Retrograde. Bamboozlement! More Bamboozlement!

RSS Messages

Got these distress messages from the brotherhood in a free booklet stuffed inside the morning paper.


- stole from my mother's Pooja Thali for tonight. Bham!

Facebook 'hacksaw work'

A fun activity.
Requirements: Firefox with Firebug  (or even Chrome with Dev mode) and some basic understanding of 'calls' and related things.

Go to Facebook. Enter your username (which in facebook's case is your email id) and next do not enter your password. Instead enter a wrong password.

Now Facebook Facebook will send you to a 'login_attempt' page.

Now enter you actual password.

In the 'Post' call to 'login.php', in parameters you will see your dear password getting 'pass'ed nakedly.

Isn't that fun.

Zaheeda Zaheera - Indian 'Angel of Death'

Zaheeda Zaheera (credited as Zara) in her debut film 'On Her Majesty's Secret Service' (1969).
She played the role of Indian 'Angel of Death' in this Bond flick.
Later went on to work opposite Dev Anand in a movies like 'Prem Pujari' and 'Gambler' but missed the top spot probably because she refused to play Dev Anand's sister in 'Hare Rama Hare Krishna'.

Madhubala 'rare shoot - photographer?' Mystery. Solved!

Sometime back internet got flooded with these stunning and candid photographs of Madhubala (search the net in case you didn't get them somehow). If earlier one thought Madhubala was a beautiful actress of yesteryears, everyone said it, you believed it, and now suddenly, even without asking for it you had this maddening proof of her beauty. Madhubala looks brimming with life in these images, enchanting, yet human and not a screen goddess, a beauty more basic and all the more powerful.

Who captured this beauty on camera? When? Which year?

Everyone was clueless even as these shared and uploaded and emailed and liked it on social networks.

Queries were raised but no answer. This was another quest.

The photographs were shot in November 1941 by famous photographer James Burke for Life Magazine. The answer is so obvious that I now believe that whoever first shared these photographs, deliberately, just for fun, left out the name of the photographer.

How I arrived at the name? Sometime back, even before the 'Madhubala rare pics' flooded the net, while looking for the famous Time magazine cover with Parveen Babi , at google books I came across a stunning color photograph of an Indian actress in 31 Dec 1951 issue of LIFE about Asia.
Begum Para in Life Magazine

The actress was Begum Para. Film journals of  late 40s and early 50s were full of 'bust' talk about her. She was supposed to be 'sex-symbol' of her era. The caption to that photograph (above) mentioned how she 'drew favorable comparisons with Jane Russell' of The Outlaw fame. I thought of doing a post about it and then forgot.

Recently, when I again came across those rare B&W photographs of Madhubala, I noticed that this collection actually had one color photograph of Madhubala too, and obliviously from the same shoot.

Madhubala, Color
Something about this photograph stuck me, it was the colors, that reminded me of Begum Para. And oddly enough, two years ago I had created something comparing Madhubala and Jane Russell. I wondered who took that particular photograph of Begum Para. James Burke was the photographer, the magazine actually had a clear and precise way of crediting photographers, and that too in the first few pages it self.

I now had a name to look for. And I had a publication to look in. A publication whose almost entire archive is available online.

I Image searched Google with James+Burke+source:life and one of the results was:

A Match. November 1941. James Burke. But the image was used in 1951 issue. Difference of a good decade. The caption to that image mentioned that Para was 24 at that time. Born in around 1927 (figured out via: Outlook article about her move to Pakistan and then back to India mentions that in 1974 she was 47) indeed in 1951 she would have been 24. So the photograph was taken in 1951. The photograph did not directly give out her name, it was simply titled 'Movie Queens'

Among of the result images for Movie+Queens+source:life, I found a treasure chest (no pun intended), and I got some of the images from that rare Madhubala shoot. Some like:

Madhubala in front of mirror.
But the date was wrong. The photographs are in all probability from November 1951. It was early 1950s and the country was in grip of Begum Para fever.

Begum Para by James Burke, 1951. So this is what they were writing about.
Apart from some shocking and dare-bare photographs of Begum Para, there are some incredible photographs of other movie queens of the time like Mohana Cabral, Nalini Jaywant and Kamini Kaushal. The entire collection is almost unimaginable India.

You can check out the entire collection here:

A little over a decade later, Burke returned in 1963 to capture the reigning movie queen of India at that time: Asha Parekh.
Asha Parekh by James Burke, 1963
In a decade, it seems India had again changed. Things seem more familiar in there photographs. Maybe the great photographer was capturing the contrasts of experience this time.

You can check out the 1963 collection here:


Digging 'Do Gaz Zameen Ke Neeche'

Love and Horror, 'Do Gaz Zameen Ke Neeche'
Evil wife: 'Kaha le ja rahe hai app inhe.'
Husband's doctor friend: 'Hospital.'
Evil wife: 'Yeh kya zulm kar rahe ho aap. Main nahi lejanay doongi.'
Husband's doctor friend: 'Aagar inhe sahi treatment nahi mila toh inkay pair hamesha ke liye kharaab ho jayengay.'
Evil wife: 'Wahan jayengay toh ilaaj nahi ho sakayga. Main janti hu waha kya hota hai. Opration karkay inki zindigi kharab kar denga.'

