Archive for September, 2016

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 “I have consciously never oversold or overexposed myself to the audience. When I look back I feel it was quite risky to be starring in one film when other actors were busy with two or three films on the floors simultaneously. I determinedly decided to work in only one film at a time. It was simply my confidence in the subjects I chose and the hard work I was ready to put into them.”


I have always suspected and reckoned that the first half of the twentieth century has fetched more gripping and compulsive stories than the second half due to the time being disturbing and chaos in its nature. Many wars were fought and casualties were witnessed and suffered. The outcome was painful for ages. The pride of Hindustan collapsed with the partition and communal riots in the result with many tragic stories to bargain some piece of time in the future. One of the same stories met golden fortune of the Hindi film industry which was still in the development process from leapfrog. In this millennium, we are extremely fortunate and blessed that the story has finally been inked from his own hands and met a huge success after its publication.

Dilip Kumar sahab is the epitome and the real shamma-e-Bollywood. His presence is the magnitude and the real red carpet, whose footsteps to the industry brought a new attention in the golden era and produced many memorable films. In my reading experience, it is convincingly confessable that before browsing this book, I knew the legend merely by 20% through his films; but after reading his twenty-five chapters, I must declare that I know the man by 75% and with the reading section of ‘Reminiscence’ where forty-three individuals have paid respect and shared incidents attached to him, I have to avow that the percentage of knowledge I have gained has stretched to 80%. The rest stays with his personal life with his best half, Saira Banu.

Being the greatest actor of India for all ages and generations, it was highly in demand and everyone’s desire to know him in his own speech. Although it took an age to decide him to speak up, the blessed part is that the biggest promise in reading the book actually fruit our patience.

The book is easily parted into three sections. The first section is being the formality of book introduction and forward. Saira Banu, Dilip sahab‘s superlative blessing has done the honors of introduction by touching some memorable moments of her life with him and confessed that she should write a book about her life with him. Film journalist Udaya Tara Nayar has forwarded the book. She has the credit to compile and shape the book and narrate his autobiography. Ms. Nayar has explained in her pages how Dilip sahab finally made his mind write this book.

The second section is the reader’s borrowed time to enrich his understanding with the chronicles and memoirs of the legend consisting of 25 chapters. The third and last section is the tribute to Dilip sahab inked by many personalities which stretch to more than a hundred pages.

The first four chapters cover his childhood. His first years of life in the area of Qissa Khawani Bazaar, the Piccadilly of Central Asia located in Peshawar, the-then part of British India and current city of Pakistan. We must praise the author that such an individual has the sharpest memory at such an old age to describe us the toughest circumstances when he came out from the mother’s womb. Whatever the details his family explained is still stored with him and is now read to us.

The childhood chapters discuss his family specifically his dadi and his parents to whom he call amma and aghaji. By the fourth chapter, he mentions aghaji‘s Hindu friends in the same area; one of them was Basheswarnathji who used to bring his handsome son at their home stunning the ladies whose name was Prithviraj. Yes, Prithviraj! Father of Raj Kapoor and from here begins a childhood friendship between the upcoming iconic superstars of the golden era. Also in this chapter, Dilip sahab moves with his siblings and amma to reunite with father in Bombay where aghaji meets business opportunities in fruit-selling.

When we learn his teens, we go aggressive like him. We read his lovely bonding with his brothers, his affection and keenness with the English literature, his school and college life especially the latter life inking more pages on his restoring of friendship with Raj Kapoor as both studied in the same college. We experience his struggles and his attempt of settling alone in Poona (Pune) while running away from home after a mild disagreement with his father. His days in Poona are an interesting read with many troubling and funny incidents there.


“I had never ever seen a film studio in my life, not even in photographs. I had heard of Bombay Talkies from Raj Kapoor who spoke about it as the studio where films starring his father Prithvirajji were shot.”


The making of legacy begins in the eighth chapter when the first lady of the Indian cinema, Devika Rani, a Bombay Talkies panjandrum, proffers him to join Bombay Talkies in their first meeting and learn acting under the guidance of the company. As we have read enough of Dilip sahab till his twenties till this moment, we emotionally begin sensing a change in fate, a blow of breeze in the alfresco. Here comes the learning process in Dilip sahab‘s acting life as the amateur encounters many significant and notable film personalities.

Those filmgoers who have watched his earliest works of the 40s will observe that he was pretty a bungle ‘layman’ in acting profession in films like Jwar Bhata and Jugnu but his skills developed rapidly from Shaheed, Mela, and Andaz. The same exercise is developed in these initial pages of the career beginning chapters from a keen learner who realized his fate was written to become a film star and aid his ever-growing family financially and raise his siblings with proper life standard and reputed education after the parents’ demise.

