22
Apr 05

A COLORFUL PAST COLORIZED

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Seeing plans within plans

So much of the film, though, was all about subtext — and that was something I had not a problem with. Some of it was clearer, other elements needed drawing out more consciously. Having Vic next to me, however, made this much easier, as he was happy to mention things as they struck him or he wanted to point them out, something I fully wanted as well. There’s nothing wrong with this kind of brief running commentary in situations like this, in fact I think it adds to the joy of something if you’re in the mood to hear it, it breaks no spell. This to me was a film and a learning experience both, and if the latter sounds too strangely formal a term, it does not limit the specific impact I was gaining from the three hour stretch.

For instance, my general historical knowledge was that the Mughals were Muslim, ruling over a largely Hindu populace that adhered to religious practices not necessarily favored by Islam, certainly in comparison to the similar monotheism of Christianity and Judiasm. What Vic was then able to illustrate was how this played out in the telling of the story — noting that Akbar’s wife, a Rajasthani woman, was not only Hindu but shown in the film as freely practicing her religion, with an altar featuring at several points in the narrative in her private chambers. Furthermore, he was able to explain a wordless sequence where what to me was a completely unfamiliar ritual during a new year celebration was enacted, showing the figure of a small baby in a cradle near a choir of young children. Akbar sat facing the cradle and his wife, sitting nearby, gave him a rope that he used to gently rock the cradle back and forth. As so much screen time was dedicated to this, I guessed that this had to be strongly significant, and so it proved, with Vic explaining that this was a figure of Krishna being honored, and that a common new year practice among many Hindus is to rock a similar cradle at a temple or whereever it might be found.

This delighted me because it felt so much like the traditional Christian creche at Christmas but in a way that was simpler and more enjoyable — instead of figures surrounding and venerating a baby, glowing with heavenly light, Krishna here was in fact a very human child, needing some gentle rocking in order to be put to sleep perhaps, or just given that special touch of love and care that is, after all, the prerogative of a young child in particular. It wasn’t a case of regard from afar but, if it’s not too dull a word to use these days, interaction. I also reflected on my ignorance of this because I thought I knew a little something about Hindu religious beliefs — to be reminded that there is always more to be learned is a healthy thing, as it keeps the mind open, active, and hopefully resonably humble as well. At the same time, I easily saw the further issue being raised and which Vic had already partially outlined — after the religious strife and tension that had resulted in the formation of India and Pakistan instead of one country after the Raj ended, the filmmakers had portrayed in a clear, easy fashion a dream of tolerance, coexistence, mutual respect for whatever the divine might be, however one wishes to phrase it, where a Muslim ruler could participate in a Hindu ritual and everything just seemed…right.

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