My Favorite Musicals from Hollywood – 2

Can you believe this???!!! Ofcourse you do!! This is not the first time I have delayed writing something on this space!! It’s been 4 months since I wrote here!!

Last year in July I wrote about my favorite Hollywood musicals, and well, the time has now come to revisit that. So let’s continue our journey. Most of the movies we saw in the last post were children’s movies.  In this post, it’s the other way round.  Musicals have always been an attractive genre for me. For one, they hold mirror to the developing tastes in music through the decades.  From Elvis’ hips to Chicago’s Razzle Dazzle, music has carved a spectrum of varieties that have each been incorporated radiantly in many of the movies that we shall now see.

Grease: John Travolta with a hair so well set, it almost looks like it was nailed down stole the heart of many through this iconic movie that went on to become one of the celebrated musicals of all time.  Much before the time of High School Musicals, this coming of age movie set in California, rocked the Hollywood scene ushering in an era of romance that was unbridled and wildly infectious. With John’s killing looks (the perfect dimple in the chin) and Olivia Newton-John’s blonde abandon, they had probably become the one of the most celebrated young couples in the movie.  The songs busted the charts that year resulting in grandiose plans for sequels. Unfortunately Grease-2 was such a box-office disappointment that thankfully it put a full-stop to the idea of generating more sequels.  There is only so much you can do with teenage love story and Grease had already accomplished it.  Love, conspiracy, heartbreak, scheming rivals and dumb friends – this movie had it all and more. The songs are a pleasure even to this day – “You’re the one that I want”, “Summer Nights”, “Greased Lightning”, “Born to Hand Jive”, “Beauty School Dropout”, “Hopelessly devoted to you” ….

West Side Story:  It pains me endlessly to be writing about West Side Story – a movie that I had loved and enjoyed so thoroughly all through my college days, only to watch with horror as it was destroyed to bits by the Bollywood gang of insufferable Mr. SRK, sloppy Aishwarya Rai and whatz-his-name Singh.  A love story in the backdrop of ethnic and cultural struggle in a developing American economy, this movie was a Romeo-Juliet love saga of the modern times.  With amazing performances by all the lead roles, the movie had foot tapping music, memorable songs and a story that was captivating inspite of its worn out theme.  It was not a big surprise that it swept the Academy Awards bagging 10 out of 11 categories. The tragic love story on Manhattan streets tugs on your heart and leaves a lump. It almost feels like a criminal act that Bollywood took this classic and turned it into a shit-pile called Josh.  The songs that haunt include “I just met a girl named Maria”, “Tonight”, “America”, “One hand One heart”, “I feel so pretty” while the electric performance for the “Mambo” is a thrill to watch!

The King & I:  Based on a true story, the movie King & I appealed to me a lot mostly due to my affection towards “Sound of Music”. Both of these movies were incidentally made by Rodgers & Hammerstein and have been adapted to Broadway.  Although quite different in their treatment and stories, the underlying current of creative expression and dogmatic ideas that surrounds the love of Anna and the King on one hand while that of the slave girl and her lover on the other, made the film a viewer’s pleasure.  With grandiose sets, Victorian dresses, melodious numbers, topped with excellent performances, the film won critical acclaim.  Songs like “Shall we dance”, “Getting to know you”, “I Whistle a Happy Tune”, “We kiss in a shadow” have made the movie a delight.   Deborah Karr’s performance and the humor laced story line remain the highlight of the movie.

Cabaret:  Jazz, Music, the razzmatazz of the kit kat club, Berlin under the Nazi regime, the then sexy and steaming Liza Minnelli, Helmut Griem with his weird caterpillar mustache, and a shy Michael York  – all of this together made Cabaret a phenomenal movie – one that swept the Oscars with eight wins but lost the Best Picture award. The plot revolved around the relationship between an academician and a sexy Cabaret dancer. Homosexual tension, love, tears, betrayal, reconciliation – the movie was peppered with it all and the classic cabaret to top it off.

Originally a novel by Christopher Ishwerwood, the plot was adapted into a Broadway musical which eventually found its way to Hollywood and into the hearts of millions of movie buffs. Though I don’t really have any favorite numbers from this movie, this movie deserves a mention for the sheer brilliance that was put together to make this an everlasting master piece.

Beauty & the Beast:  I have had a huge dilemma including this in the list. I mean, in all honesty, we can classify almost every Disney animation to be a musical – or actually do another post for animated musicals! But I guess, given my promptness in posting on my website, that would be a far cry. So when the time came to choose, for me, of all the musicals by Disney, this movie really stood apart. (And I have kept the irritating ‘Frozen’ out of this purposely.. and hence effectively earned myself a horde of enemies!) The story is known to almost everyone. But with this movie, I could really find that Disney animation had come of age. There was an outstanding talent that came forth through this movie, that I feel even Disney has failed to match. There was a sensitivity to the story and the treatment of the characters in spite of the usual spicing with despicable villains. This was a movie that really tugged at many emotions, and a story that really left a mark. A timeless classic!

