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“Kelo rasika” is a non-profit team of volunteers interested in making good art reach the people. They have several programmes like “poetry reading”, “screening movies” etc. Suchitra Film Academy is partnering with them for some events. One such event of screening of Alfred Hitchcock movies, I attended to see ‘Vertigo’. I have heard about the director but have not seen any of his movies.
The programme started with Sridhar Murthy (editor of Mallige) giving a small speech about “Tradition of Suspence-thrillers in Kannada Movie industry” (“kannadadalli pattedari cinemagala parampare”). He begun with the meanings of words like “pattedari” “parampare” and how they fit the Kannada cinema context. He explained the difference between what we consider as “suspence” or rather “bond films” and that of the idea of Hollywood cinemakers. He narrated the advent of such movies in Kannada and chronologically took us through what he called 3 stages/generations of such movies. I dont even remember the names of first generation movies but second generation movies had those bond movies by Rajkumar/Kalyankumar and third by SunilKumarDesai. He aslo put an analysis of suspence novels/novelists in Kannada and how some of them were made into movies. He explained the reasons why some suspence movies failed and how SunilKDesai tried to emulate/give tribute to Hitchcock. There were lot of details (and many names of movies that I have totally forgotten) in the interesting speech and what I liked about it was how he “stuck” to the topic (except for a small deviation when he talked about the suspense novelists whose novels were “not” made into movies).

This was followed by the movie. Since this is an old movie, I don’t mind talking about the entire story. Its about a famous detective who is adviced retirement as he gets scared of heights following an incident that happens during the job. While relaxing himself, he meets up with his old friend who had just come to the town. His friend’s wife, he explains, is acting very strange these days and he thinks, some dead person’s soul has possessed her. He explains things like she staring into something, going somewhere etc and asks his friend just to follow her and find out what it is after which he could take her to the hospital.
At first detective dismisses the idea of soul etc, but decides to give it a try. He follows her. She visits a museum and stares at a painting, goes to a hotel whose owner was once the lady in the painting, goes near a tree, goes to a cemetery and stares at the same lady’s tomb, goes to a forest and stares at a tree. This happens for few days and the detective collects enough details for him to confirm that that dead lady has possessed this girl. He meets his friend and explains him these findings and his friend tells – he had a doubt. Because that lady is none other than great grand mother of his wife, but he says they both had not communicated and also that his wife has started using her jewels – further proof to the wandering spirit. Next day the lady visits some water spot and jumps into it, our detective saves her and after that they become quite good friends. Detective tries to know things from her but she claims she does not remember anything. Over the time, the detective starts liking her and promises to cure her. Once suddenly she explains a dream and the details of the spot resembles to an actual location.They both go there and she starts running towards the top of the church where the bell is hung. He due to fear of heights fails to follow her and in between sees her body falling along with her scream. She falls down and dies.
After investigation, police/judge decide that she had tendencies of suicide and due to the valid fear of heights, even the detective could not save her. Judges do not believe about the spirit story but does not punish anyone and the case is closed. Detective is very distrubed again and he sees that girl in every other girl he encounters. He visits the places, hotels etc they had visited together. He can not come out of her memories. One day he finds a girl almost similar looking one and follows her. She gives all proof that she is a newcomer to the town. He convinces/forces her to spend more time with him. At this point the audience is told the truth that both the ladies are same. When she climbs up, the culprit – detective’s friend – was ready with his wife’s dead body and he throws that instead of the actual girl. The fact that they looked remotely similar was made use to fool everyone and the fact that detective was afraid of heights was exploited by his friend and he wanted respected detective to be the witness to the suicide scam to be safe.
Now our detective tries to change everything the lady does – from her dresses to the hair coulr and style – and it gets little dragged. He finally wants to take her to the same spot so that he can get over the fear and to confirm that he has lost her, so he asks her to get ready – at which point he sees her necklace – this is the same necklace he had earlier seen on the statue in the museum! Now he is clear of everything and now forces her to go to the same spot almost in anger that she is now afraid that he might kill her and she confesses the truth while climbing up. But she also tells him that she loves him and thats why she did not run away when he has found her the second time. However she is at the same spot from where she had supposedly fallen down and suddenly a sister comes from nowhere and says something. In the fear, shock and confusion the girl slips, falls and dies.

Once the screening was over, people were asked to talk about it. Many people shied away from talking and those who did (except for one – a prajavani cine-journalist) didn’t articulate their thoughts well – they spent most of the time thanking the organisers for giving us a chance to see the movie or they talked how great Hitchcock was – not why – and about Hitchcock making an appearance in his movies. Those were all right, but inconsequential. Only one interesting trivia was mentioned that “zoom” was first introduced in this movie.

There were two important points that got discussed after the movie but I am sure not many had understood it. First, everyone thought the ship-builder pushed down the doll of his wife, while I think it was “the wife” herself was pushed. Since the investigators went and saw the body soon after, throwing a doll would have got ship-builder under the scanner immediately. Second, not all were clear why the lady jumps off(it wasnt clear whether she jumped off herself or if she was pushed) – actually she does not jump off – she falls by accident. Why ? Because she saw a lady coming from the dark and speaking which was unexpected. In sudden shock she lost the balance and falls. Another way of explaining this (this was told by another person in the audience) is that sinners need to be punished so in the story she is made to fall off.
Also, if only the audience were not told the secret so early in the story it would have been even more better. After knowing the suspense, it kind of got slower and we just waited for the inevitable to happen – that of detective finding out the truth. Another point is if the detective did not know that girl is the same one till he sees her necklace, why does he forces her to do everything – to dress etc. Also, there is no detective intelligence – he does not try to find out some leads, does not put effort to find out if something went wrong, just forces her to look like earlier again, it just so accidentally happens that he sees her necklace. I felt these two points could have been improved upon.

However it was a good watch, the audience’s interest is kept till the end, audience is kept guessing what would happen next. There is another Hitchcock show on May 27th, planning to go for that.

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