Saturday, March 10, 2007

Not even a startle.

When I was in Guam for a couple of months in 1991-92, I met a jovial American architect, a friend of my son Abhijeet. Apart from a body odour sharper than his wit and a stunning Scandinavian live-in girl friend, his most unforgettable characteristic was his love for and intimate knowledge of the sci-fi movie genre. I remember going with him for a sci-fi movie (most likely The Terminator – I seem to have forgotten the movie’s name as well as the avid movie goer’s) and listening to his almost non-stop commentary about the lore and the treatment as if it was a matter of life and death. I almost cited to him Ashok Kumar’s “It’s only a film” comment borrowed from Hitch. I was reminded of the incidence while watching Batman Begins Friday night on HBO. That the movie did not dazzle me, did not get a startle response from me means nothing at all, really. The original intention of the movie maker was to undo the damage done to the Batman myth and lore by the spectacular box office and critical flop of the expensively mounted trio preceding it, I guess. According to all indications, Batman Begins marked the beginning of the success of the Batman franchise in moviedom. The gamble to make the Batman myth as preached by the Batman Comics more credible and more human has apparently paid off. For instance, how Batman became so adept at combative skills. (Ans: By joining the League of Shadows.) How and from where he got his costume, his weapons, his armoured vehicle, his hang glider cum cape and so forth. (Ans: From Wayne Enterprises’ experimental lab.) Central to the tale, though, is the theme of Brue Wayne’s fear of bats. He got it when he fell into a well as a lad of eight and was startled by the drove of bats. He overcame it under the hallucinogenic influence of a mountainside blue flower during his spell as a League of Shadows rookie. The introduction of Bruce’s childhood girl friend Rachel Dawes early on and her continuing presence in the narrative may be interpreted as a ploy to lay to rest once for all the lurking suspicion that he is gay. (It seems George Clooney wittingly, unwittingly, or maybe even mischieviously, resurrected the gay ghost by telling Barbara Walters that in Batman & Robin he played Batman as gay. "I was in a rubber suit and I had rubber nipples. I could have played Batman straight, but I made him gay." Barbara Walters laughed, then asked, "George, is Batman gay?" To which he responded, "No, but I made him gay." Emulating the excellent Hitchcock and equally admirable Ashok Kumar, I would like to remind all those who take such matters seriously: “It’s only a comics character, for Pete’s sake.” P.S.: A couple of months ago, I resisted the temptation to buy an expensively produced paperback about the movie. Bully for me.

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