Went and saw Black at last, at SAC [where else will an nitkian go these days..?] after hearing the rave reviews from everyone ranging from my roommate to my nosy next door neighbors. Maybe it was my high expectations or maybe just that I am plain insensitive, but hey, I find it is not such a great movie as it was hyped out to be.
First you have Michelle McNally [played by youknowwhobynow with huge dark glasses, for the audience to know she is differently abled] who is writing, sorry, typing away her life’s stories on a Braille typewriter, and says that all she wants to do is to find her Teacher. And well, good people always get their prayers answered, and so we find Teacher [no reference to the da Vinci code] outside her house.Teacher is afflicted with Alzheimers and has lost most memory, and now it is upto Michelle to Remind him, or re-Teach him. A long series of flashbacks, with drier-than-Sahara humored dialogues[were they funny, or is it just the tendency of the audience to laugh when li'l gals no bigger than your thumb splat food on a six-footer star?] follow. Essentially, Michelle learns her first word [whaa-..-ter, a la Helen Keller], and table manners and a host of other things from [who else but] Teacher.
Then she sets her sights higher, and goes to University [looks like a cross between an Ivy League one and a local missionary one] to get a degree [so what if it is just a BA, the Indian obsession for degrees never spares no one.] and fails. Due to lack of speed, but not of dedication. Persistence follows, and she gets her degree, but she ain’t happy, coz Teacher’s not there to see her in Black robes,and so doesn’t wear them to the valedictory ceremony. Next thing you know, she’s giving an impassioned speech about, well, Teacher. [even dumb people (I dunno the politically correct term) looove to deliver long speeches! Man,what is this world coming to..]
Cut back to the present. Michelle meets Teacher and there is a Reversal of Roles, and Student Teaches the Teacher the same way, the same words he taught her [Whaaa...-..ter yet again] . Audience sobs, end of film.
Black was an eye opener. For instance, I didn’t know that Alzheimer’s makes your skin sag and change tone that it looks like someone splatted caramel icing all over your face.
Or that asylums are perfectly white.
Wonder what the set designer and Amitabh Bacchan’s make up man were doing? Maybe trying unsuccessfully to wake the dialogue writer who, I feel, slept through the whole thing. Yes, I agree that we have come a long way from ‘kitne aadmi the?’ or ‘mere paas maa hai’ , but the dialogues lack passion, and the humor conspicuous by its absence.
And that makes me wonder what the audience was laughing at. But thankfully, there was no parallel comedy track [maybe we'd've had Johnny Lever who would have been studying the same course for a period of ten [we love exaggeration don't we] years and helps Michelle at college..]
Black is a simple slice-of-life story, with no exaggerations whatsoever, with good acting by all the characters, nice costumes and lovely locales. But it still pinches that Amitabh is still Amitabh and not really Teacher as we would like to believe. But Rani as Michelle is very convincing, big black glasses, no-makeup and all. And Nandana Sen… One wonders why she isn’t pushing Lara Dutta or Ash off the charts. Her good looks deserve far more attention than she’s getting.
But one thing that puzzles me is what the director was trying to say. Does he choose to say that Teacher’s persistence paid off so much that his student is so adept as to teach the Teacher, or is he just presenting one girl’s struggle against her disability? Is it just a story about bonding? Or is it, as i said before, just a slice of an extraordinary life, and that’s why it was totally no-frills? Black didn’t move me to tears or renew the spark in my life. Now I feel it wasn’t meant to.
Ahh, finally I can say that Indian cinema has come of age: at least the director didn’t put in things just to garner audience. He’s just telling his tale, with no shades at all, and it is left to us to interpret or misinterpret it. In other words, it makes us THINK, which, till now, movies weren’t meant for. All in all, a DIFFERENT movie, and the director Knew it would work precisely for that reason. And it did . Only have to hope it wont spark off a series of spinoffs . I don’t want to have to watch a Mozart-inspired tale of a deaf girl winning the Grammies. And that’s given me an idea…..Watch this space for the script. Ideas invited.
I just finished reading The God of Small Things and Ice-Candy Man. It’s not like I am behind the times or anything, but it is a trait of mine to shun all things popular in the crest of their popularity wave, and maybe appreciate them after they’ve been washed ashore.
Two perfectly brilliant books. Told through the eyes of children, coz an unbiased and unblemished as-it-is viewpoint is always best, no?
Award winning books, both. Well written, definitely. How else do you actually feel what the protagonists feel….shock, when lame Lenny finds out that it is her mother who is burning Lahore, or guilt, when Estha gradually stops talking…
They are sort of autobiographical, as the authors say, characters taken from their own childhood, and their childhood selves made the protagonists.
