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Thursday, October 13, 2005


Had taken the forgettable decision of inviting my sister over to watch a Perry Mason thriller on the telly. Between the two of us, we are fairly certain that we could manage a passable imitation of Erle Stanley Gardner’s writing style. At one time, I could even think of doing an A A Fair. After all, there had always been an inviting favourite sofa-like warmth and comfort in the predictability of the plot and the psychology of the protagonists so we were eager to see the portrayals of our beloved cast on screen. We were sure that the leads would succumb to the hackneyed characterizations that the American media has suffered from –so naturally Mason would be a Bond-like wimp with a cigar and a glint, and Della Street would be carved out of that woefully inadequate archetypal male American fantasy, part Glam Gal and part Workhorse. Still, the gimlet-eyed Jackson, the lugubrious Paul Drake, the mendacious Hamilton Burger and the rest were worth waiting for, and….. it didn’t happen. The film was not telecast. And while I am sufficiently fond of this potboiler schema I must tear myself away with the promise that Gardner merits a separate post at a later date.

So, left in the lurch by a devious channel, we surfed Up and Down, Low and High; my ineffectual search for old songs stymied by a plenitude of today’s trash till the vane settled on a channel showing a prancing Chimpoo crooning ‘dard-e-dil “ to a simpering Tina Munim. But what intrigued and occupied us was the marshmallow pliant space between the mukhda and the antara, or between two antaras. I have witnessed scads of techniques used by music directors—the better ones always manage to segue and interweave tunes –I think Salil even eked out a song of the Madhumati interludes, the Burmans brought in riffs and some experimental instrumentation, and some—I’ve written about this before , Raam Laxman and Anu Malik, actually play their theme tunes from other songs. And we think cross-promotions are the preserve of the marketeers !

All said, what i. & o. us is the fact that the director sometimes chooses to show the hero playing an instrument in that pliant space. As if mustering up the stamina and the gumption to start a song, maintain the beat and rhythm, get the orchestration going, whip up the necessary emotions, woo the leading lady and avoid the ubiquitous pots and pans as he jives and jigs away – were not enough !
So he picks up the closest accordion, saxophone, trombone and other assorted gadgetry to continue and help navigate the song safely to the next antara.

Why does this happen ?

Cannot be because the accompanying musical hordes suddenly vanished. After all, they miraculously materialized out of thin air when the song began.
Cannot be because a certain instrument was too recondite. My inherent chauvinism demands an explanation as to why the heroine has never quite blitzed into an interim performance.
My sympathies are purely with that humble worthy who suddenly has his instrument yanked out, on screen by the hero. And if it comes to that, I’ve never seen the aforesaid instrument being restored to its rightful owner either !

What then explains this ?

PS—One of the R. Sens was expostulating on how Bengalis have always been associated with Fine arts—she cited Satyajit Ray, Hrishikesh Mukherjee,, Mrinal Sen and Shyam Benegal !


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