Tag Archives: movies

Guru Dutt: An Unfinished Story by Yasser Usman

Guru Dutt - An Unfinished Story by Yasser Usman

Title: Guru Dutt: An Unfinished Story Author: Yasser Usman
Publisher: Simon and Schuster India ISBN: 978-9386797889
Genre: Biographies and Autobiographies
Pages: 336
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

Usman is well-known when it comes to chronicling the life of people from the Hindi film industry. His works are on Rekha, Sanjay Dutt, Rajesh Khanna, and now to join this bandwagon is the tragic life and works of Guru Dutt, who was born Vasanth Kumar Shivashankar Padukone. Usman’s book is a window to the actor, writer, and director’s life in great detail, not hesitating to speak about it all – the loves, the losses, the addiction, the abundantly talented persona, his relationship with his family and wife, and above all the love for his craft, which shone on screen.

To write a biography and that too about such a tortured soul could not have been an easy task. The idea to remove oneself, and look at the text only as an outsider cannot be easy. At the same time, this book is written with such brilliant eye-for-detail, bringing to fore so many details of the man’s life – as a human being, as an artist, and as someone who loved and lost.

The book starts from birth and ends at death, and all of it that took place in-between. From Dutt’s need to make movies that reflected life, and at the same time he also knew how to make commercial hit films. He was of the opinion that for every art-house film he made, he would follow it with a commercial viewing experience. Usman in great details charts every movie that Dutt was associated with in whatever capacity and through those films makes us know the man. Of how he wanted every shot to be perfect – hence the several takes and retakes. Of how portions would be filmed and not used. Of how films got shelved and he incurred losses and jumped right back.

In all of this, what struck me the most was his personal life. The inner turmoil that Usman speaks of so poignantly, and this is where I thought the writing couldn’t be distance from what Usman felt for Dutt. His writing does not ignore the minor or secondary characters. He takes into account every aspect of those films and presents Guru Dutt to the reader – raw and brilliant. The idea of a troubled genius is clearly communicated throughout the book, and what I found most intriguing was how Usman has managed to understand Dutt layer by layer purely through his cinema and silences.

As a reader I didn’t want to take sides. There is no villain here. It is just how life played itself out for the artist, that he couldn’t bear living. I loved the parts of Geeta and Guru Dutt’s life – of how they were so much in love, their pain, anguish, competition, and also how they tried to make things work but could not.

Guru Dutt: An Unfinished Story by Yasser Usman is a very detailed and easily accessible read about a man who went away too soon. He was a tortured soul. He was constantly haunted by life, and that was brought to life most beautifully on screen through his films. Yasser Usman pays the most befitting tribute to a genius, through this book.

Kaagaz Ke Phool: The Original Screenplay by Dinesh Raheja and Jitendra Kothari

Kaagaz Ke Phool by Dinesh Raheja and Jitendra Kothari Title: Kaagaz Ke Phool: The Original Screenplay
Author: Dinesh Raheja and Jitendra Kothari
Publisher: Om Books
ISBN: 9789380070995
Genre: Film Commentary, Films
Pages: 216
Source: Author
Rating: 4/5

“Kaagaz Ke Phool” is one of my favourite Hindi films. I absolutely love the movie. Everything about it and this is before I had heard how it flopped, before there were any preconceived notions formed in my head. There is something about this movie, not to forget so many memories attached to this one because of my father, who had this immense love for old Hindi movies. I have got it from him, so when my favourite movie was converted to an original screenplay, I could not wait to read it.

“Kaagaz Ke Phool: The Original Screenplay” is yet another screenplay by Dinesh Raheja and Jitendra Kothari. It is not just another screenplay though. It is magical, given how the movie is. There is the director’s downfall, played superbly by Guru Dutt, almost depicting his life. There is the heroine he loves, played by Waheeda Rehman, subtly to the hit. He is married. His career is going nowhere. He is soon forgotten by the world. That in short is the plot of the movie.

The screenplay comes alive in two languages – Hindi and English. The essay on Guru Dutt’s troubled relationship with Fame and Success is what stands apart in the entire book. It is beautifully written, honest and yet heartbreaking. The interviews are again the icing to the plot – with Waheeda Rehman, VK Murthy (the camera assistant), and Devi Dutt (Guru Dutt’s younger brother) manage to bring out the man, the director and the creative genius that was Guru Dutt. The tragedy of his life, is so reflective in the book – through the essay, the interviews and the emotion with which these two writers have penned this book.

