Archive for August 23rd, 2008

A Bedtime Story


The City is noted for its minarets and gardens. On a
sunny day the four minarets of the Blue Mosque rise to
the skies like prayers of many believers; more
picturesque is the central dome covered with some
millions of blue tiles. Such blue is no more seen
since the sultan decreed ‘Blue is passé’. See how it
stands, a shimmering dome like the tear of an angel,
frozen in midair. The Blue Mosque. Poets loved
watching the dome under changing lights through the
day! It made their poetry sound sweeter. Hamals (or
porters) carrying heavy loads through winding and
crooked streets looked at that dome rising from the
city skyline and instantly their loads became lighter
and they thought life was worth living. No one could
resist its power. Except one.
See that crooked street cutting through the market?
Do you see that shop on the right? A To Z the board
says. Anything money can buy is sold there. Ziddiq,
the shopkeeper is dressed in drab clothes and his
beard is browned as his fingers are calloused. Henna
colored his beard which he allowed because his wife
thought brown was becoming in one so old; his fingers
were calloused from counting money: large sums of it
every night passed through his fingers when the folks
slept. While the dome of the Blue Mosque gleamed under
a waning moon! Poor Ziddiq! He had never even heard of
the blueness of the dome under whose shadow he lived
all his life!
One morning his neighbor told him in strictest
confidence the price of grains would go sky-high. How
high? Ziddiq asked. He quoted a figure. Ziddiq said,
”impossible.” As soon as his neighbor was gone he
called his eldest son to find what were the prices for
items written in his list. His son came back with his
findings. After reading it he was astounded! A sack of
barley cost only three copper pieces!”
Having ordered for as much as could be bought he had
a problem: ”Where to stock them?”
He knew just the place. He had a large warehouse
where his father put away every thing he had no
immediate use for. Just as his forefathers had done in
the past. It was bursting in its seams as the
expression is. He called a few servants and asked them
to clear up that place. Nothing was to be spared.
Hour’s later servants came to report. They said his
orders were carried out except for a carpet, which was
of size 64”by 37 inches.
“I am in no mood for checking the size of a carpet.”
“But master,” said Samir, ”It was made somewhere in
Samarqand probably late 17th century. It is silk. If
you ask me it is one of the finest.” “Shut up!”Ziddiq
yelled, ”Who asked you for your opinion?”
The silk carpet was decorated with a mihrab design
(a cusped arch with geometric motifs) in the field
counterpoised with arabesque in the spandrels. A
stylized floral pattern running around the edges
completed the piece.
He ordered the laborers to set light to it. “I
shall not have this nonsense here!” The menials balked
at the idea. They pleaded. “A thing of beauty,
master!”Samir cried. He became enraged at the word
beauty and he shoved them aside.
“A thing of beauty such as this has a life of its
own.” Kalam added his. They all pleaded with tears in
their eyes. With uncontrollable rage he pushed them
aside. He himself torched it and said, ”There, you try
to teach me beauty!” He was in a rage. He said, “You
all live a life of ease because I pay you wages in
time. Be gone!” He was so worked up.
That day Ziddiq went home very late. He was tired
but he had found a place for thousands and thousands
of sacks of grains, which came in a convoy one after
the other. Only seeing them secured for the night
eased his fury somewhat. Then he saw how his son had
put his men to guard it. He had done well, and the
father’s heart swelled with pride. The young man gave
him the keys and the accounts and left for home.
