Thursday, December 20, 2007

Bollywood Actresses and Seasons Greetings


First, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to one and all. May the New Year bring good things for all of us. It has been a terrific year for me as I had the chance to travel around, see a lot of places, eat some good food and meet a lot of people. I only hope the new year brings me more of the same. The best thing of course about this coming year is that it will be the last year of Bush. May we never have another. I'll be taking some time off from the Blog to eat lots of pumpkin pie.


Before I disappear though, I had a lot of pictures of many of the current actresses in Bollywood that I scanned in ages ago and thought I would finally put them up. Most may not agree with me, but I am of the opinion that currently Bollywood has the best looking actresses of any film industry in the world. There was a time in which Bollywood actresses were almost a joke outside of India as a stereotype existed of chubby actresses dancing around trees shaking all of their ample body parts. There was certainly some of this but as I have delved into the films from yesteryear I have come to realize that most of the main actresses were actually quite lovely. Now though you will be hard up to find an extra inch of flesh on any Bollywood actress - most of the new ones come from either modeling careers or beauty pageants and they are not at all shy about showcasing their curves or revealing a bit of cleavage - well make that a lot of cleavage. It's all about sex appeal now and the newest ones into the industry have it in spades. This doesn't of course mean that they have a lot of acting ability, but they sure are pleasing to the eyes. One of the oddities about Bollywood is that new actresses get thrown right into top roles without any acting training at all and often it shows - it is a rarity for an actress to work her way up fom small roles to bigger ones - in this case you often start at the top and work your way down. The actresses who stay afloat become stars - the rest soon are out of the buisness or marginalized into regional film or small films - but no matter where they are acting they still manage to look great.

I have broken the names into very general categories to give you some sense of where they stand in the industry hierarchy. I also have tried to find a link with some information about them for those that are interested. Most of the links are from Wikipedia - I am actually quite amazed at how much information it has on most of these names. To whoever wrote these biographies up, I salute you. I also threw in a Youtube video for many of the names.

Legends:

These three actresses are simply legends. They are practically retired with only the rare film now, but in their day they were superstars and I suppose they still are.

Picts 1, 2, 3

Picts - 1, 2

Picts - 1, 2, 3

Veterans:

These actresses were all big stars in the 1990's and are still doing some work today, but in truth they have had to hand over the best roles to younger actresses.

Picts - 1, 2

Picts - 1, 2
Picts - 1, 2, 3
Video

Picts 1, 2
Video


Picts - 1, 2
Video


Picts - 1, 2, 3
Video

The Big Three:

These days there are basically three actresses that directors consider for the most prestigious films - Aish, Rani and Preity.

Picts - 1, 2, 3, 4
Video


Picts - 1, 2
Video


Picts 1, 2, 3
Video

Didn't Quite Get There:

Someday perhaps one of these actresses will rise to the top tier, but one senses that their day for that has come and gone - but they still get many of the top films coming their way.

Picts - 1, 2, 3
Video


Picts - 1, 2, 3
Video

Picts - 1, 2


Picts - 1, 2, 3
Video


The New Wave:

These young actresses have all made their mark and some of them may become the top actresses in Bollywood in the near future.

Picts - 1, 2
Video


Picts - 1, 2

Lara Dutta

Picts - 1

Video


Picts - 1, 2
Video

Picts - 1, 2, 3

Too Early to Tell:

These actress have had some early success and received their fare share of publicity, but so many Bollywood actresses hit the scene with enormous hype and are soon never heard of again.

Picts - 1, 2
Video

Picts - 1
Video

Picts - 1

Picts - 1
Video


Picts - 1, 2
Video


Picts - 1
Video

Picts - 1
Video

Picts - 1
Video


Picts - 1
Video

Picts - 1
Video

Picts - 1
Video

B Actresses

By "B" I mean that these actresses are rarely the headliners - generally they appear as supporting actors, in lower budget films or in the regional film industries. A few of these looked like they were going to be stars such as Gracy Singh, Antara Mali or Mahima Chaudhary, but it never quite panned out.

Picts - 1
Video

Picts - 1
Video


Picts - 1
Video

Picts - 1, 2
Video


Picts - 1, 2
Video


Picts - 1
Video

Picts - 1
Video


Picts - 1, 2
Video

Picts - 1
Video

Picts - 1, 2
Video

Picts - 1, 2
Video


Picts - 1

Preeti Jhangiani

Picts - 1

Video


Picts - 1
Video


Picts - 1
Video


Picts - 1
Video


Picts - 1
Video

Picts - 1
Video

Picts - 1, 2, 3
Video


Picts - 1, 2
Video


Picts - 1
Video

Picts - 1
Video


Picts - 1
Video


Picts - 1
Video


Picts - 1
Video


Picts - 1

Still Unknowns (and may always be):

I have to admit to knowing nothing or very little about these actresses, but I came across pictures of them and so included them here. In many cases I didn't have enough pictures to fill a page and so have thrown various actresses together.





