Here are a few favourites to look back on!​

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Right where it all began

Tagore on Screen

Teen Kanya - Samapti (1961) | Satyajit Ray

When the calm, composed and dignified Amulya returns to his village after completing his studies, his mother enthusiastically starts looking for prospective matches for his son. Being the ‘good boy’ that he is, Amulya follows his mother and meets the family of his bride and does all that an Indian groom is supposed to do. In the meantime, he comes across Mrinmoyee, the carefree, mischievous young girl of their village who is always busy playing pranks on everyone, cooking up new ways to be naughty. And Amulya falls in love with her. Mrinmoyee releases her pet squirrel into his room, steals away his slippers, and Amulya’s love only grows stronger. His mother finally gives up on her son and agrees to marry him off to Mrinmoyee, but our ‘pagli’, as she is called by the villagers, is not happy. She’s unwilling to let go of her independence and finds the shackles of married life suffocating. Amulya’s education forbids him to impose strictures on his new wife and he doesn’t pay heed to the advice of his villagers of dominating and scolding Mrinmoyee. The film ends on a sweet note when Mrinmoyee slowly discovers herself falling in love, and returns to Amulya, vowing to never leave him again.
Samapti forms a part of Teen Kanya, a set of three Tagore stories that Ray chose to mark the centenary of the birth of Rabindranath Tagore. Samapti is a refreshingly beautiful film, and the most striking part of the story is probably the fact that we find Amulya respecting Mrinmoyee’s choices and decisions, giving her time to understand herself and waiting till she returns to him on her own. Mrinmoyee is not the conventional heroine of Indian literature and the story does break a lot of stereotypes. Samapti is not about love, it is about Mrinmoyee and her transformation from a girl to a woman. Love is just a discovery in the process.

Film

Rajnigandha (1974) | Basu Chatterjee

When Deepa travels to Mumbai for her job interview, she doesn’t know she’d be meeting Naveen, her lover from her past. If she did, perhaps she wouldn’t have gone. But memories return without letting us know, and are often strong enough to sweep us off our feet. The first time we fall in love, with dreams and hopes, we think a lot about the end of it all. Forever becomes too real a concept to forget so easily, and long after we drift away leaving the stories incomplete, our dreams keep holding on. Deepa is engaged to Sanjay now, but Naveen’s sudden presence keeps tugging at her big book of memories. She cannot explain to herself why, after all these years, she remembers his favourite colour and wears a blue sari when she meets him again. She cannot help but compare the now responsible, punctual and efficient Naveen with Sanjay. Sanjay never arrives on time, coming up with elaborate excuses every time Deepa gets angry. Sanjay can spend hours talking to his friends at the coffee house, forgetting that he had left Deepa alone at the other table. Sanjay doesn’t notice her sari, ever. All that he does is bring to her fresh Rajnigandha sticks every day, the fragrance as innocent, pleasant and tender as Sanjay himself. Perhaps it is the flowers that help Deepa write the epilogue to her story. Perhaps it is the flowers that help Deepa realise that love is in the gentle smell of the wet grass on the morning after a violent thunderstorm, however exciting it is to get drenched in the sudden downpour.

Film

Aandhi (1975) | Gulzar

Aarti stands at her former husband’s door, and with her, stands nine years of distance. Nine years of struggle that has made her the woman she is – a powerful political icon, leader of the masses. Nine years of depriving herself of a family, of love – hiding an emptiness behind her success.
Busy with an upcoming election campaign, Aarti comes to stay at a hotel, unaware that it is now owned by J.K., the man she had once shared a home with. As memories comes rushing in for both of them, they cannot help but come closer. At the end of the day, Aarti slowly falls into the habit of coming back to him – she doesn’t care if these are false pretences of a home they had lost long back. Aarti had never wanted to stand before a choice, nor had J.K. ever dreamt of losing the only woman he loved. Yet, they had failed to hold what they had, drowning each others’ voices in the cacophony of their own. Love hadn’t been enough, or perhaps they hadn’t noticed it wither away. Now, they can only meet at night, for Aarti cannot afford to share this part of her life with the world. Every night, they visit a garden nearby, yearning to stretch the darkness for a few more hours of silent togetherness.
“See those flowers? They can be seen clearly in light. During the day, all of these areas are covered with water. And -“
“Why do you talk of the day? We can never come here then.”
J.K. stops, smiles and looks at Aarti. “See the moon? It can only be seen at night. It doesn’t come out during the day.”
 
