Sunday, June 12, 2005

the motorcycle diaries

road movies.. journeys into landscapes alone or with a friend.. life changing experiences they are presented as. i took a road (or rather rail) trip when i took a train all across the states after i finished my architecture in the states. one month in a train from washington to boston to seattle to los angeles to new orleans and miami to savannah and dc did my life change exactly- i don’t know.. but there definitely was something that shifted. a new way in which i perhaps saw myself with respect to the people i knew and loved. was it that trip in an amtrak train that nudged me to take the decision to come back to india? i don’t know. perhaps..

i remember being completely lost and confused before the trip and much more at peace at the end. it was a strange time for me. i had made many friends whom i loved dearly in the states. my two years there had been a lot of fun thanks to mani, shamik, rohit, fau, mahua, liji, shankar.. but, something was still missing- and i’d like to think it was not the cliched longing for ‘roots’ that i disparage so much.. but maybe i cant deny it..

i kept a journal during the trip much like che guevara does in ‘the motorcycle diaries’.. when i got back i discovered that shyam my close friend was going to the states and i compiled it as a gift to him.. i still have a copy somewhere. 'snapshots' i called it.

coming back to india was a shock in the beginning- what was i thinking? that is until i started teaching and got a job with dhiru. somehow things fell into place slowly and seem slowly falling still, like leaves from a tree- or more like pieces in a jigsaw.. how come in retrospect everything seems like it has a predetermined meaning is beyond me..

‘the motorcycle diaries’ also ties up all the fragments of a journey neatly into a linear narrative- from che and his friend beginning his journey for a journeys sake, learning of the travails of the working class across the continent, to being inspired to ‘do something’ about it.

perhaps this arc is too simple and clear cut- the characterization too flat and the answer too pat- especially when it comes to coming face to face with the impoverishment and suffering of the locals, for me, the movie used too many hackneyed tools.. black and white images, stares into camera, hollowed out faces- the kind of images that we like to feel bad about so that we can feel good with our politically correct liberalism. still the movie worked for me perhaps because i understand the way in which sometimes we feel the need to explain and rationalize our actions. it was lovely looking and guevara was made out to be the classic romantic hero- determined, honest, so 'pure' he seemed unreal..

but that merely might be the danger of working with material with so much baggage.. the heaviest being the aura of the real guevara immortalized on so many t-shirts – he is almost the ‘nike’ logo of the left.. almost no one knows what he represents anymore except a general sense of revolutionary fervor and a martyrdom which is somehow vaguely attractive. more than anything i think his image (even more than him) has come to symbolize a mixture of youth, idealism and a generic revolutionary anger- an entire approach to the world which has been appropriated ad nauseum by anyone who sees themselves as having any of the above qualities.

is this movie then just another che guevara t-shirt? but instead of the stark print it is painted in lush landscapes in wide screen with a che as beautiful as anyone could conjure.. delicate and soulful. i guess so.. but can i help it if i still want to buy the t-shirt and watch the movie..


sonal said...

loveliest post rona.

Mukul said...

sonal stole my comment rona - lovely post.

Mukul said...

actually i almost expected your che guevara link to go to com for communist - haha! what a subversion of terminology - communist and company/commercial, whatever .com stands for!!

ranjit said...

everyone loves a revolutionary...especially good looking poster-boy ones like che.
he was sex-symbolish like barnal in the movie.
i enjoyed movie also.
quite liked his friend inthe movie,alberto.
the actor had kind eyes.

lots of conflicting stories about che's later years, so interesting to see this interpretation.
in this movie he kisses a leper,while prisoners have sworn they saw him shoot dead a young boy for insubordination in the 60's,post cuba.
his comrades say he defiantly faced his death ,shouting while bolivian army officials say he begged for his life.

who knows?

it's said that che would have obviously detested his t-shirt icon status with everyone wanting a piece of him in any which way they could.wonder if kids in america would still wear his t-shirts and hang red posters in their college dorms if that same man was responsible for letting missiles be launched from havana, and maybe killing their relatives and/or fellow americans since theyre quite patriotic??

worldwide phenomenon: people love che like they knew him and needed a piece of him, since he & castro partook inthe "only successful socialist revolution"
they conveniently sidetrack the cuban missile crisis.
he was not a peaceful man.

the movie steered clear of his actual belief system .
his life obviously changed quite drastically after the events in that movie,maybe a few more shades of the zealot in him could have been shown...or maybe it was just right....and that was not the intention. i dont know.
i admit i find him quite the enigma,and still do,but i didnt always find nice things to read about him,as i expected to.

sorry for the long comment.oh,and very nice post rona.

my favourite revolutionary will still always be the unknown chinese man with a grocery bag,
standing in front of a tank.

mrinal said...

hey, nice review rohan. i think you should start reviewing films for various print media.. then i can read something sensible instead of the shit that gets churned out.

agreed fully with what you were saying... except... that scene when che swims across the river to celebrate his birthday with the lepers.. man, it made me violently mad. a travesty of some kind had been committed. aaargh.