Monthly Archives

February 2020

Aruna Irani: Replay Saaz Day 1749

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Just in the way a familiar fragrance triggers a special memory, an old film replayed on
the television revives specific recall. It happened to me last night when surfing late night
I came across Sai Paranjpye’s telefilm Saaz and could not resist watching the entire film.
Saaz revived memories of how the film was conceived /cast and shot, all the stories and
controversies associated with the film came gushing back. The Mangeshkar family was
upset because word had got around that the story was inspired from the life of Asha
Bhosle played by Shabana Azmi and Lata Mangeshkar played by Aruna Irani.
When the film was released both the actresses were inundated with compliments but
while Shabana had the author backed role, Aruna Irani sparkled in her slightly negative
role of the elder sister. Call it a coincidence but I bumped into Aruna Irani soon after and
asked her if she expected such an overwhelming response? “I didn’t frankly, because
after so many years before the camera I still feel that no artiste, no matter how talented is
capable of a good performance without the guidance of the director. The actor projects
the character but his understanding of the role is always limited as compared to the
filmmaker who sees it as a complete picture”.
To be continued
@bhawnasomaaya

Lohanas researched by Subhash, Hasu Day 1748

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Of the many theories floating about the community, one of them is that the Lohanas are a warrior class and believed to be the descendants of Raja Ram, who was also known as Lord Raghu and his descendants called Raghuvanshis. So another description of Lohanas is Raghuvanshis. Lord Ram had two sons; Luv and Kush. The descendants of Luv were known as Luvanas and from that evolved Lohanas which the youngsters are shortening it to ‘ Luees’!

The warrior Lohanas or Kshatriyas reveal traces in places like Kabul and even Kandahar which can be split in to Kanda ( onions or dungri) and ahar (eating) because unlike the Jains the Lohanas  are associated with dungri/onion eating!

Another theory is that Lohanas migrated from the North to what is now known as the Multan region of Pakistan where a place called Lahorghat existed. Lohanas were the protectors of Lahorghat and therefore named Lahoranas which slowly turned into Lohanas and which is why Lohanas look distinctively different from the other Gujaratis. To begin with they are fairer skinned; the men have more hair on their body and are broad shouldered. Their speech is more aggressive reflecting the warrior blood and the most important, the community is the biggest carriers of a blood disorder called Thelesimia which no other Gujarati community has any trace of and there is story behind it.

According to the legend Alexander the Great also known as Sikender was invading and conquering the world but by the time he reached the Indian shores he died in the process and many of his soldiers never returned to Greece and settled in the northern region. There must have been interactions between Lohanas and the Greeks which is probably the reason why Greeks are even bigger carriers of Thelesimia and Lohanas picked up this strain from them. This may also be the reason why the physical features of many Lohanas resemble the Greeks! The other Gujaratis do not have this blood disorder.

Old residents of Multan region of Pakistan reveal that there  re many who remember being Lohanas earlier but are now converted to Muslims given that Pakistan is a Islamic state and it would be isolating to live there as a Lohana Hindu community.  In the same way the Ismailis/ khojas are converts from Lohanas which is why there is a striking similarity in the customs and ceremonies of the two communities including their surnames like Somani, Lakhani etc amongst Ismailis.

There is a possible theory that a number of Hindu Punjabis were Raghuvanshis earlier and hold surnames like Sachdeva and Thakral similar to Lohana surnames. It is believed that some of the Rahuvanshi settled in the present day Punjab instead of Multan, in fact story has it Guru Nanak Singh was a Lohana and his original surname was Chandarana. He started a new Sikh army by calling for the eldest son of every family to join him in the fight against insurgencies from the Muslims. 

After the Indian partition, many Lohanas moved to nearby Saurastra and Kutch regions of today’s Gujarat and India and since then considered to be a nomadic community. After settling in Saurastra in the 18th century, many travelled by sea and settled in East Africa and South Africa, this was in late 1800s and early 1900s. A lot of them settled in Africa moved to UK, US, Europe and Australia and some young Lohanas from Gujarat and Europe to Africa. 

