Beginners, Christopher Plummer and memories of an old man
I had seen this movie – Beginners, last December on the flight back to India. I loved it so much – I saw it twice. Back to back. There was something absolutely beautiful and emotional about this movie for me that I couldn’t put a finger on then. I had just enjoyed that story, the narrative, the ambiance and the characters. It all felt quite real and true. I know it is ironic, but the seemingly static pop culture references and still pictures jumping out of the movie every once in a while was especially moving to me and I actually felt the narrative was interestingly framed by these tidbits like the artwork Oliver makes – “The History of Sadness”. Even his attempt at vandalism is just dark humor in graffiti - “You make me laugh, but it’s not funny” he paints!
I saw it again today and I realized why it had affected me so much. Christopher Plummer’s character – the 75-year-old Hal Fields – reminded me so much about my great grand father. Ofcourse, you have to ignore Hal’s main characteristic from the film’s point of view – the fact that he comes out of the closet at 75 to his son as soon as his wife of 38 years passes away. No, I am not talking about Hal being gay. I am talking about Hal being a really old man full of energy and grace and enjoying life, willing and wanting to live to the fullest. Add to it the fact that Hal hoards books like nobody’s business!
My kolluthatha who lived to be over 95 passed away last year and was exactly like Hal. I knew him only as an old man full of life. You see – he was old and a kolluthatha when I was born. I choked back tears today when I watched the film and my favorite scene came up – Hal is very sick and is in his deathbed from cancer. A young attendant boy comes to tuck him in and places his ventilator in his nostrils. Hal is at once captivated by the hair gel the boy has used to style his hair into a cool spiked look and he begins to ask him about it. When the boy explains that it is called “mousse”, Hal is elated to learn about all this cool new stuff, tries it on his hair, turns to his son and asks if he looks handsome. At that moment, Hal/Christopher Plummer, was gone and I was seeing my kolluthatha on the screen, his glowing light grey eyes alight with mischief and hope and fun, all at once merging to show how excited and thrilled by the simple joys of life he was!
I choked back tears once again when I recounted this part to my mom and so I let her talk – she recounted a dozen beautiful memories of this handsome, tall, fantastic man who had lived life so fully and so full of grace. He always taught by example, never had any advice on any subject. I was sick with jaundice when I was in 10th grade and was quarantined at home for 4 months before the board exams. He was there with me the whole time, he came because he wanted to give me company. Every time I wanted to take a break from studying he would be there to play this 2 player math card game he taught me called “Clearance”. And we would read books, oh, so so many books. And watch movies and TV. And go for long walks. I don’t remember anything of substance that we actually discussed. Just the memory that he was there as a huge pillar of emotional support simply by his presence and a lot about books and books and books. I don’t think I have written about a book so far without recalling him in one way or another – he is referenced in this, this and this and that’s just for starters. He even taught me to Waltz- to Edelweiss from Sound of music (Yes, another Christopher Plummer reference, I just realized! Maybe this subconsciously made me think of kolluthatha when I saw Christopher Plummer in Beginners! I would never know!).
So, as you can understand, I was extremely fond of my kolluthatha and I like to think I was his favorite too! But then, the way he looked straight at every person and talked with so much fondness, anyone who interacted with him would have felt that he/she was the most important person to him in the world! Oh well, I couldn’t care less. In my mind, I was a favorite and I am surprised how much it all still means to me. All the memories are so fresh even a year after he has passed away.
So, here I was wallowing in all this nostalgia when this man, whose blog I closely follow, chooses today to go and write this post about his 95 year old athimber who blogs! (what a fun blog that is and promises to be!) And suddenly I miss my kolluthatha so much more.
< Insert appropriate end remark to document a deep deep deep sigh and some emptiness >