Mentally Ziddiq calculated the profit he stood to
make and that made him laugh. In a happy frame of mind
he followed his son.
He went home to eat his frugal supper. Even when he
went through the motions of the nighttime prayer he
had only one thought. He would make all his rivals
bite the dust. So much profit he stood to make. He
wandered through the house and secured the doors for
the night.
At the time he was about to lie down he thought he
heard a knocking sound. As if some were shifting
things around somewhere. So distinct it sounded. His
wife lay asleep. He checked into his sons’ room. They
were also asleep.
“Clickety-Click,” he heard. “It must be from across
the river,” said he. He put out the candle and lay in
bed. The same sound again. “Clikety-Clack!”
”Clikety-Klak!” The sounds came louder this time. He
thought it came from his drawing room. It was distinct
and very ominous. With each minute the clicking sound
went louder and louder. He could not sleep with such
an infernal noise. Again he got out. He lit a candle,
which he could barely hold for fright.
He peeped into the parlor.
There was an intruder!
And he had settled himself in the middle of the
parlor as if he owned the place. He felt a murderous
rage struggling with his fear at the scene presented
before him.
Across the parlor stood a weaving frame; and a very
old man with sad look in his deep-set eyes, went on
working. “What on earth!” It was all he could say. His
fear swallowed the rest of the sentence. Instead a
squeal. Even that did not distract the wizened
intruder. The ghastly apparition of a weaver did not
look up nor acknowledge his presence. Instead he was
bent over the frame intently checking his work. Having
satisfied himself he went on knotting the fibres and
cutting the knots to make naps. Ziddiq had no idea
whether his eyes were deceiving him or some rival of
his was hell-bent for mischief. Before his very eyes
filmed with fear and pricked with hate the old weaver
went on and on. His hands flew over the carpet while
adjusting the warp and the woof without missing a
beat. So free and fluid his movements were. As if he
had been doing it all his life and could have done
even while asleep.
He was masterly in his work.
Ziddiq stood there transfixed. Clickety-click,
Clinkety-clank, So went on the loom while the room
was lit by a spot of light that hovered around the
design, which was becoming clearer with each motion of
his hands. Ziddiq would have screamed but his voice
died silently. The weaver looked at him with sad eyes
that in its hurt, without any rancor whatsoever, no
stab-wound would have come anywhere near. It twisted
his heartstrings beyond endurance.
Ziddiq could only twitch in response.
He trembled uncontrollably when the spectre of a
weaver looked once towards him. Those eyes now seemed
to challenge him. The infernal intruder said, “ My
life was in that carpet. Now I must weave another
because you so callously destroyed it.”
Having said his piece he continued with his task as
if he were alone in his own workshop. He was sad as
before and yet, very resolute. As if he knew he could
do it. Without tiring himself. Ziddiq could do nothing
but watch in horror. He went hot and cold as an
exquisite design began to take shape before his eyes.
Clikety-clack! Clickety-click! The weaver went on
without stopping and he was inhuman that he could draw
for his carpet filaments out of thin air! He wanted to
scream but nothing. He stood there petrified!
Poor Ziddiq! While the swirls of design now settled
down to a pattern he felt short of breath! As if the
ground under his feet gave way to something
insubstantial, and the walls melted and flowed about
him. Clickety-click! clikety- Clak! went on the loom
unrelenting. ‘Clickety-click! Clikety-clak!’ It went
on enveloping everything else.