Some of the notable Lohanas in the past include Saint Jalaram Bapa who was a Thakker, Guru Nanak who was a Chandarana, Yogi Maharaj, the founder of Swaminaryen movement, Mohamed Ali Zina, the first president of Pakistan, who belonged to a Thaker family in Gondal but converted. Then Nanji Kalidas Mehta, one of the great business entrepreneurs and philanthropists, Muljibhai Madhavani, a highly successful business entrepreneur and founder of the Madhvani Group in Uganda. Of course the most famous royalty amongst Lohanas was Dada Jasraj. Many Lohanas still revere him during their religious ceremonies.

The modern day Lohanas are made up of success stories but lack the community spirit visible among other communities like the Patels. The Lohanas are moving in to high levels of professionals, politics are seriously involved in philanthropy but not in helping their own community.

Waiting to hear from you Subhash Thakrar and Hasu Maanek…

@bhawanasomaaya

Movie Review: Love Aaj Kal (Day 1747)

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Film: Love Aaaj Kal

Release: 14.02.2020

Writer/ Director: Imtiaz Ali

Music: Pritam

Cast: Kartik Aryan, Sara Ali Khan, Randeep Hooda, Arushi Sharma

Director Ram Gopal Verma once told me that he reworked on his old subjects till he had conquered all the flaws which explains why he made so many films on the underworld. Filmmaker Imtiaz Ali probably weaves complicated love stories because he is forever in the process of decoding love.

In 2009 Ali served us a difficult watch called Love Aaj Kal where Jay/ Saif Ali Khan and Meera/ Deepika Padukone part ways and celebrate their breakup with a big bash inviting all their friends.

Now eleven years later, Ali brings another film with the same title and almost similar story where a software engineer Veer/ Kartik Aryan is madly attracted to a struggling event manager/ Sara Ali Khan and cannot stay away from her.

In 2009 Saif Ali Khan played a double role as Jay and as Veer/ Rishi Kapoor’s youth and in 2020 Kartik Aryan plays Veer and Raghu/ Randeep Hooda’s youth. Then, Jay was young and restless and Meera, more mature and composed, this time Veer is self-assured and Zoie is high strung.

It is not just the character names and personality traits that are confusing, the major problem is the complicated screenplay. There are parallel tracks of past and present intercutting scenes with frequent flashbacks and flashforwards which is not just distracting but also annoying. It is unfortunate because Imtiaz Ali is a champion of relationships and all his films (Rockstar or Tamasha) are a reflection of the complex, fragile, insecure characters and the nervous energy they bring to the scenes. His stories are about hope and despair, expectations, disillusionment and desolation.

Ali loves cafeterias, his love scenes and songs are usually around the cafes/ Tamasha, loves strangers becoming beloveds/ Jab We Met, thrives on incomplete communication/ Highway. He loves the mountains, the snow, soulful music and it is all there in Arijit’s voice and Pritam’s composition but you don’t connect to the film, cannot understand what is the issue.

Sometimes, when there is too much to tell you are unable to tell anything and probably that’s what has happened to Imtiaz Ali.

All the actors do their best, Arushi shines as a newcomer, Sara is a natural and Kartik emerges as a dependable actor.

I rate Love Aaj Kal with 2.5 stars.

Bhawana Somaaya  

Long Live Lohanas – Day 1746

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Long Live Lohanas

Sometimes, forwards work as a boon. A few days ago, my nephew sent me a forward and I have since then been thinking about the two special boys who are working at documenting the Lohana community among the Gujratis.

Subhash Thakrar, a Lohana Gujrati based in UK has always been fascinated with the Lohana history and has researched the descendants of the community along with his other friends like Hasu Manek and Vijay Thakrar.

The trio has over the years interviewed many stalwarts from different generations which include community leaders like Haribhai Samani who was able to offer anecdotal insights about Lohana history. Since there is as such authentic recorded history what Subhash, Hasu and Vijay got about doing was to trace the history with the help of experts.

They connected with Haribhai, PhD at Cambridge University, Dr Katherine Prior and Professor Rohit Barot at Reading University to research whatever data available and were surprised to discover that there are references to Lohanas even in the British history books. On the basis of the accumulative efforts here is the story of the Lohanas.

