Monday, August 20, 2007

MY TEN - Ranking Dharmendra Movies (Part II)

I was going to do my 'Deewaar' review next… but I've decided to finish my Dharmendra countdown first… I am going to see 'Apne' any day from now, and for some reason it's important to me to finish this before seeing my 11th Dharam movie (I'm a little funny about details like that)…

Okay, so looking at the 5 films I have left to rank, I am thinking to myself: what a varied bunch – in one film he plays an 'ordinary hero', in another he plays himself (the movie-star Dharmendra), in a third he plays a prank-playing husband, in a fourth he plays a criminal whose services are enlisted to bring down the ultimate baddie; and in the fifth he plays an NRI returning to India and to his first love.

Dharmendra's range as an actor is something that is not often remarked upon, but after seeing only 10 of his movies, I can testify to his aplomb at handling different types of characters – romantic leading men (an obvious choice for anyone so handsome and charming), action heroes (again, not too surprising, he's got quite a good build), 'everyman' type of characters… rich and well-educated men, undecuated rural-dwellers… good guys, bad guys, good-but-bad guys… comic roles, physical roles, dramatic roles… I may have only seen a few of his many films, but I think Dharam is a very versatile actor; and I am looking forward to discovering more of his ability to interpret various types of roles, as I continue my foray into his body of work.

And now to the top five… exciting… even as I type this, I have no idea… I love all these movies so much, for so many different reasons… how do I begin to rank them? This is SO unbelievably tough!! (I know, like I didn’t give myself the task.) But here goes…

5.

"Life in a... Metro" was my most recent Dharmendra film, my tenth, and also the first I've seen on the big screen… so lots of milestones there! I really enjoyed "Metro", and although my favourite performances were by Konkona Sen Sharma (as Shruti) and Irrfan Khan (playing Monty); I thought Dharam did a really good job with his character. I relished every moment I had with him in this movie, from seeing his name in the opening credits, to seeing him back on his bench at the train station in the closing credits. I think he did a wonderful job with his character, an elderly man who returns to India to find the young girl he fell in love with many years before (beautifully played by Nafisa Ali).

Dharam had a lot of great scenes in this film – gleefully fleeing with his ladylove under the cover of darkness (on a motorbike!); panicking in the middle of gridlocked Mumbai traffic at the heartbreaking climax of his character's story; sharing intimate moments with the woman he loved, lost and had the opportunity to love again. In "Metro", he is in his romantic, dramatic element. He's elegantly, but also humanly, drawing you in with those dark eyes and making you fall in love with him all over again (well, at least, that's what he did for me)…



4.

"Guddi" is such a fantastic film… I have raved about Hrishikesh Mukherjee's wonderful films many times on this blog, and I have also raved about Jaya Badhuri's beautiful acting… the music of "Guddi" is lovely too, I can't get enough of "Bole Re Papihara". When I reviewed "Guddi", Sanket commented that this film should be seen for Jaya B's performance as Kusum (Guddi). At the time, I protested, saying that it should be seen for Jaya and Dharam-ji… but deep down I knew Sanket was right, and I had to admit it, even in all my fangirliness… this is 100% Jaya's movie. She dominates it, she holds your attention from start to finish… you are caught up in the journey of her character and you fall in love with her right from the start.




But, having said that, the movie-star called Dharmendra is pivotal to the story of "Guddi" – he is the catalyst for much of what happens to Kusum, the reason for the choices she makes… in this movie, Dharam has the unenviable (though flattering) task of playing himself… and he's playing himself at the height of his powers… as a highly successful leading man, adored by millions (especially females) young and old. And I think he does a fantastic job… he is utterly natural. The ploy succeeds – you actually believe that Dharmendra is not just stunningly handsome, but that he truly is gracious, likeable, and in fact, adorable. I have sometimes imagined how badly this role could have been executed had it been given to someone else, Rajesh Khanna for example… ouch, painful thought…


3.



