Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Razor encounters over the years

As a child I watched in wonder my grand father stropping a straight razor on a belt like leather piece at my ancestral home  Sakaramangalam, Thamallackal in Kerala. He would then apply some water and the a coat of soap and deftly hold the razor in his hands and   shave  his daily growth on his chin. He did not keep a mustache and the whole daily ritual was performed on the verandah remains well etched in my mind.. These are the earliest memories of my grand father who was an ayurvedic vaidyar.
Straight Razor blade
Later on I had watched the barber using it deftly on lathered faces of men  whenever I go for a hair cut in the hair cutting Saloon at Maduranthakam where  we had settled. Before hair cutting the barber used to spray water from a green bottle fitted with a metal pump on to the thick growth of hair on my head. It was really a blissful experience as some  the water mist cooled by the swinging overhead  punkah falls on your face. Those were the days without electricity and the punkah was the only means of circulating air and served like a fan. It was a rectangular piece of fabric fixed on a framework and hung on the ceiling. It was swung back and forth to make the air move which was by means pulling it back and forth. There was an arrangement of rope and pulleys which ended outside the shop where sat a boy , the barber's son pulling the rope up and down rhythmically and often nodding in to sleep. The spray and the punkah were the star attraction which made my monthly visit to the Barber shop joyful even though I didn't like the way he cuts my hair, which was a crew cut ( as in the military armed forces)
Punkah Wallah
During my adolescent years I keenly watched my uncles and other relatives deftly working up lather  from a round white soap with a brush and applying it on their face. One of my uncles used one blade for one year, sharpening it on a curved glass sharpener. Another cousin  will shave without using a razor, just holding the blade in his fingers.

By the time I started shaving the stainless steel razors consisted of three parts, you just put the blade on the top part then the bottom one and screw the handle.
Three Part Safety Razor     
The blade easily available at that time was  Ashoka Stainless steel which was a good one, Made in India and affordable though 7O'Clock was an expensive imported alternative, I remember buying a foreign NACET blade when the Burmese Refugees arrived and sold foreign goods on the roadside near Madras Park Railway station. later on it became Burmah Bazaar.Other blades like Gillette, Wilkinson, Topaz etc made their presence in the Indian Market. Some of the blades are so poor in quality they were only used for sharpening pencils etc. Bharat blade was much preferred in the Film editing rooms for scraping and joining film rolls.

Varieties of Blades
Meanwhile developments took place in razor design and a single piece twist and open  model came out in Stainless steel and Gold plated varieties. It was much easier and soon I acquired a Gillette Gold model.

In 1971 Gillette introduced Tarc II Twin blade shaving system which had a fixed  Twin blade that gave a smooth shave. Later by 1977 they introduced the Altra/Contour system, the first twin-blade shaving cartridge with a pivoting head, which allows the blades to  follow the contours of the face for a closer shave. I bought one Altra Razor in  the U.S, in 1978,  where I went  for the filming of Malayalam  film Ezham Kadalin Akkare ( Ore Vaanam Ore Bhoomi - Tamil Version ),

I am still using it even though 37 years had passed in spite of the fact that several triple, four or even five bladed cartridges were introduced, I still use Gillette Vector blades with my old sturdy Altra Razor. The heaviness of the handle and well balanced grip ensures a smooth shave.
Gillette razors over the years     
And finally here is my old faithful Altra Razor with GilletteVector Blade...

Sunday, April 12, 2015

John Abraham and Jayakanthan

It may sound very interesting if eccentric film maker   John Abraham  were to make a movie based on a script by an equally unorthodox writer like Jayakanthan. In my opinion it would have been an extraordinary Tamil film  it  had happened....... it almost  had happened and here is the unknown story...

Jayakanthan had written a Tamil short story "Agni Pravesam" in which a  girl who was offered a lift in a car on her way back from college by a young man, gets seduced. He drops her near her home and when her anxious mother learns the truth, instead of raising hell, she takes her to the bath room and pours a pot of water saying this is not water, but fire that will purify you, as you were not polluted in spirit. When the story was published there were lot of criticism and protests against JK. In order to silence his critics he wrote a novel extending the short story, in which the mother will scold her daughter and all neighbourhood learns about her and  the consequent  suffering she had to undergo in her life. It was titled " Sila Nerangalil Sila Manithargal" which  later came out 

 as a film Directed by A.Bhimsingh which got Lakshmi the National Award for the Best Actress in 1976.

While John was doing  his debut Malayalam film "Vidyarthikale Ithile Ithile " in 1971, he was fascinated by the short story "Agni Pravesam" and the Novel " Sila Nerangalil Sila Manithargal". Our producer Minnal was a friend of Jayakanthan and John had a few meetings with JK and I had been with him during those discussions. John had a brilliant concept which was to film the short story as it is and when the mother pours water over the head of her daughter Ganga and says that you are purified, the screen goes dark and in the sound track cat calls and voices of  noisy protest is heard. Then on the screen the writer Jayakanthan himself appears and pacifies the audience...O.K. you want the mother to raise hell... see what happens...

The mother creates a big hue and cry, every one around comes to know of her daughter's downfall and her life becomes miserable as written in the novel " Sila Nerangalil Sila Manithargal

Unfortunately the project could not take place. But another great film maker A. Bhimsingh  in his own way made a National award winning film based on the same subject.