Saturday, July 22, 2017

Aashiqui Twenty Seven Years A Journey That Was : by ~ Niilesh A Raje

Twenty-seven years the journey that was when Gulshan Kumar along with Mahesh Bhatt presented the musical rage Aashiqui. The curiosity of this romantic movie started right from the time the poster was released. The way the couple was seen to be making love passionately under the coat and smooching each other followed by the tagline "Love Makes Life Live". Even today after almost over two decades the love story of Rahul Roy and the dusky girl from Delhi Anu Aggarwal still resonates fresh in the hearts of the lovers. 

Aashiqui was the love story of youthful love between a homeless parentless orphan girl (Anu Aggarwal) and a singer guitarist (Rahul Roy). The venue was Sea Rock Hotel, Bandra a common friend's luncheon that Anu chanced to meet the director Mahesh Bhatt of Aashiqui. 

Anu wasn't too keen to get into movies her only aim then was to fly back to Paris. Each time Mahesh used to call her Anu used to reply, "I will call you back". Finally, when Anu went to meet Mahesh Bhatt couple of days later at his shoot location she politely declined the offer as she had to return back to Paris before the next season of haute-couture begins. Pat came the reply from Mahesh Bhatt, "We will complete the shoot in three months". This response was like, "There’s many a slip twixt the cup and the lip". 

The next day, in an old house in Chimbai Village in Bandra, Anu lip-synched the song - "Jaane jigar jaane man . . . jaanam jaane jahan". Chimbai, the 400-year-old beach in Mumbai was once a quaint fishing village. Rahul Roy and Anu Aggarwal who came from nowhere became the talk of the town. Even the signature style of actor Deepak Tijori became a rage. Not to forget the hair style of Rahul Roy. It looked as if the masses had accepted this new theme of love namely Aashiqui. People were able to connect to them as the cast was seen to be somewhere from daily walks of life. Apart from the great story line was the haunting music that captivated the ears of many music lovers. Having good songs in a movie can alone make the movie hit looked to be a distant dream for many film makers then. Aashiqui had indeed a good storyline as well.

Aashiqui was actually as inspiration from the personal life of Mahesh Bhatt. "I couldn't forget the day when Gulshan Kumar came to me and he lived up to his words. He was an unusual man". I was shooting in the suburbs when Gulshan Ji approached Mahesh Bhatt and said, "Aap Ka Naam Mahesh Hai Na. Will it be ok if you and I work together in synergy towards a musical film in which there would be roughly about 8 or 9 songs I guarantee you we together would set the nation a blaze. I would take the music into every home and heart. Gulshan Kumar came from nowhere but he could take a thousand MBA Graduates and teach them lessons in Management. Aashiqui was launched in Sudeep Studio in Mumbai" admits Mahesh Bhatt.

Director Mahesh Bhatt wasn't apprehensive taking new entrant like Rahul Roy or Anu Aggarwal. Right after his first take with Anu, he said, "Ok" happily. That only shows the creative confidence of the director. It was, "Love In The Times of Cholera" book by Gabriel Garcia Marquez that really helped Anu Aggarwal study and prepare well for the role. 

The film also marked the career of singer Kumar Sanu and music composers Nadeem-Shravan. The first song that got recorded was, "Nazar Ke Saamne Jigar Ke Pass".  The movie swept away with four Filmfare awards to its credit. 

Nadeem Shravan (Filmfare Award for Best Music Director) 
Kumar Sanu (for "Ab Tere Bin") Filmfare Award for Best Male Playback Singer
Anuradha Paudwal (for "Nazar Ke Saamne") Filmfare Award for Best Female Playback Singer and 
Sameer (for "Nazar Ke Saamne") Filmfare Award for Best Lyricist

Starting with the movie Aashiqui Kumar Sanu's career took him to exalted heights. He was awarded the Filmfare Best Male Playback Singer Award for five consecutive years. He also holds the Guinness Book world record for recording the most songs in a day, 28, in the year 1993.  

We also had seen the anger in the eyes of Tom Alter and Reema Lagoo playing their part equally well in the movie. Reema Lagoo began her journey with Mahesh Bhatt in the world of movies with Aashiqui in which she played the role of a single parent to Rahul Roy supporting her son in his matters of the heart. 

The letter from Anu to Rahul which read, "Rahul aagle shanivaar library ke baju wale classroom  mein milna 7:30 baje Anu" and the song follows, Dheere Dheere Se Meri Zindagi Mein Aana. Director Mahesh Bhatt reminisced how he used to meet his crush then when he was in Bombay Scottish School in the late 60's.     

