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Cinema of relationships September 9, 2006

Posted by ujj in inside story, Reviews.

Appu trilogy and The bicycle theives have one great thing in common. Both the films show things important to a mans survival in a very trivial manner.This is a great thing because it is not easy to show them without emphasising on them. For instance, it is important for a father to have the support of a small child and to do that the father tries to placate the child in a very rude way, infact ostentatiously shouting at him. To the audience it is all too frivolous, but I feel things like these are the substance of films depicting “realism”. In Apur Sansar, Appu has his first good meal after many days, thanks to his friend, the food has a euphoric effect on him, he is so high that even in indigence, he is ready to reject a job offer to pursue his ambitions. This also seems as one of the comic scenes of the film, but having watched the film, several times, I felt it speaks a lot about the relationships Appu has had over the years. His sister combed his hair for school, his father did enough to get him Diwali crackers, his mother saved money to send him to school in Calcutta so in fact all his happiness is attributed to people he was related to. He never did anything himself that made him as happy, and now his friends presence gives him a strange confidence and strength to go on and chase his dreams.
If we consider these films as being “realistic”, which most of us would agree with, then one must agree that a cinema of realism is a cinema depicting relationships, as if one observes a characters life in vacuum, he would have nothing but virtual strings of relationships. The only happiness in the life of the old aunt of Durga are perhaps the moments when Durga brings her a fruit. Durga is the only person who “openly” cares for her and gives her enough reason to stay on in the house in spite of regular taunts from the mother of Durga. She comes back when Appu is born, as his birth gives her a reason to feel “usable” again, as she is the one who will tell them stories etc. Every character in Appu trilogy has had certain experiences, and almost all of these have been due to the presence of other people around them. Some of the exceptions that can be cited are the experiences of Appus father during the time he has gone to the city to earn money (Pather Panchali). These experiences are not important to the film, not because we are noat concerned with the father, but because whatever things happen to him in the city, happen because of people not important to the film. Same experiences like the simple meeting with a Bengali traveller who comes to their house in Benaras, becomes important as meeting a person coming from ones own place is an important relationship. some might argue that those scenes are unimportant, but actually these incidents bring a sense of reality into the film.
Riccis friend Baicco tries to help him find his bicycle, though they are not successful, it is interesting to note the way some people totally unrelated to Ricci, a young man and an old man, probably working with Baicco, are trying help him. For a few moments Ricci and those two unknown people are sharing a relationship of achieving a common goal. In one of the light scenes of the film, the father and the child are having dinner at one of the restaurants not affordable by them, and Ricci says, that if “your mom were to see us”, this I felt was too wonderful a real thing to say in a film, makes me feel Ricci, his son and his wife are for real. Both the trilogy and bicycle thieves may also be argued to be films showing economic dependence, social stratification and/or effects of industrialization/development, but if we were to go one layer deeper, one would notice the important thing are the relationships a man shares. These may be with his co-workers, his boss, his friends, his neighbours, his family or economic relationships. Relationships are important in any real thing. The two works of cinema shot at different parts of the globe (probably once inspired the other) have this thing in common and this is the thing that make them different and at the same time so obviously real.



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