Next morning the City awoke to some astounding news.
Where the ancestral home of Ziddiq stood nothing ever
remained but a prayer mat. No one could well explain
what occurred in the small hours of the night.
Samir and Kalam came as usual to take orders from
their master. Instead they were witnesses to
something, which no one could explain. There stood not
a trace of the master’s house! Some one had cleaned up
the old wooden beamed house with terrace and balcony
and not even a door hinge lay there; the wrought-iron
washstand where their master always went for wash
before prayers was missing; the folding stool and the
holy book also had vanished! Except a prayer mat.
Passers-by came over by curiosity and all that they
saw was the curiously wrought prayer mat. Nothing
Samir could not take his eyes off it. It didn’t
explain the mystery! Still bewildered he stood there.
Finally he commented, ”A crazy-quilt pattern. I see
Master’s profile his beard and all- so distinct. What
do you think, Kalam?”
“I do not think anything,” Kalam replied, “But the
mat will make some money for a second-hand dealer.”
The End

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City Lights-1931

Many film scholars while discussing Chaplin films, make it a point of Chaplin being still stuck into silent mode (as though he was caught off guard) while movies were celebrating the freedom of sound all around. Of course talkies brought some silent stars to greater fame while ruined career for a few,- John Gilbert being one, Charley Chaplin may not have had anything to fear from sound. By 1931, the Marx Brothers had already unleashed two talkies in their inimitable style but Chaplin had nothing to fear from that quarter since their styles vastly differed. His tramp image had too solid a base to weather the advent of talkies for sometime. In fact he resisted for three years when he made the film. However he gave the film a full musical score (composed by himself, perhaps not in the same class as the theme for Limelight) and sound effects, but he stopped short of speech. But for all that City Lights is a masterpiece and its strength shines through in spite of it.
I think the genius of Chaplin lay in more than abundant measure, in areas where he could convey better in mime than sound; in pathos, drollery or pure cussedness, sound could not have been a proper substitute. In order to illustrate my point think of that famous scene in The Gold Rush where he tackles a boiled shoe? Not a word is necessary and gestures speak volumes and actions in their physical detailing, how he spears shoelaces for example, make words redundant. Take the last scene of City Lights where the blind girl sees for the first time his ‘benefactor’ the close up shot of the tramp registers everything that needed to be said in the expression.
‘If only one of Charles Chaplin’s films could be preserved, “City Lights” (1931) would come the closest to representing all the different notes of his genius. It contains the slapstick, the pathos, the pantomime, the effortless physical coordination, the melodrama, the bawdiness, the grace, and, of course, the Little Tramp-( Roger Ebert /  December 21, 1997)
Charles Chaplin as the Little Tramp, makes the acquaintance of a blind flower girl (Virginia Cherrill), who gets an impression somehow that he is a millionaire. There is a subplot in which the tramp rescues a genuine millionaire (Harry Myers) from committing suicide. When drunk, the millionaire expansively treats the tramp as a friend and equal; but sober, he doesn’t even recognize him. These two story lines come together when the tramp attempts to raise enough money for the blind girl to have an eye operation. In the end it is a casual gift of a thousand dollars from his drunken millionaire friend that eventually will pay for the operation. Unfortunately like many of the tramp’s efforts things go wrong: he is mistakenly accused of stealing by the millionaire who, as I said earlier, is entirely another persona when sobers up.
He had tried raising funds by honest methods (street sweeping and a hilarious sequence in the ring) and before he is caught by the law, however manages to pass on the funds to the girl for the operation. And the poignant final scene splices pathos, slapstick and what have you, shows the blind girl who can see now for the first time. It is magnificent, and an inspired finale to some eighty minutes of fine film-making. Rightly this film deserves the praise of being the best picture of 1931 to have rolled out of Hollywood studios.
Similar Movies
The Circus  (1928, Charles Chaplin)
The Kid  (1921, Charles Chaplin)
Modern Times  (1936, Charles Chaplin)
The Vagabond  (1916, Charles Chaplin)
The Tramp  (1915, Charles Chaplin)
À Nous la Liberté  (1931, René Clair)
Limelight  (1952, Charles Chaplin)
For Heaven’s Sake  (1926, Sam Taylor)
Mon Oncle  (1958, Jacques Tati)
Allou To Oniro Ki Allou To Thavma  (1957, Dimitris Loukakos, Petros Yiannakos)
Movies with the Same Personnel
Modern Times  (1936, Charles Chaplin)
The Kid  (1921, Charles Chaplin)
The Great Dictator  (1940, Charles Chaplin)
Limelight  (1952, Charles Chaplin)
A Woman of Paris  (1923, Charles Chaplin)
A King in New York  (1957, Charles Chaplin)
The Circus  (1928, Charles Chaplin)
The Gold Rush  (1925, Charles Chaplin)
Other Related Movies
is related to:      Unknown Chaplin: Hidden Treasures  (1983, Kevin Brownlow)
Unknown Chaplin: The Great Director  (1983, Kevin Brownlow)
30 Years of Fun  (1963, Robert Youngson)
Chaplin  (1992, Richard Attenborough)

Cast & Credits
A Tramp: Charles Chaplin
Blind Girl: Virginia Cherrill
Her Grandmother: Florence Lee
Millionaire: Harry Myers
Millionaire’s Butler: Allan Garcia
Prizefighter: Hank Mann

A film directed, produced, written and edited by Charles Chaplin. Photographed by Mark Marklatt, Gordon Pollock and Roland Totheroh. Music by Charles Chaplin, arranged and conducted by Alfred Newman. (Some modern video versions have the Chaplin score re-recorded by Carl Davis.) Running time: 87 minutes.

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