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Class 12 English FLAMINGO – PROSE ~ Chapter 6 - Poets and Pancakes by Asokamitran


Chapter 6 - Poets and Pancakes

by Asokamitran 

Poets and Pancakes - YouTube

Poets and Pancakes- Introduction

The lesson is taken from the book ‘My years with the boss’ written by Asokamitran. In this excerpt, he talks about all the elements that kept Gemini Studios running. From Pancake make-up to the office boy of the make-up department, from Subbu to the lawyer, every element helped in making Gemini Studios a successful film producing company.

Poets and Pancakes - Summary

In this lesson, Asokamitran talks about Gemini Studios and all that helps in keeping it in the spotlight. He starts by making a mention about ‘Pancakes’, the famous make-up brand which Gemini Studios ordered in truckloads. He then talks about the plight of actors and actresses who have to bear too many lights on their face while getting ready in the make-up room. The make-up department, according to him, used heaps of make-up to turn them into ugly-looking creatures. Shockingly, he talks about the office boy of the make-up department whose task is to slap paint onto the faces of players at the time of crowd-shooting. He was a poet and had joined the Studio in the hope of becoming an actor, screenwriter, director or a lyricst. In those days, the author used to work inside a cubicle and had the task of collecting newspaper cuttings which, according to others was insignificant. Thus, office boy would come in time again, to bother  him with his complaints. He was well-convinced that the reason behind his misery was Subbu. He thought Subbu had an advantage because he was born a Brahmin. Subbu was a resourceful man whose loyalty made him stand out. He was tailor-made for films and it was difficult to imagine film-making without him. He was very welcoming and was known for his hospitality. Just like many others at the Gemini Studios, he also did poetry. He worked for the story department which also consisted of a lawyer. People generally called  him the opposite of a legal practitioner. He was a logical and neutral man amidst a room full of dreamers. Asokamitran then describes how Gemini Studios got a chance to host a group of international performers called Moral Rearmament Army. Though the plots and messages were not complex, their sets and costumes were near to perfection so much so that for many years, Tamil plays displayed sunset and sunrise in a way inherited from ‘Jotham Valley’. Then another guest, Stephen Spender comes to visit Gemini Studios. People had hardly  heard of him and they couldn’t even connect with him due to linguistic barriers. It was not until a few years later that Asokamitran saw his name in a book and realised who he actually was.

Q1- Who is the author of Poets and Pancakes?
A) Asokamitran (1931), a Tamil writer
B) Charu Nivedita
C) Jayakanthan
D) Balakumaran

Q2- What does his book “My Years with Boss” talk of ?
A) his job
B) explain the nature of his boss
C) explains his environment
D) impact of movies on every aspect of life in India.

Q3- When was Gemini studio set up?
A) 1920
B) 1930
C) 1910
D) 1940

Q4- What was the brand name of the make up material that Gemini studio bought?
A) Pancake
B) Mancake
C) Fancake
D) latin cake

Q5- Who was Greta Garbo?
A) A Swedish actress- an Oscar winner
B) a german actress
C) a French actress
D) a bengali actress

Q6- What was Asokamitran's job in the studio?
A) to arrange pancakes
B) to arrange make up kits
C) to serve water
D) cut out newspaper clippings on a wide variety of subjects and store them in files.

Q7- What has Asokamitran brought up through this write up?
A) topics of film industry
B) topics of make up industry
C) topics of gossip
D) topics of heroines

Q8- What does he bring to the notice of readers through this write up?
A) movies and different roles
B) heroines and their tantrums
C) heroines and make up
D) Independent India and its infancy

Q9- Who was the founder of Gemini studio?
A) Mr. S.S Vasan
B) English man
C) a Tamil boy
D) a director

Q10- What has been the make up room compared to?
A) make up company
B) a Parlour
C) a jewellery shop
D) hair-cutting salon

Q11- For whom was Gemini studio making films?
A) for English people
B) for illiterate
C) for elderly peole
D) for simple Tamilians who have no interest in English poetry

Q12- Why is the Englishman's visit referred as unexplained mystery?
A) because of his appearance
B) because of his dress
C) because of his hairstyle
D) because of his unfamiliarity and baffled looks

Q13- Who was the Englishman?
A) Salman Rushdie
B) D.H Lawrence
C) George Orwell
D) Stephen Spender- Editor of a British Periodical The Encounter

Q14- Why did he visit the studio?
A) to deliver a speech
B) to gossip with the workers
C) to check the workers
D) to know the film making

Q15- What was MRA?
A) British Army
B) The Moral Rearmament Army- a counter movement to International Communism
C) a wing of Indian Army
D) A drama company

