Thursday, February 3, 2011

Salem - Encounters of the "celebrity" kind

Film and sports personalities visit our hotel, Hotel Gokulam during our long stay hotel in Salem.

During my various tours, I have been fortunate enough to come in contact with several celebrities. Some particular interesting ones happened during my stay at Salem between the years '80 - '81.
This steel city was infact a mid-sized town. It was characterized by 3 road junctions namely, anja roda (5 Road Junction), naal roda (4 Road Junction) and moon roda (3 Road Junction). During the time two hotels were considered "good" - Hotel Gokulam and Hotel National. Hotel -Gokulam, where we stayed was located near "anja roda", while Hotel - National was located at "naal roda".

Out of the two, Hotel Gokulam was a popular destination for film personalities. We even had chance to see some film shooting in this hotel. Salem itself had a film studio while nearby Yercaud is a scenic hill station well suited for outdoor shooting.
I recall one particular incident when a Tamil film was being shot in Salem. The producer, who happened to be an old colleague of MGR was staying at our hotel. The hero was Mr Vijaykant, some people may recall him as being popular as "the poor man's Rajanikant" for their similarity in looks. The Heroine was debutant, a school student from Bangalore. The vamp in this film was the famous Silk Smitha. I had earlier watched her Tamil film "Mun Ram Piraye" which was later remade in Hindi as Saadma.
While Vijaykant was staying in a double bed AC room, on the first floor, I was in a AC single room in ground floor. I think my room no. was 211. The heroine was in room no 212 a non-AC single room with her father where as Silk Smitha  with her hair dresser was in room no 216 - an AC single room. All these rooms were in the same corridor. Room no 215 was occupied by BHEL's Sambshivam.
I noticed that the heroine's father used to stay in the hotel itself entire days, spending his time smoking filter cigarettes. Out of curiosity, or just to give him some company, I broke into a conversation with him one day. I learnt that  though his daughter wanted to become a doctor, she had got a nice break in the films. Later I chanced to see a few of the dance numbers of the heroine shot in National Hotel. I could clearly understand why the father was not invited for shoots. It would not have been easy for the poor soul to see his daughter shaking her legs in skimpy clothes.
One night I was awakened up by loud knocks at my hotel room door. I opened the door only to find a drunk Silk Smitha knocking on all doors in the corridor.  She was trying to walk down to her room hung onto the arms of her hair dresser. Often she would break into a dance in the corridor. I could only pity her for her lonely life inspite of such a large fan following.
One scene of the film was shot in the hotel premises. In that scene the heroine runs away and is chased by the villain's men. A close up shot of each of the men shouting out loud was taken afterwards. In that scene, I was also part of the crowd who were shouting in Tamil, which I learnt meant "maro - maro". Later when I watched the movie I tried hard to locate myself in that 2-3 minute sequence, but could not. I guess this is what is called "getting lost in the crowd"
In that whole experience I came to know how tedious is making a Film, when infact I saw just a small portion of all the work involved.

A Sporting Angle
During our stay once a national level cricket match took place in Salem and many cricket star stayed in the Hotel. Kapil Dev was one of them. Our colleague Vaidyanathan asked him where is Sunil Gavaskar? His reply "Who is Sunil Gavaskar?" amused us totally. It clearly indicated underlying differences in Indian Cricket team that time.

I didnot see much cricket but saw many Tamil / Malyalam movies (one film per day was part of our dinner). We saw several movies of Kamal Hasan, Sri Devi, Rajani Kant, Madhavi, Bhagya Raja. The list also included original Tamil versions of many Hindi remakes such as Woh Saat Din. I appreciated the multi faceted talent of Bhagya Raja who was a writer , director, music director and actor much like our Kishore Kumar. I do miss those days.... and it was so refreshing to relive them here with you.

1 comment:

  1. I received following comment by E-mail from


    Very nicely written. I was eagerly waiting for it.