Your friendly neighbourhood Bengali can dissect a film and its frames as fast and fine as s/he can dissect an ilish maach. S/he will take it apart in no time, pointing out the flaws in the fish or the freeze frame, and how the baajaar (both the film and fish baajaar, obviously) sold quality stuff back in the ol’ days.
Then s/he’ll present to you, before you can make any excuse to sneak away, his/her knowledge of Satyajit Ray - leaving you feeling a tad bit stupid (and bloated). Now, 60 years after Pather Panchali, we tell you exactly how to present your own authoritative opinion on the subject. 1. Agantuk (1991):
You must say you first discovered the genius of Utpal Dutt in this Ray film, which was also Ray’s last. Because, "only unkaalchaared people remember Utpal Dutt for all that ‘eeeshh’ and ‘beta Ramprasad’ business from Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s 1979 film, Gol Maal."
2. Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne (1969):
Light a cigarette, blow two rings in the air and say, "The juxtaposition of children’s entertainment on the surface with the strong political undercurrents of the time could only have happened in a Ray." For maximum impact, say it with the cigarette dangling from your mouth the whole time. And if you want to really go for the jugular, then hurl this at them: "The ghosts’ dance sequence showed even the ghosts are following a set social order. They were soldiers, commoners..." trail off, and enjoy the adulatory looks.
3. Ghare Baire (1984):
Memorise this sentence: “The characters’ intimate struggles within and without in the backdrop of Bengal Partition is beautifully depicted.” Before anyone prods you further, throw in a bit of trivia – “It was Jennifer Kendal’s (Shashi Kapoor’s wife) last film appearance” – and exit the scene.
4. Mahanagar (1963):
Form sentences with the following words: lower to middle-class lives, urban reality and women’s economic freedom. Again, before the other person tries to ask you further details, fling another Bollywood fun fact at them: Did you know Mahanagar was Jaya Bachchan’s first ever film appearance as a teenager? Yes, that’s right, you philistines. Even before – much before – Guddi (1971)!
5. Kanchenjungha (1962):
Set them up by saying how these days ‘Bolly filmmakers’ don’t use black and white enough. Insert generic chit chat about the difference between colour and B&W format. Then give the example of Kanchenjungha – Ray’s first film in colour – which showed he could give the same “treatment” to story and screenplay irrespective of format. (Never say ‘Ray could handle’, ALWAYS say ‘treatment’).
Save the most popular for the last, to avoid suspicion from those more discerning than you. Say you’re bored of the same poverty-porn allegation that’s levelled against the film. And then say you personally like the sequel to it, Aparajito (1956) better. That should do.
Bonus: Whip out your smartphone and show them the image of Ray with Akira Kurosawa together in Japan. THAT’S how big he was.
From HT Brunch, September 6
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