Poets and Pancakes Summary

Author of Poets and Pancakes


This lesson is an excerpt from his book "My Years With Boss".

Chapter Explanation:

  1. Pancake was the brand name of the make-up material that Gemini Studios use to buy in huge quantity

  2. The make-up department of the Gemini Studios was in the upstairs of a building that was believed to have been Robert Clive’s stables

  3. The make-up room of Gemini Studio was looking like a hair-cutting salon with incandescent lights at all angles generate so much heat that the room become fiery misery of those subjected to make-up around half a dozen large mirrors.

  4. Make-up department was a great example of national integration as, it was headed by a Bengali, succeeded by a Maharashtrian who was assisted by an Andhra, a Madras Indian Christian, an Anglo-Burmese and local Tamils.

  5. The hierarchy followed in make-up department, the chief make-up man will do make-up of the chief actors and actresses, senior assistant the ‘second’ hero and heroine, the junior assistant the main comedian, The players who played the crowd were the responsibility of the office boy.

  6. The office boy was not exactly a ‘boy’; he was in his early forties, having entered the studios years ago in the hope of becoming a star actor or a top screen writer, director or lyrics writer.

  7. The author (Ashokamitran) use to work in a cubicle, seeing him sitting at my desk tearing up newspapers day in and day out, most people thought he was doing nothing.

  8. Ashokamitran use to pray all the time for crowd shooting because the office use to give justification of how great literary talent was being allowed to go waste in a department fit only for barbers and perverts to ashokamitran, he uses to get irritated.

  9. In situation of frustration the anger use to always towards a single person openly or covertly, the office boy considered that all his woes, ignominy and neglect were due to that person, Kothamangalam Subbu.

  10. Subbu was the No. 2 at Gemini Studios.

  11. Subbu can't have more encouraging debut in films than our office boy on contrary he must have faced more difficult times as, r when he began his career, there were no firmly established film producing companies or studios. In case of formal education Subbu couldn't have had an appreciable lead over our office boy. But, Subbu bored as brahmin which gave him exposure to more affluent situations and people.

  12. He had the ability to look cheerful at all times even after having had a hand in a flop film. This tells us about his character. He was tailor-made for films. Film-making must have been and was so easy with a man like Subbu around. He was also identified as a poet and though he was certainly capable of more complex and higher forms.

  13. He was an amazing actor — he never aspired to the lead roles — but whatever subsidiary role he played in any of the films, he performed better than the supposed main players. His house was a permanent residence for dozens of near and far relations and acquaintances.

  14. if ever there was a man who gave direction and definition to Gemini Studios during its golden years, it was Subbu.

  15. Office boy would wish the direst things for Subbu.

  16. Subbu was grouped under a department called the Story Department comprising a lawyer and an assembly of writers and poets.

  17. The lawyer was also officially known as the legal adviser.Everybody considered him opposite due to this incident.
    An extremely talented actress, who was also extremely temperamental, once blew over on the sets. While everyone stood stunned, the lawyer quietly switched on the recording equipment. When the actress paused for breath, lawyer played back the recording. when she heard her voice again through the sound equipment, she was struck dumb. She never quite recovered from the terror she felt that day. That was the end of a brief and brilliant acting career. He unwittingly ended her career.

  18. While every other member of the Department wore a kind of uniform — khadi dhoti with a slightly oversized and clumsily tailored white khadi shirt — the legal adviser wore pants and a tie and sometimes a coat, he often looked alone and helpless. A man of cold logic in a crowd of dreamers — a neutral man in an assembly of Gandhiites and khadiites.

  19. Like so many of those who were close to The Boss, lawyer was allowed to produce a film and though a lot of raw stock and pancake were used on it.

  20. Except for office boys and a couple of clerks everybody else at studio worshipped Gandhiji. Everybody was against communism. A Communist was considered as godless man — he had no filial or conjugal love; he had no compunction about killing his own parents or his children; he was always out to cause and spread unrest and violence among innocent and ignorant people.

  21. When Frank Buchman’s Moral Re-Armament army, with some two hundred strong, visited Madras, they stayed at Gemini Studios. they presented two plays in a most professional manner. Their ‘Jotham Valley’ and ‘The Forgotten Factor’ ran several shows in Madras and along with the other citizens of the city, the Gemini family of six hundred saw the plays over and over again. The message of the plays were usually plain and simple homilies, but the sets and costumes were first-rate. for some years almost all Tamil plays had a scene of sunrise and sunset in the manner of ‘Jotham Valley’ with a bare stage, a white background curtain and a tune played on the flute.

  22. Moral Re-Armament Army was a kind of counter-movement to international Communism.

  23. A few months later, the telephone lines of the big bosses of Madras buzzed and prepared to welcome another visitor. They were told that a poet from England is going to visit.

  24. According to several the visitor is not a poet he is a editor, as the boss is giving him a big reception. S S Vasan himself was also the editor of the popular Tamil weekly Ananda Vikantan.

  25. The boss (S S Vasan) read a speech it was filled with words like "Freedom" and "Democracy"

  26. He could not have addressed a more dazed and silent audience. Because no one understood what he was speaking about and his accent made it harder for a crowd of simple Tamilians to understand his words. The poet looked pretty baffled too.

  27. The Hindu had published a tiny announcement in an insignificant corner of an unimportant page — a short story contest organised by a British periodical by the name The Encounter.

  28. When I read the editor’s name of the encounter, I heard a bell ringing in my shrunken heart. It was the poet who had visited the Gemini Studios — I felt like I had found a long-lost brother and I sang as I sealed the envelope and wrote out his address

  29. Stephen Spender— that was his name

  30. And years later, when I was out of Gemini Studios and I had much time but not much money, anything at a reduced price attracted my attention. On the footpath in front of the Madras Mount Road Post Office, there was a pile of brand-new books for fifty paise each

  31. the book, The God That Failed. Six eminent men of letters in six separate essays described ‘their journeys into Communism and their disillusioned return. One of them was Stephen spender