White noise is a random signal (or process) with a flat power spectral density. In other words, the signal's power spectral density has equal power in any band, at any center frequency, having a given bandwidth. White noise is considered analogous to white light which contains all frequencies.

Who am I?

Neo-hippie cinephile. Follower of the great Jim Morrison who once said "If the doors of perception are cleansed, everything would appear to man as it truly is, infinite."

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

"Married Life" from "The World of Apu"

This Indian Bengali film was directed by Satyajit Ray in 1959. It is the final part of a trilogy. Ray was ahead of his time. While most of his peers were still making escapist cinema, he, influenced by Jean Renoir and others of the New French Wave cinema, concentrated on realistic films. I picked this scene because in my opinion, it is the best scene in Indian cinema that depicts love in its true subtle form in Indian society of the time.

The scene starts off with a shot of a curtain blowing in the window, and dollies back to reveal our characters in bed. This separates them in their own little world, from the outside world and the gentle breeze suggests happy times. The sound of an alarm clock shatters the peace, which is a recurring cathartic theme in the trilogy.

Aparna gets up from the bed to turn the alarm off, but her saree is tied to Apu's quilt. She unties the knot and slaps him on his back in mock anger. Apu wakes up slowly and pulls out one of Aparna's hairpins from underneath her pillow and gives it a longing look, as if he is already missing her. All these elements – the tied saree, showing their connection, the little gesture (slap) and longing look show the subtle love on screen, at a time when censorship was very big in Indian cinema. The camera lingers on Apu a tad longer than usual, transporting us, the audience to our mental state when we wake up in the morning.

Aparna is framed up in a wide shot through the doorway, making her appear very small in the frame, alluding to her having to cope with worldly matters such as married life at such a young age. A train can be heard approaching. Trains are also a recurring theme in the trilogy and Apu has a very bittersweet relationship with trains, since he lost his elder sister at a young age, with whom he would run after trains. The note in the cigarette pack is also another plant to show subtle love.

While Aparna deals with the cockroach, Apu is playing a flute in the background. This outlines the differences in their characters. Apu is the dreamer, while Aparna, probably forced by circumstances, is more worldly. The train's whistle is unpleasantly loud for Aparna, and she moves away from the terrace. A melancholic Sitar tune strikes up as Apu feels guilty for subjecting Aparna to hardships. There are black crows flying – another sign of negativity.

Apu is engulfed in smoke as he steps on to the terrace – from the trains and from the clay oven, reflecting his clouded and anxious state of mind. The blocking here is key. Soumitra Chatterjee, the actor playing Apu is staged so that it appears the trains' smoke is coming out of his head. There are a series of lamp-posts in the background, signifying the road Apu and Aparna have to travel together in life.

When he comes back into the room, she is framed extreme right while he is more centered, but still to the left. He is unclear about exactly how she is feeling. There is a little doll in the background, which signifies that mentally Aparna is still a little girl. There is an inverted triangle shape behind Aparna, which traditionally signifies the divine feminine. When Apu leaves the room, we see a topor, a Bengali traditional wedding hat on the wall, which provides a stark contrast to the doll.

When Apu comes back to the room, he asks Aparna to step aside, exactly the same way she asked asked him a few minutes earlier, again showing their bond. Aparna walks up to Apu and places her chin on his shoulder reassuringly. Not only is this one of the most aesthetically pleasing shots of Bengali cinema, it suggests her support for her husband, and is a silent promise to be at his side when the going gets tough. Here we notice that the vermillion on Aparna's forehead is slightly smeared, thus showing a coming of age maturity, previously unseen in her by the audience. Sharmila Tagore, the actress playing Aparna, looks like the Goddess Durga here with the vermillion and her luxuriant dark hair open, who traditionally protects her followers. It may not be a happy accident that she has a slightly protruding chin, making her face almost an inverted triangle. As opposed to taking up another tutoring job, she asks him to quit his current tutoring job so that she wouldn't have anything to repine about, thus answering his question, and also creating another pointer to subtle love.

In the international film circuit, the film was nominated for a BAFTA in '62 and won the Sutherland Trophy in '59 and the NBR Award in '60. Satyajit Ray received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Oscar's in '92 on his death-bead after Kurosawa pushed for him and Scorcese threatened to boycott the Oscars if Ray was denied the award.

Note: I couldn't find the entire scene on Youtube, but this is the very end of the scene and a little bit after.


3 comments:

What's In A Name ? said...

you have worded the beauty of the scene with diligence.

In our times, Ray is slowly getting forgotten and in most parts of India seen as the lone emblem of the art of old-school cinema Bengalis, in all their cultured snobbishness, refer to untiringly. We need to spread the word of appreciation of his works and make him look the Matchless Master he is and always will be.

ArSENik said...

Thanks. :)

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