Blast from the past: HUM KISISE KUM NAHIN

May 31, 2012

This post was initially written some years ago for my friend Atul’s popular blog, atulsongaday.me. This piece is reproduced here with his permission.  

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I have this blue rexine-clad diary of mine, now thirty-odd years old, which I still preserve. I was into my mid-teens when someone gave me this diary. Not that I wrote in it about the humdrum of small town India of the time, life was too humdrum in the city to write about. There was no TV station, not even a TV relay center in Jamshedpur. The day’s newspaper came in the evening from Calcutta (still Calcutta those days, not Kolkata!) as there was none from our city. No theatre of note, no hobby clubs, nothing whatsoever to engage a teenager those days.

However, there was one source of excitement, the Hindi cinema. Our town had five single screen cinemas (“talkies”, as they were called), three more if one counted the three cinemas on the town’s outskirts. Life revolved around Fridays, the day a new movie would get released. Not that new movies were released in our town the day they were in Bombay or Delhi. (As they would mention in the venerable trade broadsheet weekly, “Screen”, Bombay circuit, Delhi/ Punjab circuit or Nizam circuit (Hyderabad etc.). Never mind if the movie was being screened three months after the Bombay release, Fridays were most looked forward to!

I kept a record in my blue diary all the movies I had seen. Even the name of the cinema and the date.
Another section of the diary also recorded the countdown of songs in Binaca Geet Mala.

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1977 was a most interesting year for film buffs like me, that last few months of the year saw the release of two of the best movies I had ever seen, “Amar, Akbar, Anthony”, and “Hum Kisise Kam Nahin”. But the catch was that these movies got released in Jamshedpur close to my 10th standard (ICSE) exams. Using techniques I have discussed in my blog, I managed to see both just before the exams. That I got reasonably good marks is perhaps a testimony to the good feelings these movies suffused me with!

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Now coming to the song under discussion. As per my blue diary, I saw “Hum Kisise Kam Nahin” on 14th October 1977.

And what a movie it was! If there ever was a musical, this was one. Some nine songs, and each one of them a gem! From Rafi, to Kishore, to Asha, to RD. And all set to music by the great RD Burman.
Right from the word go when the logo of “Nasir Hussain Films” appeared with shayari in the background:

Kya ishq ne samjha hai, kya husn ne jaana hai,
Ham khaq-nasheenon ke, thokar mein zamana hai.”

Huge round of applause from the enraptured crowd in the cinema followed, but naturally.

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A summary of the story:

Sanjay (young Tariq played by Master Bunty) is (kind of) betrothed to Kaajal (Young Kaajal Kiran played by Baby Rani Bannerji); you should see the movie to know the circumstances. They are very much in love, and as all the 9 year olds in the Hindi cinema of yore, even sang heavy-duty numbers like “Kya hua tera vaada” with appropriate actions for lines like “dil ki tarah se haath miley hain, kaise bhala chhootengey kabhi.”

When Master Sanjay become Mr Sanjay, he realizes that Miss Kaajal has vanished from his life. Throw in Mr Rajesh (Rishi Kapoor) who is in love with Miss Sunita in London (Zeenat Aman in a guest appearance) but she is planned to be married off to Mr Ranjeet by her tyrant father (the great Ajit in a guest role).

Mr Sanjay’s and Miss Kaajal’s paths cross several times but the socio-economic divide between them is too acute for them to even get to know each other‘s pasts. And Mr Rajesh is trying to woo Miss Kaajal for an agenda of his (and a couple of villainous characters, Amjad Khan being one) own. He still pines for Miss Sunita.

The goal for him: a leather belt bulging with diamonds worth Rs 25 crores (in 1977, this was of some value!!)

Note: Please do notice the usage Mr Rajesh, Miss Kaajal etc. Hindi movies somehow do not accept the fact that it is perfectly OK to call someone Mr Singh or Miss Gupta or Mr Verma. A character is always identified by his/ her first name, never the surname lest the mention sully the character with caste implications! When child artistes are named in the credit rolls, they are always Master him and a Baby her.

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Never mind the story, this film is bursting with some great songs. Including the ones in the “All India Pop Competition” being conveniently held in Nainital where the entire dramatis personae of the movie is working, holidaying, plotting, romancing. The right guys get the right girls in the end, the right set of diamonds show up with the right claimant. All is well in the end as it ought to be.

The key highlight of the movie is Rafi’s song: “Kya hua tera vaada.”