Moulin Rouge: For a long time through the 90s it seemed as though Hollywood had washed its hands off of musicals. They were mostly to be found in animations. But all that was set to change with the release of the brilliant production – Moulin Rouge that revived the glory of the musicals and added to it the zest and glamour of glittering production sets and the tragic romance. It seemed as though we had traveled back in time! Nicole Kidman as the dying Cabaret dancer, Ewan McGregor as the be-smitten poet rewove the magic of love on the grand sets of the MontMartre Quarter of Paris. It was interesting that the movie had a sub-plot set in India involving a courtesan, a Maharaja and a poor Sitar player – alluding to the main plot. And in line with this, the movie had included the song “Chamma Chamma” from the movie China gate.  Given its lavish settings, it was no wonder that the movie grabbed the Oscar awards for Production Design and even Costume. A veritable treat to the eyes and ears, Moulin Rouge succeeded in reviving the musical genre and establishing them as top grossing even in the midst of the high voltage action movies. The song below is my favorite from the movie 🙂

Chicago: What Moulin Rouge set in motion in 2001, was taken to new heights by Chicago that was released in the year 2002.  Catherine Zeta Jones, Richard Gere, Renee Zellweger and the awesome Queen Latifah turned this movie into a phenomenon for me! I can’t count the number of times I have watched this movie. There are so many things about this movie that I can list which are so outstanding – the acting, the music, the lyrics, the costumes, the dance, the settings and most certainly the plot of the movie. Every character is introduced through numbers that hold a mirror to the character.  The plot itself holds a mirror to the society, the media and the questions of justice and morality.  If ever there was a film in the past decade that would mock the modern day for all its vanity and hypocrisy with such glory, I would pick this movie.  Songs like “When you’re good to mama”, “the cell block tango”, “Roxie”, “All I care about”, “Razzle Dazzle”, “We both reached for the gun” are just awesome.  The Cell block tango that outlines the stories of other inmates along with Roxie is possibly the best in the entire movie followed by Latifah’s “When you’re good to mama”.  The movie swept the Oscars that year, including the Best Movie, Best Supporting Actress, Costume, Sound and even Art. All of these were very well deserved for the movie.

Mamma Mia: I had written about this movie in an earlier post.  The two best parts of this movie were the ABBA songs and Meryl Streep.  That Meryl Streep was belting out some of my favorite ABBA numbers was the icing on the cake.  The famous broadway musical was finally made into a movie and though disappointing in parts, over a period of time, it kinda endeared itself to me.  Now I am not sure if that’s because I have started getting older or if I am struck with Stockholm syndrome. In any case, the story of a young to-be-married girl attempting to discover who her father is became lovable to me only because it took me back to my childhood. Having grown up listening to ABBA I could see the beautiful shady Malleshwaram unwrap before my eyes.  The leisurely summers and the lovely Mariyappanapalya Park stood before me.  Ofcourse they are all history now. Everything that Bangalore was and represented has become a history now. But these songs still warm my heart! “Money Money Money”, “Voulez vous”, “Winner takes it all”, “Mamma Mia”, “Dancing Queen”, “Chiquitita”, the list just goes on and on.  All I can say is “Thank you for the music…” 🙂

Sweeney Todd – The demon barber of fleet street: That Johnny Depp is a splendid actor is a given. But imagining Johnny do the singing was a bit weird!  Added to that, the grim and dark play that was adapted to a Tim Burton movie obviously had its charms. It was this combination that really drew me to Sweeney Todd. Cringing at the cold blooded slashing and baking of the victims, yet sympathizing with the Barber’s anger, I watched the movie marveling at the creativity of Depp. The transition of the simple and loving Benjamin Barker to the demon barber Sweeney Todd is captured brilliantly. Though he wasn’t grand in singing, Johnny Depp definitely did his part for the character and with such aplomb, that he set a new benchmark for himself.  Helena Carter as his female accomplice in the crime and his eventual victim was equally splendid. She after all seems to have made weirdness a second nature to her acting. That the visitors to her bakery do not even recognize the ghastly secret hidden in the pies they are eating is a mirror that the plot holds to our current so called civilized society. Sweeney Todd is a movie that must be watched not only for its music but more so for the top class acting essayed by all the characters in the movie.  A heart rending dark tragedy this movie is one of the best to have come out of Johnny Depp and Tim Burton’s partnership.

