Some years back, at a book exhibition, I got my hands on a wonderful tome called 'The Hollywood Musical' by Clive Hirschhorn. It had a brief foreword by someone named Gene Kelly - I hadn't heard of the guy, but he looked sort of interesting in the accompanying photograph - in mid-jump under an orange umbrella, with many other umbrellas of various colors falling all around. The book contained a comprehensive listing of Hollywood Musicals - a film genre I was not then particularly familiar with - from 1927 onwards. There was a detailed description of each film - story, music, songs, dances, cast, and, of course, photographs. I sat up the entire night, leafing through each page, and by morning I was hooked - I had also developed a long-lasting, still existing fondness for Gene Kelly and other newly discovered personalities like Fred Astaire, Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, and the Marx Brothers.
Now, of course, I had to see all these movies and that wasn't as easy as it is nowadays. Internet and Cable T.V. were still non-existent things in my town, Video ruled, and the Video Parlors were more likely to have 'American Ninja' than 'An American in Paris' - not that I'm knocking the former; I find that Dudikoff guy endearingly cute actually. Anyway, so I had to go all the way to Bombay - actually it's only four or five hours away, but around here it's somewhat of an uncommon distance for anyone to cover just to get a video cassette - and make the rounds of the Video Parlors there. I finally found an absolutely gem of a place in Dadar, where there were, if not all the Musicals in my book, at least enough to whet my appetite with. The owner was as terrifically pleased to find me as I was to find him. Nobody else rents them, he said, and let me take away five cassettes despite his usual policy of allowing only two. I got on the bus, got home, and planted myself before the T.V.
Suddenly I was in this marvelous, candy-colored world (well, alright, some of it was in black and white) and, God, I couldn't believe how I had got by all these years not knowing it even existed. After an over-glut of reruns, I was back on the bus to Bombay the following week. Oh, you're back, said the guy with a broad smile, like he hadn't subconsciously been expecting me. I think later on he developed a vague notion of minting me a special 'Favorite and Over-Valued Customer' medallion, but before that happened Cable T.V. came to town. And, wonder of wonders, with a special TNT Channel devoted entirely to, Bejesus, Hollywood Musicals! It was an emotional, historical moment. I could have kissed even Ted Turner.
Time went by and Cable T.V. became one of those accepted facts of life that you no longer ponder over. The fact of a constant pipeline of movies saw me gradually becoming blase - yes, it's true what they say, what you can see easily, you will not tiptoe to see. A day even arrived when I said, "Oh, let's go out. I'll see that in a rerun." Nowadays the situation is even peculiar. I don't even have a T.V. anymore. It went kaput a while back and I was going to replace it when I noticed something - the real world outside my window.
Since I'm having a pretty interesting time gawking around at it at present, the acquisition of a new T.V. has taken a back seat. These days I see movies in a theater and, as I no longer carefully list all the ones I've seen, I have lost count of all of them.
But the ones that got me started on this whole fascinating trip still remain fresh in mind. I could watch the whole lot of them several times over again - and that's saying a lot, given the fact that I've seen 'The Sound of Music' 53 times, 'West Side Story' 41 times, 'Oklahoma!' 27 times, and 'Margie' 12 times. Just to give you an idea.
Here's a list of the old favorites -
1. An American in Paris
2. Easter Parade
4. Singin' in the Rain
5. The Band Wagon
6. Fiddler on the Roof
7. Meet me in St. Louis
8. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
9. Kiss me, Kate
11. Anchors Aweigh
13. Mary Poppins
14. Goodbye, Mr. Chips
15. On the Town
16. For me and my gal
17. My Fair Lady
18. A Star is Born