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Friday, July 29, 2011

Manmohan Desai & the Women

Over the course of a career that spanned three vastly different decades, Manmohan Desai revolutionized Hindi cinema - not by inventing something new, but by knitting the most recognizable bits of the very old into a one-size-fits-all comforter dubbed a masala movie. His work at the pinnacle of his creative years are classic Bollywood: Raampur ka Lakshman, Aa Gale Lag Jaa, Roti, Dharam Veer, Chacha Bhatija, Parvarish, Amar Akbar Anthony, Suhaag, Naseeb, Coolie, Mard...a truly astonishing ten years.

Most people will agree that Amar Akbar Anthony was the ultimate masala movie ever made; our panel on the podcast today will testify that Mard is possibly one of the most camp movies ever filmed. The classic Desai film is always fun, patriotic, and family-friendly with wink-nudges for the adults. Everyone is the movie suffers through multiple horrifying incidents but at the end of three hours it all ends happily. They have become a part of the fabric of Indian life and have been remade into other languages, referenced in newspaper articles, and studied and cited.

So we sat down with known Desai-lover Angela of the Post-Punk Cinema Club to discuss the women in his movies - from the classic all-suffering Maa to the kickass criminal chicks, the virgin prostitute to the nice girls forgotten in all the action.

And of course, in true Masala Zindabad fashion, along the way we found the time to detour on to subjects like Shashi Kapoor's lovemaking skills vs. Amitabh Bachchan's, a short investigation into Dharmendra's underwear (again), and how religion leads to Bollywood fandom. You're welcome.

You can listen to Masala Zindabad: Manmohan Desai & the Women by clicking the player above, subscribing to our feed, on iTunes, or downloading here.


  1. Why do we keep coming back to Dharmendra's lower half? Is it the motif to end all motifs? Are we going to have to devote a whole episode to it?

  2. And a minor correction: there's a blurp in our audio in the discussion of "concern rape" at about 11:05. What I actually said is that our friend Samrat (who was in our 2010 year in review shows) spent a lot of time in army schools in the Himalayas and did NOT learn anything about this particular technique as a way to save people from hypothermia. Emphasis on NOT.

  3. Well, if not Dharmendra, then whose nether bits would we discuss? I don't remember anybody else showing off their legs without scarring my retinas. Dharam at least believed in manscaping.

    Also, I figured that's what you mean by Samrat's experience in this area but I have to admit I giggled like mad editing this epi and hearing that bit.

  4. Back when Amrita blogged more regularly and I read more regularly, I used to look up her commenters' blogs on occasion, and have thus happened upon PPCC. Funny thing is I'd thought it was a guy writing it. Gloriously giggly Angela is no guy, I now know! :) And her indoctrination into Hindi movies via Gandhi is just effing awesome, as Amrita notes.

    BTW I kept exploding with laughter about ever 3 secs or so, listening to you girls go jabber-giggle, jabber-giggle (and strangely, I noticed the last couple MZ eps with its three women talking randomly have been a bit a Macbethian sense). :)

    Loved the discussion on MD's inscrutably when it comes to what he really thinks about his women (haven't see too many of his films... maybe AAA is the only one), hmmm. Now I've GOT to see Mard!

  5. I've really enjoyed this series, and I love that in the midst of all the interesting discussion about women's roles, it always keeps coming back to Shashi.

  6. CheeC - are you saying we "cackle"? And what do you mean - you havent seen Mard yet? It's a MUST. Your patriotic duty in fact!

    DDLiz - it's always about Shashi, my dear. ALWAYS!