Eyes are vulnerable — those tenuous instruments, as blind Borges called them — and film is vulnerable. And it is the confrontation of two such vulnerabilities which makes the cinema such a poignant medium. — Bresson (‘Notes sur leCinematographe’).
Looking at Deepti Naval’s plain yet attractive face in Saath Saath. I thought there was after all a girl on the silver screen you could identify with – a pleasant identification, for she emerged as a strong-willed person who made her own decisions. Even the love-story wasn’t far-fetched. It could have happened to you, or to any other woman.
Saath Saath is not a very arty movie. It’s a soft, realistic, semi-serious film. But it’s one of those few ‘new wave’ Indian movies which make me wish we could have the same kind of parallel cinema in Pakistan.
What strikes me most about these films is the portrayal of women – the emergence of assertive, strong women who have a mind of their own, who think, and question decadent norms of society, and struggle to better their own lot.
This ‘new woman’ of Indian cinema is quite a contrast to the image being portrayed since ‘Alam Ara – the .meek, submissive, suffering soul.
I recall my teenage days during the early ’60s, when my mother who was very fond of Indian movies, found in me a willing companion to go to the cinema. An accomplice who would whisper “Let’s go.” Before the clock struck 3 we would come out of the house stealthily, leaving behind the other kids and the household for three hours of a fantasy ride.
Our favourite actress was Nargis who looked like such an innocent wounded gazelle with her large woeful eyes and sad lyrical laments that made me sob. The woman on the magic screen always suffered, silently. Her fate was sealed with misery. She was always the loser. And we loved her!
When I grew up, Indian movies were gone and so was my taste for soap. I almost started hating movies with escapist stuff.
It’s only recently that I had the opportunity to watch a few films. And I loved them.
For instance, Jabbar Patel’s Subah was a powerful movie about the plight of common women. And about a woman who felt for them.
And the woman I saw in Arth! What do you do when you find love is an illusion and the dream world you build can collapse like a house of cards? You turn to your own self. That’s what she did. Found inner strength.
So I wonder why we can’t make films that deal with realistic themes, that comment on social and political evils, that reflect upon the changing role of women.
I was excited when a friend of mine told me she was thinking about taking a course in film-making. Perhaps one day she, or someone else, would come out with a low-budget experimental film on women’s issues. And I am sure there are many young people amongst us who have visions, and dreams, and aspire for reformist cinema in Pakistan.
I wonder if the VCR with all its evils hasn’t done at least one good — inspire potential of would-be directors to bring the much needed change in our cinema.