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Saturday, December 4, 2010

Kaala Pathhar (1979)

The featured movie for December is 1979's Kaala Patthar, directed by Yash Chopra, written by Salim-Javed, and starring half of Bollywood: Amitabh Bachchan, Rakhee Gulzar, Shashi Kapoor, Parveen Babi, Shatrughan Sinha, Neetu Singh, Prem Chopra, Mac Mohan, Parikshit Sahni, Poonam Dhillon, Iftekhar, Madan Puri....

Join us for an in-depth look at one of our favorite socialist-masala movies. We'll put in a spoiler warning for those of you who've never seen it before and direct you to Beth's review, which comes complete with a screenshot of Shotgun Sinha's impeccable manicure.

Things discussed in this podcast include:
  • Parveen Babi's shiny, shiny hair guaranteed to leave the rest of us unfortunates green with envy
  • Shashi Kapoor's general awesomeness, especially when tackling men roughly double his size
  • Amrita's love of the Amitabh-Rakhee pairing and Beth's love of Shatrughan Sinha
  • Charles Bronson, coal miner extraordinaire
  • the (possible) significance of water (maybe?)
  • and just what the hell was Amitabh's problem? We're all at sea!

You can listen to Masala Zindabad - Kaala Pathhar (1979) by clicking the player above, subscribing to our feed, on iTunes or downloading here. Thank you for listening.
    PS - can you identify the theme music for this month?


    1. This just keeps getting better and better; you guys are totally loving it aren't you? :-) I detected both passion and poetry in this enjoyable exchange on Kaala Paththar ("bringing about change in the backwater of humanity" - hey, that's lyrical). I haven't seen it yet; will try and catch this movie during the holidays.

      (Beth's folks expressing surprise over only) "one elevator" in the mine reminds me of The Intuitionist (a novel by Colson Whitehead) that I (speed)read for a class discussion couple weeks back.

      At first I thought it was a racial allegory but suddenly it morphed into an existential commentary, the crux of it being this quest for the "black box" or the "perfect elevator" that will transcend itself or something (things got more than a bit murky toward the end -- need to go re-read it to "get" what it was really about...boy am I having a hard time or what, with this new-age fantasy-fiction mumbo jumbo). I know, I too went huh? "elevator"? when I started reading. But yes, it *is* a story about elevator inspectors (not as blue collar as the miners of Kaala Paththar but close, heh?) and this gritty black woman, Lila Mae Watson (an Intuitionist (she's like this Horse Whisperer of elevators) as opposed to an Empiricist who "scientifically" inspects elevators) quietly climbing the ranks of a rather cut-throat all-male all-white organization.

      Coming back to the podcast, loved the nod to in-house Lord Jim expert -- Ramsu. He's also someone I hope you guys are able to rope in as a guest speaker sometime (time difference and other things permitting)? Haven't talked to him in 13 years but do remember that back in college, he was quite the conversationalist when it came to movies and pop culture.

    2. I had lunch with Ramsu this year and can attest to the fact that he can talk on forever about Hindi movies, and many other things, and I mean that only in a good way :) I need to watch this again, but Ajooba comes first! (and thank you for validating my reasons why Indian women don't need to be eligible for my Gori Mem Card!)...

    3. CheeC - Yay! Thank you! :) Amrita and I have been good friends long enough that it is really easy to just talk and talk about ANYTHING. Something she probably regrets from time to time as I yammer on :) That novel you mentions sounds really interesting and I hadn't thought about KP's elevator as anything other than a safety device, but the idea of it as salvation on an emotional and psychological level totally works. It's how Amitabh's character finishes his final escape from his past.

      I was just thinking that I hadn't seen Ramsu around anywhere lately! We must hunt him down and make him talk to us!

      Memsaab - An Ajooba/KP double-header would KILL a person so I hope you take a breather :)

    4. You guys have captured everything about Kaala Patthar that makes it such a great film. I've often wondered what made Yash Chopra make this film at all. His chosen genre has always been fluffy romances, and he rarely moves away from that in his productions. So his making a film that (to me) has all the appearance of a socialist adaptation of a very capitalist thriller (Gold) seems quite extraordinary.

      As far as Amitabh's ordeal goes, wasn't he given a dishonorable discharge for desertion? Desertion=cowardice. (Such behaviour in wartime would mean the firing squad.) Considering that he comes from a long line of military heroes, this is a fate-worse-than-death for his brave and proud family - he is not only a coward, the whole world also knows it! So he must seek the depths of hell, and keep doing brave/courageous deeds to wash the blot on the proud escutcheon.

    5. Another great effort ladies! I really like this film, and for all the reasons you have talked about. I so agree there is a dearth of good writing for the screen today (you covered that beautifully in your Bollywood Actresses ep), and Hindi films today rarely hold a candle to the 60s/70s classics. I was sad that Beth didn't tell you all about the time she sent out multiple pictures and screencaps to see if her team of research assistants could verify whether Shashi was wearing the same pants in Dhoom Mache Dhoom as he wore in another film. She takes her research VERY seriously :)

    6. Bollyviewer - Sometimes I think there are two Yash Chopras: the one who made this, Deewaar, Trishul, Waqt, and one I really love for story and content, Dharmputra, and then the one who made all the fluff you're talking about. Even if none of his films that I haven't seen yet (and there are many) fit the former category, I'm hesitant to label him with the fluff brush as a director. Him as a producer is a different story, though I will forgive him all his Neal n Nikkis for Chak De! :)

      Clearly I need to see Gold!

      re: Amitabh: yes, that's the basic deal, though Amrita and I had a long talk before the recording about whether the merchant navy is military because in my mind, desertion in a private venture is somehow less of a big deal than on government/public/national service? But that's just my opinion. The movie states clearly, if subtitles can be believed, that his father and grandfather are army, but he definitely isn't. But that's a small point. What stumped us is that neither his ship nor his passengers were lost, so what motivates him must be shame rather than guilt, which is interesting. Neither of us thinks his desolation (and years of wandering etc) are in proportion to his actual crime. But we do like him moping and covered in coal dust :)

      Temple - HAHAHAHAH I didn't remember that either! I wonder what we discovered?

    7. Theme music is the title track of Shalimar, no?

      Great discussion on "Kala Patthar"! Don't have much to add other than tipping my hat to Sahir Ludhianvi whose earthy, vernacular-based lyrics complement (and propel) the script perfectly.

    8. You ladies made a 6 hour drive back to NY this evening more interesting. Thank you!

      Btw, would you be able to include snippets of dialog and songs in future episodes?

    9. Shalini - bingo! Yes it is! I don't really think of KP as one of Ludhianvi's best but when it comes to that man, even his average is better than most men's genius.

      Bhel Puri - yay! :D We'd love to do a lot of things but there are two problems: A) Copyright and B)Effort. The editing is currently a one-woman job and that woman has a ton of other work so while this idea has occurred to us before, and we think it would be awesome, it's a little too much work at present :( Some day!