Arzoo Govitrikar





Picts - 1



Various - Pict

Picts - 1

Himanshi


Picts - 1





Pratiksha Sorte

Purvi

Various 2 - Pict

Rajalakshmi


Sailesh Ghelani



Picts - 1

Picts - 1




Various 3 - Pict



Picts - 1

Tora

Urvashi Solanki

Picts - 1


Various 4 - Pict

The Real Deal:

Not that I want to imply that Bollywood actresses are not good actors - though that is often the case - but these two women stand above the rest in terms of acting skills and both of them move easily between Bollywood and the parallel cinema that exists.

Picts - 1

Picts - 1
Video

Item Girls:

So far these actresses are known primarily for item numbers that they have performed in films.

Picts - 1
Video


Picts - 1
Video

Picts - 1
Video


Picts - 1

Picts - 1

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Some Lobby Cards

I keep finding pictures that I scanned long ago tucked away in various places in my computer.


Here are some lobby cards of two films from two of Hong Kong's most memorable actresses. Memorable for what, speaks for itself.



Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Train (India, 1970)


Director: Ravikant Nagaich
Music: RD Burman; Lyrics: Anand Bakshi
Year: 1970
Running Time: 139 minutes

This film occurred near the beginning of Rajesh Khanna’s reign as a gigantic superstar before he flamed out after a few brief years at the top. Here he is C.I.D. Inspector Shyam but for some reason doesn’t tell his girlfriend Neeta this small fact about his life as they meet daily in an out of the way spot where they can dance badly without anyone seeing them. Neeta is played by Nanda who looks much too unattractive and matronly here to be a good counterpoint to Khanna’s sleekness. Their lack of chemistry is painful to witness and only a faithful script keeps them together. Shyam gets assigned to track down jewel thieves who have the habit of stealing them on the Delhi to Calcutta train and leaving the previous owners quite dead. The gang is led by a mysterious man who keeps to the shadows but his subordinates played by Madan Puri and Helen as the femme fatale Lily keep the loot coming in. When not robbing jewels, the two of them also work at the Hilltop Hotel – Madan as the manager and Lily as the entertainment.

Somehow Shyam realizes that the hotel is the hub of crooked activity and upon entering sees Lily performing O Meri Jaan Ko Main ne Kaha in which she sings “I am so fabulous” (the playback singers are Burman and Asha). In an unlikely twist, Lily turns out to be an old college chum of Shyam who had vanished without explanation and has been learning about the hard knocks of life ever since. Madan assigns her to keep an eye on her old crush which she is happy to do because she has never gotten over him. The romance between Shyam and Neeta hits a dead end when he learns that her father is a convicted killer and after looking into it tells her that her father is clearly guilty because he was discovered with the knife in his hand over the dead body. Obviously, he hasn’t seen many Perry Mason tv shows. When Neeta tells him her father discovered the body and pulled out the knife Shyam goes “oh, that sheds a whole new light on the case”! Not the cleverest boy our Shyam. Later after another train theft he forces a witness to track down a woman who was likely involved. Enter the supposed comic relief in the form of Rajendranath. What Shyam doesn’t realize is that the woman looks exactly like his Neeta dressed up like a hooker at a bachelor party.

This 1970 film can be summarized fairly quickly – bad movie, great music. Bollywood was to begin undergoing large changes in the 1970’s with films moving towards a much rougher hard nosed attitude leaving the lush romanticism of the previous decade behind. But this film still has its feet firmly placed in the 1960’s style – in some good but primarily some bad ways. The good is easy to spot – a large role for Helen with two terrific songs for her and another song for Aruna Irani. These two actresses were two of the premier vamps in the 60’s as well as two of Bollywood’s best dancers and Burman often seemed inspired to write some of his best music for their numbers. That is certainly the case here as these three songs are fabulous. Much of the rest of the film though is an awful mash of rotating close-ups, stiff acting, clumsy narrative and dimwitted logic with some laughably dreadful choreography in the songs that Rajesh Khanna is in.