This is the song which reunites Mr Sanjay and Miss Kaajal in a pub. (We, in the audience, had all lost hope that they would ever meet up.) But Master Sanjay and Baby Kaajal show up in a flashback-like sequence as Tariq sings.

The beauty of the song is that even in the then disco-ized environs of Bollywood, Rafi held his own with this somber number. This fetched him the National Playback Singer of the Year as well as the Filmfare award for the best male singer. Those I think were the last of his National and Filmfare awards. This was some 2-3 years before his demise.

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My blue diary records that other songs pipped “Kya hua tera vaada” to the post in the finals of “Binaca Geet Mala 1978”. It was placed at the 3rd position. The number one song of the year was Hemlata’s “Ankhiyon ke Jharokhe sey” from the eponymous film and the number two was Rafi’s own “Aadmi musafir hai” from Apnapan.

Pity!


Cinemania 6: Birthday Movies (’81 & ’82)

September 20, 2008

1981:

Another bonanza year for AB fans. “Shaan”, “Barsaat Ki Ek Raat”, “Naseeb”, “Laawaris”, “Silsila”, “Kaaliya”, “Yaarana”. What a bunch!

Shaan”: An under-rated movie like “Kala Patthar”. I think this movie was too classy for its times. And can you forget the “Shakaal” act by Kulbhushan Kharbanda? And the menacing manner he caresses his shaven pate and menacingly mutters in a low tone: “Yeh jazeera bam ki tarah phoot padega”.

Barsaat”…” was directed by Shakti Samant going downhill pretty rapidly, while “Naseeb” (MKD) and “Laawaris” (Prakash Mehra) were representative of their director’s forte. “Yaarana” was an uncommon pairing of AB with Neetu Singh but thoroughly enjoyable. “Kaliya”, I remember not only for AB but also for  the Radio Ceylon jingles for the film which started and ended with the echoing slogan “kaaliya, kaaliya, kaaliya, kaaliya”.

Silsila”! How heart-breakingly gorgeous did Rekha look! I was a big, big fan of Rekha; the walls of my hostel room were adorned with posters and picture cuttings of Rekha. And the brooding AB, the poet. The tulip fields. The songs. Everything about the movie was perfect!

My birthday movie, and the movie of the year was, “Ek Duje Ke Liye” at Kanhaiya Chitra Mandir. Tragic story of geography coming in the way of two lovers. A Madrasi pitted against a North Indian. This K. Balachander movie starred Kamalahasan and Rati Agnihotri. Besides the tragic tear-jerker of an ending and the super-super hit songs, I remember one scene from the movie. Kamalahasan challenged to prove his love for Rati burns her photograph, stirs the ash into a cup of tea and quickly proceeds to gulp down the concoction. A case of Rati na sahi to “ash” sahi? Not a bad choice!

One of the last movies of the year was the gorgeous Rekha’s “Umrao Jaan”. What times those were, Amitabh Bachchan and Rekha in full bloom!

 

1982:

The birthday movie was seen under fairly unusual circumstances, parts of Varanasi was flooded and the area around the university campus (Lanka, etc.) had a couple of feet deep water. However the cinema halls in the city were operational. There was no way I could miss the annual ritual on my birthday. With two brave-hearts for company, I set out to see AB’s “Khuddar”, a rollicking story with such bizarre scenes like AB’s taxi flying over the traffic on busy Marine Drive of Bombay. We would have  done well to possess such a taxi in those times of flooding in Varanasi! The song “Angrezi mein kehte hain ki I love you” topped Binaca Geet Mala that year, surprisingly beating “Pag ghungroo” of “Namak Halaal” to the second place! Which song do you still remember? And which song do you join in chorus during a drunken evening even now?

And that brings me to the other AB films for 1982: “Satte pe Satta”, “Namak Halaal”, “Desh Premee” and one of my all time favorites, “Shakti”. I remember the first time I saw “Satte pe Satta”. The movie was released while I was visiting parents in Jamshedpur. Jamshedpur those days rarely had the privilege of screening the latest movies. I was dying to see this latest AB movie. So I did the next best thing possible. Immediately upon reaching the Varanasi Cantt station, a group of us landed at the cinema hall (Anand), suitcases/ hold-alls and all and thoroughly enjoyed the movie!

What a time it was to be living in, with AB’s movies being released nearly once in two months!

1982 was the last year I saw a movie on my birthday. No particular reason, just that all quirks need to die some day!

Movies still remain a passion for me!

