I’ve missed this blog… yes I have… for the entire month of July I can boast of a grand total of 1 post… been too busy working my butt off and basically running around like a bleary-eyed chicken with half its head cut off, to do much blogging.
On the more fun side, I’ve also been going to bridal showers and weddings (yes, the fever's still raging), meeting fellow bloggers (always interesting), and getting reacquainted with old ‘friends’; like the fab Neetu Singh, who I recently saw in ‘Deewaar’ (I had almost forgotten how much I love her, and speaking of ‘Deewaar’, it totally rocks, and I will come back to this point), and the Jackson 5 on ‘Maybe Tomorrow’ (isn’t it just fabulous when you’ve been away from a song you adore for a while, then you re-discover it and it feels like you’re in music heaven? I compare it to the feeling of being re-united with a long-lost lover and finding out (s)he loves you even more than (s)he did back then, although of course I know nothing aboutwhat that feels like)… but now I am rambling…
Now that I've gotten that pointless paragraph out of the way and rather randomly indulged the Neetu admiration a little, I can get down to the nitty-gritty of this post. My first post this month is all about Dharam-ji, the inspiration behind this blog – not surprising since he’s been on my mind a lot these days; not that he’s ever far from it – but ‘Apne’, his latest film with his sons Sunny and Bobby, has been released and I’ve been longing to see it. ‘Partner’ is currently showing at Nu Metro (I might catch it, I hear it's not half bad) and ‘Jhoom Barabar Jhoom’ is on at City, but there was no sign of the possible fulfilment of my Dharam dreams... until last week, when I received a very gratifying text message from my friend Uzo, with the long-awaited good news (drumroll please), that the Deol men will be kicking it at Silverbird.
Anyway, I have now seen 10 Dharmendra films (I know, still way too few for a person who has a blog dedicated to the man), and I thought it might be fun to rank them in order of preference… I mean, I’m never going to be here again. Of course, I will be seeing ‘Apne’ very very soon. I also have ‘Ram Balram’ at home, waiting for me to find the time to watch it – it’s a Dharam/Big B movie, from the 70s I think. I’ve watched a little bit of it and can confidently say it’s not quite a ‘Sholay’, but it's looking good and I’m looking forward to it.
This idea is not mine (the good ones rarely are). Credit goes to Carla (of the wonderful Filmi Geek and Sounds Like Power sites, both of which I am compelled to visit daily because they are just so good; she also has the Geek of All Trades blog which deals with her varied non-filmi interests - from African music to baseball to languages - and more). Carla loves Shabana Azmi and is putting together a 'Geek's Guide' to Shabana's movies.
So here’s my list… this is going to be incredibly tough because I like all these movies, for different reasons… I should probably note that I am ranking these movies based on two major criteria, both of which are equally important to me – the quality of the movie, and the quality of the Dharam-liciousness. So some movies that I would ordinarily regard as better overall just might take a backseat to the ones that have more 'Dharmendra-power'. And of course there is the power of sentiment and personal connection (and, I might as well just admit it… hotness), which may trump more, ummm, rational factors. You’ll see what I mean in a minute (I think).
Anyway, starting from number 10:
Sadly, ‘Anpadh’ brings up the rear – sadly, I say, because I actually like this movie. And it is a very noble film, aimed at promoting the importance of female education and the trials women often undergo simply because of their gender. The film preaches education and enlightenment as a tool of empowerment for women. The late Nutan Behl, one of my favourite Indian actresses, puts in a strong, heartbreaking performance as the ‘anpadh’ who is thoroughly taken advantage of and wronged because of her lack of education. All good so far – but my, is this a dreary, sad film. It’s all a bit 'too' overwrought.
And then there's a young Dharam (the youngest I've seen him, so far)… playing a young (and immature), educated man who is semi-forced to marry an illiterate girl (his parents' eyes are on her substantial dowry). He marries her, and at first is captivated by her beauty, until he discovers his dulhan cannot read or write, cannot cook (yes, the omnipresent every-wife-must-cook idea rears its ugly head yet again), and generally can't do much of anything. He then proceeds to be horrible to her, until one fateful day, when he discovers how sweet and kind and forgiving she really is….. Expectedly, he falls in love with her and teaches her to read and write (in between stolen kisses and coy glances). Just when they are really happy, he dies in a tragic car crash and his wife continues to be confronted with misery after misery…
Dharam looks beautiful (yes, beautiful) in black-and-white here, good enough to eat really…but his part is rather short, and for most of it he's playing a shallow, unkind, inconsiderate prat… so this isn't really one of my fave Dharam performances. And the fact that 'Anpadh', for all its noble social commentary and well-crafted performances, did not really ‘capture’ me in general; keeps it down at the bottom of my list…
At number 9, we have 'Pyaar Kiya To Darna Kya' – starring Kajol, Dharam-ji, and the Khan brothers (Salman and Arbaaz)…. Again, there isn't a whole lot of Dharmendra in this film. He plays a loving chacha who also happens to be a bit of a badass – for all his innocuous looks, he does not hesitate to beat up any goon who dares to threaten his family.
This was my first taste of 'older' Dharmendra onscreen – and I was so busy enjoying the fact that I was watching my hero, that I would probably have been happy watching him watch paint dry; but the truth is, he doesn't get a chance to do much in this film – rightly so, because the storyline is about the young lovers and he's a minor character. I also had some issues with his dubbing. Having said all that, though, it's quite a good, believable performance by Dharmendra, in a film I enjoyed far more than expected.
