“male spectator stays glued”

From an article entitled “Uttam Kumar’s secret Keys: An Analysis”:

The unique thing is that he is still popular amongst the male spectator still today, when his films are shown in television even 60 yrs old male spectator stays glued to the television screen as if they are enjoying a sexual intercourse. Even today, the aged spectators, who were in the early 30’s when he died, enjoy an orgasm kind of feeling when they watch an Uttam Kumar film. That it is the reason for the Uttam Kumar film’s commercial viability even after 28yrs of his death.

Okay, so it’s bizarrely phrased, but I think the author is probably on to something. I also love that there are no comments on the original post accusing the author of saying all Bengalis are homosexuals etc etc. I suspect that if someone wrote this same kind of statement about, say, Rajesh Khanna, it’d be total kalyug.



mommy issues

On the topic of the “feminine persona” and new type of woman played by Suchitra Sen in her hits with Uttam Kumar in the mid- and late 1950s and early 1960s:

In the most emblematic films of the genre, the Suchitra Sen figure emerges as a controlling presence—almost a surrogate mother figure to the male protagonist, displaying an uninhibited openness in initiating the romantic process and an enormous resilience towards sustaining romantic love.
—Sharmistha Gooptu, Bengali Cinema: An Other Nation (New Delhi: Lotus Collection, Roli Books, 2010)  p. 168

Dress it up in whatever academic lingo you want (and I want a lot), the cinematic idealization of issues that border on the Oedipal continues to make me uncomfortable. Though to be honest, I have not noticed the hero’s love of his mother being anywhere near as creepy in Bengali movies as I have in Hindi movies.

“When Uttam Kumar went drinking with Soumitra Chatterjee….”

When Uttam Kumar went drinking with Soumitra Chatterjee after a hard day’s work, he would insist on dropping the junior actor home in his chauffeur-driven car. If his offer was declined, the matinee idol would follow Chatterjee in his car to make sure he reached home safely. This anecdote [comes] from none other than Chatterjee himself….

So says this piece in The Telegraph, published last April, and now I have visions of them running towards each other in slowmo to do a 70s masala-style “BHAI???” “BHAI!!!!” embrace as Harry Nilsson* plays.

* Obviously Uttam is the cuddly toy and Soumitra is the up and down.

Pretty things in Deya Neya

Old Calcutta
Screen shot 2013-04-11 at 11.17.12 PM

and young Uttam Kumar. There’s a matinee idol smile if ever I saw one, and he’s not even saving it up for the leading lady. BAM!Screen shot 2013-04-12 at 9.15.29 PM

What do we think of the stray lock of curls? Romantic? Byronic? Ridiculous?

Screen shot 2013-04-12 at 12.26.03 AM

Shashi Kapoor still wins the battle of curly-haired deployers of killer bangs.

Aside: Someday I will know enough Bengali to be able to enjoy the sing-along lyrics that show up on DVDs.


I want to go to there.

When I get my TARDIS, it’s going to be hard to choose whether to go to 60s Calcutta or 70s Bombay first.

Handsome suave pretend(probably)-drunk Uttam in a tuxedo is handsome suave. I’m not a person who falls for cigarettes and booze being waved around insouciantly, but damn if he isn’t working that exact shtick. Madhabi seems unimpressed, though. Be sure you watch til the end for the smile at the camera.

“Ami Agantuk Ami Barta Dilam” from Sankha Bela (from which this gem also comes)

All those twisting extras. The kitten-heeled shoes. The lonely yet festive cluster of balloons. A living room that, unlike those in Hindi cinema with their sunken seating areas that can hold at least 63 people and their inside-out wedding cake stairways and balconies, seems like the kind of place you might actually find yourself someday. Which is not to critique those kinds of wedding-cake Bollywood homes. It’s just nice to stumble across something a bit more relatable sometimes.


the songs of Nakal Sona

If you only watch/listen to one vintage Bengali film song this weekend, let it be either this one (such a cha-cha-cha vibe!)

“Bah Chamatkar”
…or maybe this one (invoking of Uttam-Suchitra! Fantasy dreamland use of baubles, bubbles, and mushrooms!)

“Ami Ki Habo”

I’d love to see this movie but it seems quite hard to track down. Has anyone seen it?


on loathing Devdas

Devdas, you insufferable f*ck.

Let me count the ways.

  1. You’re drunk.
  2. You’re lazy.
  3. Nothing is ever your responsibility.
  4. You’re overly demanding.
  5. You indulge in melodrama at all the wrong times.
  6. You’re self-pitying.
  7. You’re solipsistic.
  8. You are most definitely a narcissist.
  9. Have I mentioned that you’re drunk? And you smell terrible.Devdas_Bengali1979-2-00248
  10. You’re so needy.
  11. You’re ungrateful bordering on spiteful. Do you kick puppies too?
  12. You make women so crazy, they become self-loathing.
  13. You make women so crazy, they degrade themselves even further.
  14. You make women so crazy, they pull out all their eyebrows and resort to ACT!ING!Devdas_Bengali1979-2-00400
  15. You make women so crazy, they have to enter protection/relocation programs.

I hope someone out there has seen this version of Devdas (1979) so we can discuss it, including, but not limited to, whether it is actually worse than other versions or if the horror of seeing one of your favorite actors play one of your most hated characters can be worked around.