No great celebrity in any part of the world can cross the phases of life without tragic moments. From the eleventh chapter, we read and grow commiserations for him as he begins meeting tragedies in life. Some forlorn moments, inefficacious love affairs and devastating episodes of quietus led by playing repeated sorrowful and gloomy characters produce upsets, sickness, and exhaustion in mental state enough to consult a psychiatrist in London who suggests bringing a change in the mood of character roles he plays in his career. During all this phase, there is a separate chapter on the beautiful but complicated Madhubala for obvious reasons. In this book, Dilip sahab responds the questions revolving around decades about the involvement of Madhubala in his personal/professional life.

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“I…became aware that an actor needed to strengthen his instincts because the duality between the real and unreal cannot be sorted out by the mind, which is more concerned with truth and logic in any normal situation. The mind will always tell you this is nonsense… It is only instinct that will help you to absorb what you have to absorb from the script and drive you to render a performance coated with realism and conviction despite the knowledge of it all being fiction and drama.”


 

Also, he has detailed in pages about his working relation and camaraderie with few prominent celebrities like Vyjayanthimala, Sashadhar Mukherjee, Ashok Kumar, Bimal Roy and many more. His acting pages will also annex to our knowledge the offered films he refused for some reasons but to my huge surprise, in fact, a shock, he didn’t shed light on David Lean‘s offer for the role in Lawrence of Arabia which went to Omar Sharif later. Remind me if I happen to miss but there is no precise detail of the famous offer-refusing moment. Hilariously, Dilip sahab has mentioned Lean’s Doctor Zhivago as the story inspiring his writing Kashmir Valley on his wife, a project he wanted to produce after Bairaag. Indeed it is the biggest omission in the book.

It is more than half of the book-reading when his best half, his dream girl Saira Banu shows up; a girl who madly fell in love with him when she was only twelve. From the seventeenth chapter, the reader’s most romantic portion comes to existence after all the troubles and struggles, and there is a sweet fascination of reading this golden love affair. The whole nineteenth chapter covers their high-profile wedding and the coming chapters tell you more about their marital life and the films they co-starred together.


“I do not know if it is in my genes or if it is something I have assimilated from the environment I was brought up in. It gives me great contentment and joy to espouse a good cause.”


In the last reading phase, I lose an edge when the timeline crosses like a rocket. Dilip sahab travels from birth till finishing Bairaag in 1976 after reading 238 pages and 22 chapters; but in final three chapters and 45 pages, Dilip sahab travel 38 years and reach 2014!! The biggest ‘?’ is why not fetch more details between 1976 and 2014. In the final three chapters, he did speak about his role as Sheriff of Bombay and lawsuit slapped by A.R.Kardar, he did speak about his comeback in the 80s and working in major films like Shakti, Vidhaata, Mashaal and later on Saudagar but my argument is that heavy detailing was badly missed just like he wrote few of the chronicles in first 22 chapters at length. In fact, he spoke more about Raaj Kumar than Saudagar.

Same case with his two tours of Pakistan (1988 & 1998); on both occasions, he didn’t go for lengthy details. Both tours were emotionally monumental, the first was his grand return to Peshawar after his childhood days; and the second time he visited, he was awarded Nishan-e-Imtiaz.

Due to short details in final three chapters, he didn’t speak about his friendship with filmmaker and mobster Haji Mastan. More than this, the major surprise was not mentioning about Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award in 1993. Although he has mentioned most of his films he has worked in but wrote not a single word of his final film Qila. Perhaps he realized it was a regret to retire after finishing Qila rather than Saudagar. But remarkably he did speak about his biggest regret of getting involved in the lady from Hyderabad, Asma Rehman.

The newest incident from the book was Lataji‘s visit to Dilip sahab few months before the book released in the mid of 2014 which indicates that he was active in completing the memoir in his nineties. The Substance and The Shadow easily is one of the most important books in Bollywood’s richest library and showcase. Someday in late future, I may read the book again with the same enthusiasm as I discovered a lot of treasure from his box. Many great legends and prominent celebrities of his time have left the world but he is still there and we hope he stays further long and may we witness him completing his century.

