Who would have thought I had it in me and that too when it is only a few days back I crossed over gingerly to the wrong side of my fiftieth year. I had never been one to be star-struck even in my good old days of youth. Instead I always looked disdainfully down my nose, yes the very same one the Lord and Master calls ‘beautiful’, on those others of my peers who swooned, drooled and sighed over fillum stars of all hues and variety.
Of course I admit to having stuck a poster of the Big B inside the wardrobe, hidden securely away from the hawk-eyes of the warden at St Agnes College hostel in Mangalore, way back in my early teens. But right beside the Big B was the tiny Bacchan wife too keeping him company inside the dark wardrobe. Other than talking to them of the happenings in my life, sometimes going so far as to offering them a cup of hot chocolate (hearing which made Sandra from the next room run out of mine as if her non-existent tail was on fire screaming, “Listen to this!! Listen to this!!” and instead of enlightening the crowd that had gathered, collapse, laughing uncontrollably) I have a clean slate devoid of any star-struck behavior.
Yet for a moment yesterday, I was as one struck when I came across someone on Facebook. Glancing idly through the status messages on my home page over there, I found a familiar name against a comment in reply to my friend Sophie. Hrrrrmph, someone hiding behind a celebrity name yet again had been my first reaction. All the same, I decided to hop over and find out. It was no impersonator, but the man himself in person! Oh wow wow! To say I was thrilled would be an understatement. You see I had a soft corner for this man back when I was a collegian.
Hopping over to his profile page, I found to my consternation that he had about three thousand and odd friends and so debated whether to dash off a message or not. It might just flounder and vanish in three thousand and odd others he probably gets. But I sent it anyway and within the hour there was a reply waiting for me. Before I knew it I was added to his friends’ list and we were talking like long lost buddies. Ahem… the last of course is stretching things it a bit too far. If truth be known, we Hi-ed each other, talked for a few minutes and I left him to his scripting. Oh yes, he scripts, he directs and also acts and he is none other than the talented Pratap Pothen.
I saw him first in a movie called Chamaram in Malayalam which has that beautiful song sung by S. Janaki (click here to listen) that goes, Naatha nee varum kalocha kelkkuvaan (Beloved, I await the sound of your footsteps). What a romantic song it is! Of course the song was not being sung for him by the heroine (Zarina Wahab) in the movie. It was for the poocha kannan (light colored eyes) hero of the movie, Ratheesh, a favorite among the women of those days. I noticed not the hero, poocha kannan or not, but did notice the unda (round) kannan (Sorry, I couldn’t help that! You do have bulbous eyes you know) who played the college student in love with his teacher, the heroine and to whom she turns to in her moment of extreme sorrow. It is not the actor, but the character played that has always touched me and this character played by him, touched me and how!
Sorry Pratap, I have seen only this one movie of yours, but it has stayed with me forever. Any others I have watched have been in bits and pieces on television. Having moved out of the state some time after Chamaram, I lost touch with Malayalam movies for a long time. During one of my visits home, I caught you in a movie and I thought (Sorry again!), “Ugh, Is this the same Pratap of Chamaram??”
Probably the other half of my name ‘Mohan’ having been installed as Emperor of my Universe, and taken over my life, I had eyes to appreciate none other. Of course I told him about you way back in 1982 when the taking-over took place. In fact yesterday, when he walked in from office and I, grinning from ear to ear as is usually my wont, threw at him a question, “Guess who I spoke to today!” (Pretty easy to answer I would have thought, But the L & M told me it had too wide a scope to be answered easily! Hmm…) and I blurted, “Pratap Pothen!” his reply had been, “Oh you were a fan once!” See, he remembers.
Later on I heard of you that you had moved on to directing movies. In fact I saw one of them quite recently, the one you directed with Mohanlal and Shivaji Ganesan. I found it a pretty neat flick too. May be I have missed many of your better ones. I don’t know. I will try and catch up now.
Anyway it was quite a pleasant surprise to come across you in Facebook and get to be your friend, Pratap. I saw a comment by one of your friends mentioning that you are getting younger by the years. Not knowing how old you are, I cannot say. But you are looking as good as ever, the bulbous eyes not withstanding (Just pulling your leg!). Here’s wishing you the best in future endeavors!
© Shail Mohan