Journal : Movies From East And West Each

I      GUDIA – [ The (Triumphant) Doll ] – Directed by Gautam Ghose

Trailer :

Full Length :

A gem from another age, it seemed while I watched it yesterday. It portrays the lost art of ventriloquism and uses folk theatre within the narrative set in modern times, with its characterstic consumerism, social conflicts and corrupt politics. The beauty of its tale, its simplicity of structure, and the human complexities it deals with, would have made Satyajit Ray proud.

The movie has a simple story about a puppet doll, Urvashi, literally a demi-goddess of ethereal beauty, that is passed down from the master to his protégé along a series set in tradition. From start to finish, the entire presentation is of intense human interest. The relationships its main characters have with the doll, and with each other, is complicated. In the background is a political clime that has transitioned into demagoguery and corruption. The common people suffer but are unawaredly manipulated and are gullible enough to fall prey to the guile and machinations of the powerful and their cliques.

The cinematic content is delivered on a Pymalion – like theme. Master Hameed is the ventriloquist who loves his craft and, it is soon revealed, loves the doll intensely. He bears complete responsibility towards her, as if she were his beloved, clothes the doll lovingly in whites and makes her up with a woman’s close care for details. True to her name, Urvashi is beautiful when decked up and his own devotion to her suffuses his entire being, in the way he addresses her and speaks of her to others.

But, one day, he expresses his anguish at her ageless, ever youthful and bewithching beauty. For his own body is run down with age and tires.. Soon, his voice fails to carry over that lilt and loudness needed for a public performance. He is no longer capable of the singing and conversations that accompanied his hugely entertaining acts. And, handing over the doll to the care of his protégé, he says, ” This beauty will forever answer your calls and join in the conversations you strike with her before your audience, so long as you are honest in your speech and speak the language of love and truth, so long as there is rhythm in your delivery and tune in your songs.”

The protégé, Johnny, in turn dedicates himself to the beauty, who comes alive to his calls on stage, even after he shifts base to the city. He is fawned over by a friend’s daughter, Rosemary, whose mother he had once loved. But Johnny was taken up, very enthused and preoccupied, with his art. He was bewitched, and happy.

That did not last long though. Johnny’s art was noticed by the political class, who force engage his services to hold audiences during election times, to deliver their appeals to the public. At first, Johnny tries to fend and fob them off but his attempts fail. He takes to the stage at their bidding but there his words fail him. Though speaking through his own vocal cords on behalf of the doll, he senses that the doll was not enthused by his loveless act and untrue words, as if she were alive. The debacle shakes him up and his conscience.

In his next act, far into the suburbs, Johnny rises to the truth within him and he enacts a satire on the corrupt politics, a spoof he truly felt. The doll accompanies the performance, the art blooms, and the audience is engaged… but the political henchmen who follow him, and their supporters, attack the stage, beat him up, tear the doll to pieces in their rage and throw it in the sea nearby.

The movie ends on the second rise of Johnny, who has now discovered himself, but with a live “doll” on stage. The girl, Rosemary, whom he had all along regarded as a child, found a way to his attention and to his heart during his days of soul-searching turmoil. Love surged and music flowed… fulfilling them, and the audiences, once again.

“The film has a folkloric feeling,” said the director, Gautam Ghose, of his work. It has great shots of the countryside in Goa, a gripping tale very well told, visualised, detailed and portrayed. The movie is essential viewing for all who enjoy meaningful movies and are entertained by well made cinema. Today, it is compulsory study by students and experts alike. It was screened in Un-Certain Regards section at Cannes Film Festival in 1997, the same year when its director was awarded the  “Vittorio Di Sica” in Italy.

II     THE TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE, Directed by Robert Schwentke

This 2009 release breaks the timeline at regular intervals through the film. A Chicago librarian, Henry, suffers from a rare genetic disorder that sends him into his own past or future whenever he is drunk or stressed out. During one of his escapades, he meets a beautiful hieress, Clare, then 6 years old, and subsequently on his later time-travel break ins. But he does not recognise the girl in his face-offs as being the same one until they meet in “current” time and have the opportunity to embrace. Clare shares with him the several rendezvous they’ve had in past, and her love for him since her age. The impact of her revelation, of those peculiar coincidents, affects him deeply. Henry reads in them a call that draws him closer to her. Their affection for each other becomes mutual and intensifies, leading to vows at the alter.