Q16- Why was MRA invited to Gemini studio?
A) To show their play
B) Because of political affiliations
C) because of political infuence
D) none

Q17- Why did everybody in the studio think of giving some work to the author?
A) because of the idle appearance of his work
B) because he was an office boy
C) because he was a helper
D) none

Q18- Why did the office boy in the make up room come to the author?
A) because he was unemployed
B) because of his interest in literary arts and film making
C) to earn money
D) to do make up

Q19- Why was the author praying for crowd shooting at all times?
A) to attract the crowd
B) to avoid people
C) to avoid epical narrations
D) none

Q20- Who was Subbu's enemy?
A) no one
B) the author
C) actors
D) The boy in the makeup room

Q21- The boy in the make up room was jealous of whom?
A) actors
B) author
C) the visitor
D) Subbu's success and his closeness to the boss

Q22- What qualities was Subbu admired for ?
A) acting, writing filmmaking skills and the management skills
B) acting and writing
C) flattery
D) gossips

Q23- Why was Subbu considered number 2 at Gemini studio?
A) because of his flattery
B) because of his abilities
C) because of creative skills
D) none

Q24- Which plays were presented by MRA in Madras?
A) Macbeth
B) Othello
C) A doll's house
D) Jetham Valley and The Forgotten Factors

Q25- Who imitated the scenes of Sunset and Sunrise  of Jotham Valley?
A) Police
B) Scouts of Madras
C) Social Workers
D) All Tamil Plays

Q26- How was the Gemini studio influenced by the plays staged by MRA?
A) They imitated their styles
B) They imitated their dialogues
C) They imitated their story
D) They imitated their sets and costumes

Q27- What is the example of National Integration in Poets and Pancakes?
A) Make up department of Gemini
B) rehersal room
C) office of Gemini studio
D) none

Q28- Why was author's work appeared nothing at Gemini?
A) Because of no direct relation to filmmaking
B) because of cutting- pasting
C) because he sits idle
D) because he does nothing

Q29- How does the author come to know that English author was Stephen Spender?
A) From a painting
B) From the newspaper
C) from a television show
D) from a book- The God that failed

Q30- Why was the office boy disappointed with his job in Gemini studios?
A) because of his behavior
B) because of his boss
C) because of his intimacy with boss
D) because of his inability to be a star

Q31- How was Kothamanglam Subbu treated in the Gemini studio?
A) with hatred
B) rudely
C) disrespectfully
D) with high respect

Q32- Why was Subbu termed as 'many sided genius'?
A) his flattery
B) gossip style
C) interaction with others
D) ability to create and manage things

Q33- In this lesson, what is the purpose of humor and satire used by the author?
A) to highlight human abilities
B) to show capabilities
C) to show varied capacities
D) to show and highlight human infancies and flaws

Q34- How many people were there in MRA group?
A) 150
B) 180
C) 140
D) 200 people from 20 nationalities

Q35- When did MRA visit Madras?
A) 1942
B) 1922
C) 1932
D) 1952

Q36- What things attracted the audience in the plays staged by MRA?
A) their jewellery
B) their make up
C) their dialogues
D) their sets and costumes

Q37- Why was Subbu a trouble shooter?
A) because of his gossip style
B) because of his flattery
C) ability to mix up with everyone
D) because of his problem resolving quality

Q38- What does the expression ' fiery misery' mean?
A) the glow of lights
B) the  bright lights
C) the bright colorful dresses of heroines
D) discomfort to the actors in the makeup room

Q39- Who was heading the make-up department?
A) a Madrasi
B) A tamilian
C) A bengali
D) A Bengali and later was succeeded by a Maharashtrian

Q40- What does the expression  'made to look ugly' refer to ?
A) make up done to look presentable before camera
B) faces made by actors
C) faces nade by office boy
D) arrangements in the make up room


1. What does the writer mean by ‘the fiery misery’ of those subjected to make-up’?
A. By ‘the fiery misery’ of those subjected to make-up, the writer is trying to throw light upon the difficulties actors and actresses have to face because of half a dozen mirrors surrounded with large light bulbs. The bulbs generated a lot of heat and were definitely not a pleasure for the eyes.

2. What is the example of national integration that the author refers to?
A. At first, a Bengali was the head of the make-up studio but then he outgrew Gemini Studios and left it for better opportunities. After him, it was supervised by a Maharashtrian who was assisted by a Dharwar Kannadiga, an Andhra, a Madras Indian Christian, an Anglo-Burmese and the usual local Tamils. The fact that people from different cultures worked together puts forward the post-independence national integration scenario. It shows that people were united way before All India Radio and Doordarshan raised the concept.