And that makes me wonder if the best stories written are ‘inspired’ from real life. And not just anyone’s, but the seemingly perfect ones are those from the author’s flashbacks. So what makes these tick? Is it just that since the writer has gone through that experience once, that she is able to depict it better and give it that spark of life and believablity that a novel so desperately needs to engross the audience and make them empathise with the characters? Maybe yes, maybe no, maybe I don’t know.
RK Narayan’s best work [according to me], The English Teacher, mesmerizes me more and more on subsequent reading with its glaring reality as no other book of his does. In his autobiography My Days, he says “I have described this part of my experience [death of his wife] in The English Teacher so fully that I do not, and perhaps cannot, go over it again. “
So is it just that writers want to share their experiences, like all others, but proceed to do so on a scale larger than most other people’s, just by nature of their job, other than ,maybe, filmmakers?
Or is it, as I would cynically say after reading a me-centric book, an utter lack of imagination that forces the writer to delve into his past for tales to make money from?
It’s easy, isn’t it, to just colour up your past and call it a novel? Or write it as it is, with no discrimination as to what the audience would like to read, and call it a simple, down-to-earth story? Or to glorify the non-existent ‘turning points’of your life and write a book on success?
But then, it’s just human to put ourselves at the centre of everything. Bane of theologians and zoologists…….
And that is a quote from yet another novel, Life of Pi by Yann Martel.
Which can never be an account of the author’s or anyone else’s past, coz, well, not many can boast of spending nearly a year out in the Pacific on a lifeboat with only the fish and a 450 pound Bengal tiger for company.
Plus, the author is Latin American [or European, I forget which], and could hardly have had the Indian childhood he describes.
Ah, well, imagination is not dead after all.
It all started that fateful day when i crushed my brand new molar on a guava seed [yea, you heard right, guava seed, all thanks to that old advice about worm eggs masquerading as guava seeds, and hence how important it was to crush them all between the teeth]. End result was that the molar was partially destroyed.
I wouldn’t have bothered about that had it not been that the induced cavity impeded further crushings of guava seeds [I'm one of those who never ever learn, my mom can vouch for that]. So prodded on by an insistent mother and tempting stocks of guava, I made a reluctant trip to the family dentist, who, for some reason gives me the creeps. Maybe it is his cool, calm demeanor in breaking the worst of news, like a root canal treatment, or that he’s pulled the wrong tooth……
“Hmmm..” he said, examining the errant molar with that itsy-bitsy magnifying mirror, “That maybe a dead tooth,” Life to my purse, he didn’t say. “You’ll need a cap on that.”
After a half hour of drilling and local anasthaesia, he proclaimed the tooth fit to be on its own for a month or so.
“Don’t forget to come back after two weeks, I still need to finish the job.” Yes, Finish is right.
Two weeks later, I did go back, out of curiosity, if not anything else. I really wanted to know what a tooth cap looked like. And just maybe, it might be gold and I could maybe give those devilish grins of Bond bad-men…
Surprisingly, Doc declared the molar fit for another two weeks.
“I’ll see you after two weeks, so..” coz That’s when my end of the month money crunch is to occur.
That was three years ago, when I was a wee ‘ickle high school girl.
Now, I am a student of engineering, back home for my end-sem vacations.
Lots of guavas have slipped down my alimentary canal since then. And temporary filling? It’s still there, maybe a bit eroded here and there. But there all the same, my partner in cracking nuts, be they pistachios or almonds.
And today was that fateful day when I thoughtlessly accompanied my mother to The Dentist.
Maybe it was my fear for my dental health or something, but I found myself saying “Doctor, the filling you put in three years back is still there, I just want to know if there is any problem….” In a trice, the errant molar was under the magnifying mirror again, and after a series of surprised and knowing “Hmm”s from Doc, [who very artfully concealed his surprise.... don't give me such a raw deal, Doc, I too want my name down in medical history..?] he sentenced the errant molar to a re-filling and capping, Tomorrow.Because, he forgot to add, I have an Appointment with the director of a medical college about my daughter’s admission.
I have an Appointment tomorrow. I wonder how many more trials I’ll have to undergo. How many more shots of local anasthaesia. How many more drilling sessions. How many more amalgamations.
More than once, I’d say, considering the way it has been playing and replaying in my head.
“It ain’t all that bad, think of the ice-cream you’ll get!” is all the consolation I give myself.
But that cool, sweet promise isn’t enough to keep my nightmares at bay. All I hope is that it gets over quickly, and before I realize it, and that Doc has no more Appointments to keep outside of his clinic, coz one operation is bad enough, I don’t want those that keep playing and replaying inside my head.
hi, to whoever is reading this.
this is our maiden post, and hope many many more follow.
watch this space.