My rating for this film: 4.0

Song with Helen (partial)



Song with Aruna Irani



Song with Rajesh and Nanda

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Burning Train (India, 1980)


Director: Ravi Chopra
Music: RD Burman; Lyrics: Sahir
Year: 1980
Running Time: 143 minutes

Much to everyone’s surprise this big budget film with its gigantic cast crashed and burned when it was released back in 1980. It certainly had all the ingredients that go into a hit - it was produced by B.R. Chopra (brother of Yash), it had some of the biggest stars of the day, the songs were from RD Burman and it had a unique for Bollywood disaster scenario that is actually quite tense and at times moving. Over the years its reputation has grown, but mysteriously at the time no one wanted to see it. In many ways it not coincidentally resembles the spate of disaster flicks that had filled screens in the US in the 1970's with fare like Towering Inferno or The Poseidon Adventure – a group of strangers all with their own little dramas occurring face imminent death and have to struggle for survival – but no one was singing and dancing in Airport were they! But the main difference here is a lengthy back story of two friends and the loves of their lives that give the film an intimacy that the Hollywood films were missing. Of course, the special effects were not quite up to Hollywood’s standards, but other than a patently obvious toy train model being used in a few scenes the usage of fire on a speeding train is quite well done and you can only hope that the bodies writhing in flames were paid more than minimum wage.

Two boyhood friends both have their dreams – Vinod (Vinod Khanna) wants to design train engines and Ashok (Dharmendra) wants to do the same for automobiles. Their friendship also comes in handy when they go courting – using the well worn but often successful ploy of saving a damsel in distress - Ashok and Vinod play good guy/bad guy to win the respective hearts of Seema (Hema Malini) and Sheetal (Parveen Babi). Unfortunately, the girls turn out to be friends and wonder at the amazing coincidence of this and soon discover the farce – but in true Bollywood fashion find this trickery charming and quickly fall in love while double dating on bicycles and boats. Vinod and Sheetal soon exchange wedding vows but the romance of the other pair goes asunder when Ashok’s father goes bankrupt and kills himself leaving his son a pauper. He soon receives a Dear Ashok letter breaking off the relationship due to his financial status. This leaves Ashok not only a poor man but a broken hearted and embittered one as well.

Seven years later Ashok has disappeared but Vinod has succeeded in his dream – designing a Super Express train that he proclaims equals the Japanese bullet trains. This is a good thing as shown in the film Bombay 405 Miles of the same year when Vinod Khanna’s character at one point jumps from the moving train to get a girl a glass of water and runs a 100 yards to and from a hut and is still able to easily catch the train. What this Vinod doesn’t know is that he has created a crazed enemy – Ranbir (Danny Denzongpa) who lost both his love and his train design to Vinod and who has a little revenge in mind. Finally, the day of the train’s maiden journey has arrived and on board are loads of people with their own little stories playing out - a pair of jewel smugglers, an undercover cop, a newly married couple on their honeymoon, a pregnant woman (any bets on when she goes into labor?) and many others of all religious persuasions – which comes in handy when they later do a lot of praying. Of note in this crowd are also a light fingered thief (Jeetendra) and his target (Neetu Singh), Vinod’s son who is being sent to Bombay to get away from the bickering parents. Not surprisingly Ashok reappears to take the train only to quickly realize that Seema too is on the train! Many of the train passengers are played by familiar faced character actors from Bollywood with a special bent towards those who appear for comic relief. When a bomb goes off cutting the breaks and a fire breaks out with a speeding train out of control it is time for the big boys – Dharmendra, Vinod and Jeetendra - to do their heroics and try to save the day and win back their loved ones. It is good stuff.

Looking back at the cast today it is interesting to note how many of them were part of acting families to come. Dharmendra was to have two sons with his first wife – Sunny and Bobby Deol – and Esha Deol with his second wife. His second wife (and concurrent with his first one) was of course Hema Malini. Also, in the family business was Vinod Khanna who had a son named Akshaye, one of today’s bigger Bollywood stars. Jeetendra’s real name is Ravi Kapoor and though he is not related to the legendary Kapoor family his son is Tusshar, another major actor in Bollywood and his daughter is Ekta a well-known TV producer. It doesn’t quite stop there – Neetu went on to marry Rishi Kapoor and their son Ranbir is just beginning his career in acting (and of course her nieces are Kareena and Karishma). The marriage between Dharmendra and Hema was a major scandal at the time but it amazingly didn’t drag down the career of either as both were so popular. Hema had initially tried to break into the Tamil film industry in 1964 but was told by a director that she had no star appeal and should try something else. Instead, she went to Bombay and by the early 1970’s was a huge star and nicknamed The Dream Girl. Almost always playing the traditional good girl, her saucer sized eyes spoke volumes of vulnerability and heartfelt love. Much of this apparently translated off the screen as well as she was a much sought after lover. Two other actors Sanjeev Kumar and none other than Jeetendra both asked her to marry them – in fact Jeetendra was suppose to go to her to speak for his friend Sanjeev but fell in love himself. But she ended up going after Dharmendra instead and they are still married today – as he is to his first wife.