Number 3, and it's another Hrishikesh Mukherjee film, the absolutely delightful "Chupke Chupke". This film is definitely a treat for any Dharmendra fan – in it, he is at the height of his powers… handsome, charming, mischievous, funny, sweet, smart… he pulls off the role of prankster professor extremely well, and he is ably supported by a wickedly fab and irresistible Sharmila Tagore, an absolutely adorable Amitabh Bachchan (I love his "Sa Re Ga Ma" song with Dharmendra), and a guileless, lovely Jaya Badhuri.

Dharam is absolutely gorgeous to look at here, and when he smiles... well, he just charms your socks off. In this film, there is a lot of scope for him to do the romantic leading man stuff he does so very well… but what I love most about his performance here is the way he shows off his formidable comedic chops… he is absolutely hilarious and just great to watch in every comic scene. His comic timing and delivery is impeccable. Yup. This one is definitely a monster-sized, thousand (no, million) calorie Dharmendra-flavoured treat… and look...! They just supersized you too.


2.

From greatganesha.com

So at number two, it's that much-beloved classic of Hindi cinema. Who doesn’t know all there is to know about "Sholay"? Fantastic performances all around – from Amitabh Bachchan as the still-waters-run-deep Jai (one of my favourite Big B performances, right up there with "Deewaar" and "Zanjeer"), from Sanjeev Kumar as the haunted Thakur, from Amjad Khan as the truly frightening Gabbar Singh (tremendous), from Hema Malini as the talkative Basanti, from Jaya Badhuri as the haunting Radha…and of course, from my dear Dharam-ji as the umm… colourful Veeru… And even the bit parts by Asrani and Helen are notable. Definitely one of my top 10 Hindi films of all time... maybe even in my top 5.

Dharmendra is fantastic in this film – it's been called his best performance ever (although some feel that honour belongs to "Satyakam", which I haven't seen). I haven’t seen enough of his movies to agree or disagree with this assessment – but it IS a great performance with a great deal of depth. He does it all – comedy, tragedy, action, drama and everything in between. Who could forget his drunken scene at the top of the tower, threatening to throw himself off for the love of Basanti (and of course, Jai's response to the threat). Simply classic comedy. Veeru's heartbreaking reaction to the loss of his friend… the scenes with Basanti when he plays a deity (so funny)… the wonderful camaraderie between Jai and Veeru right from the start of the film (I love how in the middle of the fight scenes, they look over to each other and ask "tum thik hoon?", so seemingly effortless and natural. The scary confrontations with Gabbar Signh. "Sholay" has everything – enough action to satisfy the die-hard action fan, very funny comedy, fantastic music (I love "Mehbooba Mehbooba" and "Yeh Dosti" best), intense human drama, thriller elements, and oodles of tragedy… just a great, great film.


1.

In the top spot (where else could it be? I have to be honest, I tried to put it at number three where I think it 'technically' belongs, but my dil said – nahin, DG, this is your number one!) is the movie that made me fall head over heels in love with Dharmendra… it's "The Burning Train". Objectively speaking, I have to ackowledge that my number two film "(and prolly my number three as well) trumps it completely, both as a film and as a vehicle for Dharam's sheer acting ability and versatility… and if this were not a Dharmendra-film ranking but just a film-ranking, "Sholay" would definitely be in the top spot... But for reasons beyond my understanding or control, I just am not as attached to it as I am to "The Burning Train". You see, I love every minute of "Sholay" – it has made me laugh, cry and be very, very afraid, but it has never made me swoon, it has never made my heart skip a beat. "The Burning Train", on the other hand… it makes me smile, it makes me blush (I'm doing both now), it makes me emotional, it makes me clutch at my heart, it simply makes me love Dharmendra…

I just found this here and I want it!

"The Burning Train"… I love this film. It's an action-thriller type of film, but it has really strong relational aspects to it – in a way, it's really all about human relationships. The train of the title becomes a deathtrap when a spiteful engineer rigs it, causing it to malfunction. Aboard the train are ex-lovers, played by Dharmendra and Hema Malini, and a colourful cast of characters led by a rich heiress (played by the fabulous Neetu Singh) and a conman (played by Mr. Jumpin' Jack Jeetendra)… Dharmendra finds himself bravely leading the terrified passengers as they struggle to save their own lives. Not aboard the burning train, but watching the progress of the deadly journey and doing his best to halt it is the engineer who built the train, played by the ultracool Vinod Khanna (he totally ROCKS an outfit in the beginning of the film that is just so… hmm… – some cowboy boots, very tight white pants, a scarf, a vest, accessorised by a comb hastily pulled through those sexy locks… only Vinod Khanna could've pulled off that get-up, but I digress…).

