Monday, January 16, 2012

A Star is Born...oops, I mean Abhimaan

There are three versions of the American film A Star is Born:  one from the 1930s, with Janet Gaynor and Frederic March; one from the 50s, with Judy Garland and James Mason; and one from the 70s with barbara Streisand and Kris Kristofferson. 

The plot concerns a successful male actor/singer who marries an up-and-coming female actor/singer, his career goes downhill while she gets very famous, and he turns to drink and dies or kills himself.

Then there's Abhimaan (1973).  This follows the same storyline, except that the last act is more complex and somewhat far-fetched.  After the male singer turns to drink, his wife returns to the country and it turns out she's pregnant.  She loses the baby, loses her will to live, and he comes to get her and take her back to the city.  He had given up singing when she became successful, but her doctor tells him, "The only thing that will help her is if you sing again."  Really?  So he sings, and she snaps out of it and sings with him, and they live happily ever after.

That being said -- the movie is quite enjoyable.  This owes largely to the stars, Amitabh Bachchan and Jaya Badhuri (who became Jaya Badhuri Bachchan later that year).  They both looked marvelous, and the chemistry was obvious.  The other real plus was the singing of Kishore Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar, which was absolutely sublime. 

Another thing I want to mention, in terms of this movie and other older Indian movies, is that unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be much film preservation going on.  Since this was actually on a legitimately issued and purchased DVD, it's clear that the picture and sound quality has been permitted to age and degrade, which is a terrible shame.  There's a big push in the US industry to preserve and restore old films; director Martin Scorsese is a well-known leader of this movement.

Of the three versions of A Star is Born, the first two are excellent.  The earliest one is not a musical and the characters are movie actors.  In the second, Judy Garland is an actor/singer, since you can't put Judy Garland in a movie and not have her sing.  The third one was basically a vanity project of Barbra Streisand's, and she's about as vain as they come.  Kris Kristofferson's role was edited down to a nub, and the movie was basically written off as an expensive disaster.

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