The news was a real blast from the past. Reading about Eli Wallach dying at 98, my mind jumped back as I grinned myself silly. He was unforgettably Tuco the bandit opposite Clint Eastwood in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Villains and heroes pass on, yet, live on in each of our memories.
That Wallach starred in this popular Western sticks in my head with a personal logic. It was the movie my brother, older by four years, got thrown out of our local Bandra theatre for sneaking in to see. Not quite 18, raring to savour forbidden fruit dangled by macho posters, his first stab at an ‘A’ film came a cropper. He’d thought gangly height coupled with some slight swagger might do it.
Damn, declared my sole sibling. Who then tried to smuggle his lanky self into a show of The Italian Job. The 1969 Michael Caine cult caper, not to be confused with the identically named paler successor claiming to be as cool a heist saga. Second time lucky, brudder dear had a blast. Well worth the trauma of the thin moustache specially sprouted for the undercover excursion, he came home crowing. And continued to, because the first ‘Adults Only’ flick his sister watched was in the sanitised, unexciting inside of a plane.
Why was all that exceptional adventure? It wasn’t easy. Like any hard-won triumph, it was fought for. Sweet victory, awaited, anticipated. Like lots else that gave us kicks it was innocent fun, actually pretty tame. Or “lame” as snide young screen buffs say today. Not objectionable enough to warrant that strict bold letter ‘A’ in a circle splashed across hoardings with restrictive censor rating. Dreams more promised than delivered. Fuss over cuss, a quick kiss carnal bliss. A little low cleavage, a little slurred language, a few gunshots, a few grim plots — that was it.
But we burned with the delight of discovery. Flushing red in the dark of the single-screen art deco theatre, we snuck into our seats. Boys lusted quietly agape at sexy Mrs Robinson seducing Dustin Hoffman whose cracker debut The Graduate was. Girls caught their breath as blue-eyed Paul Newman shed his shirt in The Long Hot Summer. Kindergarten stuff compared to today’s celluloid excesses.
How fast stolen snatches of movie magic dissolve. Horror to porn, nothing is taboo turf. Kids now stream smut of every sort at a click. No mystery, no mystique. Nothing left to imagine, even less to crave... limitless access instead to violence and kink in a virtual world viewing perversity with panache.
I wish my kids and their buddies had it different. That they could steer clear of being jaded, so soon faded. Neither caught in too mad a rush to be adults nor scorned for refusing to join the pack. We were willing voyeurs. Where is their choice? With everyone around downloading the degrading at the touch of a fingertip, who isn’t forced to follow? We were more lightly hovering hawks tempted to gently nibble a delicacy than sharks coldly ripping apart the kill.
Call that gauche, callow, green behind the ears, it was the way we were. There’s no turning back of course. Be Kind Rewind is just another movie title. Meher Marfatia is the author of 10 books for children and two for parents. She has mothered her own kids well past the terrible twos and almost past the troubled teens.
Reach her at: firstname.lastname@example.org