When I was in the third or fourth year of medical school my friends, Asha, Sree, Chitra and Rafia bought me a book for my birthday. They took me to the only book shop in the city in those days. The Modern book store was only a small store, but it had everything we needed for our course and if they didn’t have what we wanted they would get it for us.
I chose Margaret Mitchell’s ‘Gone with the wind’. Almost forty odd years after its publication, it was still quite popular. The picture of Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh on the cover made it even more irresistible. It cost them fifty rupees, a lot of money in those days.
We were only students and were too proud to ask our parents for any extra money in those days. Every extra paisa /rupee was saved for our Saturday trips to the cinema which was followed by a meal at the Indian Coffee House or if we were lucky, one of the few fancy places like the ‘Apache’ or the only Chinese restaurant in the city. The icing on the cake was a trip to Sree’s favourite ice cream parlour if we had any left over change. So to buy me a present from this pocket money was a pretty big deal.
With the exams looming, I didn’t get much of a chance to read my new book and so it had to wait. Soon it was time for my microbiology exam and on my viva day one of the examiners quizzed me on scarlet fever and just for fun asked me a question, the answer to which was Scarlet O Hara and because I hadn’t read the book, I couldn’t answer it. So my one chance to impress the examiners just blew away with the wind.
A few months later we found out that the film was showing in one of the cinemas and we went to watch it. The duration of the film is 221 minutes and with intermission the time adds up to almost four hours, which even for Indian standards of is pretty long. During the cinema, they couldn’t show one whole reel of the film as it was damaged. I can still remember the disappointment.
Since coming to the UK, I have attempted to watch the film on TV a number of times, but still haven’t managed to do it in its entirety. When you add the commercial breaks to the actual length of the film, you can understand why. Over the years I have managed to watch bits and bobs of the film and yesterday I sat and watched the part of the film that I missed seeing at the cinema almost 35 years ago.
I looked up some of the information regarding the film and realised that it came out the same year as a number of other impressive films including the Wizard of Oz. Out of the thirteen Oscar nominations that year, it won ten academy awards setting records in the process. It was the only novel Margaret Mitchell wrote and she died in a road traffic accident while crossing the road, ten years after the film was released. She was only 49.