Come March, the members of Mysore Race Club (MRC) realise it is time for the Membership election. This year it is on 19th of this month. The Membership is statutorily restricted to 250, new members are democratically chosen through secret ballot whenever the vacancy arises following the death or resignation of members.
This year there are seven vacancies and 14 contenders. Being an old member of the MRC, I also realise it is time for 14 dinners in the Club itself or in some Star Hotel with best of food and spirit hosted by the proposers of the contesting candidates.
For many members who do not relish horse flesh, not being race-goers for fun or punting, it is merely a prestige to be a member of MRC. Status symbol? I guess, I am one who belongs to this class of membership. However, I have made a large number of good, affable friends in the Club and I use the Club House, a wonderful place overlooking the majestic Chamundi Hill and the greenery all around, for a quiet, evening dinner with family or friends sipping wine or high spirits.
Be that as it may, last Wednesday, there was one such dinner. May I call it horse-dinner? Why not? I may well be coining a new phrase or a word. After all, there are nearly a dozen phrases with the word horse as prefix — horse-laugh, horse-play, horse-power, horse-sense, horse-fly, horse-flesh and with the Assembly elections a couple of months away, how can we forget the phrase horse-trading ! Some MLAs suddenly become manimals you know. And unlike our cricketers who are auctioned, here it is horse-trading. Let it be.
For me it was the first dinner of the season hosted by R. Raja Chandra to seek support for his candidate. For the keen, regular readers of Star of Mysore this name may not be a new one because whenever SOM wrote about Mysore Royal family, which is historically erroneous or otherwise inappropriate, he with his personal connection to the Palace, would react with a loaded letter. I was there to honour his personal invitation and I was happy for it. How would I meet my old friends forgotten after last year’s such MRC serial dinners ! A surprise guest was film actor-turned-politician Ambareesh, come all the way from Bengaluru to honour Raja Chandra’s invite, like I did.
I was standing near the bar counter chatting with friends at a pedestal round table when I felt someone putting hand around my waist in an embrace. I turn around and whom do I see — Ambareesh. Yeno Ganapathy, Hegiddiya, was his refrain in a hearty, gurgling voice and his typical winning smile, bright wide eyes and face with salt and pepper stubbles.
Soon, a few of his friends joined in, with Kings Kourt Vivek by his side and yours truly sipping the golden liquid even as the actor lit a cigarette getting ready for a ‘small one’. Health is important. No ordinary showman he is in Sandalwood, there was a horde of servitors of the hotel to serve him (see the pic I took). Even as I was taking this picture, he said, “Come over, we will have a selfie’. When I said I was no good in taking selfie, he took my cellphone and clicked one. There you are ! (see the pic he took). All this aside, our conversation veered towards Sridevi, the diva who had just passed away. Ambareesh had acted with her in a Kannada film as I guessed from what he was saying. His opinion about Sridevi as an actor — she is not an actor, she is a ‘character’.
A ‘character’? All eyebrows around Ambareesh went up with eyes wide open. “Yes, if she acts Ganapathy, she becomes Ganapathy. She totally becomes the character she played. Hence a ‘character’.”
I thought of Parakaya Pravesha, but did not say it, not to break the encomiums Ambareesh was showering on her.
He seemed to wonder at human destiny and recalled how he was taken to Singapore in a critical condition by Air Ambulance and survived, but Sridevi who was keeping a good health suddenly died. Obviously, Ambareesh has become health-conscious, and it is there in his face — the good old infectious smile, the staccato speech, hail-the-fellow-well-met approach while meeting his friends and fans. The cigarette is more for show, he hardly inhaled. And the small one, remained small one in the glass.
Looking at him and talking to him I thought this Kannada filmworld’s Rebel Star and an iconic figure must get back to films, where he really belongs, like Amitabh Bachchan has done and eschew politics where he seems a misfit. After all, Karnataka is not Tamil Nadu.
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