Kalyanaparisu: Not a movie, a cascade of memories

My sister Bhagya, visiting us from New Delhi, and the others in our household – wife and mother – watched Kalyanaparisu the other day. I can’t recall the last occasion when we sat together in the living room to watch a movie. This Tamil film of the fifities brought back student-day memories in us, senior citizens. Our mother, belonging to an earlier generation, had her own take, and a cascade of memories it triggered in her.

A blockbuster in its days, Kalyanaparisu featured B S Saroja Devi and Gemini Ganesan. Judging by today’s standards, their acting was amateurish, and dialogue delivery, cluttered and theatrical. Production values of this black/white film was poor; the print, particularly the long shots of the leading pair cycling on the beach road, had the visual clarity of an X-ray film.
But then who cared; We were not watching the movie; we just let the CD run as we traded memories. Bhagya recalled how she was moved to tears when she first heard the storyline narrated by one our aunts who had the gift of story-telling. My sister had felt cut up because many others in the family had watched the movie before she could, at a Coimbatore theatre (Variety Hall, or was it Carnatic?)
My own memories of Kalyanaparisu related to a lost cousin, Mani, who died young. The morning after we had first watched the film he could enact for us entire sequences that featured comedian Thangavelu. I suspect he had seen the film earlier, maybe more than once. Anyway,  Mani had flair for recounting film sequences, capturing the  character’s every nod, his mood, gestures, body language and his words.      
My wife (we weren’t married then) remembered that movie-going in her family was usually reserved for the days when her father was out on official tour (he wasn’t a film-goer); or whenever relations (aunts/cousins) from another town visited them. They hired two horse-drawn carts (kudhara-vandi) that took them from their Coimbatore forest college residence to the cinema house in town. Going to town for watching movie was always a family  occasion; and it was her silent prayer that some relatives  keep visiting them now and then (barring exam days), particularly, whenever a new film played in town. She said they usually went for late evening shows that usually started at 10 pm. This was a done thing with many families those days; they weren’t afraid of returning home well past midnight. People then didn’t have security concerns.
The lowest stall, up close to the screen, was ‘tharai’ ticket (floor enclosure). I don’t remember whether it was six or eight annas per head. The next higher class was the ‘bench’ ticket. We could sit/squeeze in, six or eight to a bench, depending on the rush.The next higher class was ‘chair’; then the ‘arm-chair’ class; and then the ‘sofa’ ticket, also called ‘balcony’. In the last two classes we could all sit together as family; The lower three were segregated, with separate enclosures for males and females.
Such were the thoughts that Kalyanaparisu triggered; for us, It wasn’t so much a movie as a cascade of memories. Considering the CD costs no more than RS.28, I have started building a CDs collection of movies, to be watched with visiting relatives and school friends. Moser Baer that brings out movie CDs of this genre appear to be on to a good thing, of making CDs that pack in a million memories. And they can’t be pirated. 


4 Responses

  1. Beautifully written, sir.

  2. This stirrs up my memories of 1959. That was the year my father who was health until then took ill and that was the beginning of the end for him. It was also the year when my engineering degree studies in Mysore were going well, and we were ready to go to Bangalore the next year to complete our practicals (the engineering college in Mysore was just beginning to introduce electrical and mechanical engineering courses). This film with its hit songs was well reviewed by my sister who was married to a railway official in Coimbatore. Those days theatre owners and even actors travelled by trains, their goods arrived by trains, and my brother-in-law thus had strong links with the film industry!! My sister and brother-in law were invited to all newly released films.

    Talking about Coimbatore, this city of GD Naidu and PSG family, was setting trends in all sorts of ways those days. One was to hold record of long running films. My sister used to say that the fans would force the theatre owners to continue with the hit film shows even though business demanded moving forward!

    I vaguely recollect that the film was shown at the Chamundeshwari theatre (the one next to Krishnaswamy stationers then), but sadly I missed it! Our family had some connection with the movie business as
    SS Vasan of Gemini studios was related to my mother having hailed from the same village in Tanjore district. My father once said to us that when he met Vasan in one of family gatherings, he urged him to see his newly releasing film some scenes of which were shot in forresr area near Mysore-that was Chandralekha. That could provide flash backs of Mysore in early 1950s, I should say in its glorious days.

    I also missed to see another trend-setting film, ‘Paavamannippu’ released a few years later,the first in the ‘Pa’series which catapulted music directors Viswanathan and Ramamurthy and Kannadasan to fame through a good story line and hit songs. If I watch this film again would sure to land me on to a few more memory lanes.

  3. I saw ‘Kalyana Parisu’ when I was at the impresionable age of 12. And I remembered the copious tears I shed because of the ‘star-crossed lovers’ tribulations’. I loved the songs, the grace of Saroja Devi, the cruel twist of fate which prevented her from marrying Gemini when he was free.
    When I saw the movie again 25 years ago on DD’s weekend feature, I was still moved to tears, but could not shed them because my wicked children mocked me, saying, “Dai, dai, Amma paruda ithukellam azhara” (Look . Amma is crying for all this.) :).
    About 5 years ago we watched a Hindi movie – ‘Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham’. I did not care for it at all, in spite of the good and good-looking actors. But my 12 year old niece loved it and sat through it three times, each time replenishing her stock of hankies (three to each view) and enjoying a good cry each time.
    Each generation has its own special heart-wrenching movie.

  4. wonderful!

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