-A real “reel” experience with the film YODHA
“It is a beautiful country”, a Buddhist nun introduced me to Nepal at Aurobindo ashram, Delhi in February, 2011, where I was staying for the interview I had to attend at Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan Headquarters for recruitment to foreign schools. With her rich exposure to various cultures and people, her remark had an originality which I was looking for. KVS Headquarters is at Shaheed Jeet Singh Marg, walkable distance from Aurobindo ashram. It was the ambience of the ashram that determined my choice. I was happy that I could meet people from various walks of life there.(Aurobindo ashram, delhi)
Delhi has always been lucky for me and I had planned to spend a couple of days even after the interview. I always make it a point to visit Birla House at Tees January Marg where the Mahatma was assassinated. The cement footprints of the Mahatma and the green lawn make me nostalgic. I feel a dejavu effect whenever I go there.
(The Mahatma’s footprints at Birla House)
Visiting Ghalib’s Haveli was a long cherished dream. I could make it through the narrow and crowded galis to Ballimaran and all through, the ibteda by Gulzar in his mesmerizing baritone kept ringing in my mind, “ballimaran ke mahalle ki wo pecheeda daleelon ki si galiyaan…”
(Ghalib’s haveli at Ballimaran)
The Jain hospital for birds was the next in my agenda. The idea was so novel and amusing and I spent some valuable time talking to the doctor and the director. How curious my students were when I had given them a copy of a newspaper report of the hospital.
Chandni Chowk has many massive structures dominating the skyline and I didn’t want to miss the Gurudwara on my way to Ballimaran. Coincidentially, it was the prayer time and I could attend it with the large number of devotees thronging the shrine.
Two days after my return to Bangalore, the interview result flashed on the KVS website. I can go to Kathmandu.
‘YODHA’ the Malayalam film that served like a window to Nepal was my first image of Nepal when I was studying in class X. For a Keralite, Yodha and Nepal are like synonyms.
Air India flight took off from Bangalore Airport and within a few minutes it could grab the city in its claws and then on it searched only for the runway at Delhi. Like a kite, it could spot it and land. The world of Terminal 3 is a refreshing wayside tavern for passengers.
The flight to Kathmandu spread its wings at around 1.00 pm and my heart beat became one with the German couple’s sitting next to me at the aerial view of the Himalayan ranges. Since borders are only on the earth, I couldn’t exactly make out when we crossed over to another country.Tribhuvan airport became familiar as I remembered Mohanlal landing at the airport in the movie YODHA.
Baggages flowed like paper boats on the security belt. I used to have great fun floating them with my cousin sisters in the Kerala monsoon.
School staff welcomed me with bouquet and then to Lazimpat…
Almost all houses are made of brick here. My eyes were searching for KUTTIMAMA’s house in the film YODHA, Mohanlal’s uncle’s house. I knew it is almost impossible to spot that house. Nobody seemed to be interested in such things, quite natural. But a passionate longing culminates in fulfillment through incredible and miraculous turn of events; I have experienced it quite often. When I asked google for a list of hotels in Kathmandu, there appeared a video clip of Astoria Hotel. I jumped with joy after going through the clip. It is Kuttimama’s house, I am sure. I watched the scene from the movie where Mohanlal comes to that house for the first time and compared it with the video clip. My colleague Rajyodaya Mainali gave me more information about the location of the hotel. So surprising, hardly five minutes walk from my school and opposite to the house of one of my colleagues! On an evening, I walked the gali next to Hotel Shangrila with my colleague Sri Narayana Dhas to Hotel Astoria. The house stood as if it has been waiting for me to discover and popularize its filmy identity. It is not a hotel but a school now. I requested the security guard and opening the gate walked towards the main door. “Kuttimama..” did I call out?
I entered the house and stood with goosebumps. This moment would never come again. The sole credit of finding the house goes to none but me. Pure insight and clairvoyance. Thanks to Dhas sir for capturing the moments on my camera. A long cherished dream came true. Now anyone who wants to look for KUTTIMAMA HOUSE can type the same on www.youtube.com and find the video uploaded by me.
I am happy that those who come to the embassy with similar craze for movies reach me for guidance on YODHA locations.
Another important location of the movie is Swayambhu where on the steps leading to the stupa Mohanlal and Jagathy gave their best with their unparalleled chemistry for humour. You can find many Buddhist children with shaved heads wearing the bhikku’s attire.
I remembered the boy who is the central character in the movie YODHA. Yes, our AKOSOTO, Unnikkuttan! Where will he be?
I am very fond of ethnic wears. I still keep a special kurta from Bengal which has on it the lines from a famous poem by Rabindranath Tagore. My next search was for the jacket that Mohanlal wears in the movie. Since I didn’t know the name of the jacket, no shopkeeper could help me. Disappointed, one evening I entered one of the shops opposite Hotel Shangrila asking for the jacket. The shopkeeper kept varieties of jackets before me. But that wasn’t there. I tried to explain it in my own way and biting his lips and with a frown; he took out an old packet. Yes, it was there. Mohanlal’s jacket! Same colour, same design! Wow! I couldn’t believe my eyes. He sighed in relief seeing my joyous outburst.
