K. Varadachary has a collection of books, films, photographs and magazine covers spanning decades
Tucked systematically in every nook of K. Varadachary's house is memorabilia, and their stories jostle for space in the recesses of his mind. He still remembers when Vazha Piranthaval released, who the music director of Nalla Thambi was, and which studio produced Ulagam. He wants to tell all that there is to know about these movies, so the 81-year-old pulls out a film book yellowing with age, hundreds of which he has preserved chronologically.
“Today's generation does not even know what a film book is. It used to be sold on the eve of the release of a movie, and it usually had all the details of the film with its credits. Sometimes it had lyrics of all the songs as well, unless there was a separate song book. It would cost an anna or two,” says Varadachary, who has a collection of over 400 original film books and songbooks, apart from pamphlets, cassettes and movie tickets.
“The movie Vazha Piranthval was 17,780 ft,” he tells me, after scanning a film book meticulously. Sensing incomprehension, he clarifies, “I even noted down the length of the reel of most movies in these film books. It would be mentioned in the censor certificate that appeared at the beginning of the movie.” And he was hardly the kind who would wait for a good weekend and a comfortable bus to watch a movie. He would travel to Mayavaram and Chidambaram from his hometown in Tanjore to catch the first show of every movie that had M.K. Thyagaraja Bhagvathar, or was produced by his favourite studios.
He tells me jauntily that he and his friends would tear off pamphlets and posters of movies from pillars and walls. For him, collecting has been the most “engaging hobby”, and he did not give it up even when his favourite studios stopped producing these film books in the 60s.
Film books done, he now shows us decade-old articles, magazine covers, photographs, newspaper cut-outs, maps and watches. “I had many more things, but over the years a lot of it got lost when I switched houses,” he remarks. Of the things he could not bring to where we were, was a bicycle he bought in 1962, the original receipt of which he has pasted in a scrapbook.
From photographs taken by his brother, the celebrated photographer K Narayanachari, newspaper cut-outs of poignant moments in India's history, all articles published about actor Shivaji after his death, to all the Panchangams published since 1954, his ageing scrapbooks hold all. He has also made travelogues of all the places he has visited. “After my generation it will all be lost,” he says putting it back all in order.