Saturday, July 12, 2008

ODES TO JOY


Sometimes you realize they really don’t make ‘em like that anymore (though in Bollywood maybe they still do...)

Thanks to pal Colin Walker for the YouTube tip on Mohammed Rafi’s ultra-exuberant “Jaan Pehechaan Ho,” taken from the 1966 Bollywood picture Gumnaam-- which is not strictly a musical, believe it or not, but instead a loose adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians! If this little bit of craziness rings a bell with you, it may be because you’ve seen the movie Ghost World (2001), in which the clip was featured:



But as I listened to Mohammed Rafi, a popular artist and playback singer on a staggering 712 Bollywood productions dating from 1944, and watched the singers and dancers on film getting down with their bad selves, it reminded me of another similar scene featuring an equally exuberant and jiggly dancer paired with a similarly suave and sexy singer, and I began to wonder how many times director Raja Nawathe had seen Ann-Margret and Elvis Presley do their thing in Viva Las Vegas (1964), directed by George Sidney:



Whoever saw who first, whether it was George Sidney grokking Bollywood, or Nawathe and Rafi getting their Ann and Elvis on, I’m glad both of these cinematic moments exist, if for no other reason than to spread a smile over the appearance of apparent giddy and joyful innocence mixed with the only slightly subterranean sexuality with which these moments are infused. (Thankfully, in the case of Ms. Ann-Margret, the thin layer covering that sexuality gets thrown off pretty much right away, long before Elvis takes the stage.) Nice way to kick off a weekend, I’d say. Thanks, Colin! And a tip of the hat to Mohammed and Ann and Elvis too.

8 comments:

Peter Nellhaus said...

After that opening number, Gumnaam quickly slides downhill. As I recall, part of the music sounded very much like Henry Mancini's theme for Charade.

It's been a while since I saw Viva Las Vegas. When I saw Flower Drum Song, Nancy Kwan demonstrated the same kind of sexiness as Ann-Margret. An opportunity was missed not to have the only other female performer who could have held her own with Elvis on film.

Weigard said...

After seeing these this afternoon, I happened to watch the musical version of Hairspray this evening, which included "Ladies' Choice" -- cinematic serendipity today!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GcaRuFxWCRQ

madhav said...

Um, the second billed feature on the poster to the left is actually from Woh Kaun Thi?. It does show up as first on the Google image search for Gumnaam though, for some reason.

You can find more info (and better posters) here:

p.saga said...

Oh, Dennis. "Jaan Pehechaan Ho" is just wonderful and definitely a go-to whenever the Man is getting me down. Amen for YouTube! But as peter nellhaus observed, Gumnaam is otherwise barely watchable. I was even obsessed with Agatha Christie's book at one time and do tend to give Bollywood the benefit of the doubt!

I'm pretty sure we're just hearing the phenomenal Mohammed Rafi in Gumnaam and some other wonderful soul is interpreting the song physically as the masked crooner of Ted Lyons and His Cubs. My understanding is that Rafi and Asha Bhosle lent their incredible voices to hundreds and hundreds of films without actually appearing on-screen. But maybe some higher authority would confirm this.

Ann-Margret is unbelievably hot. That's the thing though. The leading lady of "Jaan Pehechaan Ho" exudes an almost attainable beauty. You know? Like, a girl can have some meat on her bones and wear dorky flats and still be sexy...

Okay, I really need to watch Hairspray now!

p.saga said...

Ooh! I forgot about the bizarre butler character in Gumnaam! He features in a later musical number, a creepy fantasy sequence that was worth the effort of watching the DVD. Amen for Netflix.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Madhav: Fixed! Thanks.

PSaga: Yes, I do believe you're right-- Rafi was a popular playback singer-- I don't know who the actor/singer is in the film itself. Sorry for implying that it was Rafi (that's what I get for writing first thing in the morning!)

And you're right too about the women in this clip (and others sequences like this that I've seen)-- one of the endearing things about some of these Bollywood musical numbers is not that they shy away from stunning beauties of both genders, but they also make room for the average looking dancers to shred up a little joy as well. I do believe Tracy Turnblad would be proud!

Editor A said...

I thought that poster looked weird. You are so busted! Ha ha. But it's the thought that counts, and you brought pleasure to so many surfing by that you're forgiven. I'm always looking for an awesome clip from Sholay to post or share. There are several, but I never find just the one I want--that captures how fabulous the movie is in a compact form!

p.saga said...

Ooh! Editor A, your recommendation of Sholay was spot-on. Clips maybe, but really I just want to watch the whole 3+ hours all over again! How funny it was to place the clip I'd goofed with randomly on the Bombay TV subtitler.

Dennis, I'll get off your blog now. That's what you get for mentioning Bollywood. :)