“Sir, this is called butterfly jacket. It’s an outdated fashion. May be twenty years old fashion. You won’t find it anywhere because it is not made nowadays.”
I tried it and understood that the jacket too was twenty years old. He had only three in stock and I grabbed all of them. Another dream came true. Incredible!
(with the shopkeeper)
On my evening walk in Lazimpat wearing the jacket, I stopped to chat with my friend Roopak, who runs a small shop next to Hotel Gangjong. Seeing my jacket, he shouted, “Mohanlal’s dress in YODHA”. I stood frozen.
(with Roopak at his shop in Lazimpat) A Nepali knows about Mohanlal and Yodha!!Unbelievable! Roopak used to work in Dubai where he had many friends from Kerala. I enquired about the boy who plays AKOSOTO in the movie and Roopak said with conviction that he must be a boy from some Buddhist monastery. The conversation went on and came to a man who kidnaps the boy on a bridge in the movie. At once came Roopak’s words that made all the difference, “Yubaraj Lama”.
I remembered the “Thanks to Yubaraj Lama” slide in the beginning of the movie. Roopak also added that the old man who trains Mohanlal in martial arts is none other than the popular Gopal Bhutani who passed away a few months back.(Gopal Bhutani)
I rushed home and searched for Yubaraj Lama on the net and found his website and pics. Yes, the same person, same eyes, but no long hair, has put on some weight. I searched him on facebook and found his account. At once I sent him a message about my YODHA pursuits. My eyes fell on another face on his page, a young boy’s. It was his son Siddharth Lama. I recollected the name of the boy Master Siddharth who played Akosoto in the movie. I looked at his picture and found the same naughty eyes.
It suddenly occurred to me that I should contact the director of the movie Sri Sangeeth Sivan. Fortunately, I could find him on facebook. I sent him with pictures and video links the story of my experiments and miracles with YODHA. Quick came his reply, “I never knew my film had such a crazy fan”. I asked him about Yubaraj Lama and Siddharth and got confirmation that it was Siddharth who played Akosoto. My computer keys turned into piano keys…now the sopranos of a dream come true. Sangeeth Sivan also wanted me to give him their contact details as he has lost touch with them but has been trying hard. I sent him the facebook link and email id of Yubaraj Lama. The next day Sangeeth Sivan tweeted on twitter, “I found the boy Akosoto. Thanks to a crazy fan based at Kathmndu.”
I too wrote on my blog: “Eureka, I found the boy who played Akosoto in YODHA”.
We are mere instruments for certain things to happen. Then you would witness miracles overnight. I informed my friend Kailashnath Iyer about it and he was thrilled at this achievement. He called me up after a few hours with news anyone would love to hear, “Tomorrow at 5.00 pm we are going to meet Siddharth Lama. I took an appointment”. My heart leaped and I can’t wait any more.
JULY, 4TH, 2011
Habeeb came home by 4.15 pm. His super splendor sped past the traffic congestion at Jamal, Makhan Tole towards Sano Pashupati near Durbar Marg. Kailashji was waiting at his textile shop.
His car took us to Sports Council. On the way, picked Jairajettan(Sri Jairaj Menon) from his office. There on the first floor of the building in a dusty cubicle sat Siddharth working on the computer. Looking at my butterfly jacket, his eyes lit up with happiness. We hugged each other. I called him AKOSOTO….and asked him,
“do you remember this dress?”
he said, “yes”.
I asked, “who wears it, tell me?”
He said with a smile not very different from the smile that has stolen the heart of every Malayalee and made him so dear to us, “Mohanlal”. He asked us to be seated in the next room. An attendant took us there. The chamber of Yubaraj Lama, his father and the member secretary of National Sports Council. His photo alongwith the political leaders was hung in the room. There was a round table at the right hand corner as we entered. Three of us sat down sighing out our initial enthusiasm in meeting the boy. Suddenly came in Yubaraj Lama and we were surprised as it was unexpected. A nice gentleman in an off white suit with a blue shirt, the beads on his left wrist speaks how devoted a follower he is of Buddhism. Siddharth followed his dad into the room. We looked at AKOSOTO and the shy smile and the naughty eyes took us back to 20 years. He was wearing a white shirt and a black trouser. We took snaps with them one after the other and then sat down to talk.
(Kailashnath Iyer, Akosoto and me)( Akosoto, Habeeb, Me, Kailashji, Yubaraj Lama, Jayetan)
Kailashji and Jayettan told them,
“Santhosh is a diehard fan of yours. It is for him that we are here and for all the Malayalees who love you so much even today. We know that we disturbed you from your busy schedule but Santhosh would have suffered a heart attack if the appointment didn’t work today.”
