There are times when you remember Rosy, that tall, elegant, beautiful woman. Something of aesthetics dies out with the demise of a good artiste. When Rosy Afsari (that was how she was addressed officially) died some years ago, something of substantive beauty went with her to the grave.
When you reflect on Rosy, you cannot but dwell on those who have gone before her. Go back to Richard Burton. He was a Welshman who remains etched in the memory not merely because of his cinematic skills but also because of the clear elucidation of words in his delivery of dialogue. Every word, every phrase was pronounced to perfection. You could say much the same about Gregory Peck, whose thick voice appeared to lend him an authoritative air. That old exchange in a movie between him and Christopher Plummer remains part of the consciousness, for some very good reasons.
When you recreate the world of Dilip Kumar, you tell yourself with a sad shake of the head that there has never been anyone quite like him. Be it in the movie Aan or Ram Aur Shyam, Dilip remains inimitable for his acting prowess. Besides, have you ever noticed the suavity with which he uses the Urdu language, not just in the movies but in real life as well? As one would say, there is something khalees about his delivery of a language out of which has emerged some of the finest poetry in the world. There was then Sanjeev Kumar, who died too early, too young for us to be able to come to terms with the happenstance. He was a serious actor who could with ease slip from a tragic into a comic role. He shared tragedy with Jaya Bhaduri; and he fooled around with Moushumi Chatterjee. You think of Uttam Kumar. There is the lanky, very young Uttam in Bibhash, singing Ato Deen Pore Tumi Gobheer Andhar Raate; and then there is the late thirties Uttam happily taking Sharmila Tagore for a ride on the wings of Prithibi Bodle Gachhe Ja Dekhi Notun Laage.
For quite a few of us, the old scene of Razzak singing the Mahmudunnabi number, Borho Eka Eka Laage Tumi Paashe Nei Bole, even as a demure Kabori watches from behind a curtain, remains a defining moment for youth. It is a song we have sung for years; and in our middle age, it keeps reminding us of the spring which yet flows through our sensibilities. Anyone who has watched George C. Scott in Patton will have a fairly good idea of the real Patton who rushed through the war blowing Nazi Germany into smithereens. Scott's angry outburst, 'A whole world at war? And I am left out of it?' rings in our ears yet. And then comes the climax, 'I must be allowed to fulfill my destiny'. Scott refused to accept the Oscar for the movie. That was a brave thing to do, something not many are equipped to handle well, or at all.
Old movies, you might tell yourself, often tell us stories of ourselves, of the dreams we once shaped around our sensibilities. Laurence Olivier was, and remains, for my generation an icon whose stock rises higher with the passing of the seasons. As Othello, he reminded us of the murderous male jealousy that could throttle a loved, desirable woman. As Hamlet, he will forever be a hearkening back to Shakespeare, to the indecisions that make half-men of many of us.
Perhaps sooner than you know, the astral Catherine Deneuve will pass on. On a day of rain and thunder, the cerebral Aparna Sen will fold into memory. Stars, like everything else, burn out in their furious journey through space.
The writer is Executive Editor,
The Daily Star