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Saturday, January 15, 2011

Viva Vamps!

Greta of Memsaab Story returns to Masala Zindabad for a discussion of vamps in Hindi films. Far more than one-number dancers or silent eye candy, the Amazons of Bollywood are sexy, bad, in charge, and out of control. Often they pay the ultimate price for behaving outside the bounds of filmified society, but in our conversation we discover interesting twists and exceptions to the moralizing cliché that sex = death.

Also for discussion:
  • What's the difference between an item girl and a vamp?
  • How do vamps relate to heroes? Must a vamp be defined in contrast to the heroic? Is there any kind of bond between them other than sacrifice and reform?
  • What kind of personality would a performer need to be a true vamp?
  • Have changing real-life conditions for women throughout the decades shaped the need or desire for vamps in contemporary films?
Some of the links we mention:
Here are some clips of Faryal, Memsaab's current favorite vamp.
"Dekh To Kya Hai Aaj Ki Mehfil" (Puraskar, 1970)

Jewel Thief, 1967

"Chilman Ka Girjaana Allah Allah" (Shararat, 1972)

"Yeh Duniya To Hai Bas Paise Ki" (Do Thug, 1975)

The infamous not-really-a-bad-girl Padma Khanna number.

"Husn Ke Lakhon Rang" (Johny Mera Naam 1970)

And a turn from a modern-day vamp, Mumaith Khan.
"Bongaru Kodipetta" (Magadheera, 2009)

You can listen to Masala Zindabad - Viva Vamps! by clicking the player above, subscribing to our feed, on iTunes or downloading here.


  1. Loved this episode. Good distinction between vamps and negative female characters. I totally agree with your thoughts on Helen, Bindu and Faryal. IIRC, a movie where the vamp does not end up sacrificing herself, though she is in love with the hero is "Diljale" (a movie I liked quite a lot). Otherwise, this standard end-game for vamps is quite tiring. Like you say, it is as if they have to pay for their "sins".

    I thought Amrita made an excellent point when the subject of 70s heroines replacing the traditional vamp came up. Indeed, if the Bollywood vamp's main value was seen as only the glamour/titillation factor, it is no surprise that the Zeenats and Parveens drove them out of the market. I'd like to think that they brought something more to the table but clearly they were the "escape" and "fantasy" for the male audience who wanted to see more than just the typical bharatiya naari, perfectly embodied by Bollywood heroines till Zeenat came along.

    Speaking purely for myself (and here you get a male perspective that I'm not sure is representative of a larger group), for almost my entire life, I never really noticed the vamp's dance sequence much. She was often the villan's moll and unless there was something plot-related happening in the dance (like passing of messages/notes), I would just wait for the dance to end and for the story to continue.

    I will admit though that in the last couple of years (maybe ever since I started reading Greta's blog) I have been watching club dance sequences more closely, looking at the sets, the lighting, the dress, the dance steps, the extras on the set, everything much more closely. I have begun to appreciate how much effort goes into filming just one sequence. This is just an extension of my changed way of looking at movies. I look at them with much more of an eye for detail now than ever before.
    I think all this also gets discussed much more now than used to be discussed in the past.

    Nice one - yet again the camaraderie between you guys comes across very clearly.

    How about doing a piece on what each of you looks for in a Bollywood movie. Are you looking for just timepass or a message or great music or a hold-onto-your-seats type thriller.

    Talking of thrillers, you could do an episode on Bollywood film noirs also. :-)

  2. Thoroughly enjoyed Memsaab's return to MZ (aka Vampaholics Anonymous? lol)!!

    I just noticed (and loved it) these last two eps when Amrita says "Any final thoughts?" and the guest offers a word or two (or three..) that actually distills the vibe of the entire conversation!

    Samrat implores, "Everyone must watch Ishqiya," in "What.The.Frack. part 2" and the way he said it (and truly meant it) struck a wonderfully wistful chord with us listeners. Likewise, Memsaab here. When she closed with "Faryal, Faryal, Faryal. Faryal was born to give and she gave with relish," I was compelled to look up those videos right away coz I'd never heard of Faryal before...(Bindu, Helen and the others, I was familiar with). And I must say the Jewel Thief clip brought back a glimmer of recognition. I recall watching that song on TV eons ago, but had no idea what her name was.

    Faryal's probably the least vamp-looking of the lot, for she reminds me (at first glance, from whatever little feature definitions a youtube clip confers) of Audrey Hepburn (with an extra layer of flesh)! That smile and, ah, the eyes...

  3. Like all good vamps this podcast is thrilling and scintillating. I agree with all the comments about the various vamp archetypes and their role and tragic fate in Hindi films. Which is why I love and cherish the rare occasions when the “bad girl” is allowed to *gasp* win. Granted, victory can mean simply not killing her off, but still…

    One such favorite is Shakila’s character in Guru Dutt’s “Aar Paar”. Per the vamp guidebook, sings, dance, drinks and loves the hero, but does not sacrifice herself for him. Indeed when the climax comes she leaves him to fend for himself and protects her own skin. She also gets to sing what I consider the vamp anthem – the bluesy, moody, tipsy and defiant "hoon abhi main jawan aye dil” by the inimitable Geeta Dutt.

  4. Where's the next podcast!

  5. Good question! Amrita and I are both SWAMPED with work. We have several episodes that have been recorded but need editing, so look for new things in March (once Beth has a chance to learn a bit about editing and can relieve Amrita of some of the responsibility of doing all of that aspect of the podcast)!