Where do I begin to describe what I love so much about this film? First, let me start with RD Burman's fabulous music… this film is often rated as having one of the best soundtracks ever in Hindi cinema… and I have to say that the songs are marvellous – they are each memorable, each different, each so right for the film… and every time I listen to them (and sing along) I love them more… I could never tire of them.

"Pal Do Pal Ka Saath Hamara" – I once described this song as an orgy and I can think of no better description for it… it's long, it's delicious, it's rich, it's indulgent, and it just keeps going on and on… just genius from start to finish… almost 10 minutes long, and just… delicious…. Then there's the touching "Teri Hai Zameen, Tera Asmaan", guaranteed to bring a tear to your eye, especially when the child falters emotionally in the middle of the song and the teacher goes "gaana bachcha, haan…" This one is completely calculated in its desire to wring emotion from you, but on this occasion, I really don't mind being manipulated. There's also "Meri Nazar Hai Tujhpe", beautifully picturised on a graceful Hema Malini and a fiery Parveen Babi, with Dharam and Vinod Khanna paying delightful homage to the ladies; as well as Dharam and Hema's cute number, "Vaada Haan Ji Vaada"... lovely song.

But the track that made me fall in love with this film and with Dharmendra is "Pehli Nazar Mein Humne"… oh my, this song (and the picturisation)… I could talk about it for hours… I could listen to it for ages (and believe me, I have) – I love how all the singers perform it in unison, then the male voices, then the female, then all in unison again etc, and there are no solo parts… I could watch it for ages (done that too) – I love the "natural" playful tone of the picturisation, with minimal choreography (and bicycles AND a train!! I can't believe how excited I am over bicycles and a train!)… I just can't explain the depth of my love for this song… technically it's not even the best song on the soundtrack of "The Burning Train". But boy, does it do something to me…

“Pehli Nazar Mein Humne” is as good a place as any to start to talk about the things Dharmendra just does throughout this film. Things that just devastated me the first time I saw it… there's just something about him… in "Pehli Nazar Mein Humne", the ladies (Parveen and Hema), are dancing gracefully, Vinod Khanna is cool as ever, strutting his stuff with those superfine brown eyes… but Dharam… Dharam is not dancing (he can't dance), he's not strutting (he's just not the strutting type, you see), he is just laid-back and relaxed, just kicking it with his crew, but he has such presence, and I just cannot take my eyes of him… and he's like that throughout the movie…

That look in his eyes at the start of the journey, a look of nostalgia mixed with frustration; then way the hurt on first seeing Seema later changes to a fiery, resolute desire to help the people on the train; the way he crushes that glass; the way he flicks off that guy's feet from his seat; the way he brushes the confetti off his hair and eats the sweet at the engagement ceremony; that throaty voice, the way he says "Sunno Seema, I love you", "Tell him thanks", "Seema, kya hua?"… from the first moment I watched this film, I just wanted to be Seema… yes, I'll admit it, I was jealous of a fictional character played by Hema Malini… ridiculous…but powerful, because this impact hasn't waned even a tiny bit since I first saw this film months ago. If anything, it's waxing even stronger…

Next up is "Deewaar"…

12 comments:

Nitin Rajput said...

* Thats an amazing list. and amongst the top 5 I have seen 3 - quite an impressive score for a novice like me.

* I havent seen apne, but as my friends say it - its one of the best dharma movies. and shows once again that dharamendra is no less talented than amitabh or other contemporaries of his era. Daddy's girl - u have to see apne.

Uzo said...

I just knew Burning Traun would be number 1...LOL. We need to go see Apne....

Daddy's Girl said...

