In part 2 of her memories of Tarun Bose, his daughter Shilpi shares this about a film I really love!
‘Silence is Golden’ is an oft-repeated phrase which has relevance not only in real life but also in reel life—particularly in those ‘edge of the seat’ suspense thrillers-murder mysteries.
I always felt that silence followed by sudden background music—usually the crash of drums—makes a huge impact in a suspense film, particularly within the close confines and darkness of a cinema hall. Every time I watched such a scene, my heart beating expectantly I couldn’t help but notice the nervous coughs and giggles in the cinema hall. Alfred Hitchcock was a master at using silence—his film ‘The Man Who Knew Too Much’ is a case in point.
But this is not about Alfred Hitchcock or ‘The Man Who Knew Too Much'; it is about ‘Kohraa’ and its director Biren Nag and of course my father. Biren Nag, who directed ‘Bees Saal Baad’ and ‘Kohraa’, was adept at making excellent use of prolonged silence followed by sudden background music—a surefire method of scaring the audience. There were several such scenes in ‘Bees Saal Baad’. In ‘Kohraa’ it was not background music but the sudden laughter of a maniac that proved to be quite effective.
I do not wish to go into too much detail for when you see the film (if you have not seen it already) the impact will be lost. To put it briefly, in the film Waheeda Rehman after her marriage to Biswajit goes through a great deal of emotional turmoil due to the mystery surrounding the death of her husband’s first wife. In one particular scene she moves around rather worried; there is no background music, the silence is interrupted only by the rustle of her sari, her footsteps and the sound of a dog barking somewhere in the background. She enters a room and the camera suddenly cuts to an extreme close-up of a bearded man with wildly flashing eyes, tipping his head back and laughing loudly—the laughter of an insane man. This man was none other than my father. Needless to say the way the scene was conceived by Biren Nag, it made a huge impact. A producer’s daughter almost fainted while watching this scene.
It was not just the audience who were affected by this scene, there was one more person who was affected. At the film’s premiere as my parents were silently watching Waheeda Rehman moving around and the scene suddenly changed to the sudden laughter and the close-up, my father was so startled that he involuntarily reached to clutch the arm rest of his seat. Since mum’s hand was resting on the arm rest dad clutched her hand instead. Surprised, mum looked at dad questioningly; dad having recovered grinned sheepishly and said, “I was taken unawares”. Later when I had grown up and heard about this incident, I asked dad, “But why were you startled? After all you were the one enacting the scene.” He said he had not been able to visualize the final impact of his face filling up the big screen coupled with the sudden laughter. In those days actors and directors did not have the benefit of television monitors on the sets as they have today. Nowadays actors rush to check the results on the monitor after every shot.
My father always said that no matter how well you perform, if the director is not able to conceive a scene well then an actor’s effort is totally wasted.
My father who could scare the audience—himself too, if I may add—was a soft-hearted person in real life. He felt uneasy whenever he had to rough up kids or his female co-stars. Part 3 is going to be about my soft-hearted dad.