(concluded)

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Cinemania 5: Birthday Movies (1980)

September 18, 2008

1980:

The year was an eventful one for me. For one, this was the year when I took my Std 12 exam and it was time to bid adieu to Nagpur where I was studying for “plus two”.

The end of the exam, like all other exam-ends was marked by a movie. This was an Amitabh-Shashi starrer “Do aur do Paanch”. What a movie it was! I desperately want my kids to see the movie but I have not been able to get a copy of the DVD, pirated or otherwise. Do help in case you have this movie with you. This film will certainly find a place in my list of 7 most under-rated movies of AB when I do get around to writing a post as mentioned earlier. For now, I go ahead with my piece but not before leaving you with the mukhda of the wonderful title song: “Tooney abhi jaana nahin, jaana hai to maana nahin, mujhey pehchana nahin, duniya deewani meri, meerey peechhey-peechhey bhaagey..…… Hum who hain jo do aur do paanch banaa dein…

What was even more remarkable was that in April 1980 I did not see a single movie. Not one! This was a blemish on my otherwise impeccable record of seeing at least one movie (several movies, actually) every month on-a-trot for 36 months- April ’77 to March ’80. This blemish on my record was due to the IIT-JEE irritant. The JEE exams were due in the 1st week of May and I decided to do something about it soon after my Std 12 exam. (I had missed qualifying the previous year.)

I did make amends for this lapse very quickly after the JEE; on 9th May I saw two movies on the same day, a re-run of Rajesh Khanna/ Mumtaz starrer “Do Raaste” and  anew movie, Reena Roy’s “Asha”. Remember the song “Sheesha ho ya dil ho, toot jaata hai”?

Probably this 7-week abstinence from movies helped me to qualify in the JEE. And I was on my way to study Metallurgical Engineering at the Institute of Technology, Banaras Hindu University (IT-BHU for short)!

The only thing remarkable about the birthday movie that year was the circumstances in which it was seen. I was pretty ill in the days preceding my birthday. I had a severe stomach infection which was taking its own time to go away. In fact, I had to skip my classes for a few days. I was weak and I could barely walk. Let alone cycle a few kilometers to see a movie.

I had nearly given up on the birthday movie ritual, there was no way I could see a movie.

My room partner for 3 months who had become a very good friend of mine (he still remains a great friend over the last few decades despite separations in time and geography) would have none of it. The disciplined sportsman (university champion in javelin-throw and an ace half-back for our football team) that he was, he knew the importance of adhering to a regular exercise routine. To his mind, there was no way I could skip watching a movie on my birthday! No way!

So off we were, yours truly “double-riding” on his Hercules cycle, all the way to Deepak Cinema. We watched, well you have guessed it right, yet another forgettable movie. This was a re-re-run of “International Crook” starring Dharmendra.

Deepak Cinema was typical of cinemas in Varanasi. People smoking inside the cinema halls. People putting their feet up on the back-rest of the seats ahead of them. Stinking and over-flowing urinals. Paan stains all around. Seats missing, sometimes only the back-rest remained. Loud whistles at all inopportune times.  But we would take all that in our stride. Banaras is Banaras.

And yes, I did enjoy the movie all right, after all it was my birthday! Patrons’ good health or not. The show must go on!

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Cinemania 4: Birthday Movies (1977 to 1979)

September 14, 2008

Introduction:

 

Some of you may remember from my earlier pieces on Cinemania (#1, 2, 3) that I was an ardent Hindi movie buff and that I kept a log of my movie-watching in a diary which survives till this date even after some 30 odd years. This piece is on a certain quirk I had- lasting several years- of seeing a movie on my birthday. Come hell or high water, illness or exams, this was a sacrosanct event; I had to see a movie on birthday which falls on 2nd September. The movie crazy guy that I was, I kept all details in my blue diary of the movies watched, name of the movie, date, and the theater in which I saw the movie. This piece heavily relies on my diary.

 

1977:

 

It was in 1977 I started this birthday movie ritual. This movie was something which I am sure you would not have heard of, even I would not have remembered but for the diary and the fact that I saw the movie on this special day. The movie was called “Adimanav”. Prehistoric man (and woman) in case you have not been able to understand the meaning. Nataraj was the cinema hall we saw it in, the Nataraj Cinema which I have described in some detail in Cinemania 1.

