TALKING FILMS

Before ‘Tik Tik Tik’, two Indian films that travelled to outer space

Jayam Ravi is on a galactic mission in the upcoming space film ‘Tik Tik Tik’. There were others before him.

With people floating in mid-air, satellites and celestial bodies, the teaser for the upcoming Tamil film Tik Tik Tik offers glimpses of life beyond earth. Billed as the first Indian space film, Tik Tik Tik stars Jayam Ravi as Vasu, a space traveller who, like Sandra Bullock, loses his way in zero gravity during a mission.

Shakti Soundar Rajan’s movie, which shares its title with Bharathiraja’s 1981 thriller, will come before the Sushant Singh Rajput starrer Chanda Mama Door Ke, which is a tribute to the Indian space programme, and Mahesh Mathai’s biopic on Rakesh Sharma, which will star Aamir Khan as the first Indian astronaut in space.

The space rush has come after years of being firmly earthbound. Although there have been alien invasion movies (Rakesh Roshan’s Koi Mil Gaya is one of the most successful examples), Indian cinema has by and large stuck within the blue planet’s boundaries. But back in the 1960s, at least two productions went where no human had gone before.

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Tik Tik Tik (2017).

In A Kasilingam’s Kalai Arasi, or Queen of the Arts (1963), the inimitable MN Nambiar plays the alien Dheenan who abducts Vani (P Bhanumathi) and takes her away to his bleak planet in the hope that she will introduce its inhabitants to the wonders of the performing arts. In this space-age version of the Ramayana, Dheenan is pursued by Mohan (MG Ramachandran), the do-gooder farmer who is in love with Vani.

Kalai Arasi’s depictions of aliens and earthlings are comical rather than realistic. When Dheenan’s spaceship lands in a paddy field, it is accompanied by screeching sounds and smoke. When Mohan hitches a ride on a spaceship that he thinks is going to Dheenan’s planet, he lands up in a place where there is no gravity. In one of the film’s most hilarious sequences, Mohan’s weightless flight across the planet is halted when his extra-terrestrial doppelganger (also played by MGR) hands him a pair of shoes.

Kalai Arasi (1963).
Kalai Arasi (1963).

TP Sundaram’s Chand Par Chadayee (1967) is in the vein of American and European futuristic movies, which journeyed to the moon years before Neil Armstrong took that giant leap for humankind.

As the title credits roll to images of rockets, spaceships and satellites in the sky, Dara Singh is introduced as Anand, an astronaut who never misses a brawl – be it with a terrestrial badman or a belligerent alien. The film follows his quest for a scientist who has been kidnapped by the lunar people. Once he reaches the moon along with his sidekick Bhagu (Bhagwan Abhaji Palav), he is greeted with love and adulation from the celestial folk, but not for long.

Chand Par Chadayee (1967).
Chand Par Chadayee (1967).

In both movies, the parts set in outer space recreate worlds that were not known about at the time. The aliens in both productions are kitted out in glittering frills and ruffles. Iron-heavy vitamin pills replace food; lasers take the place of bullets.

Chand Par Chadayee features a Google Glass-like device through which moon-bound Simi (Padma Khanna) conducts a video call with Martian ruler Barahatu to scheme against Anand. By the end of the 150-minute film, the wide-chested Dara Singh has warded off challenges from gorillas, horses, rhinoceros, robots and even the king of Mars.

Chand Par Chadayee (1967).
Chand Par Chadayee (1967).
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Decoding the symbolic threads and badges of one of India’s oldest cavalry units

The untold story of The President’s Bodyguard.

The national emblem of India; an open parachute and crossed lances – this triad of symbols representing the nation, excellence in training and valor respectively are held together by an elite title in the Indian army – The President’s Bodyguard (PBG).

The PBG badge is worn by one of the oldest cavalry units in the India army. In 1773, Governor Warren Hastings, former Governor General of India, handpicked 50 troopers. Before independence, this unit was referred to by many titles including Troops of Horse Guards and Governor General’s Body Guards (GGBG). In 1950, the unit was named The President’s Bodyguard and can be seen embroidered in the curved maroon shoulder titles on their current uniforms.

The President’s Bodyguard’s uniform adorns itself with proud colours and symbols of its 245 year-old-legacy. Dating back to 1980, the ceremonial uniform consists of a bright red long coat with gold girdles and white breeches, a blue and gold ceremonial turban with a distinctive fan and Napoleon Boots with spurs. Each member of the mounted unit carries a special 3-meter-long bamboo cavalry lance, decorated by a red and white pennant. A sheathed cavalry sabre is carried in in the side of the saddle of each trooper.

While common perception is that the PBG mainly have ceremonial duties such as that of being the President’s escort during Republic Day parade, the fact is that the members of the PBG are highly trained. Handpicked by the President’s Secretariat from mainstream armored regiments, the unit assigns a task force regularly for Siachen and UN peace keeping operations. Moreover, the cavalry members are trained combat parachutists – thus decorating the PBG uniform with a scarlet Para Wings badge that signifies that these troopers are a part of the airborne battalion of the India Army.

Since their foundation, the President’s Guard has won many battle honors. In 1811, they won their first battle honor ‘Java’. In 1824, they sailed over Kalla Pani for the first Burmese War and earned the second battle honour ‘Ava’. The battle of Maharajapore in 1843 won them their third battle honor. Consequently, the PBG fought in the main battles of the First Sikh War and earned four battle honours. Post-independence, the PBG served the country in the 1962 Indo-China war and the 1965 Indo-Pak war.

The PBG, one of the senior most regiments of the Indian Army, is a unique unit. While the uniform is befitting of its traditional and ceremonial role, the badges that augment those threads, tell the story of its impressive history and victories.

How have they managed to maintain their customs for more than 2 centuries? A National Geographic exclusive captures the PBG’s untold story. The documentary series showcases the discipline that goes into making the ceremonial protectors of the supreme commander of the Indian Armed Forces.

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The National Geographic exclusive is a landmark in television and is being celebrated by the #untoldstory contest. The contest will give 5 lucky winners an exclusive pass to the pre-screening of the documentary with the Hon’ble President of India at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. You can also nominate someone you think deserves to be a part of the screening. Follow #UntoldStory on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to participate.

This article was produced by Scroll marketing team on behalf of National Geographic and not by the Scroll editorial team.