Friday, September 30, 2011

Kitaab (1977)


As a kid do you remember a time when you felt like the whole world was against you, that there was no one who actually cared how you felt, that all that the world wanted from you was to read and write, and behave properly? Do you recall yourself lying down in your bed, face against the pillow, with uncontrollable tears streaming down your face? Do you recall a time when you wanted nothing more, but to escape to a world where there were no teachers and no rules; a time when you wanted nothing more but the very peace of mind the world was conspiring to keep away from you? I do, and now that I sit back and reflect on those times, it all seems too childish. Childish… now I come to think of it, it’s the word which is one of the most abused and most incorrectly used one in the English dictionary.


As adults or as grown-ups, people feel that their childhood was the golden period of their lives. More often than not you would find people reminiscing and thinking about all the fun they used to have in school, and all the fun that they could have-but didn’t have. All this is fine, but ask a kid whether he feels that he is happy with the world around him, and the way his life is going on- more often or not you would not get an answer in the affirmative. A child’s world is a really complex one, where each problem is like a stone thrown from the top of a hill. To the child at the bottom of the hill, it is a stone that is moving down with great thrust, threatening to hurt him and damage his life. On the other hand, to the adults at the top, the stone is nothing but a casual flick of the wrist- something innocuous, and something that does not deserve much attention. Adults really will never understand the plights of their kids, or rather will refuse to understand them, and rightly so- for they know that these silly issues would pass sooner than later, and the kid will realize his folly at giving it too much undue importance. But what they don’t realize is that it is this very time when a child is most vulnerable, and any casual handling of the winds that- as per him- threaten to storm his life, may lead to deep effects on his psyche that may not wear off even when he grows up.

Gulzar’s ‘Kitaab’ is an exceptional reconstruction of a child’s mind. It is a movie that is so thoughtful and so precise, that it seems like Gulzar had put himself in a child’s mind to construct this story (or rather he might have taken some autobiographical references). It is story of a boy grappling with the world around him, and struggling to make sense of the things that happen and don’t happen around him, in a manner that seems far off from what he thinks is logical. Babla (Master Raju in an unusual lead role for a Hindi movie) lives in Delhi with his elder sister (Vidya Sinha) and her husband (Uttam Kumar). He has been sent to the city that is far away from his hometown, by his mother, with the aim of giving him better education and a better environment to live in and blossom. A twelve year old righteous kid, Babla, who likes reading and writing more than the subjects he is asked to tackle in his school, is confused by the world around him. He fails to absorb the fact that the world expects children to get educated so that they can lead a respected life once they grow up and face the ‘real world’. To him the street-side ‘madari’ kid seems to be in a better position for he is not made to attend school. To add to his confusion, he cannot understand why his mother has sent him away from her, and why his sister does not seem to have enough time for him. With the course of time he develops a stronger bond with his sister’s husband who seems to care for him a lot more than even his sister. On the schooling front, he is frustrated by the constant stream of letters that the school keeps sending to his home, asking his guardians to reprimand him for the naughty deeds he never commits, but always gets blamed for by the teachers. His only respite from the worldly troubles is his best friend ‘Paplu’ with whom he enjoys the simple pleasures of life.

But then all the things things bottle up inside his head and he runs away from his home and city, aiming to go back to his mother and his village, away from all the troubles and all the people who did not seem to understand how he felt. Kitaab is the story of his journey, and how he evolves and grows up within a span of two days. Gulzar presents the story in an innovative back and forth manner; setting it in the present and going back through flashbacks triggered by the things Babla observes during his journey. As with every Gulzar movie, there are some delightful songs (though not very well known), but very relevant to everything that the master was trying to say through this film. To talk about performances, Master Raju brings alive Babla on screen, and it won’t be an understatement to say that his performance is one of the best ones ever in Hindi cinema. The rest of the cast is efficient; Uttam Kumar deserves special mention for pitching in with a heartwarming and earnest act as Babla’s guardian, and the kid who plays Babla’s best friend Paplu too does a great job (so does everyone actually).

I can go on rambling about this movie, but instead of I will conclude with why everyone must watch this film-
·         You would have never such a thoughtful and sensitive tale on child psychology
·         This is Gulzar’s best work by far (There are a few movies of his I am yet to see- but it would be tough to surpass this gem)
·         It will definitely lead you to remember some of the times spent in school
·         It will help you emerge (hopefully) as somewhat better human beings by the time the movie end- better parents (present and prospective) for sure

·       It is one of the best movies to have come out of Hindi cinema- a true classic, and sadly a very lesser known one…

PS: If you thought ‘Udaan’ was good (which it was admittedly), just watch this one!!




6 comments:

  1. Learning in life is a dynamic continual process starting at birth & continues till late adult life ( when slowing of faculties starts).

    An excellent description of human ( child) psychology which we as parents fail to appreciate at the required stages of life!

    I feel proud of you for the mature & well meaning analysis done on the film.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I haven't seen this one (or Udaan, for that matter), but somehow your introduction to the film reminded me of RK Narayan's Malgudi Days series...

    ReplyDelete
  3. @dustedoff

    Ahah, Malgudi Days is another of my favorites- now you mention it- I feel like watching it again :)

    And do see this movie- you will love it for sure-

    ReplyDelete
  4. i will surly watch this movie! I liked Gulzar Saab's all old movies...Khushboo and Parichay most.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Do watch it soon. Also, it looks like all Gulzar fans would be in for a treat soon, as the much longed for unreleased film 'Libaas' might soon be available on DVD.

      Delete