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Hope in Lagaan – Day 2367

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In Deepa Mehta Fire, Shabana Azmi, the older bahu is on the terrace for a breath of fresh air, when co-sister Nandita joins her. It is a quiet scene that marks the beginning of a bonding between the two women.

Ashutosh Gowariker’s Lagaan was the story of Champaner waiting for rain. The climax when Aamir Khan and his team win the match and their freedom, the Kale megha barsao paani… is a culmination of many victories.

My all-time favorite summer scene will always be Majboor where Amitabh Bachchan, stands in the middle of a busy street holding his throbbing head, as people and vehicles pass by…It is the way the scene is shot, the glaring sun and Bachchan’s expressions, that makes the scene memorable! This scene was the turning point of the thriller. Watch Majboor if you have not seen it already.

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Victimization in Sholay – Day 2367

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For Ramesh Sippy it was victimization in Sholay when a helpless Hema Malini danced to Jab tak hai jaan o jaane jaan main nachungi on glass pieces strewn on the rocky floor. It is said Sippy personally demonstrated the pose and the expression to his heroine, where she looks up at the sun (also used on the poster of the film).

For Govind Nihalani in Vijeta the plane crash and the young pilot stranded in an alien land is an emotional moment because all Kunal Kapoor can think of is his mother/ Rekha.

Amol Palekar’s Thodasa Rumani Ho Jaye was the story of a village fighting drought and also the story of a lonely girl seeking love. One day, a Rainmaker/Barishkar played by Nana Patekar arrives in the village and aids the villagers in locating water and inadvertently, aids the lonely heroine find love.  

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Sympathy in Sharabi – Day 2366

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Mahesh Bhatt’s debut film Manzilen Aur Bhi Hain portrayed three runaway convicts striding through a desert unable to find their way out. They have been on the run for days and now the heroine, Prema Narayan is hallucinating water everywhere and when the illusion breaks, so does her spirit!

Dev Anand in Vijay Anand’s Guide falls asleep outside a temple and a priest covers him with his shawl and now convict Raju is mistaken for a swami. The villagers believe that the swami will bring rain. There is a long sequence where Waheeda Rehman walks the street enduring the sun till she reaches Dev Anand in the climax.

Different directors projected the season to portray different moods. For Praksh Mehra, it was to evoke sympathy and tears for Omprakash dragging a cartload to be able to afford a drink for his master, Amitabh Bachchan in Sharabi.

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Different seasons, different moods – Day 2365

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We have never thought about this but our cinema defines different moods for different seasons. So, while monsoon is unanimously identified with erotica (recall our innumerable rain songs) and spring with its myriad colors with festivity, autumn is usually reserved for regret and reflection (zindagi ke safer mein jo guzar jaate hain…) and summer in my opinion is associated with conflict. Remember the bride in Paheli as she stops by the village pond to rest for a bit?  The burning summer is the beginning of a conflict for Rani Mukherjee.

So, as all of us battle with the present heat, I conjure montages depicting summer in our movies

In KA Abbas’s Do Boond Paani, the village women, carrying pots on heads, walk miles in search of water. In Rudaali a weather-beaten Dimple Kapadia roams bare-foot on the sand and a tanned Shabana Azmi in Mrinal Sen’s Genesis squints at the scorching sun while working on a barren land. In Satyajit Rays’s Sadgati wood-cutter Om Puri collapses with a sun stroke and wife Smita Patil can do nothing to revive him.

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Mother of strength & forgiveness – Day 2364

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Maa Savitri, an avtaar of Goddess Sati is devoted to matrimony and Indian cinema has for generations promoted the all-virtuous heroine devoted to her husband be it Main Chup Rahungi, Dil Ek Mandir, Sangam or Khaandan. Meena Kumari praying for the recovery of her husband in Dil Ek Mandir and Kaajal are projections of Savitri bringing back Satyavan to life again.

Maa Gayatri is the virgin wife of Lord Bhrama also revered as the single woman. Our cinema is full of narratives where a marriage has not been consummated like Rajendra Kumar and Yamuna in Humrahi or the hero loves the woman but cannot marry her like Main Tulsi Tere Aangan Ki or he is married but will not admit it like Jeetendra-Rekha in Maang Bharro Sajna.

So, next time you watch an extra-ordinary mother on screen, try and recall the goddess who inspired the character.

