The years I spent as a student at the Film & Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune were my salad days as far as watching films are concerned. Coming from Kolkata and already an avid cineaste, I did have an exposure to a various kinds of cinema, but at the FTII it was a veritable feast. Day after day, morning to evening and on some occasions at night, one was bombarded by a bewildering variety of images and sounds. Some I considered sublime while some others in my ‘stupid arrogance’ I dismissed as trash. Bunuel, Bresson, Guru Dutt, Tarkovsky, Ozu, Wajda, Wim Wenders, John Ford, Truffaut, Chabrol, Resnais, Szabo, Menzel, Jansco, Ghatak, Adoor… … Cinema was truly the king then and I feasted on the sumptuous platter like there was no tomorrow.
In the years, after my passing out of my alma mater, professional demands, personal commitments, lack of opportunities, sometimes sheer ennui and laziness have taken its toll on my cinema viewing habits. Before the VCD/DVD/Internet explosion, it was extremely difficult and almost impossible to see some of the masterpieces of cinema one had seen over and over again at FTII. Once in a while, one had the opportunity to revisit some of these. As with all great works of art, re-viewing these classics after a period of time I have discovered newer beauties and truths. Today, thanks to the electronic media, a lot of these films are available for viewing. Admittedly many lose their grandeur on the TV screen yet they create a sense of joy and wonder and re-establish my faith in my beloved medium/arts.
There remains another set of films, films that had moved me deeply with their vision and technique but I have never had the opportunity to see them once again after my days at FTII. Over the years I’ve forgotten many of these films in their totality. A few sequences and in some cases a vague synopsis of the story-line are all that I have stored in my memory. I suspect their ‘veracity’, after all nostalgia plays strange tricks but at the heart of my hearts I know these films are real gems of cinema. Mundane incidents or oblique references churn out names of films that I had loved and admired. Fragments of images and sounds haunt me like ‘spirits in a material world’ and I am filled with a passionate yearning to see these films in their entirety one more time…
My ‘ghost’ films:
· Pirosmani: Director: Giorgy Shengalaya (Georgia/USSR)
· Blue Mountains : Director : Nikita Mikhalkov (USSR)
· You & I Love Budapest: Director: Istvan Szabo (Hungary)
· Kanal: Director: Andrej Wajda (Poland)
· Walkover: Director: Jerzy Skolimowski (Poland)
· The Saragossa Manuscript: Dir : Wojciech J Has (Poland)
· Days of Matthew: Dir: Witold Leszczynski (Poland)
· Intimate Lighting: Director: Ivan Passer (Czechoslovakia)
· India ’67: Director: Sukhdev (India)
· 27 Down: Director: Avtar Kaul (India)
· Louisiana Story: Director: Robert Flaherty (USA)
· Meshes in the Afternoon: Director: Maya Deren (USA)
· Jazz on a Hot Summer’s Day: Directors: Aram Avakian, Bert Stern (USA)
PS: So many of the ‘ghosts’ are from Eastern Europe! Isn’t that a tragedy?