‘Poets and Pancakes’ lesson is a part of Class 12 English Core syllabus. Here we have given the explanation and glossary of this lesson. Clicl here for more Class 12 English Study Materials.
1. blew over 2. was struck dumb 3. catapulted into 4. a coat of mail 5. played into their hands 6. the favourite haunt 7. heard a bell ringing
Explanation and inference of the meanings of the above words and expressions from the context:
- Blew over: In the context of an actress blowing over on the sets, this expression suggests that her outburst or emotional reaction subsided or calmed down.
- Was struck dumb: This phrase indicates that someone was rendered speechless or unable to speak, usually in response to a surprising or overwhelming situation. In the context, the actress hearing her own voice through the sound equipment left her momentarily speechless.
- Catapulted into: In the sentence “a position of importance and sophistication that she had found herself catapulted into,” this expression implies a sudden and forceful elevation into a position or situation, often without prior expectation or preparation.
- A coat of mail: Describing the clothing worn by the legal adviser, this refers to a type of armor made of metal rings or plates. In a metaphorical sense, it suggests a protective or resilient outer layer.
- Played into their hands: In the context of the Moral Re-Armament army visiting Madras, this expression means that certain individuals in Madras, like Mr. Vasan, unintentionally assisted or furthered the goals of the MRA, possibly by supporting their activities.
- The favourite haunt: Describing Gemini Studios as the “favourite haunt” of poets, it means a place frequently visited or preferred by them. It suggests that the studio was a common and liked gathering place for poets.
- Heard a bell ringing: In the context of coming across the editor’s name, the narrator hearing a bell ringing suggests a sudden recognition or realization, as if something significant had been remembered or understood.
Para Wise Explanation of ‘Poets and Pancakes’
- Pancake: A type of makeup material. In this context, it refers to a brand name of makeup used by film studios for actors and actresses.
- Gemini Studios: A famous film studio, likely based in Madras (now Chennai), India, known for producing Tamil films.
- Greta Garbo: A legendary Swedish-American actress who achieved fame during the silent film and classic Hollywood era.
- Miss Gohar: Gohar Khayyam Mamajiwala was an Indian singer, actress, producer and studio owner..
- Vyjayantimala: An Indian film actress, parlimentarian and classical dancer who appeared in Hindi and Tamil films. Vyjayantimala is regarded as one of Indian cinema’s finest actresses and dancers.
- Rati Agnihotri: Rati Agnihotri is an Indian actress known for her work in Hindi and other Indian language films.
- Robert Clive: A British military officer and administrator who played a significant role in establishing British rule in India. Mentioned in the context of historical buildings in Madras that were believed to be associated with him.
- St. Mary’s Church in Fort St. George: A historical church located in the Fort St. George complex in Madras, where Robert Clive is said to have married with Margaret Maskelyne .
The first paragraph of “Poets and Pancakes” provides a glimpse into the world of Gemini Studios, a prominent film studio in Madras. The author mentions “Pancake” as a makeup material bought in large quantities by the studio. The term “Pancake” is not only a cosmetic item but also serves as a symbol of glamour and stardom associated with Hollywood and international film industries.
The author humorously speculates that famous personalities like Greta Garbo, Miss Gohar, and Vyjayantimala might have used this makeup, while suggesting that a relatively contemporary actress, Rati Agnihotri, may not be familiar with it. This introduces an element of time and change in the entertainment industry.
The setting of the makeup department in the upstairs of a building believed to have been Robert Clive’s stables adds an interesting historical touch. Robert Clive, a historical figure associated with British colonial history in India, is mentioned, and the author briefly outlines Clive’s life and connections to Madras, highlighting the transient nature of his stay in the city.
The paragraph cleverly weaves together elements of the film industry, historical references, and a touch of humour, setting the stage for the exploration of the unique world of Gemini Studios.
- Incandescent Lights: Lights that produce light by heating a filament until it glows. The mention of incandescent lights here suggests a source of heat and discomfort during the makeup process.
- National Integration: Refers to the process of unifying people from different regions, ethnicities, and cultures within a nation. The author humorously notes the diversity within the makeup department, indicating a form of national integration in the film industry.
- Hierarchy: A system or organization in which people or groups are ranked according to status or authority. The paragraph describes a strict hierarchy in the makeup department based on the roles of individuals, from the chief makeup man to junior assistants and the office boy.
