There is something magical about cinema. The magic of cinema that is for real. It is for those who like to dream. And for those who feel. There is the unparalleled fun of buying tickets, queuing up for oversized popcorn (caramel for me, any day) and soda, locating one's seat in a semi-darkened theatre and settling down for two-three hours of celluloid entertainment. As the lights dim, voices dwindling into audible whispers, images appear on the screen and one is transported into a world of make-believe, enacted by real-life people otherwise known as actors. They play roles, living lives the stories of which are untold, taking one to a realm that is speckled with a potpourri of relationships, situations, interactive responses, mixed emotions and more action-and-reaction that one normally associates with multiple lifetimes. Movies evoke feelings of the type that one generally remains closed to, and the experience of the most mundane act of watching a motion picture becomes a highly personalized act. For movie lovers like me.
There is also something special about watching a movie in the solitude of one's room. As the day settles into that relaxed mode when the bustle of life retreats into silence, after one's kid is kissed goodnight, the few pages of the book one is currently reading are savoured, one picks up the remote control to click on the movie in the DVD player. It's very rare that one comes across a movie that captivates, as most of the stuff that is being produced in both the woods -- Bolly and Holly -- is of such forgettable quality that by the time the end-credits roll, one has trouble remembering who wooed whom, who hated whom, who was beaten up by whom, and whether it was the hero or the villain who gets the woman in the end. Or she walks into the sunset with another woman.
The genres vary, but all hold a unique place in the realm of what works as gratification of the senses. Whether it's a straightforward love story, complex drama, slapstick comedy, brooding black comedy, glitzy action, scintillating animation, murder mystery, gamboling musical or a political thriller, all have a charm distinctively their own. A movie is meant to entertain. Primarily. Then the other aspects of the process of movie viewing weigh in, albeit subliminally.
Once in a while there are enactments that startle. There are nuances that make you think. There are portrayals of emotions that make you retreat within you. There are stories that echo of the dilemmas that broke your heart once. There are situations where you wonder how your responses to a similar one took you to crossroads where you chose the way that took you far from who you were. There are characters who are a déjà vu of that one friend whom you trusted more than those you shared blood with. There's that one love story that depicts all those unspoken emotions that you thought you had long locked away in that unused closet in your room where you keep the mementoes of the love that just was not meant to be yours, nestling side by side with the memories you thought you had escaped from.
There're tales of bravery and determination that strengthen your faith in the crumbling system of society and politics affecting your life. There're sagas of real or fictional history of mankind that speaks of the indomitable power of time, the constancy of change, and the frailty of power that hopes for immortality. There're bonds of relationships that survive it all: time, heartbreak, betrayal, separation, destruction, and even destiny. There're lessons that come with living the life of an ordinary mortal, in conflict with one's soul, surroundings and society, each day and each interaction weaving a story with no beginning and no end, just the mundane narration of an existence that just is. There're words that make you smile, situations that tickle you into artless laughter, and characters that make you feel as happy as that six-year-old in the park across your house playing with his droopy-eyed dog.
There are those stories that awaken your mind to the truth of things you only felt within you, connecting you to the universality of human emotions that mark lives as naturally, as simply as the stars that dot a dark sky.
Movies that speak to you are rare, but those once-in-a-while movies are the ones that remind you why you fell in love with the world of cinema in the first place, once upon a time.
The magic of cinema that is Wyler's Roman Holiday. The joy of watching movies that is Fleming-Wood-Cukor's Gone with the Wind. The delight of witnessing surreal extravaganza that is Fellini's 8/1.2. The dreaded anticipation of what-will-happen-next in Sturges' The Great Escape. The magnificence of storytelling that is Coppolla's The Godfather trilogy, Apocalypse Now. The absolute brilliance of Singer's The Usual Suspects. The wicked, dark-humoured world of Tarentino's Pulp Fiction, Inglorious Basterds, Django Unchained. The multi-hued, multi-nuanced, multi-layered women of Benegal's Mandi, Kalyug, Sardrari Begum. The deceptively simple yet complex characters of Ray's Pather Panchali, Charulata. The splendour of cinema that is Kubrik's Paths of Glory, Dr Strangelove. The art of making films that you love of Hitchcock's Rear Window, Rebecca. The unforgettable dialogues of Curtiz's Casablanca. The legend that is Sippy's Sholay. The timeless romance of Anand-Danielewsky's Guide and Gulzar's Aandhi.
The magic of cinema that's Truffaut's La Nuit Américaine, Jules and Jim. The extraordinarily magnificent rendition of ordinary lives in Bhardawaj's Maqbool, Omkara, Haider. The indelible pathos that mark Ghosh's Choker Bali, Raincoat. The inscrutable world of Bergman's Persona. The delightful cinema of Tornatore's Cinema Paradisio. The brutally bare and cinematically brilliant City Of God by Meirelles-Lund. The "masala" entertainment of Desai's Amar Akbar Anthony that set new trends in mainstream Hindi movie-making. The heartbreaking yet heartwarming ties of love that is Majidi's Children of Heaven. The love that is forever of Haneke's Amour. The stunning world of Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The immortal romance of Chopra's Veer Zara, Lamhe, and his groundbreaking action-drama Deewar. The soul-stirring tale of Prophet Jesus' earthly ordeal in Gibson's The Passion of the Christ. The fragility of emotions in Like Someone in Love by Kiarostami.
The magic of cinema that's Scorsese's The Aviator, Gangs of New York, Taxi Driver, The Wolf of New York. The groundbreaking Seven Samuari of Kurosawa. The one-of-a-kind talent of Spielberg in his ET, Schindler's List, Lincoln. The mind-blowing splendour of animation in The Lion King, Toy Story, Shrek, Up, Tangled, Frozen. The larger than life extravagance and canvas of Bhansali's Devdas, Guzarish, RamLeela, Black. The dark, unsparing world of Verma's Satya, Sarkar. The crooning, dancing, farcical characters of Grease, Chicago, Moulin Rouge, Cabaret. The before-their-time Star Wars of Lucas. The indescribable magnificence of Jackson's Lord of the Rings. The enchanting world of Harry Potter. The sophisticated world of the most famous spy in fictional history, Fleming's James Bond. The mindboggling action sequences of Mission Impossible, Spiderman, Ironman, Terminator, Superman, Hulk, Jurassic Park. The vision of Cameron as he searched for Titanic. The tales that define the exquisiteness of love in Eastwood's Bridges of Madison County, Lee's Brokeback Mountain, Cassavetes' The Notebook, Wright's Anna Karenina. The extraordinariness of human spirit that is resplendent in Scott's Gladiator; Howard's Cinderella Man, A Beautiful Mind; Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby; Schaffner's Papillion. The rom-coms that are expressions of love in a cynical world in When Harry Met Sally, Pretty Woman, Sleepless in Seattle, The Mirror has Two Faces, My Best Friend's Wedding.
And I stop. The list of splendid films is endless and the constraint of word-limit is as real as the pancake on the faces of those who make ordinary stories come alive with their performances. Amidst the cynicism, bleakness, negativity and outright viciousness of the world that we exist in, side by side, scrambling for a piece of attention, there are all these works of human mind that take your hand, guiding you to refocus your perspective. It could be a beautiful painting. It could be a song composed with heart. It could be a book written with feelings. Or it could be a movie that talks of the world other than your own, yet very much your own. Here's to those who feel, notice, think, and create. Here's to the wonderlands they discover for you and me. To walk in. And forget about the world around us for a little while. Here's to movies...