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Creating a Woman’s World – Day 2371

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Usha Khanna is  the third female music director, after Jaddan Bai and Saraswati Devi. O. P. Nayyar introduced Usha Khanna to Sashadhar Mukherjee, who asked her to compose two songs  daily and when satisfied with her  versatility signed her  for Dil Deke Dekho 1959 followed by Hum Hindustani 1961. Over the decades her best songs were delivered in combination with Asha Bhosle and Mohammed Rafi. Usha Khanna ruled the film industry from 1960s to 1980s and later composed music for tele-serials too.

Sai Parānjpye may not be the premier woman director but she is a pathbreaking director to present us winners like SparshKathaChasme Buddoor, and Disha. She has written and directed many Marathi plays like Jaswandi, Sakkhe Shejari, Albel. Paranjpye started her career in All India Radio (AIR) in PuneMaharashtraIndia as an announcer and soon got involved with AIR’s Children’s Program. Later that year, she was selected to produce the inaugural program of Bombay (Mumbai) Doordarshan. Sai made several TV serials Ados Pados, Chhote Bade., Hum Panchi Ek Chawl Ke and several documentaries and children’s films like Bhago Bhoot.

Saroj Khan started her career as a child artist in Nazarana. She learnt dance while assisting choreographer B Sohanlal. Sadhana gave her break as an independent choreographer in Geeta Mera Naam but  had to wait many years to receive acclaim with first Sri Devi, ‘Hawa hawai…/ Mr India, ‘Main tari dushman…’/ Nagina and Chandni and later with Madhuri Dixit in Ek do teen…TezaabTamma tamma loge… / Thanedaar and ‘Dhak dhak karne laga…’ / Beta.  Saroj Khan is the first choreographer to have television dedicated an exclusively show. concluded

Breaking Rules – Day 2370

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Devika Rani Chaudhuri widely acknowledged as the first lady of Indian cinema met Himanshu Rai, an Indian film-producer, who persuaded her to join his production crew in 1928.  Devika assisted in costumes design and art direction for Rai’s film A Throw of Dice 1929 after which the two got married.

Rai sent Devika to Germany to learn film-making in the UFA Studios in Berlin and on her return, cast her as heroine in the 1933 talkie Karma. Rai established a production studio, Bombay Talkies, and produced several successful films with Devika Rani portraying the lead roles.

After Himansu Rai’s death in 1940, Devika Rani took charge of Bombay Talkies and produced films in partnership with Ashok Kumar and Sashadhar Mukherjee. These films did not prove successful and in 1945 Devika Rani quit the film industry. Devika Rani was the first woman studio owner of Hindi cinema.

To be continued

Bridging the Diversity – Day 2369

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The United Nations celebrates 22 May as International Day for biological diversity.  Our cinema has innumerable examples where women have blurred the differences and celebrated diversity. Looking back at those moments and saluting their courage and power.

Fearless Nadia best remembered as the masked heroine in Hunterwali  released in 1935, which was one of the earliest female-lead Indian films. Born as Mary Ann Evans, she came to India with her father and learned horseback riding, hunting, fishing, and shooting during their stay in the North-West Frontier Province.

After her father’s demise she tried job as a salesgirl and even a stenographer but was not successful. She mastered the art of cartwheels and splits, which came in handy when she began working for Zarko Circus in 1930. J B H Wadia, founder of Wadia Movietone took a gamble and presented her as a slave girl in Desh Deepak, and then as Princess Parizaad in Noor-e-Yaman. Nadia proved a huge hit. She was the first and the only stunt heroine of Hindi films.

To be continued

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.  

To be concluded

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.

To be concluded

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.

To be concluded

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.

To be concluded

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.

To be concluded