#56 #Scriptors100BestFilms #Pushpak
‘Language’ is one of the mankind’s most ingenious inventions. Before this invention man communicated through gestures, garbled sounds, and expressions – almost like monkeys. Language turned out to be a sophisticated tool of expression. As time passed mankind dispersed all over the planet and the language started to change. New ‘versions’ of one common language were born and pretty soon there were multiple languages, completely different from one another.
This is where the silent films bring us back to the square one where we all speak only one language – the language of the human nature itself. I think this is where the saying fits perfectly – actions speak louder than words.
Almost half a century after the silent-film era had ended, came this Indian movie ‘Pushpak’, in which the only dialogues spoken were by eyes, body language, and expressions – the tactic that set the film apart from all other films of its time and also garnered, not only pan-Indian, but also universal appeal. It was like the older simpler days of movie making were back.
A simple (almost fairytale like) story of a down-on-luck ‘Joe Lunchbucket’ who trembles on a borrowed (actually, seized) luck of a millionaire and tries to live off of his fortune – in short, live his affluent life. There has to be a princess in the fairytale, so there is a magician’s daughter who steals our hero’s heart. Throughout the film they try to create their own ‘stolen moments’, which come across to us in a montagy way. As the love-story blossoms, there is another development on the parallel track. As the hero keeps the millionaire hostage in his own shoddy room, the millionaire’s brother formulates a plot to assassin his brother in an attempt to usurp his fortune. However, the assassin mistakes the hero as the millionaire since he is living the rich man’s life – the case of mistaken identity that ads fun to the already tricky love-story of our hero. The movie ends on a bittersweet note, as the heroine goes away forever and the hero loses the small piece of paper, on which she has given him her address. An occasional acquaintance, a.k.a. a roadside beggar’s death and people’s insensitivity surrounding it gives the hero an epiphany and he decides to make an honest living, but not before helping the millionaire sort his own problems.
This silent black comedy was written, produced, and directed by Singeetam Srinivasa Rao, so it’s safe to say he was the whole-n-sole creator of the film. However, it wouldn’t be fair to ignore the other strong shoulders, on which the film was made successful – the actors.
Kamal Haasan, the quintessential ‘Robin Williams’ of the Indian cinema was the soul of this film. His versatility as an actor has an added dimension in the form of his polymorphous skills – an absolute prerequisite for method acting. Although, Pushpak came much before Kamal Haasan started experimenting with diverse getups (Chachi 420, Indian, & Appu Raja), his amalgamation into the lower-middle class youth in Pushpak was uncanny and in no way inferior or less noteworthy than his other, more high-profile film projects. Along with Sadma, Pushpak stands as one of his heart-touching performances. Amala, a relatively unknown actress outside the Tamil (and to some extent Telugu) film industry was noted for her fresh and naïve persona. Other supporting cast, such as Tinu Anand, Farida Jalal, Sameer Khakhar (‘Khopdi’ in Nukkad fame), P.L. Narayana, K.S. Ramesh, and Loknath were, in true sense, mighty supportive.
Although, there is no scope for us to discuss dialogues and music in this film (because there wasn’t any), the film has left us a long trail of cinematic moments that we cherish at any given day, carrying the film on sheer story, direction, and acting. That is, in my opinion, is the true success of a film.