, music director S. D. Burman offered her a solo in Do Bhai. The music of that film clicked in a big way. The biggest hit of the film was ‘Mera Sunder Sapna Beet Gaya’, sung by Geeta Roy. Disc sales of the song rocketed to new heights. This gave Geeta loads of offers and she became the top most playback singer of the Hindi film industry.

“Aayega Aayega Aaega Aanewala” (Mahal - 1949)

Lata Mangeshkar: The most famous name in the history of Hindi film music, Lata Mangeshkar has always been a unique combination of a God-gifted voice and an unbelievable ability to easily pick up and inherit whatever was taught to her by her father, Dinanath Mangeshkar, a reputed classical singer. With established singers like Amirbai Karnataki and Shamshad Begum around, Lata’s thin voice strained. However, leading composer Ghulam Haider reposed faith in Lata and gave her break in Majboor that brought her some attention. But the true efflorescence of Lata’s talent was witnessed in 1949 when she sang super hit songs in back to back three blockbusters: composers Naushad’s Andaz, Shanker-Jaikishan’s Barsaat and Khemchand Prakash’s Mahal. By 1950 the Lata wave had changed the industry.

“Ude Jab Jab Zulfein Teri (Naya Daur - 1957)

Asha Bhosle: The most versatile singer of Hindi films, Asha Bhosle can boast of having worked extensively with trend setting composers across three generations, from O. P. Nayyar’s breezy, foot-taping ditties of the 1950s to R. D. Burman’s pop blitzkrieg in the 1970s to A. R. Rahman’s sensational contemporary rhythms. She sang one of Hindi cinema’s first rock and roll numbers, ‘Eina Meen Deeka’ way back in 50s. Asha made her playback debut in 1948 with the film Chunaria, but it took her long time to make it to the top. 1957 was her real breakthrough year when O. P. Nayyar used her voice to sing in Tumsa Nahin Dekha and Naya Daur, both movies turning blockbuster musicals. Music director O. P. Nayyar's association with Asha is part of Bollywood lore. He was the composer who first gave Asha her own identity. He first called her for a film called Mangu (1954), and gave her a big break in CID (1956). However, it was the success of Naya Daur (1957), that made the duo very popular. O.P. Nayyar used the Asha Bhosle-Mohammad Rafi duo for his most popular duets such as Ude jab jab zulfein teri (Naya Daur), which gave Asha the biggest break in her career.

“Kaun Aaya Mere Man Ke Dware” (Dekh Kabira Roya - 1957)

Manna Dey: A legendary singer whose singing career spanned over five decades, Manna Dey is a versatile genius. Manna Dey was initially groomed to be a music director under the mesmeric spell of his illustrious uncle K. C. Dey and composer Anil Biswas. But a song that Dey sang for the film Ram Rajya changed everybody’s opinion about his vocation. They all said he was better off as a singer. There was no looking back after that. Although he never quite got the success that contemporaries Mohammed Rafi, Mukesh and later Kishore Kumar achieved, Manna Dey went on to record several unforgettable numbers. Notable among them are: ‘Kaun Aaya Mere Man Ke Dware’, Tu Pyar Ka Sagar Hei’, ‘Upar Gagan Vishal’, ‘Yeh Ishq Ishq Hei Ishq’, Pyar Hua Ikrar Hua’, Ae Bhai Zara Dekh Ke chal’, ‘Aaja Sanam’, ‘Ae Meri Zohra Zabin and ‘Aye Mere Pyare Watan’. And who could forget the ‘Ek Chatur Naar’ duet with Kishore Kumar in Padosan?

“Ae Dil Mujhe Aisi Jagah Le Chal” (Arzoo - 1950)

Talat Mehmood: When melody ruled the roost in the Hindi film world, Talat remained the number one singer in the 1950s. He was totally identified with Dilip Kumar (Babul, Daag, Tarana, Footpath, Sangdil, Shikast), sang for Raj Kapoor (Ashiana, Anhonee), Dev Anand (Taxi Driver) and V. Shantaram (Parchain, Subah Ka Tara). Every music director including Shanker-Jaikishan, C. Ramchandra, Roshan, Ghulam Mohammed and Madan Mohan sought him after. Both Naushad and Anil Biswas claimed credit for discovering Talat in the 1950-releases, Babul and Arzoo. The next five to seven years found Talat zooming to the top with an enviable score of hits – ‘Ae Dil Mujhe Aisi Jagah Le Chal’(Arzoo), ‘Mera Jeevan Sathi Bichad Gaya (Babul), ‘Meri Yaad Mein Tum Na Aansoo Bahana’ (Anhonee), ‘Mein Pagal Mera Manua Pagal’ (Ashiana), ‘Ae Mere Dil Kahin Aur Chal’ (Daag), ‘Tera Khayal Dil Se’ (Do Raha), ‘Andhe Jahan Ke Andhe Raaste’ (Patita), ‘Jayen To Jayen Kahan’ (Taxi Driver), ‘Jalte Hein Jis Ke Liye’ (Sujata) and several more super hit songs.

“Dil Jalta Hai To Jalne De” (Pehli Nazar - 1945)

Mukesh: Bitten by the Bombay bug, Mukesh arrived in Bombay with the hope of becoming a movie star. He stayed with his relative, the famous actor Motilal. With Motilal’s help he got a role as an actor. His debut as a singer, however, came in the film Nirdosh with the song, ‘Dil Hei Bujha Hua’. He later went on to sing the song ‘Badariya Baras Gayee Us Paar’ with Khursheed in the film Moorti. Then came an important milestone in his life. The year was 1945 and Anil Biswas asked him to record the song ‘Dil Jalta Hai To Jalne De’ for the film Pehli Nazar. That song brought a still relatively unknown Mukesh to the altar of fame. A legend was born and in the coming decades his golden voice would be heard in songs from musical hits like Aag, Andaaz, Barsaat, Mela across the nation. In 1949 came another milestone in his life – his association with Raj Kapoor and Shanker-Jaikishan. The chart-bursting success of the music in films like Awaara and Shri 420 spread Mukesh’s popularity all the way to Russia where in the streets of Moscow you could hear people singing ‘Awara Hoon’ and ‘Mera Joota Hei Japani’.

“Suhani Raat Dhal Chuki” (Dulari - 1949)

Mohammed Rafi: Born in Amritsar, Mohammed Rafi moved to Mumbai in 1944 after taking lessons in music from Ustad Wahid Khan in Lahore. Naushad gave him his first break in Pehle Aap (1944). He made his mark with Naushad-composed ‘Tera Khilona Toota Balak’ in Anmol Ghadi (1946). Rafi’s first big hit was in Jugnu (1947) in which he sang the duet ‘Yahan Badla Wafa Ka Bewafai Ke Siva Kya Hai’ with Noorjehan. His career took off with the all-time hit ‘Suhani Raat Dhal Chuki’ (Dulari-1949). There was no looking back after that and Rafi ruled as the undisputed king of playback singing till the early 70s.

