Happy Birthday Superstar

 

On this special day we would like to release a special image from our collection, a lobby card from the iconic film Baasha (1995) (Tamil)

Baasha-4
Suresh Krishna’s Baasha is an action thriller starring Rajnikanth, Nagma, and Raghuvaran. A loose adaptation of Amitabh Bahchan’s Hum, Baasha is the story of a man who becomes a mafia don and later tries to escape that life by adopting the identity of an autorickshaw driver. Needless to say, his past catches up with him. The film enjoyed a positive box office response and is considered one of Rajnikanth’s most commercially successful films. This movie won him multiple acting awards. 20 years on, Baasha’s autodriver character has been elevated to patron saint status by auto drivers in Chennai and elsewhere in Tamilnadu.

 

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RARE: Raj Kapoor’s “Mera Naam Joker” sweetbox made for Russia!

In 1970, the world witnessed the release of Raj Kapoor’s maganum opus “Mera Naam Joker,” a 255-minute spectacle about a clown who makes the everyone laugh, but cries within. This Chaplinesque saga was made over a period of six years and had Raj Kapoor investing large amounts of his personal fortune in order to complete the movie. However, it was a disaster at the box-office, causing great monetary loss to Raj Kapoor. In the years that followed, however, the film garnered critical acclaim and is considered to be a milestone in Hindi cinema, today.

It was distributed under the RK Films banner and the star cast included Raj Kapoor, Manoj Kumar, Simi Garewal, Dharmendra, Padmini, Rajendra Kumar, and Dara Singh. The music was scored by the duo Shankar Jaikishan. The film also marked the debut of Rishi Kapoor and was shot on location in India and Russia.

The Russian Embassy in India, in its post on Bollywood in Russia, states (click here to read the entire post):

In Mera Naam Joker (My Name is Joker, 1970) Raj Kapoor presented the prowess of Russian circus and ballet. The protagonist, Raju, falls in love with the visiting trapeze artist Marina, played by Kseniya Ryabinkina. Raju and Marina get close despite the language barrier. The brief affair ends with heartbreak as Marina returns home with her troupe. Ryabinkina’s role was reprised in Chintuji (2009) a movie based on the life of Raj Kapoor’s son and actor Rishi Kapoor. Marina returns to India after 40 years and visits the site where their circus had performed. She meets Raju’s son, a part which Rishi Kapoor had debuted with.

Today, we at TCRC bring to you a sweetbox made by JB Mangharam & Co in Gwalior for the Russian release of “Mera Naam Joker.” Notice the markings in Hindi, English and Russia. Called the “Joker Assortment,” the box is a favourite of ours at the archive here!

Sweets box made for Russia | "Mera Naam Joker" | Hindi | 1970

Sweets box made for Russia | “Mera Naam Joker” | Hindi | 1970

Sweets box made for Russia | "Mera Naam Joker" | Hindi | 1970

Sweets box made for Russia | “Mera Naam Joker” | Hindi | 1970

Sweets box made for Russia | "Mera Naam Joker" | Hindi | 1970

Sweets box made for Russia | “Mera Naam Joker” | Hindi | 1970

India’s first indigenously-made feature film in colour: “Kisan Kanya” (Hindi, 1937)

In our post about Fatma Begum, India’s first woman film director, we had mentioned Ardeshir Irani as the father of Indian talkie films, as he was involved with the making of both “Alam Ara” (the first Indian talkie) and “Kalidas” (the first Tamil talkie), both of which were released in 1931. In fact, “Kalidas” was made on the sets of “Alam Ara” by Ardeshir Irani’s former assistant HM Reddy.

