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Posts Tagged ‘eunuchs’

Heat and Dust (1983) is a Merchant Ivory Productions award winning film, with a screenplay by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala based upon her novel, Heat and Dust. It was directed by James Ivory and produced by Ismail Merchant. Ivory performed tanpura for score music with Zakir Hussein‘s sitar. According to the Museum of Broadcast Communications there was “a cycle of film and television productions which emerged during the first half of the 1980s, which seemed to indicate Britain’s growing preoccupation with India, Empire and a particular aspect of British cultural history”. In addition to Heat and Dust, this cycle also included The Jewel in the Crown (1984) and A Passage to India (1984). (wikipedia)

Heat and Dust (1983), could I call that Bollywood?

OK Shashi is right, it isn’t Bollywood, but it’s set in India and stars Shashi Kapoor, so that’s good enough for me. I got it from my local library and it’s as part of The Criterion Collection, which never disappoints. I had read the book by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala and then realized that there was a movie, which apparently was a huge hit in Europe, and other parts of the world but wasn’t widely distributed in the US, which is why I wasn’t familiar with it. Here’s a case where I enjoyed the book and movie equally. If you get a chance to see it, be sure and listen to the commentary version to hear interesting things the producer, director and actors recall about the shooting of the film. The DVD booklet described the film as follows:

Heat and Dust was adapted for the screen by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala from her Booker Prize-winning novel, and tells two stories in parallel through the use of splicing and juxtaposing of scenes. Flashbacks, and flash-forwards, which connect the Indian past (in the romantic 19203) and present (the 1970s). In the first story, Olivia (Greta Scacchi), a junior administrator’s wife, has an affair with a local Nawab (Shashi Kapoor) that shocks the British community, and at the end she goes to live alone in a mountain retreat. The second involves her great niece Anne (Julie Christie), who comes to India to research Olivia’s life and on a different level repeats her experience, becoming pregnant by her Indian lover Inder Lal (Zakir Hussain) and traveling finally to the retreat in the mountains where Olivia had ended her days and where she herself hopes to bear a child.

I enjoyed seeing Shashi starring in a movie with his real life wife, Jennifer Kendal. Kendal died in 1984, and this movie was made in 1983, so this was one of her last films.

Kendal had a very Bollywood-esque character who got to say some racist dialogue. She warns the young Olivia to be careful, since she knew a British woman who had been molested by and Indian, “since he’d been ironing her underwear, after all. And they eat all that spicy food,” said Mrs. Saunders. She goes on to say:

Now that’s very Bollywood, isn’t it? To have a racist Britisher saying outlandish and offensive things. Another Bollywood moment was when I saw this actress, and knew I’d seen her before but couldn’t place it. She was marvelous and really captured my attention, even though her part was small. Do you recognize this woman? Not Julie Christie, but the woman with the bindi?

It’s a young Ratna Pathak, (wife of Naseeruddin Shah) who I last saw in Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na, playing Jai’s (Imran Khan) mother. And the final Bollywood ingredient to Heat and Dust was the inclusion of hijra.

Well Shashi,

I’ll tell you what a hijra is,

“In the culture of the Indian subcontinent, a hijra (Hindi: हिजड़ा, Urdu: حجڑا) is usually considered a member of “the third sex” — neither man nor woman. Most are physically male or intersex, but some are female. Hijras usually refer to themselves linguistically as female, and usually dress as women. Although they are usually referred to in English as “eunuchs”, relatively few have any genital modifications.” (wikipedia)

Watch the trailer and look at what Siskel & Ebert had to say here.

Read Ashmita‘s review of the book here.

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I had the pleasure of escaping to Puerto Vallarta again this year from Minnesota’s extra long winter. During my recent trip I met a lovely Indian couple from Michigan, Sheela & Chaitanya.  I saw a man several times in the hotel’s lobby who looked like Sanjay Dutt.  Of course it wasn’t him, but when I saw this couple I knew they would perhaps understand my glee.  “Hey, have you seen that guy who looks like Sanjay Dutt? It’s not him, but he looks a lot like him!” They kindly tolerated my Bollywood obsession, and never once called me a pagli gori. I asked Sheela-ji for her movie recommendations and upon her advice I watched Chameli.

Chameli is the story of a prostitute, (Kareena Kapoor). Aman Kapoor (Rahul Bose) an investment banker, lost his wife in a car accident on a rainy night. Neha was pregnant with their child. The accident left him depressed and lonely. He drowned his grief with alcohol or smoking. Chameli was sold to a brothel by her uncle when she was young. She is now a tough, street smart girl. On one rainy night, Aman and Chameli, two strangers, meet each other in Mumbai. The story shows how their relationship develops and how each other’s lives change. (wikipedia)

Kind hearted Chameli sponsered a little street urchin and upon finding out he was chewing tobacco, she threatened to give him the “tight slap to the face.”

Lately I’ve noticed that there are eunuchs who are sometimes prostitutes in many of the Bollywood movies I’m seeing: Jodhaa Akbar, Water, Ek Chalis Ki Last Local, and Raja Hindustani to name a few. Chameli had one too!

The Kapoor dynasty magic! As Chameli, Kareena is so strong, yet so vunerable:

So on a rainy night, I watched this movie of a rainy night and was particularly fond of the tune “Bhaage Re Mann” with music by Sandesh Sandilya and lyrics by Irshad Kalimby. The fantastic playback singer is Sunidhi Chauhan,  and the song is picturised on Kareena Kapoor and Rahul Bose

Lyrics in Hindi.  English lyrics are included in the comments below.  Many thanks to TheBollywoodFan.

For more on Sunidhi Chauhan, read Dr. Mandar’s article at cinema sangeet.

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