Wednesday, July 04, 2018

A Proud Father’s Indulgence

One day in 1942 or '43, my father, Bapa, took me and my baby brother, Bhupen, who was about two years old, to Metro Studio to get our pictures taken. The Metro Studio must have been so-named because it was next door to Metro Cinema, a Calcutta landmark. At that time, all the theatres running Hollywood films were owned by the studios that made them. Metro, for example, was named for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, later streamlined into MGM. (I took this picture of Metro Cinema using a borrowed camera. Judging from the movie which was playing: Greer Garson in The Valley of Decision, the year was 1945 or '46.)

At the studio I was seated alone in front of a curtain, and given a prop telephone to hold. Then Bhupen joined me, and dozed off against my shoulder, completely uninterested in the proceedings. (Unfortunately, I am unable to locate that second picture, though I hope it will turn up, at which time I will post it too.) 

I have no idea why my father dressed me, Bhupen, and even my sister, who was 12 years old, in khaki: it was not common among any of the children whom we knew. Was it because World War Two was going on, or in solidarity with Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s Indian National Army?

Calcutta, now Kolkata, as far as I can recall, was the last bastion in India for the War on the Eastern Front. There are many references to the city in British and Hollywood films set during the War, along with Sri Lanka (then Ceylon), Thailand, Myanmar (then Burma), Hong Kong, etc. I do recall that Howrah Bridge, Victoria Memorial, and other government assets were painted black, in order to make them invisible to Japanese air raids. Sirens went off at odd times of day or night, warning people to get into the shelters, which were built on all main thoroughfares, many of them underground; including three near our barsaati on Brabourne Road.

So here I am, in Metro Studio in wartime, apparently enjoying myself very much.

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