Poonam Saxena is the national weekend editor of the Hindustan Times. She writes on cinema, television, culture and books
Articles by Poonam Saxena
Before they peaked: Poonam Saxena on hill stations in classic literature
The hills promised romance, excitement, experiences outside one’s mundane life. Revisit two Hindi stories of fleeting encounters, love lost amid the mountains.
Updated on May 27, 2023 04:46 PM IST
High on drama, low on decor: Poonam Saxena looks back on the living room
Today’s homes are designed with an eye on every detail. But there was a time when the TV set and glass-fronted showcase full of knick-knacks ruled front rooms.
Updated on Apr 15, 2023 07:13 PM IST
Master filmmaker Yash Chopra and his working girls
He is best known for his sweeping love stories, but even in these, the women had meaty roles. Many had jobs, built their own lives. Perhaps the best example is Chandni.
Updated on Mar 18, 2023 03:54 PM IST
Fierce, fearless, fun: Poonam Saxena remembers Subhadra Kumari Chauhan
Subhadra Kumari Chauhan’s short stories capture the mood of the early 1900s. But it’s in her lifelong friendship with poet Mahadevi Varma, amid giggles, that her spirit shines
Published on Feb 18, 2023 12:05 AM IST
Too many screens have timed out: Poonam Saxena on cinema halls
What I miss most about the grand old theatres we’ve lost, Saxena says, are the large crowds (they could seat hundreds), rock-bottom prices, and their promise of dreams and fantasy escapes for all.
Updated on Jan 21, 2023 04:37 PM IST
Capital letters: Rereading Andhere Band Kamre,an ode to Delhi,with Poonam Saxena
Set in the tumultuous decade after Independence, Mohan Rakesh’s novel explores a marriage that crumbles as a city is reborn.
Updated on Dec 20, 2022 12:45 PM IST
Baiju Bawra deserves an encore, says Poonam Saxena
There’s drama, music, love, in this soaring tale of a legend who once challenged Tansen to a vocal duel. And who better than Sanjay Leela Bhansali to remake the 1952 classic?
Updated on Oct 29, 2022 04:41 PM IST
Poonam Saxena on Gandhi’s early brush with death
On his 153rd birth anniversary, a look at Gandhi’s early displays of courage at a forced quarantine in Durban and a brutal mob attack in 1897
Updated on Sep 30, 2022 10:55 PM IST
A BA, a cough: How Bollywood clichés can unlock our past
There are clues in tropes from the ’50s and ’60s to diseases once feared, achievements once prized. The world changed, but they remained. Poonam Saxena does a little decoding.
Updated on Sep 03, 2022 05:44 PM IST
When writing wears down the sole: A tale of Premchand’s torn shoes
The great Hindi writer was always short of money. He sometimes couldn’t afford shoes. As his grandson puts it, it seems scarcely credible now, that he should have leaned into the wind as he did.
Updated on Aug 05, 2022 06:35 PM IST
Help! I’m seeing double: The Way We Were by Poonam Saxena
Actors playing two roles, three roles, even as many as nine: An ode to a trope that harks back to the days of old Bollywood.
Updated on Jul 09, 2022 01:54 PM IST
A writer, a mystery, a quiet tragedy: The tortured genius of Bhuwaneshwar
The experimental Hindi short-story writer, poet and playwright was hailed by Premchand, but then slipped into obscurity, vanished and died, impoverished, at just 45. His work deserves to be remembered and revisited, says Poonam Saxena.
Updated on Jun 11, 2022 04:43 PM IST
Another side to summer: The Way We Were by Poonam Saxena
It’s hotter now, but the summers have always been scorching in north India. So how did people manage in the days before air-conditioning? With inventiveness, adaptation and great company.
Updated on May 14, 2022 03:29 PM IST
It enriches us when lives lived in the margins storm the page,says Poonam Saxena
Tales of women are rare, tales of older women even rarer. Meet some of Hindi literature’s most unlikely heroines, in this week’s The Way We Were.
Updated on Apr 16, 2022 02:38 PM IST
Look before you weep: There’s more to Meena Kumari than teary melodrama
To mark the actress’s 50th death anniversary, Poonam Saxena revisits a 1960 film in which she balances versatility, grit, gentleness and joie de vivre.
