Love & The Madman

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In one corner of the room was a projector covered by a cloth. Two reels were loaded on it, one with film and one without. A square patch of light fell on a white wall decorated with the horns of a deer. This was the screen. Smotes of dust and insects were visible in the beam from the project. A few clicks were heard at the beginning. Then the numbers 1, 2 and 3 appeared on the screen. Although the image shook a little initially, soon we could see:

A cage with squabbling budgerigars.

Sumitesh made a sound like quarrelling birds. Then a bowl with grains for food and another with water are seen on the floor of the cage. The camera retreats, revealing a man in shorts and a tight vest pacing up and down, shaking his head repeatedly. Sumitesh:

That’s Malli kaka. Can’t wait for the girl to come. Just the four birds left in the cage. The rest have all been freed.

Malli kaka is quite close now. He’s lighting a flat Turkish cigarette with his lighter. Letting out smoke, he puts the lighter back in his pocket. The cage. Two birds kissing. Two birds squabbling.

Sumitesh made both sounds.

The young woman is seen at the head of the stairs to the roof. She’s dressed in pedal-pushers, a shirt with large buttons and puffed sleeves, and sunglasses. Saira Banu, Asha Parekh and other heroines used to be dressed similarly once. Especially in the first half of the film. All the dialogue that followed was spoken by Sumitesh.

Malli! Malll… leee…!

No, my dear. Mallinath Sanyal.

Malli kaka looks like Dev Anand or a miniature Gregory Peck.

The girl’s face. Her lips move. Sumitesh’s dialogue came a little later. No synchronisation, but acceptable.

Haven’t you freed these birds yet? I’d expected them to be flying towards the jungle by now.

Look, these aren’t jungle birds. Maybe they’d been once. But these have been bred in cages for generations.

Illustration: Devika Malik

Oh Malli! That same old argument. Nothing new. Let them go Malli. Release them, please. I cannot bear to see them in captivity. I don’t want to. I’ve told you a hundred times.

What harm will it do to keep the last four budgerigars? Three yellow and one blue.

So you don’t want me?

I do. Of course, I want you but I want these last four birds too.

That’s impossible. Either the birds or me. You have to choose one, Malli.

The sun is seen setting immediately after this. Shadows gather over the large trees around Sumitesh’s house. Malli’s face. Silhouetted against the setting sun.

I’ve chosen, I’ve made my choice in that case.

Whom have you chosen, Malli? The birds or me?

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