In Custody

As the long-time producer of the Merchant Ivory partnership, Ismail Merchant should have understood the problems of adapting literary texts to the cinema. All credit to him, then, for having the sang froid to choose for his first feature as director, Anita Desai's spare, uneventful novel about a once-revered elderly Urdu poet. The film follows the efforts of a pedantic college tutor, Deven (Puri), to record his hero, the poet Nur (Kapoor), reciting his own work. On a visit to the city of Bhopal, Deven finds Nur living in seclusion, drinking and over-eating, or bickering with his two wives, tired of casting pearls before swine. Deven is no master of technology: the tape-recorder is a mystery to him, and much low comedy is extracted from his incompetence; and the arch, awkward quality of these scenes typify the film. Shashi Kapoor as the embittered, decayed poet is, regrettably, made to carry more weight than any man can bear - to symbolise a whole tradition: the neglect of the Urdu language and the oral tradition with its attendant philosophies of authority and respect.

Release details

Duration: 126 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Ismail Merchant
Screenwriter: Anita Desai, Shahrukh Husain
Cast: Shashi Kapoor
Om Puri
Shabana Azmi
Sushma Seth
Neena Gupta
Tinnu Anand
Prayag Raj
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usman khawaja

cast ;ompuri ,shashi kapoor ,shabana azmi ,sushma seth , parikshat sahni released 1988 language urdu duration 160 minutes music zakir hussain The debut as a director by ismail merchant is a great tribute to urdu poetry and to an era gone with the wind ,apart from gulzar there are no urdu poets today who are commendable [and i know of javed akhtar s existence ]. The plot involves a great poet Noor sahib [shashi kapoor ], who has two wives zeenat [played by shabana ] and the other by sushme seth . noor is living on his past glory surrounded by parasites who mainly come to heap false flattery upon him while their intentions are to avail themselves of free liquor and noors hospitality , at the expense of shabana who is the sole bread earner as a courtesan , she sings noors gazals to earn money which noor then spends frivolously on alcohol . in the midst of this troubled threesome lands a journalist , who is a great fan of noor and teaches at a local college too [om puri ], he decides to interview noor sahib and record it for posterity on video , a subtle hint as to how clumsy indians are with preserving cultural heritage Its very interesting how he aquires the funds to buy the camera from the principal of a local college [sahni ]by telling him all sorts of lame excuses as to how this will benefit the educational institution , again a satire on the system . Nonetheless noor is ecstatic to be recorded on video , despite the fact his wife [zeenat]demands a fee , he defies her wishes to do it for free , the confrontational scene between shasi ans shabana where she laments how he wastes her hard earned money on the locusts surrounding him is very impressive as it leaves them both in tears as well as the audience . The rest of the movie concerns the recording of the interview but is actually an account of the humiliating manner in which intellectuals [here a great poet ]have been humiliated in the indian culture , the impoverished state in which they are left to perish in total neglect by a materialistic society , i guess there is a parallel here with ghalib although he is from a different era , nevertheless the recordings become a testament to the downfall of not just a poet but an entire culture represented by the urdu language . The portrayal of the poet by shashi is masterful , you will end up comparing it to his fathers great act in KA.abbas Aasman mahal , the kapoors have a tendency towards obesity and shashi here is no exception, but more talented then ever before, i would rate this as one of his finest amongst kalyug ,junoon , new delhi times ,shakespearwallah,heat and dust,bombay talkies and kabhi kabhi , his gestures ,urdu diction , mannrisms and body language are all natural and his expressions are phenomenal in quite a few scenes . shabana as zeenat bi, his second wife is a delight to watch as a tawaif performing his gazals and having petty jealous quarrels with him and her rival the second wife expertly done by sushma seth , shabanas coquettry and dialogues bring humour to an otherwise dark movie and the dirty jokes cracked by shasi and her are hilarious if appropriately and intentionally vulgar too, the dialogues in pristine urdu are perfectly penned . the music and poetry are classical and not contemporary , none of them could be described as catering to the masses and this possibly explains why the movie is not as well known despite being a classic in every right the climax is brilliantly executed with the poets death and while the two widows wail and the funeral is taking place , in an ironic twist an age old mansion is being demolished to be replaced with a shopping mall , a befittingly worthy ending to a satire on current society and a sham morality .its a commentary on the shameless manner in which has been been unable to protect its heritage from needless self destruction . the review will be irrelevant without paying homage to mr.ismail merchant who after a forty year career as a producer [his seamless partership with james ivory is not under discussion here ]decided to direct , shashi had his doubts about his ability to do so but was stunned by the finished product . he gives beautiful small touches to a great urdu drama which can only come from being a sharp observer of life and people in general and particulary the lifestyle of the muslim aristocracy and their traditional values ,which have all but vanished now with an era itself gone with the wind . and indeed its a great directorial venture , his other two movies ive viewed are the white countess and merci mr rey , but this is by far the best and is a gem which will always glow in the library of urdu cinema , and linger in the minds of urdu lovers like me and countless others.the movie was shot at real locations in bhopal and the last scene is set in a cemetry where noor is being buried , its befitting that though mr merchant lived and died in london 2 years ago , his last wishes were to be buried in mumbai in his family graveyard , anyone who wants to see areal slice of muslim india in its misery and joys needs to watch this personal movie by ismail merchant ,its a real gem. jbz7879/usman khawaja

