Good Morning World: The Romance of Black and White

You know what I miss? I miss black and white photos. And black and white movies. Plain, simple and beautiful. Yes, I miss black and white movies. Fact is, I miss Doordarshan too.

As a kid in the late 1970s I remember waiting for the Sunday evening movie. We would draw the curtains, sit with a bowl of moodhi (rice puffs) and wait for the familiar drone of DD’s signature tune as the channel began its evening broadcast. My grandmother would stroke my hair as I sat at her feet. It was family time with neighbours adding to the theatre-like ambience.

We had a Dyanora television at that time. While the rest of the world around me was all-colour, the black and white images on the television somehow managed to teach me the bond between reality and fantasy. Every weekend I would wait for films like V Shantaram’s Do Ankhen Barah Haath. I grew up eating moodhi and watching Dev Anand in Hum Dono and Guide, Kishore Kumar in Half Ticket and Jhumroo, Balraj Sahni in Do Bigha Zamin, Dilip Kumar in Daag and Udhan Khatola. I sat mesmerised as true beauty took centrestage on the small screen. Like Madhubala in Mahal, Meena Kumari in Chitralekha and Bahu Begum, Gita Bali in Baazi, Nimmi in Barsat and Nargis in Jagte Raho.

The black and white era has given me everlasting images. Like Johnny Walker and his tel maalish from Pyaasa. Like the angst-ridden Guru Dutt in Kagaz Ke Phool. Like the fiery Lalita Pawar as Mrs D’Sa. Like the disarming honesty and dedication of Waheeda Rahman in Pyaasa. Like the laconical K N Singh. Like the stern and dictatorial Ashok Kumar in Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi. Like Supriya Chowdhury in Ritwik Ghatak’s Meghe Dhaka Tara.

In the early 1980s, I went into another beautiful world when our Dyanora TV introduced me to James Stewart in It’s a Wonderful Life. From then on, I waited for the Friday late night movies – since late nights were when DD showed English films. Alfred Hitchcock suddenly leapt out from my Three Investigator books and on to the small screen. And from the time I saw Ingrid Bergman with Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca, I knew I had to see all the movies she had ever done. Katherine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, Gary Cooper, Lionel Barrymore, Gregory Peck, James Cagney … now these are idols.

Don’t get me wrong, I love movies in mega pixel HD colour blah blah. But somehow, black and white movies evoke poignant memories that today’s multi-coloured flicks in super ultra high definition just can’t hope to achieve in spite of their gala productions.

Why am I talking about all this? A friend of mine lost his grandfather a few months ago. And a few days ago, another dear friend lost her mother – both on account of old age. It set me thinking. I lost all my grandparents quite some time back. There was so much I needed to know about my roots from them. About what makes me who I am. About the people who shaped their lives. About the people that they were. About how my parents were as children and adolescents. About…

Today, I want to, but I cannot run up to them and ask them stuff. Today, I want to, but I cannot stroke their heads and hug them. Today, I want to, but I cannot tell them how much I love them.

Good Morning World. I miss black and white movies. I miss my grandparents.

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