Hi guys and girls all over the world, zillion apologies about the delay in my ‘talkie with rekhs’.
This time I wanted an ‘out of the box’ interview and I chose this unique individual, Dr Ramakrishnan whose thoughts are indeed exclusively progressive laced with practicality and clarity of vision. This is an ordinary man’s extraordinary insight into our cinema.
He can’t be labeled ‘common man’ but his views are that of the general public, educated, savvy, refined wanting to take our films worldwide with head held high! And his whole family has this intense affinity to the reel world that’s endearing and at the same time astonishing, as each of them is so busy in their chosen profession…and yet they make time to go to the theater watch a film and review it with a joy un-quantified.
Later with coffee in tumbler-dabara style, they spread themselves around an old rosewood swing in their closed verandah, amidst the fragrance of jasmine breezing through, late at night, ‘analyze-paralyze’ every shot and frame with spark(le)s in their eyes! His nephews join this review spree too!! In fact 2 of them, Anuj and Abhinav review films on popular dailies.
Having passed out of Kola Perumal Chetty Vaishnav secondary school and Stanley medical college, his 2 year stint in UK and 11 years in USA opened his eyes to the world and a different lifestyle from his simple scholarly upbringing. His dad, Professor Nagarajan who taught commerce and later was principal of DG Vaishnav college molded the lives of his children, Venkat, Murali, Mohan, Gopi and Ram, who share besides mutual love and respect amongst themselves, besides the suffix Krishnan to their names. The modern Pancha Pandavas…you bet!
Though Ram and Lalitha had a traditional arranged marriage, you’d never be able to guess because even after a decade of ‘being man and wife’ they have this aura of love and laughter ‘halo’ing around them.
You’d think a doctor who heads the ICU of a huge hospital chain and his sleep medicine practice is bound to pray to God daily to give him more than 24 hours in a day, but he still makes time to take his wife out on long drives or a cozy candle light dinner and spend time with his 2 teenagers, tech-savvy Adarsh and ‘beauty+brains’ Sahana. Maybe that’s what makes him look and act 10 years younger than his real age!!
Having said all this about him, let me come to the crux of my interview. Ram is the ‘friendly neighborhood movie-goer’ every reader can identify with easily. I wanted to pen down on paper the perspective of a non-film person and his wish list. Though his patients (the list being confidential of course) sure range from superstar (celebs of other regional films too) to up and coming singers, comedians and the whole reel world, big and small.
Ram grew up admiring and being in love with films churned out of KB sir and Sridhar sir’s genius minds. In fact he is one of the privileged few, thanks to a family friend, who arranged for THE director Sridhar in his wheel chair to visit his home, aptly named ‘ Dhanvantri’ (!). And the 5 Pandavas were over the moon when they heard this great director they revere, remark, ‘your amma is a mini film-encyclopedia’!!
In fact Ram’s entire brood is a storehouse of film trivia. Their passion for good cinema was a seed implanted in their lifestyle right from childhood. With his 4 brothers being brought up by their grandparents in Vellore, Ram relished the single child status, as apple of his parents’ eyes. That’s the beauty of their bonding, the siblings have such solidarity that would put our UNO to shame! Makes me think of one of Ram’s favorite films ‘aval appadithaan’ he listed, its most cherished song ‘uravugal thodarkadhai’ is the same tag line for his rapport with his brothers. A classic gem! Please watch it in You Tube if you haven’t, right away! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hwk5m4r4hck&feature=related
Have you gone through this experience of sitting along with your siblings / cousins around your grandma or amma in a circle, listening to stories as each one gets a mouthful of curd rice or any mixed rice in your palm and eagerly awaiting your turn with palms out-stretched, eyes agog and taste buds awakened!
Ram cherishes such memories listening to his amma’s mesmerizing voice telling him / them film stories either all by himself or with the other ‘pandavas’ as a spoonful of some yummy food or the other was placed in each of their palms vividly painting in words the scenes from the films she had watched! That’s Ram’s introduction to Neer kumizhi and Edhir neechal (like olden day’s olichithram in All India radio at 4 pm every Sunday where the sound track of a popular film was relayed) and little did he know that growing up listening to KB sir’s films he’d be honored to view a preview with the Grand genius himself much later in his life!! God’s divine antics are really strange and pleasurable.
His dad, Prof Nagarajan was held in such high esteem and had such a huge fan following longer than Lord Hanumar’s tail! So much so that every day when Ram boarded the bus to his school, 4 stops away from home, carrying his heavy school bag, besides the hushed whispers identifying him as ‘prof’s son’ some student or the other immediately would offer him a seat! He sure traveled in cool comfort to school!
