“En vazhi, thani vazhi!” – the very first dialogue I memorized from my first exposure to a movie in a theatre.
I was three years old when the iconic ‘Padayappa’ dominated all the screens in every nook and corner in Chennai. Appa took me to the Udhayam Complex, not once or twice, but four times, just because I loved the movie. If any relative happened to visit our home around the same time, we’d go for another show with them.
Imagine, when the first influence on a three-year-old is that of the Superstar, how she’d grow up to approach every change in life with a punch dialogue, attitude and style. What exactly defines my life.
Until then cinema as a medium was only exposed through the song cassettes that my Dad proudly inserted into our BPL Sanyo radio and fiddled with the forward and backward buttons before finally hitting ‘Play’ at the exact start of a song. Bombay, Aasai, Love Birds and Kadhal Desam were movies that I had purely scripted in my imagination through every song’s lyrics and Amma’s few inputs that ended with, “We watched the movie when you were in the womb or right after you were born.”
Along with adhering to Superstar’s ‘Ettu etta manusha vaazhva pirichuko,’ I evolved to associate every movie or song with the correct ‘ettu’ of my life and that’s how ‘Piriyamanavale’ became an integral part once I shifted to Tambaram and had no Udhayam theatre to go to.
My mornings began either with ‘Enakoru Snehithi’ or ‘Ennavo ennavo’ song as that’s the only cassette that my auto anna possessed. The nostalgia of me sitting on Driver Anna's lap whilst he drove me, Akka and other kids to school hits me every time any FM radio in a local tea kada plays one of those songs.
“Didn’t you want to name your kids ‘Vijay’ and ‘Trisha’?” Amma pulls my leg even today.
This happened when ‘Ghilli’ and ‘Thirupaachi’ released back to back and I was obsessed with Kannum kannum dha kalanthachu song’s visuals. Images of me doing dual-acting for both the actors in the song trespass my memory even now.
Just as I moved to the next stage of falling in love with the Chocolate boy in his super-hit flicks – Alaipayuthey and Minnale, Dad disconnected our cable connection because both his daughters were getting addicted to movies, songs and Pothigai’s ‘Oliyum Oliyum’ on Fridays. Post that every other movie was borrowed watching under the pretext of playing Ludo in the neighbour’s house.
Fast forward five years, cable connection was back with a wider variety of channels, but the ‘8-channels-only’ BPL TV remained. Tuning to watch Teletubbies in the afternoon and tuning back to watching movies in KTV in the evening was a staunch routine that we siblings followed.
Appa realized that the attempt to separate us and cinema were in vain and decided to control our screen timings by making us write impositions of sticking to the time schedule of study and fun.
When our home seemed to feel like a strict mental asylum, Santhosh Subramaniam took a new dimension in all our lives. To compensate for the TV’s deficit channels, Appa rented DVD players once in a while along with movie CDs. During one such visit, he brought home this father-son screenplay. Till date, I’ve watched the movie 23 times, just to drive home the point to my Appa, “Aana ipo kuda en kai, unga kai kulla dhan Pa iruku.”
Movies became a language that we silently communicated to each other at home. Songs became emotions that we wanted to express but couldn’t because of the lack of background score in our real lives.
Gradually watching movies in theatres began to fit into our monthly budget and I was assigned the task to read Bharadwaj Rangan’s movie reviews every Sunday in ‘The Hindu’s supplementary and pick out the best movie of the lot so that Appa would take us during the second week of release.
And for a week’s time, it would be so difficult to bar any spoilers from classmates who have seen Vaaranam Aayiram, Vinnaithaandi Varuvaaya and Deiva Thirumagal during the first weekend of release. But every Dad has his way.
Slowly, GVM and Mani Sir changed my perspective of understanding cinema, life and reality altogether. Rahman and Yuvan became music drug lords. MP3 player and headphones were begged for.
Fast forward another ten years, today, I’m an Interior Designer, all thanks to Mani Sir for giving me Tara from ‘O Kadhal Kanmani’ and GVM for telling “America idho iruku,” because of which I travelled to my dream destinations – London and Paris, all while being an Interior Designer. I had wanted to shift from doing something mainstream to explore my creative side and these two gentlemen just gave me the right pushes at the right times.
Today, I’m a poet, an artist, a content writer and a voice over artist all because movies inspired me to believe in the magic of being incredible.
Who knows, one day I might end up becoming a ‘One day CM’ and introduce the art called ‘Cinema’ in school curriculum.
Konjam cinematic ah ila?
Vaazhka Shankar padam maringa, enna vena epo vena nadakalam!
- Dhevapriya R J