The music from R.D. Burman didn’t strike me as nearly his strongest – perhaps a factor in the box office numbers – by 1980 most of his classic tunes were in the past. Other than the wailing “Burning train” refrain there isn’t much of this that stayed with me.

My rating for this film: 7.5

Song 1:

Song 2:

Song 3:

Song 4:

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Bombay 405 Miles (India, 1980)


Director: Brij
Music: Kalyanji-Anandji; Lyricist: Indeevar
Year: 1980
Duration: 143 minutes

For much of its running time, Bombay 405 Miles is an amiable somewhat middling mix of comedy and crime, but in the final 45 minutes the director decides to unbuckle his seat belt and let all hell break loose as the film turns into an entertaining mess of fisticuffs, flying bodies and seduction in which no coincidence is left untouched. Coincidences were often the life blood of Bollywood films during the 1960’s and 1970’s in which the chances were that your long lost brother turns out to be your best buddy and the villain happens to have killed your father thirty years ago. This film has a coincidence under foot at every turn, but one senses that the filmmakers were almost having fun with this filmic device right to the end when an identical twin shows up in the final frame. Throw in a great cast that includes Zeenat Aman, Vinod Khanna, Shatrughan Sinha, Amjad Khan along with character actors Pran, Bhagwan, Iftekhar and Helen and the film is if far from being a classic still silly enough to be quite enjoyable.

Master forger Kanhalya (Khanna) gets booted out of New Delhi instead of being sent to jail at the same time that the master safe cracker Kishan (Sinha) is forced to leave Calcutta by the authorities. They end up at the same bus stop where they immediately recognize each other as kindred souls and decide to become partners in crime. They also meet up with another charming crook, a con woman named Radha (Zeenat) and without hesitation they attempt to woo her together in song “You posses the one element that makes everyone lust for you. Great complexion, fabulous figure, a treasure chest of beauty” (Zeenat certainly had all that and more and her “treasure chest” certainly brought her fame and fortune). But Radha wants nothing to do with these two ragamuffins as she is on her way to Bombay (which is 405 miles away) to build a successful life in crime. The two men get put off the bus and decide to make their way to Bombay on the top of a freight train. There they spot seven thugs chasing after an old man and a small girl and promptly knock them all off the train – the old man is dying but before doing so he tells them that the girl is worth millions. Bing. A light goes off in their heads and they decide to hold on to this cute little tot named Munni.

They don’t know it (but we the lucky viewers do) but she is the daughter of Ranvir Singh (Iftekhar), a successful businessman who came home from a trip to Singapore to find his dead family laid out like appetizers on the dining table. They were all executed by his insane brother Veer Singh (Amjad Khan) who wants the family fortune and has a laugh so evil that it would embarrass Gabbar Singh (from Sholay). What would you expect though from a man who when accused of being a “drunk pervert”, replies “Gambling and womanizing are the decoration of the brave”. But his henchmen have made one mistake – the girl they killed was not Ranvir’s daughter but instead the niece of an old servant (the old man on the train) who was put in charge of her by his brother Masterji (Pran), who is yet another criminal who lives in Bombay. Bombay is clearly a magnet for more than people who want to make it in the movies. Before shooting Ranvir, Veer (as maniacs are wont to do) admits all this not knowing that the doll Ranvir has brought back for Munni has a recording device! Once he realizes the error, Veer orders his men to find and dispose of Munni.

It all comes together in Bombay when our two heroes try to find out who Munni belongs to so that they can collect a reward, meet up with Radha who is now a student in larceny under the tutelage of Masterji, discover that the mistress (Helen) of Veer is Masterji’s former wife and the mother of the dead girl and that Kalhanya had unknowingly forged Ranvir’s confession that he had killed his own family! It all moves to a different delicious level though once Munni gets run over, Kalhanya slices his wrist open to give her his blood (“doctor take all my blood if need be” as it gushes all around the hospital room), they fall through a trap door with a burning fire under them, are attacked by a motorcycle gang, little Munni gets tossed around like a football and dropped from a large height (don’t worry – Masterji drives his jeep through a brick wall and makes a nice catch), hand grenades suddenly appear en mass and the two heroes magically learn kung fu and can flip long distances – and thankfully through all this the doll remains intact.