“Kaagaz Ke Phool: The Original Screenplay” in more than one way is a dedication to the director, the actor, and the story of the movie. It is timeless, but of course, but Raheja and Kothari might as well have done the younger generation a huge favor by publishing this book and bringing this classic to life.

Here is the beautiful and ethereal song from the movie, Waqt Ne Kiya:

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Book Review: First Day, First Show: Writings from the Bollywood Trenches by Anupama Chopra

Title: First Day, First Show: Writings from the Bollywood Trenches
Author: Anupama Chopra
Publisher: Penguin India
ISBN: 978-0-143-06594-4
Genre: Non-Fiction, Reviews, Column Writings
PP: 376 pages
Price: Rs. 499
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

There are two things that we as Indians are most fascinated by – Cricket and Bollywood. We love our stars – whether on the field or on the silver screen. We idolize them and loathe them; we aspire to be them – so much so there are Bollywood Star posters in almost every Indian Household. We also worship them – temples are built, babies are named after Super-Stars, and as the screen goes up and the projector reflects images on the screen, we dream of another world. A world that is flawless. A world which most Indians are comfortable viewing from the outside and forever being in awe of it.

As far as I can remember, while growing up, Bollywood was a topic of constant discussion in my Big Fat Sindhi Family. Instead of newspapers, my father, uncles and aunts grew up on Screen and Filmfare. My grandmother would demand a Friday night film every weekend. My Dad refused to marry on a Wednesday as he would have to miss his Chhayageet. What I am trying to illustrate here, is that this in a way, according to me, is the story of almost every Indian Family. Why am I talking about all this? Well, I have just finished reading a marvelous book on Bollywood – right from the 90’s to date and while reading it, all I could think of is the connection I share with Bollywood (though at times I hate to admit to the fact that I love it and can’t live without it. However, we shall let that one pass) and any book that manages to evoke any feeling in the reader, is bound to be recommended to one and all. So here goes:

First Day First Show is more than a book about the Indian Film Industry. It chronicles the economic and social change so to say that was brought about by films and the Industry. The transformation in lifestyles, the movies that made people think and the movies that served as pure entertainment – all of them rolled together as seen through the eyes of the famous movie reviewer (I refuse to call her a critic as she is my most favourite when it comes to wanting to know more about movies) – Anupama Chopra.

This book is a selection of her writings dating right back to where she had written about Sholay to Devdas and also to pieces about Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham and DevD – the writing is varied. The pieces are short and to the point and I laughed my heart out through most of them – for instance the one that very straight forwardly ripped the movie Jimmy to where she with great candor talks about the underworld and the Bollywood connection.

Like the famous adage goes in the industry, “jeena yahan, marna yahan, iske siwa jaana kahan”, Anupama Chopra does justice to this through her book. From talking about the financial crisis faced by producers a couple of years ago to the costume designers for lavish song and dance routine, she does not leave a stone unturned. The writing is lucid and does not tire you at any given point of time – in fact if anything else, I just wanted certain pieces to go on, like some reviews such as Agyat (which is hilarious to the bone), to the one on Columnists (again biting however not bitchy) and my most favourite piece in the entire book – the one on Shahrukh Khan – it is candid (like almost all pieces) and from the heart.
All in all, First Day, First Show makes for a great afternoon read on Bollywood and its sizzle, its fame, its heartbreaks, its successes and its failures. Bollywood is as it is seen through the eyes of Anupama Chopra. Definitely a treat for the mind and the eyes. To end the review, I would like to quote from the book, which sums up the book beautifully, “Pulp plus poetry. I think that is a near-perfect description of Bollywood. Which is why, twenty years later, I am still seduced”.

You can purchase the book here on Flipkart

Book Review: The Popcorn Essayists: What movies do to writers: Edited by Jai Arjun Singh

Title: The Popcorn Essayists: What Movies do to Writers
Editor: Jai Arjun Singh
Publisher: Tranquebar Press
ISBN: 9789380658353
PP: 227 Pages
Price: Rs. 395
Genre: Non-Fiction
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

Thirteen different genre writing and thinking writers all come together to contribute to this collection of essays – as the title suggests, about movies. If you are a film aficionado and also love reading about movies, then this book is sure meant for you. The Popcorn Essayists is a compilation of 13 essays centred around films, the way they are made and how they are perceived by the audience – in this case the writers.

