The hallways. The stairs. The classrooms. The benches. The old charts hanging on the bulletin boards. If I close my eyes, I can still smell school, four years after last being there. For more than a year I’ve been stuck at home, long enough to not like it anymore. The appeal of the second home is too strong at times. It doesn’t help that all my best friends are from my school days and I don’t get to meet them as often anymore. On some days I really wish I could go back.
Watching Dead Poets Society is cathartic at times like these. I can see myself in those boys. I can see the bundled energy with which we ran wherever and whenever anyone did anything stupid. I can see all my outrageous ideas being supported by my friends without even questioning them. I went to an all-girls convent school. I have seen the entire class take the blame so that the Sisters would spare one. I can see the leap of faith we all took when the boys restarted the Dead Poets Society.
My favourite English teacher once taught us Henry Louis Vivian Derozio’s “Sonnet to the Pupils of Hindu College”. The poem is about a teacher watching as his students’ minds unfurl their enormous ideas. The poem is emotional. Derozio was later accused of polluting the minds of his students. He was suspended and eventually passed away, only at the age of 22. I remember sitting in class and taking it all in. The historical relevance of it: Derozio had started the radical Young Bengal Movement. He was an Anglo-Indian who was inspiring free thinking in his students to protest against the colonial rule. The restrained emotions with which our teacher told us the story made me feel what being a teacher meant to her. And for the first time I was remotely aware of what it meant to be the youth of the country.
I watched Dead Poets Society for the first time while in quarantine last year. It was one of those weekdays when it was hard to carpe diem and watching a movie was my way of procrastinating. When John Keating said, “No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world”, I found myself aggressively nodding in approval. It took me back to the classroom and my teacher’s voice as she told us,
“Expanding like the petals of young flowers
I watch the gentle opening of your minds…”
Derozio had said the same to his students at another time. It was a while since we had that class with our teacher. It has been a while since Robin Williams died. If only it was acceptable at social gatherings to stand up on a desk without people giving you weird looks and shout, “O captain, my captain!”
Disclaimer: This article has not been written by Film Companion’s editorial team.