Indian cinema and Bollywood
The distinguishing feature of Indian cinema has always been uniqueness based on the tradition of national drama, even when the most serious movie plot is followed by songs and dances with the emphasis on musical compositions.
It is quality of music and songs which are so crucial for success of films. In order to attract attention of the audience, long before the premiere of films themselves some soundtracks are usually released.
The major character is an ordinary person, which is able to withstand the evil and injustice and, as the majority of cinema industry are the representatives come from low classes. This factor is the main during the film making.
Good music, bright colors, beautiful dresses help the viewer forget about his life problems for a while.
The history of Indian cinema dates back to the end of the 19th century, when technological wonder of the Lumiere brothers with the help of light allowed to play movements on the screen. After 6 years of its invention, this technology got to Indian and in 1901 the first documentary was made.
The father of Indian cinema is Dhundiraj Govind Phalke , who created his style known even today. After the acquaintance with European cinema industry, Phalke created the house of cinema production, and in 1913 shot the first Indian film “Raja Harishchandra”.
The term “Bollywood”, which occurred at the end of the 70s, included two components: this is a synonym of cinema industry of Mumbai (past – Bombay) and analogous cinema industry of the city of California (the USA) Hollywood. The wide spread of the term “Bollywood” happened in the 90s, when Indian films started to be released in Western Europe, America and Great Britain. In Bombay the actor Prithviraj Kapoor was considered to be the founder of cinema industry. He was the first from Kapoor clan, three generations of which also made their career in the cinema industry.
Here are the main stages of the development of cinema in India:
– 1930-1940 –the first sound film “Alam Ara” (1931) was released. At this time 27 sound films were released as well. This was a real breakthrough in the country’s cinema. It considerably broadened the opportunities of cinema masters, and Bollywood production started to grow. By the 1939 more than 200 films had been released in India and the cinema industry of the country is on the 4th place in world’s top film production and on the 8th from theatrical release revenue.
– 1940-1960. The growing tendency of move from black-and-white films to color ones. During this period the films, which are now considered to the classics of the genre, were released. The film by Mehboob Khan “Mother India”, which was nominated for Oscar for The Best Foreign Language film (1957), the films “Pyassa” and “Kaagaz Ke Phool” by Guru Dutt were included by journalists in the list of the 100 best films of the world.
– 1970-1980- Among romantic films, the films about gangsters and mafia were also shot. Amitabh Bachchan followed this genre and today his is famous as one of the best actors of Indian film industry. He created the image of “Robin Hood”, who all alone withstood all the evil and injustice.
-1990s – This period is characterized by the return to family and romantic musicals. And even though Indian film makers prefer considering the problems of all the audience (considerably broadening the demand for cinema production), there were still films for the ordinary people and city residents or foreigners.
The main viewers of Indian cinema are from South-Western and South Asia, Middle East, Arabian Society of France and almost all Africa.
It is such a wide range of markets that makes shoot “shallow” and understandable movies, skipping all the emotional, language and situational peculiarities.
The emerging changes:
Cinema in India nowadays is at its rise, because of the reforms conducted by the government.
The government realized that for a high-tech county, which India is rapidly becoming, the creation of new cinema will influence the new, modern image of a country on the world’s markets. Besides, if in the past cinema industry was the part of services sector, now, under the pressure of outstanding people of art and big corporations, cinema has obtained the status of “industrial production” with the opportunity to attract both bank and outward investments. Amount of financing increased by more than 50%, and, as a result, in 2008 total gain from ticket sales reached 3 billion dollars.
In new cinema shot with the use of modern technologies new characters appeared. As, for example, in the film “And laughter, and tears” starring Amitabkh Bachanov, the main idol of the 80s, and with the budget 8,5 million dollars, the biggest one in the whole history of Bollywood.
With the turn of the new century Bollywood started to compete with Hollywood for international recognition.
Film director Mira Nair brings to Cannes his film “Salaam Bombay!” and got Jury and Audience Choice Award. That year his film “Monsoon Wedding” was awarded the Golden Lion in Venice and in her recognition she was offered to be the Head of the Jury of the 52th Berlin film festival.
For the first time in London in 2000 the Oscar Award Ceremony for the Indian filmmakers was held. The film director Shekhar Kapur was awarded for the films “Queen Eizabeth” (shot in England) and “Queen of gangsters” (shot in India).
Indian film makers are now thinking of Hollywood, of its experience and resources. Indian delegations visit the USA quite often, and the Association of American feature Motion Pictures is thinking of the opportunity of cooperation of both countries’ cinema industry.
There is no cooperation with Russia yet. And, in spite of the great amount of Western films, there are many people in Russian who appreciate Indian cinema. Video cassettes and discs are eagerly bought in kiosks and malls. The consumer is loyal in his love to this complicated and ordinary, good and banal, but still bright, exotic, cheerful happy ending. National cinema and its actors for the dwellers of India mean life itself. First of all, this concerns old-school actors. They could act any genre, any character and any hero.
Outstanding actors and their films:
Dev Anand is one of the outstanding actors (those were also both film directors and producers of their films). He was the actor, film director, producer, writer; he starred in more than 100 films as a major character. His first picture was a thriller “Enemies” (1951).
In 1971 Dev Anand made the film “Brother and sisters”. It was the reaction to hippie culture. He made a contribution to Bollywood fashion by creating his own unique style: fringe, bright and colorful shirts, corduroy jeans and yellow scarf. His dramatic type is romantic hero.
The same with 2 outstanding actors: Raj Kapoor and Rajesh Khanna. Dev Anand starred in the Indian adaptation of “The Government Inspector” by Gogol. He was included into the Jury of Moscow International Cinema Festival (1961). He spent his last years in London, where he died at the age of 88.