Today's generation of songs may bore listeners after a week of their production whereas songs of Aashiqui have been soothing the ears of people for several decades. Not to forget the curtain opens up with the song only and the voice of Kumar Sanu, "Bas Ek Sanam Chaahiye Aashiqui Ke Liye" where the title of the movie comes in the first opening lines only. 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

39 Years of DON ( Anecdotes of an Iconic Thriller ) : by Niilesh A Raje

With Amitabh Bachchan's movie DON completing 39 years of its release I would like to share few interesting anecdotes with respect to the following song from this movie - "Ye Mera Dil Pyaar Ka Deewana".

While there have been many hit songs that feature Amitabh Bachchan but "Ye Mera Dil Pyaar Ka Deewana" song from the movie DON is amongst the first few songs of Amitabh Bachchan which feature just him and the opposite cast (Helen) in this song and no one else. We had earlier seen him feature in the song say from Bombay to Goa but that was amongst a group of people. Hence this song sets him apart from the rest of the pack. Yes, later after the movie DON we did see Amitabh Bachchan feature in many more toe-tapping numbers who came up with his own dancing style.

The song, "Ye Mera Dil Pyaar Ka Deewana" was the first song from the movie DON which was shot in the leading studios in Mumbai, Mehboob Studios (Bandra). The look and feel gives one the impression it was shot in one of the leading hotels in the suburbs. The check style jacket and the emerald green colored shirt which Amitabh wore in this song was the same one he had purchased it from Cecil Gee - London's Leading Stylist for men's wear. Not to forget Amitabh Bachchan's graceful entry in the movie impeccably dressed with his personal Ray-Ban glasses was also bought from London during his visit.      

DON, a Spanish word which means “Gentleman” or “Nobleman” indicating the term of respect for a man usually followed by his first name. Director Chandra Barot who directed the 1978 Amitabh Bachchan starrer “DON” was right when he showcased Mumbai as the city of opportunities and success stories, a city for dream and dream merchants and a city of Gold.

The song, "Ye Mera Dil Pyaar Ka Deewana" was the first song from the movie DON which was shot in the leading studios in Mumbai, Mehboob Studios (Bandra).  Lyrics were by Indeevar Saab and melodious voice was of Asha Ji for this pulsating song. The word Dil in this song makes it sound that this song is romantic but in reality, it was never a romantic number. On the contrary, in this song, Helen tries to seek revenge with Amitabh for having killed her fiance. Helen had already performed earlier in numbers like, "O Haseena Zulfonwaali" and "Piya Tu Aab Tho Aaja". So, far Helen to perform this number "Ye Mera Dil Pyaar Ka Deewana" wasn’t too difficult. Kalyanji Anandji's music continues to soothe the ears of music lovers even today. I equally love the background music heard during thriller or action sequence in this movie. Dialogues none other than Salim-Javed.

The choreographer for the song was P L Raj (birth name Devraj Peter Lewis) who was in his early 30's while the movie DON was in the making. He was amongst the leading choreographer during 60s and 70s within Hindi Cinema. In 2001, P L Raj was honoured with the Dadasaheb Phalke Award for technical excellence. Today, his son Lesle Peter Lewis is a popular composer and a member of the duo Colonial Cousins.      

Director Chandra Barot’s DON attained the cult status in India, proved to be an iconic thriller and dialogues constantly mouthed by innumerable fans. The primary reason for the project DON being the director Chandra wanted to help his friend the producer of the movie Nariman A Irani who had suffered a big financial setback. 

Director Chandra Barot finished his Senior Cambridge Examination in 1959 and had spent most of his life in Dar es Salaam. Between his Senior Cambridge Examinations and results, he had 6 months time frame. His father mentioned him about part time vacancy at Barclays Bank. Chandra immediately took up the offer at Barclays Bank and worked with the organization, not for 6 months but full time for a brief period of nine years making it as his full-time profession. Very few can imagine a Corporate Executive from an MNC goes ahead in life to become a Creative Director. Chandra was known for dressing well and flaunting fancy accessories he possessed then.