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Chapters:

Childhood (Ch#1 – Ch#4)

Younghood till Devika Rani’s Offer (Ch#5 – Ch#8)

Film Career till Marriage (Ch#9 – Ch#19)

Post Marriage Career till Present (Ch#20 – End)

 

About Personalities:

Ch#05 – Raj Kapoor

Ch#08 – Devika Rani

Ch#09 – Ashok Kumar, Sashadhar Mukherjee

Ch#10 – Ashok Kumar, Raj Kapoor

Ch#11 – Kamini Kaushal, Naushad, Mehboob Khan, Nitin Bose

Ch#12 – Madhubala, S. M. Sriramulu Naidu

Ch#13 – Madhubala

Ch#14 – Bimal Roy, Vyjayanthimala, S. S. Vasan, B.R.Chopra, Yash Chopra

Ch#17 – Saira Banu (till the end)

Ch#20 – Pran, Mukri, S.U. Sunny

Ch#24 – Subhash Ghai

Ch#25 – Lata Mangeshkar, Yash Chopra

(There are few personalities I have missed adding here who are mentioned in the book.)

 

About Films:

Ch#09 – Jwar Bhata

Ch#11 – Shaheed, Milan

Ch#12 – Azaad

Ch#14 – Devdas, Madhumati, Gunga Jumna, Paigham

Ch#16 – Gunga Jumna

Ch#22 – Gopi, Sagina

Ch#24 – Kranti, Shakti, Saudagar

Ch#25 – Mashaal

(There are few films I have missed adding here which are mentioned in the book.)

 

Important Deaths:

Ch#11 – Ayub (brother) & Amma (mother)

Ch#15 – Aghaji (father)

Ch#25 – Nasir (brother)

 

Best Reminiscences:

(I have picked 23 best tributes out of 43 chosen individuals.)

Amitabh Bachchan, Jaya Bachchan, Moin Beg, Yash Chopra, Farida Dadi, Dharmendra, Sitara Devi, Subhash Ghai, Rishi Kapoor, Anil Kapoor, Aamir Khan, Salim Khan, Manoj Kumar, Mumtaz, Lata Mangeshkar, Nanda, Nimmi, Waheeda Rehman, Harish Salve, Salim Sharifee, Ramesh Sippy, Sharmila Tagore, and Vyjayanthimala.

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French New Wave (FNW) is a celebrated dominating cinematic era crossed in the timeline of French film industry in which the films became equivalent to the art and literature in the state of free expressions and a break from conservative cinematic ideology. Among the peers of that golden era, François Truffaut (FT) is an ageless name who will always be remembered as one of the founding members of the historic movement and will be considered one of the greatest directors of the twentieth century.

Being a critic on my own judgment, I watched all his 21 directional works in 45 days to fathom his brain behind the camera and to dig the answer why is he a cultural and celebratory icon in arts and entertainment. I discover the answer compelling and I don’t know how to describe in the shape of the blog but will endeavor my best.

Mr. Truffaut became well-known and controversial for his acid film criticism in the pages of Mr. Bazin’s film magazine, Cahiers du cinéma, before turning his hand to filmmaking in the late 1950’s. To understand FT’s work, the viewer must understand the concept of FNW which I have defined in the very first lines. Due to his fabulous contribution to western technical and cinematic innovations, Satyajit Ray acknowledged his debt to him. His admirers had particular praise for his screen depictions of children, obsessed men, and women driven by strong passions.

Among all his films, one thread is common. In almost every film, FT is a keen observer of life and reaches towards the smallest details no matter if it is related to the story or not. Either you watch his quintuple set of Antoine Doinel (AD) series, or the skirt-chasing film L’homme qui aimait les femmes (The Man Who Loved Women) or child-behavior centered L’argent de poche (Small Change); FT fetches minor but rich details like the classroom environment, parents’ behavior towards their child, line pickings by a womanizer etc.

Every film has an attention seeking subject which compiles the viewers to watch. AD was a fictional character created by Truffaut himself and made five films in two decades. Being a realism-loyal, FT borrowed the time of Jean-Pierre Léaud to gift him the career highlight of his life, who played the character in all the films from childhood to adulthood. The character is often called FT’s own alter ego. It is about a disturbed and misunderstood boy in Paris who was sick of his parents and teachers, domestic and school life; and one day he ran away and his story continued in the next four installments.

The first part Les Quatre Cents Coups (The 400 Blows) is considered among the greatest films of the last century and a gateway to the FNW movement. The film earned awards and nominations at many recognized awards functions like Cannes and Academy. Truffaut was so convinced with the character that his brilliance can be watched in next films of his series. The next installment was a short film Antoine et Colette (Antoine and Colette) which described his failed love affair with Colette in his teenhood. Baisers volés (Stolen Kisses) dramatized the building of Doinel’s character by struggling in the young hood and trying to settle in one job. Domicile Conjugal (Bed & Board) spoke about his marital life with Christine and superb depiction of society. L’amour en fuite (Love on the Run) showed Doinel in his thirties who is divorcing Christine but also in an affair with a record-seller, Sabine.

