Story of a lost journalist

October 15, 2021

Wish I pestered Job Kurian for Nedumudi

Filed under: People — Cris @ 13:04
Tags: ,

Why didn’t I try harder to meet him, take a nice long interview by the sea and write it with blocks for each of his arts. Block one could be the mystery, describing him in pronouns as the wonder of wonders who could create magic with just about anything he did. Block two could be the revealer, that I am talking about a man called Nedumudi Venu who lived for seven decades and three years in Kerala, my home. Block three could be about his childhood, discovering his love for the stage. Next block for his theatre days with Kavalam. One block, a miniscule one, for his journalism days, although I am really curious about this one – this is the part where we collide, he and I. A block for his drumming and another for his folk songs. Three blocks will not be enough for his movies – 500 plus said Wikipedia, and so wrote all the media when he died last Monday, I did too.

(Deep sigh). And finally, a block for the person he was although the above paras would have covered that in many different ways. Art has a way of exposing the artist doesn’t it, I always think so.

I can’t remember when I first learnt his name. I might have pointed at the man drumming alongside Mohanlal in Chithram and asked who he was. Or I probably just picked up the name from adults blabbering around me, the way children pick up words and names. One just somehow always knew the name of Nedumudi. Poor man and his parcel of talents was always a part of the package. Expected. Taken for granted. “Of course it was good, it was Nedumudi” – like it needs no further explanation. True, but he missed paragraphs of detailing that’s more the norm now.

I mentioned Chithram possibly because I could remember Amma mentioning his minute expressions in a goosebumpy scene in the movie. Mohanlal and he have a row over money and the hero walks away disgruntled. It was funny bickering but the music grows mellow when Lal leaves. When he comes back after a grand peck from the heroine, Nedumudi stands with a knowing expression on his face. It’s priceless. You have to see it.

The next thing I noticed was his voice. It was very timid, I don’t know if you can call a voice that. But it came with an undertone of pleading, like the sweet whining of a puppy. You heard it and you had to give in. Movies in reference – His Highness Abdullah, Ente Mohangal Poovaninju, Aaranyakam. You can’t say no to it, can you. Oh yes you can, he has just been taking you for a ride there in that one movie (meaning many such). For in the next one, the same sweet voice freezes, like it just turned into ice beneath, and he will be a mean man you clench your teeth watching. He is horrible in Chembakulam Thachan and Thakara, turns vicious with time in Vandanam and Ee Thanutha Veluppankalathu. He remains adorable in Aaranyakam (yes I am repeating) and Oru Minnaminunginte Nurunguvettam, funny in Chithram and Midhunam, cool in Orkapurathu, mystic in Sarvakalasala and pathetic in Bharatham. Rasas probably don’t end with nine for Nedumudi.

Next to the sound of waves in Kovalam, he could tell me like he told Parvathy in Swagatham, about his past. I am still talking about that interview that didn’t happen despite a few futile attempts over the phone. The last time it was on a train journey, when I shuttled every weekend between Kochi and Trivandrum. He returned a call I made just when the train was passing through a bad network area. I took the call to the door side thinking somehow the open air will bring in some waves. “We can do it some other time, I am a little busy now,” he said the same answer he has been telling me every time I rang. The only time he spoke a few words was when Kavalam died and I asked for his quote. “I wouldn’t normally want to speak about this on the phone but you need this urgently so I will tell you.” That must have been the quaint memories of once being a journalist simmering him.

I wonder if he didn’t like being photographed too. Once, much earlier, when I began as a reporter for a web portal, I went to take his photo. My colleague had done his interview and he asked me to get the photo at the Arts College where Nedumudi was shooting. I took him out of a classroom he was resting at between work, brought out my basic digital camera and made him stand against a wall. It was really bad light, and I was horrible with pictures. I asked him for a few more, making him stand a little further there, or here. He was losing his patience. “Mathi” he said. Enough. “I have shooting.” Jagadish, another actor I had to photograph, came to the rescue. He got Nedumudi to pose in fancy ways, ways that will suit an interview and they promptly went up on our portal.

But he was grandeous in his speech the very first time I saw him. It was not just for me, of course. It was a big hall full of noisy teenagers. A school fest was on and scores of uniformed girls and boys from city schools got packed into a large hall, hooting and whistling and cheering all the wrong people. Nedumudi was the chief guest and he came with that default friendly face, looked at us and said we were the age of his child. He patted us with his words, I thought then.

Once, when Job Kurian told me during an interview that he lived next door to Nedumudi, I had made a note in my mind to later pester Job to help me reach him. I let the note slip away and forgot to pester. I wish I did. I really do. 

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