Thursday, May 23, 2013

My Celluloid Man

In our village, more than half a century ago, there was this chap named Timmappanna. People, including my grandparents, thought he was crazy. This soft-spoken man was known for working all day on the field without a word of complaint in his shirt and a komana which is a basically a piece of cloth tinier than a loincloth. Well, things were simpler then and skin was respected so no worries there. Anyway, Timmu had an obsession with cinema. He was the only one of his kind in the entire taluka. Nobody, and i mean nobody, came close to his passion for the celluloid. In fact, my grandpa never watched a movie in his entire life. People like my mom never watched one until she was 24. Coming back to our very own Celluloid Man, after toiling the entire day under the sun, he used to have his dinner in advance and set out to walk 18 kilometers to this crappy cinema hall and watch whatever they had on display. The language didn't matter, be it Kannada, Tamil, Hindi or English. It is apparent that he loved the idea of moving pictures. After all, that dark room was the only place he ever knew where life forms metamorphosed into another life forms with a little bit of sound effects and visual treats. Where else could he find such magic? Life is darn boring in a village in any case. And we are talking about the early socialist '50s and '60s here. OK. After watching the reels, the midnights awaited him. Usually what he did was doze off on the grassy earth nearby and then wake up around 4 in the morning and set out home. Literally famished, his thin figure covered with an off-white shirt and a veshti trudging alone on the street would have been a sight. He quite certainly didn't understand film-making but what mattered to him was the few minutes of escape that movies guaranteed. They took him to places he never visited and introduced him to people he'll never meet. He stayed unmarried (funny how none of my heroes do!) and remained a curio in our village. Today when i pretend to be a film journalist, i ask myself whether i'd walk 18 kilometers once with my stomach full and then again with my eyes empty.


Anonymous said...

Life is all about availing oneself of the choices...given a choice, probably he too would've never walked the distance. Moreover,his options were limited...hence clarity of vision....unlike now!If you must, rue the complexities of the times....don't doubt your passion...not fair!

Anonymous said...

Nice piece there :)