Phalke to Pyaasa

This year’s Dadasaheb Phalke award, for the first time, goes to a cinematographer, and that to V. K. Murthy, the man who shot Guru Dutt!

Who can forget those wondrous sequences from Pyaasa (1957) where the dejected poet comes to his own memorial meeting as it were, and sings, ‘Ye Duniya Agar Mil Bhi Jaye to kya hai’….’What if you one has conquered the world….a world riven by a thousand differences and a million mutinies?’ . And the crescendic declaration, ‘Jala do ise phook daalo yeh duniya’, calling for the violent end of an evil world.

Who can forget the scene from ‘Kaagaz Ke Phool’, where the lone director is seated on his crane as the withered flowers and dead leaves of the past hurtle past him in the storms of the present.?

If several scenes were praised for ‘their astonishing cinematic mastery’, as well as the play of light and masterful crane movements, much of the plaudits must go to Murthy, who belonged to the first batch (1943-46) of a cinematography course in Bangalore’s S.J. Polytechnic.

Kagaz ke phool, which failed on its initial release, was the first Indian film in cinemascope — another feather in Murthy’s cap. But the new format was not about innovation for its sake, but adding to the tensions of the film by using spaces to create meaning.

That so much of the beauty of frame and camera movement leant poignant meaning to Guru Dutt’s films is testimony of the close relationship between filmmaker and cinematographer. Murthy has thanked Guru Dutt as if he were alive, which indeed he is. It takes more than some sleeping pills to kill a man of Guru Dutt’s stature.

The award to Murthy, is almost like an award to Guru Dutt….and this year’s Phalke award becomes yet more touching as it calls to the present an undying moment of the past.

Jyoti-less Basu?

Even as doctors prepare to dig their knives into Jyoti Basu’s donated body, Ashok Malik in Times of India’s op-ed article, has driven a stake into Basu’s legacy.

It is a stinging ‘tribute’ to the West Bengal chief minister of 23 years, teeming with searing one liners that mark the signposts of Basu’s contra-bution to the state.

‘In the heart of his devotees, he remains the greatest prime minister India never had’

‘Ironically, the most fervent praise for Basu came from outsiders’

‘From Bangalore to Boston, every buzzing city has its share of Bengal’s refugees….’ (This sentence buzzing with B’s puts me in memory of my Hindi teacher’s famous sentence on Bengali pronunciation of English : Mr Bisbanathan bas bondering in the Beranda!).

‘Calcutta is a museum piece, the world’s largest old people’s home….In his twilight hours he began to resemble his terrifying legacy’

Malik credits Basu with hounding out business, computers and English…thereby marching the early industrial state into the heart of darkness (salaam to Koestler).

What about his land reforms, the magic wand of the communists?
‘If out of the 100 poorest districts in India, West Bengal has 14 (of the total of 18), what reforms are you speaking of’….is Malik’s take.

With so many crosses to bear, Basu surely deserved the pegs he shared often with the late sixties West Bengal governor Dharma Vira, whom he lampooned publicly as Delhi’s reactionay agent.

The most telltale tribute however come from Taslima Nasreen: ”I was eager to meet him in hospital but I was not granted permission to visit the country”.

Pachauri’s faux paus

The grey line on Pachauri’s otherwise dark beard had triggered some doubts in me…was this a symbolic statement about glacial melting?

It turns out that his designer beard was a fashion statement with as much truth in it as his institute’s deadline for the Himalaya to melt away!

I thought it was our handsome Jairam who discovered this first, but it turns out that he was only reading Sunday Telegraph diligently.

Now the British department for International development has ordered full institutional assessment of Pauchari’s body to find out whether it is melting normally or abnormally.

Questioned on TV, Pachauri sidestepped questions on his deadline by saying he was looking into it, but was it wise to throw the baby of climate change with the bath water of supposedly inaccurate projections.

But the question is, is Pachauri baby or bathwater?

Murthy picture : Mangalorean.com

Setting the frame

Hind ki naaz

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