Saeed Mirza has written a novel, Ammi: Letter To A Democratic Mother. One day I will read it. As a film-maker, I used to consider him one of the finest we had. He did not quite make the leap that Shyam Benegal and Govind Nihalani managed in parallel cinema, but his works left a huge impact.
Arvind Desai ki Ajeeb Dastaan, Albert Pinto Ko Ghussa Kyon Aata Hai, Mohan Joshi Haazir Ho, Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro…the titles were more or less representing the stories.
While my memory of Arvind…is a bit hazy, I can never forget Albert…the anger, the helplessness of coping with unemployment, the trade unions, personal relationships. Mirza did have a way with both the city of Mumbai and the minorities, religious or economic. Mohan Joshi is fighting a battle in the courts against his landlord…it turns into a Kafkaesque drama, although the darkness is farcical. Salim deals with the Muslim issue without really emphasising communalism. His physical handicap is metaphor enough.
Why did Mirza remain on the fringe? Was he too preachy? I think that he did not use emotions very effectively. There was something that held him back. That is a failing when you are trying to reach out. He was also not a canny craftsman…no jerky hand-held camera movements to convey disorientation, no sudden light switch on-off tactics (oh, how tired I am of this ‘device’ whenever they want to show confusion; now even Ekta Kapoor uses it in her saas-bahu serials!).
Mirza used a clean wall and then he wrote out messages that he might himself want to wipe out. He took clear sides but it was like watching from a distance. I suppose this is what appealed. His cinema is what I am not. I liked the ‘otherness’ of it. The low lighting, which is not candlelight, just something close to darkness.
The novel is based on his mother, and I like what he said about her, that she “symbolised possibilities”. What a potent phrase.
It all got mucked up when a report mentioned that Rahul Bose who was reading out passages said that people like Mirza were the “chewing gum that held society together’’. I wish he would shut up instead of trying to get smart. Since when has chewing gum ever held anything together? Whenever the word chewing gum and bubble gum are used they have a negative connotation. Remember “chewing gum for the eyes” for television? It is about something jaw-aching, cud-chewing, perhaps boredom.
Bose probably did not want to use an ordinary word like glue. And yet in my city it is said his sex appeal works for the intelligent woman. Bah! I shall remain a dullard for life…Read what I think if you wish…