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Mother of knowledge & courage – Day 2363

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Maa Saraswati is the Goddess of learning, art, knowledge and wisdom. She symbolises the creative power of Bhrama. On Basant Panchami day, Bhrama is said to have created Saraswati, infused speech into her and presented a veena in her hand.

All our movies are an ode to Maa Sarawati in some way or the other. Raj Kapoor saw her as vidya in Aawaara. Hrithik Roshan saw her as a healer in Guzaarish. Jeetendra saw Hema Malini as a reformer in Jyoti, Kamal Haasan saw Madhvi as a teacher in Ek Duje Ke Liye and Amitabh Bachchan as a supporter in Yaarana.

Maa Bhawani is a manifestation of the all powerful and mighty Goddess Amba and she was a constant reference in all the dacoit films made over the decades be it Mujhe Jeene Do, Mera Gaon Mera Desh or Omkaara.

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Mother of power and penance – Day 2362

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N Chandra’s Pratighaat told the story of a homemaker, raped in broad daylight. In the climax, Sujata Mehta hacks her rapists on the street and is a manifestation of modern-day Maa Kaali.

It is believed that Goddesses Lakshmi, Saraswati and Kali combined powers to produce Maa Vaishno Devi who would free humanity from suffering. Vaishno Devi was created after severe penance and timeless devotion.

One saw glimpses of this pious, ascetic character in Govind Saraiya’s Saraswati Chandra essayed by Nutan as Kumud Sundari. She is betrayed time and again by destiny and ends up in an ashram, convinced that only penance can find her salvation. It is here that she meets her lover saved by the monks on the banks of a river, quite like Lord Ram discovering Goddess Vaishnavi at a sea shore in Ramayana.

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Mother Extraordinaire – Day 2361

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Maa Durga /Amba are manifestations of Goddess Shakti created to nurture good and vanquish evil. Fable has it that when demon Mahishasura was unconquerable, Lord Bhrama, Vishnu and Shiva concentrated energy to create Durga, the Goddess extraordinaire.

Rakesh Roshan’s Khoon Bhari Maang portrayed Rekha as the avenging angel who vanquishes Kabir Bedi and just as Shiva, Bhrama and Vishnu aided Maa Durga, Rekha is nurtured by a stranger who saves her life, a doctor who lends her a new identity and her children, the reason to fight her oppressor.

According to the 17th century poet Bana, demons Shumbha and Nishumbha, were megalomaniacs and Shumbha fascinated by Maa Kaali sent her a marriage proposal. Goddess Kaali was outraged by his audacity and perished his messenger and all around him.

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Mother & Mother Goddesses – Day 2360

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A few days ago, we celebrated Mother’s Day. My mind rewinds to our mythology. According to Tantra-Chudamani when Sati jumped into the yajna and Lord Shiva did a tandav with her corpse in his arms, Lord Vishnu sensing doom, flung his sudarshan chakra and fragmented Sati’s body into fifty-one pieces (some say 108 pieces), all manifestations of Goddess Shakti. Indian cinema has reflected these avtaars in our narratives.

The most popular goddess Maa Lakshmi, originated from the sagar manthan seated on a lotus holding precious jewels in her hand and Lord Vishnu immediately proclaimed her as his consort.

In the 1973 film Saudagar Amitabh Bachchan a gur seller, chooses to marry a widow/ Nutan so he can lead a comfortable life. In Sanjog Mala Sinha is depicted as an incarnation of Lakshmi and in Judaai Urmila Matondkar is so prosperous that she buys off Anil Kapoor from his bride/ Sridevi.

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Contentment is state of mind – Day 2359

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You sound content? “Yes, I believe contentment is a state of mind and you can feel happy without nothing and unhappy with everything served on a platter. This may sound a bit odd to you, but in a strange way I feel like the character of my debut film Antuleeni Katha. The character is a village girl who goes through extra-ordinary experiences to discover herself. I too started as a small-town girl, did innumerable films down South, came to Mumbai did Hindi films, went back to South and got into politics.

“Life is a full circle” she said, “And sorrow and happiness follow each other like success and failure and we must be prepared for both.”

I conducted above interview with Jaya Prada sometime in 2001 when she was shooting with Dharmendra in a faraway studio in Mumbai. It was among her last fling with Bollywood and she knew it. She was aware that the film she was shooting for would probably not release but wanted to honor her commitments before she took off on a new phase. I reproduce our conversation to reflect the time gone by/ cinema and the time to com/ politics. The biggest stars have to fade some day and those who can accept this are the winners.

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