Our world is off-centre, did you notice? The young are old. The old are young. The clichés about youth and age have flipped their lids and innocence and cynicism have switched containers and age-groups. In shows like MTV Splitsvilla and Roadies, the wonder years are represented by the young willing to do anything to get somewhere, anywhere. Once the wonder years really had a sense of wonder. They were about wide, incredulous eyes and idealism about love and life, about singing ghazals under a bougainvillea bush in a university campus. Laughing at Maine Pyar Kiya's banal, simplistic `Kabootar Ja..Ja' and rooting for the colour-bleached yet elemental passion in Aashiqui.
The wonder years were about believing that someday, one would outgrow a small town, take wing and fly to one's rainbow to claim it. That hope was youth for me even though I wore unbranded jeans and one pair of battered sneakers through winter.
There was space and time and an unhurried leisure then to feel things deeply, to internalize them, to live inside out rather than the other way around. To not be bound by anyone else's perception of what was the right way to be.
We did not learn what it is to be young from a world monopolised by balance sheets, advertisements, credit cards, mobile phones, lap tops, play stations, cable TV. We did not have the constant media chatter in the background telling us that we are not rich enough, or thin enough or simply not enough. We were enough.
Then I grew up and yet a part of me did not. I wonder at the way the young shuffle the cards life has dealt them without sentimentality. I admire them for going after the things they want. For being unapologetically ambitious, for being alive to opportunity, to abundance. For being fearless and having more courage than we ever had. Many turn out to be productive, inspirational path-breakers.
But how many of them have the solitude to listen, really listen to the songs they hear, to themselves, to others? This is the age of speed dating, multiple dating, relationships of convenience, making more money than you need, having more friends than you care for, hoarding more things than you have time to use, having more agendas than dreams, having more channels than you can watch, more cynicism than innocence. When I hear `Kabootar Ja Ja,' again, I do not feel like laughing at Maine Pyar Kiya's simplistic world. I feel wistful. I feel young all over again. And totally lost in a world that has outgrown me.
Another moment I will never outgrow is Dev Anand's Hum Dono. I wanted to watch it in colour but it was not destined and so I will play my DVD again this evening, brew myself some lemon tea and lose myself in a film that is not so much about content as about feeling. It is not a water-tight classic. But though, the idea of mixed identities with war as a backdrop underwhelms, something else works. The directness and the simplicity of storytelling. And the MOMENTS. Like the one that opens the film. Anand (Dev Anand) Dev Anand is lounging in a set detailed with obviously fake trees and waiting for ladylove Meeta (Sadhana) to appear. When she does, there is no immediate bursting into a song or impetuous embracing. He just smiles to himself and loops a ribbon around his fingers. She smiles too and presents him with a cigarette lighter which plays what we now know as a melody beyond deconstruction and remixes. He smokes a cigar she has brought for him. Not a word is spoken. It is dark after a while and she thinks, he has dozed off and quietly tries to sneak away from his side, not realising that the ribbon he was playing with sometime back has actually been tied to her saree. One tug and he is awake and strains of ``Abhi na jao chhod kar'' resonate from the screen into your blood. Oh, my God.
Dev Anand shaving in the woods, looking at his reflection in a pond, the lighter going,``ding di ding di ding'' and then the anthem of the lonely traveller, ``Main Zindagi Ka Saath Nibhata Chala Gaya.'' And the songs. Allah Tero Naam. Jahan Mein Aaisa Kaun Hai. And the poetry. ``Kaun Rota Hai Kissi Aur Ki Khatir Ae Dost...Sabko Apni Hi Kissi Baat Pe Rona Aaya.'' Sahir Ludhianvi. Jaidev. Mohammed Rafi. Oh my God, many times over. Find me one combination to beat this one today. Or a face that lights up the screen like Sadhana's did or can match Nanda's pure delight in her husband's adoration.
I do not much care for Dev Anand but the film worked because he worked too. Most importantly, the film had a heart that still resonates with yours. Almost 50 years after it was made. Isn't that all we can ask of a film, any film?