Life was never the same after the advent of the Sun Network. There was a movie every afternoon on Sun TV! Every afternoon! Previously, movies could be watched only on the weekends, on TV, so this was cause for much joy, especially among those who didn’t have much to do in the afternoons.
Then there was Sun Movies. Three or four movies a day! When I wasn’t burning my skin off in the sun during the summer vacations, or watching Cartoon Network, or fighting with my sister, I’d be glued to these movies.
This love for movies were further kindled by themed movie weeks on Sun TV. So the late evening movies for a particular week would follow some theme. Like ‘Adhiradi vaaram’, where all the movies would be action blockbusters, or ‘Thik-thik vaaram’, where horror movies would be screened the whole week, or even a week full of Vithalacharya movies, or movies where Vishwanathan-Ramamurthy were the composers. There were also other more specific themes like Movies Where Hero And Heroine Cannot Be Together, or Movies Where Love Is Sacrificed For Higher Reason. Apart from Movies Where One Or More Protagonists Are Differently-Abled, or Movies Where One Or More Of The Protagonists Are Dying (Of Cancer). I’m not making any of these up.
This went on for around a year or two, before they filled late evenings with some or the other soap (which all deserve a post or three to themselves… remember Chitthi, anyone?). Then they had a common theme throughout, with every day of the week having one genre. Like there was a comedy movie every Monday, a love story every Tuesday (Kaadhal Sevvaai), a classic old movie every Wednesday (Kaaviya Budhan), an action flick every Thursday (Adhiradi Vyaazhan) and a superhit blockbuster every Friday (Superhit VeLLi). This, apart from two movies, one in the afternoon and another in the evening, every Saturday and Sunday.
And I sat fixated as often as I could. Watched heckuva load of Tamil movies. Amma and I would watch some Kannada movies too, on Chandana, but we stuck to comedies… Anant Nag’s Ganesha ones, or S. Narayan… we both still adore his Oho. Channels would promptly be changed if it was a Kashinath movie. But I hated Kannada movies back then. They seemed too serious and too tragic. When we didn’t still have cable, Amma and Ajji would watch the Sunday evening Kannada movie on DD, and cry and cry and then cry some more. One movie which freaked the heck out of me had Ambarish write a letter in blood to the leading lady. Years later, when a classmate wrote a love letter in blood to another, I felt very very very faint not because it looked like a crazed madman’s handiwork, but because it brought back repressed memories of this movie. And I stopped watching Kannada movies after this one wacko movie where Ambarish gets bitten by a dog and dies of rabies. He barked like a dog, ate food from an aluminum plate not using his hands, frothed at the mouth, and died. I swore to myself I’d never watch a Kannada movie again, and never one with Ambarish in it.
So Tamil movies it was. And God, they weren’t any less gaga. They might be cheerier, more hopeful, better-made and more watchable, but less crazy, they most certainly weren’t.
One of the more tragic ones I watched involved a lower-middleclass family, where the father was presumed dead in a train accident. They get his insurance money, and their standard of living suitably improves. But then, the father comes back, and the rest of the movie is about the shenanigans that result from trying to hide him from the rest of the world. It could have been a nice comedy, but it mainly involved the family politics, grinding poverty, maintaining self-respect, and endless mother-in-law daughter-in-law shenanigans, apart from the mother not being able to wear her mangalsutra and sindoor even though her husband is alive. It sapped the energy out of me.
Then there was this seemingly normal movie where a boy with a widowed mother falls in love with a girl with a widower father. The girl’s father suitably opposed the match like all movie dads, but then he went one step further. He spoke to the boy’s mother, saying there’s only one way we can stop them from marrying and making the biggest mistake of their lives. And the mother agrees. They both get married, and then he snidely tells the boy, now since I’m married to your mother, Heroine is your….? . Mindblown, simply mindblown.
And I saw this one clip of a movie and couldn’t bear to watch it any more. So this guy has a rather cold wife who’s not being intimate with him. He takes her to a movie one evening. And from her horrified shrieks on watching it, we infer that it was an adult movie, and she is thoroughly disgusted and limp from shock. He tells her in a confrontational tone that he did that just to loosen her inhibitions after which she’d fall limp into his arms. Oh. My. God.
