NSS College, Pandalam, hosts a lot of my childhood memories. As a four year old, I used to run uncontrollably through the corridors of this great institution, along with two other mates of mine. We were the privileged lot because our fathers taught in the NSS College. I can recall that our adventures ended rather abruptly in one evening when we destroyed a giant whale tooth, placed carefully in front of the Zoology lab. Apparently, it was the pride of that lab, given by some old professor who worked in the Indian Ocean, half of his life, studying the flora and fauna of it.
This institution was set up in 1950 by M. Padmanabhan, the renowned leader of the Nair community in Kerala. I have heard many stories about this great man. Ever since its setting up, someone from my family were either part of the student community or faculty in NSS College. My grandmother still has fond memories of this college where she did her BSc. My father taught in this college for years and my Uncle was a student here and now, a Professor in the same department that my father headed at some point of time. So, in several ways, NSS College has a place in my heart that I cannot give to any other institution, even though I never was a student here. In 2009 and in 2011, I was made to take classes to M.A English students here. I obliged both times because it was impossible to resist the guys who used to pamper me as a child.
So, it was with great pleasure that I accepted my Uncle’s invitation to attend a seminar hosted by the Department of Malayalam. The seminar was on films and literature and was named ‘Kottaka’ (the old Malayalam word for ‘talkies/cinema’) by my Uncle.
He was the co-ordinator of the Seminar and demanded a paper from me. I was busy with my own thesis which is quite unrelated to the topic of the seminar but I jumped at the offer just to be part of something that NSS College was conducting. For me, it was not just going back. It was going back with a bang! I wanted it to be the best ever; an experience that I could keep in a corner of my mind, to be cherished forever. I was not going to let anything come between this seminar and me. I selected the topic ‘Magical Realism in Malayalam ‘New-Generation’ Movies’ and began working on it. After sulking and sweating a lot in the library and in the reading rooms of University of Hyderabad, I came up with a solid 15 page paper. It was not exactly a piece of cake but I wouldn’t pretend that it was difficult. I selected three movies and the objective was to differentiate between ‘Magical Realism’ and ‘Fantasy’. From all the reviews I read of movies from all over the world, I have come to the conclusion that more than 60% of the (re)viewers confuse Magical Realism to Fantasy and vice versa. I wanted to prove through the simplest methods possible that both are different and that ‘Magical Realism’ was NOT a ‘genre’.
The three day seminar was a delight. It was inaugurated by acclaimed film director Blessy and was blessed with giants like Sreekumaran Thampi and Sunny Joseph, a noted Cinematographer. Notable film critic C.S. Venketeswaran’s class was one of the most amazing classes I have ever attended in any seminars related to this topic.
Another thing that overwhelmed me was the ‘welcome’ I got from the College, the faculty and the student community. I rode the hill up as nobody but I drove down the third day as someone recognized by everyone above that hill. I was given a very warm welcome by my Father’s former colleagues and students and was made comfortable the moment I reached. I was thrust into quite a few bear-hugs when introduced as ‘Kurup Sir’s Son.’ Several old teachers referred to me as ‘the greatest problem-maker that they have ever seen.’ During the process I also unearthed some stories about myself from my kindergarten days; locking the security guard in the water-tower (the poor man stayed there for a whole night!), jumping from a high ground to a car parked below (it was the Premier Padmini of a much dreaded Principal and I dented the top of it) etc.
My presentation went along well with many other research scholars from other Universities. It was good listening to many papers; ‘Occultism in Movies’, ‘Feminism’, ‘Violence and Sex’ etc. The Department of Malayalam has already started working on bringing out a book containing selected papers. I am looking forward to see my work as a published one.
P.S: It is because of these incidents that I have been away from blogging for a while. I have so many of my favourite bloggers to catch up to. Love you all.
- ‘a very excited’ Manu