May 13, 2010

A Couple of Classics

I was going through screenwriting guru Lew Hunter’s book and here is something I thought I could share. He compares Drama and Melodrama: “Melodrama is most simply a story where guns are available to solve character’s problems. Drama is more realistic. If not truly honest, the dramatic stories give an illusion of honesty… Melodramas nearly always have chase sequences… Dramas tend to have lots of wrinkled foreheads instead.” And then he divides Comedy into realistic (e.g. Woody Allen) and non-realistic: “Chaplin films have nonrealistic spines with sporadic inclusions of reality to keep the audience grounded.” And then he asks one important question: Can a filmmaker combine drama, melodrama, comedy, realism and non-realism? Hunter says that this is the hardest form of writing and generally it fails. But when it works 100 percent, it results in a blockbuster.

I was instantly reminded of the way Hindi films work. Traditionally, we strive to combine all the above mentioned genres. Almost always, we fail. But when it works, a Sholay results. Next time someone talks about the inconsistency of Hindi films, here is the explanation to it.

Watched two such Hindi classics recently- both hugely successful films. The first was Vijay Anand’s Jewel Thief. Frankly, I was not expecting much as Teesri Manzil had not worked for me at all. But Jewel Thief was such a fun film to watch - a complete entertainer. I can easily rate it as one of the best made Hindi films and there are lots of merits to talk about. But I would like to mention two points. One, the use of montage. Vijay Anand edited the film himself and his composition of some scenes is breathtaking. Watch the scene where Dev Anand is waiting in Helen’s room for the culprit to arrive. There are not many sequences in Hindi cinema that can boast of such beautiful design of montage. Another high point for me was the choreography of the song ‘Raat akeli hai’. The two-paced rhythm of the song always puzzled me. Watching the film you know why. The character of Tanuja is meant to seduce, but she is otherwise a very sweet, fun-loving, rich girl. So, although the entire song has a seductive slow rhythm in the sensuous voice of Ashaji, each stanza ends with an abrupt rise of tempo – and the seductress turns into a girl bubbling with infectious enthusiasm. Definitely, one of the best songs on screen.

The second film was the one that made Yash Chopra rise as the craftsman of big-budget, multistarrer blockbusters. Waqt is again a film that can only come out from India. More melodramatic than otherwise and slightly weak in parts, Waqt does not really match up to the standards of the films I mentioned above. But it is still one of the best films in Hindi. Watching Balraj Sahni act is a pleasure in itself. But for me the star of the film was Raj Kumar. Let me confess, I didn’t know that these immortal lines were from this film: “Ye bachchon ke khelne ki cheez nahin. Haath kat jaaye toh khoon nikal aata hai.” And “Chinoy seth, jinke apne ghar sheeshe ke hon, wo doosron par patthar nahin phenka karte.” Oh, that is history!


  1. ur blogs always keep rekindling my enthusiasm & love for cinemas... what else do i say :)

    about jewel thief, i dont remember much, but for editing of my yash chopra song, i had set out to watch every film of his (except the unavailable faasle), and watching waqt, i was plesantly delighted to see shashi kapoor so young, beaming & dashing :) and even i didnt know of those "lines" belonged to waqt. and neither did i know that the references to the big round bed in om shanti om, were also to watq. to give you some interesting trivia, due to unavailability of dance & action directors, it was yash chopra who did most for their stuffs :) like in "kaun aaya ki nigahon mein chamak", and other yash chopra trademark romantic songs in it of sunil dutt and sadhna, etc :) and that it was the 1st color film of br films banner...

    p.s. i say rekindling coz the monotony of college years always keep getting the worst out of me :(

  2. thanks...
    BTW, since I know I have got a handful of sincere followers, it keeps me motivated to come up with all sorts of stuff on cinema...

    keep reading...