Lohanas hail from a warrior class originating from the borders of Uzbekistan and Afghanistan. This distinguishes Lohanas from today’s other Gujarati communities like Shahs, Patels, Prajapatis, Kutchis  and others, who have at some time or the other been resident of Gujarat, unlike Lohanas  who are immigrants in Gujarat.

In the North West region of the old Indian empire, as was the case all over India (that time British India), there were several kingdoms and Lohanas represented 24 kingdoms each bearing a name like Thakar, Lakhani, Kotak etc. It is the names of these kingdoms that eventually converted to Lohana surnames.

Over the years of evolution, new surnames were added to the list for example, from Thakar we got Thakrar and from Kotak came Kotecha and so on. Some acquired surnames from their business and profession as a result the traders in ghee became Gheewala, accountants transformed into  Mehtas as a result today  there exists approximately 40 to 50 versions of Lohana surnames spread all over the world.

A case study on the Lohana community of North London, which probably represents the largest concentration of Lohanas in the UK, there should be approximately 24,000 or maximum 26000 Lohanas. Leicester is the next biggest concentration in UK should house another 20,000 which means the Lohana presence all over UK will not exceed 100,000.

A similar estimate in US and Americas will aggregate to 100,000 add to this another 50,000 in the Far East, 50,000 in the Middle East, 100,000 in Africa, then we come up with an approximate number of around 500,000 Lohanas living outside India. Of course the largest number has to be in India, that too Saurastra and rest of them in Gujarat and in Mumbai which would include around 1.5 million and therefore Lohanas around the world will be approximately 2.5 m is fair and reasonable.

For a community that originated as warriors/ Kshatriyas it is impossible to find any Lohana in the army or the police force on the contrary Lohanas are revered as a shrewd business community so what brought about such a transformation over the last 800 years? There are many versions and stories say Subhash Thakar and Hasu Manes but more about this tomorrow.

To be continued

@bhawanasomaaya

Movie Review – Malang – Day 1745

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No Mazaa

Film: Malang

Release: 07.02.2020

Director: Mohit Suri

Writers: Aseem Arrora/story, Aniruddha Guha/ screenplay

Cast: Aditya Roy Kapur, Disha Patani, Anil Kapoor, Kunal Khemu

You either like thriller movies or you don’t and if you do, then you have an appetite for all thriller genres. Director Mohit Suri clearly enjoys making thrillers and has made an image for himself weaving intrigue and mystery into complex stories projected by complex characters be it Raaz or Murder 2.

His focus has always been relationships/ Wo Lamhe or Half Girlfriend and heaps it with family conflicts, personal insecurities, emotional drama and haunting melody. This time because the base is Goa he indulges in rave parties, alcohol, drugs, new friends, new love, adventure and loads of excitement!

Malang-Unleash the Madness is the story of Christmas night when a criminal/Aditya Roy Kapur recently released from jail calls a senior cop/Anil Kapoor and warns him of his murder plans. The first half meanders endlessly, is dull and scattered, the second half picks up in pace and action but fails in emotional connect. There are four gruesome murders and before that violent scenes packed with kicks, punches, pistol firing, torture and encounters!

Everything is cold blooded and mechanical, the dialogues are ineffective and the narrative does not engage you, even the music is disappointing except the remix score ‘Aaj ki raat koi aane ko hai’ that builds drama to some extent. Vikas Sivaraman’s cinematography is seductive and yes, the climax has some surprises.

Disha Patani as Saara suits the part, Aditya Roy Kapur has a new image of an action hero after Aaashiqui, Kunal Khemu is promising and Anil Kapoor as always steals the show.

In a party scene, Jessie, a drug dealer asks Saara, ‘Tumhe mazaa chahiye ya sukoon?’ Saara chooses mazaa but after watching Malang I am certain that I not visiting Goa for a long, long time. Now the choice is yours, if you want mazaa you can book your tickets for the film but if you want sukoon, please stay miles away from Malang.

I rate Malang with 2 stars.

