Poets and Pancakes - Summary

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Poets and Pancakes Introduction

The Gemini Studios of Madras was one of India's pioneering and prominent film-producing organisations of India. It was established in the 1940s. The intelligent and talented S.S. Vasan founded it, it had a staff of over 600 people. The Pancake was a make-up brand used by the Gemini Studios. Sahitya Academy award-winning Tamil writer Ashokamitran worked for the Gemini Studios from 1952 to 1966. The chapter Poet and Pancakes was taken from “My Years with Boss’ written by Asokamitran. Through this story, Asokamitran talks about many notions about the film industry, particularly in India.

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Summary of Poets and Pancakes

The story “Poets and Pancakes” is a passage from Asokamitran’s book “My Years with Boss”. Asokamitran talks about his days at the Gemini Studio. The Gemini Studio produced many films, which impacted the aspect of Indian life. Here Asokamitran talks about a trendy make-up brand named Pancake. This material was bought and used in the studio. He also names the few actresses who used the brand. The Gemini studios used the pancake brand excessively and ordered truckloads of their commodities. 

He later expresses the dilemma of actors and actresses who had to bear extremely bright lights on their faces while getting ready in the make-up room. The make-up department, according to him, used too much make-up to transform them into ugly-looking people. 

He talks about the office boy whose task was to slap paint onto the faces of the players at the time of crowd-shooting. He states that the office boy once yearned to be a director, actor, screenwriter, or a lyricist. However, he blamed his disgrace on Subbu. 

In those days, the author worked inside a cubicle and had the job of gathering newspaper cuttings which, according to others, was unimportant. Thus, the office boy would come to bother him with his complaints. The office boy was probably jealous of Subbu’s growth. Subbu was very close to his boss. When the boss had any problem in doing a scene in a film, Subbus could recommend several practical ideas. As Subbu was Brahmin, the author thought he had the upper hand. Though Subbu was always beside his boss, he was also a member of the story department. Besides poets and writers in the story department, there existed a lawyer too. Formally he was known as legal adviser. However, people called him the opposite of it. Once the legal adviser unconsciously destroyed the career of a talented actress. 

In the story of Poet and Pancakes, the narrator talks about another guest who visited Gemini Studio. He was an Englishman. Some thought him to be a poet or an editor. 

The Boss, Mr Vasan, greeted the Englishman. He read out a long speech expressing freedom and democracy. Then the Englishman conversed. His accent baffled everyone. They could not understand the purpose of his visit, and it remained a mystery. 

Years later, when the writer left the Gemini studios, he did not have much money but had much free time. So, discounted goods on sale interested him. Once the writer came across a book which had six essays written by six famous men who wrote about communalism. The authors of the book were Richard Wright, Louis Fischer and Stephen Spender. As the writer read Stephen’s name, it reminded him of the days when Spenders visited Gemini Studios. 

Finally, in the summary of poets and pancakes, we can see the notions of the film industry, particularly in India.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Question 1. Discuss the Humour and Satire of Asokamitran in the Chapter “Poets and Pancakes”?

Answer: In the chapter, ‘Poets and Pancakes’, Asokamitran uses subtle humour and satire to highlight human characteristics. Frivolous professional differences not only grasp our minds but also bring out a subtle witticism that is spontaneous without being redundant. The characterisation of the office boy, Subbu and the legal advisor, had detailed impressions of humour. Asokamitran’s spontaneous style of talking changes thoughts quickly. For example, he makes fun of the make-up applied to artists which changes any decent looking person into a monster. Such references entreat laughter. The author’s tone of parody is a  scantiest trace of a joke, which is most praiseworthy.

Question 2. What are the Reasons to Describe Subbu as a Versatile Genius? Present a Reasoned Statement.

Answer: The author Asokamitran’s depicts the character of Kothamangalam Subbu as ridicule who are not talented but manage to build an emanation of talent around themselves. In the department of Gemini Studios, he was always with the boss. Subbu directs all his powers and creativity to his boss’ approval. He probes into the various fields of film-making successfully proffering the impression of being a talented actor, a brilliant story-writer and a man who is forever ready with any solutions for any query. He presents the art of film-making that seems easy for his boss. Thus Subbu with his tricky nature takes advantage of his boss’ gullibility and passes himself as a versatile genius.

Question 3. How was the Moral Re-Armament Army Greeted at the Gemini Studios?

Answer: The Moral Re-Armament Army of Frank Buchman visited Madras in 1952 with a group of two hundred people belonging to twenty nationalities. The MRA was witnessed to be a counter-movement to international communism. Though the people at Gemini Studios did not think deeply about communist and communism. However, Mr Vasan, the boss of Gemini Studios, was fascinated by the MRA, and so they were warmly welcomed. The MRA performed two plays “The Forgotten Facto” and “Jotham Valley’’ in the most professional manner. People of the Gemini Studios saw the plays several times. The plays of MRA conveyed simple messages, but their sets and costumes were ‘preeminent’. They impressed both the Gemini studios and the Tamil drama society. The sunset and sunrise scenes of ‘Jotham Valley’ were played for many years.