Sunday, March 10, 2013

Two Gates and a span of 42 years – John Abraham remembered

During the last week of February , 2013 myself Directors G.S. Vijayan and Joshy Mathew went to the Panampilly Nagar, Ernakulam residence of veteran Producer T.E.Vasudevan to invite him for the Madhavasandhya function organized by MACTA. There were two gates for entry to the house, one big and the other small. We rang the calling bell installed at the gate and no one opened the door for a few minutes. Then I remembered an incident that took place years back and told my companions to move and stand a little away from the gate as both of them are bearded. They were curious to find the reason and  I promised to narrate it later. 

After again ringing the bell his daughter came out and asked us to come inside through the smaller gate and since Shri. T.E.Vasudevan was not at home we gave them the invitation letter and promised to come back on another day.


The year was 1971. I was doing my debut film as Cinematographer for John Abraham’s Maiden Directorial venture in Malayalam “ Vidyarthikale Ithile, Ithile” We were all staying in the office cum residence of Mehboob Movies at Mahalingapuram. Since there was a gap in the shooting schedule, Azad and others had left for their home town and only John and myself  stayed behind in that flat.

Our Producer entrusted the safeguarding of John to me and always handed over the money for daily expenses to me and not to John.  John was left penniless so that he will not go after liquor. From the money I had,  I paid for all   John’s needs like  food, beedi and other expenses but liquor was the forbidden item.. I was always with him to see that he doesn’t get access to country liquor sold under the Kodambakkam bridge. Even if he begs, I will not give him money for drinks but once in a while ,  I’ll give  him a rupee for a ganja smoke. When he is high on ganja he is a very different personality altogether, very docile and soft mannered and becomes creative singing songs and composing poems. I found that only liquor makes him violent and boisterous bringing out his Satanic nature

One day I received a call from K.G. George  frantically asking for John’s whereabouts, and he told me to find John immediately and keep him in some safe place as John’s life is in danger .  I asked him the reason for it. It so happened that a drunk John went to meet George who was working as Assistant to Ramu Kariat for the film MAYA. George was supposed to be at the Jayamaruthi pictures  office which was a part of the residence of the Producer T.E.Vasudevan. When  John went there George was not there and the doors were closed. The house had two gates, the larger one was permanently locked and the other smaller one open. John was standing in front of the locked gate and rang the bell. No one opened the door, but he could see some movement behind the window and sensed that there are indeed people inside the house. Actually what happened was, there were only womenfolk inside and seeing  John’s shabby dress and beard mistook him for a beggar and did not open the door.

Since whoever was inside were not deliberately opening the door, John banged at the gate and made a big noise. Those inside were frightened by this sudden development. Finding no one coming out of the house,  he jumped over the gate, reached the main door and started banging it repeatedly. In fear of their life the inmates called their near and dear for help. The news spread like wildfire in the film industry as Producer T.E.Vasudevan of Jayamaruthi pictures  was one of the most respected  people in Madras. It was atrocious that someone created trouble when only women folk were there, and it was decided that whoever responsible was to be given a severe beating. Harry Pothen’s drivers, Padmini’s brother Aniyan, Sobhana Parameswaran Nair, Manikandan Nair  and a whole lot of people were in search of the culprit John. They were looking for him in every possible place at Madras.

It was then George telephoned and told me that any moment they will catch hold of John and beat him up. I then contacted our Producer Minnal and together searched and found John in one of his regular arrack den. We told him a lie that his brother at Kumbakonam wants him to come there on some urgent matter. John was taken to Egmore Railway station and was put in a second class compartment (those were the days of First, Second and third classes) and waited till the train left. On seeing the shabbily dressed John sitting in the second class compartment, a gentleman passenger  seated nearby was staring at him with suspicion. Sensing that, John immediately pulled out his ticket from his pocket, showed it to him and said “Look, I have got a second class ticket”. The man hung his head in  shame as he had thought John was some vagrant travelling without ticket !

John returned months later well dressed with his shirt tucked in and with a clean shaven face and a nice moustache. He had transformed himself into an entirely new person, totally unrecognizable!

On our back in the car,  I explained to my friends about the incident  involving John Abraham, that happened 42 years back at Madras. This time also there were two gates to Shri. T.E.Vasudevan’s house and instead of one bearded fellow there were two, and Vasu Sir was not at home. I was wondering about the similarity and what will be the outcome…..

Next day we three, once again went to Panampilly Nagar, this time accompanied by another lady member of MACTA, Dubbing artiste Bhagyalakshmi. Vasu Sir warmly welcomed us home and we had a long chat and he happily agreed to come for the function. He kept his word and presented the Memento to Shri. Madhu and honoured him on the Madhavasandhya Function held on 28 th February, 2013.

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