Updated on Mar 19, 2022 03:48 PM IST
Stirring the plot: A Wknd interview with author Geetanjali Shree
Her new book, Tomb of Sand, has become the first novel translated from Hindi to make it to the International Booker Prize longlist. Her storytelling involves unusual twists; the translation by Daisy Rockwell is a tour de force. See why Shree writes as she does.
Updated on Mar 18, 2022 12:16 PM IST
Tales of the trials of a full-time writer: Poonam Saxena on Amritlal Nagar
Nagar dedicated himself to building a great oeuvre as a Hindi writer, but he did so at considerable cost to himself and his family. Sadly, it is still almost impossible to make a living as a writer in India.
Updated on Feb 18, 2022 07:09 PM IST
Legend who introduced Indian audience to the era of playback
The ‘Nightingale of India’ gave shape to the culture of playback singing in Hindi cinema, giving film songs an independent existence that led to their absolute dominance
Updated on Feb 07, 2022 12:18 AM IST
ByPoonam Saxena, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
In ’60s cinema, a long-ago glimpse of faraway lands
Before Emily went to Paris, Sharmila Tagore had an evening there. A clutch of Hindi films in the 1960s gave viewers who had never gone abroad glamourous views of another world.
Updated on Jan 22, 2022 05:38 PM IST
An original city of letters: The Way We Were by Poonam Saxena
Long before litfests went viral, lovers of Hindi literature made their way to Allahabad, where words were celebrated all year.
Updated on Dec 25, 2021 01:43 PM IST
We were lucky to have skinned knees and pakdan-pakdai, says Poonam Saxena
Between pollution, the pandemic and the lure of too many screens, children are no longer playing the kinds of unstructured outdoor games where the aim was just to get together and have fun. What a pity.
Updated on Nov 26, 2021 06:56 PM IST
All-you-can-stream buffets: The food in K-dramas is a cultural coup
Bowls of steaming soup, sizzling barbecued meats, crisp fish cakes — Korean shows are taking their cuisine to the world. Why haven’t we done the same with our dazzling array?
Updated on Oct 29, 2021 09:13 PM IST
The rather frightening fade of reality TV: The Way We Were by Poonam Saxena
It started out simple, with set-ups designed for drama. Then came the vitriol and online fan clubs lashing out at each other. Today, sadly, even this isn’t the worst of what hits our screens.
Updated on Oct 02, 2021 04:07 PM IST
Laying on the gilt: What’s next for Sanjay Leela Bhansali?
In an industry with less and less room for opulent productions, he seems determined to stay the path. His upcoming movies and a Netflix show about courtesans hold out the same promise of glitter. Could that very steadfastness stream him onward?
Updated on Sep 17, 2021 07:31 PM IST
Smoke, sip, swerve: Poonam Saxena on status symbols in Hindi films
What makes something the most coveted in its class is rarely clear, but for the stars of ’50s and ’60s Hindi cinema, there was no debate: the Chevy Impala, Vat 69 and 555 cigarettes were it.
Updated on Sep 04, 2021 03:19 PM IST
India in flashbacks: The early years of celluloid magic
From the ’40s to the ’60s, Hindi cinema championed hope, change and humanism, in original and entertaining films.
Updated on Aug 13, 2021 05:53 PM IST
Remembering Bhikhari Thakur, the bard of Bihar
The Bhojpuri barber turned playwright died 50 years ago. His lyrical, once-hugely-popular plays still resonate.
Updated on Aug 07, 2021 04:58 PM IST
When the unforgettable Dilip Kumar met Bronte
From his brother, the legendary actor acquired a love of the classics — Dickens, Shakespeare, Charlotte and Emily Bronte. Heathcliff of Wuthering Heights made a particular impression.
Updated on Jul 10, 2021 02:28 PM IST
A storyteller true to her words: Poonam Saxena on rebel writer Mannu Bhandari
The Hindi author lived an unconventional life, and gave a voice to women of the 1950s and ’60s who were trying to do the same.
Updated on Jun 12, 2021 05:35 PM IST
A century on, the same current flows along the banks: Poonam Saxena
Stark echoes of today ring out in the writings of poet Suryakant Tripathi Nirala, who lost so many loved ones to the influenza pandemic.
Updated on May 21, 2021 08:12 PM IST