- Crowd Shooting: Refers to scenes in films where a large number of people, often extras, are present to simulate a crowd. The makeup process for crowd players is described, highlighting the use of an “office boy” for this task.
- Pore: A small opening in the skin that allows sweat to reach the surface. The author mentions the idea of closing every pore on the surface of the face during the makeup application process, emphasizing the thoroughness of the makeup application.
- Fort St. George: A historical fortress in Chennai, India, which includes St. Mary’s Church. The mention of this location is related to the historical connection with Robert Clive’s marriage.
- Gemini Studios: A film studio based in Madras (now Chennai), known for producing Tamil films. The paragraph describes the makeup department within Gemini Studios.
- Doordarshan: The national public television broadcaster of India. The author humorously contrasts the early national integration within the film industry with the later efforts of Doordarshan in broadcasting programs on national integration.
- All India Radio (A.I.R.): AIR (began in June 1923) during the British Raj is national radio broadcaster of India. Similar to Doordarshan, it is mentioned in contrast to the early national integration within the film industry.
The second paragraph of “Poets and Pancakes” continues to describe the makeup room at Gemini Studios, providing vivid details of its appearance and the people working in it.
The makeup room is likened to a hair-cutting salon with numerous lights placed at various angles around half a dozen large mirrors. The lights are described as incandescent, implying a certain discomfort and heat for those undergoing makeup application. The author humorously refers to the “fiery misery” experienced by the actors and actresses during the makeup process.
The makeup department went through changes in leadership, initially headed by a Bengali who eventually left because he became too prominent for a studio. He was succeeded by a Maharashtrian, and the makeup team was composed of individuals from different regions, highlighting the diverse nature of the film industry workforce. The mention of a Bengali, Maharashtrian, Dharwar Kannadiga, Andhra, Madras Indian Christian, Anglo-Burmese, and local Tamils emphasizes the national integration within the makeup department.
The author humorously contrasts this early form of national integration within the film industry with the later efforts of All India Radio (A.I.R.) and Doordarshan in broadcasting programs on national integration.
The paragraph sheds light on the extensive use of makeup during the era when most of the filming was done indoors. The makeup artists, with truckloads of pancake and various other locally made cosmetic products, could transform a decent-looking person into a dramatically altered character. The author speculates that perhaps the need for heavy makeup was related to the sets and studio lights requiring actors to appear more presentable on screen.
A hierarchy is maintained in the makeup department, where the chief makeup man is responsible for the principal actors and actresses, senior assistants for the secondary leads, and junior assistants for supporting roles like the main comedian. The responsibility for makeup on crowd days falls to the office boy, who, surprisingly, even exists in the makeup department of Gemini Studios. The office boy is described as not exactly a ‘boy’ but a man in his early forties who initially entered the studio with aspirations of becoming a star actor, top screenwriter, director, or lyricist. He is portrayed as a bit of a poet, adding a touch of irony to his role as an office boy in the makeup department.
This paragraph provides a humorous and insightful glimpse into the behind-the-scenes dynamics of the film industry, specifically the makeup department at Gemini Studios.
Explanation & Glossary:
This paragraph provides a glimpse into the author’s work routine and the humorous challenges he faced, including unsolicited lectures on the perceived misuse of his literary talents in a department seen as less prestigious. The author’s desire for crowd-shooting highlights his preference for activities that would keep him away from such critiques.
- Cubicle: A small, partitioned-off space within a larger room or office. In this context, the author worked in a cubicle with two sides made up of French windows.
- French Windows: Large windows that typically extend to the floor and open outwards. The author mentions that two sides of his cubicle were French windows, offering a view into his workspace.
- Boss: Refers to the supervisor or manager of the workplace. The author implies that, due to the nature of his work, tearing up newspapers at his desk, it may have seemed to others, including the boss, that he was not doing much.
- Barge into: To enter a place abruptly and forcefully. The author describes how people would enter his cubicle uninvited if they felt he needed some occupation.
- Extended Lecture: A long and detailed speech or talk. People entering the author’s cubicle would deliver extended lectures, possibly criticizing his work or suggesting a different direction for his talents.
- Literary Talent: Refers to the author’s writing abilities and potential. The ‘boy’ from the makeup department believed that the author’s literary talent was being wasted in a department that he considered suitable only for barbers and perverts.
