Wednesday, 1 February 2017

The Ever Relevance of Classic

" Why is a classic creation read, viewed and heard again and again ?" Jack Limmer's classic question is forever relevant. A classic piece of art and creativity never ceases to offer new insights and interpretations. A great book opens up a plethora of meanings and new perceptions, every time you read it anew. Years back, when I read Jalaluddin Rumi's masnavis, they were on my Persian syllabus at university. My main objective at that time was to score high marks in Persian. I succeeded in my primary objective, but realised that I learnt and comprehended very little as a student. When I read them again at leisure with no burden of exams, I got new meanings and a much broader canvas.

And just a month back, when I read the masnavis  afresh, I realised that what I understood long back was pretty humdrum. The masnavis  now appear more enlightening. They'll appear even more illuminating when I'll read them again after some time. Any great piece of art is ageless and ever pertinent. One draws new meanings as one grows old and becomes more mature. V S Naipaul, himself a Nobel laureate in literature, admitted that whenever he read professor Bulwar Lytton's immortal classic "The last days of Pompeii", he realised that his previous readings were wanting on many counts. David Lean saw Satyajit Ray's Pather Panchali  seventeen times and found seventeen new layers of cinematic as well as social realities in his viewings.
A classic is never understood in its totality when read, viewed or heard for the first time. The 'interpretational gulf' and 'comprehensive empathy' always elude even the most brilliant readers, viewers and listeners, let alone the average ones. To comprehend a truly great piece of art and literature, one has to be on a par with the creator, which is highly improbable. That's the reason, repeated readings and viewings are so essential. Moreover, a great book, a sublime symphony and a masterly painting never reveal themselves at first blush. Leonardo Da Vinci's La Gioconda (better known as Monalisa) lends itself to new interpretaions and findings every time it's analysed as a fresh piece of great art.

 An individual's moods, circumstances and state of mind also play a vital role in the comprehension of a work of art as time glides by. George Orwell's 'Animal Farm' becomes an allegory and a political satire only when you read it again and again with advancing age and Jonathan Swift's 'Gulliver's Travels' real import is understood  when you read it at an age when you begin to understand the latent meanings of life's myriad vicissitudes and the yawning social differences.

The great Urdu poet Ahmad Faraz of Pakistan found Muhammad Rafi's very soulful  'Kahin se maut ko lao ke gham ki raat kate' (Mera kusoor kya hai) as the morbidly depressing song, until he heard it again in 2009 to call it the finest song of sub-continental cinema music. He died in 2010!! A classic never loses its charm and relevance. It encompasses the wisdom and truth of all eras and even carries in its womb, the tangible possibilities of times hither-to unheard and undreamt-of.  

                               ----Sumit Paul  


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