The father and son looked at me with an impressive smile. Yubaraj Lama reminisced the days of YODHA and to our surprise said that most of the scenes in the second half of the movie were shot in Kerala. It was Mohanlal who took care of them when they were staying at a hotel in Chennai.
“Mohan used to come morning and evening to attend to us at the hotel. And you know, people at the hotel were having a tough time thinking about the reason a super star visiting us twice at the hotel! And you know, some among the staff would just knock in asking “sir, do you need anything?” only to have a glimpse of Mohanlal. We went to Calicut for shooting. Mohan used to take care of us so well. He is such a nice person being a good actor too. We learnt a lot working with the crew. Our perception of Indians changed from negative to positive. Meeting the people of South changed our attitude completely. They are so gentle, warm and well behaved. When the crew came to Kathmandu for the shooting, I was not very interested in working for the film as I thought it would be like any other industry. Gopal Bhutani urged me again and again saying “they are really good. Just meet them once….i know you would like them…I am sure….please” and I agreed and found it true. Their work culture impressed me and inspired me. Then they were looking for a child who can play Rimpoche in the movie…They saw about 30 to 40 kids and were not very impressed. Again, Gopal Bhutani suggested pointing towards me “he has a son…why don’t you see him”?
Yubaraj Lama’s expressions and gestures were very refined and precise. He is quite unlike the usual celebrities, a very gentle and sensible person. Very wise and choosey in words.
“how old were you at that time?” asked Kailashji
“ seven….or eight years….ya eight years”, said Siddharth while his dad looked at him for confirmation to continue the narration.
“After the release of yodha, have you visited Kerala?’ asked Kailashji again.
“No” said Siddharth, while a staff brought an envelope for Yubaraj Lama and he kept perusing it. We relished the black tea looking at Siddharth and he continued smiling playing with the mobile in his hand. “But you are a superhero there yaar…”
“I still carry the clips of the movie on my laptop” said Siddharth
Yubaraj Lama continued from where he stopped and shared how he too helped in developing the script for the movie.
Infact, I had said the same to Kailashji on our journey to meet him. They looked at me when I said that I felt so.
“Did you have any bitter experience with the crew?” I asked
“No….never” said Yubaraj Lama with great conviction.
“Because you never responded when I sent you the mail. When I didn’t find your response, I felt so”
“No ….i am stil in touch with Mohan and Santosh(sivan)”.
We could sense his busy schedule and decided to stop for the day. Again the camera lights flashed on their face…I told them that I had a tough time finding the butterfly jacket and Yubaraj complimented me saying , “and You look good in this dress”.
“We don’t want him to grow up. He is still the same akosoto for us”. I told Yubaraj, and both of them laughed.
We took leave of them after informing them about the activities of kerala samajam at Kathmandu.
Well spent day…
I was thinking about that mysterious power that brings Mohanlal’s character in the movie from Kerala to Kathmandu and accidentally gets him connected to the boy and the Buddhist customs. Today, not only mine, the dreams of many have come true. Akosoto is a household name in Kerala and it would be no less than a celebration for them to know about the boy’s present. I feel, it is the climax of a movie that has been running within me and through me beyond what happened on screen.
Who knows what all miracles that mysterious power is keeping in store for me?
–Santhosh Kumar Kana
( i have referred to the kid as AKOSOTO though he is called Unnikuttan in the movie. He is more popular as AKOSOTO as it is a slip when he addresses Mohanlal’s character Asoketan. Siddharth is presently working for an NGO fighting against drug abuse)
(Sri Yubaraj Lama and Siddharth Lama were the chief guests for Kathmandu Kerala Samajam’s Onam celebration on 03.09.2011 at Agarwal Bhavan, Kamal Pokhari, Kathmandu) Watch the news coverage on surya tv: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bf8qBcv1fQowatch my interview with Siddharth Lama on youtube: http://somatmika.blogspot.com/2012/05/yodha-3-kathmandu-to-kerala.html You can watch “interview” with me on Asianet TV channel on the show FOODPATH here (three episodes at Yodha locations in Kathmandu): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zYO_VBf1v1Y (episode-1) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZmpFIUYs0P0&feature=youtu.be (episode-2) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dDYNHHEJfS0&feature=youtu.be (episode-3) Also read the Malayalam version of this travelogue written by me and published in Mathrubhumi YATHRA magazine: http://www.mathrubhumi.com/yathra/theme_tourism/offtrack/article/300615/index.html Here are the news paper reports about this miracle in various dailies:
DESHABHIMANI Naattuvishesham Read the series of journeys after this with YODHA on this same blog: http://somatmika.blogspot.com/2011/12/yodha-2-my-journey-continues.html (YODHA-2)to the Kerala locations of YODHA: http://somatmika.blogspot.com/2012/05/yodha-3-kathmandu-to-kerala.html (YODHA-3)