Growing up, I looked forward to the Sunday Afternoons. The obvious reason being the holiday from school and college routine, the second one being the Sunday regional movie. The 80’s and 90’s, before the age of multiplex, we had to credit this program for introducing us to the doyens of cinema from across the country. Of course, the subtitles in English helped us understand the context even though we could not completely understand the nuances that the original language conveyed.
I can still remember my reaction seeing the “train”, scene from the movie Pather Panchali. At that time I did not know that the scene was iconic. There was no internet to “google” it out. I only read in the Hindu news paper about Satyajit Ray. Those days and even today, the schedule of the TV was also printed in the news papers. So seeing that it was a movie by Ray, made me curious, and I watched the movie.
That I was blown away by the movie, is an understatement. I can still recall very vividly, the train scenes. The swaying grass, the black smoke from the coal engines and the rattling sound of the train, still stays with me. Was it because of my fascination with trains that I remember the scene very well? I am not so sure. Most kids when we were growing up, were fascinated by train journey. That it was not very frequent added to the charm. Every one who grew up in that era will have found wonderful memories of the occasional train travel.
Pather Panchali was the first regional movie I saw on Door Darshan, and I was hooked. From then on, I made it a point to watch all the movies they played, even when I did not recognize the director or the actors. I watched movies of actors whose names were never mentioned down south, like, Biju Phukan, an Assamese actor.
Adoor Gopalakrishnan , Shaji and Shyam Benegal became familiar names which would other wise never have been familiar. I still remember the shock that stayed with me after watching, “Piravi” – a Shaji’s film. These movies were so different to the mainstream Hindi and Telugu movies we watched. That they were very thought provoking is an understatement. They depicted reality in a very straight forward fashion. Many criticize these movies for, “romancing the poverty”, but these were stories that needed to be told.
The best of the lot for me was, Ghare Baire, the movie that got the two maestro’s together. It was made by Satyajit Ray based on the book written by Tagore. By then I had read Gitanjali and was blown away by it. Till this day, it is the book that I go back to. I have written my humble tribute here to this Master Piece. I had also started reading his novels and Ghare Biare, was one of those. The scene where the heroine takes a long walk from one end of the verandah to the other was my most favorite scene. The tiles were black and white stones, like the chess board, and signify the internal conflict that the protagonist was facing.
The movies are many, the memories are vivid. I do not recollect all the names now, but I can remember some scenes very well. Now in the age of Internet, when these movies are available on YouTube, the charm of watching something unknown, the anticipation which builds up the whole week, culminating in the actual event, was something that cannot be replicated.