A view from the box
B.D. Garga delves into the spell of celluloid in his book "The Art of Cinema"
THE GLORIOUS DAYS A still from "Mother India" .
Well-known journalist Dileep Padgaonkar (few in Indian journalism are aware of his knowledge, concern and passion for world cinema), sums up B.D. Garga's insightful book "The Art of Cinema" (Penguin-Viking) by recalling the legendary Khwaja Ahmad Abbas's advice to a fellow writer and chronicler.
"K.A. Abbas had once urged Garga to be the Boswell of Indian film. Given his down-to-earth temperament and his consistent refusal to wear his learning on his sleeve, Garga entertained no such lofty ambition. Instead, in a sober and suave manner, he chose to tell us why some films click and some don't, why a technician or a director has, or does not have, the stuff needed to enchant the audience. Those who have come under the spell of cinema, especially Indian cinema in its moments of glory, will raise a toast to his pioneering accomplishments." No wonder the book is dedicated `to the memory of (the already forgotten) Khwaja Ahmad Abbas'.
The eminently readable book has been divided into four distinct sections. The first section has been devoted to the four important technicians, the `Men Behind the Scenes' who are responsible for transforming a narrative and its enactment into a wholesome motion picture - the director, the camera man, the sound recordist and the editor. One wishes he had included scriptwriters, lyricists and music directors, amongst others, as they are inseparable at least to the Indian film.
The second section, `The Greats of Indian Cinema' seeks to highlight the contribution of legendary film makers like Himanshu Rai, Debaki Bose, P.C. Barua, Sohrab Modi, Nitin Bose, V. Shantaram, Bimal Roy, K. Asif, Kamaal Amrohi, Guru Dutt and Raj Kapoor. Few would disagree with Garga in his selection of masters of Hindi cinema, their contribution, individualistic styles and commitment to creativity on the cinema screens. He justifiably concludes the section, and chapter on Raj Kapoor with a telling observation. "In later years critics were to bemoan the lack of romantic lyricism and the intense emotional charge of his earlier work. Perhaps, justifiably. But there's no questioning his obsessive commitment to movie making. He lived, breathed and dreamed movies." In the section, `Indian Classics Revisited ' he seeks to dissect some films in a chronological order. "Devdas" (1935), "Sant Tukaram" (Marathi), "Achhut" and "Duniya Na Mane" (1937); "Pukaar" (1939), "Ramshastri" (1944); "Chandralekha", "Aurat" and "Mother India" (1957).
Censorship of cinema in India can never become redundant. And Garga tells us why. "Our cinema will remain mediocre, moralistic and platitudinous so long as it carries about its neck the deadweight of an unimaginative censorship.
It would be inconceivable to see a film where the ending is not happy, the villain is not punished, and honesty does not pay. All this with the `noble' intention of saving men from depravity and strengthening the moral fibre of the young."
One can only extend the argument, taking recourse to some recent recurrent incidents of the macabre kind.
Some rare black and white pictures make the book a collector's delight.
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