I met ‘Movies’ on Monday night. And was speechless. How do you speak to ‘Cinema’? How does one have a dialogue with ‘Motion pictures’? How does one ask ‘Film’ a question? Unless you are Amitabh Bachchan, I think it is best to be silent when you watch a movie or its synonym , Steven Spielberg. Yes. I genuinely believe, despite being the biggest fan of Woody Allen, Vittorio de Sica, Majid Majidi, Giuseppe Tornatore, Clint Eastwood, Ang Lee and a few others, that movies must be rechristened Spielbergs. It is possibly the biggest tribute we can pay to movies.
When teenagers in the ‘80s expressed an interest in movies, pat came the reply from their parents, ‘Bloody fellow thinks he is going to be a Spielberg... Shut up and study!’ When producers wanted to put their directors in place they were always told, ‘Hello... what do you think you are, Steven Spielberg?’ (Never who. Always what.) When actors wanted to refuse a film they always said, ‘Even if Spielberg comes I don’t have dates for the next one year.’ Everyone spoke of movies like they were an aspiring Spielberg. Note... I say spoke.
Accessible technology, a few path-breaking films from James Cameron, Spielberg’s own quest for infusing cinema with depth, with a mission to remind us of the glorious lessons in history and of course his passion for creating and grooming other extraordinary talents through his DreamWorks and Amblin empires... all have contributed to a slight downgrading. From an ET, now to just a phenomenon.
On Monday, at the masterclass with Steven Spielberg, Steven was introduced with a video of shots from his work and somebody exclaimed... ‘What a body of work!’ As if to announce that he was just an extraordinary director. But even by the mood of the last few years, assuming movies have got the chutzpah to think of themselves as equals to Spielberg, I believe we can safely rechristen movies as Spielbergs without insulting Spielberg, as we may have after Indiana Jones Part 1.
A lot has been written from Duel to Tintin. A lot has been felt and spoken. But I believe Spielberg’s best Spielberg is Lincoln.
ET got swamped by Gandhi at the academy awards. ‘The Movie’ never forgave Gandhi. Twenty-nine years later came a reply that was deeper, more profound and more relevant than ever. Funny how children make the finest portrayals of adults. Yes, I believe that ‘The Movie’ is a child who has always strived for an A-grade that has never quite been granted to him, despite being shown kingly respect for Schindler’s List and The Color Purple. Lincoln is the aspiration for a true adult. Made by a child. What a Spielberg!
My take... Besides all the obvious reasons for its greatness, Lincoln is about a white president fighting for black freedom. One among the oppressor class out to correct things for the oppressed. A man who is tired, with a voice deliberately pitched lower than his colleagues, out to change the world for ever. A man who will let a battle rage on between whites for the sake of the blacks. To win the ultimate human war. A lesson for all majorities, privileged humans and people who have granted themselves power over other people. A story that is far more difficult to connect with. A story that seems far less grand than a man in a loin cloth, one among the oppressed, winning a country’s freedom from oppressors. But Spielberg reinvents storytelling again. For just Lincoln, movies must be renamed Spielbergs.
While speaking of Spielberg on Monday night, everybody forgot John Williams. I think movie music should be rechristened John Williams. I wish Music had come along with The Movie on Monday night.
Seriously, if we love our popcorn, we should do these things. Because there hasn’t, isn’t and won’t be another like these two ever. And it was fitting that an Amitabh Bachchan welcomed Spielberg. As there won’t be one like him either. So Amitji, your next, Satyagraha, can be a Prakash Jha Spielberg, its John Williams by (don’t know the music director yet). And the best Amitabh Bachchan award goes to....? Let’s honour the movies please.
(The writer is an acclaimed filmmaker)