Watching: Hyderabad Blues (1998)

Hyderabad BluesIt is not often that I watch or review a film without a strong soundtrack. However, when I came upon this movie, I was reminded of a good review that I had read somewhere and decided to watch it.

The story is about Varun who has returned home to India from USA after having been away for 12 years. He has a distinct sense of alienation though this is the very world where he was born and grew up. His parents are happy to welcome him and seem intent on arranging a marriage for him within the one month that he will be home. He is, of course, not ready for any such thing and feels even more alienated. Though he connects back with his boyhood friends, he doesn’t really share their world-view.

He meets a young woman called Ashwini, a doctor, to whom he is very attracted. He convinces her to date him and oddly enough, they click. Oddly because she has a strong dislike for his Americanised ways.  He doesn’t see going out with her as a natural prelude to a marriage proposal while his family and friends do. In the meanwhile, his parents have other ideas of what would be a good match for him.  Varun and Ashwini fall in love despite their differences but when he proposes that they marry and she come back with him to the US, she refuses and they split. With pressure on them from all sides, how will they resolve this conflict? Well, you’ll have to see the film, don’t you?

This small budget film has a docudrama feel about it, especially at the start. Everything looks so natural – Varun’s home and the comings and goings of friends and neighbours, his relationship with his parents and his friends, his reactions to incidents – it all has a touch of truth which pleases me very much. This is a real film about a real person, not some made up story about amazing looking people leading amazing lives. The only thing which grated was Ashwini’s character. She is abrasive and difficult, quick to argue, ready always to take offence, rude and offensive even to her patients – in short, a woman one would struggle to like, let alone love! Surely they could have written in a better character?

The cast is quite proficient. Nagesh Kukunoor, the writer, director, producer and male lead of the film, is natural in his role. Rajshri Nair, who plays Ashwini, fails to deliver (or it is just a poorly written role?) while Vikram Inamdar as Sanjeev is excellent. The rest of the cast do fairly well.  The ending is a bit of a farce; it is perhaps meant to amuse but fails in its intention. On the whole it is an interesting film, especially for NRIs (Non Resident Indians for those not in the know). The film is mainly in English, with subtitles provided for Telugu or  Hindi dialogues. If you are an NRI, I’ll encourage you to watch it; you will no doubt find yourself smiling in sympathy with the protagonist.


Filed under Film Review

15 responses to “Watching: Hyderabad Blues (1998)

  1. Ramesh

    For the first time ever, a post without any music whatsoever ! You have to rechristen your blog – maybe “A sight to see” !!

    I rarely watch movies of any kind, but this one I did see when it came out. The only thing I remember is the awful scene of widowhood – what a sick society we are to dream of such a ritual.

    Never related to the movie. I have been a NRI myself, albeit for two short periods and I can never relate to the supposed NRI alienation. I believe this only happens to those who are not well traveled. If somebody is well traveled , seen many cultures, and learnt to adapt and appreciate the good, then there is hardly an issue.

    I had heard the the actors in this movie did it for free. That must be unique in this world.

    Next post, no doubt, will drip with music 🙂 Just kidding ……

    • Absolutely, the next very musical post was being worked on as I played ‘hookey’ with Hyderabad blues 🙂

      You are lucky that you never felt that feeling of alienation. I am as well traveled as well traveled can be, I assure you! Still, when in India, I feel as if I am Alice down the rabbit hole, everything so familiar yet so weird, almost a feeling of other-worldliness. True, it has been 30 years out of the country for me, but I guess this sense of alienation started a long time back. It is a double edged sword – my India, the India of my memories, exists no more and I dont feel a sense of true belonging to the current India. On the other hand, however much I cling to my Indian roots, I too have changed over the years. Recently my American-Indian friends commented on how very clipped and British sounding my English has become – and I have never lived in UK! They said that if they didn’t know me, they would think it was ‘put on’!! I protested, saying that I have held on faithfully to my Indian English but I was laughed at by my friends for saying so. That odd little conversation left me thinking and I admitted to myself that the years have perhaps changed me despite myself, in superficial ways like my accent and way of speaking but also in fundamental ways, in the way I think and react. Yes, I did feel a connection with the film and what it was saying..