On the other end of the spectrum, there was this sweet movie on Young Love called Panneer Pushpangal. The western world (and the Star World-watching world) may have had its Wonder Years, and Kollywood had Panneer Pushpangal. It starred Prathap, who I used to confuse for Kokila Mohan, as a cool and with-it teacher at an Ooty boarding school, where the lead pair were students and fell in love. Of course, the girl’s mom was a witch and locked her daughter up, but the ragtag bunch of friends help her escape. She meets the boy, and then everyone wonders what to do. And then the movie ends. I rather liked this movie, I’ll admit, and wished my school had a teacher like Prathap. And I mention that movie here mainly because it has this wonderful, wonderful song.
Radhika (of Chitthi, Annamalai and Arasi fame) starred in a few more mindblerg movies I watched. First was this one where she woos Sivakumar as a village girl, going as far as getting each others’ names tattoed on their arms, after which he is transferred to the city, where he meets another Radhika who is a modern-dressing rich daughter of his boss. She keeps aggressively pursuing him, and he never gives in because he loves only the villager Radhika. He goes back to the village to find her, but she isn’t there and the whole village blames him for her disappearance. And then comes the shocker. Both the Radhikas are the same! It was an experiment where the rich girl was testing a potential suitor to see if he was only after her money. Oh, what problems rich girls have. Anyway he takes offense and spurns her, and her own father says while he supported her through this endeavour, he feels this sort of test insults any self-respecting man. Then both Sivakumar and Radhika down sleeping pills separately. After appropriate edge-of-seat shenanigans, the director makes sure both lives are saved and that they live happily ever after.
Another one was Meendum Oru Kaadhal Kadhai with Radhika and Prathap. They are two mentally-ill kids in an asylum, and are supervised by a progressive doctor played by Charuhaasan. Radhika is from a rich family who all don’t really like her, especially her scheming brother and brother’s wife, while Prathap has no one. They fall in love, get married and move to some new village with the doctor to have a new life. The village had a slew of quirky characters I don’t really recall, but most of the movie was pitiful while not being slapstick. Radhika ends up pregnant, and dies when Prathap is making her laugh or something…. most mindblerging natal death EVER. I didn’t follow what happened after that, but it might have involved the doctor dying after killing Prathap.
And then. This is the first mindblerging movie I watched, and the one which I was thinking about and then remembered all these movies I’ve talked about. I saw it first on DD one Sunday afternoon when they’d show regional-language movies, which meant this movie had subtitles. It starred Mohan as a Hindu boy, who falls for his sister’s Christian friend. She keeps away at first, actively asking him to get lost, but he persists and they end up in love [Aside: it never fails to blow my mind how easily couples before the Noughties fell in love in movies so quickly and based on so little! He saved my life, so I'm going to spend it with him! Or, she loves animals, so I'll love her]. His mother and her father can simply not submit to this match. They chain Mohan to a small room in their terrace, while the girl (who could have been called Julie and could have been played by Radha) is locked in her room, while presumably her wedding to a Christian boy was being planned. The separation proves too much for her, and as Christ is the reason she can’t be with her love, she hammers a nail through her palm, like was done to Christ. And obviously dies. He escapes from his shackles and comes to help her escape, but he only sees her little neighbour boy (every heroine in every movie before the late ’90s had one) standing in line for her funeral. He runs to the graveyard as they are reading out hymns before burying her, sees her dead, kisses her prone body and dies right there. Lovers dying, okay, fine, but nail through palm? That made my eight-year-old self squirm a whole lot when I saw a crucifix after that, and I took special care to never hold a nail in my hand, and was very edgy around hammers.
I’ve been wondering what the name of this movie is. Does anyone know? Please please tell me… I want to watch it again, this time with new eyes that are cynical about such dated movies.
But…. that might be jumping the gun. These movies were definitely cheesy. But they were gritty. And original. And had an honesty and creativity to them which is missing in later suave movies without bright lights and item dancers in shiny costumes. They had some really good music, and I don’t know how popular they turned out in their time, but their actors gave really wonderful performances in these movies.