Watching at least 1 movie a week was more than a habit. Ram under some pretext as a young teenager remembers walking to the end of his street every Friday morning to check the posters about the films playing in nearby theatres. Despite several eyebrows raising he was allowed to watch ‘Arangetram’, ‘Thappu Thalangal’, ‘Mogam 30 Varusham’ when released although he was just a school kid. Lakshmi Theater near his home in Aminjikarai, looked upon as a heritage building (pulled down recently) and his main storehouse / source of entertainment, followed by theaters Pazhaniappa and Muralikrishna.
In fact Ram reminisces that Murali Krishna theater printed tickets with the image of the curtain with a wavy hem on the reverse and the Rs 2.90 ticket ( just calculate the rate of inflation!) always found its way into his small box of cherished collectibles as a teenager.
The earliest theater in Anna Nagar of the 70s was ‘Grand’ which played mostly English films. But abiding the Govt. rule that a Thamizh film should be screened at least once in 6 months, Ram and his parents stepped in to watch Mouna raagam on August 15th 1986 ( being a national holiday)…and came out saying “what a WOW film”. Readers must realize this was before the world sat up to applaud Mr. Mani Ratnam for his Nayagan and Roja!
Another of his fondest memories is walking out of Lakshmi theater and buying the film’s song book, which he ‘bathroom-sang’ or delighted hearing his amma sing at home while frying his favorite tiffin, poori. In fact he was delighted to see Vaagai sooda vaa bringing in this long forgotten memorabilia, a song book, just a recycled made-at-home stapled book! But what unlimited joy this small book gave so many movie-buffs at a price of only10 ps!
His tryst with theaters continued during his summer holidays in Vellore. His grandfather’s close friend ‘Damodharan mama’ owned 3 theaters in Vellore, where the boys could slip in any time any show and get absorbed into the world of fancy, fantasy and fables. Ram says, ‘such cinemaholics exist even now, in fact more, thanks to technology, But nowadays so sad to say, they resort to watching pirated DVDs at home!’ This practice is taboo in all the ‘Krishnans’ household.
Ram thinks Unnaal mudiyum thambi is a genius plot of making people wanting to be a ‘Raja Ram Mohan Roy’ and reform society. One of his all time favorite dialogs where Gemini Ganesan says’ as-sudha dhanyasi!’ appealed to him, the idea of bringing Carnatic music to lay people in simplified terms, simply out of the world!
He identifies with Balu Mahendra’s Veedu and Azhiyaadha kolangal in a ‘praise galore’ mode, especially as the latter’s release was so relatable to his age and a fresh breeze in the late 70s.
Despite the advent of flashy colors and technology Ram’s heart has a special corner for black and white films, which left a deep impact right into his soul…Avargal, Aboorva raagangal, Sumaithangi to name a few from his long list of favorites. He can list an endless ‘ must watch’ films which the ‘next gen’ is missing out on…I agree totally with him, I feel sad for them too!
Then I quizzed him on his opinion of our cinema now. He loved ‘Angadi theru’ which didn’t get the national award it deserved!
Though we do have few ‘flash-in-the pan’ films worthy of being accoladed and awarded, Ram feels we tend to compare mediocrity with films less than mediocre. “Then we are satisfied that this film was better than the last watched which was worse! This does not raise our minds or the film’s rating in the world’s perspective! So when do we emerge out from this cloud of self praise and a false smugness?” he queries with genuine disappointment.
I know there are many Dr Ramakrishnans out there wanting to take Thamizh cinema worldwide and suffuse it with a global tint.
Let us r(a)ise in ‘1 voice 1 thought’, commend the best and condemn the so-so run-of-the-mill films, for Thamizh cinema not to wallow in mediocrity.
I apologize if my words this time far exceeded normalcy!
Put it down to a typical viewer’s truthful thoughts dilating my opened eyes…not to fool ourselves thinking we are in Utopia when we are stuck between heaven and hell, Trishanku’s heaven’ may be?! I wanted to share it with all of you out there and within the industry hoping we rise above mediocrity! Including Movie review Raja from Toronto who has more than a lakh viewers lapping up his reviews!
Hoping to E-meet you all, my WBMW (wind beneath my wings) next fortnight on time
Special thank you to Jo (from Behindwoods) for (be)sieging me without restraint!
‘ttfn’ with affn
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