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As FT is widely recognized for the films on AD but his directional artistry is stretched and dilated to his other notable works on different subjects. Truffaut was sensitive and tactful to child behavior due to his own disturbed childhood. He lived with his parents for the first time when he was eight years old after being passed to various nannies and his grandmother who instilled a love for books and films in him. His love for books can easily be seen in his films like Doinel reading Balzac in The 400 Blows, or Ferrard opening the package of books he ordered in La nuit américaine (Day For Night).

Even his only English-language film Fahrenheit 451 was based on the books. The film shows a fictional world where some totalitarian government controls general people’s life by dissuading them from the books. For this purpose, the government employs a group of firemen who detect books from every corner and burn to ashes. Fahrenheit 451 and Small Change were among Truffaut’s best works after The 400 Blows.

Small Change is one of a kind when it comes to child behavior. It is about the kids from different backgrounds mostly lower and middle class, their social life, and behavior towards people from different ages. There is a sketch when a man catches a boy to send his letter to one of the buildings to a married woman for five francs. Then in another sketch, the boy’s manners in eating dinner are brought to our attention. My favorite aspect of the film is the depiction of children’s fascination and excitement in sexual behavior. It is a natural phenomenon but the cinematic presentation demands bold details on which the acting of child artists are subjected to sensitivity on their shoulders. It is easily one of the best coming-of-age films I have watched.

The same case is the film L’enfant Sauvage (The Wild Child) produced in 1970 based on a true and very tragic story of an unfortunate individual, Victor of Aveyron, who spent his childhood with no human contact and was caught by hunters in a nearby village. Although it looks like a documentary more than a feature film but Truffaut gives a remarkable insider of the boy’s development from the delayed general human behavior.

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Besides child-centered subjects, one of the FT’s biggest accomplishments was presenting a guide towards the making of a film and the complications of shooting it. He was so caught up in the technical as well as the artistic aspects of filmmaking that he made a film about filmmaking, Day for Night.

Truffaut leaves no space to reveal the smallest of filming issues like a love affair between the two artists, producer/director dealing with insurance company, forgetting dialogues, using the animal in a scene, hiring people on the spot, re-takes and rehearsals etc. It shows a further reality that sometimes due to some reasons, the dialogues and the scenes are changed or the artists are convinced to do a scene so and so. These are small but very important and interesting details.  

In 1974, the film won BAFTA for Best Film and Oscar for Best Foreign Film. In addition to winning the Academy Award, it was named the best film of 1973 by the National Society of Film Critics in the United States, which also voted him the year’s top director. Easily one of the best films in filmmaking docudrama.

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Romance has always been a prestigious and distinguished subject in the French cinema and Truffaut’s directional excellence shares same artistic heritage. Les Deux Anglaises et le continent (Two English Girls) and Jules et Jim (Jules and Jim) were the films focused on love triangle both based on Henri-Pierre Roché‘s novels of the same titles. Two English Girls is a sublime blend of fluctuations of romantic affairs, exchange of emotions, description of capriciousness and very jeopardized harmony. Whereas Jules And Jim is a cinematic innovation to be always remembered for Truffaut’s marvelous efforts in bringing the best outcome in the film’s cinematography. Such qualities of camera work like panning shots, newsreel footage, photography stills or freeze frame were not common in cinematic business those days. Freeze frame was also done at the end of The 400 Blows.

The other romantic film which comes in my mind is the true story based on Victor Hugo‘s daughter, Adèle. A British army officer loved and proposed her which she refused. Later she had a change of heart and traveled Halifax during American Civil War to declare but the soldier loved her no more after the refusal. That drove her insane and made failed attempts to win him. Her obsession increased and began showing signs of mental illness.

L’histoire d’Adèle H. (The Story of Adele H.) brought the actress Isabelle Adjani in the limelight and earned a nomination for Best Actress in the Academy Awards. Truffaut’s direction was again hard to ignore. It was his remarkable presentation of dropping of emotions by Adele Hugo picturized on Adjani. The translation of mental collapse was very defining and tragic as overall FT produced a profoundly beautiful, tragic and dark film.

