More than Just a Movie
Last week my uncle came over to stay with us for a few days. One day, as we were enjoying our evening tea with some lip-smacking poha, my Dad turned on the TV. As he was idly surfing through the channels, we came across one showing Disney’s animated classic ‘Aladdin’. It had just begun; in fact, I had been busy looking for chillies in my poha when I heard Bruce Adler’s haunting voice belting out the title song “Arabian Nights”. In an instant, I was literally jumping around with joy. Oh boy! Aladdin! A childhood (and lifelong) favourite! I never ever EVER tire of watching it. My sister and I know it by heart: songs, dialogues and all.
However, all my jumping and dancing came to a thudding halt when Uncle very innocently asked, “What is this film about?” I was struck speechless. What kind of a question was that? He didn’t know Disney’s Aladdin!?!?! Who doesn’t know Aladdin??? Who doesn’t know Genie and Abu and Jasmine and Jafar? I found it unthinkable. Unimaginable. Impossible!
But there it was. Not only had he never seen Aladdin, but had never even heard of the other Disney classics like Dumbo or Mary Poppins! On seeing my dumbstruck face, Uncle burst out laughing. “Don’t look so shocked my girl”, he laughed. “We couldn’t afford to watch Disney movies when we were kids.”
That set me thinking. Disney has always been a big part of my childhood. I have learned so much from it’s movies and shows. They have taught me English (and a few other words from various other languages too like “Bonjour”), they have taught me the art of story-telling, they have taught me singing too (there was a time I only sang Disney songs, specially ones by Alan Menken & Howard Ashman or the Sherman Brothers). Moreover, they have done all this without being boring and preachy – it was all done subconsciously, in the most entertaining way. To be honest, I learn so much about life in general from them even today. For instance, there is a line from the title song of Beauty and the Beast which goes –
“Bittersweet and strange, finding you can change, Learning you were wrong…”
As a kid, I never even noticed it. But now, as an adult who has been through some ups and downs, and made quite a few mistakes of my own, I understand how deep and true that line is. So many other lines have inspired and stayed with me over the years:
“If you cannot say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.”
“The seaweed is always greener in somebody else’s lake.”
- “Under the Sea”, The Little Mermaid
“Always let your conscience be your guide.”
“She warned him not to be deceived by appearances, for beauty is found within.”
- Prologue, Beauty & The Beast
All these beloved Disney characters, those stories, that excellence of imagination and out-of-the-box thinking, I have grown up with them. Perhaps that is why I never fully appreciated what I had. But since that day with Uncle, I have come to realize that I have had a privileged childhood where I was exposed to the magic of Disney.
I know what you are thinking… its just movies, a form of entertainment. But then there is so much more to them. It’s funny how the most mundane, taken-for-granted things sometimes evoke the deepest, most moving feelings in us. If Dumbo could fly without his magic feather, I could speak in front of 100 people without my mom holding my hand too. I didn’t want a long nose like Pinocchio, so I hardly ever lied. As an extremely shy and introverted child, those movies were my much-needed escape as well as support. I usually felt courageous enough to talk to people after watching a Disney classic (still do, to be frank). I began to write stories and poems inspired by those fantastic Disney songs (and I am told they are pretty good too!). Till date, the best way to improve my mood on a bad day is to simply play a Disney song or show me the whole movie. I can’t help but smile and feel happy again. The most important thing they gave me though, was the firm belief that no matter what life throws at you, if you stay strong and true, you will always have a Happily Ever After.
And yet, not every child has had my good fortune. Even today, most kids don’t have access or appreciation of such movies. That my parents strove hard to give my sister and me this wonderful gift is something I realized just last week. Suddenly I have this renewed fondness for all my Disney DVDs. And soooo much gratitude towards my parents who brought me up in the most magical way possible. They themselves had never had the opportunity to watch such great films, but they insisted on making sure we did. Why they thought this would be helpful is something they themselves probably don’t know. It was a novel way of raising children for that day and age – teaching us through the medium of entertainment. I may not be an expert on the subject, but their plan seems to have worked out okay– as far as I can tell, my sister and I have turned out to be moderately decent human beings, if nothing else!
Gratitude also towards all those unknown artists and writers who have made me the person I am simply through their outstanding and positive work. They will never know what a huge impact they have left on people like me. Through this post, the least I can do is reach out to them over time and space and thank them for all the positivity and joy.
Most of all, gratitude for the realization that even the smallest things in life are worth being thankful for.
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