Many thanks to Seema for noticing the existence of the document above which I’m going to speak about, “Actress Nutan talks about Bimal Roy”. It was recently added by the Youtube channel WildfilmsIndia which features many videos of a geographical, historical and cultural nature. "ah!" I told myself... Nutan herself speaking about something dear to her heart, her job as an actress... Great! I think this is the first close-up documentary where she speaks in English that exists on the net. There are some other non-film videos where she sings (here, here) or speaks but without us seeing her, and in Hindi (here). So: is it good? Yes! Do we learn much? Yes, we rather do. Here's a summary and appreciation.
First, the date: I think mid 1980s, because Nutan looks rather tired. (I know she hardly used make-up when not on screen; and she does have some here). Then the setting: a little boring, we see nothing more than Nutan’s head for 20 minutes, not that it’s unpleasant, but the interviewer certainly lacked imagination… If it took place at her home, as I think it has, it would have been nice to see a little of her interior, or even simply to give us some side shots, and occasionally film her from a distance, etc.… We have to make do with what’s shown, nevertheless. There’s one moment towards 11:10 where she falls silent, turns her head, seems to wait for something to stop, and is asked if she wants to continue. And she does. Not very eventful! In fact, of course, everything happens in Nutan’s speech, and on her face.
She speaks about Bimal Roy, but what’s nice is that in so doing, she also involves herself, I mean the way she mentions her work under Bimalda,’s supervision says a lot about herself as an actress. She clearly thought, like everybody else, that he was a masterful director, and she certainly shows how proud/thankful she was to have done Sujata and Bandini, two gems of Indian cinema, with him. But what strikes her first in his film-making is his logicality: I think by this she means that his plots have a structure which follows a psychological life-like pattern. She goes on to add that modern-day directors don’t care if their movies are illogic. Now I’d say this quality would also describe her: as a thinker, as a rational person, she would certainly have put it forward. Then later she explains that Bimal Roy’s cinematography made great use of silence: facial expressions, eye expressions, lip-biting, flicker on the face etc. She insists that silence was for him a language which he valued as much as, or more than, actual text. Here again, I’d say that even though she isn’t wrong (we do see this attention to subtle elements of psychological meaning valued in the way he films), she probably emphasizes this because she too has felt the value of silence. As a spiritualist, as a meditating person, and as a musician (she wrote those bajans), she would definitely consider silence as a language in its own right. She says that silence “spoke much more than dialogues or words could speak”.
The scene from Bandini, from which the photo above is taken (check at 1h51 on this link), she rather suprizingly calls "beautiful"; this certainly shows a consummate artistic taste, because the scene is so harsh and brutal that it takes a good deal of perspective to term it beautiful. It isn't its beauty that you'd commonly think of. Again I think we can get a feel of Nutan the fine intellectual artist here. She knows all the emotional and evocative power of this scene, she knows its morally transgressive dimension, and yet its deeply justified necessity, and in these elements she adds and finds a balance, a logic which works perfectly, which is satisfying from an artistic and human point of view. That's why she calls the scene beautiful. The beauty of a demonstration, the beauty of an perfect rendition of the human soul fighting against forces bent on wrecking it.
At one moment in the documentary she hums a song, and even sings with the lyrics: she seems to remember everything even though it was more than twenty years back. Well, of course, she might have watched them once again to prepare for the interview. But anyway it’s a treat to see her concentrate a little and effortlessly slide into the tune. These moments are truly refreshing. Certainly there was some form of admiration in the way she evoked Bimal Roy: I'd say she met a soulmate of a kind, somebody whose vision matched her own... Here they say that once Roy wept watching one of the scenes in which she emoted so powerfully.
There is one element in the way she looks - she's very strict, and almost sad sometimes. Of course she does smile regularly and sweetly, but she general mood is one of great concentration. Watching this, I told myself: behind this forehead, there was such a will. Such a focused determination to say and express things with all the truth she was capable of. I half wonder whether such an attitude (so different from the many scenes where her fooling was so exquisite) wasn't the result of the fact that she knew her end was coming?... Was she suffering during the period when she recorded this eulogy of Bimal Roy? (there's one moment when she dabs her face in a rather worried way, as if she was afraid of uncontrolled sweat or something) Was she anguished? She does look at times so serious! It's rare that she jokes, and there's seldom an anecdote. Mostly the sheer intelligence of her earnestness, and that constant focus. Mostly the deep desire to give the best acknowledgement she could of her Master's teachings. She knew herself very well, for sure, and everything she says comes from what she has spent so much time working on and thinking about so often: her acting, and the roles she loved, the meaning all this possessed. But sometimes her acuteness is almost frightening. Luckily when she's back in the work relationship between Bimalda and herself, she finds the right tone; she can evoke how much trust there was, how she understood him so well, and in turn how much he trusted her.
The joy of this work atmosphere and the gratefulness which exudes from the memories which the interview brings back make her forget, as it were, the tension which is very perceptible, at least in the first half. It's a pity the talk doesn't go on, because she relaxes towards the end and it's more the pleasant Nutan we love than the dour lady with a responsibility towards her Great Man of the beginning. If you listen to Bimal Roy's son who reflects on his father here, you'll hear him say about his father "In every great man there is a woman". And Nutan concurs, she says "Bimal Roy understood women's emotions thoroughly; and it touched deep down the core of a woman's heart". That's interesting, because I think we could say the same thing (of course reversed) for Nutan. There's something masculine about her, this mastery of herself, this clearheadedness - and at the same time, she's 100% feminine too. It's just wonderful to see her so much in charge, so precise, so devoted. Let's hope other such documents will be unearthed in the future. And, of course, happy Birthday Nutan!