Retrograde. Bamboozlement! More Bamboozlement!

Gumnaam Helen

Pillow Fighting Nehru, 1955

Throwing a pillow at some inattentive colleague during the debate, Avadi Congress, 1955.

This is my new favorite Nehru photo (a fine addition to my Nehru collection). Came across it in a picture book on Nehru from year 1964.

To Zeenat from Warren

Soumyadip's post about 1970 Air India Ad featuring Zeenat Aman made me dig up this one:

To Zeenat - one of Life's Big Surpises
- Your friend
Aug 29, 1976

Zeenat Aman came back from her 1976 US trip with an autograph from Warren Beatty.

Shekhar Kapur in Wills Ad


Guy has a cigarette hanging from a corner of his mouth, preferably left. He still talking, almost enjoying the talk as just much as the smoke. His hands are busy working on something. There's a woman in the frame too, worshiping him. Her mouth agape in pretend awe. A classic smoking situation, for films and ads. Just the thing to get you started. The scene tells you it is a classic situation for life too.

The guy enacting the situation in this ad happens to be Shekhar Kapur. It is a funny thought there is now a generation in India that grew up without seeing ads for cigarettes in magazine, and certainly without seeing celebrity endorsement of cigarettes. The impact of government policies and directives in shaping public lives in never so obvious.

[P.S. Nice watch]

Sitara Devi - the show-woman of Kathak

Entry for Sitara Devi in Filmfare July 1-15, 1988 celebrating 75 years of Indian Cinema.
The Queen No One Cared For [ pinoneer] Sumati Mehrishi on Sitara Devi being conferred the Legends of India Lifetime Achievement Award 2011.

Kathak queen Sitara Devi still youthful at 91 [HT]


 Priyamala and Jayantimala, her two nieces who she adopted as her daughters
Sitara Devi was the daughter of Pt. Sukhdev Sahai, the pioneer of Banaras Gharana of Kathak dance.  She was once married to film producer K.Asif.

Nehru with Dilip Kumar, Dev Anand and Raj Kapoor

Sometime back, an interesting query from someone:
Ritu Nanda's book about her father, 'Raj Kapoor: speaks' has (above given) photograph of Nehru with Dilip Kumar, Dev Anand and Raj Kapoor. It mentions the year as 1968, which is definitely wrong since Nehru died in 1964. The image is missing in 2nd edition of the book. When was the photograph taken and who took it?

I get all kinds of queries and requests, most of them next to impossible. This one too was impossible.

Figuring out the date turned out to be easy. Google image search (that now lets you search the web for images using as reference an image that may be sitting on your system) lead to this fine gallery where the image had a name ending with 1958 (I try to follow the same convention while uploading images).

So the year was 1958. But the real difficult part was finding the name of the photographer. In a case like this finding the culprit is next to impossible. I kept the case as unsolved.

Then recently a friend sent in photoshots of March 8, 1963 issue of Filmfare. As I looked at the grainy images celebrating 50 years of Indian cinema, in a corner of the last image I came across this line:

"The photographs of Dilip Kumar, Dev Anand and Raj Kapoor with Mr. Nehru in our February 22 issue are by Kewal Mehra."

Another case closed.

Heer Ranjha, Kiss, 1929

The iconic kiss from Imperial Film of Bombay's Heer Ranjha (aka Beauty of Punjab aka Hoore Punjab, 1929). Starring Sulochana (aka Ruby Meyers) and D.Billimoria.

From March 8, 1963 issue of Filmfare celebrating 50 years of Indian Cinema. Shared generously by a friend.


How Biswajeet brought on India's Kissing Crisis

Memsaab in a recent post about film Jaal (1967) asks: Is Biswajeet finally Cool?

I think he always tried a bit too hard to be cool. The post made me reach out for my trash can trash can and digg up this monstrosity.


The story goes like this: During the shooting of a film called Anjana Safar (1969) a newcomer named Rekha was slyly kissed by Biswajeet. The scene was captured on camera The film ran into censor troubles, took almost ten years to complete and was finally released as Do Shikari (1979). Meanwhile, the 'kiss scene' was apparently already famous because it made it to the cover of year 1969 Asian edition of Life Magazine, probably for the story 'India's Kissing Crisis' based on hysteria brought forth by release of Khosla Committee Report that claimed "kissing or nudity can't be banned unless a court of law judges it obscene." [Outlook article from 2001].

