June 05, 2006

Code Review : The Movie, the Book and More

I saw the movie last Friday and the first thing that struck me was the amazing stupidity of the reviews that were penned by the critics at Cannes after the premiere on 19 May. Apparently they found it ridiculous and funny and some of them broke out laughing ... well, we in Bengal have a saying that the fool laughs thrice - once without understanding, once because everyone else is .. and finally when they understand the joke. Unfortunately neither this movie, nor the book that it is based on is a joke .. so now that these idiots have had their last laugh ...it is time for us to move on without paying these jokers @ Cannes any further attention.

Having got that piece of venom out of my spleen, let me turn to the movie. It is a very faithful reproduction of the book but you must have read the book well to make sense of the movie. Unfortunately the vast majority of people with whom I shared the movie hall had possibly not read the book ... and so to most of them, it seemed as if they were watching a B-thriller ( B for Bond, James Bond ) ... how pathetic.

But if you have read ( and understood ) the book, the movie is a marvel. Given the immense complexity of the plot it is a wonder that the director could stay true to the storyline and still maintain the mystery right up to the very end.

Net-net a very good movie but one not likely to be hugely popular, which is fine with me since I have always believed that popularity is not synonymous with quality. The acting was competent, though my wife did have higher expectations from Tom Hanks but I suppose that is a uniquely feminine perspective !! I was more focussed on what he was upto and of course I was interested in his delightful companion -- of whom I am sure we would see more in a sequel.

But of course the 'hero' of the whole episode is not Tom, not Audrey, not even Dan Brown but the enigmatic figure of Mary Magdalene .. about whom I had first heard of under the most strange circumstances !!

I was in London in February 1997 and one of my senior colleagues, Howard Digby-Johns had taken me to a little pub on the Thames, right next to the Globe theatre. Apparently, Shakespeare used to frequent this pub and had commended their ale in one of his plays ... but that is a different story. But the real story was the one that Howard told me and that was the story of Mary Magdalene .. how she was the true inheritor of the legacy of Jesus and how her supporters, who claimed to belong to the Bloodline Church, of which Howard himself was a member, had kept her memory alive through the Dark Ages and were now planning to bring her to the forefront of the public perception durng the Third Millenium.

I do not wish to go back to the story, which has been told by Dan Brown and others so well, but what stuck in my mind was the fact that the Third Millenium, which was just around the corner, was the Millenium when the truth about Mary would be finally revealed.

Howard and I parted ways -- he runs a restaurant in Phuket these days, but the words that he left me with resonated very well with my personal interest in the Divine Mother, The Shakti, who is essential to the Hindu view of the world. And it grew upon me till I sat down and wrote an essay on the similarity of Mary Magdalene as the Consort of Jesus and the ubiquitous Shakti without whom our dear Shiva is helpless to act !! Finally on Christmas 2000, six days before the new Millenium, I heard as if it was Mary herself who was crying out for justice and before I knew it I had posted my essay on the web.

The prophesy was coming true. Here I was, at the dawn of the millenium, heralding the long forgotten, long suppressed story of Mary Magdalene ... but of course I was a very small and insignificant herald for this great fact ... behind me, the printing presses had started to whir !! and The Da Vinci Code was getting printed ... and the rest as they say is history.

So that is the story of The Da Vinci Code -- or at least my (very small) part of this very gigantic turn of events. Having been so uniquely introduced to it, I find it impossible to criticise the movie. But even if I had not been sold so strongly on the facts, the movie is eminently watchable ... but if, and only if, you have read the book.

So do buy, beg, borrow or steal the book, read it and then sit back and watch the movie with that smirk of smug superiority on your face. You will enjoy it.

Click here for my original essay, written on 25 December 2000