It maylook weird to old-fashioned chroniclers dogmatically tethered to telling stories of 'glorified' politicians- their fads and fancies. That, the real narratives are scripted on the shopfronts, in lanes and streets onthe campuses, in the theatres' and inside the cinema halls. In saying that some Hollywood films of our timesstealthily influenced and shaped our narrative; I may sound bizarre, but I am spot-on. They inspiredand stirred minds of a section of youth, as a text prescribed at graduation level 'the Stirring Deeds of the Twentieth Century' edited by G. F. Lamb had done to some of us. Moreover, these worked as catalysts in introducing a new phase to the youth resistance.
The city of four cinemas with the addition of the Broadway Theatre and 70 MM Khayyam Cinema had graduated to the city of six cinema as after construction of Zero Bridge it had come to be known city of seven bridge instead of six bridges.For screening the best Hollywood films, the two new cinema had influenced the choice and taste of a good section of cinema-going boys. Some friends had got so addicted to the Hollywood that they pooh-poohed friends like me for watching films of tragedy king Dilip Kumar or evergreen king of romance Dev Anand. In last Sunday column, I wrote that my friends and I were so infatuated with the Hollywood films on second world war that during those penniless days from our Mohalla to Broadway Theatre we almost walked six milesto and fro for watching a good or academy award winning film. Some of the films like the Spartacus with Kirk Douglas and Laurence Olivier in lead role, the Last Command with Anthony Queen in the lead, the Battle of Algiers, the Legion's Last Patrol and Great Escape still live in my memory. I still remember when my friends and I watched the Spartacus the famous dialogue by Kirk Douglas, "I am Spartacus" resounded in our minds. And walking down to our home through small streets in the group we cried, "I am Spartacus- I am Spartacus"- as if we were the true heroes of the ancient slave revolt. The Lost Command another great film shown in a city's most dingy cinema hall enthused massive crowds of the city- friends like Abdul Hamid Bhat watched this film more than three times. Some friends started identifying themselves with BenMahidi a deserter from French Army join the rebels of the Algerian National Liberation Front and becomes a guerrilla leader. He had changed after his teenage brother had been showered with bullets while he was engaged in wall writing- "Independence."The dingy cinema hall resounded with same slogans that we had seen almost a decade after when Mustapha Akkad's the Lion of Desert was screenedat the Regal Cinema. I do not remember if the government has later on taken off the screen. Those days there were lots of stories that this film made some students to rebel and formed underground organizations. I faintly remember police had attributed the Nawa Kadal Bridge episode, the attempt at stealing drill rifles from IslamiaCollege and Iddgah case to the screening of films like the Lost Command.
Those days lost of films about POWs escaping from the prisons, mostly based on true stories. Some of these stories like the 'Wooden Horse' were also part of our textbooks. Of the all the films on escapes of prisoners the Great Escape had excited us the most. On Chilly December 1968, when Mohammad Sidiq jail warden from our Mohalla told at a barbers shop that three important prisoners had escaped from the jail, we were convinced they might have read the Wooden Horse or seen thefilm the 'Great Escape'…Watching Hollywood films with unletteredneighbors had its fun.