“Roop Tera Mastana” (Aradhna - 1970)

Kishore Kumar: The versatile genius, Kishore Kumar nurtured dreams of becoming a singer following the footsteps of his idol, the legendary singer K. L. Saigal. He frequently visited his famous star brother Ashok Kumar in Mumbai from Khandwa, his birthplace, in the hope that he would introduce him to K. L. Saigal. But destiny willed otherwise. He was forced into acting – a hero who was as much a comedian. But Kishore Kumar’s real ambition was to become a playback singer, which became true when music director Khemchand Prakash called him to lend his voice for Dev Anand in Ziddi (1948). However, Kishore gave credit for his popularity to Burmans – father and son. It was S. D. Burman who made Kishore Kumar, the superstar singer of the 70s when he chose him to sing ‘Roop Tera Mastana’ for Rajesh Khanna in Aradhna.

Paying tribute to singing stars and the superstar playback singers cannot be complete without applauding other melodious voices of the Hindi cinema who also sang some immortal songs in the early era: Amirbai Karnatki - “Ab Tere Siva Kaun Mera” (Kismet), Zohrabai - “Ankhia Mila Ke Jiya Bharma Ke” (Rattan) , Raj Kumari - "Ghabra Kai Jou Hum Sar Kou Takrayien” (Mahal), G.M.Durrani - “ Neend Hamaari Khwab Tumhaare” (Nai Kahani), Hemant Kumar - “Ye Raat Ye Chandni Phir Kahan” (Jaa), Mubarak Begum - “Kabhi Tanhaayon Mein Yun Hamari Yaad Ayegi” (Hamari Yaad Aayegi), Bhupinder - “Beeti Naa Bitai Raina (Parichay), C. H. Atma - “Roun Mein Sagar Ke Kinare” (Nagina), Bhappi Lehri - "Yaar Bina Chain Kahan Re" (Saaheb) and the gazal king Jagjit Singh - "Hontho Se Chhoo Lo Tum" (Prem Geet). They too deserve more details on their melodies, which I hope to post soon as Part-2 of this blog.

The new millennium playback singers are no less praiseworthy for their continuing contribution to the treasure of the most beautiful Bollywood melodies. It is because of them that the era of musicals is here again: Kumar Shanu, Udit Narayan, Shan, Sonu Nigam, Sukhvindar, Sunidhi Chowhan, Alka Yagnik, Shreya Ghoshal, Alisha Chenoy and many more amazing discoveries by the day, who continue to give Midas touch to movies with their haunting melodies. Since they have been in news right from the day they rendered their first super hit songs to till date rise to fame, I have skipped their songs in this blog of Bollywood's Breakthrough Songs.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Bollywood's Behind-the-Scene Stories

Movie Stars and models don't look the same in "real life". One of the small comforts of watching a movie is knowing that those actors might be idols up on the big screen, but off-camera they're probably just like the rest of us. Every now and then, we come across actors whose real lives are even more incredible than their fake ones. Lights, camera, romance! It's no surprise that actors who have chemistry on-screen find themselves falling in love in real life too. But few stars enjoy fairy-tale endings depicted in their films. Breaking up is hard to do, even if you're rich and famous. They've entertained us for hours on end, but how much sad they have been inside is sometimes unimaginable. Normal occurrences begin to take on magical properties. There are moments in their life that deviate from the ordinary. Some such moments or happenings that occurred in the life of some legendary stars are shared here:

Sitara Devi – returns to her first love, Kathak!

Sitara Devi is an eminent Indian dancer of the classical Kathak style of dancing. When she was in her teens, Rabindranath Tagore, after watching a performance by her described her as Nritya Samragini, meaning, the empress of dance. The epithet continues, and she is still described as the Kathak queen. She has given performances in several parts of India, and in several other countries, including at the Royal Albert Hall, London; and the Carnegie Hall, New York. But quite a contradictory chapter in her life came to light that recorded her ravenous sexual exploits with her leading men in Bollywood. She came to marry one of her heroes Al Nazir and for a few years, their sizzling bedtime chemistry kept the relationship steady. And guess who was secretly privy to some of these vigorous love sessions–none other than Nazir's nephew, K Asif, recognized for his masterpiece Mughal-e-Azam. He not only went on to marry Sitara Devi but also used her dancing skills in some of his films. However, her married life with Asif was not smooth, and she walked out of the wedlock and married Pratap Barot. Even this marriage failed and left her to live with her first love, Kathak. Interestingly, she refused to accept the Padma Bhushan award, declaring, "it is an insult, not an honor. Is this government not aware of my contribution to Kathak? I will not accept any award less than Bharat Ratna."

Suraiya – enough of snake bite!

Why Suraiya, the most popular singing star of 40s and early 50s, refused to work with Dilip Kumar, the all-time biggest star of Bollywood? Was it because of Dev Anand, like Nargis too walked out of some films starring Dilip Kumar because of Raj Kapoor? Or was it because Dilip Kumar was known for his rude behavior? He said to Nadira that she was the most despicable creature he ever met on the sets of Aan, and was she afraid he might not make a similar comment about her? No, none of these was the reason. Actually, her refusal was entirely for a different reason and very valid too. It happened when Suraiya was passing through a bad phase of her career facing back to back failures. When any producer went to Suraiya's house even on a social visit, her granny would beg him to give Suraiya too a 'Silver Jubilee'. During those days Dilip Kumar and K. Asif were famous for their friendship. Dilip Kumar had already worked with K. Asif in Hulchul. Dilip asked Asif to consider casting Suraiya with him next time. Accordingly, Asif announced his next film titled Janwar with Dilip Kumar and Suraiya in the lead. The shooting started with a scene in which a snake bites on Suraiya's leg and Dilip Kumar tries to suck the venom with his mouth. The scene kept on being rehearsed for four days and still Asif, the director, did not OK it. Suraiya then suspected something fishy going on in Dilip licking her leg for all these days in the garb of shooting that scene. She mentioned this to her granny who was infamous for being overprotective of Suraiya. What followed was the obvious. Next day when the same scene was being rehearsed, Suraiya pulled away her leg and walked out of the film. K. Asif not only cancelled the shooting but shelved the film too. Dilip Kumar and Suraiya, the two big stars of the era, never appeared together in any film thereafter.

