Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Kerala Talkies

Today is Ganesh Chaturthi. A very happy Ganesh Chaturthi to all who celebrate. The evening was replete with devotional film songs wafting in from the various small temples around my place. The songs were not too loud and strangely, makes me nostalgic. I have heard them a hundred times before. It is the same old Tamil film songs, played on special occasions, which is about 100 in a given year, melodious and soothing.

The songs remind me of my village in Kerala. My childhood holidays in Kerala are memories with the background score of songs coming over loudspeakers through the dense rubber and coconut tree growth to our house. The songs signaled a “Talkie” or a village movie theater, which is the hub of activity in the evening in an agrarian community like ours. I never saw the Talkie. I had only heard about it. Sometimes I tried to go to the terrace to see it. But all I saw was a thick carpet of coconut canopies. Sometimes a smoke spiral signaled human habitation, a kallu shaap perhaps, but I never saw the talkie. Families like ours were not supposed to go to the talkies, even if the movies were good. As a kid I never understood this unwritten rule of an agrarian community.

Every week the posters at the small shops in the village changed. Many of them had an “A” written on them. I wondered what the "A" meant. The posters were usually white with outlines of women in what looked like towel wrapped around them. However many of the posters were of old Malayalam movies or flop films of superstars. A small theater I guess could not afford anything else. Whatever the movie, come evening the workers would excitedly gather around the well to wash and discuss going to the movies. I envied them and often asked my grandma and uncles and aunts why we couldn’t also go to the talkies. My grandma would snort and call out “Leelamme, look what your daughter wants to do”. My dad’s mother on the other hand, would chuckle and say that the movie theater was for very poor people and you had to sit on the mud floor and watch. She would then distract me with something. Both grandmas were poles apart as the families.

The talkies fascinated me. The music reverberating from them was soothing in the misty evening air. It could be heard when we were frolicking in the thodu too. And its invisibility gave it its aura of mystery. I imagined it be a Church fair kind of setting. From the kids of the ladies who worked in the house, I gathered that it was a fun place. From them I heard that watching “family” movies in a talkie was fun. Most of the people knew each other and the camaraderie made the movie more enjoyable. After the movies, sometimes the ladies too joined the men for some kallu. Moments of great contentment and satisfaction in the lives of these simple people.

I wish I could go to a talkie and watch a good movie, the kind women went to. It is still a mystery place for me. Maybe I will come back with all the myths in my head busted. Maybe not. But I know for a fact that it was a happy place for many people in the past and even today.


Philip said...

I'm constantly surprised by the similarity of childhood experiences for most people from Kerala with an upbringing at places different from our 'native places' as we like to call them. Our village didn't have a theatre, though. And I never got to find out where the kallu shaap was although I was sure it was there somewhere, mostly because I used to see all the drunks stagger home at night through our parambu. And swimming in the thodu was the high point of vacations spent at our tharavadu.

Nostalgia-inducing stuff :)

thomas said...

Being nostalgic eh. I drink lot of naadan kallu when i go to my native place and used to swim in those kulams with all the neerkoolis. Anyway, it doesn't happen anymore coz all of my relatives have moved from there to diff places, and only my ammachi and an uncle remain. Is your native place Pala/Thodupuzha/Changanacherry/Thiruvalla.

Praveen said...

aah..tht got me all nostalgic[no, not about A movies:P]. about the thodu and vast greenery in my native place near tvm.
well, i can understand your curiosity about the unseen talkies. anything that we've not seen but have heard a lot about induce such thoughts in us:D
nice post BTW

mathew said...

now u too are getting me all nostalgic..its keeps on coming..:-(

For me those days were about roaming around the parambu..plucking raw mangoes..walking with cousins in the nearby cemetery...and though I never caught the talkies bug, it all rings a bell..


silverine said...

Philip: :)) Drunks staggering home was routine sight. And their singing too. We also had people tapping toddy from our coconut trees and the dogs howling at hight when the illegal tappers came in. What a lot of stuff happens in a quite sleepy village! :)

Tom: I feel sad for you. I have all my people in their respective places. I am from Pala/Chy. But have close relatives from Thodupuzha, Moovattupuzha till Alapuzha.

