05 November 2020

Sean Connery, his many faces and one that I will keep

Illustration: Aysha Maryam Cassim

There are unanswerable questions. This, for example: When voracious readers die why is it that their mortal remains do not turn into so many pages that will fly in all directions celebrating literacy?

What happens to writers, then? Do their remains gather in celestial coffee shops for fellowship with their kind? What of musicians, painters, sculptors, inventors, mathematicians, ballerinas and actors? Do they roam or remain still and either way, what are their preferred addresses? 

Sean Connery passed on a few days ago at the age of 90. Who was he? For some he was the true and most iconic face of the hero in Ian Fleming’s books. Bond. James Bond. 007. Licensed to kill. Legitimate. After all he was the first to play the character in the first of the Bond movies, ‘Dr No.’ Some are James Bond fans, some are not. It is no more than feel good Cold War stories for those who’ve embraced a particular version of history and look to a future based on a particular version of the present. Those who buy it, love it. Those who don’t, go ‘hmmm…hmmm.’ Connery, anyway, was a dashing hero and a great actor. Few would dispute this.

And he was not just Bond, James Bond. More than half a century of acting in theater and film makes it hard to reduce him to an anti-Commie hero. He was iconic in many other roles. The awards over the year speak of excellence. The accolades from those who worked with him speak of his love for and commitment to his vocation.

How does an individual commemorate, though? Obviously there can be no ‘one way and no other.’ An actor lives on in the movies. He can be easily brought to life. Binge-watching all the Sean Connery movies or maybe even just those that one is particularly fond of is an option. That’s where the vast majority encountered him after all; the near and dear are typically just a handful.

So we don’t know Sean Connery, for the most part. We don’t know the artists whose work we admire. We don’t know the philosophers or the poets. We know of them, poorly, in their philosophies and poetry.

Thus, in the case of an actor, it often boils down to a single movie or a moment in a movie. Maybe a Bond, James Bond moment. Something from ‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade’ perhaps? ‘The Hunt for Red October’ for some, the words of the Benedictine monk, Fr William of Baskerville in ‘The Name of the Rose,’ for others. To each, his/her preference, then.

Images. They flash across the mind. Different movies, different roles, different names and words. Sean Connery must be in there somehow, but I cannot pin him down. Maybe that’s good. If everyone could catch a piece of the man, then each of the captors would relic him. Sean Connery in bits and pieces in myriad corners. That’s interesting. Sean Connery in bits and pieces? That’s grotesque. How will he come together? How could he fly? If flight is not his thing, how could he just bring it all together and be who he really is?

Images. They flash now. And strangely, it is the image of Pundit Amaradeva that dominates this moment. Well, an image, to be precise. He passed away four years ago. Today, as I write (on the 3rd of November, 2020), I hear his songs being played over the radio along with comments from those who knew him, among them students of music. 
And my thoughts went to what seemed to be the image of the man preferred by the majority of commemorators. It was a picture taken at a rehearsal at his house. The photographer was Sandra Mack. No one acknowledged. No one knew, to be fair, or didn’t bother to find out. Amaradeva belonged to those who loved him and needed him.

It’s the same with anyone else. Sean Connery too. Now and probably always, it will be an image that comes to me. It’s not from his many movies. It’s a sketch from someone who felt the man deep enough to pay tribute. In her own way.

Aysha Maryam Cassim has a simple note: ‘Farewell, Mr Bond. My tribute art to the legend, #SeanConnery #007forever.’ Interestingly, it’s not a ‘Bond pic’ for this is an older Connery, identifiable in the more reflective roles he would play after he was done with Bond, James Bond. For me, a better, a truer capture. Maybe I identify more with those roles than with 007.

Who knows? Sean Connery. A name and man. Identified and misidentified. But what’s in a name? A rose, a thorn, a hero, a recluse…he was, is and will be, one way or the other. ‘Tributable’ in numerous ways. Aysha’s is one. For me, it works. Beautifully. 


Other articles in the series 'In Passing...':  [published in the 'Daily News']  

Eyes that watch the world and cannot be forgotten   Let's start with the credits, shall we? 
The 'We' that 'I' forgot 
'Duwapang Askey,' screamed a legend, almost 40 years ago
Dances with daughters
Reflections on shameless writing

Is the old house still standing?
 Magic doesn't make its way into the classifieds

Small is beautiful and is a consolation  
Distance is a product of the will
Akalanka Athukorala, at 13+ alre
ady a hurricane hunter
Did the mountain move, and if so why?
Ever been out of Colombo?
Anya Raux educated me about Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA)
Wicky's Story You can always go to GOAT Mountain
Let's learn the art of embracing damage
Kandy Lake is lined with poetry
There's never a 'right moment' for love
A love note to an unknown address in Los Ange
A dusk song for Rasika
How about creating some history?
How far away are the faraway places?
There ARE good people!
Re-placing people in the story of schooldays  
When we stop, we can begin to learn
Routine and pattern can checkmate poetry

Janani Amanda Umandi threw a b'day party for her father 
Sriyani and her serendipity shop
Forget constellations and the names of oceans
Where's your 'One, Galle Face'?

Maps as wrapping paper, roads as ribbons
Yasaratne, the gentle giant of Divulgane  
Katharagama and Athara Maga
Victories are made by assists
Lost and found between weaver and weave
The Dhammapada and word-intricacies
S.A. Dissanayake taught children to walk in the clouds
White is a color we forget too often  
The most beautiful road is yet to meet a cartographer