Classic Bollywood–Mohammed Rafi in Gumnaam–We Need to Know More About Bollywood Cinema than Just Slum Dog Millionaire!

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Just like there’s more to Cuban music than The Buena Vista Social Club, there is more to Bollywood cinema than Slum Dog Millionaire.

My friend Jesus Naranjo, a music industry veteran, Latin music aficionado, and old friend recently sent me a scene from a classic 1966 Bollywood film called Gumnaam,  featuring the legendary singer Mohammed Rafi.  It had been re-done as a Heineken beer commercial, maybe for the Singapore market from the looks of it.   From the length of it—about a minute–I know it wasn’t destined for the U.S. or Europe–U.S. commercials tend to run no longer than 30″.   In the ad the guy out-does a magician, outwits a dragon, and gets the girl and of course the beer.

Jesus sent me the ad and the original clip it was based on (smart sleuthing!).  Watching it reminded me that I’d just thrown the VHS cassette (worse for wear and probably 5th generation) into the trash during a move when I had to get rid of a ton of stuff — downsizing.  Little room for videocassettes in my new flat.   The original clip is typical of great classic Bollywood:  over the top, not great choreography or dancing, but so swinging 60s, perfect tackiness, and completely over the top.

And it shows how great–yet still unknown outside of Indian communities—Mohammed Rafi was and is.   He was born in 1924 and died in 1980, fourteen years after Gumnaan was made.   Watch the clip and enjoy!  And thanks to Jesus Naranjo for refreshing my memory.  Now I’ll have to replace that old videocassette.  Hopefully it’s on DVD by now.

Mohammed Rafi–Gumnaan, 1966: