NCERT Solutions for Class 12 English Flamingo Chapter 6 Poets and Pancakes

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Poets and Pancakes NCERT Solutions for Class 12 English Flamingo Chapter 6

Poets and Pancakes NCERT Text Book Questions and Answers

Q. Notice these words and expressions in the text. Infer their meaning from the context.

  • blew over: give a long, angry speech of criticism or accusation
  • was struck dumb: render speechless, as by surprise or shock
  • catapulted into: to shoot forth or launch
  • a coat of mail: an armoured coat made of chain mail, interlinked rings, or overlapping metal plates
  • played into their hands: to act or behave so as to give an advantage to (an opponent).
  • the favourite haunt: a frequently visited place
  • heard a bell ringing: stirring an often indistinct memory

Poets and Pancakes Think as you read

Q1. What does the writer mean by ‘the fiery misery’ of those subjected to make-up?

Answer:The writer means the misery caused by the incandescent lights that poured out intense heat. The make-up room of the Gemini Studios had bright bulbs in the room full of large mirrors that reflected the glowing lights. Under such blazing heat make-up was done.

Q2. What is the example of national integration that the author refers to?

Answer:The make-up division of the Gemini Studios was an example of national integration. According to the author, this is so because people from different regions and religious groups worked together in the same department. The department was headed by a Bengali who was succeeded by a Maharashtrian. The other helpers included a Dharwar Kannadiga, an Andhra, a Madras Indian Christian, an Anglo-Burmese and the local Tamils.

Q3. What work did the ‘office boy’ do in the Gemini Studios? Why did he join the studios? Why was he disappointed?

Answer:The office boy applied make-up to the crowds, mixing his paint in a giant vessel and slapping it on the crowd players. He had joined the studios in the hope of becoming a star actor or a top screen writer, director or lyrics writer. He was a bit of a poet. He was disappointed as he was placed low even in the hierarchy of make-up men.

Q4. Why did the author appear to be doing nothing at the studios?

Answer:The author’s duty was to cut out newspaper clippings on a wide variety of subjects and store them in files. Many of these had to be written out in hand. The onlookers noticed him merely tearing up newspapers. Hence to them he seemed to be doing next to nothing.

Q5. Why was the office boy frustrated? Who did he show his anger on?

Answer:The office boy was frustrated because his hopes of making big in the movie world failed. He vent his anger and frustration on Kothamangalam Subbu, the No. 2 in the studios, whom he held responsible for his dishonour and neglect.

Q6. Who was Subbu’s principal?

Answer:Mr. S.S Vasan, the founder of the Gemini Studios, was Subbu’s principal.

Q7. Subbu is described as a many-sided genius. List four of his special abilities.

Answer:Subbu was a many-sided genius. He was born a Brahmin. It is a virtue in itself as it exposed him to more affluent situations and people. Second, he had the ability to look cheerful at all times. Third, he always had work for somebody. Fourth, he had great loyalty to his principal, S.S. Vasan, the Boss.

Q8. Why was the legal adviser referred to as the opposite by others?

Answer:The lawyer was in the Story Department. He was officially known as the legal adviser. However, his actions did nobody any good. He had unwittingly brought to an end the career of a promising young actress. Hence he was referred to as the opposite by others.

Q9. What made the lawyer stand out from the others at Gemini Studios?

Answer:The lawyer wore pants, a tie and sometimes a coat, while all wore khadi dhoti and white khadi shirt. He looked alone and helpless. He was a man of cold logic in a crowd of dreamers. He was a neutral man among Gandhiites and Khadiites.

Q10. Did the people at Gemini Studios have any particular political affiliations?

Answer:Most of the people at Gemini Studios were followers of Gandhiji and wore khadi. Beyond khadi and wearing of khadi they did not have any particular political affiliations. However, they were all against communism.

Q11. Why was the Moral Re-Armament Army welcomed at Gemini Studios?

Answer:The Moral Re-Armament Army was invited to stage two plays, which were more like plain homilies ‘ (sermons/lectures) for the Gemini family. It was discovered only later that the group was part of the movement countering international communism and Vasan had invited them under the influence of his political interests.

Q12. Name one example to show that Gemini Studios was influenced by the plays staged by MRA.

Answer:The plays staged by the MRA greatly influenced Madras and Tamil drama community. For some years almost all Tamil plays had a scene of sunrise and sunset in the manner of ‘Jotham Valley’ with a bare stage, a white background curtain and a tune played on the flute.

Q13. Who was the Boss of Gemini Studios?

Answer:Mr. S.S. Vasan, the founder of Gemini Studios was the Boss. Apart from producing films, he was an editor of a popular Tamil weekly ‘Ananda Vikatan’. He was a great admirer of scholarly people. Subbu seemed to enjoy an intimate relationship with him. Mr. Vasan is projected as a bit of showman here.