 

I do not remember much about the movie except that there were this bunch of heavy set “men” and very buxom “women” wearing skirts made of leaves and twigs in the movie. At the clink of a flint stone they would jump on each other and start mating. Or, to enliven the atmosphere further they start spearing other adimanav  who would dare to as much a cast a lusty glance on their mates. I say mates here as I do not remember whether they were married or not as I cannot recollect any sindoor or mangalsutra on their women. Those were pre-historic times so the currently-in-vogue matrimonial symbols may have been non-existent. Maybe a bone pierced through a thread adorning their necks was the symbol.

 

 What is important to note is that this was the first movie I saw after bunking my school-classes. I still can not figure out how we managed to do this given the rather strict discipline standards in Loyola, Jamshedpur, those days. And I still wonder why we did not get caught subsequently. And even more importantly this was the first-ever adult movie I saw. And that was the day I had turned 16! Man, I came of age on 2nd September 1977!

 

For those of you who are curious, the movie prior to this I saw was Khan Dost on 30th August at Jamshedpur Talkies. “Khan Dost”, like many of the movies I saw in that era is an eminently forgettable movie starring Raj Kapoor as a jail cop and Shatrughan Sinha as a jailed criminal and their unlikely friendship. I do not remember the story- line much but I still remember a great Manna Dey song from the movie “Meri zindagi mujhpey roye”. I saw “Aafat” on the day following my birthday, on 3rd September, at Karim Talkies. It was another of those forgettable movies starring Navin Nischol and Leena Chandavarkar. So forgettable that even I, a die-hard movie buff, do not remember anything about the movie.

 

1977 was the year in which I appeared for my Std X exam (ICSE) in November. My diary records that I saw a total of 34 movies in the year. This was just the beginning of my Cinemania!

 

1978:

 

1978 was a very happy year for me. The Std X exams (ICSE) had got over in November of the prior year. I was to join a college in Nagpur whose session started only in end-August. So there were eight months of sheer bliss! My father did enroll me for Maths coaching in preparation for the IIT-JEE. And this was a blessing in disguise as the hours away from home would give me an opportunity to catch up on movies without raising suspicions at home. And then August onwards, while at Nagpur, I stayed in a hostel, for the first time ever. Nagpur also had some 25 cinema halls which was 4-5 times more than what Jamshedpur could boast of. So my first full month in Nagpur, September, I saw no less than 10 movies! This, of course, also helped in escaping the rather nasty ragging in the college hostel.

 

The birthday movie of the year was “Damaad”, a nice-to-watch, light and easy movie starring Amol Palekar and Ranjeeta. This was at Saroj theatre which was a considerable distance from my hostel. What was much more interesting, certainly for a teenager like me, was the movie I watched a day prior to my birthday. “Satyam, Shivam, Sundaram” the Raj Kapoor movie with Shashi Kapoor and Zeenat Aman in the lead. The scar-faced but gorgeously blouse-less Zeenat Aman! If you have not seen the movie then you must watch it for Zeenat’s sake. Shashi Kumar is a civil engineer in this movie, he would have had a great revision in the principles of cantilever courtesy Zeenat A. Some great music too, including the last song of Mukesh: “Chanchal, sheetal, nirmal, komal’.  I scored a hat-trick by watching another movie on 3rd Sept.: “Anjane Mein”, a Rishi Kapoor/ Neetu Singh movie, I do not remember anything about the movie but for the title song. This was probably sung by Nirupa Rai on the screen, “Ai mere laal, ai mere phool, anjane mein bhi tujhsey na ho bhool”. Too cool. I am sure she was setting up the story for some disaster to befall her laal, Rishi Kapoor.

 

The most significant thing about 1978 was the series of Amitabh Bachchan block-busters released that year: “Trishul” which I saw 1st day, 1st show on 5th May. What a movie! Remember the initial scenes when AB appears? “Jisne pachchis saal sey apni maa ko ghut-ghut kar martey dekha ho…”? “Kasme Vaade”, where he has a double role, “Don” (which I saw at Nagpur a few months after its release), “Ganga Ki Saugandh” and one of the all-time Big B greats, “Mukaddar Ka Sikandar”.

 

And if you are curious, I saw 69 movies in 1978; a movie every five days. And I was to prepare for IIT JEE that year!!

 

1979:

 

Another great year for Big B fans. “The Great Gambler”, “Jurmaana”, “Adalat”, “Mr Natwarlal”, “Kala Patthar” and “Suhaag“. I saw most of the new releases several times and for good measure I even caught up with the re-runs of movies I had missed. “Deewar” (I had not seen “Deewar” till 1st Feb 1979, and I made good this lapse many times over in subsequent years!), “Ek Nazar” (Lovely songs: “Pyaar ko chahiye bas ek nazar, Patta-patta boota-boota, Pehle sau baar idhar aur udhar dekha hai).