- Barbers and Perverts: The ‘boy’ from the makeup department expresses a derogatory opinion about the nature of the department where the author works, implying that it is fit only for those involved in hairstyling and possibly suggesting that it attracts people with unconventional interests.
- Praying for crowd-shooting: The author humorously expresses a desire for crowd-shooting, a reference to the earlier mention of days when large crowds were needed for film scenes. The author prefers this activity to avoid the ‘boy’s’ lectures.
During that period, my work (author) involved occupying a cubicle with two entire sides made of French windows, though I was unaware of the term at the time. While seated at my desk, where I seemed to be tearing up newspapers consistently, onlookers often perceived me as idle. It’s likely that even the boss shared this perception. Consequently, anyone who believed I needed a more meaningful task would intrude into my cubicle to deliver lengthy lectures. In particular, the ‘boy’ from the makeup department was determined to enlighten me about the wasted literary talent in a department he considered suitable only for barbers and perverts. Desperate to escape his lectures, I found myself fervently wishing for crowd-shooting assignments as nothing else seemed capable of rescuing me from his verbose discourses.
Explanation & Glossary:
This paragraph of “Poets and Pancakes” provides a detailed character sketch of Kothamangalam Subbu, highlighting his versatility, success in the film industry, and the mixed feelings and resentment he elicits from a member of the make-up department.
- Kothamangalam Subbu: The No. 2 at Gemini Studios. Described as a multifaceted personality involved in film production, with a significant impact on the studio during its golden years.
- Gemini Studios: The film studio where the author worked. Subbu’s role and influence in the studio are highlighted.
- Brahmin: A member of the Hindu priestly class. The mention of Subbu being born a Brahmin alludes to his social background and the privileges associated with it.
- Affluent Situations and People: Indicates that Subbu, due to his Brahmin birth, might have had exposure to more prosperous environments and influential individuals, contributing to his success in the film industry.
- Tailor-made for Films: Implies that Subbu possessed qualities that made him exceptionally suitable for the film industry, including the ability to creatively contribute to his principal’s projects.
- Loyalty: Describes Subbu’s sense of loyalty to his principal (likely the studio head or producer) and how he dedicated his creativity to his principal’s advantage.
- Film-making Skills: Subbu is portrayed as a skilled and creative contributor to the filmmaking process, offering multiple alternatives and solutions to scenes as requested by the producer.
- Separate Identity as a Poet: Highlights Subbu’s identity as a poet, but notes that his success in films overshadowed his literary achievements. He deliberately chose to address his poetry to the masses.
- Story Poems: Refers to poems that tell a story, often using folk elements in their structure and language.
- Thillana Mohanambal: Mentioned as a sprawling novel written by Subbu, showcasing his ability to vividly portray characters and recreate the mood and manner of Devadasis in the early 20th century.
- Devadasis: Women who were historically dedicated to the service of a deity in Indian temples, often associated with dance and music.
- Sycophant: A person who acts obsequiously towards someone important in order to gain advantage. The paragraph suggests that Subbu’s general demeanor may have resembled that of a sycophant.
- Direst Things: Implies that the man in the make-up department harbors strong negative feelings and ill wishes towards Subbu, possibly due to envy, perceived favoritism, or other personal reasons.
In moments of frustration, individuals often channel their anger towards a single person, and in the makeup department, a particular man held Kothamangalam Subbu responsible for all his miseries. Subbu held the position of No. 2 at Gemini Studios, and despite facing uncertain times at the start of his career when there were no established film companies, he rose to prominence. Unlike the frustrated makeup artist, Subbu’s Brahmin background provided him exposure to more affluent situations. Subbu, always cheerful, had the unique ability to remain optimistic even after being associated with a flop film. Although not capable of working independently, Subbu’s loyalty and creativity were entirely devoted to his principal’s advantage. His ability to generate ideas on demand made him indispensable to film-making. Subbu played a crucial role in defining Gemini Studios during its golden years.
