Reviews of Films - Naya Daur, Guru, From Here To Eternity

Quite a mixed bag, this, but that's all of what we got to watch during our holiday in Goa after the kids fell asleep. From Here To Eternity has been widely written about for the kissing scene on the beach between Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr. It started off quite interestingly - a movie about an assortment of characters - Prewitt, an army recruit who refuses to box any more because he blinded one of his opponents in a match, the leader of the platoon who's a womanizer and insistent on making the reluctant recruit box as he hopes to get a promotion on the strength of that, and the leader's second-in-command Burt Lancaster, the guy who actually runs the unit, a nice guy in love with the commander's wife. And Frank Sinatra, a fun guy who looks out for the new recruit. All of them in Hawaii just before Pearl Harbour. A highly atmospheric film and an interesting character study, it examines the various differences and conflicts that exist within characters themselves.

Burt Lancaster, the upstanding second-in-command sets out with the purpose of seducing his commander's wife, ends up falling in love with her but in the end not enough to stay committed to her. The wife, the cast-against-type Deborah Kerr, is a woman about town but becomes serious about this affair. Prewitt falls in love with a prostitute who turns out to have the proverbial heart of gold but again, not enough to fight against his dark side which comes out after Frank Sinatra dies from being mistreated by the Sergeant in charge of the stockade. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour comes at the end, almost as an excuse to tie up all the events and people. The much-talked about scene on the beach honestly was a let-down and I didn't understand the title of the film and its relevance to context.

We saw Guru for the second time - we'd caught it on big screen last year - and again thought that unfortunately due to a combination of timing ( it came out in the first half last year) and politics, i.e. the general anti-Bachchan sentiment in the industry, the film had not gotten its due in terms of awards. Admittedly hagiographed, it still tells a powerful story of a man who came out from nowhere with a big dream and forced it to come true against all the odds. Abhishek Bachchan gave the performance of a lifetime, transforming himself from a young, callow boy to one who starts seeing dreams and eventually to a Grand Old Man imbued with a sense of destiny and power. Aishwarya Rai too did a terrific job matching him step for step, from the fiery village belle to the woman who becomes his ardhangini, maturing from a firebrand into a family matriarch. Her portrayal was far more nuanced and demanded more of an actor than Kareena Kapoor's Geet in Jab We Met, which was a reprise of many roles Kareena has played before. Mithun and Madhavan both turned in fine cameos, though Vidya Balan was irritatingly false as the MS patient, especially in the chirpier moments. The music of course was fabulous as was the photography. The dialogue crackled...Definitely a keeper and if merit had its rights, Abhishek should have gotten Best Actor for this, apart from the film winning at least a couple of Best Film/ director awards.

Naya Daur was a film I had read a lot about, primarily due to the controversial dropping out of Madhubala from the cast leading to the famous court case against her. Directed by BR Chopra, it tells the story of man versus machine and, as we realised sometime into the film, is akin to Lagaan in the nature of that competition and all that befalls during it. I haven't seen too many films of Dilip Kumar, except ones where he played the urbane hero ( Madhumati and Andaz) so this was a revelation as to how easily he could transition into the villager, how naturally it came to him. He was flawless in his performance while Vyjayanthi Mala couldn't quite hide her city roots at times. Ajit played the second hero role in the film and floored me with his acting, not to mention his hunky good looks! Of course, the character of Dilip Kumar's sister was irritating, to say the least, having caused multiple problems for everyone but the film turned out to have a happy ending. I love the way movies made in those days have a certain sincerity of purpose and innocence of motive behind them. I do wish the colorisation had been less garish though, but them's small potatoes compared to the overall feel-good nature of the film.


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