Sunday, January 22, 2012

Reviewlets: Bombay, Pyaasa, aur Bobby

Three drive-by reviewlets of some of the films I watched about a month ago, all supposedly big films of their day: Bombay (1995), Pyaasa (1957), Bobby (1973).

Bombay (1995)
I was excited to find this one at the library and find out all of the great stuff said about it. Not only did it win tons of awards, it's also a Tamil film, and I was looking forward to expanding my repertoire of non-Hindi Indian films (I've seen a couple of Tamil films and parts of Telugu; nothing else, sadly). However, very unfortunately the library's copy was dubbed in Hindi. Now, I won't go on too long a rant, but I would much rather see something in its original language, as written and as intended by the director than to see something dubbed. The music was done, evidently, in different languages too. I got the Hindi versions, of course.

I really thought this film lived up to what was said of it. It was a look at Hindu-Muslim antagonisms and tensions from several angles. A Hindu man (Shekhar) falls in love with a (veiled) Muslim girl (Shaila), and though they really seem to have few if any qualms about their religious difference, their families do. Their fathers fight constantly. Even when the young couple leaves, they later have to find a balance of which religion their children will follow (ultimately both). Then they become entangled in horrible religious riots where each is in danger for his/her religion.

Now, despite all of that, the film is a lot more focused on the couple's relationship than I expected. For all of the horrible religious rioting and hatred going on, the film is surprisingly light-hearted for much of the time. And very suggestive, too!

But, sum total, I liked both its poignancy and its light-hearted romance.

Pyaasa (1957)
My experience with older Bollywood has been very limited, and this was my first brush with Bollywood prior to 1980 and thus my first brush with black-and-white Bollywood. I found this film oddly hard to follow, and I quit somewhere around three quarters of the way through.

But in the time that I was watching it, I did notice…there's a prostitute…again! Seriously, Bollywood has an obsession with prostitutes. I can't help but think it's both a means of dealing with sex without dealing with sex and an allure of the forbidden. And then there's the added possibility that a prostitute stands in to show that a golden heart can exist even in a "sinful" life or despicably sinful person, and that a golden heart can still be redeemed.

And I know my handle on Hindi/Urdu is still rough, and I cannot truly appreciate nuances, but even in my mediocre grasp of the language(s), I could really appreciate the lyrical sound of this film.

Now only if it were easier to follow…

Bobby (1973)
OK, so I knew this movie was supposed to have been important for its day, but I can't say I was overly wowed. It may have simply been that I was tired because I think I fell asleep during it twice.

Do you want to know what my main takeaway from this movie was? I could not — nor do I think I ever can — erase the image of a young (and even then not-thin) Rishi Kapoor in whitey tighties. Yes. I was simultaneously flabbergasted and horrified when I looked up to see Rishi clad in just his underwear.

Yes. Let's just say I think this one has scarred me a little.


  1. The music from Bombay is the first A R Rahman soundtrack that I fell in love with. I'm not sure he has done anything since then with so much soul and poignancy. Every time I hear the music it brings back images from the film. This is not usually the case with Hindi film music, which often could easily be taken out of one film and slotted into another at random.

  2. I've fallen head over heels in love with A.R. Rahman's music as of late. I must confess for a long time I didn't pay attention to who sang or wrote the music for soundtracks, but Rahman made me start keeping track. I also adore his voice and wish he'd sing more.

  3. Hi, as for Pyaasa: you say "can't help but think it's both a means of dealing with sex without dealing with sex"; no, really, no! Waheeda Rehman in the film is probably better dressed and behaved than ANY young actresses in today's B'wood movies, who, judging from their looks and perhaps lives, would have been called "hussies" by audiences of the time. I know that standards have evolved, but... Anyway, Guru Dutt used a prostitute in Pyaasa because she was an outcast, and he was looking at society through a critical point of view, something such a character might help him do...