Friday, December 15, 2006

Dept. of Film (Bollywood)

GAZAL (1964)
Sunil Dutt stars as an experimental poet who spends his days editing an avant-garde literary journal with his atheist Marxist cohorts. When he overhears Meena Kumari—a skilled School of Quietude versifier struggling to get published—reciting in a garden, Dutt instantly falls in love. A formidable succession of veils, burkhas, partitions, and garden walls keeps Dutt from discovering the poet’s identity, so he decides to plagiarize her work at a mainstream poetry conference in order to smoke her out.

The ploy works; invited as the enfant terrible, Dutt wows the crowd with his lush, formally correct ghazals (provided by real-life poet and famed Bollywood lyricist Sahir ‘Magician’ Ludhianvi) and an irate Kumari reveals herself. Soon after, Dutt gets fired by his editorial board for printing one of Kumari’s rearguard poems. No matter: he’s a confirmed traditionalist now, happy to wander the streets of Agra going moony at views of the Taj Mahal, that all-purpose symbol of Indian grandeur that also happens to be the greatest forget-me-not a prince ever gave his gal.

Yes, they end up together. Yes, I would love to see this remade with modern American poets.


Mr. Horton said...

Where do you get your hands on all these baliwood films?


rodney k said...

Hi David,

Gary Sullivan chaperones me through Queens (Jackson Heights, Flushing) when I come to NYC, sticks huge piles of DVDs in my hands and makes me buy them at gunpoint. I end up sending him thank you notes after I've watched them.

Barring Gary, there's Baba Digital ( Fremont's said to be the Promised Land for Bollywood DVDs--I'm sorry I never went when I lived down there. is a really handy site for bios and reviews of the classics.