When the mundane reaches beyond tolerance, I’m urged to go looking for the divine, just to compare notes to see how divine is managing. (Does the almighty have issues around price-rise, inflation?)
A while ago, had taken a trip to Kumbakonam and did my fair share of temples that are woven into the psyche and geography of the town. After satisfying the thirst for the divine, I went into a restaurant to satiate the stomach. Treated myself with a meal of small onion uthappams and some sinful chakkarapongal there, then stepped out to get into the vehicle. The narrow road was filled with people all decked up, wearing lovely kanjeepuram pattu sarees and diamonds, the size of saravanabhavan mini idlis on their ears and necks, part of a procession which was led by a band playing ‘annaatha aaduraar othikko othikko‘, a famous Tamil movie song from the late 80s. I was just wondering aloud why a wedding band was coming down such a narrow street when the driver said this was the AadhiKumbeshwara Swami who was being taken on a procession along the car streets. Not sure how the good God/Lord felt about the song. Well, since all creations are but His and all events occur with His will, He should be enjoying the beat of the drums. It is only natural that a finite mortal like me is puzzled in my cocooned definitions of right and wrong, good and bad.
Across the fabric of varied lives, probably the thread that forms the warp and weft most strongly is the celluloid one. The essence of cinema percolates our lives every day in different ways, often so subtly that we have stopped being conscious of the impact it has exerted on us. Call a friend on their handphone, the ring tone is the latest film song or some favourite dialogue from an 80s’ movie; jokes, songs, dialogues, music, fashion, theatrics, antics have become part of us, more so if you are from Chennai, the embodiment of South Indian film world.
I continued my pilgrimage, the vehicle hardly managing to stay on the barely existent mud roads, crossing thatched hut roofs, drongo birds (rettaivaalkuruvi) on lone electric poles, water trickling from pumps onto paddy fields that will one day be part of my sambhar rice, Captain Vijayakanth’s face glaring at me, children swinging on. The posters were on lamp-posts, hut walls, even on dilapidated wells; almost expected him to step out of one of those huts, and start preaching about the evil schemes of the “enemy country”.
Rajini, Kamal, Sivaji, Vijay not the order of rating or importance in the Tamil film industry, but the order of my poster visuals kept coming, looming and disappearing as the vehicle bumped and moved on the rugged road.
This was the place where water seemed to be scarce. The dry roads and dull houses had only the film posters to add life. It was not just Tamil movies, there were posters of sultry Malayalam dames trying to woo every male passing by to unintelligent English movies, so alien from the terrain that they looked spooky; yellow, red, violet, adding colours to the life around. Crossed them glaring, smiling and scowling at me from the vantage points on railway crossings, walls where men stand to leak, water pumps where women were exchanging the scandals of who eloped with whom.
From the hinterlands of Tamil Nadu to the expensive beach houses across Chennai ECR equipped with the latest in home theatre systems, offbeat DVD collections and popcorn machines, cinema is no more an amenity but a necessity. The strong hold Louis Lumière’s invention has on us is seen across every walk and aspect of life.