Childhood memories of a Movie Maniac!!!
Location : Kochi, India.
Recently, I went to watch the lastest Spiderman movie ('The Amazing Spiderman 2'). There was very less to be amazed by the movie, but I had a nostalgic experience watching a little boy of maybe 3-5 years, sitting on his mother's lap and getting excited as a robed Spidey comes falling through the breeze. He was suddenly jumping up and down, as Spidey swung on his fiber swings, and the excitement on his face would make you melt. A happy father besides him, gave us a smile when he saw us looking at the boy.
I remember when I was not more than 7, I had gone to the then famous English movie theatre in Ernakulam, 'Sridhar', to watch 'Twister'. I was so excited and curious that day about these giant winds. I also developed a crush for Helen hunt, but lets not go into that ;). Me and my father came out of the theatre and walked down to the Marine Drive nearby, and sat on a wooden bench facing the sea. I had visuals of this huge tornado coming towards us from the sea. In excitement I was bombarding my dad with a lot of questions. Is it real? How does wind come like that - in that form? Will it come here in India, or only in the foreign land where this film was shot? What will we do dad, if it suddenly comes here? I don't remember any of the answers he had possibly given.
That was not my first movie though. Of what I can remember, I had gone to a local theatre near my native place, with my uncles and aunts when I was 3, to watch a malayalam movie 'Papayude Swantham Apoose'. I remember seeing the protagonist child, and a then famous song - a lullaby. Then all I remember is sleeping. On yet another instance, I went with my cousins in thrishur to watch yet another malayalam movie 'Kinnam katta kallan', where I again slept (Thanks to the vomiting marathon I had earlier that day due to excessive food :D ). I should have taken the hint. The regional movies were great ones, but at my age then, I wasn't looking for emotional story lines, or mass dialogs. These were not the factors that pulled me towards a theatre, and I was surprised why it was a big deal for the adults. You have to remember, these were times when movie was like a once-in-a-year event like festivals.
One friday night, after some research and inquiries with his office mates, my father tells me that the next day we were going to the city to watch an English movie. It was called 'The Jungle Book'. I was excited. I have heard about it before. Actually I have already seen it on TV. The animation TV series about the 'Jungle book' was one of the most watched animations in India on their own government channel 'DoorDarshan'. DoorDarshan, I have to admit, had a very strong line up of programmes in those days. To add to that, they had a beautiful line up of English series back then. So by the time my dad decided to take me for an english movie, he already knew I was into the 'bang-bang's, as I returned home from school to sit in front of the TV to watch 'Street Hawk','Knight Rider', 'Superman', 'Superboy', and some others. He even saw me enjoying comedies like 'Boys meet the World'. Now here, he took a hint. The next day, we went for 'Jungle book', and to my surprise it was not the one on TV. It had real people. Leave them; there was a real tiger, a snake, lots of monkey and wolves. All real. I told this to my father. From then, probably till the end, I felt my father watching me like I was a critic, and the movie was his experiment. But by the end, he must have been so relieved, because I had laughed, clapped, and enjoyed it like the boy I saw recently. He now knew what made me happy.
The movie changed and new ones came to the theatre, all of them in 'Sridhar', and my father watched out for the new ones. The next movie he took me was the '101 Dalmations' which got released within a month or two, if I am remembering it all correctly. I was surprised to go back into the theatres so soon, once again. As my father expected, I enjoyed it too. 'Cruella Devil 'a ' became one of my favourite characters too.