I dedicate this piece to all the fans of the 1978 movie DON. Watching the movie (several times) I had the impression that DON means a Man in Powerful Position but now I also view it from Spanish angle meaning “Nobleman” or "Gentleman" expressing honour or respect to highly respected Mr. Amitabh Bachchan Ji and also to the whole crew of the 1978 starrer DON for giving each one of us an iconic thriller.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Book Review : Bollywood Boom ( India's Rise as a Soft Power ) : by Niilesh A Raje

Penguin Random House India are delighted to release the new title Bollywood Boom by National Award winner Roopa Swaminathan. Her last book Star Dust: Vignettes from the Fringes of the Film Industry won the coveted Swarna Kamal for Best Writing on Cinema.

Bollywood is bold, beautiful and happening. And it’s happening now. From Raj Kapoor to Amitabh Bachchan to Aamir Khan and Shah Rukh Khan, Bollywood has been India’s best cultural ambassador, be it in Russia, Africa or East Europe, and now in the UK and the US. 

In Bollywood Boom, National Award–winner Roopa Swaminathan explores the spectacular success of Bollywood in the twenty-first century and its rapidly rising power to influence the world. She argues that besides international goodwill, Indian cinema brings to the country real income through trade and tourism, and also enhances its global standing. Extensively researched and peppered with fun anecdotes, this remarkable book shows how Bollywood has the power to mold India’s fortunes by winning the hearts of people across continents.

The world is feeling the impact of Bollywood like never before. From the Oscar-nominated Lagaan to Bajrangi Bhaijaan to Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, Bollywood has come a long way since the watershed Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge and the UK Top Ten debut of Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. Where earlier it was in Russia, East Europe, and Africa that Raj Kapoor and Amitabh Bachchan enjoyed a devoted fan base, today the entire world is as entertained by the three Khans as by the international stars Irrfan, Priyanka and Deepika.

In Bollywood Boom, National Award–winner Roopa Swaminathan opens a window to the spectacular success of Bollywood in the twenty-first century and its direct contribution to India’s rising soft power and influence. Using extensive research, a compelling argument and fun anecdotes, Roopa shows how Bollywood not only brings to the country real income through trade and tourism but also enhances its global standing.

Roopa Swaminathan is a National Award–winning writer, filmmaker, and scholar. Her book Star Dust: Vignettes from the Fringes of the Film Industry won the coveted Swarna Kamal for Best Writing on Cinema in 2005. She has also written, executive-produced and directed a feature film for NFDC, Five by Four. Roopa has a doctorate in international relations from Norfolk, Virginia, USA. Presently, Roopa commutes between writing in Pune and teaching wherever there are passionate young minds is working on her upcoming books and trying to sell her screenplays.

Author               Roopa Swaminathan

Binding               Paperback

EAN                        9780143429180

ISBN                0143429183

Language         English

Language Type Published

Number Of Pages 272

Price                        Rs 399/-

Product Group Book

Publication Date 2017-04-17

Publisher                 Penguin Random House India


Sunday, April 9, 2017

The Making of Marathi Play CODE “मंत्र” : by ~ Niilesh A Raje

There has always been lots of curiosity amongst the common masses when it relates to the story of our Indian Army who are far across from their home and loved one’s protecting each one of us. The rigorous training they undergo to make it up being part of the army and the practice of discipline one needs to adhere to as part of their professional work environment is indeed notable. So when viewers get the opportunity to witness drama that unfolds the plot about the life in the Indian Army then Marathi play CODE “मंत्र” is no exception. The play CODE “मंत्र” is set up against the background of the Indian Army.

Even before I could ask any question to actress Mukta Barve about the making of the Marathi play CODE मंत्र” wherein she is seen playing the lead role alongside actor Ajay Purkar what captivated my attention being the title itself and the way it has been designed. I was intrigued which excited me to ask Mukta my first question, "Why the title of the play CODE “मंत्र” is written in two different languages where CODE is written in English and ”मंत्र” in Marathi? What was the thought process when the design was made that makes use of two different languages? It's very rare that one finds the title of the play or movie that makes use of two different languages. Perhaps the crew of CODE “मंत्र” may have the answer but I don't.  

The journey goes back to the first week of January year 2016 when producer Dinesh Pednekar was invited to watch the Gujarati version of the play CODE “मंत्र”. He was so impressed watching the play that he could not resist himself but call Mukta Barve during the interval. He suggested her to watch this Gujarati version of the play CODE “मंत्र” as he had already made up his mind to come up with the same play in Marathi. Now whether Mukta might agree or decline to work in the Marathi version of this play was totally subjective.