Shobhana Samarth – plane load of 'love you' notes for the screen goddess!

legendary beauty, actress of yesteryear, mother of Nutan and Tanuja, grandmother of Kajol and Mohnish Behl, she was at the head of a family that produced filmstars for three generations. In her heyday, Shobhana was often referred to as a beauty par excellence. When she starred as Sita in Vijay Bhatt's famous classic, Ram Rajya (1943), along with Prem Adip as Ram, the pair's performance was so evocative that they became the eternal Ram and Sita in the audience's minds. In fact, people felt they were no actors enacting the Ramayana characters, but real Ram and Sita had incarnated to act in the movie. They were literally worshipped wherever they went together to promote the film, which was a huge hit. People even had their posters and pictures installed in their homes to worship and pray. Undoubtedly, they would have been flooded with offers to work together in many more movies, especially mythological, but it did not happen. Shobhana Samarth, the most unconventional actress of her time, was not available as she got deeply involved in relationship with her co-star of many films and the famous actor, Motilal. It was one of the most tempestuous relationships ever. Although a thorough gentleman, he enjoyed gambling, races and alcohol, which resulted in financial strains and frequent fights between the couple. Quoting Samrath: “We were forever fighting -- out of 365 days, we would fight 360 days. He reacted by drinking -- he had to drink because we had had a fight and he had to drink because we were happy. When I decided to quit Bombay and live in Lonavala, he objected. I went anyway. He had a flying license and he hired a plane and flew over my cottage, throwing stones with letters tied to them saying 'I love you.”

Sadhona Bose – the Court Dancer seen dancing on streets of Kolkatta!

Sadhona Bose, apart from being the legendary dancer, an ace choreographer and superb actress, was also an accomplished singer. Sadhona married Madhu Bose, film maker working in Bengal, at a young age, and joined the Calcutta Art Players, a theatrical company owned by husband Modhu Bose and took part as heroine in the plays produced by the unit, apart from acting in his films. Madhu and Sadhona was the golden pair of the Bengali Film Industry. However, her married life was not happy and she moved to Mumbai, the mecca of Hindi movies. Here she starred in major films like Raj Nartaki (Court Dancer – English version), Shankar Parvati, Vishkanya, Paigham and others and firmly established herself as a heroine in her own right without the backing of husband Modhu Bose. In fact they had fallen quite apart in the forties when she was instantly attracted towards Surendra, the tall, handsome, highly accomplished super singing star of the era and her co-star in Paigam and Vishkanya. They continuously worked together for nearly two years as lovers in back to back shooting schedule of the two movies. Their on screen chemistry was highly applauded, apart from the duets sung by them for both the films becoming quite popular. This made them the perfect and the most popular movie pair of the period. It was, therefore, not surprising that they became close friends and continued to see each other even after the movies were completed and released. Sadhona started to feel deeply in love with Surendra, the most eligible bachelor then, and was ready to spend the rest of her life with him. But unfortunately for her, he was not ready for this union. In the course of his exclusive interview, the star confided to a film critic that although he admired many of his co-stars, as far as marriage was concerned, he had made up his mind to marry a woman who must be from outside of the glamor world of films, and who as an outright traditional housewife, should be able to totally devote herself to their home and the children, when the time came. True to his word, he had an arranged marriage with a girl from the non-glamor world of Lahore in 1945. The news of his marriage was too shocking for Sadhona and she started living much too abandoned a life, heavily engaged in drinks. She passed into oblivion slowly. Even in retired life she could not part with the bottle and without any income worth the name she found herself in the most difficult conditions financially. She lost her husband in 1969 and had no money to sustain herself and thereafter came the greatest tragic period of her life when she had to resort to begging in the streets, in and around Park Street of Calcutta. Just before her death she got appointed as dance trainer in Calcutta's prestigious Star Theatre, and once again her name featured in the newspapers. However, the end had come very near and she passed away in September,1973. A very tragic and unfortunate way indeed for an all India star who at a time had captured the heart and imagination of millions.

Meena Kumari - the poetess par excellence!

Meena Kumari can be considered as the greatest actress of Bollywood during the golden age. There was something mystical about the legendary Meena Kumari. It's probably those eloquent eyes and oomphy body language. But ultimately, the fact is that she was extremely attractive and seemed to bring grace to whatever films she did. She had portrayed images and characters showing complexity of the mind of the Indian women and the social ostentations that they had faced during different periods of time. Not only she was the Queen of Tragedy in reel life but was so also in real life. The dominant strain in Meena Kumari’s life was love, or rather the impossibility of finding love. And it would be true to say that she looked and searched, wept and cried in its pursuit. "In fact,” she said,” love is my biggest weakness-and greatest strength too. I am in love with love. I am craving for love. I have been craving for it since my childhood.” We all know she was unsuccessful. Though not amongst the famous poets, she was the poetess par excellence, who translated her life into verse. Her verses were entirely in character with her life:

“aagaaz to hotaa hai anjaam nahiin hotaa
jab merii kahaanii men vo naam nahiin hotaa
jab zulf kii kaalik men ghul jaaye koii rahii
badanaam sahii lekin gumanaam nahiin hotaa
hans hans ke javaan dil ke ham kyon na chune tukare
har shakhs kii qismat men inaam nahiin hotaa
din duube hai yaa duubii baaraat liye kishtii
saahil pe magar koii koharaam nahiin hotaa “

Sensitive and cheerful Meena Kumari fell in love after she met Kamal Amrohi on the sets of a film and she was head over heels for him as she herself has written about Kamal Amrohi-

“Dil saa jab saathi paya
Bechaini bhi woh saath le aaya.”

Her marriage with Kamal Amrohi had turned sour and resulted into separation and divorce in 1964. This event shaped her personal life also. The once very happy Meena Kumari turned into the epitome of tragedy in a short time when she took refuge in alcohol (and poetry). She herself has expressed her sorrows and miseries in many places and most importantly in her poetry which is the best reflection of her feelings. The same person who wrote beautiful poetry about Kamal Amrohi said-

“Tum kya karoge sunkar mujhse meri kahani,
Belutf zindagi ke kisse hain pheeke pheeke!”

And at the time of divorce she had said-

“Talaak to de rahe ho
Nazre Kahar ke saath
Jawani bhi meri lauta do
Mehar ke saath”

Life was never the same again and she was probably the saddest person as she could not stabilize later on in her life. It is known that Meena Kumari liked tragedy and wanted to lose herself into it, which she did so often. She could cry at any moment without any aids. We never know but probably she enjoyed it and wanted to be just tragic, enjoying every moment of it and finally turned her own life into a tragic story!