I learned the tricks to know about the latest movies in the theatres by now. I would watch for the posters on road, and read newspapers. Don't get me wrong - in the third page, lower left, there's a column where movie list and theatre timings would be given. I think it was I who notified my dad about this movie called 'Twister'. You should know, between the age of 3 to say 14, i haven't watched one regional movie in the theatres. All English. The problem with hindi movies was, according to my dad (and mom), skinny dresses and exposure. There would be some song with Heroines going down the waterfall in tight dresses, which was a no-no for kids like me. Oh! There were a few hindi movies I wanted to watch back then. But I was allowed to watch only on TV at night 9.30, and only till maximum 10.30. I cannot watch the Sunday movies, as they coincided with the malayalam movies my family wanted to watch. But those were the days I fell in love with Sridevi, because, from the movies that I was allowed to watch, it was her comedy I felt the best. Govinda and Anil Kapoor were my heroes. Add to that an occasional face of action hero, Rajnikant. I didn't know he was a tamil actor then. Why, for a time, I had even thought that Jackie Chan was a malayalam actor, because i heard it as 'Jackie Achayan' ('Achayan' being a slang for brother in malayalam). 'Mr. India', 'Chalbaaz', 'Nagina' etc were my favourites then. The only movie that didn't have the above actors, but which I still loved, was the Republic Day special 'Roja', and there starts my journey for the first time with a music director and a director.
A.R.Rahman immediately became the most sought out person in my life. I would follow his works, and look out for his songs in the radio. My father bought a recorder, which became my life for the next few years. Buying a cassette was thought of as a luxury back then. So we used to get blank cassettes, and I would record the songs from the radio. I was a genius, back then. Very few did that. Yet another name that stuck with me, was Mani Ratnam. He must be a great person. Why else 'DoorDarshan' would play his 'Roja' over and over again on every Republic day on TV. The best part was, that it never ceased to excite me. That's how i understood how important a director is to a movie, and Mani Ratnam topped the list.
Here, I should also mention the one single Tamil movie my father took me to, during the time period of 3-14, that I mentioned above, saying it was all English. There was a big buzz about this mega actor Kamal Hassan's female role in 'Avvai Shanmughi'. My friends in school would talk about it a lot. But then it was a tamil movie, and I was not too familiar with the language. Somehow, I missed it in the theatres. But soon, yet another Kamal Hassan movie started making news. This movie was claimed to be a very costly film, and I caught up with one of the songs in the movie on my neighbour's cable TV connection. (I didn't have cable :(. That was one of the ways my parents kept me from getting exposed to the bad TV :D ). That song had people morphing from a huge bird to human, and then back to snakes and lizards. If you are guessing, the movie was called 'Indian', and if you have been reading you would know I was already interested in this movie by now.
After 100 days of successful running in one theatre in kochi, I finally managed to get my dad to come with me for 'Indian'. Now why this movie is important, besides being the only regional movie I have been to in the theatres since 3 and the huge visual effects treat that it was, is because of the strong morals that it presented and encouraged. I remember my father was a bit lost after watching the film, and at times he tried to instill the message in the movie to me. It was about justice, more than patriotism, and how corrupt we human beings were. Even now, I feel the pinch of pride I feel for the character of Kamal Hassan (the father) in 'Indian'. I didn't know the director of the movie then, but in a couple of years, he came back with yet another social movie, with the tag of 'From the director of Indian', which made me notice him. The movie was 'Muthalvan', and the director was Shankar, the second best movie director for me then. But I didn't have to watch this movie in the theatres, because there was another introduction into my life.
A big change came, when my father one day got a VCR on a discount from one of his friends. He came home with a box covered in a newspaper, and with a cassette of some sorts with it. It did take us some time to connect it, (I was a little boy, and the technology was new :P) but once the power started showing, my father immediately took out the cassette and inserted it into the slot. After a few moments of whirring and rolling, a blue screen appeared, and my father clicked 'play'. It was superstar Mammooty's, 'The King'. I remember very well, me and my little brother clapped. From then, it was at least two movies a month.
The video store was a little far from my house and I had to take bus to reach there. So usually, I make my demands to dad. I started feeling that my dad seems to have lost his interest in taking me for the movies anymore. If there was a movie I'm interested in, he would soon acquire it from the video guy. I became curious about the collection this guy would have, and so I started asking dad to take me with him whenever he went to the store. Soon, the video guy became quite acquainted with me, and my interests. Very little he must have seen somebody asking for only English movies :D. 'Airforce One', 'the Mummy', 'Airbuds', 'Jumangi', 'Matrix' etc were a few of the many I had seen then. Once I told my dad that I would go alone to get the cassettes that week, and I did. I brought back 3 cassettes to my father's fury, and one was a Hindi movie. But thankfully, it wasn't anything they wanted to not show us. It was Kamal hassan's 'Avvai shanmughi' remake 'Chachi 420'. From then, they became a little lenient on Hindi too.
