The monochromatic memories

Our view about the world changes with time. Some of our values disappear, and some come into closer focus.
I was Apu’s age when I saw Aparajita for the first time. I saw the film from Apu’s perspective. I cried when the mother died. Perspectives change with time. With time the context changes. When I was at Apu’s age, I was a son. Now I am a father of a grown-up son and a daughter. I saw Aparajita recently. It was altogether a different experience. I saw the film from the perspective of a mother. I have not seen any film that has depicted  mother-son relationship so honestly. My sympathies were with the mother. I did not cry when the father or the mother died. I cried when Apu left for Kolkata, or when the mother waited for her son’s arrival. Mother’s emotions are often so subtle. There was loneliness, but there was hope that one day her son will become something. In the film, the happiest moment for me was when the son deliberately misses his train for Kolkata so that he could be with his mother. I felt I was part of their happiness.
I am stunned every time I watch Pather Panchali. I am stunned watching the mind of a filmmaker. It was his first film. He was then an art director of an advertising agency. He was realizing that an advertising artist can never be free. He wanted to move to another profession. He loved films since his school days. He wanted to know about the camera placements. He wanted to find out how one director is different from the other. Oriental art started to fascinate him. He was getting exposed to the charms of rural Bengal. He came across Pather Panchali as he was illustrating the abridged version of the book for the children. He thought of making a film based on the book if he ever became a filmmaker. He wrote: “What the Indian cinema needs today is not more gloss, but more imagination, more integrity, and a more intelligent appreciation of the limitation of the medium.”
Take Indir Thakrun, the old Pishi of Durga and Apu. She dies in the middle of the film. Apu and Durga discover her dead in a bamboo grove. This was their first encounter with death. I read somewhere the filmmaker Satyajit Ray’s conversation with the old lady Chunibala Devi. She was told about the purpose of Ray’s visit to her place. She asks, “What part can I play at the age of eighty?” Ray responds “That of an eighty-year-old-woman. Do you think you will be able to memorize lines as you will be moving around while acting?” The old lady responds, “I have not lost my memory yet. Let me recite a nursery rhyme to you.” She recites more than 20 lines. When asked, “Do you think you can put up with the strain?” the lady responds, “I think so, I have been conserving my energy for just this kind of opportunity. But I don’t have smooth skin. All actresses have smooth skin. Will you put make-up on me?” Ray says, “No, we won’t.” When Indir Thakrun dies in the film, the scene was shot at 5 am. She was tied to the bier and was advised not to stir during the take. She did not stir even after the take. People around got worried. Hearing the commotion she opens her eyes, and she asks, “Is it over? Why didn’t anyone tell me? I’m still pretending to be dead.” Old is gold. Her presence still echoes. Her zest for life is still missed. In the real-life, she was dead before the accolades befell her.

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