 

For once, the birthday movie in 1979 was not from Bollywood, but from Hollywood. Stephen Spielberg’s cult classic “Close encounters of the third kind”. We had all gone as a big group from the hostel and the movie was most enjoyable.

 

What were even more enjoyable were the movies I saw before and after this one. On 29th August I saw, for the second time, “Kala Patthar”. This, to my mind, is one of the most under-rated movies of AB. Not only AB was great, but the entire cast. Notable among them being Raakhee, Parikshat Sahni as a truck driver and the great Shatrughan Sinha as Mangal Singh (remember his scene stealers; “Teesra badshah mein hoon…”, “meri bholi banjaran..”?). Never mind how a disgraced sailor (AB) reaches Dhanbad riding on a guilt train! This movie was made on the real-life Chasnala disaster in the Dhanbad area. It was not a hit, but to me it is one of the best films ever of AB. I do plan to write a post some day on the seven most under-rated films of AB and this will certainly find top mention.

 

The movie I saw after 2nd September was “Hamare Tumhare”. This Sanjeev Kumar and Raakhee starrer is a lovely movie about the marriage of a widow and a widower both with their own children from their prior marriages. “Khatta Meetha” (Ashok Kumar and Pearl Padamsee) was also based on a similar theme. And both were based on a Hollywood movie “Yours, mine and ours”! “Hamare Tumhare” had some fabulous music by RD, remember “Ham aur tum the saathi”? And Kishore’s magical “Jadoo dar gayo re..”?

 

And in case you want to know, I did not find a place in the IIT-JEE qualifiers list that year. I am sure you are not surprised. Are you?

 

To be continued

(Picture abhi baaki hai mere dost!)

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Cinemania 3

May 22, 2008

I have always been an avid reader and a quiz buff as well. So it was natural that I would devour film magazines and ferret out all kinds of trivia on movies. There was Filmfare and Cine Blitz. And in Hindi, Madhuri and Mayapuri. And Picture Post. Not to mention the movie columns of sundry family magazines, Dharmyug, Sarita et. al. Buying the magazines was out of the question, renting it out from the local circulating library was the done thing. Old man Bhatia of the local “Bhatia Book House” would even give me credit! ( As an additional revenue generating exercise he also inducted me into reading adult literature, both in Indian English, and colourful Hindi- you understand what I mean, but more about those at a later date!)

 

And then there was the great venerable film weekly from the Indian Express group of publications, Screen. Screen was a broadsheet and if you are not familiar with it then let me tell you about it. If you were a Screen reader, you were one of the following: someone seriously involved with film-making (making is the operative word here, this was not for actors but for people who were involved with the making process and had to keep a close track of what was happening in the industry), or a serious movie buff, or perhaps a lunatic! Maybe I was a mix of the last two. This paper carried detailed stories with headlines like “Serious Shortage of Raw Stock Facing the Industry”, “Yashraj Films’ production no 4 goes on the floor”, “Mukta Arts Combines’ 3rd schedule completed” “Last song of XYZ movie recorded” and other such matters of grave importance. Gossip, you would not find any at all. Not a word on Dharmendra/ Hema, Amitabh/ Rekha. Nothing whatsoever on Katy Mirza (oh dear!!) unless she was completing dubbing of her movie or taking part in schedule 5 of production number 3 of Banner X. All this would be read thoroughly by me week-after-week-after-week.

 

There was another attraction in Screen; the weekly Q&A column. Serious readers with serious intentions would ask serious questions to a serious columnist who would give equally serious answers. “Scrutator” was the columnist’s name! Not the type of frivolous Q&A indulged in by Shatrughan Sinha in Filmfare. Sample this: a reader from Kota, Rajasthan, asks, “Is the film industry closer to heaven or hell?” Scrutator’s profound reply: “It depends upon the state of the individual”. Amen! The best question of the week would fetch the enquirer a prize of Rs 25! Before you scoff at this amount let me tell you something. Those days the cinema ticket cost Rs 3.15. Add to that 15 paise for the cycle stand charges and 25 paise for a cup of chai in the interval you arrive at a per movie cost of Rs Rs 3.65. So that gives you at least six movies, and some change to spare for subsequent copies of Screen.

