I do realise I’m not being very original in stating that the political pollution together with the environmental pollution is killing us. Though a hue and cry is raised every now and then about the environment turning poisonous, what are we doing to the political chaos because its worsening by the day!
Surprisingly or not really, even those politicians whose names have been linked to criminal and communal activities and utterings are going about scot free. And has why no politician’s name figured in the #MeToo campaign! Perhaps, the fear factor holds sway. Not to be overlooked, the fact that several of the political who’s who of the day have nurtured their own private brigades to kill and hound and threaten!
Alas, they cannot wipe away images linked to their activities. In fact, as soon as the news of BJP’s ND Tewari’s demise came, the image that hit was linked to his days as governor of Andhra Pradesh. What, with him sprawled on the double bed with three women! All these activities in the confines of the governor house! Yet he continued to remain one of their leaders!
For the late Tamil super star Gemini Ganesan’s upcoming birthday - November 17 – its best to read his daughter Narayani Ganesh’s book on him. After all, ‘Eternal Romantic- My Father, Gemini Ganesan (Roli Books) focuses not only on those lesser known personal aspects about him but also captures that entire era, and connects you to Tamil Nadu and those offshoots, in the form of the various locales and institutions he was connected to. After all, Gemini Ganesan spent his formative years in the royal principality of Pudukottai in Tamil Nadu, followed by the year he spent at the Ramakrishna Mission Home in Chennai, where he learnt yoga and attended vedanta classes and then his years spent at the Madras Christian College, Chennai, and of course, his years in the world of cinema.
Perhaps, he was far ahead of his times. That explains why he was candid about his relationships. Film stars Pushpavalli and Savithri were not pushed into some background but were there on the scene, as his partners. He married them. He had children with them. And the absolutely amazing aspect is that his first wife-TR Alamelu, popularly called Bobjima- apparently comfortable with Pushpavalli and Savithri… Not just that, but children born from that wedlock- of Gemini Ganesan with Bobjima - seemed to bond rather well with their half- sisters. One of them is film star Rekha.
And as I read and re-read this volume one aspect loomed large. The sheer grit of Bobjima. She comes across as a woman who was truly in love with her husband, Gemini Ganesan. And with that she was with him right till the end. In fact, it's Bobjima who comes across as the real heroine in the life and times of Gemini Ganesan.
Of course, Gemini Ganesan carried an intense personality. As his journalist -writer daughter Narayani Ganesh (born from his first wife Bobjima) elaborates, “When I think of Appa the words that spring to mind are charming, handsome, affectionate, witty, responsible and compassionate. He was an interesting person because his interests went far beyond cinema. As a dashing romantic actor, Appa did have relationships outside his marriage, but his relationship with us remained the same. He was the same caring father, son and nephew but of course, I would not be able to tell what went through my mother's mind. Because children were not part of their private discussions (if they had any) and my grandmothers were so benign and full of love -- for Appa and for all of us, so there was no question of ugly fights or of hurling accusations and that sort of thing. I would say that we all had a great deal of respect for him and for each other…” Elaborating still further, “As an actor, Appa’s USP was that he had a way with women; he oozed charm and with his candy –box good looks, wide –eyed innocence and gentle ways, he won over the hearts of more than a generation of fans. For them, he was the eternal romantic hero.”
The very introduction reveals to the reader the bare fact that Gemini Ganesan was a very caring father… was particular about his children’s teeth and their upkeep
Narayani has been candid and she has included several touching incidents in this book. “At Presentation Convent, Madras, where I studied a girl struck up a conversation with me after school one day. I must have been nine or ten years old. ‘Why do you and your sister go home in different cars?’ she asked. I was puzzled. My two older sisters had finished school. My younger sister was still a baby. ‘Come I will take you to her’, she said holding my hand and leading the way. I met Rekha for the first time. She was pretty, and her eyes were lined by mascara. She said her name was Bhanurekha. ‘What is your father’s name?’ I asked. ‘Gemini Ganesan’ came the pat reply. My eyes were filled with tears. How can that be? He was my father…
When Chinamma came to take me home I blurted out the story. ‘Never mind’, she said. Another day I pointed out Rekha to Chinamma and she said, ‘She is like your sister. And she’s pretty.’
Then, there was Rekha’s younger sister, Radha, who was even prettier, I thought. Her resemblance to Appa was startling. When I was a little older I learnt that they were born to Pushpavalli and Appa, and that they lived with their mother and other siblings too.”
The forte of this volume is that personal narrations lie webbed and inter-webbed. And, mind you, not in some of those superficial ways. On the contrary, they add to the context and to the very flow. In fact, the very introduction reveals to the reader the bare fact that Gemini Ganesan was a very caring father… was particular about his children’s teeth and their upkeep. The opening lines in the very introduction are this - “One of the earliest memories I have of my father is of him asking me to show him my teeth. I was growing permanent teeth and he would inspect them regularly… horrified that my two front upper teeth were parting ways, leading an A- shaped passage behind, he whisked me off to the dentist.”
Also, what can be termed as another of those off beats is the fact that Gemini Ganesan had scholarly bent of mind. Writ large by his letters and even poetic verse which he’d written to his children. Or as actor Kamaal Hasan, who had worked as a child star in his movies, writes in the foreword - “Gemini mama (uncle) was larger than life; there was so much more to him than his screen persona. If he hadn’t been an actor, he might have retired as an academic, with teaching stints in, who knows, Pudukkottai, Chennai, Delhi, U.K, U.S.A.”
Last week’s news report of poet Habib Jalib’s daughter driving a taxi in Lahore to keep home fires burning caught attention. Well, to such an extent that I sat reading details of this rebel poet’s struggles and his determination to write against the dictatorial regimes in Pakistan. Though he was imprisoned by the State for preaching sedition and his collection of poems - Sar-i- Maqtal confiscated but he wasn’t one to give up. He had continued writing with that rebellious strain intact. Surviving in tough conditions. Dying in 1993.
Though he was born in Hoshiarpur (East Punjab) and educated at Delhi’s Anglo Arabic School soon after the Partition, he shifted to Pakistan in 1947. And he lived his adult years in Lahore.
Leaving you with Habib Jalib’s verse, from Khushwant Singh’s volume – Celebrating The Best of Urdu Poetry (Penguin)
‘Why did you allow yourself to be killed?’/
Is the charge for which I am billed? /
Now lawyers are arguing amongst themselves;/
‘This small trouble that the killer had to take, /
This little dent that this dagger suffered, /
Who should be made to compensate?’
And also this verse –
The Illusion of Being God
The one before you who sat on this very throne/
He was equally convinced he was God.