Sunday, April 24, 2011

When memory ...

This was in the days when you didn't know what the picture would look like until the entire roll of 36 shots was used up and you sent it for development. Uncle joined a photography class, working out his homework of painting a glass, half filled with water, in the evenings, as the niece and the nephew and the daughter scrambled to see what was it that was being done. There would be some interesting words floating in that room - 'perspective' being one of them.

As the course advanced, the three kids followed him around, bewildered at all the machinery and the set up that was now being put up in that little room above the garage. The glass was being covered with black chart paper. There was something sinister in it, the kids thought. Uncle suddenly talked about what was it like when there was a war. To keep the houses drowned in darkness, for the sake of safety, the lights were put off in the evenings, the glass windows were covered with thick black clothes when a lamp was lit. It seemed to be a story to the kids, like the one they read in books.

Years later, the story of the war is suddenly re-lived. The numbers of the dead, of the injured, of the demolished , the heroes and the villains, the sounds of the guns and the bombs - are returning to the consciousness. This time around, there are no popular names, no popular faces, no history text books analysing the primary and the secondary causes of the war. This time around, there are only faces of people who could have been an acquaintance, a friend, a lover, a family.


It all began with Kurosawa's Rhapsody in August. 

The musical name and its soft vowel sounds betray the unease that permeates this film. While their parents visit a newly found relative in America, the kids spend their summer holiday at their grandmother's country-side home. The long lost and the newly identified relative is supposedly one of the grandmother's brothers. The grandmother doesn't remember it however. The kids spend their time speculating how wonderful it would be to go to America.

They attempt to remind their grandmother of her past, so that she would accept the invitation of her 'brother' to visit America, along with her grandchildren. In the process, they unwittingly have a view of a war that is only a story to them. The ripples of the devastating atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 touch their hearts for the first time in their lives.

In the sun and the rain of their summer holidays, they come to know their grandmother as they have never known before. Her silent ways perplex the kids at first. They do not understand why their grandmother sits, face-to-face with a woman, for a long time without uttering a single word. The silhouette of the two silent old women, with white light flooding in from the background creates an uneasy frame even for the viewer. Later on they come to know that, both the old women had lost their husbands to the atomic bomb.

A distant past, untouched by the children, returns as a newly realised emotion in the now.   

To be contd.