- Bicycle Thieves(1946)- Vitterio De Sica. Language: Italian.
A simple story which would raise the inherent humanity inside you for sure. Made during the depression days in Europe post-war, this movie covers the socio-economic and human values of those days to the perfection. Also, the father-son bonding which develops throughout the movie is one of the finest depictions of relationship I have ever witnessed in cinema. Bicycle Thieves canvasses a strong cinematic theory which could narrate strong emotions without melodrama. Coming to De Sica, I think Umberto D was considered a better work of him than BT by critics, however, I personally found BT to be more subtle and to the point than UD which was a bit loud and stretchy in its presentation. The best part of BT is it never urges you to feel sorry for the state of the people but slowly twists your internal humanitarian values and by the time you see the climax, your values and emotions get a supreme empowerment.
The climax is definitely one of the very best I have ever watched, more like those of Chaplin climaxes when the Tramp goes towards the horizon with future hopes amidst present abjections. It does not provide a solution, but gives positivity. De Sica did the same in Umberto D as well, this time around with the man and the dog.
The scene when the father hears screams of a drowning child in the river and his anticipated fear of that being his son, Bruno is simply overwhelming. Bicycle Thieves indeed raised in me a lot of humanitarian values. It might appear a bit socialistic to many, but I think looking at Italy’s conditions that time, it was not impractical. Bicycle Thieves will remain, for me, The Movie- forever.
- Casablanca(1942)- Michael Curtiz. Language: English.
For three continuous nights after watching this, I could see the scenes of Casablanca only even in my sleep. Most cinematic, most intense and perhaps the most popular semi-tragic climax in Hollywood cinema was from Casablanca. Rick, Ilsa and Lazlo- the three corners constitute the triangle of Casablanca, and each of these relations depicted with so much of passion and intensity, you really start feeling for these characters. And Ingrid, ahh, did she ever look better than this?
The dialogue, the scenes, the characters-to speak on Casablanca is to show light to the sun. Made at the middle of second World War, when even America was not sure whether the Allies were really going to win against the Germans or not, Casablanca portrays those turbulent times with the little love story of “two little people”- Rick and Ilsa. I wonder why Bogart and Bergman were not coupled together again after Casablanca, they were so engaged on screen.
Many people did not like the end of Casablanca, they think it was more of a “logical” ending than a “romantic” one. I find it otherwise, the thinking of Rick and Ilsa not being together at the end but still separately safe and secure give you the feel of an ethereal love which does not necessarily mean to end up with being together. Rick was asked by Ilsa to think of something for “all three of them”, and Rick did just that; and yes, at the end of the day, for both of them, they indeed had Paris thoughts to spend their rest of the lives with.
Casablanca had action, romance, hatred, patriotism, music, suspense, emotions, drama- all blended with perfect proportion. As long as Cinema remains, Casablanca remains.
- Anand(1971). Hrishikesh Mukherjee. Language: Hindi.
Yes, it was over the top on more than several occasions; melodramatic throughout but still Anand leaves you with a kind of energy (even with a death scene climax) which is difficult to put in words. Hindi Cinema was still going through the simplistic approach of hero-heroine, music-dance, bad villains, miserable moms and sisters, rich and poor tussle etc when Anand was made. It did not have any heroine for the protagonist, that too the romance king of that time- Rajesh Khanna, and it was a very bold concept to be cinematised.
A dying youth still having loads of positive energy towards life in spite of knowing his imminent death, goes on teaching the value of living life to the fullest to the other people around before breathing his last. Anand was easy to comprehend, nothing intellectual or philosophical, sticks to the norms of mainstream Hindi cinema but yet leaves a very strong message to the audience- Zindagi badi honi chahiye, lambi nahi-“Life should be large and not long”. Truly a larger than life tale of a dying youth, Rajesh Khanna really proved that he could do very well without the heroines and Kishore Kumar. Sadly, he could not replicate this ever, afterwards. His acting became more melodramatic later and his movies too dependent on the music, but one Anand is perhaps enough to term him a genuinely great actor.