I have a favourite song with a line that says, ‘Phirbo bolle phera jaay naki?’ – ‘Is it easy to return?’ It isn’t. And nor can Aarti, for she has climbed the mountain, drifting away from the past. The path from here doesn’t allow her to look back anymore.
“So, here you are
too foreign for home
too foreign for here.
never enough for both.”
(Ijeoma Umebinyuo, “Diaspora Blues”)

Musings

Love might arrive in various forms – sometimes like a cold winter shower, sometimes like a comfortable August breeze. Some of us fall in love often, some take time. It has never stopped being beautiful. Yet, there remains a chamber in my heart, and I couldn’t gift you the key to it. Even after the list of books I’ve made you read and films I’ve made you watch, I still have a song I haven’t played in front of you. I’ve had memories attached to too many of my favourite songs, could you spare this one? You’ve loved to hear my endless stories from childhood, yet I couldn’t tell you about the fleeting memories I desperately cling to, bringing me peace in the darkest of nights. All of this wasn’t meant to be a secret, yet this secrecy has provided a strange strength of companionship. True love is meant to be eternal, they say. Perhaps there will be a day – we shall sit down and talk about the little things we never knew. Someday, sometime.

Play

Ek Mulaqat | Saif Hyder Hasan

“Maine toot ke pyaar kiya tum se
Kya tumne bhi utna kiya mujh se?”
(Amrita Pritam / Letter to Sahir Ludhianvi)
 
On a wintry evening in Delhi, two old lovers meet for a conversation over a game of cards. They reminisce as the air gets heavy with memories and ask questions they had never asked before. Sometimes they feel like reliving the moments left behind. Sometimes, they find peace in the present, the moments they are assured of having for themselves. They gently nudge the past, talk of the other men and women in their lives. Sometimes, it is an analytical discourse between two intelligent minds, working out the reason why things never worked out. At other times, there’s a sudden flame, a blinding spark of undying love – never too old, never too late.
I had the pleasure of watching ‘Ek Mulaqat’ quite some time ago. One can never get over Sahir Ludhianvi and Amrita Pritam’s love story and the intensity with which it was played on stage by Shekhar Suman and Deepti Naval. Poetry, music and words flowed freely as the story unfolded on stage, the backdrop being the terrace of Amrita’s house in Delhi. Ek Mulaqat explores a timeless love story – fascinating because of the characters. A rebellious poet who could unabashedly speak of her love, and a famous lyricist who could never do so. To explore the depths of Amrita’s love for Sahir, one must come across her other lover Imroz, the artist who had never cared for any other man in her life because he was so sure of his own feelings for her.
As they sit talking, one cannot help but marvel at the beautifully designed set – so simple, yet so stunning. The audience slowly becomes a part of the conversation – until they are jolted out by a sudden telephone call…

Film

In Which Annie Gives it Those Ones (1989) | Pradip Krishen

This honest, fresh and raw film aired once on Doordarshan at midnight and disappeared. Written by Arundhati Roy, the film is set in the National Institute of Architecture, where the students are juggling assignment submissions and table tennis matches, grooving away to rock n’ roll on full blast as they prepare for their final year jury submissions. These students are the youths of a liberal, free-thinking India, rebellious (and definitely anti-national by today’s standards) in their healthy disregard for the authority but honest in their thoughts. Annie has spent four years in his fifth year, still coming up with his revolutionary ideas that might change the world, but never being able to deliver what the teachers want. The jury wants rational, realistic students who can meet the client’s needs of a sea-facing resort while Annie is stuck with his ingenious idea of a fruit orchard on the Indian railway tracks, fertile with shit.
Roy plays Radha, the cigarette-smoking, dauntless young lady who comes in to deliver her presentation wearing a hat with her sari, unabashed. She, along with her boyfriend, decides to help Annie do what is essential and finally get him out of college.