The contributing writers include Manjula Padmanabhan, Manil Suri, Kamila Shamssie, Anjum Hasan, Amitava Kumar, Namita Gokhale, Jai Arjun Singh (the editor of this collection), Musharraf Ali Farooqi, Madhulika Liddle, Sidin Vadukut, Rajoshri Chakraborti, Sumana Roy and Jaishree Misra. The reason I have mentioned all names is for you to understand the variety that this book provides and the themes it touches – from Art House Cinema (as it was termed in the days gone by) to a day in the life of a writer as a Helen Cabaret Dancer to a writer’s experience about watching Satya, this book has it all.

What I loved about the book while reading it was that I immediately wanted to see all the movies recommended by the writers, even if I had seen some of them some time ago, I still wanted a re-viewing and only to understand the essays better.  When a group of writers come together to contribute to any collection, it is so important to see that the ideas merge and the flow is consistent, and it is with this precision that the editor delivers on this book. The writing is crisp and sharp and to the point, without forcing any opinions down the readers’ throat. At some point though some essays do get technical, but I guess that could not have been avoided, considering the topic.

Movies are magic and we are all aware of that fact. The book attempts I think to introduce us to different genres of movies, like I said without sounding condescending or patronizing. It is about the nuances that are noticed while watching a loud Punjabi Masala Movie or at the same time about the experiences of another author while viewing the works of Finland’s Kaurismäki Brothers and their impact and contribution to world cinema.

All in all, The Popcorn Essayists is a book that must be read for the love of cinema or for the joy of reading and in the process, discovering some great cinema.

You can buy the book here on Flipkart

Books to Movies

They say that a great book can never be made to a great movie. I beg to differ in some cases. There have been times when great books have come alive so well on the big screen. It’s amazing to see what some directors have done with these books. Here are few of my favourites:

1. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell: Vivien Leigh as the playful, bashful, and headstrong Scarlett O’Hara took my breath away. It was after watching the film that I read the book and it remains to be one of my favourite books and movie. I mean how can anyone forget Vivien picking up a handful of dirt in her hand and looking to the sky while saying, “I will never be hungry again”, or for that matter the famous, “Tomorrow is another day” as made famous by the on-screen Scarlett as Rhett Butler (played brilliantly by Clarke Gable) leaves her on the staircase of her house. This is one movie no one should miss.

2. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov: I am referring to the 1962 film version directed by the genius – Stanley Kubrick – the black and white imaging and play of light and shadow was brilliant. It was the component that propelled the story further. With James Mason as Humbert Humbert and Shelley Winters as Charlotte (played to the hilt) and not to forget Sue Lyon as Dolores Haze, the story was etched and controversial – of course only because of the book. How in the world could a man do this to a young girl? What I loved about the movie was its unfolding – Kubrick cleverly changed the order in which the events unfolded by moving what was the novel’s ending to the start of the film. Brilliant I say!

3. The Shining by Stephen King: Yes the book was longer. Yes the book was creepier. Yes we all loved the book. However, how can one discount the film? Jack Nicholson was brilliant. The past and future conjoined with what the child saw. I for one could not sleep for two days after watching this one.

4. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen: I am certain that if there is another adaptation of this book, no one will go and watch it. I love the story – makes me think I am reading Indian fiction for some strange reason – I mean come on – five daughters who need to get married – an intrusive mother, a doting father and the class and moral system of early Georgian England. The intelligent and spirited Elizabeth Bennett is one of my favourite heroines and I wish every girl their very own Darcy. The Lawrence Olivier version rules!

5. The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje: Ralph Fiennes as the wounded soldier. Juliette Binoche as Hana the nurse who looks after him. Naveen Andrews as the enigmatic sapper Kip who loves Hana, a thief with chopped hands and the story of the english patient’s life. All the action takes place in a run-down war-torn Italian villa. The book had to be brilliant, but the film touched every single note right. Superb!

I don’t think one post will be enough for this. I have to come back with more…for sure…