Volume 1 : Cover Topic - Iranian Cinema (1)




The Persian Nights

Mrinal Chakraborty

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It's a time when all stories go wrong : even the fairy tales.All the fairies of our growing up, our culture, our interactive flirtation with nature, have gone back to our memories of underdevelopment. They have left us only a few glimpses of unconnected moments chained loosely together by a flimsy thread. This is a brilliant narrative method that originated, perhaps, in Arabia, in the stories of Shehrazade. This loose thread is brilliant beacuse it's so simple, careless, and absolutely unselfconscious. In the middle of the fantastic rhetoric of Shakespeare, in the middle of political upheavals, strange things happening in a mad world, a messenger informs Macbeth that his wife is dead. Now how should Macbeth react? Should he cry aloud? No good. Should he slap the messenger? NG again. Shakespeare is too clever for such stuff. His Macbeth mumbles, 'She should have died hereafter'. So simple and so brilliant! This is not the right time to die. After this perhaps, after the nearly-mad man has coped with the enemies of heaven and earth, she could die, but not now.

This simple narrative pattern is perhaps the major element of Iranian films which can pose greater challenge to thousands of innovative technology, intellectual brooding, selfkilling sexuality and other obsessions of the Western films, including those from Hollywood. After all, they are one-we are the other. Among our film-makers (or practitioners in any form of art for that matter) only a few could be remembered for their starkly original narratives. Ritwik Ghatak is surely one of them, in spite of the chaos that clouded his mind occasionally, and in spite of the body that often failed. Satyajit Ray, in this sense, has two films to his credit : Pather Panchali and Gu Ga Ba Ba. The rest, even his feudal adventures, have the Western format so far as their narratives are concerned. After these two, sadly, we have no more of the Mohicans left. My education in films is humble and self-earned, and I claim no authority whatsoever on the technical subtleties of filmmaking. But as I don't see any difference between a football or cricket match and filmmaking or staging a play or writing an epic or falling in love, please bear with me for the moment – you have borne with many other incompetent writers before.

It's a time when all stories go wrong : even the fairy tales.All the fairies of our growing up, our culture, our interactive flirtation with nature, have gone back to our memories of underdevelopment. They have left us only a few glimpses of unconnected moments chained loosely together by a flimsy thread. This is a brilliant narrative method that originated, perhaps, in Arabia, in the stories of Shehrazade. This loose thread is brilliant beacuse it's so simple, careless, and absolutely unselfconscious. In the middle of the fantastic rhetoric of Shakespeare, in the middle of political upheavals, strange things happening in a mad world, a messenger informs Macbeth that his wife is dead. Now how should Macbeth react? Should he cry aloud? No good. Should he slap the messenger? NG again. Shakespeare is too clever for such stuff. His Macbeth mumbles, 'She should have died hereafter'. So simple and so brilliant! This is not the right time to die. After this perhaps, after the nearly-mad man has coped with the enemies of heaven and earth, she could die, but not now.

This simple narrative pattern is perhaps the major element of Iranian films which can pose greater challenge to thousands of innovative technology, intellectual brooding, selfkilling sexuality and other obsessions of the Western films, including those from Hollywood. After all, they are one-we are the other. Among our film-makers (or practitioners in any form of art for that matter) only a few could be remembered for their starkly original narratives. Ritwik Ghatak is surely one of them, in spite of the chaos that clouded his mind occasionally, and in spite of the body that often failed. Satyajit Ray, in this sense, has two films to his credit : Pather Panchali and Gu Ga Ba Ba. The rest, even his feudal adventures, have the Western format so far as their narratives are concerned. After these two, sadly, we have no more of the Mohicans left. My education in films is humble and self-earned, and I claim no authority whatsoever on the technical subtleties of filmmaking. But as I don't see any difference between a football or cricket match and filmmaking or staging a play or writing an epic or falling in love, please bear with me for the moment – you have borne with many other incompetent writers before.


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