Les Miserable: I guess it was in my 3rd or 4th standard that I read a part of the classic Les Miserable. The Gulmohar book that we used to have carried the story of a thief who had a change of heart when the pastor in a church does not hand him over to the cops inspite of knowing that he had stolen the candle stands from the church. The story remained in my mind and after several  years, I eventually happened to learn that this story was actually a part of Victor Hugo’s historical masterpiece.  The movie adaptation was a revelation. Anne Hathaway was perfection personified on the screen. It was no wonder that she won the Academy award for actress in a supporting role. As the movie unfolds through the eyes of the main protagonists, the questions of right and wrong, the turbulent times of France, the morality, the helplessness of human nature in the face of adversity all bursts forth in stark nakedness. In the end ofcourse hope triumphs and love survives.  Oh watch it!! Just watch this movie!

With this, I finally come to an end of this series. It has taken me several months to give this post the light of the day. But the fact that it is done is a relief indeed.  The musicals are a genre that can never ever go extinct. They will continue to reinvent themselves and stay relevant no matter what age we may live in and no matter how advanced technology may be. Music is an integral part of human life and the movies would do well to celebrate it.

Our Leaders and Us

It took me a long time to appreciate the subtle philosophy embedded in Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”.  It is not without reason then, that today I am reminded of this beautiful discussion between Alice and the Cheshire Cat.

“I don’t want to go among mad people”, remarked Alice. “Oh! you can’t help that”, said the cat. “we are all mad here! I am mad, you are mad!” “How do you know I am mad?” said Alice. “You must be”, said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”

Since a few weeks now, we all seem to be edging towards this madness. As a nation, it seems that we are slowly inching towards losing our sensibilities and handing it all out on a platter to those who rule over. Let’s begin with something closer home. The Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, J Jayalalitha has been convicted of amassing assets illegally – assets worth of over 50 crores has been deemed illegal and she has been fined a hefty sum of 100 croresA Poster campaigning for Ms. Jayalalitha as PM and 4 years of simple imprisonment. The amount of hullabaloo this has given rise to in the neighboring state must be seen to believe. People have apparently committed suicide, died of heart attack and cries of “Amma” “Amma” are tearing through all parts of the state.  There are posters being put up that are questioning the ability of a human being to judge a ‘Goddess’, that are threatening the Kannadigas living in Chennai with dire consequences if the lady is not released immediately, that are decrying the verdict and there are people beating their chests on the streets and burning buses and torching vehicles. Shop owners and even educational institutions are closing down (or have been forced to close down) to show solidarity with the convict.  The cult status that we elevate the leaders to, renders our sense of morality so crippled that we are absolutely OK with whatever illegal activities they may indulge in. To be Ms. Jayalalitha depicted as Goddess Lakshmifair, this is not a sudden development. For most parts, the many poojas, demonstrations, hooliganism and havoc that the mob is creating is really orchestrated by few elements of the party. Needless to say, all that they care is about glorifying their blind devotion to the convicted leader and later earn some sops for their loyalty. But people in general are also swayed largely by the many schemes launched by the ruling party – cheap food, freebies including gold, electronic items, laptops, and many more. This is the sense of empowerment that we have come to expect of the government and the elected representatives. On their part, the elected representatives from both the major regional parties fuel this unquenchable thirst among the masses by announcing glorious freebies during every election.  Democracy is dying a slow death in our country.

The quantum of the assets accumulated by the erstwhile CM is nothing compared to the latest charges mounted against the former cabinet minister A Raja in the 2G scam. The amount runs to thousands of crores of rupees. If the investigation for 53 crores of illegal assets can run for 18 years, one dreads to imagine the time A. Raja would need to be convicted! The DMK that is now celebrating the conviction of Ms. Jayalalitha is no saint ofcourse! When RajaA Poster comparing Sonia Gandhi to Jhansi Rani was convicted, the DMK government resorted to every means of arm twisting tactics to secure his release and even withdrew from the government. Ofcourse, this is one kettle that is calling the pot black. But even then, several party cadres had taken up the cause of their leaders and staged protests even in the parliament. The fact that they were fighting against the conviction of a crook did not seem to weigh on their conscience at all. It mattered not, that the country’s assets were being siphoned off for their individual profits and well being, but what mattered was that they were the mass leaders and above any jurisdiction. Ofcourse the electorate did vote them out of power and made the DMK taste an abysmal defeat, but then, we seem to forget the lessons we taught very soon.

