A week of feverish planning culminated in the incorporation of ChRRaNaM (Chapman Road Rajini Narpani Manram, named so by me), comprising of seven individuals (one of whom did not know neither a word of Thamizh nor the existence of the manram). This is an organization formed with the aim of making it to New Jersey on time to watch Chandramukhi. The aim was not too lofty, but I think you must read on to decide if we achieved our goal completely.
After much deliberation and a review of available finances, we decided that the original intention of driving to NJ early Saturday morning to watch the noon show at the Pathmark 13 Cinema at North Bergen was not viable due to the high insurance costs for the rental car. We decided to shoot for the 10:30 show on Friday, returning back to our base at Newark in the wee hours of Saturday. It was decided that I would drive us back to Newark, while S, being the more experienced driver would drive us down there. The tickets were booked and the car, an Altima, was commandeered from one of the local Enterprise offices.
Two hours before we were due to leave, I decided that this road trip would be incomplete without appropriate music blaring out from the car’s CD player. I had heard so much folklore about a memorable road trip made by other Thalai fans between St. Louis and Chicago (a 4 hour drive each way) for the first show of Baba a couple of years ago, that we, at ChRRaNam had to simply do something equally huge. Again, whether we did or not, seems irrelevant now, but I like to think we tried. So, I hustled up Thalai’s intro songs from previous movies and compiled a CD with classics like “Oruvan Oruvan”, “Podhuvaga En Manasu” right up to “Devuda”. Of course, there were one or two exceptions (i.e. non intro songs), but memorable thalaivar songs nevertheless.
Five or six miles into our drive, we ran into our first snag that brought forth continuous ribbing from the others directed towards the self proclaimed “World’s Best Navigator”, i.e. me. We, rather I, missed a sign board and we found ourselves on I-295 rather than I-95. A good hour before the show, we found ourselves approaching exit 18W (NJ 3 toward Secaucus/Rutherford). That’s was due to the lack of vital info in our map, a redundant detail usually, but made very relevant by the fact that all of us were new to New Jersey. A close shave followed with a huge trailer bearing past us on the left fork with its horn blaring. Another close shave followed, this time a car braking hard to avoid us on the right. I think the driver realized our predicament and merely reversed a few yards to avoid us and continued on his way on 3 East. We however decided to go on 3 West and ended up in the parking lot of a stadium complex (seemed to be the Continental Arena, the home of the New Jersey Nets). We took a 15 minute drive back in the opposite direction, took a U turn and proceeded on 3 East. Another wrong turn later (with half hour remaining now), we pulled into a gas station on NJ 1/9 South and were told to “take a U turn at the second light and drive in the opposite direction to go to the theatre”. What followed was a nightmare, with around 2 miles of traffic proceeding at about a meter at a time, due to road work!
By this time, the guys in the other car, who had been a mile or so behind us when we were on I 95 had already reached the venue and started directing us to the Plaza 12 theatre over the phone. We gave up after a 15 minute drive in the general vicinity and went into a gas station. By this time, we realized that the guys in the other car “could be at the wrong theatre” since the ad that I had printed out, was for “Pathmark 13 Cinemas”. The gas station attendant directed us to the cinema, which he said was just a 5 minute drive. We landed finally at Pathmark, a good 35 minutes after the movie started, with the other guys already inside (they were in there, but had been confusing Plaza 12 with Pathmark 13, while directing us!). We staggered into the empty foyer and were directed towards Hall 1. By this time, I was thoroughly pissed after my navigating gaffes and the subsequent ribbing (which I realize now, on hindsight was totally good natured) and decided that another couple of minutes would not matter and made my way to the loo. Ya, that’s right, I chose the loo over a Thalaivar movie. Sacrilege, I know, but that was how "pissed" I was.
I walked into Hall 1, a few minutes later and found the whole hall reverberating with “Repeatu”. The other ChRRaNaM members were still waiting to see where we could sit and I pulled them towards the second row, which seemed to be the only place where there was a group of seats available. We sat down and I leaned over to the guy in the next seat (was sitting at the end of the group) and asked him how much I had missed. My grin matched Thalai’s on the screen as I heard the words “Maximum 10 minutes, Sir”. And that was when I realized that all was not wrong and the movie had been delayed by half hour! I then had the whale of a time whistling in response to Thalai!
I walked out during the interval and then got the first taste of the pleasant bizarre experience that has since made me term it as “a bizarro Thiruvizha”. I was accosted by two different people who converged on me at the same time with the words – “Dei, nee enna da inga panra” (What are you doing here?). One was a friend’s brother and the other, an acquaintance that I had made during our IMS CAT coaching classes at Stella Maris. And looking around, I could recognize at least two other people who I knew from Chennai, but who probably did not recognize me. I also saw a girl from my days in Thanjavur, but being a “Mechu P**** Mavan” (as Badri calls me, referring to my degree in Mechanical Engineering with the word “Mechu”), I could not obviously approach this gal without getting raised eyebrows from her (if she still remembered me). He he… I then found a friend from school, sitting three rows behind us, who grinned at me as soon as I noticed him. Another 5 minute catching up followed before the movie resumed again. But that was not all, driving back to Newark, I met a junior from Shanmugha who had been at the same movie and was driving back to Philly. We met at a rest area where we stopped to catch some dinner to fill our growling stomachs. Whewwwwwwww….
As for ChRRaNaM, I think we will disband it as soon as we settle the financial issues arising out of this trip. So, do you think ChRRaNaM served its purpose?