This June my London based journalist daughter Sonoo met Dame Helen at the ‘Cannes Lion’, an international festival of creativity, to interview her for an advertising-industry magazine ‘Campaign’ of which she is a contributing editor.
She told me how it all started on an excitedly nervous note: "So who are you? I thought I was being interviewed by The Telegraph. What the hell is Campaign?" I muttered something about being the industry voice etc. and said I have to say this out loud before we sit down: "My dad loves you" (!!!) She took my hands in hers and said: "tell your dad, I love him too."
So the first thing I did soon after our week-end routine phone call ended was to Google to find who my lady love is! For, I, a rural Khalsa School Punjabi-medium dud, had never heard of her name before, leave alone watching any of her movies!
In fact I have seen very few foreign films till date. It is not that I have been holding any Hindutva like prejudice against ‘English’ or any other language. It is simply because of the heavily accented language barrier that I still find difficult to cross.
And frankly admitting the few that I had seen, along with my art-school friends, in our younger good old days of mid-sixties, were aimed chiefly at getting cheap titillating experiences. As the Hindi cinema then had not graduated to show explicit kissing scenes on screen.
Apart from this bawdy goal the viewing of English movies, which used to be screened in Chandigarh only in the morning shows on Sundays, it would be an all-out exercise in showing-off; to be seen in a crowd of the English-medium city elite. And also to participate later, though by giving big nods only, in occasional English film coffee-house discussions. Like appreciating how expertly Peter O’Toole acted in Lawrence of Arabia and how great was its cinematography, particularly of the Arabian sad-dunes. Though it is entirely another story that we had gone to see this particular movie only to watch a very brief stint in it of a then popular Hindi film actor I.S.Johar! As if it were a great national honour.
However, some vague visual memories of classic films like Ben-Hur, El Cid, The Longest day, It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, Sound of Music and the like, which I watched with curious intent, still are etched on my mind.
O’, I forgot to mention a recent watch which I enjoyed and understood to quite an extent, thanks to the ageing experience, was a modern day classic; Titanic. And of course I have watched quite a few English cartoon films also to baby-sit with my enthusiastic about these films grandsons.
But now the English film scenario has changed for me totally! Having found this new long-distance lady love in as great an actor as Helen Mirren, I have asked my daughter, who is visiting us next month, to bring with her as many CDs of her films/plays as are available! And this would also vindicate her saying to Dame Helen about my love for her!(Published on 21st August 2017, Volume XXIX, Issue 34)