It seems like celebrity news is everywhere these days, from tabloids to mainstream media to reality news shows, but it exists because we love to hear about what they do and why they do it. Sometimes the things they did were very quirky, amusing and downright shocking.The internet is full of stories about Bollywood stars; you may find these in leading websites such as, Wikipedia, internet movie database,...These stories about our acting "nobility" are quite down to earth. Some (actually many) are extremely funny, others rather whimsical and a few sort of down right sad. Being a great fan of Bollywood films and filmstars, I am often enthralled with all the accounts of some of the celebrities we have come to know and love as legends, but most importantly, what we come to realize is that they were just people trying to live their lives as only they could. Depending on readers' response, I would love to share some more anecdotes in Bollywood's behind-the-scene stories.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Bollywood's Biggest Breakups

Onscreen chemistry of co-stars creates a professional bond and produces an under current of romantic relationship. This is achieved when the players pour their hearts into the roles while doing a romantic scene. When the artistic aspect overtakes clinical professionalism of the actors, the magic of the moment is applauded by the audiences. Bollywood celebrates another blockbuster and also birth of another popular pair. But unfortunately not all relationships work, especially in the world of cinema where temptations to go astray are tremendous. Bollywood with all its external shows of pomp and glamour has often felt its vulnerable spell. Twists and turns in real life relations of stars throw up in its trail, spates of disappointments, heartburns, and tales of woe and pangs of separation. Let us take a walk down the more dreary memory lane to count down Bollywood's most heart breaking breakups:

Devika Rani / Najmul Hasan

She was the First Lady of Hindi Cinema. He, the most handsome hero of his time. They were brought together by Himanshu Rai, the producer and founder of Bombay Talkies, for the studio's first production Jawani Ki Hawa (1935). The film was unique in that it was shot entirely on board a train as it chugged along between Bombay and Lonawala, a picturesque hill station. The journey proved momentous. Things got so steamy en route between the young Devika Rani and her hero Najmul Hasan, that he had decided to pull way the leading lady from the celluloid world to the real one. Impressed by their onscreen chemistry, Rai repeated the popular pair in his next production Jeevan Nayya (1936), but before long, in a fit of passion, the two eloped when the new film they were making had just gone on the floor and only a few scenes had been shot. When Najmul Hasan ran off with Devika Rani, the entire Bombay Talkies was in turmoil. However, the worst affected and the most worried man at Bombay Talkies was Himanshu Rai, Devika Rani's husband and the heart and soul of the company. An enraged Rai somehow managed to bring her back, but Hasan was given the boot. And he called upon his laboratory assistant Ashok Kumar to take the leading man's part in the film and thus began a six-decade-long acting career for that actor.

Nargis / Raj Kapoor

He was the greatest showman known to Indian films, she was amongst the greatest leading ladies of all times, together they made a pair that had chemistry hitherto unseen on Indian screen. Whenever they came together on screen, sparks flew. Their chemistry was electrifying. The passion that each had for the other poured out on the screen as they performed in several films, many of them super hits (Aag, Andaz, Barsaat, Awaara, Anhonee Shree 420, Chori Chori etc). The raw passion between them in Barsaat drove audiences wild. The song 'Pyar Hua Ikrar Hua' from Shree 420 (1955) with Nargis and Raj Kapoor under the umbrella in heavy rain was romance at its heighest. The most popular romantic team in history of Bollywood played it cool for nearly eight years before they split up - Nargis leaving him to marry Sunil Dutt. Chori Chori (1956), a breezy entertainer, being their last film together, although she appeared for old time's sake in the last scene of Raj Kapoor's classic Jagte Raho.

Suraiya / Dev Anand

The pair became famous for their off-screen romance rather than on-screen. Suraiya met Dev Anand during the shooting of Vidya. She was then an established singing star and he, a raw new comer, but she found him 'cultured and handsome'. It was during the shooting of a song their boat capsized and Dev Anand saved Suraiya from drowning. Suraiya fell in love with her reel and real life hero. Their films together may not have been great hits except Vidya (1948), Jeet (1949) and Afsar (1949), but they had no regrets as their love flourished and their love story was the talk of the nation. The lore has it that Dev Anad proposed to her at the Taj Mahal, putting a diamond ring to her finger. But hell broke loose at her home as her grandmother discovered the ring and threw it into the sea. Her grandmother and uncle threatened to get Dev Anand arrested or killed, and brainwashed Suraiya to believe that if she married Dev Anand, Hindu Muslim riots would breakout. Fearing for Dev's safety, she took the decision to drop out from the relationship. The episode sealed their fate to work together again.

Madhubala / Dilip Kumar

She was the icon of Hindi films and he the king of tragedies. When the two starred together for the first time in Tarana (1951), their pairing on and off screen went on to become the most legendary love affair of Indian cinema. It was an affair of melodramatic proportions, worthy of the best of Bollywood scripts. Their stormy relationship lasted about eight years, though the pair continued to pine for each other even after their tragic break-up in 1957, involving a courtroom drama in which Dilip Kumar, standing in the witness box, declared, "I love this woman and shall love her till my dying day." K. Asif's epic, Moghal-E-Azam (1960), their last movie together, took incredible 10 years to complete from the year 1950 to 1960. By the end of the filming, the pair had already gone through their break-up, as if their real life romance was imitating their reel life tragedy. The only difference being the reversal of role of the father - in real life drama it was Madhubala's father, who ruled her every move with an iron hand, that did not let the lovers unite at the end. In-spite of all the emotional upheaval in the pair's lives, their acting excellence made Mughal-E-Azam an all time unsurpassed epic of love story.

Guru Dutt / Geeta Dutt

He was cinematic genius. She a talented singer. He an admirer of Bengali culture. She a Bengali by birth. It was natural that the two would fall in love and then marry. Marriage and two children later, the marriage hit a road block. Many say that Waheeda Rehman was the reason. The director was smitten completely by this embodiment of classic beauty. Guru Dutt had discovered Waheeda Rehman and had made her his muse as they starred in a string of movies - Pyaasa (1957), Kagaz Ke Phool (1959), Kala Bazar (1960), Chaudhvin Ka Chand (1960) and Sahib Biwi Ghulam (1962). The onscreen lovers were involved in one of Bollywood's great real life love tragedies. The one-sided romance, failures at box office (Kaagaz ke Phool & Pyaasa - both were his labors of love) led to his end and the end of his married life. At the time of his death, he was separated from wife Geeta Dutt and Waheeda Rehman had distanced herself from him. Dutt felt as if at a crucification. An air of loss and mystery continues to shroud Guru Dutt's premature death in 1964 from an overdose of sleeping pills.