This deification of the leaders is not a new phenomenon, atleast for a country like India, where kings were considered as ‘gods’! Mrs. Indira Gandhi was the manifestation of Durga when she trounced Pakistan during Bangladesh’s liberation. Even Mrs. Sonia Gandhi was showcased as Durga in an election poster that caused the BJP and other right wing organizations to cry foul. But they donned a divine silence when temples were being The Narendra Modi Templeconstructed for the ‘God’ Narendra Modi. We are very selective about our adoration indeed. The hatred for a party or a person, must be absolute and total – this is the current motto of Indian politics. Thus, Mr. Narendra Modi spares no chance to taunt the Nehru legacy, often discounting the first Prime Minister’s contributions to Indian cause.  And for their part, any Congress man even remotely appreciating anything good that the incumbent PM may say, is branded an anti-party person (read Shashi Tharoor). The citizenry cannot be left behind ofcourse! Anyone who questions Mr. Modi’s works is branded an anti-national! Morphed images are gloriously circulated and shared on all social media forums – images that show how cheap the opposition leaders are and how great and divine their respective leaders seem to be.  Nobody bothers to check the authenticity nor question the ideology behind such works. Heaven forbid if anyone does so much as post a cartoon about a political personality – they’ll be put behind bars in no time!

Sure – my grandmom has fasted for more than 9 days! Sure – there are thousands of people who even to this day fast during festivals for many days together. Sure – it is commonsense that it is every citizen’s responsibility to keepA Poster for Priyanka Gandhi the country clean – both literally and figuratively.  But we need someone else to actually tell us to do it. We need the media to give us a blow by blow account of what the personality is eating, drinking, and wearing so that we can revere the personality. No matter how ridiculous some statements may be, we must ogle and clap and dance at every word! Every major national and regional party has become enslaved to cult politics.  Even those who used to decry dynastic politics are now celebrating one-up-man-ship and banking on a single person’s charisma to tide over every issue and challenge.  Such is the tragic state of affairs that no matter how incapable or inept a person from a family maybe, the sheer chance of being born into a family is enough to endow the person to be named as the heir apparent to administer a country. No one can and no one must question his abilities! Ironically, this is the country which advised the world to gain ‘self-knowledge’ and liberate themselves!

Democracy is an idea that enables people to govern themselves. Underlying this philosophy, are a few basic tenets. First and foremost, the public must be educated and capable of objectively viewing the representatives they have chosen. They must be able to differentiate the chaff from the grain and not succumb to petty temptations. They must be able to recognize the collective good and encourage it.  They must actively participate and remain vigilant of the administrative practices and not deter from questioning its motives and force the administration to be accountable. In India, currently, it is a far cry.  We are content to blindly follow and cry hoarse when we feel betrayed. In this modern era of enslavement, we are in reality not serving the political class, but we are serving our own ignorance and ineptitude. We may have the where-with-all to defy and win over external rulers, but we have failed abysmally in winning over our own weaknesses. This is the tragedy of Indian democracy.

As a parting shot, I am reminded of a beautiful poem composed by the noted Kannada poet Sri Nissar Ahmed – Kurigalu Saar Kurigalu… where he basically shows how we have all become sheep-like.. following others blindly. Well… Baaaaa time now!

Pics Courtesy: IBNLive, IndianExpress, TheHindu, & Google 🙂

Farewell…Capt’n! Oh My Capt’n!

Today, this post will be just one among the many that may be written around the world – one of the many that have been written to express the deep anguish, shock and loss over the death of the genius comic icon – Robin Williams.  I usually try to avoid writing about “breaking news” events. But this was one event that I did not want to refrain from.  This was personal for more reasons than one.

My Dear Capt’n,

I don’t know where to begin! Watching Jumanji in a shack that passed off as a ‘movie theatre’ near my house, I marvelled at the wonder that was unravelling before my eyes.  It was much later that I comprehended the sheer fame of your name.  I had already watched Mrs. Doubtfire, but relating to you as a wonder took a while.  That was when you came hunting as Sean Maguire.  I watched the movie as though I was growing with it – scene by scene, sequence by sequence.  You made me do something I hadn’t done in a long while. I broke down and cried inconsolably for a long long time.  That was when I acknowledged you, and surrendered to your genius.  You helped me come to terms with many things in that movie. But to acknowledge pain with laughter, that was the big stroke of gift that you gave me.  You were a phenomenally soulful actor for me and then I saw the comic in you.  Who were you? I really wondered!

Patch Adams - Robin Williams

Patch Adams – Robin Williams

I have let down my guard so often whenever I was watching you turn into something that I guess, we all have dreamt of.  I hoped that I would meet my John Keating, I hoped that I would meet my Patch Adams.  Irrespective of whether I met them or not, I knew I could always fall back on you.  And I did fall back on you – time and again. I can’t count the number of times I have visited you as one of your patients or students. Put myself on the screen of my mind and heard you talk to me – the script transformed into something that was personal.  I guess that is exactly what distinguishes great movies from the rest.  They become personal – to one and all.  I know you have been personal to millions of viewers around the world.  You have made them laugh and cry just like you made me.

