There are scenes you remember from the old movies. Khan Ata's helplessness in the presence of a dominant wife and his consequent protest through the song E khancha bhangbo aami kemon kore is an image we will not easily forget. It happens in Jibon Theke Neya. But, of course, there is that huge political symbolism in the scene, given that the movie was a manifestation of Bengali protest at the injustices inflicted on what was then East Pakistan by the civilian-military-political bureaucracy entrenched in Islamabad.
That Khan Ata scene may not have had anything of the romantic about it. But think of Azim stretching and yawning in bed early in the morning as Sharmilee goes around preparing herself for the day. It is a perfect Bengali scene, with the cadences of Mahmudunnabi's tumi kokhon eshe darhiye achho amar ojaante playing softly on the record player. Romance is in the air, as evocative of meaning as the breeze swirling around Suchitra Sen's poignant smile of contentment when Uttam Kumar sings shurjo dobar pala aashe jodi aashuk besh to.
Romance must move toward passion. And it does in the movie Sunflower, when Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni kiss profusely as the latter prepares to board a train that will take him to the battlefields being opened up by World War Two. And then, in the same movie, it is the sight of a heart-broken, absolutely abandoned Sophia Loren boarding a train at Moscow to go back home that has you feeling her pain vicariously. She has travelled all the way to Russia in search of Mastroianni, only to discover that he has settled in comfortably with a Russian wife and children. No woman who loves can bear that pain with equanimity.
In the movie Ram Aur Shyam, a trickster in the form of an affluent Dilip Kumar consumes a very large amount of food in a restaurant before quietly sneaking away, without clearing the bill. As he moves out, a poor, naïve Dilip Kumar walks in and orders some food for himself. A surprised waiter is rattled, for in his mind the man has already eaten a lot (he has not noticed him walking away). Unaware of why the waiter is upset, our poor Dilip orders a cup of tea, after which an enormous bill (thanks to that other, wicked Dilip) is brought before him. The result is bedlam. Our Dilip does not understand why a cup of tea costs so much. The waiter does not know why Dilip, having consumed all that food, pretends he has not eaten anything. In the end, poor Dilip is made poorer, through his jacket being taken off him as payment for the food he did not order!
And humour? Remember the Pink Panther movies and all that lovable shoddy work done by Inspector Clouseau? 'The crooks never sleep and neither does Clouseau', he says as he clumsily investigates a case of crime. Or consider that other image, where Inspector Clouseau asks a character, 'Monsieur, does your dewg bite?' When the latter says no, Clouseau goes up to the dog, using baby language as he tries to demonstrate his affection for it. The dog bites him, whereupon Closeau tells the man, 'I thought you said your dewg deedn't bite', to which the answer is, 'Monsieur, that ees not my dewg.'
The writer is Executive Editor,
The Daily Star