Dimple Kapadia / Rajesh Khanna

He was truly the only super star the country has known. Rajesh Khanna broke many-a-hearts when he tied the knot with the 'Bobby beauty' Dimple Kapadia. It couldn't have been better matched-she a wonder-eyed 16 year old tasting success for the first time in her life and he a superstar keen on settling down. The young teen star was swept off her feet when the charming Khanna, the heartthrob of millions, dramatically threw Rishi Kapoor’s ring into the sea and proposed marriage. The spontaneous 'Yes' from Dimple and the wedding bells ranged on 27-Mar-1973. At the same moment there was the sudden end to the champagne-and-roses affair that Rajesh Khanna had with Anju Manendru for seven long years. When Dimple came into Rajesh Khanna’s life, little did she know that she would have to bear the brunt of the casualties in his first affair. From childhood she was roughly jerked into adulthood. The marriage went wrong from the very beginning. Dimple was so awestruck by her superstar husband, that she was totally subjugated and robbed of the confidence to behave in a natural manner. She wore what he liked and mixed with the people he approved of. 'It was always his approval that mattered', Says Dimple. Things became worse, when Rajesh Khanna’s films started flopping. He became more rigid and withdrew into his shell. If Anju couldn’t cope with his success, Dimple couldn’t cope with his failure. And separation was the only way out. Till date, they live separately, both unmarried but they keep in touch and support each other because of the bond of their daughter.

Rakhi / Gulzar

Rakhi Gulzar married when they were at the height of their career. Rakhee was a leading heroine working with the top banners and Gulzar was one of the few directors of that era whose films earned him both; commercial success and critical acclaim. This was his first marriage and Rakhee's second marriage. They became one of the biggest celebrity couples of Bollywood, Gulzar having the distinction of being a versatile composer, poet, filmmaker and writer and Rakhi, blessed with excellent acting talent, considered the most successful professional in real life, while she also proved to be a passionate lover, a woman in charge and a real mother. But within a couple of years of marriage they split up and they still live separately. According to rumors, Rakhee didn't want to give up her career after marriage and Gulzar wanted her to be a housewife. Yet another faction insists they broke up because Gulzar signed her arch-rival Sharmila Tagore for Mausam. Neither of them has cared to remarry but they still live separately. Rakhi and Gulzar have said that their daughter Meghna could not accept their break-up and, therefore, they never got a divorce. Mid way through 'Because He Is', writer Meghna Gulzar brings to readers some of these lines written by her father which have never been published:
'sheher ki bijli gayi
band kamre mein bahot der talak kuchh bhi dikhai na diya
tum gayi theen jis din
us roz bhi aisa hi hua tha'
And you instantly know that it is only a daughter who could have unearthed the true feelings of her father - the pain of separation from his wife Rakhee, the woman whom Gulzar calls as 'The Longest Short Story Of My Life...'.

Babita / Randhir Kapoor

He was the Kapoor khandan scion and she an upcoming actress. Randhir Kapoor and Babita did several films together before deciding to tie the knot. The marriage produced 2 children: Karisma Kapoor and Kareena Kapoor. After the birth of their daughters, their relationship was under strain and finally after a few years, breaking all convention, Babita decided to walk out of the Kapoor household along with her two daughters, Karisma and Kareena. Reportedly, Babita could not cope with the larger-than-life figure of Randhir's father and filmmaker Raj Kapoor over his life. Her insistence that their daughters act in films created a distance from the Kapoor clan. Raj Kapoor had famously declared that no Kapoor woman would appear in movies, and both Babita and her sister-in-law, Rishi Kapoor’s wife Neetu, abandoned their acting careers after they got married. However, Babita, who industry insiders recognize as a woman with both ambition and acumen, decided that her daughters would be as famous as their uncles. Kareena Kapoor was in school when her sister Karisma began acting, and as soon as Kareena could, she too started taking steps towards stardom. Though Randhir Kapoor and Babita never divorced, they never ever stayed together either. Decades later, Randhir Kapoor and Babita continue to remain husband and wife, though leading separate lives. Randhir Kapoor believes in the sanctity of marriage. He has always said that she is the mother of their daughters.

Although we are use to seeing short lived relationships in Bollywood spotlight, there are always times where none of us expected a breakup or the reason behind it with certain couples. Whether it’s because they have been together forever or if it’s because they just look so good together, sometimes we are caught off guard from what seems to be the perfect relationship. Sometimes even the most seemingly rock solid celebrity couples just can't make it work and unfortunately there were many star-studded breakups that shocked us in recent years: Amrita Singh/ Saif Ali, Aishwarya Rai/ Salman Khan, Rhea Pillai/ Sanjay Dutt, Ravina Tandon/ Akshay Kumar, Karisma Kapoor/Abhishek Bachchan, Reena Dutta/ Amir Khan, Kareena Kapoor/ Shahid Kapoor, Katrina Kaif/ Salman Khan, Preity Zinta/ Ness Wadia, Priyanka Chopra/ Harman Baweja, Sushmita Sen/ Randeep Hooda and the last but not the least, Bipasha Basu/ John Abraham. As much their romance was heart warming, their breakup was heart breaking. Their interesting though tragic love stories leave scope for a sequel, which I hope to post sometime soon as Part 2 of Bollywood's Biggest Breakups.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Finest 15 Anti-heroines!

Kudos to the biggest leading ladies of Bollywood for totally demolishing the doubt in the mind of most heroines who earlier hesitated to portray negative character as they feared that they might not typecast in this particular category and won't get acceptance in lead roles. Now they are all clamoring to be cast in negative roles. Here is 'hats off' to the finest amongst such stars who have given award winning performance in negative roles, applauded by the critics and audience alike:

Durga Khote/ Amar Jyoti (1937)

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. The adventure classic features Durga Khote in the most memorable role as the Pirate Queen. Faced with extreme patriarchel laws in an ancient seaport kingdom and denied the legal custody of her infant son, Saudamini (Durga Khote) becomes a pirate and declares war on the state. Shantaram directs this action-packed adventure film with an unusual feminist twist. It is a rare Prabhat film with stunts and action. Amar Jyoti has the distinction of being the first Indian film to be screened at the Venice Film Festival.

Waheeda Rehman / C.I.D. (1956)

Waheeda Rehman makes a stunning Hindi film debut in the film as a vamp. After a network of phone calls, the editor of the Times of India is murdered and Inspector Shekhar (Dev Anand) of the CID brought in to investigate. Aided by Master (Johnny Walker), Shekhar captures the murderer but is then taken to see a mysterious woman who warns him not to pursue his investigation further. The person who offers the bribe is Kamini (Waheeda Rehman). She spikes the drink offered to Shekhar, intoxicates him, and the gang leaves him on the street. She scores highly in the film particularly in the sequences where she tries to bribe Dev Anand or in the song Kahin Pe Nigahen Kahin Pe Nishana as she tries to seduce the villain and allow the hero to escape revealing her extraordinary facial mobility and dancer's grace. This was Waheeda’s debut in Hindi films and she is presented as an image of total female beauty. She would have a long career as a major star, first as a romantic heroine over two decades, then playing older characters. CID remains one of the best crime thrillers made in Hindi Cinema and was a huge success at the box- office.