Subbu, with a separate identity as a poet, deliberately chose to address his poetry to the masses, overshadowing his literary achievements with his success in films, as perceived by his critics. Despite his success, Subbu was an amazing actor who never sought lead roles. His performances in subsidiary roles often outshone those of the supposed main actors. Known for his genuine love for people, Subbu’s house served as a permanent residence for numerous relatives and acquaintances. Despite his charitable nature, he had critics who wished ill upon him. Some speculated that his close relationship with The Boss, his sycophantic demeanor, or his readiness to speak positively about everything might have contributed to the animosity directed at him. The man in the makeup department harbored strong negative feelings towards Subbu, wishing the worst for him.
Explanation & Glossary:
The fifth paragraph of “Poets and Pancakes” provides additional insights into the dynamics of Gemini Studios, focusing on Kothamangalam Subbu’s association with “The Boss” and the events surrounding the Story Department. The narrative underscores the challenges and shifts in the film industry, where even a lawyer’s position can be affected by decisions related to creative departments like storytelling and poetry.
- Attendance Rolls: Lists of employees present in a workplace, used for tracking attendance and categorizing individuals into specific departments.
- Story Department: A department within Gemini Studios that includes writers, poets, and a lawyer. Kothamangalam Subbu, despite being frequently seen with “The Boss,” is officially grouped under this department.
- Legal Adviser: A lawyer officially designated as the legal adviser. However, the paragraph suggests that people referred to him differently, possibly indicating a perception that he was not always giving legal advice in the conventional sense.
- Recording Equipment: The lawyer is portrayed as having a practical and strategic approach. He quietly turns on the recording equipment during a temperamental outburst of an actress on set.
- Khadi: A type of cloth, often associated with Indian independence and the Gandhian movement. The members of the Story Department, except the legal adviser, are described as wearing khadi dhotis and shirts.
- Actress’s Tirade: The actress expresses strong emotions and complaints about the producer, but when the lawyer plays back the recording, there is nothing incriminating or offensive about her words. The incident has a significant impact on the actress’s psyche and marks the end of her acting career.
- Legal Adviser’s Appearance: The lawyer’s appearance is distinct from the rest of the Story Department. While others wear a uniform of khadi clothing, the legal adviser opts for pants, a tie, and sometimes a coat that resembles a coat of mail, suggesting a more formal and possibly defensive appearance.
- Crowd of Dreamers: Describes the Story Department as a group of dreamers, possibly indicating that the individuals in this department, including poets and writers, are more inclined towards creative pursuits.
- Closure of the Story Department: The Boss decides to close down the Story Department. This decision affects not only the poets and writers but also the legal adviser. It is implied that the lawyer loses his job because the poets are asked to go home.
Despite frequently being seen with The Boss, Kothamangalam Subbu officially belonged to the Story Department, a department that included a lawyer and a gathering of writers and poets. This lawyer, also known as the legal adviser, was often referred to as the opposite. An incident involving a highly talented yet temperamental actress unfolded on set when she erupted in anger. Sensing an opportunity, the lawyer quietly activated the recording equipment. When the actress paused, he played back the recording, revealing nothing incriminating. However, upon hearing her own voice, the actress was left speechless. Being relatively inexperienced, having not undergone the typical stages of worldly experience, she couldn’t cope with the terror she felt that day. This unfortunate incident marked the abrupt end of her brief and brilliant acting career, inadvertently caused by the legal adviser, who was also a member of the Story Department.
While other members of the Story Department wore a uniform of khadi dhoti paired with a slightly oversized and clumsily tailored white khadi shirt, the legal adviser stood out in pants, a tie, and sometimes a coat resembling a coat of mail. He appeared isolated and vulnerable—a man of cold logic amidst a crowd of dreamers, a neutral figure among Gandhiites and khadi enthusiasts. Despite being close to The Boss, the legal adviser was permitted to produce a film that, despite significant investment in raw stock and pancake makeup, yielded little success. Eventually, The Boss decided to shut down the Story Department, a rare occurrence where a lawyer lost his job because poets were asked to leave.
Explanation & Glossary:
This paragraph of “Poets and Pancakes” provides a glimpse into the cultural atmosphere at Gemini Studios, highlighting the presence of poets and their engagement with political and social ideas. This paragraph sets the stage for the introduction of political and ideological conflicts among the poets at Gemini Studios, particularly their aversion to Communism, which will be explored in the subsequent parts of the text.
- Poets at Gemini Studios:
- S.D.S. Yogiar: An Indian poet.
- Sangu Subramanyam: Another poet.
- Krishna Sastry: A poet.
