The Jazz Age of Bombay

Kashyap says that BV is dedicated to Lorna Cordeiro..

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You couldn’t miss the poster as you sauntered down Jamshetji Tata Road in downtown Bombay. It hung outside the Astoria Hotel, across the street from the octagonal Art Deco turret of Eros cinema, inviting the city to Chris and Lorna’s daily shows at the Venice nightclub. It was 1971. India was savouring its newfound place on the world’s stage. The country’s armed forces had decisively liberated Bangladesh and the idealism of Independence had welled up again. India’s middle classes were capturing their polyester memories on Agfa Click IIIs that cost 46.50 rupees (taxes extra), aspiring to the lifestyles of “The Jet Set Air Hostesses” described in The Illustrated Weekly of India (price: 85 paise), and being encouraged by newspaper ads to “Go gay with Gaylord fine filter cigarettes”.

As the City of Gold bubbled through its jazz age, Lorna and Chris enthralled Bombay with their shows at Venice each night. Remo Fernandes, who would go on to become the first Indian pop musician to record an album of original English-language tunes, was among those locked in the spell. “Two artists sometimes ignite a creative chemistry in each other which goes beyond all logical explanation. Mere mortals can only look and listen in awe,” he rhapsodised. “In such duos, one plus one does not make two. It makes a number so immeasurable, it defies all laws of calculus.”

But the sparks that flew at Venice gradually built into a roaring conflagration. As Remo put it: “Hyper-intense, high-temperament artistic relationships often end in emotional disaster, like two comets when they steer too dangerously close. Chris’s and Lorna’s, as we all know, was no exception.”

Like the myths about the city in which they soared to fame, the tale of Chris and Lorna has gained so much in the re-telling it’s sometimes difficult to thresh the apocrypha from the actual. Thirty years after the two stopped performing together, old-time musicians in the bylanes of Dhobi Talao and Bandra still beg anonymity as they reminisce in sad whispers.

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8 Responses to “The Jazz Age of Bombay”

    • This is a very fine book. And for those interested there is a very nice bit on how the character (and name) Anthony Gonsalves (from Desai’s AAA) owes its origin to a famous Bombay jazz musician of the same name.

      Incidentally here is a Konkani film (on Goan jazz and orchestral music) which is generating great buzz. The video has subs-

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  1. Fascinating this Konkani. I wish Bombay Velvet was about the night club and jazz music in Bombay, real or fictional, instead of all this gangster crap.

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    • agree.. this sort of focus would have helped.. but again this is where I suspect that he psychological or emotional impulse behind the film was really all the American gangster films that Kashyap saw, specially with their period elements and so on and wishes to recreate. ‘Bombay’ then became the excuse to indulge in that sort of fantasy, if you will. But this has always been a larger problem of the present (in India). The extent to which a certain class of the urban Indian (all Bombay directors today more or less belong to this class in an ideological sense) gets high on the Godfather or Scorsese or whatever. This itself is not exceptional. They are important the world over and they have had influence in the same global sense. However it’s one thing to have these templates in mind and quite another to ‘duplicate’ them without ‘rethinking’ them within one’s native space.

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  2. can’t /shouldnt blame the target audience of piku for not getting this


    Liked this innovative mix of jazz & opera

    Slowly getting nuggets of this soundtrack

    Infact even loved ‘Sylvia’….

    jhoothe moothe vaade wafaaon ke
    gina ke apne deewane ko tu chhod gayi,
    ye kya kiya sylvia…

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  3. A perfect example of internalizing Godfather and coming out with a total original would be Nayagan. Pity he couldn’t do the same with Amores Peros / Yuva.

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