Dharmendra is an actor, producer, and politician. He climbed on a career ladder slowly. In the film “Flower and stone” (1966) he starred with the actress Mina Kumary (who had already starred in several films) and this film become a real hit. Dharmendra plays roles of courageous and tender men, attracting a lot of fans. During the shooting of “Sholay” he met the actress Hema Malini. And at that time they become famous couple, which was for a long time the most commercially successful on the screen. 16 from 28 films, where they played, became real hits:
“Flower and stone” (1966)
“Red and stubborn” (1970)
“Zita and Gita” (1972)
“My name is clown” (1972)
“Favorite Radja” (1972)
“The eternal fairytale of love” (1977)
“Ali Baba” (1979)
“The burning Train” (1980)
“Like the Three Musketeers” (1984)
“Hum Kaun Hai?” (2005)
Raj Kapoor is the king of Indian cinema, actor, film director, screen writer. He starred in 80 films. He played plenty of roles, which had an impact on Indian cinema culture.
For the first time he acted when he was 6 years working in the theatre “Pritkhvi-theatres” not only as an actor, but as a scene worker, lighting technician and cleaner. His father, Pritkhviradj Kapur, was the owner of this theater, and that is why the father had very high demands for his sons (Raj has 2 brothers-Shammi and Shashi).
But Raj Kapoor wanted to make his future career in cinema. His first films “Fire” and “ Rain season” were shot together with Nargis, who had become his close friend and helper in creation of outstanding cinema hits. But a real recognition to Kapoor came with his third directorial work. This was a legendary film “Tramp”. In 1951the film was released on the screen of India and immediately become successful. This was the story of a boy from slums, who wanted to be an honest man, but he was forced to steal. The tramp, played by Raj, was naively sly, ambitious, slippery, but at the same time vulnerable.
The film is distinguished by moving moments and unbelievable coincidences, and Raj Kapoor – by the talent of a comedian, by songs and dances, by his laugh during his talks about the serious and tragic. However, the ending of the film was unexpectedly happy.
Soon the film “Tramp” was internationally accepted and got Prize in Cannes. In the USSR this film was incredibly successful and many people watched it in the cinema not just one time. Boys on the streets trying to imitate the Tramp, would copy his step and sing his song: “I am Tramp, Tramp!”
In 1955 a satirical comedy “Mr. 420” was released. This film was some kind of a variant of “Tramp” (2 parts as well) and it got 9 awards from the Association of Journalists.
Raj Kapoor got another Award on the International Film Festival in Karlovy Vary (1957) – The Globe de Cristal. This is the story of a peasant, who was taken for a thief by rich landlords. Raj Kapoor wrote the script and played the major role.
Kapoor was often compared with Chaplin. Awkward gestures, shuffling gait, shyness and vulnerability in his eyes-all this had an impact on a viewer. But still, regardless of some traits of external similarity with the characters of Chaplin, Kapoor found his character, which took peculiarities of Indian National Character. He was young, handsome, full of strength and charm and, unlike Chaplin, didn’t get into awkward situations.
Kapoor and Nargis broke up, and a new level at Kappor’s career as an actor and film director began. There came a star of another range-layback Padmini.
In 1960 the film “In the country, where the Gang flows” starring Padmini was released. Here the sensual prevailed over the spiritual. Gradually, social problematics in Kapoor’s films set aside. His passion for materialistic values and luxury changed the final variant of the film “Bobby”.
It brought record-breaking profit, when it was released in 1973. His films “Turbid Gang-God’s River” (1985) and “Love Illness” (1982) were box-office hits. In these films Kappor changed poetical realism to deliberate entertainment.
In 1988 Kapoor was awarded the most honorable prize in the county- D. Phalke Prize, but during the ceremony he lost consciousness and after some time died. With the death of Kapoor the whole epoch of Indian cinema finished. His work was continued by his sons: Randhir, Rishi and Rajiv.
Nargis (Nargis Dat) is an Indian actress, who starred in 50 films. Her famous film partner was Raj Kapoor. She met him in 1945. “We were meant to be”-said Raj later on. His hectic romance with Nargis became national legend…
A Russian viewer knew her from the films “Tramp”, “Mr. 420” and also from Soviet-Indian film “Journey Beyond Three Seas”. But her most famous film was “Mother India”, which got the Prize in International Film Festival in Karlovy Vary, and Nargis played Best Female Role. By playing Radha, a widow, who brought up two sons and saved their lives, but still at the same time saving her virtue, Nargis turned into the perfect example for “mothers” of the next Indian family cinema.
In 1968 Nargis obtained National Award for Best Female Role for the film “Day and Night”.
P.S. Any genre has been available to Indian cinema, because old actor “army” could play any character.
In Bollywood there are about 600 films under production. This number is close to Hollywood, but… budget is not to compare.
The friendship between Russia and India has existed from the times of the USSR and has always been the subject of attention of both countries. Today we witness the Renaissance of Russian-Indian friendship. And for Russian and Indian film-makers this is the opening of new perspectives in realization of joint projects.
Shanti Jayasekara, PhD, Grand PhD
When somebody asks him who he is and where he comes from, he says that he is nobody and comes from nowhere. His name is Emir Kusturica, also known as «the Fellini of the Balkans» and «Gypsy Tarantino». While Kusturica considers himself to be a man from the past, critics reckon the film director among the cinema of the future.
He is Muslim and was born in Sarajevo, but he is ethnic Serbian. He calls himself Yugoslav, Emir of the non-existing land (Emir is an Arabian name that means «master», «the ruler of the kingdom»).