- Harindranath Chattopadhyaya: An Indian English poet and dramatist.
- Excellent Mess: Refers to a communal eating area or cafeteria. Gemini Studios had a mess that served good coffee throughout the day and most of the night.
- Congress Rule and Prohibition: Indicates a period when the Congress party was in power, and there were restrictions on the sale and consumption of alcohol (Prohibition). This led to meetings over coffee being considered satisfying entertainment.
- Leisure at the Studios: Except for office boys and a couple of clerks, the atmosphere at the Studios was characterized by leisure, seen as a prerequisite for poetry.
- Khadi and Worship of Gandhiji: Describes the attire of most individuals at the Studios, indicating that they wore khadi (a type of fabric associated with Mahatma Gandhi’s principles) and had reverence for Gandhiji (Mahatma Gandhi). However, their understanding of political thought was limited.
- Aversion to Communism: The khadi-clad poets at Gemini Studios were averse to the term “Communism.” The paragraph provides a stereotypical view of Communists prevalent at the time, portraying them as godless individuals with no familial or conjugal love, ready to cause violence and unrest.
- Notions Prevailing in South India: The paragraph suggests that the negative stereotypes associated with Communism were widespread in South India during that time.
- Floating Notions: The vague notions about Communism that prevailed among the poets become evident as the narrative progresses.
Gemini Studios served as a favored gathering place for poets like S.D.S. Yogiar, Sangu Subramanyam, Krishna Sastry, and Harindranath Chattopadhyaya. The studio boasted an excellent mess that provided quality coffee throughout the day and much of the night. During the era of Congress rule and Prohibition, meeting over a cup of coffee became a satisfying form of entertainment. Apart from the office boys and a couple of clerks, everyone else at the studios exuded a sense of leisure—a prerequisite for poetic pursuits. Most individuals, adorned in khadi and followers of Gandhiji, lacked any significant appreciation for political ideologies. Despite their admiration for Gandhiji, the poets held a strong aversion to the term ‘Communism.’ In their view, a Communist was perceived as a godless individual devoid of familial or conjugal love, willing to harm even their own parents or children, and constantly seeking to instigate unrest and violence among innocent and ignorant people. These prevailing notions, common in South India at the time, also vaguely circulated among the khadi-clad poets of Gemini Studios, and soon, evidence of this perspective became apparent.
Explanation & Glossary:
The seventh paragraph of “Poets and Pancakes” narrates the visit of Frank Buchman’s Moral Re-Armament (MRA) army to Madras in 1952 & the cultural exchange between the MRA army and Gemini Studios, raising questions about the intentions of the big bosses in Madras and their alignment with the MRA’s anti-Communist stance. It also illustrates the influence of the MRA plays on the local drama community in Madras.
- Frank Buchman’s Moral Re-Armament (MRA): An international moral and spiritual movement founded by Frank Buchman in the 1930s. It aimed to promote moral and ethical values as a response to the challenges posed by Communism.
- Gemini Studios as Hosts: Gemini Studios warmly hosted the MRA army, which consisted of around two hundred members. The author describes the group as an “international circus,” highlighting their diverse backgrounds.
- Plays Presented by MRA: The MRA group presented two plays, ‘Jotham Valley’ and ‘The Forgotten Factor,’ in a professional manner. Despite not excelling in acrobatics or having a deep connection with animals, they impressed the audience with their theatrical performances.
- Impact on Madras and Tamil Drama Community: The MRA plays left a lasting impact on Madras and the Tamil drama community. The plays’ messages were described as plain and simple homilies, but the sets and costumes were of high quality.
- Influence on Tamil Plays: The paragraph mentions that, influenced by the MRA plays, many Tamil plays for some years incorporated scenes of sunrise and sunset, featuring a bare stage, a white background curtain, and a tune played on the flute.
- MRA as a Counter-Movement to Communism: The author later learned that the MRA was perceived as a counter-movement to international Communism. However, there is uncertainty about whether big bosses in Madras, such as Mr. Vasan, played into their hands intentionally.
- Big Bosses of Madras: The paragraph questions whether the big bosses of Madras truly aligned with the MRA’s goals, suggesting skepticism about whether the MRA had a significant impact on the unchangeable aspects of these big bosses and their enterprises.
