Sampath Kumar has his neighbours hooked to Hindi film songs as he plays them on loud speakers from morn to night.
The songs of Mohammed Rafi and Kishore Kumar wake up the sleepy neighbourhood, of Kanuvai Road, KNG Pudur, every morning. The residents know who plays them. “Ah! It must be Sampath Kumar, the farmer who tills his land, listening to ‘Meri Desh Ki Dharthi’,” they say. Sampath loves yesteryear Hindi songs. He starts his day by playing them in his loudspeaker. The joggers, who pass by his house, halt for some time to listen. Impressed by his video library which has more than 600 Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and English films, they even borrow them from him. In case, he should forget to play music, others remind him to do so. In the 28 years of his life here, no one has raised an objection. And even if they do, he cannot stop playing music, says Sampath, simply. “I cannot work without music,” he states.
He runs a petti shop at the verandah of his house, next to the farm. Two humungous speakers sit side by side with the cigarette and chocolate stand. A sleek speaker sits on the refrigerator. “Altogether there are 12 speakers in this house. Whenever I go to Townhall, I shop for them if I get them cheap. I use at least three speakers at a time. I love playing songs loudly,” he says.
He stays with his sister Kalavathi and mother Sivabhagyam, who also love the Hindi songs. Kalavathi remembers Sampath as a child, buying waste reels from the theatres and inviting the boys from the neighbourhood over. “They would sit beneath the table. A white cloth would be hung over it. Using bulb lights he would project the images on the cloth. The boys would cry out in excitement, ‘Dho paaru… MGR and Shivaji Ganeshan!’”, she recalls.
“I watched my first film when I was eight. We lived next to Kennedy Theatre, which in those days screened only Hindi films,” he says. The little boy was mesmerized by Guru Dutt in Pyaasa, Rajesh Khanna in Aradhana and Sharmila Tagore in Kashmir Ki Kali. “I did not always understand the lyrics. But I was glued to the music, instruments and lavish sets,” he says.
Sholay was a rage in the city, he remembers. “It ran for almost a year in Coimbatore!” And then, shifting his position and raising his head a little he growls, ‘Arey O Sambha…Kitne Aadmi The?’. His Gabbar Singh pronunciation is not perfect; but that does not matter! “And how can one forget Bobby! Immediately after its release, bell bottoms became a huge hit. I owned three pairs of them,” he says.
A die-hard fan of MGR, he has stuck his favourite star’s pictures on all his walls. On MGR’s birthdays he provides free lunch for his neighbours. “On this day I play songs the loudest!” he smiles. Sampath loves to watch Hollywood action films too. The dusty brown carton, full of DVDs and CDs he collected from the streets of Town Hall, has a few films of Bruce Willis. “My favourite hero is Arnold Schwarzenegger. All his films are entertaining and have good stunts,” he says.
As he speaks Sampath’s eyes shift to the television. They are playing “Aadha Hain Chandrama” from the film Navarang. Kalavathi hums the song and his 75-year-old mother taps her feet. For a moment it looks like, the whole family has forgotten the rest of us in the room. “I love this film, I can watch it any number of times. It is a musical. The use of instruments, dance and settings are beautiful!” Sampath declares.
Dusk has fallen. The last set of customers have also come and gone. “This is when we spend the rest of our day, relaxing and listening to songs,” says Sampath. Rummaging through the stack of CDs, he inserts a new one into the DVD player. A black-and-white Waheeda Rehman and Biswajeet Chatterjee appear on screen. And “Bekarar Karke Hume Yu Na Jaayiye” breaks the stillness of the night.