@bhawanasomaaya

Lyrical in every frame Day 1744

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Romance v/s Drama:The story travels two eras immortalized by love letters. The first is written by Nargis to Shahabuddin on her death bed and soaked in tears and it reaches Ashok Kumar 17 years later by which time Shahabuddin has searched for Nargis everywhere unaware that was wilting away in a graveyard. The second is by Salim who accidentally invades into a train compartment and is enamored by the sleeping Meena Kumari’s beautiful feet. He leaves a note at her feet which Sahibjaan preserves in a locket clipped into her hair. The letter and the book mark borrowed from Meena Kumari’s diary pages by Raaj Kumar is the foundation of a heady romance.  There is ample drama when the lovers meet accidentally, part and meet again and Raaj Kuumar sails her into moonlit night and introduces her to the priest as ‘Pakeezah’.

Images v/s Echoes:The film is all about haunting images and echoes. The whistling train is a recurrent motif piercing through dramatic moments in the film. The protagonist seeks refuge from the train and describes herself as a traveler without destination. The film is laced with echoes of ghungroos, thumris, alaaps. Kamal Amrohi transforms every frame into a painting; a pink shikara sailing on a quiet stream attacked by enraged elephants is a volatile moment, also the sudden storm, flying window panes, a screaming bird in a swaying gold cage and a poisonous snake deliberately left lose into the room.

Bhawana Somaaya/ @contact @bhawanasomaaya.com  

Poetry on Celluloid – Day 1743

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Kotha v/s Kothi:Ashok Kuumar and Meena Kumari lived contrasting lives. Both resided in sprawling mansions but while Kumar’s was a feudal setup, Kumari belonged to the tawaifs who come evening dressed up in fineries and entertained guests.  The nautch girls had a life before dusk.Unlike the kotha the women in nawab homes had no voice and moved freely only when the patriarch was away. In his presence they went behind veils and remained invisible until summoned. What is common between the two was the cultures or the tehzeeb and Kamal Amrohi portrayed both with utmost pomp and glamour.  The concluding scene where the two worlds come together in a wedding and a funeral and Nawabjaan/ Veena breaks down it is done in dignity and Sapru full of remorse mourns in silence.

Mujra v/s Melody: To a great extent the beauty of Pakeezah is associated with its poetry and melody. The haunting background score of maestro Naushad Ali and Ibrahim and combined muse of stalwarts Majrooh Sultanpuri, Kaifi Azmi, Kaifi Bhopali and Kamal Amrohi’s lyrics set to music by erstwhile Ghulam Mohmad are songs for a lifetime. A team of choreographers came together to ensure that every mujra was distinctly different so while ‘Inhi logo ne…’ and ‘Thade rahiyyo…’ by Lachu Mahrajj concentrates on abhinaya, Gauri Shankar’s ‘Chalte chalte…’ is about footwork and ‘Aaj hum apni duaaon…’ about pherras in Kathak dance form. Meena Kumari even though grossly overweight and untrained in classical dance through intricate mudras and mercurial expressions added the navrasas essential to play the eternal seductress in a glittering mehfil of admirers.  ‘Mausam hai aashikana’ is not a mujjra but melody at its peak.

To be continued…

@bhawanasomaaya

Remembering Pakeezah – Day 1742

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On 04 February Kamal Amrohi’s Pakeezah will complete 48 years almost half a century later the film continues to haunt  you and the heart searches for Sahibjaan. Looking back there were many reasons for this film to become a classic.

Tradition v/s Passion: The storyopens on the dance floor and in between a flickering orange flame and a red chandelier looming large into the frame, a dancer swirls in a flowing dress as the narrator in chaste Urdu recounts the story of courtesan Nargis/ Meena Kumari, who makes the tactical error of falling in love with her client Shahabudin/ Ashok Kumar who rescues Nargis from the kotha but his family will not accept her. Meena Kumari flees to a graveyard in anguish and dies heartbroken after giving birth to a baby girl and Ashok Kumar remains single searching for his Sahibjaan.

In the coming days I will be sharing fascinating details about  an exotic film made by a husband/ Kamal Amtohi for his wife Meena Kumari.  King Shah Jahan made a Taj Mahal for his begum Mumtaz and Kamal Amrohi made Pakeezah for his Mahajabeen whom he called Manju.

To be continued…

@bhawanasomaaya