The themes were bold and original. The filmmakers might have been wacko jerks with too many rich uncles, or they might have been thinkers, I’ll never know. But I’m glad these crude movies that lack even an ounce of finesse and subtlety got made. They were like alcohol experiments in undergrad where you experiment with a wide range of quality and quantity of drink before you figure out what works for you. The makers of these movies might have hit bull’s eye with exploring early-teenage love and jealousy with a Panneer Pushpangal, and I might be glad for that, but I’m also glad that they got the scenario of ‘What if a guy likes a girl but his mother marries her father?’ out of their systems so that none of us needs to explore that again.
An open letter to the girls and boys of India from a Bangalorean aka Different People Are Different aka You All Equally Suck.
Yeah, so we saw an Open Letter by a Mallu-Marathi gal to all Delhi guys. Then we saw a Delhi boy respond. Somehow in the midst of all this, I feel the larger issue is being missed. And this, I can spot by virtue of being a proud Bangalorean who looks down on anyone who’s not from the Garden City, which, well, is the rest of India, and half of Bangalore, not to forget the pseud-Bangaloreans.
And it’s Open Letter day, I want to throw my hat in the ring as well, get some hits.
And being from NITK, I did see National Integration in some form. So I’m not entirely biased against those from the north of Hebbal Flyover irrespective of the number of times I call them Amit or Isha. The point I make this this: All of you suck equally.
The Mallu akka there might blab about her matrilineal tradition, but others from that same tradition, more notably the female M.Tech candidates of NITK from Kerala, do not believe in the concept of women stepping out after dark. They also ask their husbands’ permission before each and every outing. And also, articles like this one. Not exactly bra-burning shining beacons of womanhood and women’s lib, are we?
And well, I must admit there’s something about Northie fellas, or I wouldn’t have spent a good proportion of my teens sighing over them. It’s probably the self-confidence they ooze. That said, the hooters and whistlers at NITK seemed to have a large proportion of folks from the other side of the Vindhyas. But then, I can’t deny that scary incident during semi-Pro night at Incident ’07 where my friend and I got harassed by a bunch of Gults. Cheapness seems to be a universal trait. And I’m not sure the gender-segregated Sathyabhama types are any less despo and creepy. The point is, it’s not like these folks all end up Forever Alone. There are several million Northie and Sathyabhama girls who find these sorts of displays of affection attractive and will probably say I overreact or I don’t know to deal with it. There’s a market for these guys, and while it might not include me or the Mallu-Marathi akka, how does it matter, since we’re not in the target audience anyway?
And yes, I cringe at the English. I used to cringe even more seven years ago. But that was until I attended a Freshers party at NITK. Everyone introducing themselves. Entire class, with significant representation from the Northeast to the Southwest. You know what I realized? What I’d previously considered a ‘neutral’ accent or a ‘normal’ accent or a ‘good’ English accent was actually just a Bangalorean accent, and it was ‘good’ because it was what I was used to. And it could be replicated and parodied. It could also be just another stereotype. Probably not as popular as a Mallu stereotype, but it’s only a matter of time till Lingo Leela goes mainstream.
Then, the food. You know what, everyone liked well-cooked food, irrespective of cuisine. Or maybe that’s what happens when you survive for months on horrible North-South mishmash food which pisses everybody off, and then one day they make really really awesome Pongal and Bisi Bele Bath in the mess and even the most Chapati-oriented gal wishes they made this every darn day. Point is, every cuisine has quirks. Like this one time, my friends and I were lunching, most of us Southie, one a fresh-off-the-train Northie. We were having our curd rice, and curiously regarding this fella eating jalebi with curd. And then he pipes up with “How can you people eat curd with rice?!!”. There’s no such thing as weird, only unfamiliar.
I don’t know where the stereotype of the ‘Fair North-Indian’ or ‘Dark South-Indian’ comes from. I know way too many counter-examples of Northies who are dark despite not being exposed to Sun TV, and southies who are fair enough to be racist about it.
You can rant about all the Northies reading Chetan Bhagat. But you know what that’s better than? Not reading.