 

In an inspired moment I too dashed off a question to Screen, an inane question about popular film heroes coming from the North and popular heroines from South. And in an equally inspiring moment the columnist gives an equally inane answer about how the South Indian heroines dance their way into the hearts of people and that this was the film industry’s contribution to national integration!!  But more importantly, Scrutator selected my question as the best question of the week! Good news did not end here; no question had been awarded the prize the previous week, so I was warded the jackpot, Rs 50!! “Double pagaar” as they would say in Jamshedpur! Much joy on seeing my name in print plus winning the jackpot as well! I do not quite remember what I did with this money except that I treated my sister to “Madhumati” at Regal. The rest of the money must have funded some more movies and magazines. Or some such constructive stuff.

 

I zealously followed this up with four questions in one postcard to Screen. All questions got published but no prize this time. And then something happened! My brother who was then studying away from home was alerted by one of his hostel-mates that one Santosh Ojha of Jamshedpur was a frequent contributor to the Q&A column in Screen. Prompt came a mail (those days mail meant a hand written letter, chitthi) to me admonishing me on such activities when I should have been concentrating on my studies! I was much chastened, but did not give up! With a never-say-die attitude I continued with my queries, but now under aliases. A couple of the aliases I remember are “O. Pandit” (as in Ojha Pandit) and “O. Santosh”! Some questions got published, some did not. But never any prizes. I could never have a repeat of the beginner’s luck, ever again!!


Cinemania 2

May 22, 2008

The earliest memory of my love for Hindi cinema is chasing the black-and-yellow taxis promoting the newest film release in town. That was the way movies were publicized in Jamshedpur. A taxi would criss-cross the streets with a speaker installed on the taxi roof. (Remember those speakers….dark grey steel cones with an extended snout in the center?). Songs from this forthcoming film would blare through the speaker and an announcer in his raspy voice would announce the date of the film release and the timings. I have always wondered about why they ever announced the timings; all movies in every hall would always start at 3pm , 6pm and 9 pm. There were just three shows a day. The biggest attraction of the taxi chase was the fistfuls of movie handbills they would scatter on the streets. I can remember movies like “Shahid Bhagat Singh” (the Manoj Kumar one) and “Bhoot Bangla” getting publicized thus. All of us kids would scramble- trampling over each other- to grab as many of these crumpled handbills as we could. A fierce competiton really…. “my-collection-is larger-than-yours”! Once home, these handbills would be tenderly patted flat and placed under the mattress for “ironing”. Handbills of course were letterpress printed on cheap semi-transparent paper. I wish I had preserved the handbills. They certainly would have made me a lakhpati in this era of film memorabilia auctions! Sometimes I am astonished to see my sons exchanging Pokemon cards; this is exactly what we used to do when we were kids. But the objects of desire then were those handbills!!

 

There was something else I possessed which would had certainly made me a millionaire, my collection of film song booklets! Song booklets were a big thing for movie buffs those days. These were printed on letterpress on yellowing newsprint paper slightly larger than your standard A4 sized paper. Hawkers on the pavement just outside the theater would sell them for 10 paise (MRP later raised to 15 paise). The “cover” would have a smudgy still taken from the movie (nothing printed on such paper could ever be non-smudgy!). As you unfolded the “booklet” you could read the lyrics of the songs of the movie. One idiosyncracy of the booklet publisher (someone in Tardeo, Bombay) was his economy with words. Like, for example, if the song went “Gapuchi-gapuchi, gum-gum, kishi-kishi, kum-kum” (remember this Trishul song?), what you would see in the booklet was “gapuchi-2, gum-2, kuishi-2, kum-2“). I am serious!! The digit always in Devnagari and not the Roman script. Thankfully, for “Kabhi Kabhie” they did not write the movie name on the cover as “Kabhi-2“, perhaps the official differential spelling of the two Kabhi’s misled them into believing that these were not the same words, who knows! I assiduously collected booklets of all movies I would see. Once in a while when I would be rich (like when close relatives would gift me Rs 10 or so) I would also buy film song collections which went under names like “Kishore Kumar ke Behatareen Naghme“. But I can tell you these collections were not as exciting as the booklets. (Recently, when I compiled a CD of my Beethoven favourites as a gift to a friend of mine and labelled it “Beethoven ke Behatareen Naghme” my friend did not like this nomenclature one bit! Poor soul!!). Unfortunately, in a moment of insanity, during a pre-diwali cleaning exercise I threw out the collection. The yellowing, decaying paper was becoming difficult to handle. Maybe I should have had these preserved chemically. I certainly would have had I known there would a great demand for such stuff later.

