Saturday, March 7, 2020

Down the memory lane - Taxi driver 1954

Taxi driver 1954
This film was apparently shot in 30 days without much budget.It was a Navketan film,all the three brothers and their wives and fiancees were involved.The beautiful,then empty & spacious city of Bombay played an important role in the movie.. 
The so called vamp without any evil acts was the one who wore (comparatively more ) plunging necklines and danced and sang in a nightclub , racy but melodious and meaningful numbers. The nightclub definitely had a before and after moment, before it was a dingy,shady place populated by goons,poor gamblers and taxi drivers. After its owner wins the lottery,it is made a more sophisticated place.  The opening song ‘Dil se milake dil pyar kijiye’ is the most melodious of all the cabaret songs. (I wonder why SDB used different voices for both the ladies ,Sheila Ramani & Kalpana.) The second song is actually meant to break the fight between two groups, hero and some goons. ‘Jeene do aur jiyo…’ she tells both. ‘Dil jale to jale’ is another wonderful song,depicting the anguish of both Hero ( heroine has left him) and the vamp( Hero is not interested in her).
The story is unremarkable, though it was one of the first noir films,showing the underground mafia and their involvement with the film world. Girl comes from a village to sing for a music director, can not find him in the huge Bombay city and ends up meeting our hero, called Hero by his friends. Hero rescues her from some goons who stay in the movie and perform various other nefarious acts like bank robbery,car theft etc.She stays in his house ,till she suddenly feels she is coming in way of his romance with the nightclub dancer.( That premise was really thin.) This is followed by a bank robbery by some goons using the hero's car( I expected the hero to be framed for that) , the hero's friend finding the heroine and then the hero delivers her to her true destination ,the music director. She is instantly liked,accepted there and supposedly gets an opportunity to sing in a movie ( song here is implied,not shown). The plot suddenly ,a little disconnectedly jumps back to the nightclub as our good soul Mala( the heroine) recommends the vamp's name for some racy numbers in the same film. The final climactic action sequence is flimsy, though there were some good moments . The night shots in BW films had these problems frequently ,you can not see what is happening till somebody decides to smoke and use a lighter or a matchstick.
When they meet each other after a brief parting, the scene that follows is one of the most romantic (and even bold) scenes from the fifties. Hero hugs her very tightly in the small space of the cab ,says 'why did you go away ?'and she smiles with joy.
The comic scenes are not very funny ,in fact the way in which Hero chops of Mala's hair is very cruel. The poor girl is crying and still doesn't blame him and he callously hushes her.This is followed by Hero teaching Mala smoking,swagger and foul language of the drivers and cleaners of Bombay.This also involved sudden appearance and disappearance of Hero’s sister in law.
The hero with a hairy chest and a wristwatch ( however poor he is) on a hairy wrist is strangely manly. ( Dev was never a manly action hero, though there was at least one action sequence in most of his films.) However poor, he will wear a necktie in at least one scene. Most of the films, he was very nattily dressed in full shirt, coat, suit, tie. We never see a shirtless hero with his six packs in any old films,in fact the hero's conspicuously non muscular arms were a norm ,if he happened to wear a half shirt or a Tee.
‘Jaye to jaye kahan’ is one of the most melodious pairs of songs. I always thought the Talat version was primary(  comes first in the movie) but this is the song where Mala showcases her talent for the music director and at the same time expresses her anguish that she will not be with Hero after this. Beautiful, haunting , soulful and meaningful words and melody ! The Talat version has entirely different lyrics with the same tune and is equally haunting and soulful. The only shortcoming was their expressions. Not too strong in the emotive expression department, these two !
There is also a scene where a drunk Hero comes home to sweet, simple,innocent Mala, holds her roughly and also holds her by her hair but she refuses to see anything but goodness in him. However,the next day she understands that all that was wrong and she is sulking. So this is followed by  a roothna manana type of song( dekho maane nahi) … not very famous , mostly forgettable , but cute. Picturised in a ferry off the Gateway of India , both of them look cute together ,her smiling shyly at him and he feeding her something ,when she is just beginning to lipsync an aalap .. she manages to avoid that thing, probably an orange, till the alap is finished. Looks like there were not many retakes and cuts.
These two keep on calling each other Funtoosh endearingly. Not sure what they mean by that, Funtoosh sounds like somebody with a devil may care attitude. But their behaviour is hardly that.
I wanted to see the film where Dev married Mona. I wanted to see if I could spot a sort of before and after. But I couldn't.The film was okay, though it had its moments.Songs were beautiful...

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