The Clarity of Cameraman

The day India’s former Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao—the first politician to complete a 5-year-term as the Prime Minister from non-Nehru-Gandhi dynasty and among all the non-Congress governments—was forced to quit as the President of Congress Party, Nalgonda Ramu was on his way to his home. Ramu stayed in a dingy one-room habitation in Dilkushnagar but pedalled his way to work in Banjara Hills and to those places in and around Hyderabad where his camera unit asked him to report.

The day’s work was hectic, but Ramu liked the work, assisting a sought-after cameraman who worked with the established producers and reputed directors of Telugu, Tamil and Kannada movies. His pay was meagre but the future looked promising in getting regular work as an assistant cameraman. Eventually, with that experience he could become a cameraman and if possible, to move from one city to another city, and end up in Bombay the headquarters of Bollywood.

On the bridge over the River Musi by Salarjung Museum, Ramu stopped, dragged his Hercules bicycle and he let it lean on the edge of the bridge. Should I lock it, or not, he asked himself, and looked around. People were walking by on the bridge, the traffic was not heavy but could swell at any minute, and there will be scooters, moped, autos swelling on the bridge. Who comes on to the bridge can disappear in a second and one cannot trace him or her unless one approached the nearest police station. The certainty of someone stealing the bicycle if he was not on guard for few seconds was certain. He did not want his cycle to be stolen by someone, he locked the bicycle, securely, and looked around. There were pedestrians coming this way and that way. They cannot lay their hands on my mobile property, he thought.

The propriety to respect other people’s property is dimmed by material poverty.

Because the mobility is important, Ramu bought the cycle with his first month’s wages. He wanted to be on his own without relying on the local buses not that they were crowded but they did not help him to reach his destination of the day. The destination of workplace varied regularly.

With the bicycle securely placed, and with his back to the roadway of the bridge, he looked out: with his gazed fixed on the rippling slush of River Musi, he focused on a matter that had bothered him intensely for the last four months. Should I really continue to work in the movie industry? Do I have to hear the swear words constantly streaming out from every member of the every unit of the film production? How can the established movie makers speak with a foul word in every sentence that came out of their venerated mouths?

During his graduation days at the local university famed for art and art production, Ramu could not visualize other than to make a mark in the movie industry with his skill as the cameraman of the moving images. He also learned to capture shots of still images. Capturing moving and still images captivated him. He was confident, a cameraman can move a person to think on something significant with an insignificant image of day to day life around, and make one to think to make sense of mundanity.  

The less-than-year introduction to the production of movie industry shattered his admiration, and veneration for the personnel involved in bring out movies to the cinemas. What appeared on the silver screen was different from what happened in the production of a movie. He experienced it: behind the scenes world is foul.

Should I continue to work in the movie industry as a cameraman, and carry all those swear words in my head, every day? he asked himself.

Not only he was spoken to recklessly by one or the other in the production unit, but he heard the barrage of swear words constantly streaming from one or the member– mothers, sisters, wives, fathers turned into something else when those words came out of those mouths.  Only the one who produced the movie got away.

Ramu stood gazing, thinking, after more than a quarter of an hour, he resolved, I will find another way to capture the images, moving and still, but not in the movie industry. With a decision made to quit, he unlocked his bicycle, and pedalled down his way: should I work as a videographer or try out in television industry or as a marriage photographer …

—ganapathi

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