All aboard the ship of dreams
This is a collaborative piece.
Text: Ria Das Mukherjee
Art : Antra Khurana
The arrival of nostalgia can be regarded as a fortuitous state of affairs. It often tiptoes into the deepest casements of one’s mind and dredges up an un-recalled memory, heretofore crumpled under a pile of dust. I guess I am simply delighted to have been graced by its companionship, more than once, for it is quite infrequent to relive an entire moment of our history while passing through the trivialities of the present.
An evening in November, 2017
It was supposed to be a routine evening with Baba immersed in his newspaper, Ma planning the dinner menu (which would not be much different from the one we had the previous night), Dada behaving like an introverted rebel and I nonchalantly surfing the internet while pretending to be constructive.
However, the monotony associated with my usual routine disappeared as I chanced upon an article in a popular entertainment website— James Cameron’s magnum opus Titanic was all set to be released in 3D, for the second time, in order to celebrate its 20th anniversary.
Now I have never held much admiration for the romantic genre, which is why I have been labelled a heretic by some acquaintances. Yet, this news was like a refreshing drizzle that drenched me as I looked back at the spring of 1998.
Someday in March 1998
Titanic, which had already created ripples across the world, was all set for its grand premiere in India. Baba had somehow procured twenty five tickets for the first matinee show and invited a host of my maternal relatives. As we set out on the faithful day, I continually attempted (and failed) to fathom the reason behind the atypical excitement plastered across everybody’s face. Alas! The enigma of mortal emotions was beyond the comprehension of a five year old.
At Sonali, a popular single-screen-theatre of some years ago, I was astonished by the sight of the enormous crowd. Inside, I was rather uncomfortably sandwiched between my mother and my grandmother. I patiently stared at the silver screen with my big, beady eyes hoping to catch a glimpse of the gigantic ship before anybody else.
The first twenty minutes completely disappointed me. “It’s like the documentaries we watch at home”, an elder cousin of mine had complained. I remember nodding in agreement. Where is the shiny black, metallic ship? Where are the two pretty people I saw in the poster? Who is that elderly woman? Why is she carrying so many photographs? The surmounting questions were beginning to perplex me as I munched on some tasteless popcorn.
And then, old Rose Calvert started narrating her tale.
Kate Winslet’s graceful beauty was mesmerizing as was evident by the look in everyone’s eyes, and so were Leonardo Di Caprio’s antics. I wonder if I was the only one who noticed young Rose’s claustrophobia amidst the surrounding elegance, that was to some extent, suffocating her. I particularly am still fond of the scene where she sass-mouthed the ignorant Mr. Ismay, lecturing him on Freudian theories even though I could not understand a word at that time. The scene where Jack manipulated Rose into not giving up on her life and hope, right when she was contemplating to throw herself off the stern of the ship, was intriguing as well. He was a true saviour indeed, as old Rose later affirms.
The ensuing romance between them was a bit too clichéd for my taste, though not for my maternal aunts who gasped every time the two were together. When her fiancé gifted Rose the blue diamond necklace, another one of my aunts angrily exclaimed, “Why can’t you give me something like that, ever?” demanding an explanation from her husband, on the spot, visibly embarrassing him. There was an uneasy silence all across the theatre when Jack was sketching that famed portrait of Rose. Ma kept looking at Baba sternly throughout the entire scene while Dada and my other cousins rejoiced in it to the fullest. At some point, Ma even tried to cover my eyes with her hands (which ultimately proved to be a futile effort). As the two protagonists whirled through the different locations in the ship evading the clutches of a conservative society, I saw my grandparents giggling and holding each other’s hands like a pair of teenage sweethearts. Sometimes adults tend to behave as crazy as children do.
After the ship’s ill-fated collision with the iceberg, it seemed that everybody had assumed the role of the lead characters’ guardian, instructing, berating, and even applauding them for their actions. I believe I let out a baffling cry for everyone to know that the actors cannot hear their collective advice.
Another palpable silence prevailed as the magnificent RMS Titanic rose vertically only to be swallowed by the Atlantic.
Some of the younger audiences, myself included, thought that Rose was selfish not to share the wooden panel with Jack. We were not aware of the concept of buoyancy. Towards the end, an uncle commented that Rose could have gone back to her fiancé with the necklace. Perhaps, he was not aware of the concept of freedom.
Later, every one of us came out of the theatre captivated by the grandeur of it all. Even today, when I mention any small, irrelevant detail about the movie, I can witness a bright smile appearing at the corner of my grandmother’s lips.
Unromantic as I am, I still cannot forgo any opportunity to bask in the memory of that day for this was the very first movie that I had watched with my extended family. Somehow, it played an instrumental role in convincing us to check out many such Hollywood films. As though, it opened the door to an unfamiliar world for us to explore and react accordingly. For instance, when we ‘seriously’ considered relocating to China while watching Roland Emmerich’s 2012, or when an uncle was sure that there was a remote ‘Skull Island’ as portrayed in Peter Jackson’s King Kong.
Titanic for me, and for my family, was the harbinger of a new desire— the desire to enjoy an engaging film with all and sundry, and to observe their response furtively. We may have seen countless movies after that, but the experience of watching Titanic shall always remain somewhat different.
Ria Das Mukherjee is a post graduate of mass communication and an introverted bibliophile who hoards books and dreams. She, earnestly wishes to be a writer and also to visit Narnia, someday.
Antra Khurana is an image-maker who revels in the whimsical world of colour and lots of dynamism. She wants to create an impact with her work! See more of her work here.