It has been 75 years since the first talkie Alam Ara was released.
I have been an old film junkie, especially Black&White. There is magic in those two colours. I remember watching them in the movie hall when re-runs were quite common or at film fests or now on DVD and be transported to another world. I suppose the lack of colour lent them that distance and romance.
I fell in love with Chandramohan as Jehangir in Pukar. One never could fathom the colour of his eyes, but they were light and blazing, and mysterious.
Alabaster skin with slashes of black on the lips looked so enticing.
Madhubala letting droplets fall off her hair in Barsaat ki raat or Meena Kumari as the haughty and tragic bahu in Sahib, Bibi aur Ghulam or Nutan in Sujata and Bandini shorn of all embellishments and yet glowing with inner tranquility, and of course Nimmi, her hair flying like a cloud of smoke as she chased the airplane in Uran Khatola.
Even the men looked wonderful. The rakish Dev Anand, and no one smoked cigarettes quite like Ashok Kumar...heck, I even accepted the tepid Bharat Bhushan as Mirza Ghalib. I had a special place for the regal Pradeep Kumar and Rehman, and I did like Joy Mukherjeee. So what? I don't think anyone could have pulled of the "Bohat shukriya, badee meherbaani" number as well as he did. Let me not even start on Guru Dutt...his eyes crinkled like a curtain of chintz, his smile was sardonic as though he was testing you, and his voice was like listening to the sound of the ocean with a seashell held near your ear.
Ensemble scenes too had a certain aura -- whether it was tap dancing, or saxophone-playing scenes or the eternal piano where fingers hit keys at random and the tune continued to play in the background as the rejected hero continued to taunt the woman who could not be his.
The piano keys remain black and white, so do the harmonium ones.
I like black because of the night, darkness, sleep, sex appeal, the primal, a deep well, charcoal, rocks, power...
I like white because of clouds, awakening, peace, sublimity, the sliver seen through half-shut eyes, paper, fingernails, pearls, love, power...
Both black and white have power because you can add anything to them and they will still stand out and you take away anything from them and they will not be depleted.
Like a newborn child that cannot see colours, I do still sometimes see things only in black and white.
Where are the greys, ask those who like to balance things, who like to see life as the merging of disparates. I do see greys. I know grey characters who have a bit of good and a bit of bad in them, like all of us. Yes, all of us.
But, pared down to essentials, at that one particular time, everything is just black or white. I view things in their extreme, for those areas in between do not come to embrace me or throttle me.
I take black and white takes me and we mesh. Like dry ice over hot coal.