Wordsworth, one of my favourite poets, felt it ! So did Tagore, his all-encompassing vision never losing sight of the “simply” beautiful things around us. And, if we have watched Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali or Akira Kurosawa’s The Seven Samurai, we know that there are men who have portrayed it on the big screen as well.
Man’s desire to unravel the mysterious unknown, to view what is not within our immediate sights and his quest for the ultimate knowledge – his wanderlust – has been a subject of great research. This piece doesn’t concern what is far too away from us but what is near us lying unnoticed, unacknowledged and unsung.
Wordsworth wrote memorably: “Ten thousand saw I at a glance, tossing their heads in sprightly dance”. He was, of course referring to a host of ‘golden daffodils’, the true beauty of which he appreciated in a state of blissful solitude.
It was in the year 1929 when a bright young boy visited Santiniketan to meet Tagore. He wanted the Bard to write a poem for him in his notebook. Tagore had obliged with a famous eight-liner of lyrical beauty and more. He wanted the remind the young boy that although we spend a lot of money in our quest to know the unknown and travel to distant lands across seas and mountains, we fail to observe the beauty in the things around us like a fallen dewdrop on a blade of corn. According to the great poet, the simply beautiful sights around us tend to get ignored in our desire to visit the farthest corners of our earth. These sights require an inner eye and only the mind of a true romantic can appreciate its true worth. The bright young boy in question was none other than Satyajit Ray who went on to create history with his first film, Pather Panchali.
One of the greatest films ever made in cinematic history, this film delineates a poignant tale of a poor Brahmin family living in an unknown village in Bengal. The film is littered with several scenes of simple brilliance and rustic charm. The run of the young protagonists across a “kaashbon” to catch a glimpse of a train passing by, the stately walk of the sweet seller across the muddy village roads, the monsoon rain and its impact on dry ponds, the delight of the birds, ducks and the dance of the tadpole after the rains, the steady fall of rainwater from the trees all combine to remind us of the very nature and essence of living in the countryside. There is another memorable scene in which a stolen object is dropped in a pond obscured by hyacinth and the resultant “rippling effect” followed by the hyacinths covering the pond all over again – so lyrical and yet so true, isn’t it? Pather Panchali would not have haunted us had these scenes not been present therein. They are like pure rainwater, trickling into out wet bodies, our emotion- soaked minds and our pained hearts as curatives.
We come to Kurosawa now and his magical, The Seven Samurai. Another blockbuster work by an acknowledged master, this film is unique in its depiction of a Japanese village in different seasons. The green fields, the corn before and after harvesting and the application of background music – so sweet and full of passion – are intricately woven; one can’t separate the fast-flowing rivers from the catching of fish by one of the protagonists –with bare hands – and the sheer joy he derives from it; the mannerisms of the Samurais and their zeal to rid the village of the dacoits – this film is another superb commentary of the simple lives led by the Japanese villagers. In fact, the entire film is a depiction of simple things in a subtle but pleasing light through the eyes of an artist that Kurosawa was. The film, to me, is not a black and white one; it is one large picture containing a variety of colours on the canvas of the human mind.
Yes, all these great souls were correct. We have to have the eye for the simply beautiful things around us and the mind, too, to look back and analyse.
:: Partha Basu