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On a Cinematic Journey


Namrata Joshi

THE POPCORN ESSAYISTS: WHAT MOVIES DO TO WRITERS
Edited by Jai Arjun Singh
Tranquebar, Westland, 2011, pp. 227, Rs. 395.00

VOLUME XXXV NUMBER 7 july 2011

Alfred Hitchcocks Psycho encouraged me to take cinema seriously as an art form with its own methods and a visual language distinct from the words being spoken by the characters on screen writes Jai Arjun Singh in Monsters I Have Known an engaging and expansive essay on the horror films that spoke to him in ways no film scholar could understand. Its a feeling I could immediately connect with. Watching Psycho time and again has not just been about getting scared by the murder of detective Arbogast on the stairs of Norman Batess house but also about appreciating how effortlessly yet artfully Hitchcock was able to weave in themes of materialism and greed into a scary picture. And without really making a big deal of it. Jais reference to the delightfully kooky Arsenic and Old Lace also rang a bell the film in which bodies of a dozen men in the attic could never make the sweet aunts any less loveable. Its writing like this that works best in the anthology writing thats not just about great use of words but reveals the passion involvement and sincerity of the writer for cinema and simultaneously takes the reader on a cinematic journey of his or her own. Jais monsters made me relive my own long love affair with horror and prompted me to view my favourite horror film Roman Polanskis Rosemarys Baby all over again. Any anthology made up of an eclectic set of contributors is quite like a film with multiple narrative strands. Some stories tend to work more than the rest. Similarly here a few essays reach out better than others. And most of those are the ones which live up to Jais own definition of good writing in the introduction: The sort of film writing I like best is the well-written accessible yet thoughtful personal essay that provides an insight into how a particular person might respond to a film which reveals something about the writer too. My pick of the lot is Manjula Padmanabhans Jellyfish. Her journey into world cinema from being a Hollywood junkie comes with hilarious anecdotes and is narrated in a delightfully witty and irreverent manner. Somewhere it also reminds me of my own leap into serious cinema from hardcore Bollywood masala. Manjula sets up several scenes as though they were straight out of a film: her risking a yawn in the middle of ...


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