      And as to the ceremony of widowhood…sigh…did you watch Water by Deepa Mehta? I was in tears..

      • Filmbuff

        Yep Water was a well made movie and very sad though true. My mom told me about the ashram for abandoned widows in Mathura. She was a young family women there years ago and she used to feel so sad about the plight of widows (young and old alike) left to fend for themselves by their families. I think society and social customs were more cruel to widows in the pre indepdendence and a few years on but not later.. Although water was a good movie set in Independence days I did not like the way Deepa Mehta corelated that to the stats of widows from recent Indian census (though not wrong in data as such). To an outside viewer not much familiar with India, it would give the impression that those practices still prevail. This is not to deny that the situation of widows still continues to be difficult and miserable in some parts of India today.

      • India still clings to old customs – maybe its not the India we know or mix with, but that India too exists..

  2. Filmbuff

    I have seen Hyderabad Blues 2 – got the DVD by chance from a local desi shop. I haven’t seen this one which is the first one and have been looking for it actually. HB2 was pretty good. Nagesh Kukunoor made that fab film “Dor” – have you seen that? I have seen a few other Nagesh Kukunoor films too.

    • I plan to see HB2 soon. Both films are on youtube, so you can watch HB1 too! And yes, I have seen Dor a few years back and yes, I thought it well made and interesting. It was my pre-blogging days, so I never wrote up a review 🙂

      • Filmbuff

        This may come as a surprise to you – i have not seen a movie on Youtube to this day! I liked Nagesh Kukunoor’s “Iqbal” too – have you seen that?

      • Iqbal..yes..first film of Shreyas wasn’t it? It was a good film too. But why dont you watch films on youtube? Its so convenient – they have full films and its all legal good copies by Shemaroo etc so why not?

      • Filmbuff

        coz i don’t like to watch movies or clips on a computer! Now that i have a smart TV at home, i can connect to internet and watch youtube. Where do i find movies on youtube i mean any clules on particular urls or do i simply search for hindi movies on youtube page? I must be coming across like a lame idiot now! he he

      • Just type in Hindi movies and dozens will list 🙂 The channels of interest are shemaroomovies, rajshri, ultramovieparlour but there are many others. In Australia, these channels load comparatively new movies as paid-for movies. Just do a search and you’ll surely find something or the other of interest..,.

      • Filmbuff

        thanks for the tips on hindi movies on youtube. one of these days i shall give it a go. I have several old hindi movie DVDs from India that i am yet to see plus loads of new ones from my twin – sigh – so many things to do – so little time.

  3. J

    This issue of alienation is an interesting one as I sometimes wonder how much I would enjoy living in India at some point. I agree that the India of my childhood (filtered through memories) is gone but I guess that is true for NRIs and resident Indians alike. Surprisingly, I don’t find significant differences in outlook to life and such stuff compared to my close friends who have always lived in India. But I do find myself surprised by my interactions with youth in India and I wonder if that is a generation gap which becomes more acute when we haven’t experienced our own kids growing up in India. I cannot call myself well-traveled having only lived in India and the US but I think I do have an open mind – well, don’t we all 🙂

    • Do you not think J that we all live in mini-worlds of our own, coexisting and rubbing shoulders, sometimes sharing commonalities and sometimes too far apart to do so? I think myself floating in a bubble inside a 3D-Venn-diagram of personal worlds, with some bubbles closing close to me at times at some others at other times. One’s world view is dependent what view we have out of our own bubble. If you have much in common with your friends in India, then the super bubble called India in which they float seems to be a very inviting and familiar bubble. In short, What you (or I) call India is set of interactions with a limited number of people. Each of us have a different India to deal with. If you are finding no alienation but just a generation gap with the people from your India in spite of living many years out of it, you are fortunate indeed!

  4. J

    “What you (or I) call India is set of interactions with a limited number of people”
    Well put!! It also makes me wonder that maybe I have chosen to not interact with the unfamiliar India. Something to think about…..

    Going back to the bubble-idea, what I still find strange is how there are so many Indians here in the US that I share so little with.

    • I can identify with that..talking of feeling alienated, I have lived for 9 years in Switzerland yet feel absolutely like a stranger! But Australia is home and thank God I can call at least somewhere home..

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