Hi Nitin, I am so looking forward to finally seeing 'Apne'. I would love to know which 3 of these movies you've seen: I am guessing Sholay, Metro and... Anyway, would love to know.

Uzo, as always a fab new avatar, you go girl! Hope we can do it together - fingers crossed that this weekend will be a weekend! Lol

Maja said...

Aww, how sucky is this? Of all the movies in the list I've only seen Sholay and Metro! I actually already had the Guddi and Chupke Chupke DVDs at home once, but neither had any subtitles, so I didn't even try to watch ... Anyway, should I put the two I have seen in order of preference? 1. Sholay, 2. Metro, doh ;)

I've read the posts about Deewaar on Sanket's and Carla's blogs, looking forward to yours too, especially the caps :D Unfortunately that's another film I haven't seen yet, but some day, some day ...

Great to have you back btw, I missed you in July :)
Enjoy Apne!

Daddy's Girl said...

Thanks Maja, it's good to be back! Aww, can't believe you had 'Guddi' and 'Chupke Chupke' but couldn't watch them. It's a good thing you're learning Hindi, hopefully someday you won't need the subs!

Vikrant said...

I have seen all 5. Wow..you like burning train so much...I strongly recommend Satyakam (probably his best performance) and Anupama (amazingly understated and restrained performance). He is back! Good to see him in Apne... especially the way he brought character's vulnerability alive was superb..."Its not the age its the mileage".

Daddy's Girl said...

Hi Vikrant, thanks for your comment - and the recommendations - I can't wait to find both films and watch them! He was really good in 'Apne', and your last line from 'Johnny Gaddaar' brought a smile to my face! I hope he can just keep doing good work for as long as he wants to. Thanks again.

sophy said...

Hi DG,
This is an old post.I had no idea you were a Dharmendra "virgin" till Burning Train. Now I don't really see post 1980 Dharmendra but I'm just going to have to see the movie based on this fact alone--that you like this movie. I'd like to see Apne,Johnny Gaddar and whatever he's currently filming just because I'm a huge fan. I think, in my case I fell for Dharmendra over a 60s song or two on youtube. You are right, Dharmendra emotes well with his eyes. That last scene in Satyakam--he can't speak and Sharmila tears up the contract--is one of his finest acting moments.

Daddy's Girl said...

Hi Sophy, that scene from 'Satyakam' was awesome - definitely one of his finest moments. Yes, 'The Burning Train' started it all for me and I am irrationally fond of the movie as a result. It's definitely not one of his best movies, but I love it. And I definitely agree with you on post-80s Dharmendra - largely quite painful to watch. In the noughties, he made a bit of a comeback - I enjoyed 'Apne' (very corny though!!), 'Johnny Gaddaar' and 'Life in a Metro'....

Solomon said...

Hello all, I am Dharmendra's fun too, I am not an Indian, but grew up with an Indian diplomat son watching Indian movies. I even used to take Indian movies home and got my sisters hooked to watching Indian movies... Having said that,,, I think u forgot to mention Dharmendra's top movies that made him the actor that he is today... and these are...

1. Phool aur pather
2. Mera goan mera desh
3. Ankehn
4. Shalimar an (Internatinal movie)

and there are other good movies like...

1. Kartavia
2. Azad
3. Maa
4. International crook

Thank you

Solomon

Daddy's Girl said...

Solomon, thanks so much for your comment and for sharing some of your favourite Dharmendra movies! I love 'meeting' other Dharmendra fans through this blog - I am not Indian either, but love Indian movies too. When I wrote this post, I had not yet seen 'Phool Aur Patthar' and 'Mera Gaon Mera Desh', but I have since seen them and I agree with you that Dharmendra's performances in them were great. I haven't seen the other movies you mentioned yet, but will definitely check them out. Thanks again.

Solomon said...

Daddy's Girl..., I just wanted to say my first Dharmendra's movie that got me like him as an actor was 'JUGUNU', I don't know if i spell it right, but I saw it 12 years later again and I am still fond of that movie. I just wanted to mention one very good movie and was a hit at that time and worth watching is 'Yadon Ki Barat', good movie, check it out.