Monday, May 09, 2016

Enter the Dragon – Proddatur Diaries

Vasu Reddy from Chicago

Enter the Dragon was in theaters in Madras (now Chennai).  We had to go see it as there was so much buzz about the movie, and specially Bruce Lee.  In those days there were no TV, DVD or VCR or other means of watching a movie, except in theaters.  Everyone wanted to kick the air and break bricks and throw themselves around.  I really think that Karate for a little while was as popular (if not more) than cricket, all because of Bruce Lee and Enter the Dragon.

It is the best martial arts movie ever made (I think) and probably always will be, and inspired many entertaining movies and all languages of movie making.  A Telugu movie was made and released in early 2016 with the name Bruce Lee (go figure).  You can check more details on Enter the Dragon:  You don’t have to be a martial arts enthusiast, just watch it you will like it.  Even today I enjoy watching it, and still enjoy the cinematic experience as much as I did when I first watched it.

I was home in Proddatur on a break from school.  We rarely had English movies playing in theaters in our town those days.  If you wanted to see one, you had to head out to the city.  Without recalling the events that lead Jayadev and I, we simply had to get on a train and head out to Madras, to see Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon. (I had poster of Bruce Lee, and I am sure everyone in the world had the same one, with him looking intent on throwing his fist).  The train ride to Madras was overnight, so that you were saved from the oppressive heat of the day.  You got into a regular bogey and if you found a seat, just whiled the night away (or dozed away) until you got to your destination.  The rail cars had no air conditioning or sleeper seats at the prices we could afford.  You had bear minimum comfort to get you from point A to point B.  You did not have to worry about an alarm as the guy who sold tea would walk around and be yelling.  You would wake up early and drank tea, and it had a distinct taste to tea that only the trains had.  Any discomfort you had with the train more than made up with a combination of banter and what waited at your desired destination.  All the discomfort (which I never felt when in India) of train travel simply disappeared as soon as you set foot on the platform of your destination.

Going back to our trip to Madras to see Enter the Dragon, we had only a single plan.  See the movie and get back on the next train back home.  We didn’t have enough money for any other luxuries of a hotel or touring the city.  We got to Madras, and went to a distant relative’s home and knocked on their door.  The gentleman happens to have the same last name as ours.  I think we took an auto to T Nagar.  His name was Linga Reddy.  Before his name onions were attached.  I believe he was a big trader dealing with onions.  His name that we knew when we landed at his home is Ulligaddala (onions) Linga Reddy.  We somehow found his home (which was very spacious) and told them who we were, and that we would be there just for a day and head back home.  I distinctly remember Mr. Reddy’s entire family welcomed us and very gracious in the short time we were with them.  They let us stay with the, freshen-up and really feed us well.  All the members of Mr. Reddy's family were keen on inquiring about our home town and families.  They were really very gracious.  It was typical of all our families in those days, you could simply visit and everyone was welcoming.  In this case Mr. Reddy’s family was most gracious.

We were all too happy with the hosts, but our main agenda was to get to the theater.  Enter the Dragon.  The theater itself was not the huge capacity halls we are used to in our town.  There were a series of small theaters (current day multiplexes) and air conditioned,  which was instant hit with us; a cool place for the next couple of hours and the anticipation of seeing Bruce Lee in action.  Both of us were well fed and back to our full energy level and the movie and the experience of watching it in the theater was everything that we anticipated.  After all these years, I still remember the experience as it was yesterday, and I still enjoy watching the movie on DVD every once in a while.  By the way both Jayadev and I live around the suburbs of Chicago, and we were together (again) when we shopped and found the DVD.  Nothing changes.

Going back to Madras, and the movie; we watched the movie in awe, and it was every bit of what we expected.  Both of us enjoyed it.  The trip was well worth it, although it was the first of a kind adventure for us.  We spent a little time checking the city out, and headed back home.  Once again it was a train ride back, all night to the nearest station to Proddatur, and a short hop on the bus home.

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