Thursday, July 21, 2016



22nd July 2016 was an auspicious day. Not in its usual sense for it was not a festival like Deebavali or Pongal.  
Far more auspicious than Deebavali or Pongal.
It was not Deebavali or Pongal. And yet, it was expected that milk would be in short supply and fire crackers would sell like hot cakes.

But they say it is not like what it used to be in the good old days.

For this is how I recall, it used to be in Madras of the good old days.
Summer vacations were never complete without watching the latest Rajinikanth release in Kabali or Kamadhenu theatre.  

Paatti  (Grandmother) would wait for us grandchildren to arrive from Bambaai, so that she could take us for the Rajinikanth movie that had just been released.
In other times of the year, Paatti  would settle for nothing less than the first day first show ( FDFS) of a Sivaji or a MGR movie.  For many years I suspected that Murugan, the Black ticket vendor at the Kabali theatre in Mylapore shared a platonic relationship with Paatti.  She was his regular customer.  When it came to Paatti  getting her grandchildren coming from the ‘north’, Murugan would leave no stones unturned. It had to be the best of balcony seats for Paatti and her progeny.

Murugan, the Black ticket guy at Kabali theatre was the nephew of Kamala, the domestic help at the Mylapore house.  In the days when neither mobile phones nor telephones existed, she was the go between for Paatti''s  visits to theatres. Kamala and her extended family lived in the mud huts with thatched roofs in what would today be called a slum behind the 'Mundakakanni amman temple' in those days.  In today's Chennai, 'Mundakakanni amman temple'  is a monorail station where one alights for Mylapore and Luz. 

Kabali the theatre is now a residential complex and Kamadhenu theatre is a marriage hall.  No one knows what happened to Kamala and the residents of those slums. Ah, but then I Digress.

It is not that Black tickets for movie shows were sold outside the theatre at exorbitant prices when the demand and supply was skewed. Things like that happen in those crassly competitive free market economies.

Not in Madras where movie going is entwined in its tradition. Black ticket guys around movie theatres in Madras hoarded a few tickets and sold them at very minimal profits only to ensure that their regular patrons get their rightful share of tickets when they visit the theatre. It preserved the rights of those who are devoted to preserve the FDFS culture of their favorite stars. It was more of a service than a business that these guys rendered.  

Clad in a nine yards sari, Paatti was your typical orthodox Brahmin mami, who would not eat (nor let her grandchildren eat) food cooked from unknown people and unknown sources.  Our trips to Kabali theatre were therefore something of a picnic, what with Dosa smeared with milagai podi and gingely oil, packed in steel boxes and a steel Gooja filled with water accompanying us inside the theatre. The intermission time was Tiffin time.
We were oblivious to popcorn tubs, samosas or nachos with salsa dip until we came of age and went for movies without needing to be accompanied by an adult.
I must say I have a remarkable sense of family history.

My cousin Shankar was born the year Rajinikanth’s ‘Tillu Mullu’  was released. 
Cousin Ravi was born the year Rajinikanth’s ‘Johny’ was released.
My parents got married around the time Sivaji Ganesan’s   ‘Vasantha Maaligai ‘was released.

And then an year later,  one afternoon Paatti returned from Kabali theatre satiated with the melodrama of  watching the matinee show of ‘ Raman thediya Seethai’ when she got the telegram announcing my birth. The birth of her grand daughter.  Incidentally 'Raman Thediya Seethai'  was a super hit movie from Jayanthi Productions that year.   

You get the drift... don’t you!!!
In Madras movies are not synonymous with entertainment.   It is like religion and is an inevitable part of your life.  In our case, it is a part of our family folklore. 
First day first show (FDFS) of Rajinikanth movies are what legends are made of.  Giant cut-outs of the Thalaivar are bathed in milk before the FDFS. Fireworks galore the movie theatres and the police department works overtime to ensure the smooth release of Thalaivar's latest films.

I always wanted to experience the fanatic frenzy that goes with the FDFS, I pleaded with a die hard Rajini fan who happens to be a good friend, to take me for an FDFS.  Every time a Rajini movie released, he has avoided me and my request.  Here is a guy who spends a good part of his salary to buy an FDFS movie ticket at Albert talkies in Chennai every time a Rajini movie gets released.  He has apparently never missed one since he was a young boy.
When I asked him why I could'nt go  with him to Albert Talkies for an FDFS he scoffed at my request as though I was asking to Trek Mount Everest with Tensing and Hilary.

He explained that you had to have a certain hard earned pedigree to get a ticket to watch the FDFS at Albert or Kasi Theatre. In the frenzy that surrounds the release of a 'Thalaivar' movie, a non-believer would get blatantly exposed. He did not want to risk that ordeal with a non-believer like me on the tow.       

Well this time around I was well prepared.  I pulled a few strings and my tickets are on the way. ..
Like they say the Madrasi's fanaticism for movies and the fanatic frenzy around FDFS cannot be described, it can only be experienced.  


  1. Oops...I cant believe things happening around the world with kabali releasing tmmr...but your FDFS will surely give you " janmasaabalyam"

  2. Oops...I cant believe things happening around the world with kabali releasing tmmr...but your FDFS will surely give you " janmasaabalyam"


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