Listening to his ‘inner voice,' V. Ravi Shankar (48) came to Chennai from Pattukottai 27 years ago to contribute his mite to the film industry. He ended up being a clerk at the ticket counter of a movie theatre, which he says gave him a sense of fulfilment similar to that of being in the film industry.
Drawing a monthly wage of Rs.5,000, he says that he continues to find it hard to make both ends meet. Yet, he has been able to consistently sustain his contentment in life for all these years.
He cites small aspects ranging from his ability to issue 600 tickets an hour to denying tickets to possible troublemakers during the screening of the movie as the factors contributing to his contentment.
The clerk at the ticket counter in the theatre was the individual who would inspire him to the core during his days as a school student in Pattukottai. The aura of the Tamil film stars such as M.G. Ramachandran had so strong an impact on his young mind that he would get up early in the morning and reach the theatre at 6 a.m. only to return home at 9 p.m. “I had very high regard for the individual in charge of ticket vending at the theatre. I thought he had a unique social status,” says Ravi Shankar.
He admits that things have changed over the years and he does not command similar respect from filmgoers anymore. “After my PUC, I joined as a ticket clerk at a theatre in Chennai and derived immense contentment by seeing crowd of enthusiastic people throng my ticket counter,” he says.
Getting to see the anxious faces of queuing people change to instant cheerfulness after he handed them their movie tickets was something he values.
Movie was the most and only powerful medium during that time, and messages, both political and social, were effectively conveyed to shape public opinion, he recalls. “Media have become more diverse now,” he adds.
Having a similar opinion, Akbar Sherieff (54), another ticket counter clerk with a richer experience, says, “People say this job is suited for even the laziest minds, but it has made me learn many things by observing action and reaction of lakhs of people.”
Recollecting instances of emerging actors and producers waiting anxiously near the counter in the first few days of screening of their movie, he says “We would be able to predict the fate of the movie within a few days by reading the response of the audience.”
Pointing to the government's initiative for providing assistance to members of the film industry during a dull period as a boon to them, he says, “The contribution and significance of ticket booking clerks are not recognised. We have no sops. We do not have a voice.”
Mr. Sherieff says that he has gradually started to lose interest in the job which was very dear to his heart. Rush for movie tickets are becoming a thing of the past, he says.
The business has been gradually becoming dull, admits V. Kulasekaran, another ticket booking clerk. Various factors such as television serials, cricket matches and pirated CDs are considered to be the reasons, he says.
“A decade ago, a chunk of the audience would be women. Now their number has dwindled on account of TV serials,” he said. In particular, the period after November 2009 has seen a step fall in the number of movie tickets sold. “We are waiting for a blockbuster to reverse the trend,” he says.
Asked if Ravi Shankar regretted his decision of stopping his education to pursue his interest in movie ticket vending, he says, “I am contented. I will also permit my son to pursue his dreams. He has inclination towards painting. I have a unique learning experience which I will cherish,” he adds.