Sunday, August 02, 2009

Viewing “Casablanca” at the American Centre

Now the American Centre Library at New Marine Lines is open also on Saturdays, why not Sundays, too? It would be a great boon to chained-to-the-workstation fellows like me who hardly get any access to American literature as the libraries are closed by the time I drag my tired limbs out of the work space. These days employers can be very demanding and the load of work quite, well, burdensome.

So here I was at the ceremony to celebrate the newfound freedom of browsing the library’s extensive collection of book and find that “ Casablanca” is showing there. I have wanted to see this trendsetting and hit (in an old-fashioned way) film for a long time now having a heard a lot about Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman and the stories spun around this myth of a flick that has so much of a fin de siecle zeitgeist about it.

So I queue up at the American Centre to be frisked, cellphone off-ed, led to another queue at the first floor where I find that only those who had R.S.V.P.-ed are allowed inside. But there’s a positive side to it. In India people who have R.S.V.P.-ed never turn up and those who haven’t turn up in great numbers, and, so, I join this group to be informed by an official that there’re enough seats for everyone. (The solution is let them turn up and then issue them passes in the order they came, i.e., if you came earlier, better are your chances of getting a pass.)

So I stand with the popcorn munching crowd and there’s also the usual Indian deviousness at play here. One official has had a R.S.V.P. card filled for her so-and-so, though I doubt very much if he has bothered to call to confirm his attendance. What goes? Who cares?

A youth with a candy walks into the mini theatre and immediately someone cries, “he has a candy” and they go in hot pursuit of the “candyman” who has disappeared into the cool and dark interior. They succeed in nailing the “candyman” and triumphantly come out bearing their trophy in their hands. There are queer rules particular to every auditorium I have visited in Bombay, nothing standard. The allergy American Centre has for candy is manifest in Prithvi Theatres allergy for cameras. I was told in no uncertain terms that photography is strictly a no-no. Well, we have to obey rules, whatever rules they may be. So I obey all rules docilely while debating its merits internally. Prithvi’s rule makes sense because there’s peace in the audience and the American Centre’s rules for cellphones makes sense as there’s quiet in the auditorium and the library. But what about candy, I guess only the “candyman” knows. He must have been ticked off by two stridently feminine officials on the “danger of candy to movie viewing.”

Hm. So the R.S.V.P.s never show up though the film is well into five minutes of exhibition, so they decide to let us – intruders – enter into the sacred space where “Casablanca” is showing in all glory. I miss the beginning, which is where a movie should be viewed, to get the feel of its tone and mood. Never mind.

Half way through the movie several youngsters walk out. Reason: it’s in black and white and the story develops quite slowly (no dinchack-dinchak, tun-tun-turrrrn, excitement of Bollywood movies here). There are several fat, tall guys with broad shoulders that are blocking my view and I have to crane my neck: top, bottom, sides to have a view of the proceedings. A quick fight develops in the back row where two women fight loudly over a seat one has reserved for her friend. “Why do you have to yell?” one says at the top of her voice. They are hushed and peace returns.

“Casablanca” is all about self-less love, the sort the world has never seen since the days of, well, since those days. Bollywood movies show love triumphing in the end, but it’s the true love of errant lovers that triumphs. But this is a story about true love being sacrificed for the institution of marriage, which is what Rick Blaine (played by Humphrey Bogart), quite nobly, does in the end. I have never seen Ingrid Bergman act, and, man, is she is a beauty? “Top class, number one, men,” as Anthonybhai would say.

Just a thought: wish some Bollywood director would make a movie with a similar theme, I am sure it will be a hit.

No comments: