Poets and Pancakes Summary by Ashokamitran

As a film writer who had a stellar career in Tamil films, Ashokmitran takes us on a journey to a time when studios were the stars than actual individuals. The narration speaks of his time at Gemini Studios of Madras under the tutelage one of the pioneers of Tamil and Indian cinema, S.S. Vasan.

As one of the parts of a huge team, the writer discusses and describes various other individuals that made Gemini studio as the front running film company in the country as well as South Asia. He begins with the office boy who was responsible for painting the people in the crowds and which he did with pride.

The makeup department he used to work in always worked with company called ‘pancake’. Then he moves to K. Subbu who is the lieutenant for Vasan. He is a humble and family man with a penchant for poetry. He loves sharing his words with common people. He not very educated but has learned a lot on the job and with industry experience. 

The next person is the litigator who is known for his notoriety and tricks. He is always up to some mischief with the actors and staff. Then he goes on to describe the writers who lack a sense of originality and critique. They are lazy in their attitude and uninspiring in their works. 

Next, the writer describes a group of international performers called Moral Rearmament Army who are invited to perform on the studio. However, they have an ulterior motive of triggering anti-communist sentiment in a place where communism was a strong force.

Vasan who himself was a communist sympathizer realizes his mistake and persuades Stephen Spender, a renowned communist poet to come and address the situation. Stephen, although eloquent with his words, fails to connect with the listeners who do not understand his language and diction.

The predominantly Tamil speaking audience does not even realize the stature of the poet. Even the writer did not recognize that it was some famous English litterateur and poet. It was not until a few years later when the writer came across Spender in one of his prose competitions, that he realized the magnitude of the man’s work.

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