Friday, June 24, 2005

A tribute to four Egyptian greats

All analysis and no whimsy makes Baheyya a very dull girl. So apropos of nothing, I’d like to fondly remember four of my absolute favourite actors, all full of whimsy, humour, and great art. Every time I happen upon one of them on television, I have to sit down and watch, and every time without fail, they make me laugh and laugh, offering the best respite from our very unfunny surroundings these days.

The 1940s was an immensely prolific time for Egyptian cinema, when these greats made their mark. I particularly love the freewheeling and clever dialogue in the films of this era, especially the liberal use of put-downs such as “gatak dahya!” and expressions like “ya khabar eswed!” and “yikhreb baytak!” used with such relish by Ismail Yasin. I don’t know why, but I always find these endlessly amusing and giggle like a kid. They were just damohom khafeef, without any coarseness.

These films delighted me as a child and I’m still laughing as a grownup, now appreciating the intelligence and hard work behind the slapstick. All of these actors were such excellent professionals, making the craft of acting look so easy. The best part is that they all seemed to be enjoying themselves as they acted. The older I get, the more luminous they look. They’ll shine on forever.