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After watching all his films, one of my most important observations is that his films were more centered/inclined towards the story than the character. Through his films, he brought subjects to the attention of the viewers and didn’t focus a lot on the overall performances of the actors and their characters who mostly displayed average performance.

 Almost all the films were based on literary works of many famous novelists but the message precise among all his films was the subject. La peau douce (The Soft Skin) and La femme d’à côté (The Woman Next Door) were subjected on an extramarital affair, Fahrenheit 451 was on books burning, Small Change on child abuse, Day for Night on filmmaking, The Man Who Loved Women on skirt-chaser and Vivement Dimanche! (Confidentially Yours) a murder-mystery. It is no hiding to the fact that character-centered films also made a huge name in French cinema like Léaud as AD and Isabelle as Adele.

In the smallest of details, the viewer will notice Truffaut’s love for animals especially cats. Two of his films had identical shots of cat nosing a lunch tray outside the door. Truffaut in Day For Night did show his fascination with cats by shooting the same cat-eat-lunch scene and went on describing how hard is it to convince a cat to eat the food during the shot.

Among other details, we will often witness one common scene in many of his films depicting the domestic life of couple i.e., the couples reading books together in bed before sleeping. Repeating the same scene might give us a clue of Truffaut’s personal life and some portion of his relationship with his wife and partner.

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Out of his 21 full-length directional works, my five personal favorite films are The 400 Blows, Small Change, Day For Night, Jules And Jim, and The Wild Child.

In 1963, FT was approached to direct famous American film, Bonnie And Clyde. Truffaut showed his interest only in script development but later declined. FT admired the works of Alfred Hitchcock and two of his films, La mariée était en noir (The Bride Wore Black) and Confidentially Yours were a tribute to him. In 1981, Vincent Canby of The New York Times called Truffaut ”one of the most continuously surprising and accomplished directors of his day.”

His headquarters for years was the Paris office of his production company, Les Films du Carrosse, which he named after La Carrosse d’Or (The Golden Coach), a film by the French director Jean Renoir. As an actor, he played roles only in his own films. Later in his career, he went on to play the role of a French scientist in Steven Spielberg‘s Close Encounters of the Third Kind which was his only outing as an actor.

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Truffaut was married to Madeleine Morgenstern from 1957 to 1965, and they had two daughters. He had affairs with many of his leading ladies. In 1968 he was engaged to actress Claude Jade who starred in AD series. He and leading actress of his last two films Fanny Ardant lived together for three years. During his relationship with Ardant, he had a stroke and was later diagnosed with brain tumor. On 21 October 1984, Truffaut passed away at the age of 52.

The credit goes to Truffaut who redefined the ‘Auteur Theory‘ and criticized the quality of French cinema by further hitting with the statement that the worst of Jean Renoir’s films would always be more interesting than the best of the films of Jean Delannoy. Truffaut aimed to retire from direction after completing 30 films and write books later but he wasn’t destined to what he planned. But still left the world with a global recognition in filmmaking. He is a huge cinematic inspiration and alive in the hearts of cinephile, sensible filmgoers, and the film critics of the highest quality. I regard and consider him among the greatest filmmakers of the twentieth century and personally one of my favorites. I wish if we would have seen more of his work instead of knowing his passing away so early.

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“Friends have asked how I came to engender this American antagonism. My prodigious sin was, and still is, being a non-conformist. Although I am not a Communist I refused to fall in line by hating them.”


A riveting manuscript blended with the toppling of articulation. An essence of dissemination with a gifted cerebrum which educates the readers the life of an artist who never inclined nor compromised. The quote above is from the thirtieth chapter which confirms the resistance and determination. An institution, an influence; whose artistic brilliance and extracting expressions from the silence won hearts and made him the most beloved entertainer of the 20th century. He was Charlie Chaplin a.k.a. The Tramp.

A verbal but soft revolt over the hatred or a memoir wonderfully constructed like an architect coalescing the whole tabulation with a strong grip. A case study which examines a life structure built from a struggling poverty towards solving the enigma of solemnity. A gracious gentleman with a beautiful heart, a blessing smile which can melt a tart.

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He was respiring in his seventies when the pages of this incredulous book were inked. I am not surprised that the gentleman who wrote his own scripts, directed his own films, would go on write an autobiography; but what astonishes me is the chosen vocabulary. The school of words used as the text defines his individuality and indicates how indulged and fascinated was he to treasure the richness of words and then use as a sword. It is not to my knowledge nor have I quested an answer to what length has the wordings of Mr. Chaplin been edited but the introductory words by his biographer David Robinson confirms that the writing is all done by the tramp himself. The artistry of a performer has his own percussion of conveying his message and reading his life in his own words helps you step into his world and understand him.