Music was also a very important aspect of Anand. No duets, understandably with no heroine for the protagonist around, four solos- three male and one female- is what Anand is studded with. It was a comeback movie for the music director Salil Chowdhury who was having a tough time around in Bombay that time. Anand resurrected his career which was stretched for another 7-8 years of mainstream composing.
Yes, it is not an intellectual’s delight, but Anand for me has always been an inspiration. A coloured glass to look at the life through, a musical to celebrate life with and a lesson to live life fully.
- Limelight(1952). Charlie Chaplin. Language: English.
Practically Chaplin has been my life. He was a one-man institution of Cinema and your cinematic learning is incomplete if your Chaplin is incomplete. Even though his silent movies had been path breaking and constitute the major chunk of legacy which Chaplin enjoyed, Limelight- a talkie and a banned movie from 1952, has been the most appealing Chaplin work for me. Firstly, Chaplin shrugged out every socio-political message from this movie- no preachy messages, no spoofing of political ideologies or political leaders, no socio-economical jargons; Limelight is Chaplin’s ode to pure, simple human relationship. Secondly, Chaplin showed even without his Tramp outfit, he could still make people laugh and cry. Thirdly, Limelight showcased one of Chaplin’s most downplayed talent, that of a musician.
The character of Calvaro, seemed to have been inspired by his own. A tramp comedian in the British theatres, Calvaro was highly popular once and then went into oblivion. He was into an alcoholic hibernation until he met a beautiful and depressive Ballet dancer under unusual circumstances. In order to motivate her, Calvaro seemed to have reignited himself. The urge to prove himself to the world for one last time got stronger and stronger in him.
Limelight flows like a poetry, its music encases you and its developments bind you. The only death scene of Chaplin on screen (in Monsieur Verdoux, he was sentenced to death, but the hanging was not shown), the climax of Limelight is unforgettable. It has more than occasionally inspired people across the globe, but the original Limelight can hardly be surpassed.
Limelight rekindles the energy within you, it motivates you, and it urges you to prove yourself and most importantly, teaches you to take your work as passion and love.
And yes, of course, the only time screen sharing of the two biggest legends of silence era- Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton- surely this is a scene you should watch before you die.
- Seemabaddha(1970). Satyajit Ray. Language: Bangla.
Eyebrows might get raised here. Yes, my most favourite Ray is not any one from the famous Apu-trilogy. Seemabaddha, a real portrayal of urban corporate drama, for me has been the most ahead of its time venture from Ray. Based on the novel by Manishankar Mukhopadhyay aka Shankar, Seemabaddha deals with the corporate politics, modern day complexities, thin line of border between what is good and bad and hunger for success of the modern day youth.
Made in 1970, Seemabaddha depicts the story of a go-getter portrayed by Barun Chanda, who from a humble background and education, raised the corporate ladder high and became the top shot in Peter fans, knocking at the door of the Board of Directors. His sister-in-law, Sharmila Tagore, seemingly socialistic in her view, arrives to stay at his flat in Calcutta for a few days. The story unfolds with Barun’s corporate aspirations and lifestyle getting more and more prominence and an order which could easily take him to the director’s position if successfully executed. But, due to manufacturing defects detected in the fans after production, his ambition is almost at the verge of getting crashed. This is when he takes some ferocious inter departmental political game to somehow save the deal(at others’ expense) and then finally ensuring his promotion. But , with all this, at the end of the movie, he is shown to have lost all the respect from his sister-in-law.
Seemabaddha’s message is typical Ray of that time- indirect. He does not preach to define what is right or wrong, but subtly presents his facts and leaves the rest to the audience to interpret. This style of cinema was definitely a signature style of Ray, and very much comparable to the other significant styles of presentation by the likes of Chaplin, De Sica or Felini. Ray took similar social and professional issues in movies like Nayak, Aranyer Din Raatri and Jana Aranya, with almost the same treatment. Some scenes literally were shocking and would give you Goosebumps.
Seemabaddha was well ahead of its time. Even Madhur Bhandarkar could do a Corporate in 2005- 35 years after Seemabaddha. The close ups, the detailed expressions, the stair walking scene at the climax, the Booze party scene at the flat when the parents walk in are all delicately crafted symbolic scenes which portray the true facts without being direct.