Action louder than words

Celebrating Cinema

Action louder than words

Commemorating 100 years of Indian cinema, Suchitra Film Society recently organised film screenings at the Alliance Francaise. Presenting films from the initial years of Indian cinema, the evening showcased three different silent films –– Raja Harishchandra, Kaliya Mardan and Jamai Babu.

Each of these movies stood apart in their genres and were screened according to their releasing years. It started with Raja Harishchandra. The movie is about morals, where the noble and righteous king Harishchandra sacrifices his kingdom and his family to honour his promise to sage Vishwamitra. The screening progressed to a mix of comedy and supernatural genres.

Kaliya Mardan had the audience in splits with young Krishna’s antics. Jamai Babu, a funny story about a country bumpkin getting lost in the city, feigning an illness to prolong his stay at his in-laws household, being beaten up for sneaking into his wife’s room and getting mistaken for a thief, was the finale to the evening.

Chiranjiv Singh, president of the Alliance Francaise, said, “It’s noticeable that women didn’t work in movies back then as it was considered disrespectful. Thus men portrayed the roles of women. Also, there is a strong influence of Raja Ravi Varma’s paintings in Raja Harishchandra. This can be seen in the opening scene itself.”

Anand Varadaraj, secretary of the Suchitra Film Society, said, “This was a great opportunity to display the efforts that the National Film Development Corporation has been making — by reviving old film reels and making them into digital versions. These films should be enjoyed in a group and discussed.”

Even though these movies were starkly different from those of today, the audience were pleasantly surprised and excited about the screening. Harish Kumar P L, a retired teacher, said, “It’s nice to see that there were even youngsters in the crowd. Films like these which are historical in their making and in content, reflect the true colours of our country.
The acting, the storyline, direction and the angles in each scene shows the limitations of the industry back then and the notions of those times.”

A theatre artiste, Shilpa K, said, “The fact that actors back then enacted in front of the camera as if there was a live audience is amusing. Even in today’s theatre, artistes don’t show their back to the audience for a long time and it was amusing to see this on screen. The importance given to make-up and elaborate expressions, in silent movies is another highlight.”

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