The films by Kusturica, which were shot before the collapse of Yugoslavia, predicted the inevitability of outburst. Yugoslav cinema had been in the grip of «guerilla pathos» for many years, but still it produced some masterpieces of the military theme.
Following the Soviet cinema of the period of «thaw», innovations in Polish, Hungarian and Yugoslav cinema took place. Kusturica was studying at the department of directing at the Prague Academy after the breakdown of the Prague Spring.
-his first film «Guernica» (thesis project) won a prize at Student’s Film Festival in Karlovy Vary. Critics had already noted that the films by Emir Kusturica didn’t have any illusions of the 60s and didn’t reflect disappointed hopes. The young director’s films easily won the prizes, which Tarkovsky and Besson dreamt about. He is one of the few filmmakers in the world, who won the two awards – Golden Palms Cannes Film Festival not for long-term service, but being still young. (In 1985 for the film «When Father Was Away on Business» and in 1995 for the film «Underground»)
Successfully combining religious exotics and folklore, of which people beyond the Balkans had vague view, Kusturica impressed his audience with ethnical identity of national life and inner nobleness of the poor.
– His second film «The Brides Are Coming» was prohibited for moral reasons. So, on the one hand, Kusturica became famous and won a lot of prizes, but, on the other hand, the government disapproved of him. Emir Kusturica reciprocated this attitude and used to say: «These people have been playing at petty politics all their life. Yesterday they were ultra-left, today they are shirakists and tomorrow they are someone else. It was they who formed Yugoslavia after World War I, and it was they who ruined it». It seemed strange to Kusturica why the West, which advocates the multicultural world, supported the collapse of Yugoslavia – the only multicultural country in the Balkans? In his film «Underground» he answers this question and provides a clear explanation for his position. Critics called this film a real boom. A brilliant tragicomic entanglement (bombardment of the Zoo), an endless chain of the baroque images, which sometimes go beyond the border of poor taste, but inexhaustible inventiveness and pervasive erotism intoxicate a viewer better than strong brandy.
Europe accepted such esthetic chaos, but, at the same time, it caused fear of this happy sadism and inexhaustible energy, which looked great on the screen, but less attractive in the chain of endless Balkan conflicts. In the film a war lasts half a century. Tito’s functionaries convinced the residents of the underground of the continuing World War II. When «prisoners» escaped, they found that the war in the Balkans was still going on, but this time it was Yugoslav Civil War. «A war is not a war until a brother kills a brother» – this is the main idea of the film «Underground» by Emir Kusturica.
Kusturica brought fresh blood to the decrepit veins of the cinema and became the living classic of the global European style in his new, post – modernistic variant. Hardly had he turned 40, when he became one of the most highly-acclaimed film directors.
His gypsy theme
In 1989 in Cannes Kusturica presented his film «Time of Gypsies», where identity of national life was shown from the different angle. The Yugoslav film director revealed that gypsies have some kind of aesthetics, which is very close to absolute kitsch.
The film director grew up next to the Roma community, and he received the first life lessons of friendship and freedom from gypsies. He felt that these poor but free people are noble inside. Gypsies can steal, kill, rape but their way of living is still different. «Money, love and family- that’s everything that only matters for gypsies. That’s it. Never anything extra. » – says Kusturica about gypsies.
The film «Time of Gypsies» («Home for hanging») is about a destiny of a young gypsy, who has come a long way from poverty to fabulous wealth and from spirituality to the loss of moral values. «Time of the gypsies» is purely tragic: for the first time we see an inverted figure of the Christ, the symbol of Yugoslavia, which was left by God.
The next films by Emir Kusturica became more optimistic. For a small project called Music-acrobatics for the German television Kusturica had to tell about gypsy music, but the idea ended up with the film «Black cat, White cat»
The film director didn’t conceal that he was escaping from the gruesome world of politics to the utopia of happiness, to the familiar «time of gypsies». While «Time of Gypsies» is an outstanding ethnographic fresco and «Underground» is an outstanding tragicomedy of Yugoslav modern history, «Black cat, White cat» – is an outstanding ode to kitsch and happiness. Love, drugs, delicious food, wedding near the house, where two living corpses are lying, a black cat, a white cat… «In this film even the dead come alive. By making this film I get rid of tragedies and admire everything natural».-says Kusturica. At Venice Film Festival «Black cat, White cat» won Special Jury Prize for Best Director. But the film received recognition among spectators, who gave Kusturica a standing ovation.
His animals theme
In the films by Kusturica even animals had a role of a great importance: to the point of sometimes naming a film in honor of cats. Dogs, goats, monkeys and even elephants «play roles» in his films. In the film «Time of Gypsies» a turkey can execute orders, in «Black cat, White cat» – a pig eats the paneling of «Trabant». In the first scene of «Underground» bombs are dropped on the Zoo, and animals, overwhelmed with survival instinct, escape to the city. And how comical was the moment, when during the bombardment of the city one of the main characters was polishing his smart lacquered boots with the cat he accidentally saw. «There is some magnetism in animals. They exist between our past and present», -says Kusturica.
His music theme
The music to Kustunica’s films wrote his composer – Goran Bregovic. However, Kusturica didn’t share fame with him and they had to stop working together. It had an impact on music partition of Kustunica’s latest films. It became less inspired, repeating old themes.
From easy hand of internationally acclaimed film director of the legendary films «Underground», «Black cat, White cat», «Life is a Miracle», Emir Kusturica, fashion of Balkan music appeared. Balkan music, which Kusturica used in his films, is a melodious cocktail of gypsy, Serbian and Turkish rhythms «flavored» with rock-n-roll.
