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In Anurag Kashyap’s ‘Bombay Velvet’, Anushka Sharma reportedly plays an aspiring jazz singer. Though instances of jazz musicians as characters in Hindi films are scant, many directors abroad have used jazz to brilliant effect in their movies. Here are 10 unforgettable moments:

Black And Tan Fantasy (1929)

A precursor of the extended music video, this 19-minute film by Dudley Murphy featured Duke Ellington as a bandleader trying to dissuade his dancer wife, who has a heart condition, from performing. She does anyway, and collapses on stage. Ellington’s band gathers by her bed and plays her to her grave.

Young Man With A Horn (1950)

Michael Curtiz’s film on cornetist Bix Beiderbecke is a standout jazz biography. The script is banal at times and Doris Day might not be perfect casting as a big band singer, but that hardly matters when you have Kirk Douglas, Lauren Bacall and Hoagy Carmichael on screen, cinematographer Ted McCord supplying the shadows and veteran jazz musician Harry James dubbing Douglas’ trumpet playing.

Albela (1951)

Bollywood is yet to release a film on a jazz musician, but you can catch a rare glimpse of one of the industry’s most famous sessions men, trumpeter Chic Chocolate (Antonio Vaz), during the number ‘Deewana Yeh Parwana’ from the Bhagwan Dada comedy ‘Albela’.

Elevator To The Gallows (1958)

In 1957, French film-maker Louis Malle invited Miles Davis to a recording studio, showed him a cut of his film, and asked him to improvise over it. Davis, drummer Kenny Clarke and three French musicians ended up recording the score for ‘Elevator To The Gallows’ over two sessions. The result is the noirest of noir soundtracks, with Davis’ trumpet accompanying Jeanne Moreau as she walks down lonely Parisian streets.

Shadows (1959)

John Cassavetes’ debut feature was a revelation, a film not so much about jazz (though the soundtrack did feature Charles Mingus) as jazzy in spirit. The fragmented scenes and improvised dialogue embrace the off-the-cuff spirit and breakneck thrills of jazz like no other film before it—or, indeed, after.

Pull My Daisy (1959)

This very strange short film by Robert Frank and Alfred Leslie is notable for featuring many of the major players of the Beat Generation. It was adapted and narrated by Jack Kerouac from the third act of his play ‘Beat Generation’ and starred poets Allen Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky and Gregory Corso, as well as actor Delphine Seyrig. A year later, Jonas Mekas wrote about ‘Daisy’ in the American film magazine ‘Film Culture’: “(It is) the only truly beat film if there is one... an expression of the new generation’s unconscious and spontaneous rejection of the middle class way."

Jazz On A Summer’s Day (1960)

Before ‘Woodstock’ (1970), before ‘Monterey Pop’ (1968), there was ‘Jazz On A Summer’s Day’. Shot during the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival, it has performances by luminaries like Louis Armstrong, Thelonious Monk, Sonny Stitt, Mahalia Jackson and, somewhat improbably, Chuck Berry. Co-directors Aram Avakian and Bert Stern capture everything in eye-popping colour. The scenes of Rhode Island residents relaxing in the sun are like a Norman Rockwell painting come to life.

Let’s Get Lost (1988)

This documentary on Chet Baker is an unflinching look at the rise and fall of a jazz icon. Mixing interviews with footage from concerts and amateur movies, director Bruce Weber tracks Baker’s journey from a young trumpeter and singer with matinee idol looks to his later years as a junkie in Europe.

Ida (2013)

Polish films of the 1960s have a touching affection for jazz music, something that Paweł Pawlikowski paid tribute to in his Oscar-winning period drama ‘Ida’. One of the loveliest moments in the film is when Ida, a nun, sits at a bar and listens to a young saxophonist play John Coltrane’s ‘Naima’. If holy vows must be broken, let there at least be a soundtrack as tempting as this.

Whiplash (2014)

When ‘Whiplash’ released, some critics complained that the music being played on screen wasn’t really jazz. But to insist on authenticity is to miss the barbed tribute the film pays to the form. The battle of wills between J.K. Simmons’ drill sergeant of a music teacher and Miles Teller’s ambitious young drummer illustrates, like few films before it, the exacting nature of jazz musicianship, the idea that anything less than perfection just isn’t going to cut it.

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