But the time travel forays of Henry do not stop after marriage and the story thereafter is about a couple trying to live a normal life given the bizarre condition the husband has. Our suppressed sniffles over their romance are proof of the touch the film continues to have with us, despite his disjointed ‘ travels.’. They make use of Henry’s time-travel powers to buy a handsome house with a “studio” for Claire’s artistic pursuits. But Henry gets vasectomy done on him because he doesn’t want children to inherit his genetic time-travel curse. Claire still wants kids, so she has sex with a pre-vasectomy Henry, who has zipped forward from a time before he had the snip ! In the end, Henry’s cause of death is in fact rather wittily invented : not at all the po-faced tragedy we all might have been expecting.

Does the time travel work as a metaphor for our memories of the past and expectations of the future ? Well … that is what it triggers in some of us in the audience, though profound meditations on time are not the point, and offers an interesting ride. A few clips would reveal….

Take for instance that hooking up with our soulmate who we first meet when she is a six-year-old girl, and eventually marry. We are not the ignorant kid then… but someone from our own future, perhaps a thirty-old. That kiss of the future with its past remains with us undefined, unexplained… a bunkum fantasy we’d not give a moment…. which but is the most durable effect the sequence has on us in the audience, compared to all that logical nerdines we otherwise live with and the emotional swoon we otherwise happily suffer over a romance that defies eras, age ranges and every semblance of narrative logic. That the actors pull off such Oprah-friendly, sci-fi-inflected sap and keep straight faces is the most fantastic thing about this loopy love story.

And, I believe, that is the point about this film… not time travel it announces or the love story it depicts. Young Henry had seen his mother die in a car accident. But imagine… his own future adult persona comes on the scene, speaks to his own kid form to reassure him, rather himself ! ” All is well.” ” Everything will be fine.” We hear the assurances, but this time not from another person whose motive we do not know or little understand. There is no disjointed distance between the voice and ourself. It is our own. We are indeed reassured because it our self that promises the certainty. And the orhaned kid is sure, without doubt, that all will be well. The accident and the death is crippling, horror debilitating… but there is a morning in future when “everything will be fine.” The future is present !

Then, there is that sequence in the tube, with his mother, when she is yet alive. Henry is now an adult, with the mother in his past. The dialogues are intimate and seem disjointed in the lady’s perspective. But the mammoth moment of possibility is yet clear, if inexplicable. Henry is the kid at that future accident in which the mother dies, but is also that still in the future Henry who is an adult, who survives the accident and the trauma, and lives the “everything will be fine” premonition in reality. His love for his mother has survived and, right then, is communicated to the woman who is yet to experience that deed of hers at the wheel, which separates her from her son forever. Which orphanhood of her son she sees happening while she dies, and is excruciatingly horrified of.

“The Time Traveler’s Wife” is without a beginning and an end. It just continues, back and forth on the time scale and advancing at a slow pace over a long stretch of time with the growth of all the main characters. Their thoughts on Henry’s travelling have a profound impact on him : from friends who do not understand initially to his father who discourages him and his turn to alcoholism. But like the best of tales, there are some things Henry doesn’t know even with his disability. His cause of death is one of those, which proves his being was as normal as that of anyone else. He’s an accepting man because he’s seen it all.

Deconstructing “The Time Traveler’s Wife” with analyses would be foolish. It is a romantic, tragic, sci-fi hodgepodge of fate. But more, beyond the binding straps of realism, it is a film that needs to be accepted as magical and mysterious in order to delve into improbable phenomena, the forceful reality of unlikely happennings and the unfamiliar taste of places in time and our own heart.

This movie holds a promise that comes true in a most relaxed state of mind. It is a fantastical story of our entangled self, of our capacity for devotion spread across years and dimensions and rooted as much in the known as in the unknown..


4 thoughts on “Journal : Movies From East And West Each

  1. Reblogged this on verum intus, fulsi vacuus and commented:

    I am partial to this blog post when I had watched almost back to back a movie from East, Gudia, and one from the West, Time Traveler’s Wife.

    The one from East was directed by Gautam Ghose… and presented what seemed like transcendent existentialism. The Time Traveler was fun, with multiple dimensions potent within a plain love story.

    Read it here…

  2. This was really a fascinating subject, I am very lucky to have the ability to come to your weblog and I will bookmark this page in order that I might come back one other time.

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