Flashbacks are an age old tradition in movies. The way they are shown in movies has changed over time.
My favourite flashback narration is in the movie ALAIPAYUTE. That was the first time I had seen that kind of a story-telling. The story was in the present but kept jumping off into the past. The switch between the past & the present was so subtle & yet one wouldn't lose track of which is which. It was understandable. When the past and the present merge, it is so seamless! Since then, there have been other movies that have adapted this method with slight variations. They all work just as well.
Another movie I loved for the way the various tenses were merged is TEEN DEEWAREIN. The story is of 3 criminals in jail, strangers to each other, and a reporter who is writing a piece on their lives. The story goes back and forth between the present and the past of each of the jailbirds as they narrate their story to the protagonist, in a very ordinary flashback method. The beauty of the narration is when each of their past merges with that of the other 2 and slides into the present, making the 3 strangers party to a single event in present. It's amazing the way the writer has merged their past and in doing so, merged the present, with utmost clarity. The plot thickens when the journalist's past pops up where theirs seems to end, merges with theirs and the present is one big concoction of her today and that of her subjects.
The climax is where the con-reporter-actually-revenge-seeker girl connects the dots, linking all the pasts and relates the tale of her sister's accidental murder some months ago. Characters spring up suddenly, that have very little screen presence, yet played an important part in the movie all along. A lot of subtlety and a wonderfully woven tale, I think.
It is a Nagesh Kukunoor movie. I'm a huge fan of his and have watched all his movies, except the latest commercial flick, which was a big failure anyway.
Another one of his movies that I loved is the DOR. It is a remake of a Malayalam film. Hardly much of a flashback but that one too starts off in the present and takes a peek into the past every now and then, just enough for the viewers to understand the background of the story.
I watched LOVE AAJ KAL a couple of nights ago. As the name suggests, it's about love aaj (today) and kal (yesterday). There's a parallel drawn between love in the yesteryears and in today's world. Like all love stories end, the movie goes on to prove that no matter what has changed across generations, one thing that remains constant is that love cannot be beaten, matters of the heart always rule and should. The best part of the movie is where the older man tells the younger one that the latter reminds him of himself in his younger days. The flashback has the younger actor doubling up as the older guy in his younger days. The story has been narrated very well and the double role play is another first time, another amazing flash of originality!
A dash of creativity can do wonders to an ordinary act. There were the days when a flashback was a mere narration of the past, one character to another. Now, it's a whole new arena for story-telling.