'(The Blog) With No Name', perhaps best described as a stream of notes and thoughts - 'remembered, recovered and (sometimes) invented'.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Another Homecoming

I write once more from Kerala.

The day I landed here, I saw a march by Communist Party volunteers. Several hundred red-shirted and quite tough-looking young fellows, each armed with a hefty staff, marched in robustly military order thru rush hour traffic - accomapanied by a band playing 'Ra Ra Rasputin'.

Kerala seems to have achieved a sudden spurt of creativity in the design of scarecrows (evil-eye deflecting effigies) at construction sites. I saw two interesting specimens in close succession yesterday - one was dressed in salwar-kameez and had the usual blackened pot for a face and a challenge scrawled above: "Nokkedaa karinkannaa!" ("stare away, ye evil-eyed scum!"); the other wore a ladies' night-coat and for the head, it had an open black umbrella planted upside down.

Another (alleged) scarecrow is making huge waves among Mallu filmgoers. The more I heard about Santosh Pandit and saw bits of his performances and interviews on the telly (and the nasty comments on him and his work from filmy bigwigs), I was being reminded of a story I read long back in the Readers' Digest volume: "Strange Stories, Amazing Facts". WIth some effort, I found the book and located the piece - it is on the amazing career of Robert Coates, an English theatre actor who flourished 200 years back. Here is what Wiki says about the man:

Robert (Romeo) Coates ... had an unusual career as an ... actor. His self-image included a highly mistaken belief in his own thespian prowess ... His favourite part was Shakespeare's Romeo, hence his widely-used nickname.

Later he appeared in Romeo and Juliet in the part of Romeo – in a costume of his own design. The costume had a flowing cloak with sequins, red pantaloons, a large cravat and a plumed hat – not to mention dozens of diamonds – which was hardly suitable for the part. The audience cracked up with laughter.


Coates was convinced he was the best actor in business – or at least that is what he claimed. He forgot his lines all the time and invented new scenes and dialogue on the spot. He loved dramatic death scenes and would repeat them – or any other scenes he happened to take a fancy to – three to four times over.

Coates claimed that he wanted to improve the classics. At the end of his first appearance as Romeo he came back in with a crowbar and tried to pry open Capulet's tomb. In another of his antics he made the actress playing Juliet so embarrassed that she clung to a pillar and refused to leave the stage. Eventually no actress would agree to play the part with him. The audience usually answered with angered catcalls and embarrassed jeering – and loads of laughter. (But,) his fame spread and people would flock to see whether he really was as bad as they had heard. In 1811, when he played the part of Lothario in The Fair Penitent in London's Haymarket Theatre, the theatre had to turn thousands of would-be spectators away. In another performance in Richmond, Surrey, several audience members had to be treated for excessive laughter...


And here is a bit of news for fans of Chuk and Gek. The Malayalam translation of the story has recently been republished by Matrubhumi - the text is the same as the Russian issue but the illustrations have been redone (the new ones don't compare with Dubinsky's artwork for the old edition).