This wistful post owes a lot to two recent Tamil movies I watched. One was “Chennai 600028” and the other one was “Veyil“.
Back in those days, when I grew up in a semi-urban part of a deep south Tamil Nadu town, Tirunelveli was famous for many things. For the drawling tamil, the purity of its water, for giving birth to many arts and masters, halwa, temples and in general, for deep-rooted casteism. The part of town where my grand parents settled down, the houses were built in late 19th century – so they were at least 90 years old when I was ready to go to school.
The frivolity, the cheekiness and the carefree life of a jolly good fellow like me when I was just old enough to step out of the house, after school, to play on my own without adult supervision, is simply unforgettable. I certainly do not have stories of tomfoolery to share but for my introverted childhood, there were a few good memories and few good lasting ones.
The parapet wall which served as the railing to the outer staircase as well as the dividing border wall between our house and the neighborhood compound of houses was where I spent most of my evenings. I probably would spend hours watching neighborhood kids play marble, top and gilli–danda. My mom never allowed me to join those kids – not that they were bad kids but certainly didn’t come from acceptable families. Well, acceptable here depends on one’s moral distinction – but in hindsight, I am thankful to my mom for being harsh on me. Anyways, I watched the kids play, cuss and be the ‘rowdys’ in my own neighborhood – but for some reason, I was able to separate the games they played from the acts they indulged in.
I had my own collection of marbles – 100s of them. But I didn’t have anyone to play with – My brother was four years too young at that time, so I played on my own. Sometimes, marbles were used for wall-cricket, a form of cricket popularized by me. Every summer, I would go buy brand new tops – watch the kids spin them with such swiftness that I would practice on my own only to pat my own back.
Cricket was one game that those kids never played and I was into it from when I was six. There were variations of the typical gully cricket that we have played and I have prodigious memories of the kind of hustles and hassles we had to go through to play cricket. When I watched Chennai 600028, I was reminded of them for sure.
Venkat Prabhu deserves a big pat on his back for pulling out an ace from his sleeve with a simple trick. An ensemble cast, all new, is never easy to manage. “Pattaya kelappiteenga Venkat“!
Veyil – the parched land, the dry topography and the ‘veyil‘ were all well captured in the movie..even though the dramatics were a little too much at sometimes. More than anything else, I was impressed with the authenticity of the setting which was used as a backdrop – the accent, the town, the side cast, etc. Cannes worthy or not, it is for the jury to decide.
Things you grow up with – they do linger in your mind…forever.