Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Willow Tree

*2002*Majid Majidi*Iran*92*Bid-e-majnoon*

Forty five year university professor of literature Yusuf has been blind for thirty eight years, having lost his sight in a crackers explosion. In each of the three Majidi films I have seen, we are treated to a picture postcard paradise of the natural beauty of this land, with snow clad mountains and roaring torrents. His philosophically satisfied existence in these idyllic environs with his devoted wife and charming daughter of ten or so, is interrupted when a bold corneal transplant surgery proves successful and he can see again. If you want to know what it feels like to be able to see after 38 years, here is your answer. He suppresses his giggles, leaps with joy and rushes through the corridor--just short of breaking into song. But then, barely a third of the move is over and you wonder, what next?

But it's more than he can digest. Why did I have to lose out on the best years of my life and why did I have to be married to this plain Jane? His ogling at younger women doesn't get him anywhere. One specific face stands out in this cornucopia of beauty. The poor wife, who is nice enough in all respects is forced to leave him along with the daughter . The guy goes on a rampage, destroying his written works and other valuables, in a tantrum which reminded me of Kane's after Susan Alexander leaves him.

The gods that be are close enough in this director's movies to give a helping hand with the plot, as and when required. Our friend loses his sight a second time because the retinal transplant is getting rejected, and his mother, who a moment back was robust enough, is seen connected to a ventilator through the glass wall of what must be an ICU. When his friend or relative suggests another go at the retinal job he angrily exits the car mid-traffic. and gropes his way to civilization through slush and gutter. Finally we find him praying for another chance.

I started the movie because of it's availability, thinking it might be a nice change from the heavier stuff I seemed to be in. It was. I have a weakness for any movie that does it's job in ninety minutes.

The question arises, how do we categorize this director, genre-wise? The picture he gives of Iran is two dimensional. The characters are stereotypes, caricatures of  regional social ideals. They lack the naturalness and complexity of ordinary folk. I was deeply moved by the first of his that I saw, Baran, which was for me an exhilarating introduction to the territory of the Afghanistan-Iran border, and the people who live there.Majidi's films lack the technical maturity and naturalism, whatever it's worth may be, of contemporary Hollywood. It lacks the inanities and amoral excesses of Bollywood, where, as in Hollywood, the dollar calls the tune. Satyajit Ray is a trillion miles away, with his totally unaffected and equipoised himselfness. With a touch light as a feather, maybe like the Tramp himself, Ray embraces, encompasses and expresses, a people and it's land. He is the Dickens of Indian cinema.

In Majidi, we see a soul restrained by the environment in which he operates. He seems circumscribed. He embodies a value system that is not liberating, in which God rules and man is a subject. It is a world of small pieties. Not a world in which a man has the power to carve out his  destiny. In all that scenic splendor, oxygen seems to be in short supply.

Perhaps one can place him in that age of innocence of Indian cinema, aroud 1950, the era of Awaara, Barsaat and Baiju Bawra. That too is not fair, since the quoted movies, in all their naiveté are bursting with joy and song .They are Bollywood's answer to Singin' in the Rain and Casablanca.

At best, Majidi's films have a soothing predicability, simplicity and corn. You could call it Teheranwood.


anoop said...

Thanks for dropping by at my blog.

I see that you are reviewing off-beat films, a worthwhile effort.
Even I have seen one of Majid Majidi's film - The color of Paradise, the main character is blind in that film too.

S. M. Rana said...


Hello and welcome!

Those Dussehra pictures are really extravagant!

Dussehra of Kullu here is also famous but I think the one in Mysore seems far more lavish!