27 September, 2020

Larger Than Life

Hindi cinema's most enduring obsession: spectacular death, real and metaphorical

Larger Than Life
At the core of our cinematic sensibility lies a big, collective sob. Is karuna (pathos) our favourite rasa? For, it could hardly be coincidence that in our Top 10 list, only one—Lagaan—can be outrightly certified as feelgood. All the others are curiously united in their obsession with death and a profound sense of loss. In its many forms, death mirrors the soul of these films. Death is the film.

No one dies on screen in Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam. The tragic end of the ill-starred Chhoti Bahu (Meena Kumari), implicit in the discovery of her skeleton under the Chaudhuri mansion’s ruins, with a gold bangle on its wrist, becomes emblematic of the downfall of the landed aristocracy. And it’s Chhoti Bahu’s confidante, Bhootnath (Guru Dutt), representing a new rising middle class, who is the unwitting harbinger of her end.

In Do Bigha Zamin too, death is a metaphor for societal transition, but here the collapse of the old order and the coming of a new one is a change for the worse. The death of Shambhu’s (Balraj Sahni) wife Paro (Nirupa Roy)...



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