Without wasting time and with no knowledge of Gujarati language Mukta went ahead and watched the Gujarati version of this play not once but thrice till she got straight into the heart of the story. Having got convinced she then conveyed her decision to Mr. Dinesh Pednekar that she is ready to play the lead role in the Marathi version of the play CODE “मंत्र”.

Mukta has played the role as Military Law Expert Ahilya Deshmukh. Now came the challenge to find someone who would play the lead role (male) opposite to Mukta and the search started. Research revealed that it was Mukta’s Mother who recommended the name of actor Ajay Purkar to play the role of Colonel Prataprao Nimbalkar.

Initial days the rehearsals were on from 10 am to 5 pm but with the passage of time they spread over to twelve hours shift from 10 am to 10 pm such was the level of commitment from each one of them who were part of this vibrant Marathi play CODE मंत्रThe whole crew comprised of forty artists who were ready in a span of forty days to perform live on the center stage each one giving their own power-packed performance. And, once the courtroom drama unfolds it’s interesting to see the Military Law Expert Mukta (Ahilya Deshmukh) and her voice resonate inside the courtroom who is seen to ask blunt and pointed questions be it the petitioner or respondent appearing inside the witness box.

To achieve the milestone of completion of fifty successful shows in short span of seventy days is indeed creditable. As of 8 March, 2017 Marathi version of CODE “मंत्र” has already completed 150 shows and is still counting. CODE “मंत्र” has also been the recipient of many awards which includes Maharashtra Times Award for the Best Marathi Play and Zee Gaurav for the most captivating Marathi play for this year. To sum it up not to forget actor and writer Sneha Desai got the inspiration to pen down the Gujarati play CODE मंत्र” from the original play first produced on Broadway namely "A Few Good Men" play by Aaron Sorkin. To know more about the day in the life of Indian Army then watching Marathi version of the CODE “मंत्र” is an absolute must making your watching experience more enthralling.  

Director:  Rajesh Joshi 

Cast :  Mukta Barve, Ajay Purkar, Umesh Jagtap, Atul Mahajan, Kaustubh Diwan, Faiz Khan, Sanjay Khapre, Milind Adhikari, Vikram Gaikwad, Amit Jambekar, Swati Bovlekar, Sanjay Mahadik and Ajay Kasurde

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Amar Akbar Anthony ( The Captivating Storyline ) ~ by : Niilesh A Raje

Filmmaker Manmohan Desai etched his place in history of Bollywood for delivering some of the biggest hits that whizzed audiences away into a world of make-believe, where simple people did wondrous things and made you laugh and cry with them.

“Anhonee Ko Honee Karna Hamara Kaam Hai”

(Making the impossible possible is our job)

Manmohan Desai, The Man Himself               

Born on 26th February, 1937 to a Gujarati couple Kalavati and Kikubhai Desai, Manmohan Desai moved to the Khetwadi locality in Mumbai at the age of four. Mumbai, the city of dreams and dream merchants had always been his home. This love for the city of Mumbai was often portrayed on the screen in his movies.

Not many had heard of Khetwadi then in the early 80’s. There was a time when the nondescript Khetwadi was not reflected in the maps of the city. No doubt the taxi drivers gave blank look when asked for the address for MKD Films.

Desai had film making in his blood stream. His father was a film producer who owned Paramount Studios (later Filmalaya) and made films, mainly stunt films, between 1931 and 1941. When his father passed away at a young age of 39 due to a ruptured appendix, the family plunged into heavy liabilities and debts. Desai’s mother was pretty clear about not wanting to “live with debts”. She sold off the massive bungalow they owned in Versova and the cars to repay the debts. Only thing that she did not sell was the studio as it was the source of their monthly income then.

Amar Akbar Anthony (Evergreen Entertainer)
Amar Akbar Anthony, the evergreen entertainer which has captivated millions of movie lovers continues to be one of the most remembered films for its performances, dialogues and scenes. The maker of this mega hit, the maverick Manmohan Desai etched his place in history for delivering some of the biggest hits of Hindi cinema that whizzed audiences away into a world of make-believe, where simple people did wondrous things and made you laugh and cry with them.

Desai had stumbled upon the idea for Amar Akbar Anthony from a news item he had read in an evening newspaper. An alcoholic man named Jackson was fed up with his life and one day he packed his three children in a car and decided to drop them off in the park. Manmohan Desai’s story began from where this news item ended.

