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An offer bollywood couldn’t refuse
Francis Ford Coppola’s ‘The Godfather’ isn’t just a mafia epic that stormed the box office as well as the Oscars. For many filmmakers, it is a textbook of cinema. The movie has defined their work, left indelible imprints on their consciousness. Time has only added to the film’s strength and beauty. Even today, 40 years since it was first released on March 15, 1972, ‘The Godfather’ makes for compelling viewing. Avijit Ghosh talks to three Bollywood directors about what the movie means to them
Paan Singh Tomar and Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster
Godfather is generally seen as a mafia film. I read it as a family film. The Corleone family is very rooted and the way it operates is very feudal in nature. The film underlines the positive feudal values of protection and patronage. You might find some common features between them and the Chambal dacoits of the 1950s and '60s. Godfather is also about surviving in a foreign land, about a community finding foothold in a difficult terrain.
I first saw the film as a kid in Allahabad's Palace theatre. I didn't understand much of the movie though my father tried to put the story in perspective for me. Now as a filmmaker I realise how the movie was shot in a classical way. There's little camera movement, except for the scene where you see the chopped head of the racehorse in the room. Yet every sequence commands your attention. The movie had great dialogues too. Mario Puzo's book was pulp fiction. Francis Ford Coppola converted it into a classic.
Sarkar, Satya and Company
Igot Mario Puzo's book from a friend during my college days. He said it had a hot scene on page 27. I first read page 27 and then the rest of the book. It is well-known in the film industry and I know the entire book inside out.
The Godfather has defined my life and career. Coppola's movie gave me tremendous insight into people and the politics of relationships between them. The so-called mafia aspect just drove that basic aspect much more stronger and deeper into everyone's consciousness although nobody really knew about the mafia when the movie came out. The movie had a global connect. So long as people's emotional conflicts exists and their politics of relationship exists, The Godfather will live.
Coppola showed the mafia don sitting with his family like any other family man. But after they saw the film, many said that they had similar people in their own towns. But the movie wasn't just about the mafia;it was about family, power and organisation. Coppola's movie had a certain look and atmosphere. It is full of powerful characters. And it works even today. Sarkar's tone was influenced more by Mario Puzo's book than the movie. The novel is more intense than the movie.
Arth, Naam, Sadak
The first thing that hit me about The Godfather was the way it depicted the powerlessness of the powerful. It took you inside the heart of those regarded as invincible and showed that they bleed, cry and tremble just like the rest of us. The bad guys are not devoid of human attributes. They are brothers and fathers too. The movie was a very moving document in that way.
The portayal of Don Corleone by Marlon Brando is the greatest performance I have seen. Brando gave dignity to the role. A lesser actor would have turned it into a caricature. You see the genius of director Francis Ford Coppola in the movie. He inhales the world that he has lived as an Italian-American and exhales it on celluloid. Some of the scenes in the film - Godfather's daughter Connie getting beaten up by her husband, Sonny getting gunned down in the petrol pump, Godfather's adopted son Tom (Robert Duvall) breaking the news of Sonny's (James Caan) death to Don Corleone - are etched in your mind like photographs. Coppola not only shows you a tragedy but makes you its witness. Like David Lean's Dr Zhivago, the movie has a haunting quality. Whenever you experience something like this so intensely, it echoes within you for the rest of life. The word masterpiece is often used irresponsibly to categorise movies. But The Godfather really deserves it.
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