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The movies that shape us

Rama Gottumukkala | Tuesday, May 1, 2007

As far back as I can remember, movies have been the language I’ve never been able to unlearn. Over the years, I have had my fair share of dialects go in one ear and out the other. But more than English, Hindi, Telegu and Spanish – all tongues I can (or could at one time) speak fluently – film has become one of my fluencies, as it is for millions of others.

More than the words of any particular region, film has been the most useful and effective cognate in my life, one that bridges the barriers of culture, class and particularly language.

To say I was raised as a global child would not be much of an exaggeration. I was born in India, raised in England and matured in America. All told, I’ve called 10 different cities home on three continents. Now, on the eve of graduation, I’m set to find a new home.

To mark the occasion, here’s a look back at a few films that mattered to me.

u “Mr. India” (1987)

Think “Indiana Jones” meets “Inspector Gadget.” My parents inspired me with their deep love for Indian cinema, and this story of a 30-year-old man who looks after orphaned children is the optimistic person’s “Oliver Twist.” Both rousing and heartwarming, it continues to remind me of my heritage, no matter how far I may travel from it.

u “The Land Before Time” (1988)

Yes, the death of Littlefoot’s mother traumatized me, like Mufasa’s plummet would a few years later. But more than any other movie outside of “The Sandlot,” it captures the never-ending wonders of childhood innocence. It was the film I watched on repeat for afternoons on end. (I can’t say the same for its two billion sequels.)

u “The Shawshank Redemption” (1994)

I have yet to meet a person who dislikes this gem, which is a rare distinction. No movie holds the human spirit more highly than this one. It’s the very definition of a modern classic, a film that will be talked about for decades to come.

u “Fight Club” (1999)

No movie speaks to teenage rebellion quite like David Fincher’s dark masterpiece. Those looking for pointers on how to win a fistfight are missing the point. Edward Norton’s conflicted but well-intentioned protagonist is the star of the show, despite how close Brad Pitt’s smoldering Tyler Durden comes to stealing it.

u “The Lord of the Rings” (2001-2003)

I was 14 when I saw my first “Star Wars” film. As a result, I tragically missed the golden hour in my childhood for one of the cinema’s great fantasy epics. Fortunately, Peter Jackson’s epic filled that gaping hole nicely, sweeping us away on an epic adventure that felt as real and tangible as the one in George Lucas’ far-flung galaxy.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

Contact Rama Gottumukkala at rgottumu@nd.edu