I wouldn’t call myself a great fan of yours! I don’t know your birth date, I don’t know your filmography or your career path. I have no knowledge of the number of movies you have made or the way your career took off.  I have only now heard the news and had a glimpse of it all.  But that is probably because, I seldom looked at you as an actor. Therein again lies your brilliance!  You were so many characters to me! Each one genuine, real and as fleshy as the other.  You weren’t all good either! I know that! I could see the brilliance of your darkness in Insomnia.  I acknowledged it just as well. You showed you were human.  I have learnt to accept just as well that I am human too. I came to terms with the greyness inside me too.

It was much later that I understood how you had touched almost every aspect of my intimate life.  While I was working as a Radio Jockey, I saw your portrayal in “Good Morning Vietnam” and I am still looking for a word to describe what I felt! When I write, I can hear your words from the Dead Poets’ Society whispered into my ears. There are countless hours of darkness that I have spent sitting on the chair across you Sean.  So thank you for being all of these.

Your movies left a message, your life left a message and so did your death. You were more human in all of these, than we could be.  Maybe that is the real tragedy.  I wonder how it came to be that a person who touched millions around the world through so many decades, remained untouched by hope!  Were there no hearts around you that could ignite the flame of life inside you, the way you did? Genius comes at a huge price! I have always heard people say so. You’ll also go down the pages of history as a great genius of an actor who suffered from depression, addiction and who took his life – unable to come out of it.  Creativity and talent wins a lot of admiration but few friends may be. I don’t know! I hope I am wrong.  So today, as I bid farewell to you, Robin Williams, I bid farewell to the actor, the talented, funny, warm and successful genius of the film industry.

I also thank you, because you stayed back with me.  You shall remain with me as Sean, as John Keating, as Patch Adams and through all of these, as an example to what a human can be.  We are all as fictional as those characters in our thoughts.  We are all in an attempt to make that fiction a reality.  I acknowledge the fiction of your roles as well as the reality of your absence today.  But I will always choose to cherish those fictions and I shall always strive to make them a reality.  Hopefully that may be a meaningful tribute to you and the genius in you.

Farewell, Capt’n Oh My Capt’n….

Updates from Dublin…

That’s right! Yours truly is in Dublin! Well its just for a couple of weeks time and I’ve already spent a week from the quota. As can be inferred it is work related. But the travel has helped on many fronts. For one, it showed me just how much I love my own company! One of the best advantages of being in a place all by yourself is that you can really be yourself! Well, I’ll get into other aspects soon. But before that, more updates!

Prior to leaving to Dublin, I had been on a Vipassana retreat! Now, for those of you who may wonder what it is – its a 10-day silent meditation retreat.  There are Vipassana centres all over the world (including Bangalore) and the wanderer me, chose to go to Nashik. I am really happy I did that too! It is definitely one of the most memorable experiences of my life.  Though in all honesty, my vow of silence got compromised due to unforeseen circumstances, most of the time I did remain silent. Nearly 100 hours of Vipassana meditation opens up such avenues to your mind that you’d wonder who you really are!  Sitting cross-legged for 1 hour, 3 times in a day, with a vow taken not to move was a killer! This vow is administered on the 4th day – whichever position you choose to sit in, the seeker must try as hard as possible to remain in that position for the entire duration of one hour.  By the 6th day, this became quite effortless for me.  Nashik is a beautiful place – the green surroundings and the myriad birds that visited the Centre there, all made it worthwhile. The conditions of the room where I stayed were not particularly great – fungus infested walls were a scare – not to mention the many lizards.  But when you are on a pursuit to delve deeper into yourself, I guess the first thing you have to do is turn your mind off from the external conditions. I did just that, and was able to really enjoy my stay there.  Contrary to what my populist ego-centric self had thought, inspite of being away and completely cut-off from all modes of communication, life around me as I knew it, still sustained and flourished! 🙂 Lesson learnt? Get away from everything regularly.  Recharge and rebound.  And above all, “‘I’ am at the ‘root’ of all my experiences”.

A week after I returned from Vipassana, I was packed my bags again to leave to Dublin.  The evenings here are spent in exploring this lovely city.  It is not really huge to be honest.  But whatever there is, is very charming.  My favourite part is of hunting for restaurants. This is one time, wherein I can try different cuisines of the world – as long as am taking the vegetarian options. And its amazing just how many options there are !!!  From a traditional Irish cuisine to the Vietnamese, my spectrum has spread across the globe.  I must however confess that it was the Vietnamese cuisine that completely won me over! I am in love with those wonderful people and their food! Apart from this, the other highlight of my visit, I must say, was the visit to Bray – a seaside point along the southern tip of Dublin.  This simple, serene and beautiful sea shore or beach if you prefer, felt so peaceful and soothing that I was dreaming of settling down there some time! It was like a typical countryside life one may imagine to experience towards the later days of one’s life.  I soon realized that I should head back to some feisty civilization before I start to brood over other matters and return we did!

