Happy Days is a very unnatural film. Compared to the present day genre of films, Happy Days is definitely unnatural, for the simple reason that it is so unbelievably natural. It is as vibrant as life itself, as vigorous as the living beings themselves and as vivacious as today’s lifestyle.
Happy Days is the zeitgeist of Young India. It is the saga of the ecstasy of growing from adolescence into adulthood and the agony of permanently leaving behind the exciting childhood. It is an essay of understanding oneself and understanding others to precariously build heart throbbing relationships only to be shattered into heart breaking smithereens.
Happy Days is a delightful experience. A leaf out of your own life from the forgotten past, a rustling stem from the forgivable present and a blossoming bud of a forlorn future.
Every film, we have been firmly grilled to believe, will have a story and the story will have a commencement, a dénouement, a climax and a conclusion. For such a story, anyone can write a synopsis.
However, strangely, Happy Days doesn’t have a story, not even a semblance of a plot. With the finesse of Somerset Maugham and the quintessence of Bertold Brett, eight unique characters were created and their evolution into human beings forms the format of a gripping audio visual narration. These characters are unique in the context of screenplay. But, we know each of those characters. We know them well, because day-in and day-out, at home and outside of it, we see exactly the same characters. They are so ridiculously familiar.
In the backdrop of professional education, four girls and four boys, along with hundreds of others join an engineering college. The film creates a collage of the attitudes, aptitudes, attributes, attritions, attractions and emotional aberrations of these eight youthful characters.
Metaphorically, the film opens with the wall clock ringing six hours at dawn and the concluding frame an eerie midnight, signaling a new dawn. The film is about the precious college life. Our eight lovable characters join the engineering college in the first year and leave at the end of the fourth year. Throughout the duration of the film, we are neither the audience nor the observers. We are part of that college life in the film.
The film surreptitiously digs out our own experiences of college life, the ragging, the studies, the assignments, the examinations, the results, the inexorable trials and the exhausting tribulations.
The actors, all of them, do not appear as novices to the fine art of acting. They carried their roles with aplomb. They did such a fine job that we don’t feel they are acting. They simply lived their roles, and lived them brilliantly. There are songs, dances, fights, comedy, intense emoting scenes and unequivocal introspective silent moments. In all these segments of the film, all the artistes, both major and minor, performed with such exquisite ease that we are left wondering whether these actors are really on their debut.
The story, screenplay, dialogues and direction are an elegant example of excellence. The conceptualization, characterization, cinematographic narration, inter and intra communication and audio visual clarity are of the highest order.
The director was eminently successful in creating the right mood for every scene, through costumes, art props, colour sense, appropriate lighting, audiography, background scores and silences and immaculate lens work. The songs are picturised with gay abandon. The dances and fights were orchestrated with gusto. Never do we feel that songs, dances and fights have been imposed upon the narration. The scene transition is so smooth and silky, the director reminds us of the seemingly effortless screenplays of Raj Kapoor and Guru Dutt. In French, the director is called an auteur, meaning author. Cinema is known as a director’s medium and Happy Days is an enthralling creation of Shekar Kammula, its auteur He emphatically made authorial comments on the generation gap, the cultural divide, class distinction, value evaluation, intellectual discretion, familial redundancies, the power of determination and the purity of forgiving.
Happy Days is a celluloid poetry teasingly flowing to the rhythm of the joys of life and the rhymes of the sorrows of living, with a simmering hope swiveling on the threshold of grueling defiance.
Happy Days miraculously bridges the yawning gap between the reel life and real life. College study is a specific and special phase of life, which every one cherishes with dedicated endearment. The young audience will enjoy this film. The elder segment will happily go back to their Happy Days phase of life. The older generation will slide down their memory lanes to remember their pranks, follies, girl friends and may be the first kisses.
This film is a must watch, for the simple reason that it strikes you as a straight forward cinematic autobiography of Shekar Kammula.