Desai twisted the story and did away with the alcohol angle. In the film’s story when the father returns he finds that all his three children have gone missing. The eldest kid Amar (Vinod Khanna) is adopted by a Hindu police officer, the second one Anthony (Amitabh Bachchan) by a Catholic priest and the third one Akbar (Rishi Kapoor) by a Muslim tailor.

Amar Akbar Anthony was also Kader Khan’s first blockbuster as writer. It was the first and last time when Rafi Saab, Lata Didi, Kishore Kumar and Mukesh Ji sang a song together in the film ‘Hum Ko Tumse Hogaya Pyar Kya Karein’. There were three different male voices for the heroes but only Lata Mangeshkar for all the leading ladies.

My Name is Anthony Gonsalves

The most memorable character among the trio is of course Anthony Gonsalves. The original name of Amitabh Bachchan’s character was Anthony Fernandes. It was music composer Pyarelal Ji who requested Late Manmohan Desai to change it to Anthony Gonsalves after his guruji’s name. Anthony Gonsalves was one of India’s leading violinists and music arrangers who later moved to Goa after retirement.

The inspiration for Anthony came to Desai from the real life character Antav, a bootlegger who was staying close to his home in Khetwadi. He used to wear a funny hat and conversed with Desai in his lingo, “Desai, kaisa hai? Dikhtaich nahin!” Director Desai was fascinated by his character and decided to model the character of Anthony Bhai on him.

The song ‘My name is Anthony Gonsalves’ begins with these lines spoken by Anthony when he emerges from the Easter egg – “You see, the whole country of the system is juxtapositioned by the hemoglobin in the atmosphere because you are a sophisticated rhetorician intoxicated by the exuberance of your own verbosity.” It is an almost exact quotation from a speech in the Parliament of the United Kingdom given by British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli in 1878. Disraeli (who was referring to William Ewart Gladstone) used the word “inebriated” rather than “intoxicated.”

Medical Disaster

Amitabh Bachchan had once said, “He (Desai) would first design the `items’ that he wanted in the film then he would shoot them and then write the (screenplay) to link them up.” Interestingly, Desai was known to do some of the craziest stuff but it always worked for him.

       Remember the famous `blood donation’ scene, where three sons of a mother donate her blood at the same time? The scene was criticized for being a medical improbability. Three separate tubes carry the men’s blood to a suspended bottle from where one tube carries the collected blood to the mother Bharti (Nirupa Roy)! The credits end and then the main story begins.

A medical impossibility. But Desai did it and it is said that when the scene opened, there was unbelievable applause in the theatre. That’s the unique and highly saleable creativity that director Manmohan Desai exhibited.

The Shoot Locations

The place where Kishan Lal and his family who are seen living in an old home is part of Bandra. The songs and items from the movie that were executed first.  The items included the Easter Egg scene, Saibaba Qawwali and Bachchan’s drunken scene in front of the mirror. Most of the shoot had been indoors in studios as in RK, Kamalistan and Ranjit. The Saibaba song was shot in the outskirts of Mumbai city then namely Borivali where Saibaba temple was built. The song “Humko Tumse Ho Gaya Hai Pyaar” was shot in the quiet Aksa beach. The indoor church scenes were done in Don Bosco Matunga while for outdoor shoot it was Mount Mary church in Bandra. The indoor church scenes were done between 3 and 4:30 pm only as it used to get dark inside.

Those were the days when movies were being played in large single screen cinemas and these were considered to be huge success only if they ran twenty five consecutive weeks – the silver jubilee as they say. Amar Akbar Anthony witnessed the seventy five week long run making Desai reach the exalted position as the most successful director not only for the year but also for the decade. Amar Akbar Anthony is the only movie where the titles start after twenty three minutes and thirty seven seconds and is considered to be the longest amongst Hindi films. The titles open up with the tinge of emotions and the song, “Ye Saach Hai Koi Kahani Nahin . . . Khoon Khoon Hota Hai Paani Nahin”.        
Desai always believed that parents came above God and of course, above self. Hurt them and you hurt yourself was his simple belief which continues to echo even today in the world of cinema. In most of the Manmohan Desai films one thing was evident; he always showcased his profound respect for the mother figure. He said, “In my films I always talk about ‘Ma Sherovali’. I feel a woman is a supreme creation. It is she who conceives, she who bears the child after nine months, she who takes care through hardships. She brings into the world a new life. I rate them very high.

The man who firmly believed in the “Lost and Found” formula left behind an indelible mark in Bollywood film history, with films that spun magic with great music, top order performances and thoroughly enjoyable storylines that worked even with a touch of incredulity.