Praveen: Thank you! :)

Mathew: Thanks!

Sriram said...

To quote one of ur comments: Whatay beautiful post! Really nice one:)
By the way, where is ur naadu?

ap said...

Speaking of kallu....Once every week the chettukar used to give the kallu to the house....And boy o boy how we used to love that madura kallu... :)

silverine said...

Sriram: Thank you! :) I am from Pala.

AP: Same here! And madura kallu is like mannah from the heavens, though I got to drink it much later than my brothers!

mea culpa said...

good one...

It just takes me to my place,where i grew up. I did not stay dere for looong... but yes, i have some fond memories...

Rajesh Mohan said...

Reminded me of the Kamal Hassan Movie, Pushpaka Vimanam, where he records the sounds from a "talkies" nearby and had to listen to it at the hotel room to get some sleep.
Very nostalgic too.

silverine said...

mea culpa: Well we didn't stay there too. Went home for vacations only! :)

Rajesh: I can understand the situation in the movie! :)

Sham said...

Its the bits of these imaginations and the emotions it created in us and lies scrambled now that gives us this sweet nostalgic feeling, yearning us to go back to the roots or at least to visit once an year that which is embedded in us-ente swantham nadu.

The one who has loved and lost said...

When I was in college, we would go to this "kallu shaap" near veega land.. We used to call it the "Kadambra kallu shop"..
After having our hearts fill of madura/anthi/pana kallu we would return to our hostel.. On the way back there is a "taakees".

One night on our way back, we went to this taakees... The movie was "Pothan Vava"..

I'll describe how a talkie looks and feels like..
Majority of the people are workers/lower middle class.. A minority consists of hooligans/comment adiyans/"thala thirinja college pillers" (yours truly)..

The tickets are priced at 5 rs, 10 rs and 15 rs...(based on experiences 2.5 years old) 15 Rs is balcony/platinum class..
We wanted to sit right in the front and bought the 15 Rs tickets thinking they might be the cheapest... Who knew one could see a movie for 5 rs??

The ladies come in very glossy sarees.. Lots of families come with their children.. The children as always would be beaming with joy ; some even enacting scenes from the movies of their favourite super stars..:-)

The hooligans/comment adiyans usually sit at the back.. We had the privilege of enjoying their most original/humorous comments right throughout the movie..

The talkies consist of cheap individual chairs fixed to one another..Old talkies still have benches for the 5 Rs tickets.. There would be some fans ; half of them not working..

We were sweating like pigs throughout the movie
1) because of the "amrithu" inside..
2) because of the humidity and the heat..

When the movie starts there will be "kayyadi" if the movie is of a superstar/mallu aunty (shakeela, reshma...)

Outside the theatre you'll get soda in those old green "goli kuppis"...
The taakees we went to had samosa/pazhampori/kappalandi muttayi etc..

When the movie ends, there would be loud disussions on the movie, the actor, the scenes etc..
But everyone would go home happily (???)..

Most of them would walk back in groups.. The guys would have bikes/bicycles/auto etc..

If you ever go to a taakee you might be better off wearing churidar/saree...Other forms of dressing would surely attract cat calls/comments..:-) Period.

Other similar priceless experiences in life..

Watch a rajani movie first day, first show..(in T.N its near impossible) Maybe you already have.. You will love the movie however skeptical you are :P

silverine said...

Sham: :) Very true!

Layman: Thanks a lot for the insights!! Really interesting! It does sound like a fun place!! :) Reg clothes, I learned long time back to exercise prudence while in Kerala!! :p Really appreciate this comment!

The one who has loved and lost said...

anytime :-)

Arby K said...

There weren't any talkies in my hometown (Just proper theatres), but there was one in mom's. Did go there once, when it was newly opened and the movies were watchable for kids. May be ur post was an inspiration for Kangana Ranaut to try something similar in the movie Dhaam Dhoom

silverine said...

Arby: I hope you get to see a talkie. It is a part of the cultural ethos of Kerala! :)