 

There is something I have preserved. While it will not fetch me any money in an auction, this one is a treasure trove for anyone researching the movie-goers of Jamshedpur in the late 1970’s! A 1977 diary, edges cracked and the sponge and the cardboard below the blue rexine cover peeking out. And, as you peruse through the diary, you would notice the meticulous manner in which the diarist has captured the ongoings of the period with utmost diligence. You will find a listing of all the movies I have seen during the period, complete with the date and the cinema hall where I saw it. You will know, for example, that yours truly watched first watched “Amar, Akbar, Anthony” on 8th October 1977 in Jamshedpur Talkies. And that this was repeated at the same venue on 12th October and on 30 November. (It may also be interesting to note that the first two viewings were just days before the final ICSE exam and the third viewing was the day of the completion of the exam. I did a reasonable job with my ICSE, thank you for asking!). On further perusal you may also notice that I saw a re-run of “Mughal-e-Azam” March 2008 on 3rd, 6th and 8th, all at Natraj. (Much after my ICSE exams, thank you once again). And if you were to be really adventurous and would plunge further into my diary, you would notice the annual listings of “Binaca Geet mala” (The title song of “Ankhiyon ke Jharokhey Se” was the numero uno song of 1978. (and you would notice in a small highlighted box on this sheet that Kishore Kumar had the highest nomber of songs -solo and duet- in the 1978 countdown; 15 songs, Rafi had 10. The music composers Laxmikant Pyarelal had 11 songs, RD Burman, 7 and Rajesh Roshan, 6, Bappi Lahiri merely 2!!). Mail me if you wish to know about the lyricists’ successes?

 

My elder brother, as usual, had the last word on this. In another context he saw a sample of my meticulous record-keping and wondered if I was planning on a career as a store clerk. And that was my end of record-keeping!


Cinemania 1

May 22, 2008

Edifices of Ecstacy: The Cinema Halls of Jamshedpur

 

The cinema halls of Jamshedpur were where we would be ensnared into the magical world of Bollywood. You may want to know that this was the era of the 70’s, far removed away from the TV, internet and video games; our only entertainment outlets those days were radio and cinema. Dharmendra was still garam; and what was even more “garam” were the quartet of Amitabh, Vinod Khanna, Shashi Kapoor and Shotgun. And for the more curious readers we shall talk about the garam actresses of the era later!! This story is not about heroes and heroines but those silver screens where we would see our favourite actors- the cinema halls of Jamshedpur!

 

Jamshedpur those days had just five cinema halls, Jamshedpur, Karim, Basant, Regal and the then pride of the city, Nataraj. While Jamshedpur, Karim et.al. were called “talkies”, Nataraj had the singular honour of being called a “cinema”, Nataraj Cinema. This alternate descriptor somehow endowed to Nataraj a “new-age” feel. And new-age it was. Nataraj was touted by us as the international face of Jamshepur; an airconditioned cinema hall! And by virtue of this Nataraj would command a premium for its seats. The class which would otherwise cost Rs 3.15 uniformly across all theaters would be priced Rs 3.75 (actually an exotic amount like Rs 3.72 or something). What’s an extra 60 paise for the air-conditioned comfort. The added advantage of watching a movie at Nataraj was that one could stroll into the popular Bombay Sweet Mart right across the lane from the cinema hall and partake of some good masala dosas. (BSM was also the favoured snacking joint for the family on our rare-rare outings to Bistupur Main Road till one day my mother discovered the waiter using the bunch of forks in his fist to scratch his back. That was the end of BSM for us!)

 

Jamshedpur and Karim were perhaps the oldest halls in the city and probably also the most primitive in creature comforts; ripped seat-cushions (sometimes no seats, just a seat number!), creaky fans and leaky urinals…. you get the idea, right? But the redeeming thing about these two halls was that they happened to screen all the hit movies (Sholay, Amar Akbar Anthony, Hum Kisise Kum Nahin etc etc). And if the movie was a super-duper hit then it would play on both the screens, Jamshedpur and Karim. These two halls were located together and probably shared the same projection room. (The precursor to multiplexes?) So I can well imagine the projectionist putting reel one of a movie in, say, the Karim screen while the manadatory “newsreel”/ Vicco Vajradanti ads were screened on the Jamshedpur screen. Then when the reel one got over at Karim, he would place it in the projector for the Jamshedpur screen. Or some such arrangement.

