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Updated: June 29, 2013 18:41 IST
IN FIRST PERSON

The other Clooney

Deepa Kandaswamy
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Illustration: Sreejith R. Kumar
The Hindu Illustration: Sreejith R. Kumar

Nothing like mistaken identity to mix things up at family gatherings.

I live in Salem — not Salem, Massachusetts. Salem, Tamil Nadu — where power cuts are a daily affair.  During such times, my family gathers in the living room and we quiz one another. It was my turn to pose a question. Knowing that my family aren’t quite up to scratch about current Hollywood A-list stars, I asked them, “Who is George Clooney?”

I expected silence but wasn’t prepared for the answers that came my way. “He must be an educator. I’m right, aren’t I?” said my mother, beaming. She was referring to Cluny School, the one that has been here forever. Cluny is a girls’s school run by nuns and one of the famous landmarks of Salem. It is located on the street next to my house. My nieces study there.

“That makes sense but it is run by nuns. Maybe he was a priest who founded the school?” my father volunteered hesitantly. Father George Clooney — the founder of the most famous all girls’ school in Salem!  I thought of the adjectives generally used to describe him — sexy, handsome, player — and burst out laughing.

“No. He isn’t a priest or an educator.”

Manonmani Aunty, my mother’s sister, who was visiting from Kumbakonam (the birthplace of math genius Ramanujam), volunteered, “I don’t know but if I have to guess, he must be a doctor. The one who discovered cloning?” Dr. Clooney who discovered cloning!

“Wrong, aunty.” 

“Was he a scientist then?”

“No, aunty.”

“Never heard of him,” said my cousin who was visiting from Hubli.  Others stayed silent.

I picked up the newspaper lying on the desk which carried his photo and told everyone, “This is him. He is a Hollywood superstar and is considered one of the sexiest men alive.”

“Hmmm… He isn’t even good looking. How old is he? 60?” asked my cousin.  

I burst out laughing. “No, he isn’t even 55.”

“Are you kidding?” she retorted. 

Tomorrow I plan to ask them who Angelina Jolie is. I’m sure they would think she is a kind of work done by angels as Jolie is slang for “work” in my language.

Most people in Salem are blissfully ignorant of Hollywood though Salem has a long movie history. It is one of the early centres of the South Indian movie industry and home to yesteryear Bollywood dream girl Waheeda Rehman. Pioneers of the movie business like T.R. Sundaram, founder of Modern Theatres, lived and made movies here. Salem was also the scene for many iconic films. Seeing movie stars is common and many lives were made and ruined here.

Jackie Chan, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Brendan Fraser might be more easily recognised but not in Salem.  Clooney can walk the streets of Salem or even knock on my door provided he can get past our security guard, who is extremely suspicious of strangers, especially old foreign men.

Sexiest man alive? No way. Charming and attractive, not in a billion.  

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