Vyjayanthimala / Devta (1956)

Vyjayanthimala was one the biggest Bollywood stars in a career lasting almost two decades. She was also referred as one of the first female Superstars of Hindi cinema and was known as "Numero Uno actress" for her "illustrious career in 1950s and 1960s". In the year 1956, she acted in swashbuckler film Devta which was a remake of a hugely successful Tamil film Kanavaney Kankanda Deivam. Surprisingly though, she accepted a supporting role as a vamp which was originally done by Lalitha in the Tamil version. However, her role was very crucial in the film and her portrayal as the Naag Rani accompanied by her dance is the main attraction of the film. Also starring in the movie, reprising their lead roles from the original, were Gemini Ganesan and Anjali Devi.

Nanda / Ittefaq (1969)

Ittefaq, a remake of the British film Signpost to Murder (1965), is a superb crime thriller, starring Nanda in a negative role. With the police hot on his heels, Dilip (Rajesh Khanna), a mentally deranged killer, gatecrashes into a mansion inhabited by a housewife Rekha (Nanda) and holds her at gunpoint. For the next couple of reels, the film escalates the tension to fever pitch as the overtly sexy Rekha tries to free herself from Dilip's grip till Dilip discovers her husband's body in the bathtub. In a high-strung climax, the police break into Rekha's house to find Dilip and Rekha exchanging a flurry of allegations. A nail-biting battle of wits ensues. The film became a "semi-hit" at the box office and earned Filmfare Best Actress nomination for Nanda. The combative spirit between a seasoned performer like Nanda and the keen-to-prove himself novice Rajesh Khanna gives the film an edge. Nanda is the spellbinder here. Her character seems to be constantly in a state of emotional meltdown and she conveys it with a carefully controlled performance.

Hema Malini / Lal Patthar (1971)

She may be Bollywood's Dream Girl, but she proved to be a terrific villain in Lal Patthar. In the movie, Hema played Rajkumar's first wife, who displays her revengeful streak when he brings home another bride (Raakhee).In the film there is a regal splendor to Hema Malini in the scene where she stands menacingly next to a mounted tiger in the mansion. She is Madhuri, the unlettered, wild tribal woman, who the zamindar has tried playing Pygmalion to. When it’s apparent that she just wouldn’t do, he brings home a second wife. Madhuri is livid and doesn’t fall into the usual regressive mode of the proverbial sacrificial lamb. She calls him out on his double standards as a man, taunts him and berates him. The script does paint her as something of a virago but Hema Malini invests this character with a screen presence that makes her almost an elemental tigress of sorts.

Reena Roy / Nagin (1976)

The snake myth, which is prevalent all over India, is portrayed in this dramatic thriller. The legend says that it is fatal to injure or kill one of pair of mating cobras, because the surviving mate will pursue the killer to death and will not rest till it has its revenge. In this film, a pair of mating cobras, who have the power to transform themselves into human beings (Jeetendra and Reena Roy), are attacked by a group of hunters. The male is killed and the female vows that she will not rest unless each one of the killers is eliminated. How she murders them, one by one, forms the plot of this eerie thriller. A great thing about this film is the fierceness Reena Roy brought to the role of Nagin, so much attitude, spunkiness and fierceness in the very sense of the word no actress could have played the role better. The film became a huge hit, and Reena received her first Filmfare nomination as Best Actress.

Simi Garewal / Karz (1980)

Karz is a story that moves across two lifetimes. Monty, a heart-throb pop singer, discovers that in the past lifetime, he was murdered and duped of his empire of tea estates by his own wife. 25 years later, he encounters the murderer and a thrilling saga of karma and revenge follows. A feat of perfect casting was Simi Garewal, who made a strong impression in her role of Kamini Verma, the murderous wife from the past life, which won her a Filmfare nomination. The movie, which also featured Rishi Kapoor, got a stylish twist when Simi Garewal killed her on-screen husband within the first 15 minutes. The actress looked super glam in the various avatars that she donned through the movie. The film became the ninth highest grosser of the year, and declared a "Semi Hit" at the Indian Box Office.

Rekha / Khiladiyon ka Khiladi (1996)

Khiladiyon Ka Khiladi is about the deadly game of survival in a ruthless world of crime and sleaze. A criminal don, Maya, hosts illegal wrestling matches in the U.S. and has the full support of the American Police Commissioner. In this movie, Rekha played a female don who rules the underworld in a foreign country, but becomes weak when she meets the young Akshay Kumar, who incidentally has fallen in love with her younger sister, played by Raveena Tandon. This movie also makes it into the list of the top five commercial movies that Rekha has acted in. Rekha was nominated for best performance in a negative role for this movie, and she played the role pretty well. Playing the female don, she put on the right amount of sensuousness and badness to make the movie much more viewable than would have been.

Kajol / Gupt (1998)

Who could've guessed that the much-loved Simran from Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge could kill people without batting an eyelid. Kajol went on a killing spree in Gupt. She played jealous, unsecured, possessive lover who can go to any extent for her love. The versatile actress not only broke the trend of playing only gentle and positive role in films., but also played the negative character flawless and superbly. She also became a trendsetter by becaming the first female actor to be nominated in the category of negative role and win the Filmfare Award in 1998, along with many other awards she received for this role.

Urmila Matondkar / Pyaar Tune Kya Kiya (2002)

Be it Pyaar Tune Kya Kiya or the remake of Karz , Urmila Matondkar has always relished playing the bad girl. Of course, Pyaar Tune Kya Kiya was a far more interesting role. It had the glam gal falling for a charming photographer. However, all hell breaks loose when she gets to know that he is already married.Though the film 'Pyar Tune Kiya Kya' did not open well at the box office, the performance of Urmila Matondkar was well appreciated. She was nominated for Filmfare best villain award and was also nominated for the best actress in 2002.

Shabana Azmi / Makdee (2002)

'Makdee' is a gritty horror thriller that is likely to send a chill down the spine of many a young viewers. Shabana Azmi plays a bad-ass witch who is all out to kidnap little kids and keep them in a small cave. Of course, since the movie was for kids and wanted them not to believe in witches, it was eventually found out that the witch was just someone from a gang of thieves that used the cave as their hideout and did not want the villagers to find out about it. However, Shabana Azmi was in crackling form as the witch, as well as the gang leader. The role was not just mentally, but also physically strenuous for Shabana Azmi, because she had to put up a lot of prosthetic makeup for the role. The film, directed by Vishal Bhardwaj, won the second prize at the Chicago International Children's film festival.