Plus, not everyone reads only C-Bag. There’s a thriving Hindi literature scene. Also, most of India doesn’t really have libraries well-stocked with the latest and the greatest in Literature, and not too many bookstores like Blossoms or Nagasree either. Start with adding Chetan Bhagat, then, I dunno, add a few similar authors, one of who might be, say, Lavanya Sankaran, and maybe someone’ll make a few mistakes and stock Sivasankari’s translated works… well, we need to start somewhere.
I’m snobbish about reading, and judge non-readers harshly. I find myself judging people across the country, and even in my own bookstore-rich city. The hatred of books is a general human trait, and every ethnic, religious and cultural group has some people who don’t read, don’t like to read, and need to be hung, drawn and quartered.
And, I don’t know, I seem to be mistaken about the whole judge-people-by-accent-and-reading-habit thingie. You can be an AynRand-tard in any of the 14 official languages it turns out. You can be snobbish about your heritage or denounce it in 14 languages and 486 dialects. You can put forth polished sophisticated-sounding arguments about why women should stay home and take care of the kids in a sexy neutral English accent. And um, do you know what we call people who speak flawless English? Call center employee.
And when it comes to the melting pot of the 21st century which is Bangalore, we find people from everywhere are jerks. None of you bother learning Kannada, all of you act aggressive everywhere, totally changing the mild-mannered politeness of my beloved city. You all live in your own ghettoized crowd. None of you have a family life and slog at work all day, ruining it for those of us locals who can’t help but have a family life (and heck, everyone should have a life outside of work which is not just movies and malls), making us look bad in the eyes of the Boss who in all probability belongs to your part of the country and has a similar lifestyle. All of you drive like retards, all of you litter like retards. None of you bother to contribute much to the culture of the city other than asking DJs city-wide to play Sheila Ki Jawani all the time.
Yes, we Bangaloreans are way better than all that. Everything is just about right all the time, always. Right from the weather to the amount of concern people on the street show you, to the grinning helpful policemen, to the zillion restaurants to the list of places and events you can go to on a free weekend.
And um, am I saying Bangalore boys are better than the rest? I’d love to agree based on personal experience, but then, shit happens.
Like we say in Kannada, every house’s dosa has holes in it.
Some cold afternoon, existential questions like “Nand ell idli?” pops into your mind and you look around for the nearest Tim Horton’s cafe around. Your friend says “You are too hungry and the day is too long for just a tall cup of hot chocolate”. You accept your fate and get dragged along to the nearest Subway Joint. “Half a sub should do”.
“They also serve those who stand and wait”.
Half an hour later, the woman on the counter goes, “Hi there! How are you today?”
“Good! How are you?”
“I’m good too!” “How wouldyu like your sub?”
Me: “I’ll have a 6 inch veggie delight please”
CWoman: “The veggie patties are not done yet. Is it okay if I don’t put one of those?”
Me: “Whatever! no problem”
Friend goes “You guys have such few options. No tuna for you!”
Me “Gah! I hate the smell”
CWoman: “The bread?”
Me: “Italian please”
CWoman: “ohh! sorry we don’t have those! would you like something else?”
Me: “Oh! thats okay! Gimme some wheat bread!”
CWoman: “And the veggies?”
Me “Some Jalapenoes, Onions, Banana Peppers, Tomatoes, and some green pepper”
Friend: “Ewww, Banana Peppers? Take Olives instead”
Me ” Ok, take it out and throw some olives in there! Like I know how the rest taste together anyway!”
CWoman “Let me get your dressing and you are good to go!”
Me “I have no idea, what should I take?”
Friend “I have no idea, but surely lots of mayo!”
Me “mmm, lots of mayo, and honey mustard? and I don’t know, hot sauce”
CWoman raises her eyebrow, “ok!” “Here you go! and that would be 4 99″ “Would you like a drink?”
Me: “No thank you!” “Have a nice day!”
CWoman: “You too!”
And before I start, something else turns up and I leave. When I come back, half of it is gone, I have no interest in it anymore.
Hmph! How long do I need to wait to feel full?