- Gemini Studios Staff Hosting MRA: The staff of Gemini Studios enjoyed hosting the MRA army, which brought a refreshing change from the routine of dealing with crowd players in the makeup department.
In 1952, when Frank Buchman’s Moral Re-Armament (MRA) army, consisting of around two hundred members, visited Madras, Gemini Studios proved to be a particularly warm and accommodating host in India. Described by some as an international circus, the group may not have excelled on the trapeze, and their familiarity with animals was limited to the dinner table, but they presented two plays with remarkable professionalism. Their productions, “Jotham Valley” and “The Forgotten Factor,” ran multiple shows in Madras, drawing the admiration of the city’s residents, including the six hundred members of the Gemini family who watched the plays repeatedly. Although the plays’ messages were typically straightforward and offered simple moral lessons, the sets and costumes were of high quality. The Tamil drama community and the people of Madras were deeply impressed, influencing the staging of many Tamil plays for years to come. The trend included scenes of sunrise and sunset inspired by “Jotham Valley,” featuring a bare stage, a white background curtain, and a flute melody. It was only later that the narrator learned that the MRA functioned as a counter-movement to international Communism, and some prominent figures in Madras, like Mr. Vasan, inadvertently played into their hands. However, the narrator remains uncertain whether this was genuinely the case, as the unalterable characteristics of the influential figures and their enterprises in Madras persisted, unaffected by the presence or absence of the MRA or international Communism. The staff at Gemini Studios enjoyed hosting the diverse group of two hundred individuals, representing at least twenty nationalities, a refreshing change from the usual routine of crowd players awaiting makeup application in the makeup department.
Explanation & Glossary:
The eighth paragraph of “Poets and Pancakes” narrates another visit to Gemini Studios, this time by an English visitor, who is initially introduced as a poet but is later revealed to be an editor. A sense of anticipation and curiosity regarding the English visitor, emphasise the limited literary knowledge of the Gemini Studios staff and their speculation about the visitor’s identity based on the context of the reception and The Boss’s role as the editor of Ananda Vikatan.
- English Visitor: The big bosses of Madras, including Vasan, receive a call, and Gemini Studios prepares to welcome a visitor from England, initially described as a poet.
- Poets Known to Gemini Staff: The Gemini Studios staff, considered simple in their literary knowledge, were familiar with poets like Wordsworth and Tennyson. Some more literate individuals knew of Keats, Shelley, and Byron, and a few might have heard of Eliot.
- Reception for the Visitor: The Boss, Vasan, arranges a big reception for the English visitor. Vasan is also mentioned as the editor of the popular Tamil weekly Ananda Vikatan.
- Visitor Revealed as an Editor: The initial description of the visitor as a poet is corrected, and it is revealed that he is an editor. The reason for the grand reception is linked to The Boss (Vasan) being the editor of Ananda Vikatan.
- Known British Publications: The Gemini Studios staff speculates about the visitor’s identity, considering known British publications in Madras. However, since the top men of The Hindu were taking the initiative, there is a suggestion that the visitor might be the editor of a daily, but not from prestigious British publications like The Manchester Guardian or the London Times.
- Limited Information: The paragraph concludes by noting that even the most well-informed individuals at Gemini Studios had limited information about the visitor, leaving an air of mystery surrounding his identity.
A few months later, the prominent figures in Madras received buzzing telephone lines, prompting Gemini Studios to clear an entire shooting stage for the arrival of another visitor. The only information provided was that he was a poet from England. The simple staff at Gemini Studios were familiar with English poets like Wordsworth and Tennyson, and the more literate among them knew of Keats, Shelley, Byron, and perhaps faintly recognized someone named Eliot. The mystery surrounding the visiting poet deepened when it was revealed, “He is not a poet. He is an editor. That’s why The Boss is giving him a big reception.” Mr. Vasan, The Boss, also served as the editor of the popular Tamil weekly, Ananda Vikatan, rather than any well-known British publication in Madras according to the Gemini Studios staff. Given the involvement of top executives from The Hindu, it was speculated that the visitor, despite being described as a poet, was actually the editor of a daily newspaper—though not from reputed publications like The Manchester Guardian or the London Times. This limited information was the extent of the knowledge even among the most well-informed individuals at the studio.
Explanation & Glossary:
The ninth paragraph of “Poets and Pancakes” recounts and captures the bewilderment and uncertainty surrounding the visit of the English poet or editor, highlighting the disconnect between the subject matter of the visit and the nature of the film studio’s work and audience. The incongruity of the situation adds an element of humor and confusion to the narrative.
- Arrival of the Poet/Editor: The poet or editor arrives at Gemini Studios around four in the afternoon. He is described as tall, very English, and very serious. Despite his stature, he is unknown to the Gemini Studios staff.
- The Boss’s Speech: The Boss, Vasan, delivers a long speech on the shooting stage, battling with pedestal fans. The speech is characterized by its generality, and The Boss seems to know little about the poet or editor.
- General Terms and Key Words: The Boss’s speech is filled with general terms, but words like “freedom” and “democracy” are scattered throughout.
- The Poet’s Speech: The poet then speaks, addressing a dazed and silent audience. His accent makes it challenging for the audience to understand him, and the content of his speech remains unclear.
- Duration of the Event: The entire event, including The Boss’s speech and the poet’s address, lasts about an hour.
- Bafflement and Dispersal: After the poet leaves, the audience disperses in utter bafflement. The paragraph reflects the collective confusion of the Gemini Studios staff about the purpose of the visit and the incongruity of an English poet or editor discussing English poetry in a film studio making Tamil films for a less literate audience.
- Unexplained Mystery: The poet’s visit becomes an unexplained mystery, leaving everyone, including the poet himself, puzzled about the purpose and relevance of his talk in a film studio focused on making films for a simpler audience.
Finally, around four in the afternoon, the poet (or editor) arrived at Gemini Studios. A tall and very English man, he exuded seriousness and was completely unfamiliar to everyone present. Amidst the whirring of half a dozen pedestal fans on the shooting stage, The Boss delivered a lengthy speech. It became evident that even he had scant information about the poet (or editor). The speech consisted of vague, general terms, occasionally sprinkled with words like ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy.’ When the poet took the floor, he faced a thoroughly bewildered and silent audience—no one comprehended his discourse, hindered by both the unfamiliarity of the subject matter and the challenge of deciphering his accent. The entire event lasted about an hour, after which the poet departed, leaving everyone dispersed and utterly bewildered. Questions lingered: Why were they there? What was an English poet doing in a film studio that produced Tamil films for a primarily uncomplicated audience? The poet himself appeared perplexed, recognizing the sheer incongruity of discussing the experiences and challenges of an English poet in that setting. His visit remained an unexplained mystery.
Explanation & Glossary:
The tenth paragraph of “Poets and Pancakes” reflects on the nature of prose-writing and introduces the writer Stephen Spender, who visited Gemini Studios. It introduces the significant moment when the author discovers the connection between The Encounter contest and Stephen Spender, who had previously visited Gemini Studios. The reference to “singing the same song” metaphorically underscores the shared passion for storytelling and creativity.
- Prose-Writing and Genius: The author expresses a conviction that prose-writing is not the true pursuit of a genius. Instead, it is described as a task for the patient, persistent, persevering drudge, emphasizing the need for resilience and a heart that is unbreakable by rejection slips.
- Rejection Slips: Rejection slips, which are common in the world of writing, are portrayed as inconsequential to the determined writer who perseveres despite setbacks.
- Announcement in The Hindu: The Hindu newspaper published a small announcement in an insignificant corner of an unimportant page about a short story contest organized by The Encounter, a British periodical.
- Unknown Status of The Encounter: The Gemini literati were not familiar with The Encounter. Before submitting a manuscript to the contest, the author wanted to understand the periodical.
- British Council Library: The author visits the British Council Library to gather information about The Encounter. The library is described as having no intimidating signboards, making it an accessible space for readers.
- Discovery of The Encounter: The Encounter copies in the library were almost untouched by readers. When the author reads the editor’s name, it triggers a memory of the poet who visited Gemini Studios.
- Bell Ringing in the Heart: The editor of The Encounter is revealed to be Stephen Spender, the poet who visited Gemini Studios. This realization brings a sense of connection, and the author feels like they have found a long-lost brother.
- Singing the Same Song: The author imagines that both he and Stephen Spender, as long-lost brothers of Indian films, are singing the same song at the same time—symbolically connecting in their pursuit of literature and art.
- Stephen Spender: The paragraph concludes by revealing the editor’s name as Stephen Spender.