Kusturica – rock star is known not less than Kusturica-film director. He was a bass guitarist of Sarajevo rock group called «Zabranjeno Pušenje» («Smoking forbidden»). Life wasn’t a bed of roses for the young musicians: the first repetitions took place in the cellar and the musicians didn’t have enough money for the instruments. After the group’s breakup Emir created a new group called «The No Smoking Orchestra». It became famous immediately: for the first time the music of «The No Smoking Orchestra» sounded in the film «Black cat, White cat», and after that it gained popularity all over the world. In 2014 Emir Kusturica and his group took part in Winter International Arts Festival in Sochi.
His films and awards
– 1981 – Do You Remember Dolly Bell? – Golden Lion, Venice
– 1985 – When Father Was Away On Business, Golden Palm Cannes Film Festival
– 1989 – Time of Gypsies – Best Director award at Cannes Film Festival
– 1993 – Arizona Dream – Silver Bear – Special Jury Prize at the Berlin Film Festival
– 1995 – Underground – Golden Palm Cannes Film Festival
– 1995 – Underground – Lumiere Awards, France
– 1997 – Underground – Kinema Junpo Awards, Japan
– 1998 – Black cat, White cat – Silver Lion, Little Golden Lion and Laterna Magika Prize, Venice
– 2001 – Super 8 Stories – Silver Plate of best documentary at Chicago International Film Festival
– 2004 – Life is a Miracle – Cinema Prize of the French Education System at Cannes Festival
– 2005 – Life is a Miracle – Best European Union Film at César Awards, France
– 2005- Life is a Miracle – Best Balkan Film at Sofia Film Festival
Emir Kusturica has been wandering around the world all his entire life: he lived in Czechoslovakia and in America, where he taught directing at Colombia University. Now he lives in Paris, but he prefers to speak English only. However, he has his motherland. This is a marvelous country, where people perform noble deeds, have fun and deeply love each other. And the main thing – they don’t die (but if they do – it serves them right). This is life, and Kusturica is its best artist.
Prof. Jayasekera Santhi (Mahatma Shanti), PhD, Grand PhD.
Recognition is an amazing phenomenon of public opinion expression. It is a response to the outstanding activities of a person, his merits and achievements.
Recognition crowns fame and determines the duration of communication with an author regardless of the time of his actual existence. The chosen by fame are paid bonuses, awarded, stand out on the screens, magazine covers.
But there is a more modest but lasting recognition – a memory. The memory of actions, thoughts, all that remains in the inheritance.
Cultural heritage retains author’s individuality, coming in a common human collection of world art, in its spiritual treasury. Contribution of a worthy creator or artist can be either a standard product or an incentive of improvement of followers’ activities.
Cultural heritage like a gift of nature: sunlight, spring water, gentle sea breeze –people, it is all yours, enjoy the benefit.
Recently departed this life, Tonino Guerra, just a moment in time – left us a rich and inspired heritage of his work.
In Russia he is known as a writer, as one of the brightest members of becoming a new trend in Italian film industry, which had an impact on the film world as a whole.
But Guerra is primarily a poet. And you can be sure that he will still give a joy of communication fellowship with him to connoisseurs and lovers of poetry.
Definitely poetry, because no matter how his work in cinematography is expressed, in general in literature, painting and communication – anytime and anywhere you will find lyrical beginning, melodies of poetry and beauty of thought. And yet, or, above all, love for people and all his surroundings.
He is a philosopher, he discovers and explains the laws of life. His philosophy is clear and simple in its presentation, and deep in content, meaning. Meditation, philosophical reflections, his own vision of everyday life is always present in his work.
Guerra describes and talks about things and people who are known best of all. He tells Russians about St. Petersburg and Moscow, about Kizhi, but he says something new and significant that Russians adopt.
Having a skill to present modern and exciting, Guerra talks about his friends Ulysses and Penelope, and about Hellas.
He reveals us Italy, opens up the world he sees – and we accept his discoveries. No officialese and patterns, you can hear a sincere voice of Guerra: “We need to shout Big words that will reach the heart of every person. The words, full of living water for people, animals and plants, which will revive the gestures of hands, frozen without work; the words, full of attention to a desperate childhood”.
And the life Tonino Guerra began naturally and normally, in a poor family in a small town.
Childhood flashed quickly, but imprinted in the mind. Great Duce, great Italy, and then a rout.
And for Guerra – captivity. And finally, a peaceful life, University – education and knowledge.
“It was able to learn,
Only thanks to my mother,
She put a cross in the place
Where the name is usually written in words“.
Yes, his mother was illiterate, and from his father’s side, the workers. “My grandfather laid bricks, my father built walls, and I lay bricks and built walls”. He sadly finishes this poem: “But still I have not built a house for myself”. Let us not agree with the poet: Tonino Guerra built a house. Built for himself and for many connoisseurs of nor pretentious or contrived poetry. Yes, and Guerra once confessed: “My house stands so high that you can hear the cough of God”.
His first collection of poems, on paper was seen in 1946, then came out a few books of poetry. He published poems in the nineties, too, and in fact had been composing all his life, combining prose and poetry. He has published more than ten novels and plays, and collections.
And Guerra enriched cinema by presenting more than one hundred scenarios. Hundreds of articles are written about his literary works, reviews, and findings. His work has been studied and already investigated in several dissertations. Guerra’s work received numerous awards and honors, such as:
- 2 “Oscar” awards (“Amarcord” and “Blow-Up”) and six nominations;
- 8 awards at festivals in Cannes (5 of them – “Palme d’Or”);
- 3 awards in Venice (“Golden Lion” and “Silver Lion”);
- 2 awards “Donatello” – Italian “Oscar”.
It happens that such prizes are awarded to fleeting flared, but screen stars shining not so long. But creativity of Guerra rather did not get enough attention from the general public, and to some extent limited by the recognition of art lovers. But by the true recognition and reverence.