Preity Zinta / Armaan (2003)

Armaan was a highly anticipated 2003 release mainly due to its cast. On its release, the film's production and performances were lavishly praised. Most of the praise was directed towards Zinta for her villainous turn. She does have the spontaneity that is required for the portrayal of Soniya Kapoor, who is a rich and arrogant schizophrenic woman used to have things her own way. The film received positive reviews and Preity was particularly praised for her performance. The film was screened at the Cannes Film Festival. This is the first time for Preity Zinta to play a vampish role. She received a Filmfare nomination for Best Villain.

Bipasha Basu / Jism (2004)

Bipasha Basu began her career on a hatke note. Her first movie Ajnabee had her conspiring with Akshay Kumar to get Bobby Deol into trouble. She followed it up with her seductress act in Jism , where she seduced John Abraham and convinced him to murder her husband. One highlight of the movie is its gripping plot that defys the Bollywood stereotypes and give something new to movie buffs. Another strong point of the movie is the way in which Bipasha's character is developed. Throughout the movie she is shown as an ambitious but vulnerable girl who is married to a man she doesn't love. But her volte-face in the second half when her true face and character is revealed is likely to stun the viewers. Sultry Bipasha Basu was very much liked for her negative role in 'Jism'. The film not only lifted up Bips career but also established her as one of the sexiest actresses in India. She was nominated for Filmfare best villain award.

Priyanka Chopra / Aitraz (2005)

A woman driven by desires, a faithful husband who refuses to succumb to temptations of extra-marital sex and a trusting wife who would fight to any length to win back her husband's honor and esteem - Abbas Mastan's thriller Aitraaz is a gripping film that entertains without resorting to usual Bollywood stereotypes. The movie starts off like any other ordinary love story (between Akshay and Kareena) but picks momentum with the introduction of Priyanka Chopra who plays a manipulative woman eyeing to seduce Akki for her own sexual gratification. Priyanka played a gold digger who was seen marrying an old man, but is keen to have a physical relationship with her ex-lover. The best acting performance in the film comes from petite Priyanka Chopra who seems to have gotten under the very skin of her vampish character. Her facial expression and body language aptly expresses the deviousness of her character. In history of Bollywood cinema no other villain was as sexy and hot as her. She won “Best actor in Negative Character” award of Filmfare and other awards for this role.

Vidya Balan / Ishqiya (2010)

Niceties be damned! In an industry where films can’t roll out of the rut of sweet saccharine romances, brain-dead comedies and insufferable dramas, Ishqiya comes like a storm which is explosively raw, ribald, gritty, grimy, and, most of all, real. Hoping to take refuge in the house of an old acquaintance, two runaway thieves, Khalujaan (Naseeruddin Shah) and his nephew Babban (Arshad Warsi) rather meet the man’s widow Krishna (Vidya Balan). Krishna uses her feminine charm to manipulate the shabby thieves into plotting a kidnapping. Before they could even realize, the uncle-nephew duo is sucked into an inescapable quicksand of love, lies and deception. Vidya Balan as Krishna is a bundle of contradictions. She was seen as a woman madly in love, as an object of desire, as a vision of purity and engaging herself in a lustful bout with another man. Putting in a superb performance, Vidya Balan won Filmfare Critics Award for Best Performance in Ishqiya.

I could go on for many more names of top level actresses proving that negative roles were not beyond their range. Bipasha Basu in Corporate, Kareena Kapoor in Fida, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in Dhoom 2 and Mallika Sherawat in Murder were all tremendous actresses, who with their powerful performance in negative roles mesmerize you to believe that vamps are always more fascinating than the good girls. But because of limited space I have only included, whom I consider to be, the finest 15 anti-heroines.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Heroes Turn Anti-haroes

The typical plot of Bollywood's two-hours plus bonanza runs according to a predictable formula- two young lovers find their chances of marriage threatened by a nefarious villain or a seemingly insurmountable social barrier, but after several songs, a long car chase and a cliff hanging fight, all obstacles are suddenly removed just in time for a whirlwind wedding before "The End". Just as songs and dances are important in a Bollywood movie, so are the villains and the vamps, without whom the story would literally fall apart. However, there are notable exceptions to this typical plot, where the story revolves around the villain and more importantly, the lead actor plays the negative role. Such exceptions have often created super hit classics. Here is my tribute to the talented actors for portraying the negative roles that must have been the most challenging in their career.

Ashok Kumar / Kismet (1943)

One of the biggest hits in the history of Hindi cinema, Kismet ran for three long years in the same cinema hall in Calcutta. The film is a representative example, prefiguring the kind of entertainment extravaganza that has become the hallmark of Bollywood films. Kismet changed the image of the 'ideal son' hero drastically, with Ashok Kumar as the smooth talking, chain-smoking 'criminal' hero who conducted his affairs, including those of the heart, on his own terms. He seemed to appeal to the audience who saw him break the law and fool the police. They loved him even as a thief. Indeed, the film was the basis for all anti-hero roles played by Amitabh Bachchan in the 1980s. Kismet was not only Indian cinema's biggest blockbuster, but also one of the most influential films of all times.

Sunil Dutt / Mother India (1957) / Mujhe Jeene Do (1963)

Mother India: One of Hindi cinema’s best examples of inspired storytelling, Mother India had a star-making role for Sunil Dutt. Dutt plays Birju, the younger son of the central character, played by Nargis. Having grown up in an atmosphere of denial and deprivation in the rural heartland, Birju has witnessed humiliation heaped on his single mother. He is roughened by life, ready for revenge. Despite the bare-knuckled bravado of Birju, Dutt conveys the humanity within his character’s brash exterior. That is the triumph of his performance. The skillful shading that Dutt and director Mehboob Khan impart on the character’s misguided actions helps establish why Birju's mother cannot forgive his final transgression.

Mujhe Jeene Do: For his home production, Dut did not play it safe. He chose to play the role of a ruthless dacoit who kills those who oppose him. He kidnaps a dancer (Waheeda Rehman) and starts a family with her. Dutt’s fiery performance won him his first Best Actor award from Filmfare. The role came to be identified with him and proved to be a precursor of the many dacoity sagas on horseback and the negative roles (Geeta Mera Naam, 36 Ghante) he played much later in the 1970s.

