The Before … series

before sunrisebefore sunset 2     before-midnight

The ellipsis above, as you might have guessed, is to mean sunrise, sunset and midnight. Before Sunrise, a movie released in 1995, is about two people who meet in Vienna and walk as they talk till Sunrise. Before Sunset, which released almost a decade hence, in 2004, is about the same two people, who meet again though this time in Paris, and walk as they talk till Sunset. There is also a scene in a café where they sit and discuss US gun policy but that’s beside the point. And in Before Midnight, released in 2013, the setting is Greece, while the walk as they talk holds again, not surprisingly till Midnight. And the movie, each of them, is a luscious slice of life.

Imagine a movie where two characters talk, talk about themselves, about the other, about what they think of this world we live in and the issues therein. Starting with the reticence of talking to a stranger, with that scintillating thrill of a new romance; through confiding in someone whom you feel at ease with and have come to trust, to arguing and hurting someone you know will stay by your side when you are hurt, the movies capture the process of two people coming to know the other.

If you think about it, a person, at any given point in time, is a collection of thoughts and memories. Leading from this premise, to know a person and be known only becomes an act of speaking and listening. And these movies capture people in this very act, alive, wherein amidst lots and lots of words, they familiarize and know about the other, as we come to about them. There are few for whom, a movie sometimes is a window to experience life from a different vantage point. For them, an honest portrayal becomes of paramount importance. This movie, while all honest and sincere, manages to frame life, people, and the ordinary, in a convincing tapestry of poignancy.

For serious movie watchers, and of course readers with a taste for Classics, I strongly recommend this Before series. It’s a treat.



Conflict of interest

courtroom-drama-1It was a dull noon and the court room was packed to its capacity. From my seat at the distant corner, i could clearly see the accused. Somewhere in his early thirties, he had an athletic frame and a rugged profile, with his week old stubble adding to the ardour of gloom enveloping him. I thought he was handsome, quite too handsome for a convict pressed with charges of murder. Though it was certain that he was to walk free.

The prosecution did not press any charges and the defence, the state attorney pleaded self-defence. The incident was still fresh in our minds and had obtained good media coverage. It was a weekend about a fortnight before, and in the middle of a bustling mall, he had shot a man wrapped in explosives. Over a hundred lives were saved at the cost of one. And the man standing in the convict’s pit rose to immediate fandom.

The trial was brief. Almost a formality. The defence argued self-defence under Section 96-106, quoting ‘right to private defence of the body of his own and the body of any other person’. The prosecution made some preliminary probing as to from where he had got his gun and if he had a license. Which he did have. And the prosecution had rest their case. The defence also did like-wise. But it was a queer thing that the judge had a quizzical look.

Instead of breaking session to write his judgement, he thought better to ask the convict a question. Now it’s not a common thing for a judge to adorn the lawyer’s cape of posing questions, but it seems it’s a lawful thing. Before anyone could raise a brow, the judge stated that as per The Indian Evidence Act, 1872, Section 165, the judge has the power to put     questions. The judge said, ‘the accused had shot the bomber saving lives of many. The shot was fired moments after the bomber revealed his identity by unzipping his jacket in the crowded mall. And the bullet hit the bomber, piercing holes into his lungs that filled with blood and knocked him down in seconds. But as the post-mortem report states, the bullets entered the victim from his back. How did the accused realise that it was a bomber when the bomb-vest was visible only from the unzipped front portion of his jacket and the shooting occurred within moments such that the bomber did not have any time to turn over for the accused to see the explosives?’

There was an audible gasp in the court room. And i was glad none realised that the loudest was mine. The accused though remained silent. This was something unsettling through-out. This man had shot someone who was going to take lives of many. He saved lives. But why is he so gloomy about it all? As if his soul was stricken with the weight of a suffering untold.

The accused maintained his silence. He could very well have kept so. Under Section 121 to 131, the accused has the right to refuse answer, and the judge would have brushed away his curiosity as an imaginary quirk and closed the case, but the accused spoke. But before that, his eyes loomed over the room, and for a brief moment caught mine. And i could see pain in those deep dark eyes as i felt in my own. Pain i so long had forgotten about, and only then did i realise that my eye’s were watering in torrents as just a moment latter did the accused’.

The accused sobbed to the surprise of all. It wasn’t making sense. And then he said things we all found difficult to place in context. He said it was pre-meditated. That he had intended to kill the bomber, the victim, and with that intention he had been romping the city for days. And the moment he caught sight of him that day at the mall, his hand reached for the pistol he had kept in his canister and almost involuntarily, in a blind rage, bullets fired to bore holes into his body.

My breath became heavy, eyes blurry and my tears tuned in with a dull aching sob that betrayed the pain in my heart. But the pain in the heart of the accused was very palpable. This victim had come into his life, allegedly stole his love interest, and not able to accept the fact, convinced that the man had somehow bewitched his lady love, flaming in rage he had gone about on his hunt to track him down and put him to death, as he indeed succeeded to on the fateful day.

