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Friday, January 22, 2016

The Black and White Train

When my mother bought me my first Enid Blyton at the age of eight, I refused to read it for the lack of colour. The book, a three-in-one compilation of The Faraway Tree Stories, had minimal illustrations, all done in inked drawings. Eventually I did get drawn to the book (as my mother had shrewdly predicted), and both the book and the author have been revisited and cherished many times thence; and, needless to say, both remain favourites to this day.
The second realization in my life of the minimal importance of colour to human emotion came during the last long weekend, when the Movie Club at CMI screened the Apu Trilogy. I had been reluctant to watch the movies, albeit legendary, before reading the two novels behind them first (as is my regular practice) but then I jumped on the chance to experience the movie in the company of my friends, in my first true home away from home.
The movies deserve all their hype and then some, if I may be so daring as to judge them through the gap in cultural acumen and time. They are, as such, difficult to describe in words, but I will make an attempt by saying this: though, having had a much better life one cannot completely comprehend the feelings of the lead characters, there is a little of them in each of us. Ray's symbolism is through the roof, and every bit of work in the making of the movies is perfectly done. The trilogy spills over with soul, pathos and, as the Facebook-era terminology goes, the feels. I was dumbfounded to find that I related with someone so removed in space and time that I began to miss my past and rethink my present. Many a scene in the films reminded me of leftover feelings from my daily life: like, for example, the quiet that descended over my group of friends returning to college from home when the parents had waved goodbye and the train pulled out of sight -- for some minutes before we descended into the mandatory revelry, I remember how the hush brought us all closer as the train huffed us away from those closest to us. It helps, of course, that the train is an important trope in the Apu Trilogy (and has remained so in Bengali life)!
The third movie was a bit outside my taste and comfort levels, and seemed a bit too hopeful. However, as I told a friend afterwards, it is perhaps because we are still too young to relate. All through the three films, Pt. Ravi Shankar's music remains both an apt and necessary element and a masterpiece in its own right. The actors have all played their roles immersively, and I somewhat understand what people mean when they speak of Ray's laborious and realistic casting.
To conclude, some observations: I shall not rehash the obvious social commentary of caste and gender and family and the like; those, while pressing and poignant, have been spoken of in better words on greater pages. I shall only venture this much: Ray was badass (trivial), Apu is a little bit of all of us (not-so-trivial), and Sarbajaya is one helluva kickass bitch (#respect).

An afterthought: it has been a while since I wrote blank prose. My blog has, of late, been swamped sick with abstraction, which is a great thing in itself, but never a good thing if it sticks and is overdone, and especially if it restricts one's frontiers and counters the very vulnerability to one's medium that it is supposed to engender. I am grateful to this fellow (budding) blogger whose work, despite its many flaws, has reminded me of the honest beauty of blank prose.


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