The Silent Picture

I remember the first time I’d seen Chaplin. We used to have a little figurine of his at my home in his signature black hat and black suit sitting on an uneven piece of rock with an innocent look on his face. Little did I know that this befuddled man was perhaps one of the most remembered and admired face of an era of silent movies. Out of the few movies I’ve watched of his, “The Modern Times” is my absolute favorite, also considered one of the finest movies of Chaplin during the years he reigned. Known mostly by his image of “The Tramp” Chaplin’s movies are not the artsy ones that the critics are usually fond of. You can actually watch them today and admire him for having made movies that aren’t just amazingly hilarious but also futuristic and relevant today. The scenes are original, innovative and executed with a certain sense of genius that only few possess. None of his movies are high on special effects and superficial action, but relevant drama and an unabashed love for the art of film-making and his passion to tell a story he believed in.

Annex - Chaplin, Charlie (Modern Times)_04

As you start watching his movies you’d be amazed to see how simple plots and a series of comical skits are strung together to portray a message that defines not just you but generations to come. Chaplin’s Modern Times was his final movie that featured him as his most recognizable character, that of a Tramp. Even with the advent of synchronized sound and dialogue by the late 1920s, Chaplin continued to believe in his passion and clung on to an art now considered obsolete and made “City Lights” in 1931. Today even with the inclusion of electronic music and digitization we’ve still not managed to create something as believable and humorous as what he made with simplicity. Was it the power of silence? May be.

It really took us a silent movie like Harishchandrachi Factory, to tell us about the cinematic genius that existed in Dadasaheb Phalke’s Raja Harishchandra which is often attributed as the first popular Indian cinema. If you haven’t, I suggest watching this movie; it is brilliantly made. Ever wondered why most of the actresses from the Black-and-white era were often seen silent. Was it only the man who had the right to express his love and serenade her? In fact the only black-and-white movie that I can remember of where the woman speaks up would be Mother India and Satyajit Ray’s Charulata, where a woman is vocal about her love for her brother-in-law.

These movies are not just entertaining but are made by people who loved their art and are devoid of the crass elements that are added into movies today to make enough money. Could there be a possibility that if music was never incorporated into movies, we would’ve had more quality over quantity? Perhaps we don’t need a thousand words. Only a simple silent picture will do. May be it’s time we wear our thinking hats and think over this all over again.

– Anwesh Sahoo
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