Imagine the deepest crevice of the Pacific… where no spec of light ever reaches, and the sound, taste or smell is unfamiliar, incomprehensible and/or nonexistent to our natural senses. ‘Pitch’ does not even come close to describing this black, because it has joined hands with the unknown and the silent. Imagination becomes a foe when two of the five friendly senses cease to cooperate. And our lonely sixth sense has no other choice but to surrender to the only plausible and possible impulse that is fear.
I admit I could not sit through more than 15 minutes of this (highly) “critically-acclaimed”, “one-of-a-kind”, a “milestone” of a movie called Black. It made me wonder about the meaning of black and its affinity to silence (or the lack of it, in this case). How silent is silence in the world of a child who cannot see, hear or speak? How comfortable is silence to a child whose sight and hearing have abandoned him? Or how friendly or fearful is silence for a child to whom the mystery of language has not been revealed? Tragically, this movie outright refuses to acknowledge the omnipresence of silence that engulfs the subject matter.
Based loosely (or rather set tightly) on the life of Helen Keller, here is a child burdened with triple disabilities of blindness, deafness and a severe speech impediment. The all-knowing, ever-perceptive teacher (played by the demi-God of Indian movie history, AB Baby “the one who does no wrong”) takes the child under his wing as an experimentation to his methodical teaching.
The initial 15 minutes of high volume noise pollution was incurred by 15 minutes of high intensity melodrama and verbal diarrhoea between characters at play. I was amazed at the lack of logic behind all the rage, impatience and frustration of the teacher. His infuriated tirade at the child is often associated with vigorous shaking of the child out of her wits (borderline physical abuse?) as he lectures her on the virtues of table manners. The poor kid cannot even hear! (For the ignorant newbie to this genre, “high level of shrieking and noise-making is imperative for “BOND”-ing between characters in “desi” movies.)
While the rest of the audience ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ at the teacher’s dedication, and supposed wisdom, I tweedle my thumbs some more, and wonder if the intention behind all that noise and violence is highly noble. Did the director underestimate viewers’ intelligence to grasp the context, and thus felt the need to spell it all out (a raw insult not to be taken kindly)? Or has silence become a moot point (‘moo’ to some, ‘mute’ to others) in conversations and has lost its golden glory? I dearly hope it’s the first.
Admirably Black is true to its nature... hue and saturation… in the desolation, austerity, and skepticism of the affluent bourgeois family of the Victorian era… or in the monochromatic language of cinematography… beautiful, yet sombre. Yet there is more to blackness than the director wanted us to believe. One needs to fathom both the beauty and the dread of silence that encapsulates black, and understand how to connect with silence and make it less fearful.
Pleased with my analysis, I get up and turn the TV off to find solace in the darkness of the screen and the sudden quietness it ensured. Yes, black and silence can be synonymous. So, here’s a riddle… if black is silent, and silence is golden, then how golden is Black?