Text: Arati , Photos: Hari
It was early night in Bagli - a crowd had gathered in curiosity and anticipation - a film was about to be shown - in the town centre, in fact in midst of its chowraha (cross roads), and for free!
The muddled confusion of rigging the white cotton sheet across a rickety central stage, setting up laptops, projectors, missing extension cords, multi-pin plugs, while kids ran around with their lollipop ices, women sat in relaxed groups to gossip, and men sombre and plumed in their colorful turbans of oranges and yellow - all gathered on tarps laid across mid-roads.
When all was set, someone called out to shut the street lights. A spindly ladder was conjured up, set against electric pole and a person climbed up, skinny and steady, to reach for the wires, identify and 'yank it off'! And the movie began...
I have seen Koi Sunta Hai before, twice. I find it more hauntingly beautiful, more internally 'disturbing', and even more sorrowful, compared to Shabnam's other movies. I especially like the very beginning of it. This time, I was sitting with some children grouped in a clump - obviously friends, on one side and another cluster of women at first huddled in a circle, on my other side. In the informal, or really, easy way of rural India, even as the movie started, these people continued to be engrossed with themselves, occasionally turning towards the screen to see what was going on...women continued conversations on domesticity, tinkling their bangles, jingling their anklets, occasional soft laughter arising near by. The children were first curious about me and wanted to know what I was called, where my home was - all this after the movie had begun. However, slowly the audience around me settled down - orienting themselves more and more towards the screen. They fell silent, engrossed. Some women and children had left in the first half hour of the film - but most others stayed and watched. I remember thinking - how bright are the eyes of people here - how brightly shine children's eyes - maybe it was this light - of the screen reflecting in their eyes, at night.
At one point in the movie, a kid turned towards me and reached for my hand, saying "I know him" (i.e. Kumar Gandharv), "How?" I asked him, he smiled and replied " He is in my book" (in his 7th std., social text). He further elaborated that he knew Kumar Gandharv from the section on music which also contained Tansen (the renowned singer in Mughal emperor Akbar's court) and Lata Mangeshkar ( a very popular playback singer of Bollywood)! I laughed at the strange combination of musicians that had made it into the MP govt's curriculum texts for 12 year olds. I also remember humming or softly singing with the songs in the movie - and being asked if I liked these songs...Oh yes, very much..did they like it? , a big smile now and yes! The women never directly addressed me, but turned and partook in my conversations with the kids, smiling.
And so we watched this movie together, in middle of Bagli's chowraha, its haat, turning towards each other, when something touched us, with a look, a smile, an acknowledgment - as one does with one's family, watching something on TV that we all like - comfortable and happy together, all listening - 'Koi Sunta Hai'.