As for my dad, he slowly stopped caring about my obsession. Maybe, he thought that now he didn't have to cater to my fancies, as I have grown up. Or maybe, he wanted me to concentrate in studies, which I can say I was good at, during then. Maybe he didn't want movies to distract me from the good grades I got. So when 'Titanic' was a huge hit, I wanted him to take me to the theatres, but instead he chose the easy way out. Yes, he got me the cassette. The reason though, was that he heard there were scene not appropriate for kids which were being shown in the theatre. Atleast he could control the fast forward on VCR at home. But unfortunately (for me), he didn't have to do that, because the VCR version came from Saudi, and they had censored it all. Why god, why???
I had two friends, who are very important in regard of encouraging my mania. One was my next door neighbour and friend, Srijith, who was a fanatic of Mohanlal and hrithik Roshan. I was still not allowed to go for hindi movies in theatre, and malayalam movies came on TV within 3-4 years. So, i still had not gone for any of these movies in theatre, and i was 12. Moreover, I was not allowed to go to theatres alone or with my friends without an adult with us. So, it was my this friend who would bring me the exclusives about these new movies. He was a class act, when it came to imitating Mohanlal and Hrithik, and we would sit on the stairs outside our homes, and he would narrate to me whole films without leaving a single scene, and with full blown actions and expressions. I still remember his enactment of Mohanlal running while folding his 'mundu', and jumping to kick the villain. I have relived 'Spadikam', 'araam thamburan' and 'Narasimham' a thousand times with him. Then one day, he saw 'kaho Na Pyar Hai', and he got a new devoted. In Hrithik, we saw our future selves. Ripped body, with bulging muscles, and a handsome face. Girls loved him, and so we became his followers. His 'Ek pal ka jeena' step was our favourite time pass. Good times. The moments we lived through the three friends in 'Dil Chahtha Hai', and time we slept quarter-way through 'Yaadien'. All good times.
Yet another friend who I am thankful to was my classmate. He was a nerd, and loved fantasy and sci-fi. During our exams, his lovely parents would invite me for group study. Georgie, was more of a sophisticated film viewer, and had all the kinds of information about the 'nerd'y films. So one day, while watching TV during the snacks time allowed to us, I came across the 'Harry Potter' movie trailer. I was into it the moment I saw it. Well, u must have guessed by now special effects and fantasy were kind of my thing. I went home, somehow got dad to get the cassette of this new movie, and watched a theatre print, which was really bad, and got back to my friend for discussion. We did discuss a lot while studying. It was then that he said to me, if u liked Harry Potter, there is something coming, which is much more better. That information changed my life in a huge way.
I was skeptic at first, and I felt it might be too much of an adult entertainer, compared to 'Harry Potter and the Sorceror's stone', but once i got my hand on the VCR cassette, after tons of reminder to my video guy about this movie, I saw it, and from the word go, I loved it. Now why it is an important movie is because after 2 more years and 2 other films in the trilogy, i felt something out of the world.
For the first time I felt, 'I want to MAKE something like this.'
As grand, as splendid, as stunning as 'The LORD OF THE RINGS'. I wanted to be a Peter Jackson and do what he does - Film Direction.
I asked him, 'How did you know?', for which he replied, 'I had seen you as a child loving the images on the screen.'
'But, I was only a child then. Now I am serious.'
'What traits you show as a child remains with you forever. A bully will grow up a bully. A kind one, will grow up into a kind man. You were a maniac. You grew up to be that.'
I applied into a film school, and studied Film Direction and screenwriting. Now I am a jobless filmmaker, and most probably my father would be regretting his speech that day. But he would agree, my childhood has molded me in many ways into what I am today, and yes my father had a big part in it.