The Death Herald!

At the core of my simplistic cinematic sensibility lies a big, collective sob.Most of the best selling movies are united in their obsession with death and a profound sense of loss. In its many forms, death mirrors the soul of these films. Death is the film!!

Now this is how it goes, lets start from the old wines!

Though no one dies on screen in Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam, the golden bangle on the skeleton which is found clearly symobolises the downfall of the “Khandaan”.And it’s Chhoti Bahu’s man-friday, Bhootnath (Guru Dutt), representing a new rising middle class, who is the unfortunate cause of her end.

Next one is something which is according to me death’s pavement for transformation. In Do Bigha Zamin, death is a metaphor for societal transition, but here the collapse of the old order and the coming of a new one is a change for the worse. The death of Shambhu’s (Balraj Sahni) wife Paro (Nirupa Roy) parallels the loss of his treasured piece of land. The factory takes over the farm and agriculture gives way to the industrial economy. The newborn modernity signifies no more than drudgery, exploitation, and dehumanisation.In-human transformation!!!

Now this is death s glorification to the highest extent.Pyaasa and Kaagaz Ke Phool mourn the death of creativity in a world peopled by insensitive loots of art. Pyaasa probes societal hypocrisy: how it recognises a genius only when he is no more. The resurrected poet Vijay (Guru Dutt) mocks at his own posthumous fame and makes a call to destroy the world itself: Jala do ise, phook dalo yeh duniya. Kaagaz Ke Phool is structured as a slow build-up to the final moment of death of filmmaker Suresh Sinha (Dutt), as he gradually loses everyone and everything: his wife, daughter, beloved, his fame and fortune. Both films reflect Dutt’s fascination with death. In his pragmatic world, it is a romanticised entity, offering the artist an assurance of fame and a release from pain.

Death redefines the dynamics of the eternal father-son relationship in Mughal-E-Azam andAwara. In Awara, Raj Kapoor murders his surrogate father and then tries to kill his real father in the pivotal plot device that spotlights the film’s core debate: are criminals born or is it their upbringing that turns them into one? In Mughal-E-Azam, Prince Salim (Dilip Kumar) challenges his father, Emperor Akbar (Prithviraj Kapoor), to battle. All for his love for courtesan Anarkali. He is defeated and condemned to death. Though Akbar eventually relents, what jolts the audience is a father ordering his own son’s death. It’s the ultimate test of his love for his child. But, more importantly, it scores the bending principle of royalty which the film celebrates arrogance: that the Emperor will do away with anyone who threatens the stability of his empire, even if it’s his own son.

The mother-son conflicts in Mother India and Deewar climax in death. Nargis does the ultimate sacrifice of killing her own defiant son and in Deewaar, the prodigal son dies in the arms of his mother. In both, the son’s death signifies a restoration of order, traditions and value systems personified by the mother. Death is a return to innocence, a journey back to the womb.

There are too many deaths to remember in Sholay; after all, death is the business of its driving force, Gabbar (Amjad). There’s Kaalia’s squeeze amidst wild laughter, the blind A.K. Hangal search for his son Sachin’s corpse, the massacre of the Thakur family, choreographed to the sound of horse hooves and a screechy swing. The most tragic, of course, is the end of Jai (Amitabh), engineered by himself through the fraudulent toss of a coin. No other film has turned death into such a magnificent spectacle.

And if you count on the modern day cinema, Rang De Basanti can be considered as movie which cruises its story line on basis on deaths.Be it martyrdom portrayed in pre-independence era, death of best buddy Madhavan, death of the Defence Minister and finally death of all the protagonists.Above all movie sporadically brought on screen the demise/end of nationalistic feelings amongst the youth of today.This is where the movie hits you and hits you hard.The way Daljit Singh ‘DJ'(Aamir) puts across final conclusion saying “Jindagi jeene ke do tareeke hote hai..ek; jo raha hai use hone do..yaa zimmedaari uthao use badalne ki”.

But once I realize that its getting a bit too far for me to take these magnanimous collapses of on screen characters is making me bit scratchy in my approach to life, I switched my mind to Rajani Sir’s world where can he even kill the DEAD SEA!

-Ashwath


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15 thoughts on “The Death Herald!

  1. Brilliantly written ashwath….. We all lives in the world o cinematic characters in one way or the other,,,, and i guess what filmakers know better than us is that death shows us how to live…. and thats the point all these films drive home…..

  2. Shirish Hudli:: good write up, death is always been fascinating in books and films, in a way it adds up to the glamour. Unfortunately it is not the same in real life..

  3. Thanks Shirish..I know books and movies glorify..and even though its horrific in real life we still are able to relate the on screen happenings

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  8. Wonderful post!
    I’ve never made this comparison though it was all right before my eyes.
    I hate RDB’s ending. I can’t handle that much death.
    Lol@ the last line. That’s one way to look at it.
    None of the main characters die. But almost always, at least one parent dies around the beginning of the movie. That, changes everything.

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