To tell a story is difficult, but to present a screen version of a story is even more difficult. The difficulty is compounded when the backdrop is the middle of a world war- as the viewers of today cannot be expected to be acquainted with the harsh realities which would have been easily identified with by that generation, but not today’s. Yet CASABLANCA, despite belonging to a peculiar period, brings out the human predicament. An irreconcilable predicament and that predicament is brought out unobtrusively, which appeals to a thinking person’s sub-conscious. The apparent one liners and the style are there to catch the fancy of  the movie watchers who go for leisure or mere entertainment.

Let us get to the movie structure. There was a man who finds a woman. The MAN finds a WOMAN. Each had found what each had been subconsciously seeking. They separate. The MAN is unaware of the reasons as to why the WOMAN did not turn up for the tryst. The tryst was to take them out of the City, alas, the Woman does not turn up!

Next we find the man running a salon in an uncommon nook of  the Dark Continent. And successfully at that, and he is showing traces of misogyny. The Woman turns up at that salon, with another man. They bump into each other. There is no doubt that Humphrey Bogart is the MAN of the two, but the other man is a LEADER, a leader with a CAUSE. The woman is the TROPHY that is swaying between the MAN on one side and the LEADER OF MEN on the other side.

Each has his/her  own reasons, but the movie is no place to furnish reasons. The reasons are never scientific, and one can never know if the reasons are POST FACTO JUSTIFICATIONS or PRE FACTO OSTENSIBLE REASONS! Ingrid had mistakenly believed her husband- the LEADER OF MEN,to be dead. No one gets legal and asks if  seven years had lapsed since he was heard of (according to the Indian Laws, that is Civil Death), and if Justice Krishna Iyer had been given the case, he would have decided that the WOMAN (Ingrid) was all HUMPHREY’S, as he would have applied the Islamic Laws and said that since as a husband Laszlo did not maintain her for two years, Ingrid would be entitled to a divorce (ref: Yousuf Rowther v. Sowramma- Kerala High Court)!!! She finds him, rather she is found by Victor Laszlo, and Ingrid decides to ditch the rendezvous. Some justification.

But of all the GIN JOINTS, INGRID TURNS UP AT RICK’S. She promptly falls into the karms of the MAN, more so when she discovers that Rick, is the only man who could ensure a passage to the US, either with  Victor or Rick. (Look at the name VICTOR! VICTORY OVER RICK??)

The beauty of the structure is that there is a MAN, a WOMAN and a LEADER. The MAN can make the WOMAN feel like a WOMAN- a capacity to make the person  realize her intrinsic worth. The LEADER who shows the WOMAN that he has discovered a CAUSE that is dearer than the WOMAN, and therefore willing to even DIE FOR THE CAUSE. The trophy is the shining INGRID (Ilsa in the Movie). She has to decide whether she is going to become a PERFECT WOMAN or a PERFECT FOLLOWER & CONFIDANTE of the LEADER. She sways to the   side of the MAN, but the end is totally entrusted to the MAN himseelf.

The MAN has to redeem the WOMAN or let her go with the LEADER, he had planned to redeem her like Boaz from the kinsman, but whether the redemption is going to RESTORE THE PRISTINE LOVE THAT HE FELT FOR HER, is the issue. Is Rick going to feel that he was merely reclaiming the left overs of a long lost ROMANCE (after all they have Paris and why contaminate it with Laszlo at  the background?)?

ONLY RICK COULD TELL. AND RICK DOESN’T(like any self-respecting MAN?)!!

The movie is the best as it amalgamates human predicament with the vicissitudes of  Fate and the human perceptions that arise therefrom.



The movie CASABLANCA is the only renowned movie that I know of, which takes the name of a Town for its title and says very less about the Town itself but a lot of what the town came to because of special situation which prevailed during the II world war.

