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Friday, November 18, 2022

Common man on a bi-cycle ! .. Unnaipol Oruvan, Common Man and more !!

A photo taken by me this morning at busy Mount Road .. .. rare sight these days  .. an elderly man pushing his cycle laden with some groceries and vegetables .. .. would have been a very ordinary sight a few decades ago! Perhaps not any longer.  Chennai Metropolis bustles with traffic – one finds so many vehicles of various hues with tens of thousands of people on the roads all time.   

How common are you ? – do you walk on the streets ? – when was the last time you rode a bi-cycle ? – do you venture on the road without gadgets – a mobile, Bluetooth headsets or wireless ear buds ? .. .. 

Likely you saw – ‘Unnaipol Oruvan’ – Kamal carrying a vegetable basket but challenging Police Commissioner Mohanlal. The film was simultaneously made in Telugu as Eenadu.  The film narrates  the story of   City  Police Commissioner  getting  an anonymous call, demanding  the  release of militants in exchange for information about many bombs planted across the city.   The commissioner is later cornered between releasing militants who had been responsible for killing innocent people and stopping bomb blasts around the city. Whatever he chooses forms the rest of the plot.  The film was remake of ‘A Wednesday’ !! 

The Common Man is a cartoon character created by   cartoonist R. K. Laxman. For over a half of a century, the Common Man represented the hopes, aspirations, troubles and perhaps even foibles of the average Indian, through a daily comic strip, You Said It in The Times of India.   The Common Man - "Clad in a dhoti and a plaid jacket” generally acts as a silent witness to all the action in the comic.   

A few decades ago - Atlas, Hercules, BSA and Hero were not mere names. They were proud assets – people would treasure their cycles, parade them with pride, and ride them to offices and other places. The weekends many could have seen the ritualistic oiling and cleaning of the cycles with small pieces of clothes. Children would relish a small ride in cycle. It was macho to learn cycling when in middle school level and those who came to school cycling their way were the envy of other students. Life has changed totally. 

This utopian invention also known as bi-cycle is a pedal driven, human powered, single track vehicle – having two wheels in a frame, a handle bar and a pedal. Many of my age could recall the lamps that were fitted to the cycles – earlier they were oil wicks then ones powered by dynamo affixed to the rear wheel generating energy as the back wheel rolled on. Do you know that riding a cycle without light in night was an offence and Police would fine for that offence. 

Be it any big city - the common man waits at traffic signals for hours,   stands in winding queues hours together even for paying his income tax and filing his income tax returns .. .. while cine actors, politicians, cricket players whizz past in astronomical costing luxury cars.  Every politician worth his salt tries to be the VIP – there are restricted places including the tarmac where some car with some politician can enter – there are no rules on road, red beacons atop vehicles they can flout anything,   the road signals, yellow lines, traffic, one way are all for the common man – Tata Sumos, Scorpios and other vehicles with party flags (of whatever little outfit they be) will whizz past ordinary people all the time and none  can whine  - every other person is important and expects or forces preferential treatment.   

The commoner  has lifetime  ambitions and  long term plans dreaming to achieve them.  Common man earns salary – ever thinking of that annual pay hike, only to be outdone by some reasons and the ever increasing prices – struggling to strike a balance. The savings would be meagre – but some would rush to bank for placing a small FD and earn interest.   

In case you remember the mention of  – ‘Unnaipol Oruvan’ at the start – ‘A Common Man’ Sri Lankan thriller film directed by Sri Lankan filmmaker Chandran Rutnam, starring Ben Kingsley and Ben Cross, remake of  A Wednesday!   A Common Man won Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor awards at the Madrid International Film Festival and won many other awards. 

The film starts in a room full of bomb making material and newspaper articles about LTTE bombings in Sri Lanka, the screen then cuts to a typical busy morning in Colombo. "The Man" (Ben Kingsley) plants five bombs around the city; on a public bus, in a shopping mall and the Polgoda police station, on an intercity train, and at the Katukurunda Airfield. The man then establishes his mini control station on top a skyscraper in Dehiwala and calls the police chief Morris Da Silva (Ben Cross) and informs him that if four prisoners are not released, the bombs will be detonated. 

Wandering away from films – in reality, a scene like this is becoming rarer day by day.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

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