The story of Moll Flanders, the girl who was born in Newgate prison to her whore mother and dumped at the age 8 months to be looked after a succession of sisters in the 17th century England. Story of one misfortune after another each of which she wriggles her way out successfully through her wit and charm and little bit of crookedness.
Story of her whoredom, to marriage with succession of husbands, many of whom died, of her children innumerable there were and all of whom she abandoned, of incest with her husband who later turned out to be her brother and her life in crime for stealing so many items from people and stores. The story takes her from London to Virginia to Ireland to Lancashire back to London to Newgate and thence to Virginia. Looks like a full life story for one debauched woman of that time.
Defoe’s narrative comes of second best, when he rambles on continuously using long sentences sometimes running into paragraphs. None of Moll Flanders’ co characters are given names except the first two brothers Robin and Robert. Everyone is either the husband or Lancashire husband or brother etc.
Brilliant noir film by Satyajit Ray, “Nayak” (1966) explores the dark underbelly of a film star’s imperfections. Made in black and white and starring Uttam Kumar and Sharmila Tagore as the central protagonists, the film is shot entirely inside a moving train except the opening shot and few sequences in his dreams/ recollections. Arindam (Uttam Kumar) is a huge film star going to New Delhi to receive an award in a second class train from Calcutta of those days. His arrival at the train station and inside the train creates a buzz amongst the passengers. Aditi (Sharmila Tagore) is a journalist writing for a women’s magazine and wants to interview him. Over the course of the interview which takes three to four sittings, Arindam degenerates his personality from a confident movie star into a insecure, distressed, unsure, nervous person due to ephemeral nature of his profession. All along his biggest fear is that three flops will take him down to the gutter. Satyajit Ray has interspersed the narration with three to four episodes from Arindam’s past such as his first ever day in the films, his betrayal of his friend who becomes a union leader, his inability to help a lady who wants a career out in the movies. In one scene he is seen desperately clutching bank notes as he is sinking deeper and deeper into a morass from which even his mentor Shankarda is unable to help him. Satyajit Ray has also added minor sub plots in the movie in the train itself with one lady wanting to act in the movies but whose husband wants her to inveigle herself to a potential client who is enamoured of her. That man’s wife and children are in the same coupe as Arindam and the daughter who is sick from the beginning of the train journey recovers towards the end. There is a Hitchockian touch to the movie. The to and fro between Uttam Kumar and Sharmila Tagore is brilliantly done and Uttam Kumar’s character from a confident assured movie star to a distressed despairing insecure individual is brilliantly done by Uttam Kumar. Sharmila Tagore looks glamorous and alluring when she removes her thick glasses.
A 1971 Gulzar classic, his first directorial venture, this film is all about Meena Kumari. In a brilliant bravura performance of an aging grandmother, she carries the film entirely on her shoulders. The film captures the angst of the youth in that era with no jobs and frustrated at lack of opportunities in socialist India of those times. on top of a broken down education system. Vinod Khanna and Shatrughan Sinha are two friends turned enemies with their own camp followers. Meena Kumari is a widow staying peacefully in her village, when she is duped by some so called relative to come and work as a maid in their house for no money. Tragedy follows Meena Kumari at every step, from losing her husband at early age, to being duped until she finds some solace in taking care of two orphaned children and then Vinod Khanna and his friends become her confidantes and admirers. The political landscape of that era is the same as today’s – uneducated, illiterate politicians seeking to exploit the voters through illegal means and espousing violence. Gulzar has made a statement with this movie, its a kind of a rebuke of the then government in power. Not much of female interest in the movie, except for one jilted love of Vinod Khanna. One beautiful haunting song by Kishore Kumar (koi hota jisko apna). Ending is very moving and touching.
Classic Satyajit Ray movie “Mahanagar” made in 1963 in black and white once again a woman centric movie by the master, after “Kanchenjunga” which was made in 1962 also a woman oriented movie. Quite a genius to make a woman centric movie in the 60s, advanced thinking for the ages. This one is a beautiful film with traces of psychological drama in it, but Ray brilliantly picks it up towards the end. Brilliant performance by Madhabi Mukherjee in the main role of Arati the demure wife of Subrata Mazumdar, the banker who is just making by with his salary with old parents to take care of plus his kid and a sister as well. They live in a old ramshackle house with no fans and no cooking gas. His father is a retired teacher and likes to play the crossword in order to win some prize money. Then they decide that Arati can work to supplement the income of the family. She applies and secures a job as well and becomes quite a star performer in her company. Then all hell breaks loose because it is a patriarchal family system, how can a women go out and work, a silent war rages on between the elderly in laws and the woman. But pangs of jealousy and guilt start hurting the husband, this is where Anil Chatterjee as the husband has performed a bravura role. The wife starts earning more, starts wearing lipstick, sun glasses, appoints maid for the house, meets other gentleman in a cafe, all of which troubles the husband. The husband also loses his job because of a run in his bank. There is one shot in the movie, when Arati is eating and leaves the plate on the floor and asks her husband to do something in a subtly higher voice. The transformation of Arati as demure, house bound, insecure woman to a confident, courageous, bold woman is quite brilliant and subtle and Madhabi has done her part quite brilliantly in that. At this juncture, Ray takes the script down to show the decay in the husband and when i think he would go for the complete melt down of the husband, but that does not happen. There is one instance in the end, when the husband says to the wife “if you succumb what will happen to us”. Ray has controlled the pace in the movie quite brilliantly. The final shot is fitting in that he pans over a city with tall buildings, the only time, the movie refers to its title “Mahanagar” meaning big city. Beautifully made movie which has the master’s stamp all over it.
Picture taken from the internet and not with an intention to violate the copyright.
A classic from Ernest Hemingway for which he won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954. Its a simple story told in a simple form, of an old man a fisherman Santiago and considered unlucky in fishing circles because he has gone 84 days without a catch. A young kid is with him and enamoured of him but his family forbids him to go fishing with the old man. The next day i.e. 85th day the old man ventures far out to the sea in search of that elusive catch and manages to snare a big fish but the fish takes him around the ocean for two days and two nights all the while battling the old man for his strength and endurance. The old man respects the fish, starts talking to the fish but by the third day, the fish also gets tired and starts circling closer to the boat which is when the old man kills the fish with his harpoon. He ties the fish with a lasso around the boat since it would have been impossible for him to haul it on the boat since he was tired and also he was alone. But when he killed the fish, the blood attracts some sharks nearby and they attack the fish relentlessly. It is a metaphorical book, you can look at it from the view of the old man or the fish. The old man battles bravely but the fish is also equal to him. He has a great sense of justice towards the fish. Also towards Joe DiMaggio the famous baseball player whom he adores and whose father was a fisherman. So when he loses the harpoon and the knife, he uses the club against the sharks the DiMaggio way. In all the old man kills 5 or more sharks. All the time he feels the absence of the boy, and talks aloud that if the boy had been there, it would have helped him. In the end he is left with only the head, the tail and the skeleton of the great marlin. Goodreads 5/5.
The picture is taken from the internet and used only for representational purposes and not with an intention of violating its copyright.