Monday, July 18, 2011

As the strains of the theme tune from Limelight Charlie Chaplin’s masterpiece Big B

Jalsa , Mumbai  July  17 , 2011     Sun  9 : 47 PM
As the strains of the theme tune from ‘Limelight’ , Charlie Chaplin’s masterpiece , engulf your entire being, you feel the strings tugging at your insides in pathos and the beauty of its composition. They are by far the most simplest notes ever. Much like that solitary sitar piece from Satyajit Ray’s ‘Charulata’ as she in the opening sequence walks from window to window alone and lonely in her home …
Its the simple things in life that have the most lasting effect. Chaplin’s Limelight was a film that remained with me during the 50’s when as a young school going senior my Mother had taken me to see it in New Delhi. The haunting melody of the theme gets your hair on end even now, as does that last sequence in the film when he slips on stage and falls inside the drum - ‘ … i’m stuck .. ! he says with a smile on his face when we all know that he has virtually broken his spine ..
And this afternoon as we run through the list of films that appear on the tv screen, we suddenly stop at ‘Chaplin’ the film directed by Richard Attenborough, with that master with the camera Sven Nykvist and a host of some of the most brilliant actors from the world of cinema. And playing the lead role, that actor who many rate as the best, well I certainly do, Robert Downey Jr. What a performer and what an actor ! An actor I feel that has never been given his due. One that perhaps strayed a little due to his drug abuse, but one that has come out of that successfully and still continues to surprise us in film after film ..
We have sat and watched it in a silence that such films deserve, for, not only does the film do great justice to the genius of the character itself, but also the finesse with which the performer holds every bit of your attention right till the last sequence.
And one wonders as the quiet after the credits role takes over, whether there shall ever be occasion  for someone in our world to make something similar. Its a continuation I would like to believe of what transpired last night on the tele when we connected with Nargis ji and her tribute that was broadcast. remaining in that same frame of mind there evolved a discussion on the trends and the era of those greats at the dining table. And some every enlightening moments of debate ensued. Of the fluency of the language that prevailed among the artists then and how brevity of speech and other distractions have taken over now. The factor of time and lesser distractions, the only form of entertainment, of the youth and their ways of change through generations, all forming legitimate reasoning throughout the informal talk. Change brings development and progress. And change shall always be looked at cynically by the generation that has gone by. Each generation shall always play true to the present and how wonderful it is. The older and the elder shall always lament the lack of ingenuity now, and harp on ‘those were the days’ …
And it is most interesting that the debate continues even in the studios of today among many and I find myself in a unique position of having been with ‘those days’ and having the privilege of being with the ‘now’. The average age on set must be 25 or 30 today. For a 70 year old that is a frightening difference to find himself among these youngsters. But it is I must agree a most educative experience for me. I enjoy the agression and determination to succeed among the young. Their passion and their confidence in never getting rattled by any circumstance. The relaxed devil may care attitude and the strength of being capable to deliver what they conceive or set out to do … I just love it … and I hope and pray that some small portion of their countenance would rub off accidentally on me so I could be better equipped in their circumstances .. !!
And as tomorrow dawns I creep into bed with apprehension .. its Balki again doing domestic service - producing film for the wife and has me in for a day’s cameo with SriDevi .. !!
Allow me then the departure to prepare and be rehearsed .. to take care of the butterflies that are being dowsed as I write, with liquid shakes from the kitchen, prepared with care and attention by Jaya ..
Good Night all and wish that all goes well tomorrow … !!
Amitabh Bachchan

As I wait for the appointments to mature during the late afternoon Big B

Jalsa , Mumbai       July  16/17 , 2011       Sat/Sun  1 : 18 AM
As I wait for the appointments to mature during the late afternoon, I sit myself down in front of the ‘black and white’ unknowingly, unaware and without purpose. And as the lights appear on the board signaling the operation in process is complete, the chords begin to vibrate on their own at the touch of certain ‘white’. Further down the mixed line of keys to sound, the fingers touch the smooth plasticated oblongs stuck close to each other in one symbolic orchestral embrace. A depression on one brings in the melody of instrument, the other the rhythm of percussion, and then it all plays out in related symphony. Of sound without a purpose or need. Sound for the sake of sound, but gratefully in keeping with the note of approval. The mind sings, the fingers move hesitantly ; for they are untrained and not worthy of music. The volume pushes it forward, the pedal at the feet expands it to levels of echo and of stretched note. Before you move to the next, the one before still rings loud and in continuity. Not much is heard, but what is, moves the elements of music to the ear. The eyes shut at times, the fingers search the ‘whites’ unsure whether they reach the correct spot and then … bliss !! Not a care or concern of the world, or life or work and commitment. Just the wave of connection with the purest symbol of godliness - well tuned sound in correct note …
Almost hours pass by .. unknown. It has this effect, music. And you almost wish it would never end. But it does abruptly with a crackle of electricity and we are down to earth and reality and greetings and formality and positioning and mundane speech on schedules and stories for the future. You wonder at times whether we registered any at all. But polite diplomacy and protocol never killed anyone, and so you concur and agree and approve without perhaps having understood the reason or intent. Does it really matter ? Get me the work, get me the story, get me the character, get me out of here and on to the floor, the camera, the people and co stars … just get me out …
When there is nothing there is television. However did we live in those early years without it. How symbolic and needful a tool it has become to compensate for conversation. And there through various breaks a journey of the lovely and distinguished Nargis from the time of birth to the time of rebirth. Fascinating nostalgia. A historical journey through time and cinema and the greats that trod the bastions of the varied studios of those times. What an era that was - of Nargis and Madhubala, of Waheeda Rehman and Nutan and Suraiya, Meena Kumari, Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor, Dev Anand, Guru Dutt, Bimal Roy, Mehbood Khan, K Asif, Shankar Jaikishen, Naushad, Motilal … and the names just keep flowing, dwarfing us all in one large sweep. How incompetent and unqualified and inferior we feel in the reflection of just their names. Truly a Golden Era of endless talent and superiority .. never perhaps to be relived again ever …
That is the tragedy of time. It comes, lives and passes by, never to return. What remains is the reflection. Reflection to reflect and remember, and that is all …
Amitabh Bachchan

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