usman khawaja

cast ;ompuri ,shashi kapoor ,shabana azmi ,sushma seth , parikshat sahni released 1988 language urdu duration 160 minutes music zakir hussain The debut as a director by ismail merchant is a great tribute to urdu poetry and to an era gone with the wind ,apart from gulzar there are no urdu poets today who are commendable [and i know of javed akhtar s existence ]. The plot involves a great poet Noor sahib [shashi kapoor ], who has two wives zeenat [played by shabana ] and the other by sushme seth . noor is living on his past glory surrounded by parasites who mainly come to heap false flattery upon him while their intentions are to avail themselves of free liquor and noors hospitality , at the expense of shabana who is the sole bread earner as a courtesan , she sings noors gazals to earn money which noor then spends frivolously on alcohol . in the midst of this troubled threesome lands a journalist , who is a great fan of noor and teaches at a local college too [om puri ], he decides to interview noor sahib and record it for posterity on video , a subtle hint as to how clumsy indians are with preserving cultural heritage Its very interesting how he aquires the funds to buy the camera from the principal of a local college [sahni ]by telling him all sorts of lame excuses as to how this will benefit the educational institution , again a satire on the system . Nonetheless noor is ecstatic to be recorded on video , despite the fact his wife [zeenat]demands a fee , he defies her wishes to do it for free , the confrontational scene between shasi ans shabana where she laments how he wastes her hard earned money on the locusts surrounding him is very impressive as it leaves them both in tears as well as the audience . The rest of the movie concerns the recording of the interview but is actually an account of the humiliating manner in which intellectuals [here a great poet ]have been humiliated in the indian culture , the impoverished state in which they are left to perish in total neglect by a materialistic society , i guess there is a parallel here with ghalib although he is from a different era , nevertheless the recordings become a testament to the downfall of not just a poet but an entire culture represented by the urdu language . The portrayal of the poet by shashi is masterful , you will end up comparing it to his fathers great act in KA.abbas Aasman mahal , the kapoors have a tendency towards obesity and shashi here is no exception, but more talented then ever before, i would rate this as one of his finest amongst kalyug ,junoon , new delhi times ,shakespearwallah,heat and dust,bombay talkies and kabhi kabhi , his gestures ,urdu diction , mannrisms and body language are all natural and his expressions are phenomenal in quite a few scenes . shabana as zeenat bi, his second wife is a delight to watch as a tawaif performing his gazals and having petty jealous quarrels with him and her rival the second wife expertly done by sushma seth , shabanas coquettry and dialogues bring humour to an otherwise dark movie and the dirty jokes cracked by shasi and her are hilarious if appropriately and intentionally vulgar too, the dialogues in pristine urdu are perfectly penned . the music and poetry are classical and not contemporary , none of them could be described as catering to the masses and this possibly explains why the movie is not as well known despite being a classic in every right the climax is brilliantly executed with the poets death and while the two widows wail and the funeral is taking place , in an ironic twist an age old mansion is being demolished to be replaced with a shopping mall , a befittingly worthy ending to a satire on current society and a sham morality .its a commentary on the shameless manner in which has been been unable to protect its heritage from needless self destruction . the review will be irrelevant without paying homage to mr.ismail merchant who after a forty year career as a producer [his seamless partership with james ivory is not under discussion here ]decided to direct , shashi had his doubts about his ability to do so but was stunned by the finished product . he gives beautiful small touches to a great urdu drama which can only come from being a sharp observer of life and people in general and particulary the lifestyle of the muslim aristocracy and their traditional values ,which have all but vanished now with an era itself gone with the wind . and indeed its a great directorial venture , his other two movies ive viewed are the white countess and merci mr rey , but this is by far the best and is a gem which will always glow in the library of urdu cinema , and linger in the minds of urdu lovers like me and countless others.the movie was shot at real locations in bhopal and the last scene is set in a cemetry where noor is being buried , its befitting that though mr merchant lived and died in london 2 years ago , his last wishes were to be buried in mumbai in his family graveyard , anyone who wants to see areal slice of muslim india in its misery and joys needs to watch this personal movie by ismail merchant ,its a real gem. jbz7879/usman khawaja