When studying filmography of Guerra you notice which outstanding directors he worked with and who he wrote for. Michelangelo Antonioni, Vittorio De Sica, Federico Fellini, Andrey Tarkovsky and many other famous directors. Difficult to assess and to “share” the authorship in scripts, written in conjunction with, say, Antoniani or Fellini, and it is not accepted.
But when we watch “Amarcord” Fellini, we learn both thoughts and practice of Guerra, daydreaming and childhood memories – from Guerra.
His presence is evident both in the “Orchestra Rehearsal“, and in early films shown on the screens of the Soviet Union, such as “Matrimonio All’Italiana” (“Marriage in Italian way“), “I Girasoli” (“Sunflowers”).
Tonino Guerra is one of the leading representatives of the Italian cinema, a new trend in Italian and then in world cinema. This new direction was preceded by neorealism.
The meaning of neorealism goes far beyond the artistic phenomenon. The basis of neo-realism is morality, the search of social justice, the lives of ordinary people.
Post-war Italian neo-realism in cinema, having revitalized basic ideas of philosophical neo-realism was the creative breakthrough. During his short but brilliant life he defined future directions of cinema evolution.
But he eventually began to go into the shadows. Viewers ceased to be excited by the post-war poverty and suffering. New characters and new times came instead, new names: Antoniani, De Santis, De Sica, Fellini and others.
They have not only absorbed the ideology of neo-realism, but also made his new ideology in cinema.
Fellini wrote: “The artist is projected on the galaxy of an unknown origin … The main objective is to recognize the sounds, colors, signs, corresponding to that voice, which was called an artist … and then you do not have to do anything but in a medium way performing heard from above.
And then comes the turn of practical experience, which an artist has, skill and professionalism”.
These words could be signed by Guerra, too. But he is a poet, whose thoughts and words are not even limited to the shores of the most significant trends in art. Once in St. Petersburg Guerra was saying (citing his Russian language): “You should not only be a writer, then you will write them (directors) scenarios as they want, what they need. And you have to be a poet, so they ask, beg”.
It is not a whim of the poet, is the desire to express his thought and bring it back to the viewer and reader.
Tonino Guerra is a poet, a great poet. And Piero Paolo Pasolini included his poem “Over a cup of coffee with milk” in the encyclopedia “100 best poets of our time”.
Let’s go to the cafe for the poor, like us,
Where matches are stricken against a wall,
With a cup of coffee with milk we will talk
And admire it …
We go to him and talk. Tonino invites us. And there is something there to talk about.
It is difficult to name friends and acquaintances of Guerra. But you can count the countries and people, which he visited, where he found friends and appreciation. It seems he was everywhere, willing to see, hear, and understand. And then comprehend and retell, fascinating, smart and beautiful.
In the Soviet Union and New Russia he had a lot of friends. A famous clown Vyachelsav Polunin, a poetess Bella Akhmadulina and a historian Nathan Adelman, an actress Alisa Freindlikh and the President Mikhail Gorbachev.
Guerra knew Russia and loved Russians. Guerra wrote: “The capital of my heart is Moscow”.
The author of the present article was fortunate to meet Tonino Guerra. The Great Italian was awarded a title of Grand-Doctor at International University of Fundamental Studies, registered in Russia, and affiliated in Oxford and Cambridge.
Blessed memory of Tonino Guerra will stay in hearts of art lovers and deep understanding of life.
Awarding Grand PhD (Honoris causa degree)
Santi Jayasekera (Mahatma Shanti), PhD, Grand PhD © 2014 IUFS Press
Saint-Petersburg State University of Cinema and Television (Course Work)
Talking about Charles Chaplin is easy and hard at the same time. Easy, because his life and activities are described in hundreds of publications, memoirs and studies. His genealogy is traced from great-grandparents on both sides. His life was examined under a magnifying glass up to the intimate details. He wrote “My Biography”. And Chaplin’s creative activity was also studied in details.
At the same time it is difficult to write about Charles Chaplin. Falling under the influence of literature and critical studies, devoted to Chaplin, you unwittingly become a spokesman for the experts and analysts. Therefore, an own idea, though will be based on the study of materials and personal impressions, bears the imprint of subjectivity and personal perception of Chaplin’s creativity.
Acquaintance with the work of Charles Chaplin involves the study of cinema in general. Movies by Chaplin are based on reality, which Chaplin perceives, on events and issues of his time. They are shown the life of a “little man” in the episodes, scenes and situations, usual in content and unusual in expressions and interweaving.
Care and joy are common in people, so Chaplin is understood and accepted everywhere. People have the same attitude to good and evil, humor and sadness.
Choosing a theme of this work is due to familiarity with the work of Charles Spencer Chaplin. Being a citizen of the Republic of Sri-Lanka (formerly Ceylon), which until 1972 had been a Dominion of Great Britain, I perceived a direct impact of cultural activity of a metropolitan country. In our cinemas movies, featuring Charlie Chaplin, were often showed. Therefore, since childhood I have been familiar with the American comedian. We perceived him only as a joker. With age, I began to understand the deeper meaning of his playing.
We were familiar with other Hollywood movies, French and Italian films. But perhaps, due to the simplicity of presentation, or because he is the same poor as we are, Chaplin always remained welcome. Films with his participation have attracted both young and old, educated and illiterate. For many years on the screens of our country we have seen Charlie Chaplin, giving us hope for the best. Characters of Chaplin are poor and defenseless, and many of us were poor and defenseless. He overcame difficulties and it seemed to us that we can survive hard times, too. We were passed his faith in the goodness and humanity. His movies inspired optimism and created a good mood. By our mentality we were excited by melodramatic movies. But critics criticized Chaplin for being too sentimental, too sensitive. However, we should not forget that the peak of Chaplin’s creativity falls on the peak of development of silent films, where was appropriate an emotional, impressive dramatic effect and other expressive means of exposure. Additions that came later to film screenings, sound and music, dialogues and special effects, finally. All this used to be focused in the acting and plot of silent films actors.
