Wednesday, September 03, 2008


I remember watching a Hindi movie (I forget the title) where the story would keep jumping from the ‘80s to the ‘50s and back to the ‘80s. This would happen several times, but during each flashback, the scene would be in black and white or some kind of dull brown. It would turn into brilliant colour when the ‘present’ came on. Perhaps, this technique has been used in several movies, but I only remember the one that I am talking about.

If I had to imagine the times my parents grew up in, I would conjure the mental picture in black and white. That’s because my entire knowledge of their past, in visual terms, comes from the black-and-white photographs from their childhood. So, the cinematic technique to depict the past in black-and-white is quite appropriate.

But, are the photographs black-and-white because they had only black-and-white films or was it because the world itself was black and white then? Calvin and dad have this brilliant conversation ( source):

Calvin: How come old photographs are always black and white? Didn’t they have color film back then?

Dad: Sure they did. In fact, those old photographs are in color. It’s just that the world was black and white then. The world didn’t turn color until sometime in the 1930s, and it was pretty grainy color for a while, too.

Calvin: But then why are old paintings in color?! If the world was black and white, wouldn’t artists have painted it that way?

Dad: Not necessarily. A lot of great artists were insane.

Calvin: But… But how could they have painted in color anyway? Wouldn’t their paints have been shades of gray back then?

Dad: Of course, but they turned colors like everything else did in the ’30s.

Calvin: So why didn’t old black and white photos turn color too?

Dad: Because they were color pictures of black and white, remember?


Escape.... Great Escape said...

Would Calvin's dad's dad also have been like Calvin's dad ?

dipali said...

Amazing Dad:)

braindrain said...

Raj , you said "So, the cinematic technique to depict the past in black-and-white is quite appropriate."

In the movie "Swahm" by the award winning director Shaji N Karun, it was used quite the opposite. The life after the death of the husband was in Black & White and the flashbacks of when he was alive was in colour. Artistic choices to denote the status of affairs !


Hawkeye said...

sometimes there is a magic in words. this calvin extract is one of them :-)

Raj said...

Ha, escape... yes. These things are passed on genetically.

dipali, and Calvin too. he makes his dad look amazing.

jayan, we conclude then that the past and the future are in black-and-white, and only the present is in 'colour'?

hawkeye, so true.