Thy Filmdom Come…

First published in Different Truths. Click here to read…

Photo courtesy: Different Truths by Anumita

I was watching a movie — a Bollywood take on the grand Mughal emperor, Akbar1. A romantic one I guess as it was a movie about how he found acceptance in the heart of his Rajput bride, Jodha. I am not going to go into the historicity or the non-historicity of the movie or the quality of acting or music or recommend or unrecommend it to my readers, but I am going to raise another issue. An issue that is unique and practical and would hold perhaps for all stars of Bollywood, Hollywood, Tollywood, Kollywood and basically, all-wood named filmdom.

As the actor playing Akbar bent over the actress enacting Jodha to express an intense moment of meeting of hearts, as his face lowered on hers, inch by millimetre, a thought came to my mind, and I could not help but laugh out loud. If he had bad breath or body odour, what would the actress do? Would she continue for the sake of earning her daily bread or walk off the scene? Or it could be vice versa… what would the actor do if the actress had BO etc…?

You see I have this problem. When movies or serials become too long or emotional, I find my mind wander into other dimensions. As others discuss technical skills, acting and cinematography, I wander into the area of either somnolence or the ludicrous. My family gets upset for my conscious self leaves them watching the TV show or film. They grumble when after a refreshing nap on the sofa in front of the screen, while expressing my opinions in loud snores (a legacy inherited from my father), I wake up to ask them to fill me in. Or I am filled with a craving to re-watch the show. Sometimes, I have huge memory lapses and forget I have watched a film.

I am told — that is because I slept through most of it! What people do not understand is —my eyes close of their own volition! In any case…

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Book of the Week


Title: The Lost World & Other Stories
Author: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The Lost World & Other Stories is a collection of five tales of adventure, fantasy and imagination from the author of Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. He has created a bunch of characters who people all these stories. The eccentric Professor Challenger and his group of friends live through all the adventures.

The Lost World, first published in 1912, is about an excursion into the wild unknown of South America. They explore a plateau in which dinosaurs, prehistoric man and man exist together. It is exciting and bizarre, wrought with danger and adrenalin. The story also reflects how similarly professors and intellectuals have continued to respond over the decades. It is an excellent study of human nature and an entertaining adventure…man against dinosaur…a much explored theme in Hollywood.

The Poison Belt is about a world in ‘catalepsy’ in Professor Challenger’s words. The whole world is poisoned by a strange ‘ether ‘ and becomes comatose and rigid for a day. The only ones who ‘live‘ to tell the tale are Professor Challenger and his crew. They sit in a room filled with oxygen and watch the world go through a cataleptic seizure. It is a strange tale. What would happen if the whole world died and only five people survived? It is very well written and gripping till the end. The world waking up to normal life is as much a relief to the readers as to the characters in the book.

The Land of Mists is a story of spooks and ghosts. Some have criticised the story for being discursive and spiritual. However, I found it interesting to see how diversely people view afterlife and the act of invoking spirits through mediums. It is a strange tale but, in my opinion, quite entertaining. Objectively, the preachy parts give views which seem rather like the you tube uploads on the Hadron Collider and the doomsday predictions.

The Disintegration Machine is the shortest of all these stories. Challenger traps a scientist in his own disintegration machine which can destroy the world when the scientist, immorally and irresponsibly, tries to sell his machine to the highest bidder, for war. The machine could disintegrate and put back together anything or anybody, even Challenger. The machine as described reminded me of the machines that teleport people in Star Trek. The ones in Star Trek are of course more sophisticated and used constructively for transportation.The interesting dilemma that grips you at the end of this story is, is it right to destroy the destructive so that they cannot harm or annihilate others?

The last is a story called When the World Screamed. This story is truly fantastic where Challenger does an experiment to prove the world is an echinoderm. He drills a deep hole to puncture the Earth and the planet screams for a while. It is an unusual and imaginative theory that all the planets are living that Challenger proves. It is a very compelling read as you really want to know what happens at the end.

Doyle could definitely think out of the box and maintain suspense! The most compelling thing for me is the imagination that has gone forth in the telling of these tales. They have the same flavour as Tintin’s adventures and are related very well. They raise valid questions in one’s mind like : Can the same science be used for construction and destruction? Is taking a life which we cannot return ever justified? Are cultural biases that existed in those days still prevalent today under a different garb?