I had to visit many countries and everywhere people knew Charlie Chaplin. Directors and actors either imitated his acting, or, starting from his positions, developed their acting technique. Of course, this statement should be referred to the corresponding direction in the cinematography and to the appropriate time.
So, my choice of Charles Chaplin, as an object of the study, seems to me conditioned and compelling.
Biography and creative development.
I see Charlie Chaplin as my acquaintance and this perception, in my opinion, is a distinguishing sign of the acting technique. Chaplin on stage in comical, absurd, but always touching.
His characters are himself in the past poor life, his mother, father, friend, with a penguin gait, which later became a Chaplin’s one.
His ability to transform, the ability to show human relationships in a short scene, is a testament to the deep knowledge of human vices and virtues. In this sense, I see Charlie Chaplin as one of my teachers.
In Buddhism, which I confess, a Master has a decisive role in formation of a student. Buddha was a Master. And so, the value of a teacher in my life has been considered essential.
Exploring creative development of Charlie Chaplin, you can simultaneously learn the skill of an actor, director, screenwriter. Art of Charlie Chaplin is a model, but not a role one, rather a standard to be achieved in the performance.
Charles Spencer Chaplin’s biography describes to us a man who, as they say, is a “self-made man”. His father, also Charlie Chaplin, is a good actor, quite famous in his time and in his London, have gone the way from a stage character – a drinker to an alcoholic in real life.
Mother also started an independent life as an actress. She met her husband, the father of Chaplin Jr., in the theater, too. And married him at sixteen, and at eighteen years old ran away from him to southern Africa with a man who called himself a true aristocrat. Two years later, the future mother of Charlie Chaplin, Lily Harley (her stage name) returned to London being pregnant and incurably ill. Returned to abandoned Chaplin Senior. He accepted Lily Harley and, treated the born child, Sidney, as his son.
Soon Charlie Sr. was invited to perform on the stages of America, and, returned a few years later, he found that his wife had left him again. And again, her marriage fell apart soon, having left the memory in the person of another baby.
Chaplin Sr. was drinking and died of alcoholism in 1901. Apparently, an additional reason of fatal cause was unsettled family life. Though, it is difficult to answer the question, what motives lead to alcoholism. Charles Chaplin himself in “My biography” wrote: “Judging the morality of our family to generally accepted standards is as flat as putting a thermometer in boiling water”. (1)
But Lily Harley lost everything, too. New husband took their common six-month baby and left the family destitute. Hannah Chaplin (aka Lily Harley) can not be called a good, faithful wife. But she should be considered as a good mother. In a short period of relative prosperity and satisfactory health she was a loving and caring mother. Hannah played scenes with them, showed pantomime and took to the musical theater, where she performed. Incidentally, the first appearance of small Chaplin was on the stage where she performed. Mother lost voice during a performance and a host released on the stage a baby Charlie to reassure the public.
Mrs. Chaplin was sick. She often and long stayed in hospitals. While Hannah Chaplin was in a psychiatric hospital, Charlie and his brother Sydney wandered about shelters and distant relatives. Charlie Jr. remembered his childhood: “Mother and all that she had taught him, the shelter, good and bad people. Little Charlie was left on his own.
And finally, when once he made faces in the street, acted a street urchin, he was approached by a man, “Kid, do you want to be an actor?” And in a week nine-years-old Charlie played in suburban music hall together with artists of the variety show “Eight Lancashire guys”.
The biography of Charlie Chaplin is determined by his activity: his work, personal life, hobbies, love, emigration.
From an illiterate teenager, earning a piece of bread from an early age, to a knight of Her Majesty, from the self-taught, having no formal education, to the academic degree of a Doctor of Oxford.
You can not tell the biography of Chaplin, without dwelling on his relations with women: wives, mistresses, casual acquaintances.
Fleeting romances, marriages and divorces, disputes and litigations intertwined with his work. On the one hand, such incidents and attitudes encouraged his creative nature to activity. On the other hand, such adventures and excesses certainly complicated and dramatized his life. In ordinary life, love affairs and casual relationships, are usually condemned. But when it comes to Charlie Chaplin, his biographers are always and certainly on his side in any proceedings. This is the privilege of a talent.
But we must admit that many of the women who fate brought Charlie with, used or wanted to use him for their own purposes.
And, finally, Chaplin, having passed most of the earthy journey, met the one he was looking for. Her name was Oona O’Neill. The daughter of the very O’Neill,
a famous American writer, Nobel laureate. Maybe Charlie and Oona were drawn together due to the fact that Nobel Prize Laureate was also an alcoholic.
Many years later, Chaplin wrote: “Schopenhauer said that happiness was a negative concept. I do not agree with him. Over the past twenty years I have learned what happiness is. Fate gave me a wonderful wife”.
Studying literature and evidences, dedicated to the establishment and development of creativity of Charlie Chaplin, we see that he was born an artist, he had no other life but the life of cinema, and personal and social events were only the background of his scenic existence.
Father is a good actor, but unfortunately, an alcoholic. Mother is an artist, we do not know what kind of, but actress. And, unfortunately, ill. Hannah was incurably ill, long treated in psychiatric hospitals. But she was an actress, the first director for the actor Charles Chaplin Jr.
And the first money he earned on the stage being a child, he was not even six years, replaced mother, suddenly diseased. At the age of ten he already performed in the music hall, where he received his first lessons of skill and discipline. After the music hall was a theater, where he also learned to pronounce texts, monologues, studied pantomime.
