The train will now stop at Malgudi!

Commuters boarding the train to Talaguppa (Hosanagara taluk of Shivamogga district) in coming December, will surely be in for a pleasant surprise.

As the locomotive chugs into the tiny railway station in Arasalu village through the mist engulfed lush green forest, commuters who had watched the Malgudi Days tele-serial directed by Shankar Nag for Doordarshan in late eighties, would imagine they are listening to the signature music of L. Vaidyanathan (Vaidi), “Taa Naa Naa Tana Nana Naa” (which is now a popular ringtone for mobile phones), somewhere from the deep woods. (This poignant theme music can only be compared to the theme score of Pather Panchali by Ravi Shankar, which is simple, evocative and hummable. Incidentally Satyajit Ray used train as a symbol of modernism in Pather Panchali, where Apu runs to get the glimpse of train).

It is because of Shankar Nag, who picturised most of the railway station scenes of the iconic Malgudi Days serial, that the Arasalu station shot to fame, then a meter gauge line.

The reason for the Malgudi lovers to get the feel of Vaidyanathan’s signature music, is Malgudi Restoration project was taken up by the sculptor and art director John Devaraj, following a request from Indian Railways.

The train will now stop at Malgudi!

Interestingly, it was John Devaraj who conceptualised everything that needs to make Agumbe and other places look like imaginary Malgudi-fictional town created by R K Narayan, one of India’s finest writers.

Enthused by an article published in The Hindu’s Friday Review (When Agumbe turned Malgudi, November 8. 2018) of The Hindu, Mysore Division of South Western Railway decided to develop Arasalu Railway Station, by recreating the fictional Malgudi.

At the same time, Member of Parliament from Shivamogga Lok Sabha constituency, B. Y. Raghavendra, was also fascinated by the fame attained by Arasalu Railway Station following the telecast of Malgudi Days on Doordarshan. He sent a Rs. 1.30crore proposal to the Ministry of Railways to rename Arasalu Raiway Station as Malgudi Railway Station. The proposal included setting up of Malgudi Museum near the present Railway station. It was at the old dilapidated structure of station, that Malgudi Days was shot. Raghavendra had discussed the issue of renaming the station after the famed Malgudi and setting up of museum, which replicates the fictional Malgudi with the railway authorities, and he offered to support the project through MP Local Area Develeopment fund. “The response from Railways was enthusiastic,” recalls Raghavendra. Indian Railways, it appears, to have a fascination for Malgudi and they named the Yeshavantpur-Mysuru Express, operating between Bengaluru-Mysuru as Malgudi Express in 2011. Former Union Minister for Foreign Affairs, S. M. Krishna also played an important role in this endeavour.

The train will now stop at Malgudi!

Shivamogga MP is of the opinion that renaming the Arasalu Railway Station as Malgudi Station and setting up of museum replicating, fictionalised Malgudi, will be worthy tribute to both multifaceted personality Shankar Nag and R.K. Narayan, who won many hearts through the tales of innocence, besides inculcating moral values from a child’s perspective.

Immortalising the lines of R.K. Narayan, “The train had just arrived at Malgudi Station”, this endeavour reinvokes that metaphor which signified the rebirth of everything around the coming of the train.

R. K. Narayan was often asked, “Where is Malgudi?”, to which he, in his introduction to the short story collection, Malgudi Days (1942) says: “All I can say is that, it is imaginary and not to be found on any map (although the University of Chicago Press published a literary atlas with the map of India, indicating the location of Malgudi), if I explain that Malgudi is a small town in South India, I shall only be expressing half-truth. For the characteristics of Malgudi seem to me universal.”

Chugging again The Arasaalu Station was a hub of activity when Malgudi Days was shot. Rekindling memories from the past to give it shape in the present; John Devraj and his team recreate Malgudi at Arasaalu

Chugging again The Arasaalu Station was a hub of activity when Malgudi Days was shot. Rekindling memories from the past to give it shape in the present; John Devraj and his team recreate Malgudi at Arasaalu  

Even Malgudi Days, was described as a “piece of genuine India and viewers, especially in old Mysore region, found themselves relating to each episode. The tele-serial reached their hearts because of its plain looking characters and incidents, which helped them to find latent mysteries of ordinary human existence.

“I worked 20-hours a day to transform Agumbe and other places where the serial was shot into Malgudi,” says John Devaraj, recalling the way Shankar Nag worked for his ambitious project Malgudi Days. John conceptualised everything that needs to transform the place into imaginary Malgudi. He fabricated carts, statues, created avenues, shops, bus stand, schools. “Energetic and enterprising Shankar kept an eye on every minute detail to make the place to represent Malgudi. He brought donkeys from Shivamogga, borrowed Austin and Hindustan cars from his friends. A road roller had to be transported from Bengaluru to make tele-serial more rooted and to have striking nativity,” John recounted.

“As far as Arasalu Railway Station is concerned, it was the perfectly suited to recreate British era shots. The first shot was taken on the right platform in the morning when the train arrives and the second one was g taken when the train returned after 20 minutes on the opposite platform,” he reminisces.

The train will now stop at Malgudi!

R.K. Narayan is learnt to have visited Arasalu and commended it for its allegiance with Malgudi, as he imagined it. The old station in Arasalu, where the tele-serial was shot could not survive the ravages of time and was eventually worn out. It was in a dilapidated condition. Even after 10 months of the Member of Parliament sending the proposal railways has not taken final call on renaming Arasalu Railway Station as Malgudi Station. Despite the murmurs of opposition from a minute section of the village over changing the name of station, Raghavendra, the MP of Shivamogga is confident of convincing them on the need to rechristen it as Malgudi, citing overall economic development of the village. He is pursuing the project with passion and hopes the Railway authorities will rechristen the station as Malgudi. Though five trains passes through this station everyday, only one halts.

The train will now stop at Malgudi!

“I readily agreed to shoulder the responsibility of recreating Malgudi when the authorities of Mysuru Division of South Western Railway asked me. When I landed in Arasalu after 33 years, the huge responsibility that had been given to me slowly started sinking in. We are converting the old dilapidated railway station, which is just few meters away from the new station. I am creating some scenes of serial, to facilitate the people to travel back in time . We have created famous fountain, that was done in Agumbe (which is also near Shivamogga) and structuring a steam engine, to remind them of pre-Independence era. The plan is to recreate every property, such as cycle, cart, clock and other things, that were shown in the serial. Taking a round in the museum will give a feeling of revisiting Malgudi Days to the people,” he says.

“Besides that, we are planning to offer experience of authentic regional culture of Malnad to the people, with stress on nativity. The stress will be on the fast depleting flora and fauna. Drawings and paintings of Pangolin -- a rare mammal targeted by poachers most often for their scales -- which is on the verge of extinction, apart from other wild animals are being made on the walls of the museum to create awareness among the young generation on the urgent need to protect and preserve them. Once completed, Malgudi Museum will be a major cultural centre of South India,” he explains.

Considering the speed with which John and his team are working, the museum will be completed in the next one month. If everything moves as planned, Malgudi fans will listen humming sound of Vaidi’s signature music, “Taa Naa Naa…” in Arasalu.

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Printable version | Sep 20, 2020 2:34:32 AM |

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