Thursday, June 08, 2006


The bird that I saw on the footpath in the morning looked needy and plaintive. I walked past it and it still did not fly away. I stopped and move towards it until I came very close. Yet it did not move. For one second, my childhood instincts of taking care of a hurt or wounded animal temporarily surfaced. But then, I remembered the numerous insects and birds in such condition which I had hauled home, kept ensconced in cotton filled boxes, and desperately tried to keep alive. Most of my attempts had failed. Unless you are a professional veterinarian, it is quite difficult to care for anything simpler than a dog or cat. The simpler the animal, the more exclusive its likes and dislikes can be, and this is especially the case for birds. Sometimes, the best way to care for a wild animal is to let it be where it is, in its natural environment. If it is going to live, it can best do so by surviving on food and water from its natural habitat. If it's going to die, you can only prolong its suffering by bringing it home. To be fair, I did take care of a few animals, including a squirrel, and some cats. But those were the exceptions rather than the rule, and hardy ones at that.

Fortunately, when I went past the same spot in the evening, my feathered friend was gone. I would think that he flew away; in any case, I hadn’t actually discerned any injury in the morning. Maybe he was just an unusually inquisitive and intrepid bird, the Jonathan Livingston Seagull of his flock who wanted to be different.

Alfred Hitchcock's 'The Birds' threatened my perception of birds in the evening. The movie is a classic of the Hitchcock genre. The main protagonists are the bold and beautiful Tippi Hedren, and the dashing Rod Taylor, who looks to me like a combination of Shammi Kapoor and Akshay Khanna (tch tch). Hedren plays a bold and nonchalant, cigarette smoking, swashbuckling daughter of a rich newspaper magnate, who develops an interest in Rod Taylor, a lawyer who is on vacation in the picturesque Bodega Bay. While Taylor's mother is suspicious of her son's apparent catch and keeps on giving her cold looks, his sister is a sucker for the lovebirds which Hedren has gifted her.
The movie really concerns the times when gulls and crows in fair Bodega Bay turn hostile. Mob psychology and power was never more apparent. The birds are really smart, and resort to ambush style tactics to attack and kill people. The rest of the movie features the birds attacking the small population of the bay, and Hedren and Taylor finally devising strategies to get away to safety. Which is fortunate for Hedren, since this is the first time the townsfolk have seen her around, and some start to consider her as the evil omen who brought the birds' wrath upon them with her.

What's the point of Hitchcock's movie? It's really hard to classify it. As a horror movie, it's not a great shocker. Sure, it's a little morbid in parts, especially where the birds have made a house call and poked out a man's eyes and killed him, but we had far better horror flicks at the time. There are some ominous incidents, but not many. Hitchcock's real talent in fact lies in no single aspect of the movie, but in spinning a generally interesting tale. He simply weaves a story together; in fact the feared birds don't even appear until about halfway through the movie, and even then quite intermittently. But Hitchcock has a knack of choosing the right characters and right moments. He has a feel for what will keep the suspense, what will make the movie quiet, yet riveting and interesting. It does not matter if most of the plot even strays away from the subject implied by the title of the movie. The movie is pretty casual and subdued and it starts to really get interesting only about the end. But what distinguishes Hitchcock is his attention to small events that will catch your attention. His tales also have a clear and definite progression. He is quite the master of creating intrigue without intrigue. He also has a great ability to show people gradually building up relationships in a movie. Hitchcock creates an experience that is unique in its totality.

One thing that's nice and peculiar about either the movie or the 60s (or both)- Apparently, you can question anyone incessantly about anything, and you are sure to always receive civil and pleasant answers from him or her, no matter that the person is a stranger. You can also stare gloatingly at a stranger's face, and he or she will simply keep on laughing and behaving in a pleasant way. How I miss those kinds of times and people…
But do watch 'The Birds'. It's a typical 60s Hitchcock movie.

I will continue to inspect apparently wounded birds more closely.


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