Reel Life: Films to beat the Covid blues
A new Covid variant has entered the picture, threatening to hold the world at ransom yet again. How to deal with its triggering effect then? Stay in the moment. Meditation matters. But so do movies
Just when you thought that after fighting the virus for long, life was swinging back to a modicum of normalcy, a new Covid variant has entered the picture, threatening to hold the world at ransom yet again. The best laid plans—personal, professional, familial, social, economic—might well be forced to put to rest, even as uncertainty looks set to loom large. How to deal with its triggering effect then?
Live one day at a time, one minute at a time, one second at a time. Plan for nothing. Stay in the moment. And how to accomplish that? Meditation matters. But so do movies.
I have fought many a solitary battle in the past year and a half with the warmth of K Dramas and the ingenuity of K (Kerala) Cinema. Shows across streaming platforms—Doc Martin, The Chair, All Murders In The Building, White Lotus, Call My Agent, Ted Lasso and even Emily in Paris, that I would have scoffed at, in the normal state of affairs, have all chipped in, in the absence of family, friends and neighbours, to offer diversion, amusement and hope.
However, the best panacea for stress and anxiety are films from the past. I have a list I keep going back to, to cheer myself up and feel good. They may not be the best of cinema but mood lifters for sure, even when they tiptoe around dark issues and themes. Here are a few oldies that have brought me immense relief and cheer, over and over again.
Angoor: From Sanjeev Kumar reading Ved Prakash Kamboj’s Agyaat Apradhi on a train journey to Deven Verma singing “Pritam aan milo” in the thick of the night, from Moushumi Chatterjee perennially wetting her peepers with eyedrops to Deepti Naval in thick glasses sniffing away any sign of trouble, Gulzar’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors, about two pairs of identical twins, has a delicious delirium running through it. A film in which bhaang (cannabis) plays a significant role, Angoor has always given me a fabulous high, the hundred odd times I have watched it.
Arsenic and the Old Lace: There’s something about old ladies taking to crime. The Brewster Sisters (Josephine Hull and Jean Adair) bring the house down with a handful of cheerful murders in Frank Capra’s Arsenic and the Old Lace even as their nephew Mortimer (Cary Grant) is mortified to discover the corpse of one of their victims in the living room window seat. The way of the lady killers is simple—rent a room to a bachelor and then rid him of his “loneliness” and “misery” by offering him a glass of elderberry wine spiked with arsenic and cyanide. Confusions get confounded when another serial killer enters the picture. Macabre at its most hilarious.
3) Blithe Spirit: Forget the flaccid new remake, just go back to the David Lean original of 1945 for some scintillating fun. Based on Noel Coward’s play it is about a séance going wrong and the mischievous spirit of a dead wife finding her way back into the life of her author husband, much to the consternation of his new lady. The repartee of the threesome—Rex Harrison, Constance Cummings and Kay Hammond—is sheer joy. And Margaret Drummond as the cooky medium who breezes in everywhere on a bicycle is just what the doctor would have ordered to fight the moody blues.
4) Bhoot Bangla: A murder in the past, a couple of them in the present. All these dead people had been the residents of a haunted house in the outskirts of Bombay. There are scares and mystery and thrills galore but more than that is the fun, what with Mehmood directing the film and also leading the cast from the front and music man RD Burman making a short but sweet screen appearance. A Hindi film from the 60s also had to have its music right and there were hummable songs a plenty—Pyaar Karta Ja and Aao Twist Karein by Manna Dey and Kishore Kumar’s Jaago Sone Walo. All the ingredients of a wholesome entertainer.
5) Chupke Chupke: An oft watched film that refuses to fade away and feels strikingly modern and fresh till date. All of us have had our reasons to love the Hrishikesh Mukherjee comedy—the mischievous characters, the perfect cast with each actor in sync with the other and the situational and linguistic humour that is both intelligent and spontaneous. Chupke Chupke makes the viewers feel a sense of belonging with the group of friends, relatives and family on screen. I love it for making a case for the significance of playing pranks. Afterall naughty families are happy families.
6) Dil Hai Ki Maanta Nahin: Aamir Khan asking Pooja Bhatt for a dance in a mechanic’s shop as ‘Hum Hain Rahi Pyaar Ke’ plays on the radio. It’s a lovely, tender, romantic scene that would bring a smile on any cynical human being’s face. Mahesh Bhatt’s unofficial remake of It Happened One Night and Chori Chori holds its own because of such breezy moments. Like the crazy climax in which an eccentric father (Anupam Kher) pleads with his daughter (Pooja Bhatt) to run away from her own marriage. The Nadeem-Shravan melodies continue to sound lilting. A romcom served sunny side up.
7) Duck Soup: The Leo McCarey film starring the Marx Brothers didn’t work magic at the time of release but has evolved over the years to be considered a classic. Perhaps because the humour comes laced with sarcasm which is very contemporary and the portrayal of politics is still relevant. Or because some of the iconic scenes—the one involving mirrors—that have inspired other films over the years, our own Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro for that matter. The film is about Rufus T Firefly (Groucho Marx) appointed as head of Freedonia by Lady Teasdale (Margaret Dumont) even as neighbouring Sylvania threatens to go on a war with it. A lot happens in the film. Too many physical gags, a lot of witticisms and the uber energetic Groucho. In catching one comic piece one might often overlook another. A reason why I have often turned back to it innumerable times, unearthing fresh joys with each new viewing.
8) Kal Ho Naa Ho: Smartly packaged and sharply written, Kal Ho Naa Ho reaches out in these stressful times because of the endearing angel Aman (SRK). However dysfunctional our families might be, however hopeless be the situation and relations, there will be a certain someone who will help ring in a positive change and set things right. A piece of hope to cling on to. Add to that the title song which could well be the anthem for the pandemic times—'Har pal yahan jee bhar jeeyo; jo hai samaan, kal ho naa ho’.