The other day someone asked me if I would like to do a paper on Yasujiro Ozu. I said, hell no. I’m too incompetent to talk about the Japanese master. Ozu is a genius, and I have seen just one of his films, ‘Tokyo Story.’ I enjoyed the film, like you enjoy tea, a drink you have had all your life and still like it every morning.
The 1953 Japanese film tells the story of an aging couple who travel to Tokyo to visit their grown children. The film contrasts the behavior of their biological children, who are too busy to pay them much attention, and their daughter-in-law, who treats them with kindness.
Come to think of it, I’ve seen ‘Tokyo Story’ or the soul of ‘Tokyo Story’ in various languages, in various set-up in so many different films. In a sense, all films that deals with parents-children dynamics borrow something from Ozu, intentionally or unintentionally.
I remember the Assamese film, Jhanu Barua’s ‘Sagoroloi Bahu Dur’ (Long Way to the Sea), where the city-based son disowns the boatman father. I remeber the Rajesh Khanna-Shabana Azmi film ‘Amrit’. I remember Leo McCarey’s 1937 American film ‘Make Way for Tomorrow.’ And I remember Amitabh Bachchan-Hema Malini film ‘Baghban’ (2003).
This is strange. I saw ‘Make Way for Tomorrow’ a long time after I saw ‘Baghban.’ And suddenly, while watching the McCarey film, I had this feel of deja vu; I had seen this film before, and then it dawned on me. Baghban is a shot-by-shot remake of the black-and-white film.
The same thing happened with another McCarey film. Deborah Karr is nothing like Manisha Koirala, or Cary Grant Aamir Khan. Yet, why did ‘An affair to Remember’ (1957) reminded me of them? That because the Hindi film ‘Mann’ (1999) is a scene-to-copy of the Hollywood film.
More on Ozu here.
More on Tokyo Story here.
A review of 'Tokyo Story' from The Guardian:
More on Make Way for Tomorrow here.
More One Baghban here.
More on An Affair to Remember here.