It may not be a classic but…

A film that clearly has a devoted following

A film that clearly has a devoted following

 

I have been a daily reader of The Guardian Newspaper for at least the past thirty years, and have become familiar with many of its excellent feature writers and journalists. The Guardian covers topical news items in depth and often with a critical perspective, but sometimes an article attracts my attention more for the quirky nature of the story than the seriousness of the content. It was one such feature that held my interest this weekend.

Under the heading “Bollywood Romance that Keeps on Giving” Sharin Bhatti from Mumbai reported how, having been shown every day since its release in 1995, the management of a cinema in that city had decided to take the film Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, (roughly translated as “The Brave-Hearted Will Take Away the Bride”) described as a Bollywood Classic, off its schedule. The film, starring the actors Kajol and Shah Rukh Khan apparently tells the story of an Indian couple who fall in love whilst on holiday in European, and recounts how the boy tries to convince the girl’s parents that she should marry him rather than the boy that her father has chosen for her. (I haven’t seen the film personally so can’t tell you more than this). The film is the longest running in the history of Indian cinema.

Almost immediately after removing the film from its schedule the cinema management found themselves with mass protests on their hands. The manager Mr Manoj Desai described how he was overwhelmed by the public outcry and felt that he had no option but to reinstate the film. The record is therefore likely to be extended well into the future.

The choice made by The Guardian to publish this article, may result from a lack of other more serious stories, though I like to think that news of this nature, is designed to raise a smile by reporting one of the more amusing incidents that whilst seemingly trivial in nature, clearly does matter to some people. My own decision to reflect on this article is influenced by a similar situation encountered whilst cycling through the magnificent countryside of Ireland a few years ago.

After several rather wet days in the saddle, pedaling through the rugged and weather beaten landscape of County Mayo and Connamara between Lough Mask and Lough Corrib, on the west coast, we arrived in a little town called Cong. Here we pitched our tent in the lee of a wall to gain some shelter from the impending storm. Having settled our place and secured our bicycles Sara and I made our way to the campsite office and were provided with the usual warm Irish welcome and furnished with information about the locality.

Cong, we were informed was famous for having been the location of a Hollywood movie, which has “put the area on the map.” The film described, directed by John Houston and called “The Quiet Man” starred the screen idol John Wayne, and Maureen O’Hara and was made in 1952. So proud of this film are the people of Cong, that throughout the summer season it is screened free of charge every evening in a small cinema located on the campsite.

The predicted storm arrived, and so it was that the evening saw us making our way to the cinema to watch this Technicolor epic. And so began one of the most bizarre evenings I can recall. Having settled down into our seats we observed that the audience comprised other members of the campsite community, alongside local people for whom this was a regular, and in some instances, nightly venture.

Throughout the film a lady sat next to us knitting a sweater, when the film was finished she informed us that she came to the cinema every evening, every summer. Two other ladies who sat near us, without a doubt had a similar record of attendance, as they knew every line of the film and managed to recite them from the opening until the final credits! Elsewhere, members of the audience unpacked sandwiches or opened picnic baskets and proceeded to share in their evening repast. In all honesty, the film is far from a masterpiece, telling the tale of a misogynistic Irish-born American from Pittsburgh, who travels to Ireland to reclaim his family farm and meets and falls in love with the fiery Mary Kate Danaher played by Maureen O’Hara. However, watching the audience served very well to keep us entertained and also provided welcome shelter from the lashing rain.

Since that visit to Cong, which has much more of interest than The Quiet Man to offer the visitor, we have often laughed as we have recalled that evening in the campsite cinema. Never before have we experienced an evening at a film that has done so much to bring a community together. This was a cinema going experience like no other. The film seemed almost peripheral to the social experience.

This weekend’s Guardian report of the emotions stirred by a Bollywood film gave me cause to recall that enjoyable visit to a beautiful town in Ireland. I would happily return and repeat the experience tomorrow.

A film that provides a social event for locals and visitors to Cong in the summer.

A film that provides a social event for locals and visitors to Cong in the summer.

7 thoughts on “It may not be a classic but…

  1. Hi Richard – I have a vivid memory of seeing an Indian movie in Jaipur 1990. I was travelling with a friend at the time, and we decided to go an see the popular movie at the time – Danatar (I think) – entirely in Hindi and cobbled together with lots of dance and singing scenes, alongside what would clearly have been stock footage to, I assume, save on costs. Some of the stock footage was even in black and white! The movie contained a popular song at the time ‘Tama Tama Logi’ and I vividly remember the audience literally dancing in their seats and singing along. I didn’t understand a word of it, but nonetheless it is one of the best movie going experiences I have ever had.

    • Hi Tim,
      Over the years I have learned that cinema in India can bring a nation together or divide its people. I am also aware that as well as the all singing, all dancing Bollywood experience, India has produced some great films – as seen in any production by Satyajit Ray.

  2. Very true Richard,Media in India is very powerful!But finding good stories ( message to the society) have become very rare these days…Directors forget most of the time that they have ” social responsibility” rather they look at it as a money making projects…

    • Hi Sathyasree,
      I suspect that the financial “bottom line” will always dictate what happens in Bollywood and Hollywood. Fortunately there are still principled film makers outv there who see that they have a social responsibility and a powerful media for change with which they can work.

    • One of the most principled film makers, Richard Attenborough sadly died last year. He made films about men of principle, including Gandhi and Steve Biko and in doing so donated the proceeds of his films to good causes. Ken Loach is another film maker who has made films with a social and often political message, again with a not for profit motive.

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