Having got back from Vipassana and again being away in Dublin, I can see the amount of influence solitude has on me.  I have been cherishing these moments thoroughly and infact hoping that I’ll get them regularly year-on-year.

Well that’s that from my end. A quickie of a post. I’ll be returning to Bangalore next week and hopefully even more rooted and grounded in my mind than when I left. 🙂

Curtains Open!

And for the umpteenth time…. I am so so so so sorry!!

I know I know…even the semblance of readers that may have been hanging around have now finally retired.  I can almost see the cobwebs gathered on this page.  The website has become so dormant that Sajid Khan’s movies have started to seem more dynamic and innovative! And it is solely my cross to bear!  And I am sure that you have all (I mean the spiders, non-existent readers, bored I-dunno-how-I-got-here-internet-junkies) by now either known or stopped caring about the reasons (did I hear someone say excuses?) for my absence.

Well, there are aplenty. Not that I haven’t been writing! (Gosh! I almost feel like a cheater!) It’s just that my arena of writing was shifted to other areas – what with the articles to Hindu becoming a regular feature (Did you visit the collection of my articles here?)  I am also extremely happy that I have been able to contribute to my language through the means of translations. I contributed a couple of translations of portions of works by famous and renowned Kannada Authors, which would be published in the Sahitya Akademi Journal.  YogaKshema Rehabilitation & Wellness Center, that I am a part of, started its publishing activities and I was also involved in translating some of the handbooks into Kannada and also creating a new handbook in English.  All of these, apart from the usual work-life ensured that inspite of my best efforts, I just did not get around to publishing anything new here.

That doesn’t mean that I was completely oblivious to the environment here. I cannot confess on the number of drafts that have been left incomplete.  The happenings in the past few months have strongly prompted me to write, and write I did.  I never got around to completing them and now am wondering if I should publish them at all. While I am in dilemma over the issues, their relevance cannot be denied.  I may have to still rework on it and publish it. Having said that, lemme not promise that I will be more regular.  However, I’ll definitely try to be more consistent. 🙂 The key, me dearies, is to set the expectation so low, that anything better would always seem a welcome output! 😉

My Fav Musicals from Hollywood

Music – that enchanting and captivating melody that has encompassed every form of art and transformed them within and without.  I cannot conceive of anything around me which isn’t touched by sound – the sound of music. Movies are the one form of medium where the role of music had rendered itself essential even during the days preceding the talkies!  Even when talkies came, they were more of ‘sing’ies than ‘talk’ies really!  In India, there were movies done with nearly 72 songs!  Even if it were a couplet or a sentence, it wasn’t worth conveying unless it was through crooning.  Hollywood could certainly not have been left out of its grasp!  They may mock the Indian cinema for its sheer number of songs and the camera work, but Hollywood itself had its own bout of The Sound of Musicexperimentation with the musicals that has now spanned several decades! This post is an exploration of some of my favorite musicals from Hollywood. 🙂  I am not limiting them on the numbers (no top 10, no top 25, no tops! 😉 ) and the order of their listing certainly doesn’t mean that one is better than the other.  It’s just an unraveling of my memory – a travel since my childhood that exposed me to ‘The Sound Of Music’.

The Sound of Music: The Mountains, the woods, the lakes, and the beautiful Salzburg scenery – Julie Andrews as a boyish wannabe nun, 7 kids and a handsome Christopher Plummer.  There hasn’t been a magic similar to this that has been woven since!  The songs of this wonder have been etched in my memory since well over 25 years now!  And this, when I can’t even remember what I was doing during those days! The most endearing aspect of the songs in this movie was its sheer simplicity.  Some of these songs could’ve easily passed on to become children’s rhymes! “Do Re Mi Fa..”, “I am sixteen going on seventeen”, “Edelweiss”, “The Hills are Alive”, “These are a few of my favorite things”, “The lonely goatherd (Yodley-hoo)”, “Climb every mountain”, “So long, farewell” – these were but a few songs that I had religiously memorized with more vigor than my multiplication tables! Inspiring Gulzar’s “Parichay”, this movie has continued to remain one of the most favorite and evergreen movies since well over 4 decades now!

Mary Poppins: Julie Andrews’ debut movie produced by Walt Disney Pictures, is a must watch for every child!  TheMary Poppins picture of Mary Poppins flying with her umbrella has been endlessly used down the generations in various avatars!  This movie was sufficient in itself to make me want to have the Poppins peppermints every time I had a chance to! For some reason, it was my firm belief that, that was how I could get Mary Poppins to visit me!  For some unknown reason, I also believed that it was manufactured by her! Eeenyways, we’ve grown since, but never grown enough to not jump up for joy when something “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” happens!  Many “a spoonful of sugar” has made the medicines of life go down my throat, and the “Chim Chim-ney Cheree”  has brought a smile to me even when I was feeling like the bottom-most rung of a ladder! The laughter of “I love to laugh”, the desire to have “a perfect Nanny”, the playful “Jolly Holiday” – oh every song of this movie makes me wanna go back to my childhood!

Singing in the Rain:  No matter how much Hollywood may revel in its technologically superior movies and brazen Singing In the Rainplot lines of the recent years, the movies that have survived the erosion of time are the ones that have a heart warming plot line and when it is a musical, “Singing In the Rain” is one movie that will always feature amongst the best.  The film featured the talented Gene Kelly as a silent movie star coming to terms with the popularity of “Talkies” and the travails he encounters making a talkie movie with his lead female star with a horrendous voice (played by Jean Hagen) ! He falls in love with another struggling stage artist (the pretty Debbie Reynolds) and eventually after a whole lot of hilarious sequences, they come together and their talkie movie becomes a grand success.  “Singing In the Rain” is a sensational musical – making one want to literally dance and sing; rain or no rain! 😉 The title track, “All I do is dream of you” (Why can’t they keep this,  as a rhyme for kids!!!!), “You are my lucky star”, “Good morning”, “You were meant for me”, “Beautiful girl”, are some of my favorite songs from this movie.  The tap dance sequences used to make me wanna do that all the way through the singing – one thing that has stuck through with me all these years. The fun of wearing a new pair of shoes and tapping away… ah! simple joys. Isn’t it? 😉 Oh if you haven’t watched this movie.. watch it! For its sheer simplicity, humor and liveliness!! 🙂

My Fair Lady:  I cannot think of anyone who’d not wanna go down on their knees for this flower girl who eventually My Fair Ladyturned out to be such a Fair lady, that even the Buckingham palace was fooled to believing that she was a duchess! And it was Audrey Hepburn who carried it off with much aplomb! Based on George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion”, this is an evergreen movie for more than one reason. Peppered with humor, irony, sarcasm, and brilliant acting, this movie won rave reviews.  In certain scenarios the setup is almost like a theater play – with people freezing to create a picture of London’s daily life. Interestingly enough the role of Eliza Dolittle was essayed by Julie Andrews in the Broadway version. But because Julie Andrews wasn’t an established star (she hadn’t started her film career by then) Jack Warner didn’t want to risk casting her in the main role, and instead it was Audrey Hepburn who received it.  The movie won 7 Academy awards including best picture, best costume, best original score, best actor and best director. However, Audrey didn’t win the best actress award as the songs were sung by Marni Nixon.  The movie ofcourse has a whole treasure of unforgettable songs including the heart warming – “All I want is a room somewhere”, “Rain in Spain”, “Am just an ordinary man”, “I could’ve danced all night”.  Songs such as “Why can’t the English learn to speak”, “Just you wait ‘enry ‘iggins” are funny and littered with sarcasm! With rich costumes and camera work (the scene of the flower market with arrays of fresh blossoms has been my favorite aspect of this movie) the movie was a visual treat!

Gigi:  Another memorable Leslie Caron musical, this movie was about Gilberte (known shortly as Gigi; and what a Gigitricky pronunciation!!) who is an unassuming lass being groomed to become a courtesan by her aunt Alicia. Gigi’s fumbling during her training and her relationship with the handsome Gaston (played by Louis Jourdan) form the crux of what is indeed a must-watch funny and warm musical.  Incidentally the theatrical version of the movie (The movie was itself based on a novel by Colette which was adapted to stage first, before being made into a movie) was the debut for Audrey Hepburn on stage!  She had played the lead role of Gigi but however she wasn’t cast in the movie.  An interesting thing about the songs in this movie was was that they were all first recorded in the original voices of the actors along with the piano accompaniment and later on dubbed by the actual singers.  One of the chief aspects of movies like Gigi and My Fair Lady was costume and indeed this movie too won an Academy award in that category as well as in others including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Score.  The songs include some memorable ones like “Say a Prayer for me tonight”, “The Night they invented Champagne”,  “I’m glad am not young anymore”, “Gigi”,  “Thank heaven for little girls”, and “I remember it well”.