The storyline revolves around the Hero Rick Blaine @ Rick, played by Humphrey Bogart. He is running a salon in the busiest part of the town under the name of RICK’S. Gambling, drinking, wheeling dealing, music, smoking, net-working and all kinds of activities are going on. The person who controls the whole show at Rick’s is Humphrey Bogart- with his notorious reputation for keeping business discrete from his other activities -of being an ardent seducer, heavy smoker and drinker.

He knows his business and also like any sensible business man realizes that the support of the bureaucrat was essential for his activities. He had been befriended by the corrupt Prefect of the Police of the area, who is portrayed as a slime-ball supreme. The Police Prefect gets to socialize at the Rick’s and makes it a happy hunting ground for picking up babes in distress, free entertainment and also gleaning intelligence, so necessary in his line of duty.

The town is infested with people running away from the war ravaged Europe to the USA. All the denizens are waiting for their VISAs, with the hope that they would be granted one someday, and thereafter, fly off to their land of Liberty and Dreams. This wait is expensive at Casablanca & the prices depend on something or the other (the cloth material seller brings down the rate of the cloth to less than one tenth of his original quote, when he finds that Ingrid is a friend of Bogart- the stages in which he makes the climb down and the reasons given by the seller are hilarious).

Casablanca is a town in the French Morocco, which is indirectly under the occupation of Germany and ruled by the VICHY GOVERNMENT  and therefore there is a police that is ambivalent. No one is sure of anything, and each one is coping with the present making his own ad hoc remedies with the HOPE OF FLIGHT TO THE USA in the background.In this sordid background, Casablanca is a place that none wants to stay, yet none can get to the dreams of the USA without going thru it. One may never get to the USA, yet everyone is generating enough hope to sustain his effort of obtaining the VISA by selling their valuables and at times doing a lil wheeling dealing on the sides.

In this town, our hero had established his business. A business that by the very nature of the location and the sudden transformation of Casablanca,because of the war as the safest transit point, cannot last beyond the WAR. That is the back drop. The future of the Town depends on the WAR. Yet Rick Blaine is thriving well, as he is least judgmental of anything that is going on there, but shrew enough not to let go of any windfall that might be merely passing by (the VISA hid by him ). He has a devoted bunch of employees including SAM, who is the Pianist cum Vocalist at the bar, who wouldn’t desert him for a better price or any calamity.

Bogart is shown as a dour, brooding person, yet in command of the situation and acutely aware of the shifting surroundings and safeguarding his business interests zealously and getting things done in time. It is his manner of treating women that adds punch to the movie. His girl friend in a distraught moment asks him, ” where were u last night?” and without a flitting semblance of guilt replies, ” It was too far in the past, i don’t remember.” The relentless woman asks, “What are u doing tonight?”, and without turning to her side answers, “It is too much in the future, I don’t make plans that far.” In any case, the brusque nonchalant manner in which he makes those repartee is a delight to watch.

The movie’s greatness lies in no less measure to the rendition of the heroine Ilsa Lund by Ingrid Bergman. Her grace and the way she sensitively handles this brooding brute is a classic. Towards the end one is left wondering if she deployed her feminine charms to break down the WILL of Rick and get off to the USA with Victor Lazslo; or Rick was just letting go of what was not his only!! The end is open ended, just as the movie began. It is a HUMAN CONDITION with no solution offered or no desired end achieved. Coincidences are questioned- OF ALL THE GIN JOINTS IN THE WORLD SHE HAD TO COME TO MINE (Bogart on Ingrid’s arrival at RICK’S) !! No pleasant coincidences- all reflecting the mood of the war in 1942!!!

If anyone wants to view a Classic English movie that is sure to leave an indelible mark in his soul, it is this, it is this & it is this. CASABLANCA. You are in all probability gonna rewind the movie for the crisp one liners and the casual ease with which dialogues are delivered.

By the way, I learnt that the famous one liner was not PLAY IT AGAIN SAM, but PLAY IT ONE TIME SAM, FOR OLD TIME’S SAKE.

When heroes were MEN, and MEN were chivalrous, CASABLANCA was made, but Times they are a’ changin’!!!

Wanna watch a clipping? here’s the link: