Black: Erasing the line between darkness and knowledge…

How would you describe the bountiful of nature, the flowers dancing with the zephyr, the moonlight glinting the depths of the ocean whose waves flutter and later pose its tranquillity, the walk by a sweet scented path in summer or spring, the unfathomable depth of ocean, the vine and cypress, the first rain and the dews on deep green leaves, the calming serenade of starry night lit up in the blue yonder, the bright sunshine and the mellow moonlight, the loftiest of snow -covered summits, the men so deeply loved and God so highly graced… when you have no light in your eyes but only a vision in your heart?


For them, the world does not remain a comparison of hues and shades, an amalgamation of brilliantly poised colours but absorption of all, that is, BLACK. You need not live in the miasma and darkness devoid of colours, the dusk itself leads you to live a deeper and meaningful life with a vision of knowledge. This exactly is the extra-ordinary story line of the movie BLACK directed by the very eminent person, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, who inspired by the remarkable life of the audacious blind and deaf laureate, Hellen Keller, interpreted her autobiography ‘The Story of My Life’. Rani Mukherji,a renowned actress, plays the role of blind-deaf girl, Michelle McNally; actor Amitabh Bachchan plays the role of her teacher, Debraj Sahai; contemporary and classy actors Shernaz Patel, Nandana Sen and Dhritiman Chatterjee play the role of her mother, sister and father respectively.


With an international cinematography, the movie is truly a piece of art beautifully crafted. The film was screened at the Casablanca Film Festival. It won the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Hindi in the year 2005 and other coveted awards. The roles played by all the actors are revelation in itself, especially of the actress having no dialogues to showcase, exclusively only the expressions portray the feeling, thus, leaving the audience speechless.


The authentic sets and light background music touches one’s soul for such a theme has been picked up for the first time in the Indian cinema. The only song in the movie, ‘Mausam ki adla badli mein…’ depicts change in the seasons of not only the weather but also of life! Each frame in the movie, beyond doubt is worthy of accolades.


Here is how the story of the little blind girl and the role of her teacher in her life begins…


Michelle McNally is in search of her mentor, Debraj Sahai who brought light to her otherwise silent and dark world. She finds him after a gap of twenty years, near the same fountain outside her house where her life had once begun, breaking the barrier of the word black.


The story flashes back… Michelle McNally (the role then played by debutante Ayesha Kapur) born in an Anglo- Indian family is struck with an illness of being blind and deaf at the age of barely eighteen months. The restrictions of not having to visualise and communicate in her world of silence and isolation left her frustrated. The blindness of her sight confines and curtails her imagination; she becomes destructive, refusing to obey table manners, hurting her baby sister, wandering about with anger and quest to know things around her. When things went out of control, her father does not prevaricate and decides to put her in an asylum while her agonized mother longs to keep her daughter with her. She summons a teacher, Debraj from a deaf and blind school, who is asked to leave the school he works in due to his failing eye-sight. Although, he is an alcoholic and slightly away from being sane, he is exceedingly dedicated. As he encounters the little obstinate girl, he knew dealing with her would not come easy. His unconventional approach was opposed by Michelle’s parents who soon gave way after noticing positive vibes from their daughter. He turns rough each time she refuses to obey orders. He finally throws stubborn and impudent Michelle into the fountain to calm down her anger and teach her a lesson, that day was a beginning of a new era for her, she learnt a new word, casting a spell of nature, the word was Wa… water!


Miraculously, Debraj succeeds but this was notthe end, this was just the beginning of an extraordinary voyage, so called life, with hurdles to be crossed and lessons to be learnt. Uptil now, Michelle knew only darkness and stillness, her life knew no past no future, but the little word from the fingers of another clutched the hollow emptiness within her, getting her to leap at the rhapsody of life! She started to comprehend the meaning of syllables and more importantly the love of parents. Debraj taught Michelle that everything has its wonders, even darkness and silence, whatever state she may be in, she needs to be content, what may be dark for others is not BLACK for her, its her GOLD! He made her realise the fact that even though she may not be seeing man-made world, but no one has the authority to seize the God-made world which she can see with her imagination. The teacher becomes her constant comrade with high ambitions for her. He made literature as her Utopia to overcome the impediments in life. She left home to live with her mentor and pursued ‘Bachelor of Arts’, the first deaf-blind person to do so in that university studying in Braille. Her mentor would sit with her throughout her classes interpreting what was spoken in the class, using hands and gestures as the mode of communication. Although, Michelle failed to clear her exams year after year due to lack of typing skills, her mentor made her rejoice and celebrate even during the failure. As it snowed, they performed a victory dance to embrace the disappointment in their stride. Later it is seen, Michelle also reconciles with her sister, Sara, who throughout her life has been covetous of her elder sister receiving more affection and accolades from her parents. In the midst of all this, when Sara gets wedded, Michelle begins to ponder over love, the same affection she wanted to experience with her teacher. Her teacher unwillingly leaves her because of the position he was put in. He succumbs to Alzheimer and she loses him completely.


Twenty years after her enrolment in college, Michelle finally graduates. As she gives her graduation speech, her parents with misty eyes, feel proud seeing her blossomed into a gracious lady with poise, crediting her mentor for he wasthe one who moulded seminal stages of wildness in her into a presentable youthful lady with virtues and chastity, and gave rise to apostles of dreams and aspirations in her. Eventually, she is seen visiting her teacher, in her black graduation robe. Although unaware of his surroundings, her teacher recognizes some glimpses of the past, and they perform a victory dance in their style. As the window opens to the outside world, Michelle puts her teacher’s hand on hers and reaches out to feel the rain, the syllable Wa… is once again repeated, only the roles are reversed!


Adapted by the everlasting classic by Hellen Keller, the movie creates an impact in its true sense, it teaches everyone the fact that vision is more important than sight, that darkness can be dispelled, and that no barrier of sense can shut one from gracious and sweet discourses of the welcoming life!


Sumedha Sobti

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