All that Jazz:  Wichita State University had a small but a wonderful collection of movies in its library.  It was in there that I discovered this wonderful movie. It was smart, touching,AllThatJazz poignant, musically brilliant and a very thought provoking movie. An outstanding example of Bob Fosse’s brilliance, this semi-autobiographical movie has been amongst my most favorite movies for very many years now. The movie is about workaholic director Joe Gideon (played brilliantly by Roy Scheider) who due to his vagabond life is at the brink of death.  The entire movie turns into a reflection of his own self, and his fascinations. It’s a journey through his life and his mind – his hallucination wherein he conceives of death has a beautiful lady (played by the brilliant Jessica Lange) he flirts with.  Even in his death, he imagines a magnificent show put up to bid “Bye Bye (to) Life”.   The movie had what seemed a very rich and jazzy (true to its name) setting and some memorable musical numbers. “Bye Bye Life”, “A Perfect Day”, “After You’ve Gone”, “Sing sing sing”, “Some of these days” are some of the regular features on my playlist.

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers: Remember “Satte pe satta”? Amitabh Bachan and Hema Malini with their Seven_brides_seven_brotherstroupe of 7 brothers falling for 7 girls and the hullabaloo that it all leads to?  Voila! This is the original version for you! Unlike the bollywood version which had a couple of croonable songs, this movie has been ever listed amongst the top musicals over several decades.  The songs not only taught us the basics of dating and wooing, but many basic dance steps too! The movie had beautiful scores like “Wonderful Wonderful day”, “June Bride”, “When you’re in Love”, funny ones like “Goin’ courting”, & “Bless your beautiful hide” and some foot tapping numbers too.  The songs by June Powell are particularly very memorable as also was the song “Lonesome polecat” the tune of which lingered on for many days in my head.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: Much before the time of “Tarzan” cars, and Fast and Furious four wheeler, there was a Chitty chitty Bang Bangsweet car that could communicate, fly and float too!!! This was a car that was made for children! It was one of my most memorable movies as a kid! This was the movie that opened me to the world of Roald Dahl which ofcourse led me to the chocolate factory of my dream! The story is about an eccentric scientist, his children, a sweet upper class lady and ofcourse the wonderful refurbished Grand Prix car – Chitty Chitty Bang Bang! The adventure they embark upon in the imaginative land of “Vulgaria” fighting the evil Baroness and the Baron was a fantasy that was relived many times in my mind.  Then ofcourse there were the songs – “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”, “Hushabye Mountain”, “Choo-chee face”, “Doll on a music box”, “Toot Sweets” – all of which are absolute fun.  It certainly has a strange comic feeling to be seeing people talking one moment and instantly break into a song in the same breathe!

Most of these movies listed so far (and more yet to come) had a very simple story – one that touched the chords of our heart, or the fantasies that we had as children.  There wasn’t too much of technological spell that was cast with giant autobots nor were there sexy babes in swanky cars totting guns at everything.  And yet, its these simple movies that have sustained in my mind for all these years! Maybe its because of their connections with my childhood and school days, or maybe it’s just me! I dunno.. nor do I care.. as long as the happiness they give me, and the memories they bring are cherished.

The Wizard of Oz:  There used to be a children’s magazine called “Misha” (published from Russia) that my father Wizard-of-Ozhad subscribed for me.  This was the greatest highlight of my school days from 3rd to 5th standard. I was so much in love with this magazine, that I’d religiously save every copy of it and send my paintings/drawings to them hoping they’d publish it someday! Anyways, that never happened. But what did happen was I came to know of a quaint little place called Kansas in the USA, where tornadoes blew so hard, that people got transported to fairy lands – the land of Oz for example!  And so it was that I first read about the Wizard of Oz!  And after a few years, when I realized that there is also a movie done on this story, the only logical thing to do was to watch it! The rest as they say, is history.  The beautiful Judy Garland singing “Somewhere over the rainbow”, the funny little munchkins (the song “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead”), the unforgettable “Precious” remark by the wicked Witch (decades before Gollum!)…Oh!! I can watch this movie (and I have) hundred times and over! Those were the days I had made up my mind to name my first dog Toto (never happened) and embark on a journey to Oz myself! Oz didn’t happen either, but Kansas certainly did! 😛 The sheer brilliance of the camerawork, the rich settings and a story that every person could relate to, this movie has singularly been amongst the most spectacular movies of the last century!

P.S: When I first decided to write about this topic, I thought I could cover it all up in one post. As I began listing out the movies, I realized what a mistake that assumption was!  So the list shall continue on to a second part too, where I’d want to talk of the movies that set my heart racing as a teenager! Movies such as Grease, West Side Story, Cabaret, and many more all the way into this year.  But all of that for the next post! ;)

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