 

Being a stage/theater artist, the actor knows how to bring a ‘Vow!’ among the viewers. So as the author who happened to be an artist, he drops the revelation of mystery by beginning the book with precise date, time and place of birth this way;


“I was born on 16 April 1889, at eight o’clock at night, in East Lane, Walworth.”


This is exactly the confession and the first sentence of the book which gives the reader an impression that a grandpa in his rocking chair is about to excite you with the story existed from his universe.

The first 5 chapters are very private, firsthand and tragic which speaks of his grinding poverty and mother’s mental health. Chaplin talks about the couples who were parted and the family comprised of a mother with her two children, Charles and Sydney, depended on his weekly payments of 10 shillings a week. He talks about a failing stage performer whose vocal issues ended her career and her 5-year-old son took the stage in desperation to win the spectators, collected the coins and handed over to his ailing mother.

Chaplin recounts his struggles at such a tender age when his mother was shifted to the medical care for mental sickness. The wait for some good fate and fortunes making you anxious to turn over the pages.

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The quality of eagerly reading this book is that with every chapter, the reader grows his fictional age from childhood to young hood to manhood. When Charlie reaches the age of puberty, he becomes romantic so as the reader. Those readers who have watched his films would realize how romantic was Charlie and how cavernous would he go to convey his utter emotions in the silent films. Plus the account of his love affairs distinguishes in writing to grow the feeling of youngness and maturity. For example, his depiction of love for Hetty Kelly gives a warm look at his boyhood which makes your understanding of ‘love’ a bit emotional but when he speaks about his relation with Paulette and Oona, his third and fourth wife respectively, the reader grows adult like him.

At 19, Chaplin proposes 15-year-old Kelly on which she keeps silent. He determines not to meet her again but he couldn’t resist and feels regret. He meets her at her residence but he couldn’t say more than ‘Goodbye’ twice. His love for Hetty Kelly is what grieved and ached him all his life and at such an old age when he chooses to write this book, he drops a ship of theseus on the readers when he writes in chapter 6 about her;


“Although I had met her but five times, and scarcely any of our meetings lasted longer than twenty minutes, that brief encounter affected me for a long time.”


 

Moving from the affection of love affair, he builds his career in next chapters while landing in the United States; and in space of 10 years, he works for Fred Karno, Keystone Pictures, Essanay Studios and Mutual Films Corp. The amazement is reading an inspiring journey by highlighting his earnings. Fair enough to reveal that his earnings under contract with Karno which stood at 6 pounds/week turn into an extremely rich contract of $670K with Mutual Films Corp. payable at $10K/week. What an accomplishment in few years!

Also, the book has rich details of his life-long friendship with Mary Pickford and her husband Douglas Fairbanks from chapter.13 who later form a partnership business by the name United Artists. Under this banner being a co. owner, Chaplin makes most of his feature films and makes the company one of the leading production companies of that time in Hollywood.

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For the reader’s luxury, Chaplin has enriched and highlighted some very interesting episodes from his personal account and professional career. He records many elite names he met and befriended them. In different chapters, Chaplin has covered makings of his various feature films. For me, the most interesting read is about his film The Kid in which child actor Jackie Coogan co. starred. He pens interesting story how he discovered the child and how he approached Coogan’s father.

Monsieur Verdoux is the film which covers three chapters which is quite peculiar and outlandish for me because the film wasn’t received well. There is a whole chapter about the film when it encountered the clearance issue from the Office of Decency by copy pasting their whole letter and writing the whole part of the script which was objected. I find writing this all at length redundant and extraneous; this chapter could have been easily abridged.

The reason I am pondering it too lengthy a chapter is because a critically acclaimed film like Modern Times has surprisingly very short details as compared to the others. A film based on The Great Depression and rise of the machines was a hard hitting subject but to my discouragement, Chaplin wrote only a few pages.

Two films whose omission from the book hugely astound me are The Circus and A King In New York. The former, being one of my favorite Chaplin films, was a prominent film which depicted the rise and fall of a circus while the latter was produced after Chaplin was barred from the United States and he showed his anger and criticism over McCarthyism in the film.


“All I need to make a comedy is a park, a policeman, and a pretty girl.”


 

Chapter.23 is among the gripping chapters of the book which details Chaplin’s tour of Japan and describes how fortunate was he to escape the assassination of the then Japanese PM, Inukai Tsuyoshi, which was committed by 11 young naval officers who revealed the plan that Chaplin’s murder would facilitate war against the US.

