Thursday, April 1, 2010

Her Deformed Back and Squeezed Up Figure

While reading Darlingji: The True Love Story of Nargis and Sunil Dutt, by Kishwar Desai, I was delighted to come across some good barbed quotes from Filmindia editor Baburao Patel. It's like the kind of over-the-top cruelty, but funny, that reviewers used to savage the Romantic poets with -- hence the famous line from Byron about "John Keats, who was killed off by one critique/Just as he really promised something great/If not intelligible." Come to think of it, they were pretty mean to each to other, too.

Our connection at Memsaab Story has shared some delightful Patel tidbits: I'd start here, then follow the Baburao tag where it leads. I mean, he describes films as "Visual Torture for Two Hours." Now, that's the kind of film criticism I'm looking for -- precise and to the point. I've had enough talk about "globalized intertexts," and the "epiphenomenon of historical trajectory." Yes, I've been reading academic criticism again, off and on, which I don't even want to cite. I don't want to make fun of these scholars, who are doing what they have to do to get respect, ugly as it can be.

But back to Nargis. On the movie Aag: "In the dance sequences her deformed back and squeezed up figure without any grace or contours become repulsive." (p. 109) That's terrible! But - ha ha! Even better is the headline for a movie called Ashiana: "Raj and Nargis Give Stupid Portrayals!"

That's what I want to see from the movie magazines when new Hollywood "romantic comedies" come out.

As far as the actual biographical subjects go, I learned that when Sunil Dutt went to Bombay as a starving college student, right after Partition, he roomed with another student, Rajendra Kumar, who eventually played his brother in Mother India. He was also college friends with Mac Mohan, who is described as "a cricketer and somewhat of a lad" (p. 92), which makes me like him even more! Even reading a biography, I'm more interested in the character actors than I am in the leads.

Anyway, Mac Mohan flouted authority by carrying steamy books on campus, and Dutt, who agreed with the disapproving authorities, confiscated his copy of Wife for Sale. Even though Dutt was obviously the straight arrow in his crowd, Desai says "his friends let him be...It was understood that when they went out into the world, Balraj (Dutt) would take up some boring conservative career." (p. 93)

Anyone who knows me will realize that I now desperately want to read Wife for Sale, which I'm assuming is the novel by Kathleen Norris. I suspect I'd be disappointed. One of the used copies on Amazon shows a cover, though, with the subtitle "Has a woman the right to sell her soul for security?" That sounds pretty promising! But come to think of it, her prose is unlikely to be as vivid as Baburao Patel's.

In college Dutt joined a theater group, and then got a job as a radio announcer for Radio Ceylon, interviewing film stars, including -- who else? Nargis! By the time they met up again, the possibility of a boring conservative career was long gone.

Ah, fate is sometimes like a filmi plot!

I'm about halfway through (the book is thick, but a quick read), so if I come across any more must-shares, I'll let you know...


memsaab said...

I mostly loved the photos in this book.

I am sure I can dig up more Baburao barbs directed at poor Nargis. I think that her association with Raj Kapoor (who was often the subject of his vitriol) infuriated Mr. P. :)

Anarchivist said...

That's perfectly understandable on Baburao's part.