Early in Quentin Tarantino’s brand new book speculation in the cinema, the author behind some of contemporary Hollywood’s most seminal films, recalls going back to 1970 when, at the age of seven, he accompanied his mother and stepfather to see his first adult film. The film itself is not important (it was John G. Avildsen’s yeah). The clarity of Tarantino’s memory is remarkable. He writes extensively about the film, deconstructing certain scenes (he presumably saw it more than once) and pointing out that he must have had an undeniable influence on it taxi driver. Crucially, though, he remembers exactly how it made him feel.
Over the years I’ve come to believe that the best movie reviews aren’t the ones that break down a movie’s merits and weaknesses, but rather the ones that provide insight into the writer’s feelings. When I look back at some of my favorite films, I find that I don’t always remember them like many of my friends can. I’m not one of those people who can rattle off dialogue on cue. But ask me where I saw the film, with whom and why he stayed with me and it all comes back in a flash.
I can’t remember how old I was when my mother took me to watch pine 3. The film came out in 1983 but there is a good chance it will be released in India a year or two later. By all accounts, I couldn’t have been more than seven or eight when I saw the film at the New Excelsior Cinema in Mumbai. I’ve asked my mom several times over the years why she thought it was okay to take a kid to a movie about a killer shark on the hunt, or how they let me into that movie in the first place. She thinks she probably took me because it was in 3D and only liked kids movies at the time Chhota Chetan (the very popular dubbed version of the Tamil film My dear Kuttichathan) published in 3D. Apparently, cinema admission rules were lax at the time.
What I remember from watching this movie was the sheer thrill of putting on those flimsy 3D glasses (one lens made of red cellophane paper, the other blue) and trembling in my tiny shoes every time the ominous background music suggested that the man-eater lurked nearby. It’s hard to forget how I and most others jumped into our seats at the cinema when a severed human head floated into the eye-line of tourists visiting the underwater theme park where the film was set. I also remember how that jump scare was immediately followed by each laugh, as if to cover up our collective moment of weakness and appear braver than we were.
Pine 3D wasn’t a very good film, as I learned watching it again in my teenage years. But for a seven-year-old just beginning to understand the power of movies, it was a hell of an experience. It led me to go back and discover the original Jaw, directed by Steven Spielberg, which remains one of the most powerful films of my life to this day. It led to my lifelong fascination with sharks; so much so that I finally worked up the courage to go shark diving on a trip to Cancun a few years ago.
During the summer holidays of 1985, my cousins and I were escorted by a housekeeper to the Strand Cinema, which was across the street from my grandparents’ home in Colaba, to see a new Hindi children’s film that had just come out. More than the excitement of seeing the film, it was the outing with cousins that I was looking forward to. And while my memory of the film itself is patchy, I know how much we long for an adventure of our own this afternoon.
The film was Aaj Ke Sholeya idiots-meets-Famous Five A kind of suspenseful caper where a group of kids had to rely on their intelligence while navigating through dense forests and dark caves in search of something I can’t remember. Unfortunately, the internet doesn’t turn up much when it comes to this movie (it was also impossible to find it on VHS, DVD or torrent) and a bare synopsis only shows that the kids were on a mission to find two and to rescue her friends who had been kidnapped. For the rest of the summer break, we cousins spent a lot of time breaking into an abandoned junkyard nearby, looking for thrills, pretending to be invincible and brave, and even making up an anthem that we hummed together as we went slew imaginary beasts.
The movies that stick in our minds the longest are usually the ones that make us feel something — joy, anger, shame, a sense of loss, really anything. Watch Vikramaditya Motwane udaan for the first time is an emotion you can’t shake. The belly punch of that last scene in Brokeback Mountainwhen you discover the shirt folded inside the shirt stays fresh even though it’s been years since I saw that movie.
Even as the memories fade, you can still evoke that primal feeling of what this film did to you.
Rajeev Masand is a former film journalist and currently directs a Talent Management Agency in Mumbai
From HT Brunch, November 26, 2022
Follow us on twitter.com/HTBrunch
Connect with us at facebook.com/hindustantimesbrunch