Book of the week




Title: Man and Superman and Three Other Plays
Playwright: George Bernard Shaw(1856- 1950)


My way of joking is to tell the truth. It’s the funniest joke in the world,” stated George Bernard Shaw. That is exactly what he does in all his writing…tell the truth as he perceives it. And most of it is really funny.

In Man and Superman, you have a writer of The Revolutionists Handbook and probably Shaw’s mouthpiece, John Tanner; a woman full of vitality who is in pursuit of a husband, Ann, and a bunch of English ladies and gentlemen with a couple of Americans, French and Spanish thrown in. Tanner has been appointed a guardian of Ann and her sister by her father, who has just passed on. He tries to rebel and run away from Ann. She is bent on marrying him.

Tanner, a believer in Life Force, sets out on his motor with his driver and ends up getting kidnapped by a brigand, Mendoza, who talks of working in office hours, socialism and his love with a passion. Mendoza, an ex-savoy waiter, has become a socialist kidnapper after being disappointed in love. He and his gang have Robin Hood-like pretensions. They rob rich motorists (as only the rich could afford cars at the turn of the nineteenth century when this play was written) and give to the poor, they say… They do not use guns or knives but throw nails on the roads and puncture the tyres. Then they capture the motorists and demand a ransom.

Ann follows literally in another car and they are rescued by soldiers. Tanner rescues Mendoza from the law by claiming that the troop of brigands are his companions, which in a sense thet are as they are all socialists at heart. Ann finally wheedles Tanner to marry her.

The most interesting part of this play in my opinion is the time Tanner spends with Mendoza as his captive. The dialogues and situation are witty and hilarious. Mendoza is a philosopher of sorts as are his crew,which includes anarchists and social democrats. Mendoza is also a poet who bores the party to sleep with his love poetry, literally. They all have a strange, allegorical dream of afterlife in hell. The Devil resembles Mendoza and is a lover of fine life. He has walked out of heaven voluntarily. The other characters in the dream are Don Juan, who resembles Tanner, The Statue, who resembles Ann’s father and Ana, who resembles Ann.

The Statue, who has been designated to heaven has taken a transfer to hell as he finds heaven tedious. Don Juan, bored by the pursuit of fine life in Earth and hell, is thinking of a transfer to heaven, which is filled with uninteresting philosophical people. Don Juan thinks the pleasures are a mirage. He is more interested in pursuing the contemplation of Life Force, the passion which drives men. Most people who are contemplative prefer heaven. Ana, who has just died and been sent to Hell wants to go to heaven as she feels it is virtuous to do so and ultimately in quest for the right father for the Superman. The concept of Life Force and Superman as opposed to an erring, fallible man are discussed in the dream sequence. Tanner also observes;

“That(art, culture etc) is the family secret of the governing caste; and if we who are of that caste aimed at more Life for the world instead of more power and luxury for our miserable selves, that secret would make us great.”

Written more than a century ago, I think this observation is valid in the present day context too.

The other three plays, Mrs Warren’s Profession, Candida and Devil’s Disciple are shorter, very Shavian in their perceptions and humour. Each one has a protagonist who perceives the world a little differently from others, who looks beyond money, culture and art to something more vital. Each of these characters are unconventional in their thought process and bring out the decadence of certain social norms.

Mrs Warren’s Profession is to do with prostitution, Candida with middle class morality and romance, Devil’s disciple, set during the American War of Independence, is to do with a man’s sudden discovery of goodness and leadership in himself…if I may, I would like to say getting in touch with the Superman in himself.

My favourite out of these four is Man and Superman. I find the banter between Tanner and the other characters really amusing and interesting.

Shaw is perhaps best known for his play Pygmalion, which was made into My Fair Lady, a hollywood classic with Rex Harrison and Julie Andrews. He had been awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1925 and the academy award for best screenplay( for My Fair Lady) in 1938.

Perhaps, a revival of his values and thought process might make this world a happier place to live in… His plays are like sunshine, witty, bright, cheerful, warm, honest and happy…a wonderful read for all and sundry.