I was talking to a friend recently about what makes a movie or a story really tragic and was marveling at the power of art to evoke such deep emotions in the first place. I started wondering what movies and stories had I watched and read which I found especially poignant. I got reminded of this silent movie called Pushpak which featured Kamal Hassan as the protagonist. There is a scene at the end of the movie which I find immensely moving. Obviously the scene is so strong because of how the characters are developed throughout the movie. The protagonist is essentially an everyman with limited resources at his disposal which he tries to utilize as best he can to achieve the little goals that he sets for himself. He doesn't aim very high and his ambitions are very modest and yet he often finds himself compromising even on those. Is he the loser of our parlance? Perhaps, but then he is a loser in a sense that so many of us also are. We differ from him in the scale of our ambitions but we are similar to him in all those ambitions that go unfulfilled. We are similar to him in the little heartbreaks which we suffer as we try to re-evaluate and reconfigure and rearrange our dreams which are forever at the beck and call of the mercurial circumstances. And yet he tries to live through it all with a humorous disposition. The movie, for the most part, is a comedy but it has a very poignant undercurrent of tragedy about it. Nothing overtly sad is ever mentioned and yet you can feel that all its brilliant color and all its music is set against a backdrop which is plain and quiet. And it has an amazing scene at the end. The guy is in love with a girl but she is leaving for a new place. She hands him a note wrapped around a rose which is presumably her new address and leaves. And as he is standing there watching her go, a sudden gust of wind blows away that note. That's the end.
I wonder why is it that I find it so moving. I love stories without obvious heroes because there are no obvious heroes in life. At least no heroes who have not had to pay dearly for their heroism. And in some sense there are many heroes. People who have had to undergo struggles of various kinds and who still manage to smile and be helpful and not bitter. And who lose in many ways and yet find the courage to try and make something out of the hand they have been dealt. The protagonist is just such a person. A bit like the characters of Chekhov or R.K.Narayan, he is the everyman that most people, including me, would identify with.