My conviction strengthens day by day, despite the great prose-writers of the world possibly not admitting it, that prose writing isn’t and cannot be the true pursuit of a genius. It appears more suited for the patient, persistent drudge with an unbreakable heart—rejection slips mean nothing to them. They promptly produce a fresh copy of the lengthy prose piece, send it to another editor, and enclose postage for the manuscript’s return. For individuals of this nature, The Hindu published a small announcement in an inconspicuous corner of an unimportant page—an invitation to a short story contest organized by the British periodical, The Encounter. Although The Encounter was unfamiliar to the literati at Gemini Studios, I hesitated to send a manuscript to England without first understanding the periodical. The British Council Library, devoid of verbose signboards, offered me a chance to explore copies of The Encounter, almost untouched by readers.
When I came across the editor’s name, a bell rang in my shrunken heart. It was the poet who had visited Gemini Studios, and I felt like I had found a long-lost brother. With joy, I sealed the envelope and wrote out his address, envisioning that he too might be singing a similar tune at the same time. It seemed like long-lost brothers of Indian films discovered each other by singing the same song in the first and final reels of the film. The editor’s name was Stephen Spender, and I was delighted to connect a name to the poet who had left a lasting impression during his visit to Gemini Studios.
Explanation & Glossary:
The eleventh paragraph of “Poets and Pancakes” narrates the author’s later years outside of Gemini Studios. This paragraph unfolds the author’s post-Gemini Studios experiences, emphasizing his financial constraints and the unexpected discovery of a book that leads to a significant revelation about Stephen Spender’s connection with Gemini Studios. The reference to “The God That Failed” highlights the disillusionment experienced by intellectuals with Communism, including Spender., where he discovers a book on the footpath, leading to a revelation about Stephen Spender.
- Post-Gemini Studios Era: The author reflects on the period after leaving Gemini Studios when he had more time but limited financial resources.
- Attracted to Reduced Prices: Being financially constrained, the author becomes attentive to anything available at a reduced price.
- Discovery on the Footpath: On the footpath in front of the Madras Mount Road Post Office, the author finds a pile of brand new books priced at fifty paise each.
- Book Details: The books are copies of the same American-origin paperback, labeled as a ‘Special low-priced student edition’ in connection with the 50th Anniversary of the Russian Revolution.
- The God That Failed: The author purchases a copy of the book titled “The God That Failed.” It features six eminent men of letters, each describing their journeys into Communism and their disillusioned return. The notable contributors include Andre Gide, Richard Wright, Ignazio Silone, Arthur Koestler, Louis Fischer, and Stephen Spender.
- Significance of Stephen Spender: The discovery of Stephen Spender among the contributors gives the book tremendous significance for the author. Spender, the poet who had visited Gemini Studios, becomes a focal point of interest.
- Illumination in the Mind: The author experiences a moment of realization and connection as a hazy illumination lights up a dark chamber of his mind. The reaction to Stephen Spender at Gemini Studios is no longer a mystery.
- The Boss’s Connection: The Boss of Gemini Studios may not have been associated with Spender’s poetry, but the revelation suggests a connection with Spender’s ideas or experiences expressed in “The God That Failed.”
Years later, after leaving Gemini Studios with ample time but limited funds, anything offered at a reduced price captured my attention. On the footpath in front of the Madras Mount Road Post Office, a stack of brand-new books priced at fifty paise each caught my eye. These were copies of the same book, an elegant American paperback labeled as a ‘Special low-priced student edition, in connection with the 50th Anniversary of the Russian Revolution.’ Intrigued, I paid fifty paise and acquired a copy of “The God That Failed.” This book featured essays by six eminent men of letters describing ‘their journeys into Communism and their disillusioned return.’ Among them were Andre Gide, Richard Wright, Ignazio Silone, Arthur Koestler, Louis Fischer, and, notably, Stephen Spender.
The revelation that Stephen Spender had contributed to this collection brought a sudden and profound significance to the book. The poet who had once visited Gemini Studios was now connected to a broader narrative. A previously mysterious reaction to Stephen Spender at Gemini Studios began to make sense. It was evident that The Boss of Gemini Studios might not have had much interest in Spender’s poetry, but the connection was unmistakable—Spender’s exploration of a ‘god that failed’ resonated beyond the confines of the studio.