3. What work did the ‘office boy’ do in the Gemini Studios? Why did he join the studios? Why was he disappointed?
A. The ‘office boy’ had the duty of slapping paints on the faces of players at the time of crowd-shooting. He joined Gemini Studios with a dream of becoming a first-rate actor, screen-writer or producer.

4. Why did the author appear to be doing nothing at the studios?
A. The author’s job was to cut and collect newspaper clippings or sometimes even writing them by hand. This was easier and lesser in comparison to what others were doing at the Studio.

5. Why was the office boy frustrated? Who did he show his anger on?
A. The office boy was frustrated because he thought his literary talent was going wasted in a room full of barbers and make-up artists. He somehow managed to deviate his anger on Subbu.

6. Who was Subbu’s principal?
A. The Boss, SS Vasan, who was also the founder of Gemini Studios, was Subbu's principal

7. Subbu is described as a many-sided genius. List four of his special abilities.
A. Subbu, as a man of many qualities, had the ability to look cheerful at all times, was an excellent actor who could portray his roles in several ways, was an accomplished poet, and loved anyone he met.

8. Why was the legal adviser referred to as the opposite by others?
A. The legal adviser was referred to as the opposite by others because he once resorted to blackmailing an actress by recording her while she was throwing tantrums on the set. This is not considered to be legal, thus he was usually called the opposite.

9. What made the lawyer stand out from the others at Gemini Studios?
A. Gemini Studios was filled with dreamers and creative personnel. A lawyer in between them was the only man with logic. The writer calls him a ‘neutral’ man.

10. Did the people at Gemini Studios have any particular political affiliations?
A. No, although they dressed up in Khadi, they did not have the slightest political affiliations. 

11. Why was the Moral Rearmament Army welcomed at the Studios?
A. Frank Buchman's Moral Re-Armament army was welcomed at the studio mainly because of their political association. The MRA came as a welcome change to their monotonous days at the studio.
12. Name one example to show that Gemini studios was influenced by the plays staged by MRA.
A.  Frank Buchman's Moral Rearmament Army staged two plays“Jotham Valley” and The Forgotten Factor” in a most professional manner. TheGemini family of 600 and the people of Madras city watched them times and again.

13. Who was The Boss of Gemini Studios?
A. SS Vasan was The Boss of Gemini Studios.

14. What caused the lack of communication between the Englishman and the people at Gemini Studios?
A. The British accent of the Englishman caused lack of communication between him and the people at Gemini Studios.

15. Why is the Englishman’s visit referred to as unexplained mystery?
A. The Englishman's visit to the Gemini Studios is referred to as anunexplained mystery because no one could decipher his identity, whether he was a poet or an editor. Besides, when he spoke, no one at the studio understood what he intended to say as his accent was beyond their comprehension.

16. Who was the English visitor to the studios?
A. Stephen Spender

17. How did the author discover who the English visitor to the studios was?
A. Before investing money in participating in a short story contest organized by an English periodical- The Encounter, the author did a research on the magazine. He went to the British Council Library where, while going through an issue of that periodical, he discovered that its editor was Stephen Spender, the poet that had once visited the studio.

18. What does The God that Failed refer to?
A. The God that Failed refers to a collection of essays by six authors who wrote about their journey into Communism, one of them being Stephen Spender.

19. The author has used gentle humour to point out human foibles. Pick out instances of this to show how this serves to make the piece interesting.
A. The author portrays the make-up artists and the usage of the pancakes in an interesting way. Even the caricature of Subbu is hilarious. The way he tries to help his principal is quite amusing. The episode of the legal adviser that inadvertently causes the end of an actress’s career is yet another example. The frustration of the office boy, the superficial praising of Gandhi, hatred of Communism and the ‘mystery’ surrounding Stephen Spender are some of the instances where the author has incorporated gentle humour.

20. Why was Kothamangalam Subbu considered No. 2 in Gemini Studios?
A. Kothamangalam Subbu was succesful in securing the place closest to The Boss by means of flattery. He was not brilliant but a rather cheerful person and loyal to The Boss. He offered solutions whenever The Boss was in a fix. Thus, the staff considered him No.2 in Gemini Studios.

21. How does the author describe the incongruity of an English poet addressing the audience at Gemini Studios?
A. The English poet was addressing the Tamil audience at Gemini Studios in English with a typical provincial accent. He was talking about the thrills and travails of an English poet to a dazed and silent audience. This was the incongruity because his audience could not understand him at all.

22. What do you understand about the author’s literary inclinations from the account?
A. The writer was a prose-writer. He wanted to send a short story for the short story contest organised by a British periodical by the name 'The Encounter'.

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