Movies are in my blood – literally.
In the early 1950’s, after Partition in India, my grandfather’s business was burnt down. There was no insurance to cover the loss, in those days. And so, my dad’s family fell on tough times. The legend is that my dad was playing and singing on the balcony of the family home, when he was discovered by a director. The director approached my grandfather, about having my dad act in his next film and my dad’s family saw a way to rebuild the family business. My dad enjoyed the experience of making a film, but it was literally just one film. However, he was already a movie buff before the experience and afterwards, it cemented his love for movies.
So when I was born, it was definitely a commonality between my dad and I. I was the kid who would sit, without speaking or moving and just get transformed by the movies. And my dad found a kindred spirit. My dad was my main caregiver when my mom was going to College during the day, and he always ensured that movies were a part of my childhood. We would see all of the Disney movies and I remembered the treat it was to see Star Wars in 1978 with my dad. I dressed up for that movie, because even without seeing it, I knew that it was going to be an epic experience and I was right.
Sunday mornings in our house were reserved for classic movies on CBC. It was there that I discovered Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, Audrey Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor. Saturday evenings, when I got older, were reserved for TVO and Elwy Yost’s Saturday night at the Movies. I got to see and experience magnificent acting, directing and dialogue. I probably did not always understand what I was watching, but I absorbed it nevertheless.
For me, it was not the celebrity that drew me to the movie, but the reputation of the movie and the quality of the movie. And my dad encouraged me to discuss the movie, after the movie was done but not during the movie!
One of my greatest movie moments was watching Gandhi in the movie theatre. Gandhi was released in 1982 and I was 8 years old. My dad knew that I had already developed a maturity and appreciation for movies and he knew that I would enjoy this movie. And so we went to the movie theatre to watch it and I kept the movie magazine from that attendance because it was so special to me. When we went to sit down, a woman approached my dad and asked if he thought that I was old enough to watch the movie, to which my dad quietly responded, “I know what is appropriate for my daughter” and the woman left. My dad’s faith in me, made me feel like I had earned watching the movie, and to be honest, that added to the experience.
Gandhi had all of the elements that I had learned to appreciate from watching great movies from such a young age; a beautiful score, phenomenal acting and direction, breath taking cinematography and story about justice, which my dad knew would strike a chord in my heart. It was the first non Hindi movie I attended, with an intermission, and I remember just being in awe and not talking much during the intermission, but still absorbing the movie. Notwithstanding the controversy about Gandhi the man, since the release of this movie, Gandhi remains one of my favourite movies.
And I love that the memory of watching a movie, reminds me of where I was at the time and provides such great memories. Although I had watched it before, I have such great memories watching “Gone with the Wind” with my grandmother, when she came to visit after the birth of my brother. I remember the first time I watched The Sound of Music in our sunporch and feeling joy from the music and the movie. I remember being riveted by Heat, while watching it at our University theatre and not breathing during the scene between Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro, so as not to miss a word. I remember hoping beyond belief that Audrey Hepburn’s character would return back to the press room at the end of Roman Holiday and that she and Gregory Peck would live happily ever after, but it was not meant to be and I looking at my dad with the expression, “Say it ain’t so!”. I remember Barbara Streisand confidently facing Hubble at the end of The Way We Were, and stylishly moving his hair back into place. Realizing that Norman Bates was Mother, watching Grace Kelly dazzle both Cary Grant and James Stewart in Hitchcock movie classics. Those moments…..they still fill me with delight and awe.
One of my greatest regrets is not having secured a copy of my father’s movie. I worked hard on this, throughout university in the early 1990’s and have resumed the search recently, but to no avail. I would love to see for myself, my dad’s face on the screen. Although my father and I had a challenging relationship, his appreciation and love for movies carried on to me and it brings back fond memories when I think of the movie memories we had. And sometimes instead of dwelling on the “not so great”, it is nice to have those memories and to remember the bond we shared and the memories we created…
But that’s just one Diva’s view!