Dilip Kumar / Gunga Jumna (1961)

The film was a trendsetter for movies like Deewaar, Trishul, Amar Akbar Anthony which had similar themes of two brothers on the opposite sides of law. The film is about two brothers, Gunga and Jumna, growing up in a village controlled by an evil landlord. Ganga (Dilip Kumar) is a spirited and hardworking fellow, unafraid to take on the zamindar when necessary, while his brother Jumna (Nasir Khan) is more measured and cautious. Things get complicated when Ganga saves a local girl, Dhanno (Vyjayanthimala), from the zamindar's lecherous assault. The zamindar (Anwar Hussain) gets his revenge by trumping up a robbery charge against Ganga, landing him in prison. Upon his release, Ganga attacks and robs the zamindar in a rage. Soon Ganga finds himself an outlaw, and, with Dhanno at his side, he joins a gang of bandits camping out in the wilderness. In the meantime, Jumna meets a fatherly police officer (Nasir Hussain) and becomes a police officer himself. It isn't long before Jumna's professional wanderings take him back to the village of his birth, where he must square off against his outlaw brother, in a showdown between duty and family. Ganga Jamuna’s luster even after all these years comes from the sheer brilliance of its performances . Dilip Kumar literally lives the role of a village rustic..be his body language or the fluency with which he speaks the awadhi dialect. Ganga Jamuna is a classic and showcase for Dilip Kumar’s talent as a performer-par-excellence.

Amitabh Bachchan / Deewar (1975) / Don (1978)

Deewaar: Reflective of "the tumultuous politics of the early 70s" in India, Deewar tells the story of two impoverished brothers who grow up to follow different career paths: Vijay (Amitabh Bachchan) is a smuggler and Ravi (Shashi Kapoor) a policeman who eventually must hunt down Vijay. After their family is betrayed by the misplaced idealism of their father, Vijay, the elder brother, grows up with an acute awareness of his father's failure and is victimized for his father's supposed misdeeds. In the process of fighting for his rights Vijay, who starts out as a boot polisher and becomes a dockyard worker in his youth, becomes a smuggler and a leading figure of the underworld. Their mother, who had sided with Ravi despite the fact that Vijay was her favorite, is tormented by Vijay's decisions and rejects him. When the two brothers meet for a final clash, however, it is Vijay who dies in her arms seeking forgiveness. Vijay's character is said to be loosely based on real life smuggler Haji Mastan. Deewaar was a ground-breaking work. It was one of a few films which established Bachchan as the "angry young man" of Bollywood cinema. Deewaar received the Filmfare Best Movie Award of 1975 in addition to six other Filmfare Awards and was a "superhit" at the box office.

Don: Don (Amitabh Bachchan) is the leader of an underworld gang until Police Officer D'Silva (Iftekhar) tracks him down and in an attempt to catch him ends up killing him. But Don's death is only known to D'Silva. So Officer D'Silva tracks down a lookalike of Don named Vijay. Vijay impersonates Don to take down the rest of Don's gang. Officer D'Silva is killed by Malik who is introduced as the Interpol officer, but is in fact the real king of the underworld. It's now a race to retrieve the diary in which the DSP has documented the substitution of the real Don with the innocent Vijay. The film has gained cult film status in India and a dialogue of the movie “Don ko pakadna mushkil hi nahin, namumkin hai (It is not just difficult to catch Don, it is impossible)”, an all time famous dialogue.

Shahrukh Khan / Baazigar (1993) / Darr (1993)

Baazigar: “Playing villain is one of the greatest highs. Evil or devil, black or little grey characters, be it in books, stories, films or television have some sort of attraction.”- Shahrukh Khan. He has, indeed, done his fans proud with some of the most spine chilling negative roles in Bollywood cinema. He started it all with Baazigar, where he played a guy who wanted to avenge his father’s death, and goes ahead to ruin the man financially, kill his elder daughter and try to marry his younger one. Baazigar, inspired by the novel A Kiss Before Dying, is a contemporary thriller about a young man who stops at nothing to get what he wants. This was Shahrukh Khan's breakthrough role as the sole lead and was also the first film where Shahrukh Khan played a negative role. The negative character played by Shahrukh took his career to new heights and established him as an acclaimed actor in Bollywood.

Darr: A psychological thriller, Darr is a story of an obsessive lover, played by Shahrukh to get his love- Juhi Chawla, who is already happily married to Sunny Deol. Shah Rukh Khan plays a mental case who stalks Juhi Chawla, and he did it with elan. There are some sequences which later made into the template of a one-sided love story. The anti-chemistry between SRK and Juhi Chawla was out of this world. It is considered to be one of his best performances and earned Shahrukh a Filmfare Award nomination for Best Villain. In 1993, Khan won acclaim for his performances in villainous roles as an obsessive lover and a murderer, respectively, in the box office hits, Darr and Baazigar. In Khan's entry in Encyclopædia Britannica's "Encyclopedia of Hindi Cinema", it was stated that "he defied the image of the conventional hero in both these films and created his own version of the revisionist hero."

Sanjay Dutt / Khal Nayak (1993)

“Khalnayak” belongs to the genre of films where two male characters are from opposite lanes of life and their ideals clash. The story centers around the escape and attempted capture of a terrorist criminal, Ballu (Sanjay Dutt), by Inspector Ram (Jackie Shroff) and his girlfriend Ganga (Madhuri Dixit). The film was well received by critics as well as the audience. It became an instant blockbuster, breaking many previous records. Sanjay Dutt is in his element in the title role expressing fury, resentment and sadness. His interactions with other performers crackles with chemistry, be it Madhuri, Jackie or Raakhee. Sanjay Dutt and Madhuri Dixit were nominated in Best Actor and Best Actress categories, respectively for Filmfare Awaeds.. “Khalnayak” is a solid entertainer, with sterling performances, catchy music and some very good direction, and Box office India declared the film a "super hit" at the box office.

The list of strong villains does not end here. In “Sarfarosh” Naseeruddin Shah came up with a brilliant performance as Gulfaam Hassan who is well known Gazal singer but also a Pakistani agent who is working against India. In “Yuva” Abhishek Bachchan in his first negative character, is not the ultimate villain in the movie but the most effective and eye catching character who can do anything for money and power. His character could be called as gray character rather than totally black evil one. He did justice to the character. Saif Ali Khan too has experimented with dark characters. His career took a different turn after he played negative roles in Ek Haseena Thi, Being Cyrus and Omkara. John Abrahm in “Dhoom” wasn’t evil, he was villain just because he was a thief. The character was in itself so brilliant and applauded by the audiences that it was repeated in “Dhoom 2” with Hritik Roshan playing the villain and now Amir Khan is slated to play in “Dhoom 3”. Sanjay Dutt who plays the negative role of Kancha Cheena in Karan Johar's Agneepath remake has generated more buzz than the lead actor Hrithik Roshan, who steps into the big boots of Amitabh Bachchan. Reportedly, even Krrish 2 has a powerful villain. The role played by Vivek Oberoi is said to be on the lines of Joker from the Batman series. In fact, as is apparent from the trend, we are going to see most of the heroes turn anti-heroes.