A scene from Ramsay Brothers' trend-setting cult classic horror film 'Do Gaz Zameen Ke Neeche' (1972). It takes place after the husband accidentally poisons himself while researching on death defying abilities of people of 'Zombie Kabila' (Ramsay were always good at researching a topic before making a film on it). The scene provides an oblique reference to Indira Gandhi's infamous family planing program. Under the program Doctors were given incentives for sterilizing people, ingenious plan, but the only problem was the in-order to get those incentives and in order to out-perform others and to keep their stats high, doctors began to forcefully sterilize men. It became one of the identifiers for Indira Gandhi government of 70s. In this film, Wife uses it as a ruse to keep her husband in the house, gets him murdered and buried two Yards Under the Ground.

Love Potion EDKL

'tea ' from Ek Duje Ke Liye (1981)

Families are not okay with this bad love - between South and North. They have the love-birds separated as a test of their love - to prove that it is not vasna.  For one whole year, the boy and the girl cannot meet or even talk or even write to each other. But the girl still has a photograph of her lover that keeps her mojo going. Girl's mother would have none of it, she takes that photograph and in front of the girl, burns it on the flames of a wax candle.
Tears. Girls tastes her own tears. She picks the ashes of that photograph, sprinkles the dark remains on a cup of tea. Gulps it all down. Aah! The all consuming love.


A weekend conversation about the film with a cousin revealed that Ek Duje Ke Liye was a surprise hit in Srinagar and started a trend that saw people writing down name of their lover on a piece of paper, burning it and then drinking the ashes of that paper with tea. Lucky few even tried it with photographs.


Noticed at Guru Dronacharya Metro Station and posted only after getting convinced that the word is not an electrical engineering term. Would have been funnier if a heritage site was to say that back to the Metro.

Language on Population

 'The children suffer. The parents suffer. The nation suffers.'

A 'message to the nation' from Morarji Desai on family planning. 1978.
In Twilight zone they would play this message ad infinitum to the huddled masses travelling in Metros. Population decreases, at first only in cities. Every time the masses even think about passing on their genes to form  a Guddu, their mind conjures up face of the great leader, and they end up counting the wrinkles on this most benevolent face. With negative population growth in cities, fresh masses are huddled from villages to cities. Population in villages stabilizes. Perceptible share of the fruits of development become available to all.

Sahib Bibi Aur Gulam And Cut

Still of 'The Scene'
Choti Bahu (Meena Kumari) summons Bhootnath (Guru Dutt), he must accompany her to a nearby shrine, she wants to pray for her paralytic husband who has now asked her to give up drinking. There might still be some hope. They get into a buggy and are on their way into the night. The camera focuses on two and in the background a song plays in the voice of  Hemant Kumar. Somewhere in the song a desolant Choti Bahu gently  puts her head in Bhootnath's lap, the audience suddenly goes ecstatic, there is much hooting, whistling, and catcalls. Minutes later, Choti Bahu is again murdered, this time by goons of her husband's elder brother. Scenes of  pandemonium are repeated by audiences in theaters all across the country while watching that scene in Sahib Bibi Aur Gulam (1962). They see something explicit in this scene from a film full of subtleties. An embarrassed director of the film, Abrar Alvi cuts the particular scene from the film. In the process, the song also gets cut. In the version now available, we only see the two talking. No song.
There are still people out there looking for the ureleased song 'Sahil Ki Taraf Kashti Le Chal' sung by Hemant Kumar for Sahib Bibi Aur Gulam.

The scene as it was finally kept in the film, without the song:


Hemant Kumar later re-used the tune of that ureleased song for the song 'Ya Dil ki Suno' in film Anupama (1966). A version of the song is available on amazon but in someone else's voice. At least Shakeel Badayuni's lyrics did survive.


'Partners in Crime'

A quick recall: Some months back I hear from Devi Picturesthey were looking for print advertisements for old old gramophones/radio/VCR /cassette players/spool players and such, they were working on a film on intellectual property rights, copyrights, piracy, technology and stuff like that, advertisements are for a sequence in the film. And thanks to Memsaab I was able to offer them print advertisements for old old gramophones and radios from 1930-1947. For more I send them over to Soumyadip who offers them some more incredible material. 

Now: I hear from them that the film is ready. It's called 'Partners in Crime' by Paromita Vohra and hits the screen at Persistence/Resistance film festival, Max Mueller Bhavan on 7th Feb 2011, 6:30 PM.

Update June 8, 2011

Trailer of the film

Vidya Sinha in Khatau Saree Ad

Vidya Sinha, the real poster girl for Saris in Hindi films from the 70s

cool Lungi Ad, 1978

Tinopal Tinopal, Ranipal Ranipal

For the anonymous who wanted the radio jingle from 70s that went ad nauseum: "Tinopal Tinopal, Ranipal Ranipal. Tinopal Tinopal, Ranipal Ranipal", I can't help. But I do have this print ad from 1978 showcasing the successful change-over from multinational brand name to Indian brand name.

HMT Ad 70s

When I stared posting these ads, it was just for fun. Then when I started getting serious requests, mostly from people writing various papers and doing whatnot on the subject, it became all the more fun.

The following ad of HMT from year 1978 is for one such request from a reader.

HMT 'Timekeepers to the Nation' ad 1970s. From Star & Style magazine.
Isn't the watch supposed to be worn by her in such manner that the dial in on the inner wrist?

One of my aunts used to work in HMT factory at Srinagar. After 1990, given the situation in Kashmir, the factory closed down. Her family moved to Karnataka so that she could work at HMT factory at a place called Tumkur. Sometime years later when they returned to finally settle in Jammu, the family came back with a vocabulary that included words like 'Niroolilla'

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