Number 8 – and it's 'Jugnu'… a masala flick from the early 70s, starring Dharmendra and Hema Malini. 'Jugnu' is not a bad film, but it's not exactly all that, either. Dharam plays an action-hero type, an almost legendary thief who steals from the rich and uses the proceeds to run an orphanage and do other nice things. Hema (in a very good performance) plays the feisty daughter of a police chief. She first clashes with, and then falls for, our thief. 'Jugnu' has a lot of the 'right' elements – some good comedy, some exciting sequences (Jugnu's daring heists are not badly staged) and some good music (by SD Burman). But there's also stuff in there that's not so good – some cheesy one-liners, some poor plot pacing in the script, some scenes that were frankly boring, and a mysterious sort of fading-in/fading-out chemistry between the leads. I did like the fact that our ‘jugnu’ got his comeuppance in the end.
As I said, it's not a bad movie by any means, and the second half definitely trumps the first half; but it's no classic either. Dharam's performance could've been better – he seemed a bit uninspired sometimes, especially in the first half of the film…. 'Jugnu' just left me thinking it could've been better scripted, less tacky, tighter, fresher, more fun, more… something… but at the end of the day, it's quite watchable, and I guess that's good enough for some movies.
Look for any potted biography of Dharam-ji, and you'll probably find a reference to his badly made 'muscle man' disaster flicks from the 80s. Most such biographies will tell you that making these movies was a huge mistake for Dharmendra because they lessened his credibility and umm… made him look a bit ridiculous. They might also mention that these films were basically B-movies with lots of cheesy special effects, screaming heroines that were much younger than Dharam-ji (a fact he apparently was quite proud of), and dodgy storylines…
My lucky number 7, 'Ghazab', might well be classified as one such movie. 'Ghazab' is a movie about twins – not a fun masala ride like 'Ram aur Shyam' or 'Seeta aur Geeta', but quite a sad one. One of the twins dies and then comes back as a ghost to beg his brother (hitherto unaware of his existence) to avenge his death. In a rather icky twist, the avenging twin ends up hooking up with the girl (played by Rekha) that the dead twin was in love with when he was alive. Want more weirdness? Avenging brother gets possessed by spirit of dead twin at some point, the girl 'they' love goes bananas then gets well again… and so on.
As my last paragraph shows, 'Ghazab' is certainly not for everyone. It's a little bit silly. But at times I could not help but laugh at the comedy between the twins and the silliness of a lot of the film. And the sad parts are actually rather poignant. The pacing of the story was quite good as well, actually – it held my attention all the way through. Plus there are a couple of cute songs in there – in particular, 'Jaane Jigar' is still remembered in Nigeria by a lot of people (forgot to mention that 'Ghazab' is one of the more popular Hindi films in Nigeria). Dharmendra's performance is interesting to me in this film, because he throws himself into the role, and it totally comes across to the viewer. His aptitude for comedy comes through, as does his affinity for physicality. I found 'Ghazab' very entertaining, and I will definitely watch it again.
At number 6 is 'Seeta aur Geeta', in which Dharmendra takes a bit of a backseat to the fabulous Ms. Hema Malini. Hema basically runs away with this film, in which she plays a pair of very different twins. Dharam plays the love interest of one the twins. He's a happy-go-lucky gypsy-type who is more scarred by his past than he would ever dare to admit. Sanjeev Kumar (star of another famous twin-movie, 'Angoor', which I've just started watching – it's very funny so far) gets a bigger part than Dharam-ji in 'Seeta aur Geeta', mostly because Dharam gets the quiet twin who doesn't do much of anything, whereas Sanjeev gets the fun, feisty, fan-hopping twin, who's much more entertaining to watch (although the quiet twin was hilarious in the scene where her aunt dressed her up in some crazy clothes and forced her down the stairs – but I digress)…
The point I'm trying to make is that Dharam comes in a slightly distant third to Hema's ownership of the movie and Sanjeev's comic role as the feisty twin's love-interest. Dharmendra doesn't get that much screen time, but he does very well with what he's got – one of my favourite scenes is his side-splittingly funny reaction to the quiet twin's dive into the river. He's rather mischievous and cute with his little gold earring, and he plays his part in this enjoyable romp of a movie well. At the end of the day though, it’s Hema ki film.
So that's the bottom 5 of my top ten (and only ten). Five films are left for me to arrange in order of preference: 'Chupke Chupke', 'Guddi', 'Sholay', 'The Burning Train' and 'Life in a… Metro' (or is it ‘Life… in a Metro’? Whichever). Which do you think will be my number one? Which do you think will be my number five? (To be honest, I have no idea at this point!) If you have seen some of these movies, I would love to know you would rank them!!
At the very beginning of this post, I raved about 'Deewaar'… I was going to do a review of this film, but if you've been to Filmi Geek or The Bollywood Music Club recently, you'll find wonderful reviews that do it far more justice than I could ever hope to. If you haven't checked those sites out in the past few days, then you must – they've done a great job of summing up just what's so good about 'Deewaar' – it's just a really, really good film. (After reading the reviews, do yourself a big favour: find a copy of the movie and see for yourself how good it is).
Since Sanket and Carla have done such a fab job with reviewing this movie, I was gonna pack it in and move on to the next topic, until I realised that... aha... I've got something that those reviews, wonderful as they are, haven't got (isn't that, sort of, a line from 'The Wizard of Oz'?)… and that something is... screencaps galore! (and, I am forced to admit, multiple references to hotness, but that kinda follows on from the screencaps...)
So anyway, up next will be a very screencappy review of 'Deewaar'…