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Also has Chaplin filled few pages about meeting very notable, established and prominent personalities like Mr. and Mrs. Churchill, Mr. and Mrs. Einstein, business tycoon William Hearst, the then Premier of Soviet Union Nikita Khrushchev and his Defense Minister Nikolai Bulganin, India’s preeminent leader Mahatma Gandhi and first PM Jawaharlal Nehru, Russian prima ballerina Anna Pavlova, first premier of People’s Republic of China Zhou Enlai and few more.

The most critical readings are the last six chapters when Charlie’s life meets severe turnaround when WWII begins. He has one whole chapter on his speeches for Russian War Relief. While Hoover and his FBI team begin scanning him after being accused of being the father of Joan Barry‘s child, his image meets a downfall. Also, the last phase of the book has heavy details on Chaplin’s final moments in the US and early days of settlement in Europe.

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So Charlie Chaplin has covered most of his life in 477 pages but somehow he still has missed leaking or providing few details. He speaks nothing about his second wife, Lita Grey nor does he mention his half-brother Wheeler Dryden. The readers will not find any details about his children especially Sydney and Geraldine. Nor is there any word about Arthur Jefferson, his understudy while working with Fred Karno. Arthur Jefferson is Stan Laurel most celebrated for his partnership with Oliver Hardy in a world famous comedy duo Laurel and Hardy.

 

 

Another major surprise is that Chaplin mentions nothing about his frequent collaborators like Henry Bergman, Mark Swain, Eric Campbell, Albert Austin and Roland Totheroh who was Chaplin’s most regular cameraman for more than 30 films. Perhaps chapters may exceed more details in writing on these gentlemen or perhaps some other reasons. Chaplin talks about Limelight but didn’t speak about his novel Footlights which was unreleased for next six decades until it published in 2014. Footlights is considered a prequel and a fictional book which laid the foundation of producing this film.


“Loneliness is repellent. It has a subtle aura of sadness, an inadequacy to attract or interest; one feels slightly ashamed of it. But, to a more or less degree, it is the theme of everyone.”


Two things I would like to inform the readers about this book. The first point to remember is that Chaplin wrote this book in 1964, so obviously, the readers won’t have the luxury to read about his emotional return to the US eight years later when he received an honorary award for his contribution and outstanding achievements in the industry at the Oscars.

The second point is that the book should not be compared with Attenborough‘s film Chaplin produced in 1992 due to the fact that the details of the film are not precisely accurate as Chaplin has described in his literature.

But above all ‘My Autobiography‘ is a pure gift of The Tramp to his fans. Those readers who are curious to know how the silent cinema functioned in the beginning of the twentieth century should read this book and further realize how a pauper from England revolutionize the industry when the silent comedy was more focused on whacky vehicle races and pieing. His writing eloquence will melt you. A blatantly honest and easily one of the greatest autobiographies written and published.

Thank you, Charlie…

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Chaplin’s Wives:

Ch#16 – Mildred Harris (1st wife)

Ch#24 – Paulette Goddard (3rd wife)

Ch#27 – Oona O’Neil

 

Chaplin’s Love Affairs:

Ch#5 – Marie Doro

Ch#6 – Hetty Kelly

Ch#26 – Joan Barry

 

Chaplin’s association with the companies:

1899 – The Eight Lancashire Lads (Ch#3, Age.10)

1906 – Karno Company (Ch#6, Age.17)

1914 – Keystone Pictures (Ch#10)

1915 – Essanay Studios (Ch#11)

1916 – Mutual Film Corporation (Ch#11)

1918 – First National (Ch#14)

1919 – United Artists (Ch#15 – Co.owner with Mary Pickford & Douglas Fairbanks)

 

Chaplin’s Earnings:

1906 – 6 Pounds/Week (Karno company)

1916 – $10K/Week (Mutual Film Corp)

 

Chaplin’s Films:

Ch#14 – A Dog’s Life, The Immigrant

Ch#15 – Shoulder Arms

Ch#16 – The Kid

Ch#19 – The Gold Rush

Ch#21 – City Lights

Ch#24 – Modern Times

Ch#25 – The Great Dictator

Ch#27 – Monsieur Verdoux

Ch#29 – Limelight

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small-change

The direction of François Truffaut itself is a timeless case study. I am watching his films for several weeks and observing his methods, his brain behind those plots and scripts. I am astonished to watch his directional artistry and now I finished his L’Argent de poche (Small Change) which is considered one of his most successful films.