“No court of law will hold that a kiss by itself, irrespective of the circumstances in which it takes place or the individuals between whom it is exchanged, is indecent or immoral. In the same way, nudity of the human form may or may not be indecent. If there is, for instance, a brief shot of a woman undressing and entering a bathing pool, as in the film The Visit, no suspicion of indecency or immorality attaches to the shot which is relevant to the story. On the other hand, there are many scenes of cabaret performances or striptease sequences in Indian as well as foreign film which are obviously introduced in order to titillate the senses and thus make the film commercially saleable. Many of these scenes would be declared obscene even by the most liberal-minded judges."~ the report as cited by A.G. Noorani in essay Cesorship and State. Sep. 10-23, 2011, Frontline. The references in the report, 'The Visit', cabaret, already seem a bit dated and as extract seems a distortion, word 'suspicion' and 'obviously' stand out sore.

'India's Kissing Crisis' is not available online, but as we can see is still often cited in articles about Indians exercising their orbicularis oris for camera - an in-action still much debated with intellectual vigour in India. It was cited in an article titled 'Is Sex Ok?' [India Today, 2002,]. She was running high fever last night, I thought she was going to die, but I guess she is going to be okay soon. There is a curious thing to these Censorship articles in India, most of them come in waves, usually separated by a decade or so. I came across similar articles dated from around 1992-93, 1984-1985, 1972-1974. Same arguments, same counter-points. In fact later ones post 80s at times are almost verbatim replication of old data. But somehow with each replication, it seems information somehow kept getting lost. Which brings me back to the photograph posted here. It now certain that the 'study censor' wave started with 'India's Kissing Crisis'of 1969 brought into the Indian drawing rooms by the image of Biswajeet kissing Rekha, and maybe the accompanying exploitation trivia. The odd thing is that the image posted here is now passed off as the 'Biswajeet-Rekha Kiss'. The image posted here is a scan from year 1975 issue of Film Mirror. The byline is obviously a gimmick. Rekha was already a star by then, and given the nature of that magazine, they would have named her, would have satisfied their million readers a lot more. The funny thing is there is hardly any suspicion of indecency or immorality oozing from that image. Still maybe even a most liberal-minded judge would hold it guilty because of the way a story was spun around it to titillation the massed and to make the story saleable.


Style, 1945

with the proverbial 'jol-bat'. 
just hanging around

Jack Wilkes and Indian Women Dress-up, 1945 Life Magazine Archive

J J Valaya's Decoded Paradox, 2011

A Sikh Indian door-to-door salesman selling silk ties and cloth to a woman.


Tagore with Women

"I never have forgotten her, nor viewed her attraction with a detractory label. Since then my life has been a chiaroscuro of experience; at times Providence has wrought havoc on me, yet I can take pride in that I have never derogared the love of any woman...every woman's love is a favour...a flower that withers but the fragrance remains."

~ Rabindranath Tagore remembering his "England-returned-liberal" tutor Anna Pandurang Tadkhad, daughter of Dr Atmaran, founder of Prarthna Samaj, a Maharashtra based Hindu reformist organisation.

In around 1878, 17 year old Tagore was sent to Bombay by his brother Satyendra Nath Tagore ( the first Indian member of ICS) to learn English manners and life-style which were to be taught to him by Miss Anna Pandurang.

"I never could imagine why, of all the games, tug-of-war was thought of. Before I could even agree of this bout, she had slumped onto my body as a mark of defeat. But even this did not give me ecstasy nor endowed me with a romantic wisdom, which must have made her despair about my future."

At that time she was betrothed to a Scotch man named Littledale whom she did marry but died soon after on 5th July, 1881 in Edinburgh.


In November 1924, to celebrate the centenary of Peruvian independence, Tagore was invited to Latin America. On reaching that continent, Illness brought him close to Argentinian poet Victoria Ocampo.Victoria states, "Thus I came, little by little, to know Tagore and his moods. Little by little he partially tamed the young animal, by turns wild and docile, who did not sleep dog-like on the floor outside his door simply because it was not done"


Bayoneting of Biharis, 1971

"Massacre for the Media: In his book 'Pictures on a Page, Sunday Times editor Harold Evans reveals that at the end of the Bangladesh war, photographers in Dacca were invited to a 'photo opportunity' in a polo field. It turned out to be the bayoneting of Biharis who were alleged to have collaborated with the Pakistani army...'"


starring Amitabh Bachchan and Muhammad Ali

"Muhammad Ali, celebrated heavyweight boxer, has been offered the role of an African revolitionary in the film 'Zameen', written by Harbance Kumar and to be produced by Prakash Mehra. The film's hero Amitabh Bachchan, the producer, and Amitabh'a younger brother can be seen in photograph at Muhammad Ali's home in Los Angles."
From Debonair, December 1979
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