Manas & Movies: Rhino (Part 2)
I shall never forget the way sis and I had screamed when the lights dimmed in the theatre and the movie ‘Rhino ’came on screen. Screams of unrestrained delight. Of surprise. Today, there is no way I can convey my feelings of that day – the thrill that travelled down our spines on seeing our own bungalow on the big screen, our lives in Manas being played out in the movie…
Rhino was the second film after Manas Kanya to have been filmed in Manas Wildlife Sanctuary during the years that I spent there. Unlike Manas Kanya, I have much sharper memories of Rhino although I was not present in Manas during its shooting. It was shot in Manas in 1987 and released in 1989. The story of three kids foiling rhino poaching attempts was based on Arup Kumar Dutta’s The Kaziranga Trail and went on to win the National Award for the best children’s movie (I think). The movie was produced by Children's Film Society, India.
A still from the movie
(Image credit: cfsi.org)
The movie’s story was set in Kaziranga, but the splendor of Manas led the film-makers to shift base to Manas. Kaziranga was relegated to just stock footages of rhinos waddling in water. We were at our grandmother’s place then, since Ma had decided to enroll us in a school there. We were about to return to Manas when Deta let us know that “some film shooting is happening, so don’t come now”. Typical of him. He was never a movie-lover and did his best to discourage us as well. At that time, we just took it to be some documentary film-maker doing his job. We were used to that.
On our return to Manas after the movie crew had packed up and left, we found the staff in a tizzy. Our domestic helps, particularly a boy named Ranjan, could not stop gushing about the movie and the scenes they had taken part in. There were tell-tale signs of shooting in our rooms from where Ma unpeeled ‘bindis’, glancing at Deta suspiciously. Meanwhile, Deta kept a stoic silence and went about his work as if nothing had taken place. We never knew what had happened in our bungalow, apart from Ranjan’s bombastic descriptions, most of which we brushed aside as the boy’s fertile imagination at work.
“Baidew, there will be a scene in the movie,” Ranjan told Ma. “Where the lady is in the kitchen and people are trying to enter it forcefully. I was cooking in the kitchen when the movie crew came in. They locked me up in the store room and told me to rattle the door as hard as I can when I am told to. I did that and then they said okay you can stop. After that, I guess they forgot to unlock the door and I sat there for a long time…”
We left Manas in late 1988 and settled down in Guwahati. In 1989, the movie Rhino hit the theatres in Assam. The song "Chalenge lahe lahe..." had quite caught on. Schools took their students in bulk to watch the movie. Unfortunately, sis and I missed making it to the movie from school. One day our neighbor asked us if we would accompany them to the movie and we jumped at the offer. And so that was how Ma, sis and I, along with Auntie and her two children landed up in Udeshna Cinema one afternoon. It was packed full and we got our seats at the end rows. The lights dimmed and the movie began. That was when we were struck as if by lightning on seeing Manas, the home we had left just a few months back. And we screamed.
I can imagine now how embarrassing it would have been for our neighbor when all the people turned around to look at us, quite angrily, too. And it happened repeatedly. We just could not control ourselves. Nor could Ma, who should ideally have kept us in check.
“That’s our bungalow!” “That’s our room!” “That’s Deta’s office!” (The mountain of files was clearly visible.)
And then, “That’s Ranjan rattling the door!”
I think we hardly sat down to watch the film, we did it standing mostly. It is a wonder that we did not stand up on the seats!
Another still from the movie, shot in our living room. We still have those wall hangings.
(Image credit: oldchipofthenewblog.blogspot.in)
It was surreal, to watch Manas that way, in a movie. After moving to Guwahati, we had almost got used to seeing shots of the shimmering Manas river with its white stones during random songs aired on DD Guwahati. But all that composure was lost the moment we saw Rhino. We were back once again in our wooden bungalow, waiting for Deta’s Project Tiger jeep to come and pick us up for a day out in the jungle…
It has been decades since I saw Rhino in the theatre that day. It had made me want to shout out to the world that it was Manas and not Kaziranga in the movie, it was my home where the shooting had taken place, it was my dad’s office, ‘my’ elephant who was in the movie… I wish I could see it again, and relieve my Manas days. I wish for serendipity, that one day someone with Rhino in his/her possession will come upon my blog and make my wish come true…
1. We were keen to see Rhino for more one more reason. One of the child actors (out of the three) was actually known to my cousin as they were from Don Bosco School, Guwahati.
2. Of the other two child actors, one of them later starred in the TV serial Indradhanush (DD), inspired by Back to the Future. It used to come on TV every Sunday afternoon. Remember?
3. I did a Google search on Rhino and came across this blog (from where I got one of the pictures), that wrote some bits on the making of Rhino. It would have been nice if the person, after thanking all the ministers for the movie, had a few words for my dad as well, who had opened his office and personal residence to a bunch of strange movie people. Many a times Deta was stranded outside his own home after a hard day’s work because ‘there is shooting going on inside, please go and sit somewhere else’. He did not have access even to his own kitchen. Oh well, he had a thankless job, I guess.
UPDATE!! I got these on Youtube!! Watch it here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xDCe87bbjWo (name casting) and here is the 'Lahe lahe' song!