“As time goes by”, is the song, written by Herman Hupfeld, and filmed in the iconic movie “Casablanca”, which is one of my most beloved movies. We simply cannot expect another movie based on this theme to be featured again. Our lives are altered in a such way, that we neither have the time or the patience to go deep and remake such a rare classic, which exemplifies the vicissitudes and immutability of human emotions. Hence, a small effort to appreciate this masterpiece and share few observations about this.
The movie goes back to the times of world war 2. Those were incredible times when living itself was like a gamble. If anyone could live without fear, they would be considered to be enlightened. How Rick came to Casablanca after Ilsa separated away from him in Paris, how their chemistry of never ending love for each other got mixed up, and restricted by Ilsa’s marriage to Victor, Ilsa’s desperate attempts to hide her emotions for Rick from Victor, then her distressed efforts to convince Rick to give those letters of transit to Victor, and finally the unexpected decision taken by Rick to send both Ilsa and Victor to America, all are beyond comprehension.
The movie though has a very simple theme, but conveys a very complex message. I would say everyone might infer the movie in their own way. The unconditional love shown by Rick towards Ilsa is very envious. I wonder how this is even possible in today’s world. The movie reminds me of the Shakespeare’s quote from A Midsummer’s Night Dream, “The course of true love never did run smooth…” Indeed, the path of Rick and Ilsa’s love story was strenuous. And this happens in every true love. It never runs smooth, and never gets finished. But the idea of happy ending only exists in a chimerical world. The expected outcome is often eluded.
There are few similar life stories based on the real life Rick and Ilsa, like Sahir and Amrita Pritam, or even French existentialists Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. Their paths also crossed on several occasions, love blossomed, but the story remained incomplete. We usually want a happy ending. Most movies show a happy ending story ( though for commerical reasons), as it gives everyone hope that things work out nicely at the end. But in a parallel bonding, there is never an ending, and rather what ends is also a continuation. Its strange to assess it logically as our left brain won’t comprehend it. But if emotions can be expressed logically, scientists would have invented a chemical to trigger the neural circuit in the brain or could have come up with a mathematical equation to predict the course. It would be highly incongruous to even ackowledge this. But fortunately it has escaped the paradigm of logic.
At the ending scene in the movie, Rick does the thinking for all of them, and bravely decides to let go Ilsa and Victor to America. This potrays a strong message to us. We often presume that in relationships, victory is the ultimate ending, and in order to win, we must gain. Rather, on the contrary, to let go is winning. Because just like Rick let go Ilsa, because he knew that even though she loved him, but she would never be happy without Victor. Even though Victor and Rick both were against the evil Nazis, but Victor desperately needed to reach America to escape the Nazis, and she knew only Rick could help them. Though she did not mean to take advantage of Rick in this situation, and Rick inspite of knowing this, decided to let her go. This shows an extremely rare quality exhibited by Rick, and that is dispassion. By letting her go, he gained her respect and love, forever. What a way to conclude!!
This reminds me of Mazhar Imam’s Urdu couplet
Muhabbaton ki parakh ka yahi toh rasta hai
Teri talaash mein nikloon, tujhe na paaoon main
(The best criterion to judge the intensity of love is never to get the person who one loves)
In modern times, we are conditioned to think that gaining is victory at the end. But the chemistry of love and emotions are complex. The movie tells us to introspect on this, and remains as one of the top rated classics. Sahir and Amrita were the quintessential intellectuals in this respect. We cannot find such examples today, as rare they are like a honest politician. Our way of life has been contrived in predefined fashion and even love, emotions, relationships are scathed in today’s world. As time goes by resembles the divergent realism of the society and we can still hope affirmatively that even though as time goes by, there will always be stories of rare acceptance and letting go for the sake of humanity and love itself.
Lastly, to quote Sahir from his collection, Talkhiyaan: Muhabbat jo anjaam tak pahunchi nahin/Wahi muhabbat hai, baaqi kuchh nahin (Love that remains unfulfilled/Is the true love, the rest doesn’t matter). Ref