He performed in the troupe of a known artistic director and producer Fred Karno. Skits, musicals, sketches, which he played in, all were comedic.
And even in the circus he managed to stand out, and there he received lessons of stage effects and even acrobatics, too.
Being twenty-one years old, Charles Spencer Chaplin was widely known not only among London, but also the British public. Newspapers wrote about him, performances with his participation were always successful.
The head of the troupe Fred Karno in the end of 1910 once again sends a group of his artists to America. In the staff of a small troupe was included young but already well known in England Charlie Chaplin. He gets acquaintanced with America, America recognizes Chaplin.
In 1913, Chaplin signed a contract with “Keystone Film Company”. The contract obliged Charles Spencer Chaplin in the city, county and state of New York “to play roles in movies of the operating companies of the first Contracting Party”.
On February 2, 1914, the first film starring Chaplin “Earning a living” screens out.
And then a thread, a whole cascade of films – “Making a living” – February 2, 1914, “Kid auto races at Venice” – February 7, 1914, “Mabel’s strange predicament” – February 9, 1914, etc.
All in all until 1914 Chaplin had been playing in 35 movies “Keystone Film Company”.
It is clear how these movies were shot, is clear an artistic value of these films. But at the same time it should be clear how to improve mastery of performance, how the authority of the artist was strengthened, how his fame grew.
And although the first film with his participation Chaplin himself did not like, but reviews had a very positive character, for example “A brilliant actor, playing a rogue, a comedian of the highest class.
These films were stamped one or two a week. Shot in real conditions in the city, in the park, among the people. Decorations were constant, it is cheaper.
It is difficult to assess these farces from the position of a modern viewer. But, as one critic wrote: “Perhaps, we would have also laughed in 1914”.
Such movies had the demand. In pragmatic, yet immature culture (I do not even know whether mass culture may be prepared enough), a viewer went to the cinema to relax and laugh. And he got this pleasure.
I doubt if movies of the times of so-called “neo-realism” would have been attractive in those years in America? Would be accepted reasoning by Fellini about psychoanalysis and its author Jung as the basis of cinematography of a new wave, which replaced “neo-realism”? There is time for everything.
During the first year in the “Keystone” Chaplin determined his appearance: his unchanging suit, baggy pants, a tight jacket and shoes. Well, what kind of shoes! A bowler hat, cane, toothbrush moustache and makeup – a scenic image established for twenty years ahead.
Glory of the comedian Charlie Chaplin spread incredibly fast. Cinema queues grew when screening films featuring Chaplin. His fees grew.
There were, of course, failures, too. Inexpressive movies released, misunderstandings occurred and sometimes insurmountable. And no luck in love.
That year, 1914, already in the middle of the year, in the same company “Keystone” Charlie began to stage his own films. He started shooting by himself agreed with the company and left a deposit of $ 1,500, in the case of a film failure.
The movie “Caught in the Rain” (May 1914) should be considered as his first movie, his debut as a screenwriter.
The movie “Caught in the Rain” proved that the levels invented in the “Keystone” did not pass in vain. He could “make” movies, could mount them, make the compositions, compose stories. Chaplin took place as a director, too. The film turned out to be the most popular set by the “Keystone”.
Chaplin successfully organized the work of his actors, created a harmonious ensemble to accompany his solo performance. His creative activity was replenishing with new tricks, pantomime and slapstick finds, and similar to it American options, burlesque.
And plots were very simple, a studio with its bustle and confusion, a repaired house with a heap of absurdities and episodes.
But here we encounter critical notes of social issues.
Here is both bonded labor and disregard of bourgeois for workers. In this unhealthy situation are added inappropriate romances of a hostess and an absurd lover.
All this folds into a kaleidoscope of a comedy. “It’s just a quick-firing gun of laughter. You laugh every second,” – wrote about him a reporter John Morgan.
And suddenly, perhaps, in every creative career one meets an unpleasant word “suddenly”. There is another more unpleasant word – oblivion. But luckily for Charlie Chaplin, it was not addressed to him.
And suddenly. “His word in America reached its climax when critics suddenly attacked him. They blamed everything he did, calling his films vulgar, rude, arrogant and even obscene. He, a poor man, was absolutely heartbroken. But overcame depression and once came out of the dressing room, rubbing his hands. “Well, guys – still smiling slyly, he said – let’s do something else, let them talk, huh?”* Thus began the era of the new Chaplin comedy – then he created pure, smart, sad stories with a fun outcome?”.  *
A familiar pattern. Many famous poets and writers, artists and musicians were wounded by unpleasant hostility and misunderstanding. It is worth remembering the history. Pushkin was criticized during his lifetime, and Turgenev and Nekrasov. Well, when the Bolsheviks, came to power, called “to throw him off the side of modernity”. It is sufficient to get acquainted with the opinion of L. N. Tolstoy about Russian writers and poets, including Chekhov and Turgenev.
And Tchaikovsky, and Rachmaninoff? Remember French artists Van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, and how many there were.
At the same time, many connoisseurs of culture, kissed by fame and wealth in life, plunged into oblivion obscenely fast.
And then began Chaplin’s boom in American cinema. I must say that Chaplin was not the only leader in the silent art of those years. In Europe and America over the last 15-20 years, preceding World War I, its new look determined in the art. Prospects have not yet been clearly defined. However, it was possible to predict possible development.
It is interesting what Lenin said: “In all the arts, cinema is the most important”. I do not know how appropriate this slogan in this paper is, however, I emphasize that Lenin had in mind the effect on cinema illiterate Russian masses of those years.