Truffaut was a keen observer towards the society and cared a lot of the smallest and minor details which altogether reflects the realism. Small Change is one of these films which describes human behavior on camera at its finest. The issue of child abuse is raised in the film in a light comedy nature.

The director shows a society in Thiers. Men and women working in shops and institutions, their neighborhood, their social responsibilities; but more than that the film focuses on small children hardly aging between 5-14. It is about kids from different backgrounds mostly lower and middle class, their social life, and behavior towards people from different ages. Truffaut’s trump card is beautifying the story with presenting the smallest of details of their lives which catches our attention like two girls collecting funds on the street, or a father complaining his boy’s haircut to the barber, or two brothers wearing same matched pair of dress like few parents prefer to keep their kids, or the father exchanging their seats when they are unable to see the film in the cinema due to their minor difference of heights.

The film shows and the director try to convince the audience and viewers that more than ours, the children need more attention from their elders whose rank of age empowers to ‘obey’ them. The nature of kids is overlooked due to carelessness or laziness. In the same society, there exist stories of many kids brought to our interest, some of which drops you towards your own timeline of the young hood when reaching towards the age of puberty had many obstacles and hiccups.

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If Truffaut’s Les Quatre Cents Coups (The 400 Blows) focused the childhood of his beloved character Antoine Doinel, then this film is the study of more than one Antoine Doinel. Exactly like the former film, the classroom environment is lively in the latter. The hooting, the penance, teacher knocking the door of other teacher’s classroom, the complaints and a moral lesson affecting the students, all this drops you from your age.

Another interesting part is the carelessness of parents towards their infants. A mother hands over her infant to a boy of hardly eight to send him home. Next scene confirms their home is the 9th floor of the building and the infant climbs the stairs and play with that kid. The scene which creates more intensity is when the mother at home loses her wallet and keeps her infant at home with the door closed in order to look after her lost wallet on stairs of all nine floors. With the windowsill open, the infant climbs along with his cat while the whole society becoming spectators of that scene.

When I say the focus is on a kid’s behavior, you have to expect a lot from the film. There is a sketch when a man catches a boy to send his letter to one of the buildings to a married woman for five francs. Then in another sketch, the boy’s manners in eating dinner are brought to our attention.

The child has no freedom of his/her will due to some circumstances. There is a charming little girl who is about to go with her parents to eat in a restaurant with her old bag which is unacceptable to her guardians because that will damage their reputation. Her parents try to convince to take a new bag which doesn’t belong to her but all efforts in vain. They give up and as punishment of her stubbornness, they keep her at home alone and leave. This is easily one of the best scenes in the film showing how her will is not fulfilled.

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My favorite aspect of the film is the depiction of children’s fascination and excitement in sexual behavior. It is a natural phenomenon but the cinematic presentation demands bold details on which the acting of child artists are subjected to sensitivity on their shoulders. In school, a boy carries his friend on his shoulder who, through his binoculars borrowed from his father anyhow, watches a naked woman cleaning herself on her window. In another school scene, a group of boys happens to see the ass of a boy’s mother in excitement who is wearing a short skirt and has just dropped her son to their school. In recess time, a kid with all shyness tells a dirty joke of intercourse between a priest and a nun to his group of friends while them listeners are smiling and blushing.

Kids of such young age are invited to develop weird and newly feelings towards such emotions in many abovementioned scenes. Lip-kissing has an unwanted reception in their eyes and I like the director’s brilliance in pointing out two of the kissing scenes growing odd in excitement. In one scene, two teachers who are married begin lip-kissing out of their classroom’s closed doors while the kids witness the scene from the door’s glass whispering and grinning. The other scene is picturized in summer camp when a boy and a girl of same age leaves their lunch and lip-kiss outside the room coming to everyone’s notice.

The funniest scene among many is the one in which two young boys befriends two girls of their age and take them to a cinema where one takes his chance and lip-kiss the girls while the other hesitates.

Above all, a much silent character of a trouble-making boy is a borrowed time to the viewers. He is a sad soul in the class who is a concerned individual but steals objects. One day after a routine checkup, the school finds the boy a tragic case of child abuse and sends his mother to jail. Among many stories existing in the film are presented in light humor with a lot of fun but this story is what raises a strong voice over the subject.

Small Change is an ageless film when you can apply the same stories even today. 40 years after its release, the film still captivates you for many reasons. This film is what easily defines French New Wave movement. Truffaut worries nothing and presents a free demo of child behavior to all ages in a poetic way. It is easily one of the best coming-of-age films I have watched.

Ratings: 8.6/10

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