Dressed in a bright pink shirt, an orange scarf around his neck, and dark glasses, Anand Kumar Bhowmick poses for the camera. He is seated in a cycle rickshaw in front of his plasticware shop at Kasi Chetty Street. Its the Rickshawkaran pose, he says, speaking over phone. A die-hard fan of MG Ramachandran the man says he actually worships the actor Anand has set up an exhibition of photos taken during various stages of MGRs life.
Displayed on a rectangular cardboard screen in front of his shop, the two dozen black-and-white photos are just a drop from the 53-year-olds collection of over 15,000 photos. Anands exhibitions are a regular fare he sets them up to commemorate birthdays and other occasions in the lives of leaders such as Gandhi, Nehru, and Netaji; personalities such as Thomas Alva Edison; and important days in world history.
I have put up photos of MGR taken along with people from the film industry, apart from some shot when he was filming, explains Anand. He points to a picture taken during the filming of Alibabavum 40 Thirudargalum in which the actor is seen in the costume of an emperor, standing alongside the director, reading something, presumably his lines from the script.
Anand has met the actor-politician 13 times. He particularly remembers an incident in 1986, when he was assisting a friend who was videotaping the wedding of an AIADMK member in Saidapet. MGR had come for the event, recalls Anand. He was standing on the stage and I was near him, holding the flash lights. New on the job, Anand kept flashing the lights on MGRs face. I had no idea that this was disturbing him, he says. MGR signalled to me twice to turn it off. But I did not understand what he was trying to say.
Finally, the videographer gave Anand a shout out. When I did turn off the flash, MGR caught my eye and smiled warmly at me, he recalls. I will never forget that smile.