With certain coefficients we can project the value of cinema in the United States also during the boom about Chaplin for the same reasons. Chaplin did not shake public with revolutionary slogans. But his films had a huge impact, social, psychological – call it what you want. He brought joy, he led off people from worries and anxiety. Isn’t that enough?
And then one after the other remarkable cinematographic Chaplin appeared.
So, now we can answer the question put earlier – whether Chaplin had a success in America in the early years of his stay there or not? Whether his creativity was successful or not? – Yes, it was, and success was obvious. The King did not turn out to be naked.
In the study of the biography of Charlie Chaplin the attention was drawn to financial problems, especially in the early years of his work.
In letters to his older brother Sydney, in the causes of transition from one company to another, and in litigation proceedings with the women we see financial trouble, how not to miss, and even greed, can not find a better word.
He knew how to count money and was able to earn them. In the thirties of the last century Charlie Chaplin confidently leads in American cinematography. He is rich in creative asset, however, unstable relationships with their wives and girlfriends. But in the end, Oona O’Neill appeared and Charlie calmed down.
What is the main theme of his work, what he did the author want to show with his films?
First of all, we should note that the main features of the art period of Chaplin are as follows:
– Firstly, there is “the same” character, a timid tramp;
– Secondly, the majority of great films were released during the “silent” movie, which required creating a special expressive form of skill and execution;
– Thirdly, each movie is laced with humanity, morality, compassion for the little man.
Chaplin comedies made a silent movie great. “The comedic gift, in my opinion – is the most valuable asset of an actor, a sign of the highest artistry” – wrote Federico Fellini. (3)
You can, like research on later, post-war events in the cinema, as neorealism, “new wave” (in my opinion, there was not the only one of such waves) easily find and present philosophical or psychological interpretation of the film by Chaplin.
Especially because neo-formalism in art originated on the basis of the philosophical movement of neo-realism, which existed in the United States in the beginning of XX century. And also paying attention to the fate of ordinary people, etc. It would be possible to find the foundations of psychoanalysis, too, mention Jung, that people usually do by analyzing films by Fellini. But do not try to be smart. Let’s remember the name of Alexander Ostrovsky’s comedy “Every Wise Man Stumbles”.
Chaplin is an independent phenomenon in cinema.
As his typical work, you might consider “City Lights”.
The same tramp, in the same pants that are about to fall, the same jacket for growth staggers aimlessly around the city. Meets a blind flower-girl, miserable, too. Then he meets a drunken millionaire and saves his life, when the millionaire tries to commit a suicide. The drunken millionaire in gratitude calls him a visit, crucifies in friendship. Sober, the millionaire does not remember anything and drives a tramp out.
A little tramp tries to earn money to help a blind flower-girl.
Again, that meets the drunken millionaire, drunk and incredibly generous. He gives money to the tramp. But at the same time thieves penetrate into the house of the millionaire.
Sober, the millionaire forgot about his present and suspects the tramp in the theft. The tramp is jailed. But, fortunately for the girl, the tramp manages to give her money for treatment.
After his release from prison funny and pathetic he is again at the flower shop. Recovered girl and another shop girl are watering flowers. Charlie raises a flower fallen into the ditch. The tramp looks at the girl and smiles. She laughs – she found a boyfriend. And the other girls are laughing at him, too.
The tramp comes to her. The girl gives him a flower. But the tramp does not go away. He looks at her, remember Chaplin’s eyes. She seems to have figured out what happened. She pulls out a coin and puts it in his hand and squeezes his palm. And recognizes the hand. Here he is, the same millionaire, a savior. “You? It’s you!”
And then he goes away, turning back. Noble and touching. Where are you going, Tramp?
That’s the whole story. And it must be Chaplin to create on this basis a wonderful memorable film.
Of course, there were talks about sweetness, about sentimentality. The conventions of the movie are clear, but it is necessary to adopt the rules that are suggested by the author.
If, for some art critics, arguing, for example, about an abstract painting by Kandinsky or Malevich, find hidden meaning in camouflaged images, and admire them, then pure human feelings arouse suspicion.
But we love his movies. Movies of this genre, this kind, this type – we like Chaplin movies.
At that time Chaplin was one of the most famous people in the world. Churchill called him the only genius, awarded by cinematography, and put him in a par with Dickens and George Bernard Shaw. (4)
“I am known in such parts of the world, where people never heard of Jesus Christ” – Chaplin on the right could say about himself.
In conclusion, I would like to emphasize that in addition to the natural gift, Charles Chaplin had a happy chance, which he realized. He chose the right path. Talent and work and a good heart – made a great artist.
Of course, his films did not become out of date, as physical laws or general phenomena of nature do not get old. His legacy is transformed, sublimated, creating conditions for preservation of the soul, in order to prevent degradation of a man.
Saying goodbye in print to Charlie Chaplin, Federico Fellini called Chaplin “Adam, from whom we are all make a family tree”.
- Charles Chaplin. My biography. M. Arts, 1966, 496 pp. (see p.13)
- Robinson, Charlie Chaplin. Life and Work. 1990, 670 pp. (see p. 128)
- Kukarin A. V. Charlie Chaplin. M. Arts. 1988, 287 pp. (see p. 15)
- Weisman S. Charlie Chaplin, the Story of a great comedian of silent movies. M. EKSMO, 2010, 349 pp. (see p. 298)
- Nadezhdin N. Charlie Chaplin, “Great love of little Charlie”. M. Mayor. 2008. 190 pp. (see p. 182)
- Bailey K.KINO: films that have become events.1994, SPB. Academic Prospect. 394 pp. (see p. 50)
7. 100 GREAT FOREIGN MOVIES. M., VECHE, 2006. 467 pp. (see p. 78)