 

Regal was housed in a magnifient building right next to the (then) called Regal Maidan. (I think the maidan is now named after Mr V. G. Gopal, the Tisco union chief). Regal somehow managed to get not-so-hit movies. It also had this curious pricing strategy. Typically cinema halls price the front benches the cheapest and the rows away from the screen would be priced more. And then the floor above this is the balcony class priced even more and then came the DC class (which I think was there only in Nataraj those days). Regal had yet another floor above this and curiously enough was priced only slightly higher than the front benches! Actually once you succumbed to this so-called “bargain-class” balcony you would know why they had priced it low; level of this floor was so high that I reckon one looked at the screen at a downward angle of 70 degrees which, to be frank, was rather taxing on ones visual alignment. One lasting memory about Regal is about the day when we were seated inside Regal waiting for the Rajesh Khanna starrer “Aashiq Hoon Baharon Ka” to start. Just before the lights were to dim, a man leapt on the stage (yes, the hall had a stage in front of the screen) and slashed the screen with a large knife and quickly ran away. What was remarkable was the calmness with which the seated public took this episode; no panic, no rush, no tension. It seemed as if this was a pretty common day-to-day affair! (not quite true in my experience. I had seen knives come out a couple of times outside – the bone of contetion being jumping the queue, but never inside a hall). We all filed out of the hall and lined up to take back our refund. Of course we returned to Regal after a few days to watch the movie. We could notice the stitch marks across the screen. When we were coming out of the theater after the movie was over, I told my friend, ” Perhaps that slasher the other day was not a vandal, but actually a good samaritan; that was his way of telling us to save our money by skipping this lousy movie!”

 

Basant Talkies, located at the most vantage point in the busiest market place (Sakchi) had doleful crumbly look about it. The frontage of the theater was a large collapsible grill which gave the building an even more hideous look. And the concrete edifice in which the grill nestled was forever plastered with film posters, old and new. Basant perhaps specialized in family fares, or maybe I have this impression because of the movie Jai Santoshi Ma which ran there forever!

 

Did I say five cinemas in Jamshedpur? There were actually eight if one counted the ones in the outlying areas as well. There was Star (run by the Jamshedpur/ Karim conglomerate I was given to understand) near the station and Goushala at Jugsalai and Shyam Talkies at Parsudih. These cinema specialized in re-runs of old movies and were pretty heavily patronized by me in my zeal to catch up with the “oldies” which I had missed as I was born a few years too late to have watched them in their first run! So what if Star and Goushala talkies were rather far away from home, I had my faithful Avon cycle to pedal on! (Shyam Talkies, Parsudih was a bit too far even for a person of my enthusiasm) particular remember watching a re-run of Padosan at Gaushala. I had gone with a close friend of mine who (unfortunately for me) had seen the movie earlier. Before Kishore Kumar (or Mehmood, or Sunil Dutt for that matter) would appear on the screen and unleash the next funny one, my friend would exclaim “Arey, beta, ab dekh kya hoga” and would slap me on my left shoulder. (he was sitting to the left of me). And the slaps would be rather hard coming as it did form this dear friend who was the school javelin throw champion. After the interval I was glad to be able to interchange my seat with his so that my other shoulder would now bear the burden of his excitement!

 

May one should add the ninth cinema hall, the travelling cinema! Yes, we still had the travelling cinemas those days; I am not sure whether they exist anymore, at least in Jamshedpur. Some club or society would decide to raise funds for their use and would pitch a tent in an available open space (it was perfectly the done thing to block off a street as well.). The publicity was via a broadcastor moving about sitting in a cycle-rikshaw announcing the time and the location for the cinema. We would descend on the location well before the start of the cinema and occupy the sheet metal chairs (upper class) and sometimes squat on the dhurrie right in the front of the screen (lower class). There was another way to watch the movie free-of-cost which I never had the courage to try: perch on the nearest tree overlooking the screen! (Old timers may immediately notice the similarity of this arrangement with what they would routinely notice outside the Beldih Club walls on weekend evenings).

 

Multiplexes these days are fine, I love going to them with my wife and kids and spending half my monthly salary on popcorn bags and Pepsi glasses, not to mention the ticket prices in serious three digits. But will I ever have the joy of sitting with other sweaty fans, eating chiniyabadam and welcoming Amitabh Bachchan with claps and hoots and whistles as he appears on the screen ready to light the explosives with his bidi and intoning in his baritone “Jo har roz apni maa martay huey dekh raha hai use maut se kya dar lagega….”? Probably never again!