I have always wanted to write a blog that talks about the 100 or even 200 movies we all must see before dying! Then I realized that since I watch so many movies, this would be difficult to do! There are just too many good movies, great ones, stunning ones, all over the world, and it just seemed too hard to do! What could I leave out?
Then today I was just messing around on You Tube and happened to alight on the short stories of Prem Chand, one of India’s most stunning writers, turned into television shorts by Gulzar, again one of our most entrancing film makers, who is also a poet, a magician of music, and much more.
I had fallen into a small enchanted haven of such exquisite creativity that I could not move to even make lunch! Luckily I always cook too much so I did not starve but I had to drag myself off the magic to make coffee. First of all I discovered that Prem Chand whose stories are about the rural poor, the urban poor, and all those faceless people around us, whose stories often slip through the mesh of daily living, is a maker of some kind of merciless magic. It makes us see these faceless people, the ignored, the set aside, the forgotten of our world, who live their lives bravely, sometimes beaten down, sometimes surviving, with deep clarity.
Munshi Prem Chand’s pen skillfully, soulfully embroidered on screen by Gulzar, has the most spell binding Indian actors ever seen. The stories are so heartrending, stained with sorrow, and the frightening brutality of poverty crushed under pitiful human frailty, that they are almost unbearable! Pankaj Kapoor once again proves he is probably one of India’s most exquisite actors. It makes you wonder whether his son Shahid Kapoor, also good, will ever reach his father’s very high stature!
Another awesome spellbinder is the frail, marvelous Surekha Sikri, who along with Pankaj Kapoor reminds you all over again, what real acting is. It resonates in your soul as you watch them enacting the darkest, the most dreary, or the happiest most unforgettable pockets of living!
One short story Kafan, is about a very miserable father and son waiting hopelessly for the son’s very sick pregnant wife to die! They cannot pay for the midwife to come and deliver! They are just wondering how to pay for the shroud! This tale is unnerving and very painful to watch. You will never forget it! Then there is the long film, Godaan equally heartbreaking, very difficult to see, and just as difficult to walk away from! It all starts with the gift of a beautiful cow!
As these, and many more gems from Prem Chand’s pen emerged from Gulzar’s golden treasure chest, the day became mesmerizing. I realized then that even if I could not sit down to remember all those movies to warn you not to miss before you die, this was one of them! Before you die you have to see Godaan and all the shorter stories bordered around it like a silver and gold chain of delight that winds around your heart and tightens it till you can barely breathe. And yet you can easily forget lunch and dinner, as you soak up this spell of wondrous storytelling.
Godaan was also filmed with another very good actor, Raaj Kumar and actress Kamini Kaushal, with Mehmood, Shashi Kala also very fine stars, which I plan to see next!