The other day my dad asked me to read The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka. I did and we discussed it. We had a highly spirited discussion where he defended the book and I dissed it. My dad and my sister were both on one side and I was on the other. Yes, I am a part of the reading crowd that does not think The Metamorphosis is genius. I didn’t ‘get’ the book. I wouldn’t say it’s trash, but on a scale of 5, I would give it 3. This is also why I have refrained from reviewing the book on Bookhad. What am I supposed to say about a giant vermin in a closed room?
In an absolute tangent, I read The Post Office by Rabindranath Tagore. This is a story that I will always, always remember. In the recent past, nothing has touched me as much as The Post Office has. It’s a short play about a boy named Amal. Amal is confined to his house due to an illness and he awaits a letter because he believes it will come. The innocence of Amal and his honesty shine out of the page (the Kindle screen, in my case). It’s a must read. Chuck must. It’s compulsory reading. Because the human interaction of that book is so great, you’ll never forget it.
A few days after he asked me to read The Metamorphosis, my dad’s favourite movie Devdas (the one by Bimal Roy) was aired on tv. He told me to watch it. If I cared for actual filmmaking, that is. Quite reluctantly, I watched it. More so because what Sanjay Leela Bhansali has done to the story is quite unpardonable. Just like what Ghajini has done to the image of Memento. I don’t understand how these filmmakers who ruin art can ever sleep at night. Anyhoo. I saw Bimal Roy’s Devdas and I was surprised. It’s an excellent movie. Suchitra Sen is stunningly beautiful and Dilip Kumar is both handsome and effortless. Although I knew the story, the storytelling is striking. For example, when they’re young, Devdas throws a stone at Paro’s roof and she comes running down to meet him. It’s that one simple scene, one simple act that stays with you. There are certain things characters do – or rather people do – which become their defining characteristics. The movie is peppered which such narration. I didn’t love Devdas because it’s an everlasting love story. I loved it for Suchitra Sen and for Paro. (I think Devdas could have done with a backbone, but what the heck, that’s who he was.) There isn’t a single scene, dialogue or reference in the movie about how she’s a weak woman or someone who needs empowering. And that’s so brilliant. There isn’t a single allusion to her being the one who gets cast away by her lover. No shame, no injustice, nothing.
When I saw Devdas, I saw a story of three people. Each one being a person in their own right. I didn’t see the need to put a saviour versus accused angle to it, which most of our representations today carry. Many may say, this could be because she’s a Bengali woman and Bengal is matriarchal. So I did some thinking. If you see Sharmila Tagore in Amar Prem, although she’s a courtesan, there’s no demeaning her character as well. Have you read about Ghalib’s wife? She didn’t need saving, too. All of these were strong women in a day and age when ‘women empowerment’ wasn’t such a roar. And there is no dearth of such women – not then, not now – then what’s the hoohaa about. I simply don’t ‘get’.
Of late, men have stopped being men. And women have stopped being women. Each one wants redefinition. A real man would not disrespect a woman. A real woman would not use her gender to get her way. That’s that. And that’s why I am not a feminist. I find it wildly entertaining when I see the enlarged sense of entitlement people have these days. And what’s more, the way people throw around the big words – love, hate, and the lastest one – leaders. Not one of them has an inkling of what a ‘leader’ is like. It’s the hardest thing a person can be. Here, people are finding it to be men and women, and we’re all throwing words around like ‘leaders’ as if it means nothing. It’s fucking ridiculous.
My first manager once told me something I have not forgotten. To paraphrase badly, he said that the damnation of this century will be that we will forget how to learn, unlearn, and re-learn. I’ve been thinking about something quite often these days. Ever heard the story of how someone helped a butterfly come out of a cocoon while it was struggling to break out? This story of helping ends badly. The butterfly was never able to fly when it emerged from the cocoon because its wings were denied the struggle which would have made them strong.
Now that is something I ‘get’.