The lawyers blinked in amazement at the turn of event, and the judge shifted uneasily in his seat. This man, going by the media hype, the god-sent saviour, who could have walked scot-free, had conscience-stricken confessed. A confession that none demanded. And one which none could have figured for all practical possibility. But given he had made the court aware of his motives, the judge, despite not wanting to, had to consider the case in the light of new evidence, of the aforementioned founded motive, and the intent to cause grievous harm resulting in death. He was put in a position to declare the murderer, a saviour, as a murder per se, though a saviour nevertheless.

The judge picked his pen to write his judgement. There was a hush in the court that none had foreseen. Each has a bedazzled look, as apprehensive as amused. But the sense of unreality was looming at large upon every face. For their reality had been shaken. Something that they had so far believed as the case to be, and as the only case that could indeed be, had been undone and the re-interpretation was a difficult version to put up with. Their hero had been reduced to a mere murderer.

But his murder consequented good. A huge good to many. Shouldn’t he be awarded for it? Does the fact that he didn’t intend the good diminish in any way the good that indeed he had consequented? Why does the action, which thus far had seemed just, seem otherwise at face of his new-found intent? Is it possible to divorce his intent from his action? Can his action be rewarded while his intent punished? Should he be forgiven in good faith? Or, he intended and consequented a crime in its own right and thus, stood guilty? The questions in the minds of all were many, but my mind was blank. And my heart, a gripping agony. An agony, that only his eyes saw. His deep dark eyes, that searched for an apology.

I couldn’t stand it any longer. I stood, and left the court-room. But my legs couldn’t carry me far. I stumbled and sat by the stairs, far from that room, far enough to not hear any judgement that would be made. And far from his searching gaze, that man, the saviour, but in my eyes, the murderer, who killed my husband in cold vein, who just couldn’t accept that i had fallen out of love with him. And this man that i fell for, though, now it seems, happened to be fallen too, in spirit as too as now in body.

Honour me with your company, will you sweetheart…?!

imageshnBeautiful creations of God are a treat to the eyes, a pleasant present to the heart and a joyous elixir to the soul. Many men would have blurted similarly in their best of moods, at moment when we find self at the receiving end of the niceties of life. But, from a distant vantage point, from where one gets to see life whole, these cherished moments seem bracketed within tumult and tragedy.

Now not all philosophers are men rejuvenated from post traumatic depression and asked to reflect, but this one is one such. I was seated in the sanctuary of the modest college of mine, crunching through the essentials of life, my meals and the essentials of living, my notes. Half way through the former and done with the latter, I regained my senses to the regale about. The chatter and cross-talks missed a beat and then flared azure as just then, one of the most charming and lovely creations of God, my perspective! joined the congregation.

My O my! God indeed was an artist of excellence. She had speckless beauty and spotless grandeur. A radiance of vitality and enigma permeated her self. And she endowed a poise matched by none. She definitely had her charm cast forth on me, for her presence made my heart beat faster by about 10 beats and my body showed visible signs of tremor and audible signs of palpitation!

But why? What’s in her! All she is, is but a creature with finely carved physical attributes and closely censured demeanour. What need is it to be incited by her! Why notice her! Why feel different!

But I wouldn’t heed! Heart is not subject to the rationality of the mind. And I being a heartfelt soul, yielded. I joined the regale on the table. I proposed a toast. The chatter swelled. Enthusiasm is infectious said someone, not without truth! And in course of socialising and fine tuning my projected image, I tried to grasp the attention of this beautiful lovable creature. And I indeed did.

I had but tumultuous violence in my heart. It was borne out of the uncertainty looming about the consequence of this future endeavour of mine. No asset of mine was on stake yet there was anxiety in my heart. No hurt was to be inflicted yet I was bothered by any infinite multitude of untoward possibilities. I took courage, put self together enough to endeavour and raised self.

I addressed her and asked, “My lady, will you honour me with your company for a movie tomorrow.” She looked lost. Stupefied. What little wind was left in my breathless lung was dead! She rolled her impossibly white eyes up and about. She locked sight with mine, and asked which one. I stammered, with great disgrace to all the lessons I had taken on voice modulation and phonetic intonations, “How about a romantic comedy! Have heard Ajab Prem Ki Gajab Kahani is rejoicable.” She frowned. My heart stopped. And with the sweetest of smiles to be ever bestowed upon me, in her curly voice she said, “Sure sweetheart. But only if you promise to pay for the pop-corn and coke!”

My heart took a double take. I was ecstatic. But,…. lets face it now. The tumult was done. The moments then were joyous. But it rained, well yes, it did indeed and completed the cycle with tragedy the day next. Though another Sunday is yet to come!!