(Not edited or proofread)
Last night, I found that I could do without watching TV and, instead, found myself foraying Netflix, Funonline etc. Since I was in no mood to buy and hire a programme, I went to features on demand and chanced upon Black Narcissus. I had heard a lot about it, but I had not the foggiest idea of what it was. Was Black Narcissus a black narcissus or what? No, it was a film and I had a lot of time to kill before I could dream of falling asleep.
And the film mesmerised me from the start. The enchanting Himalayas that I later discovered was based in the British Isles captivated me. The theme was simple enough, and the characters were not complicated, and the setting was lyrically delicious. The tone was condescendingly comic. The focus was on the perennial tension between the libido and the superego while, as predicted, the ego kept them on the leash without making its hold feel oppressive. The sisters of the order had to leave the land of naive sensuality whose denizens lived comfortably between the asceticism symbolised by the holy man in contemplation and the sensuous Kanchi.
The film reminded me of Samskara by U. R. Anantha Murthy, whom I had the privilege of meeting here, when he mentioned our Intizar Husain’s visit to him. (Incidentally, the book was sent to me by my friend, Som Anand, from Delhi. Som Anand was introduced to me by his Model Town friend, Raoof Malik, in Lahore). The story can be read on different levels but what the account of a decaying Brahmin colony brought into relief brilliantly was the journey of a young Brahmin, the chief character, from forced ascetism through sensuous experience to the discovery of critical awareness of the self and the existential message that life can only be authentic when it is lived. The remarkable thing is that the story does not end at a destination but leaves the chief character in the process of journey. (I had the temerity to compliment the author on this).
After the experience of the film, I read an article it in Wikipedia (I am sorry I am a bit of low-brow). I learnt that it was based on a novel and was made in 1947, and the main cast were:
The film took the world by storm for its brilliant photography, experimentation with technicolor and reviews could not refrain from emphasising its eroticism.