The best scene though is pure sweaty sleaze – Kalhanya is trapped in a van with a bomb about to explode – so the good guys (crooks that they may all be) decide that the best way to distract the seven horny gang members is to have Radha drive up in a van and with the funky song na na na ye kya karne lage ho piercing the night air, moans her way through it giving off the impression that she is inside having sex “Oh you naughty boy. Love is enjoyed when both are breathless” and the gang begin practically humping the van as they peer inside and see small flashes of leg and shoulder. In the meantime Kishan frees his friend. It never hurts having a sex bomb around. That would go for most situations in life.

Saved by a final wonderful 45 minutes, Bombay 405 Miles just wants me to continue watching Bollywood oldies.

My rating for this film: 7.0

Blackmail (India, 1973)

Director: Vijay Anand
Music: Kalyanji-Anandji
Year: 1973
Duration: 131 minutes

Little did I know that India was far ahead of the curve on developing renewable energy. Back in 1973 Kailash (Dharmendra) and his badly bewigged scientist friend Khurana (Madan Puri) invent a process of utilizing the sun’s rays to derive enough energy to provide electricity for their entire city! With this invention Kailash proclaims that India will soon equal the United States as one of the most developed countries in the world. When he is not saving the world from future global warming Kailash is having his heart warmed over by Asha (Rakhee), the daughter of a friend of his dead father’s. He is a tongue-tied suitor though and is unable to approach her with anything more than a blush. As it turns out she is engaged of sorts to the charming rogue Jeevan (Shatrugan Sinha) who is not only her father’s choice but also a good friend to Kailash.

Thus it seems a bit odd when Jeevan begins to do his best to push Kailash and Asha together – is this true friendship or . . . perhaps something more sinister? If you chose the latter, you would be correct as Jeevan embarks on a plot so convoluted and devious that you will need to take notes to understand it. He imports a gang of Italian hoods who cleverly disguise themselves as professional golfers with bad golf fashions and worse swings. With them he plans to steal the formula for the sun ray converter, but first of course he has to get Kailash to court Asha, get Asha to fall for him, get them married and then break them up! What a dastardly villain! With shockingly ruinous photos of him embracing Asha, Jeevan will use anything necessary (blackmail, a buxom nurse and a forest fire) to get what he wants.

It is perhaps needless to say that much of this is totally silly and rather pointless and not as much fun as it may sound (though the usual bad fashions and esoteric interior designs of those times do add to the pleasure factor). Various kidnappings take place and finally near the end Dharmendra gets to show his fighting chops as his character takes on the entire gang with the able assistance of Asha conking lamps upon various heads. One scene though in particular had more sexual electricity than a dozen Indian films. Kailash and Asha have yet to consummate their marriage due to the skullduggery of Jeevan and at one point they are hiding from his henchmen in a small cramped tool shed and forced by their proximity to touch each other and finally they get down to business with dogs barking around them, men hunting them and a forest fire surrounding them! Let’s just say they had put it off for a bit too long.

The film is well-served by a very nice score with two songs in particular as standouts - Doob Jaata Hoon which shows up on loads of classic CD compilations and is picturized by Sinha rolling around on the ground a lot and Rakhee skipping through the trees and then later in the film Kailash expresses his love for Asha in the lovely ballad Pal Pal Dil through a set of love letters – “Every moment of my life you are close to my heart”.

The main positive for me though was that I came across two actors who are very well-known in the industry but I had never crossed their tracks before. Shatrugan Sinha played some of the slickest villains in Bollywood – not the usual eye bugging maniacs but one who oozed with charm and gab as he picked your back pocket. Later he became one of the early members of the Bharatiya Janata Party – the Hindi nationalist party – and served in the cabinet (and likely as a politician still picked a few pockets!). He is still a big personality in Bollywood with appearances at award shows and a magazine column. Rakhee simply had one of the loveliest faces in Bollywood during the 1970’s – full lips, arched eyebrows and astonishing eyes that are almost surreal – though admittedly her full figure would not stand a chance in today’s film industry. She hailed from Bengal and began in the Bengali film industry before moving to Mumbai and becoming a star in the 1971 film Sharmilee. Other notable films were Trishul, Lawaaris and Kabhie Kabhie. She often co-starred with Amitabh Bachchan and had the interesting experience of having played his lover in early films and his mother in later ones. She also married famed lyricist Gulzar and worked till 2003. Her daughter is Meghna Gulzar, one of the very few female directors in Bollywood (Filhaal, Just Married, Dus Kahaniyaan).

Btw – it should be mentioned that sadly the formula was lost in the making of this film and solar energy was put on the backburner for a generation.

Song 1

Song 2


My rating fo this film: 6.0