It turns out that Ardeshir Irani has been responsible for other landmarks as well in India’s cinematic history. His production company, Imperial Pictures, backed “Kisan Kanya”, India’s first indigenously-made feature film in colour. The movie, directed by Moti B Gidvani, was coloured using the Cinecolor process that was acquired from an American film by the producers Imperial Pictures. Given below is a still from the film:

"Kisan" | Hindi | 1937. Photo Courtesy: The Times of India

“Kisan Kanya” | Hindi | 1937. Photo Courtesy: The Times of India

The ‘indigenously-made’ tag comes into play thanks to other experiments with colour by pioneer V Shantaram, who co-founded the Prabhat Film Company. In 1933, he produced a Marathi film titled “Sairandhri,” which had some scenes shot in colour. But in the case of “Sairandhri,” the film was printed and processed in Germany, thereby allowing “Kisan Kanya” to be remembered as the first indigenously-made feature film in Hindi. “Kisan Kanya” is said to have had a run time of 137 minutes and its cast is reported to include actors such as Padmadevi, Jillo, Ghulam Mohammed, Nissar, Syed Ahmed, and Gani.

The story of Fatma Begum, India’s first woman film director

While pulling out playback singer Shamshad Begum’s version of Katiya Karoon, we at TCRC realised that she was one of the earliest female playback singers in the Hindi film industry. This set us off on a search for India’s first woman film director and led us to this interesting piece on Fatma Begum, written by Rohit Vats for IBN Live as a part of their “100 years of Indian cinema” series. Here’s an excerpt from that piece (click here to read the entire story):

Born in an Urdu speaking family, Fatma Begum was related to Nawab Sidi Ibrahim Muhammad Yakut Khan III. She was the mother of Zubeida, Sultana and Shehzadi, who were popular actors of the silent era. She started working in films in 1922 after getting trained in plays. Fatma worked with filmmakers like Ardeshir Irani and Nanubhai Desai before founding her own production company Fatma Films which was later rechristened as Victoria-Fatma Films. ‘Bulbul-E-Paristan’ that released in 1926, became the first Indian film to be directed by a female director. However, acting remained on her wish list and she continued to act till late 1930s.”

Ardeshir Irani, who Fatma worked with as an actor, incidentally is the father of Indian talkie films, having made both “Alam Ara” (in Hindi) and “Kalidas” (in Tamil, with songs in Telugu).

We also tried to find an image of Fatma Begum on the web. While we did come across few images, we couldn’t confirm the veracity of any of them. The Whistling Woods (a film school in Mumbai) blog, for instance,  features this picture:

Fatma Begum, India’s first woman film director.

Cineplot Enyclopedia, on the other hand, features this image:

Fatma Begum, India’s first woman film director.

Clearly different people, don’t you think? It is interesting (and worrisome) to note that the internet doesn’t  have a single undisputed image of the first woman director in one of the world’s largest film industries. On days like these, we at TCRC find renewed vigour in our attempt to archive cinema-related artifacts. Have you found other such examples with respect to information about the early days of cinema? Do share them with us by writing to tcrc.india[at]gmail[dot]com.

Shamshad Begum & The Original ‘Katiya Karoon’!

We at TCRC were deeply saddened to hear about the demise of Shamshad Begum, one of the earliest playback singers in the Hindi film industry. She was 94, only half a dozen years younger than Indian cinema itself (if we go by the release of “Raja Hairshchandra” as the beginning). Along the way, Shamshad Begum has given us some of the most evergreen melodies in Indian film music, including hits such as “Kabhi Aar Kabhi Paar” and “Kajra Mohabbatwala” for composer OP Nayyar, and “Mera Piya  Gaye Rangoon” for music director C Ramanchandra.

Shamshad Begum. Photo Courtesy: Hindustan Times

A Padma Bhushan awardee, Shamshad (which means “graceful” in Persian) Begum recorded her first song, a Punjabi number, in the 1930s. And it is another Punjabi number that we at TCRC are bringing to you today, as a tribute to this doyenne. In the 1963-released, black-and-white Punjabi movie “Pind Di Kurhi” directed by Baldev R Jhingan, Shamshad Begum had sung a version of “Katiya Karoon,” the folk number which was recently adapted in Imitiaz Ali’s “Rockstar” starring Ranbir Kapoor. While the new “Katiya Karoon” was composed by AR Rahman, the original version delivered by Shamshad Begum was composed by Hansraj Behl and was picturized on actress Nishi. Watch and enjoy!