Black and White, a Hindi musical, presented at JTPac was a trip down memory lane

The excitement, the thrill of the black and white era in cinema cannot be replaced. A whole new brave world was opening up. People forgot in the darkness, the blackness of the theatre. On the screen before them they saw montages come alive, haunting landscapes, beautiful men and women, gods and demons. People forgot themselves. For a few hours they became one with the characters and situations on screen. Did anyone really give a damn to the colours they were so familiar with? They sang and danced along with the stars.

Golden Era

Black and White, a Hindi musical produced by Niche Entertainment, Pune and presented at JTPac, Tripunithura, brought back memories of the era. It narrated the story of Hindi cinema from 1945-1968, Bollywood’s golden era. There was a certain charm about this period, a sort of permanence that somehow is lost these days.

Early Hindi cinema reflected the times of pre-Independence and the immediate years after Independence. Life was simple then, there was hardly room for cynicism, self-doubt, it was romantic, melodic. Using a collage of screen, stage and music, Black and White journeys through films of this period visiting landmarks, filmmakers, actors, singers and songs.

A minimally lit stage, a huge screen in the background, a raised platform is in keeping with the black and white theme. The anchor or narrator, Rahul Solapurkar, a noted Marathi film-stage actor, emerges into the spotlight. He then links the visuals on screen, the songs, and movements on stage with his brilliant narration.

Conceptualised and directed by Milind Oak the story of Hindi cinema unfolds through timeless melodies. Singers render songs ‘live’ on stage matching the movements, the costumes, and even the lip movements of the stars on screen. The costumes of the singers and the narrator were an appropriate mix of black and white.

“The presentation format is reminiscent of Natya Sangeeth, a traditional stage musical where the singers ‘act’ the characters. There it was very classical-based, often scripture-oriented. We have been inspired by this format and have used music, pictures, movie clips, anecdotes and trivia. The concept we have worked on is to provide a sort of three-dimensional effect where the people seem to walk out off the screen and perform on stage,” says Milind Oak.

The show began with the haunting ‘Woh bhooli dastaan…’ from the film Sanjog. It was almost as if the singer was getting right to the point asking if the era of melody will come back again. Then for two hours and more some of immortal songs flowed, unforgettable scenes flashed and Rahul Solapurkar went on with interesting snippets and info.

‘Aaja re main to kab se khadi is paar…pardesi’ (Madhumati) followed and as the singer moved up the raised platform on stage the screen flashed Vyjayantimala on a cliff with the rushing waterfall in the foreground. For a moment the singer and the actor fused harmoniously. The classic number ‘Waqt ne kiya…’ from Pyaasa, the famous Raj Kapoor-Nargis song ‘Pyaar hua….’ (Shree 420) and the typically Shammi Kapoor one ‘Yun to hamne lakh hasin…’ (Tumsa Nahin Dekha) all find life.

“All the four singers are professionals. In fact, Hrishikesh Ranade has won the Sa Re Ga Ma Pa music contest and accompanies Shreya Ghoshal for her programmes. It took time to convince the singers of the need to change costumes and also to to move on stage. But now they seem to be enjoying it.” The other singers on stage were Jitendra Abhyankar, Priyanka Barve and Swapnaja Lele.

From singing stars like K. L. Saigal, Suraiya, Noor Jahan to legends like Mohammed Rafi, Hemant Kumar, Mukesh, Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhonsle and some of their immortal songs were recreated on stage. Bimal Roy, V. Shantaram, Guru Dutt, to Raj Kapoor the directors and their landmark movies find a place. Heroes, heroines, vamps, villains and comedians, all of them are there. Mention is also made of the great music composers and lyricists who contributed to this melodious world.

Meet the real stars

In the course of this journey we meet the debonair Dev Anand, tragedy king Dilip Kumar , the ultimate showman Raj Kapoor, the lively Shammi Kapoor, the beautiful Madhubala, classy Meena Kumari to name a few.

Black and White is one of our many shows. This was launched in 2007 and so far we have done over 270 shows in the country and abroad. This was the first in Kerala. We also have a second series for this with a different set of songs and scenes.”

The timing of the artistes, all the four singers, the quality of projection and sound were excellent. The best part was the way the programme closed. Technological developments changed cinema, black and white gave way to colour. But the screen remains white and the theatre turns dark, black, when the film rolls. A scene from Mughal-E -Azam, a film that began in black and white and was completed in colour, flashes on screen. Two singers on stage render ‘Pyar kiya to darna kya…’ Suddenly the scene changes to colour, the lights come on and for the first time you see the singers in bright coloured costumes. Changes have come, songs, melodies linger.

‘Alvida alvida…’ from Anarkali sing the two girls. Their voices linger.