Q14. What caused the lack of communication between the Englishman and the people at Gemini Studios?

Answer:Most of the 600 odd people at Gemini Studios were Tamil speakers. The Englishman was addressing them in his own language-English. He had a peculiar accent. Hence, there was a lack of communication between the Englishman and the people at who could not follow what he was saying.

Q15. Why was the Englishman’s visit referred to as unexplained mystery?

Answer:The Englishman was a poet whose name was not familiar. In his speech he talked about the thrills and travails of an English poet, which made no sense for the simple people at Gemini Studios who had had no exposure other than films and so they were not interested. These simple people had neither taste for English poetry nor political interests. Hence, his visit is referred to as an unexplained mystery.

Q16. Who was the English visitor to the studios?

Answer:The English visitor to the Gemini Studios was Stephen Spender. He was the editor of The Encounter, a British Periodical, and a famous English poet, essayist and novelist of the twentieth century.

Q17. How did the author discover who the English visitor to the studio was?

Answer:The author discovered his identity by reading his name on the pages of ‘The Encounter’ in the British Council Library. He also knew about him from the paperback edition of the book The God That Failed.

Q18. What does ‘The God that Failed’ refer to?

Answer:’The God That Failed’ was a compilation of six essays written by six eminent writers, namely, Andre Gide, Richard Wright, Ignazio Silone, Arthur Koestler, Louis Fischer and Stephen Spender. In each of the essays, the respective writers described “their journeys into Communism and their disillusioned return”.

Poets And Pancakes Understanding the text

Q1. 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?

Answer:‘Poets and Pancakes’ has an underlying tone of humour which is satirical and has been deployed by the author to point out human foibles. It is mainly manifested in his description of the make-up room people.

The make-up room, he says, was in a building that had once been the stables of Robert Clive. He further makes fun of the make-up team that slapped make-up. Ironically, the make-up turned any normal man into a hideous monster, far from being presentable. He also refers to the fiery misery of the actors when their make-up was done under the bright bulbs, large mirrors reflecting blazing heat. His description of Subbu’s No. 2 position in Gemini Studios, the frustration of the office boy and the opposite role played by the legal adviser in the acting career of a countryside girl are humorously dealt with but effectively bring out the flaws in the set-up.

The showmanship of the boss and what influences his guest list point out human weaknesses in a light-hearted manner. The humour is at its peak in the description of the visit of Stephen Spender. S.S. Vasan’s reading a long speech in his honour but he too knew precious little about him. Spender’s accent is highly unintelligible. Then the author’s establishing long lost brother’s relationship with the English visitor is also funny and humorous. All these slight digs at human foibles tickle in us humour.

Q2. Why was Kothamangalam Subbu considered No. 2 in Gemini Studios?

Answer:Kothamangalam Subbu succeeded in securing the place closest to The Boss by means of flattery. He was not brilliant but a rather cheerful person and exceedingly loyal to The Boss. He offered solutions whenever The Boss was in a fix. Thus, the other employees considered him No.2 in Gemini Studios.

Q3. How does the author describe the incongruity of an English poet addressing the audience at Gemini Studios?

Answer:The Gemini Studios witnessed a surprising visit by a tall Englishman who was proclaimed to be a poet. The welcome speech by the Boss was delivered in the most general terms, which only showed that even the Boss did not know much about him. The poet talked about the thrill and travails of an English poet which made no sense to the simple people at Gemini Studios. They had no exposure other than films and so, they were not interested. Also, words like democracy and freedom that featured in his speech held no interest for them as they had no political thought or interests. Moreover, the Englishman’s accent was difficult to understand, because of which all communications failed. He was basically a poet and that made no sense to the people whose life centred round a film studio. Therefore, his visit remained an unexplained mystery for much time.

Q4. What do you understand about the author’s literary inclinations from the account?

Answer: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’.

Poets And Pancakes Extra Questions and Answers

Q1. How does the writer describe the make-up room of the Gemini Studios?

Answer:The make-up room of the Gemini Studios had incandescent lights. It also had lights at all angles around large mirrors. Those subjected to make-up had to face bright light and a lot of heat there. It was on the upper floor of the building that was believed to have been Robert Clive’s stables.

Q2. Bring out the humour in the job of the make-up men.

Answer:The make-up men came from all corners of the country and could transform any decent-looking person into a repulsive crimson coloured fiend and made people look uglier than they were in real life. They used truck loads of pancakes and locally manufactured potions and lotions to transform the looks of the actors.

Q3. How was the make-up room a fine example of national integration?

Answer:Transcending all the barriers of regions, religions and castes, people from all over India came to Gemini Studios for jobs. The make-up department was headed by a Bengali, succeeded by a Maharashtrian, assisted by a Dharwar Kannadiga, an Andhra, a Madrasi, Christian and an Anglo Burmese and the usual local Tamils. Hence, the writer finds in the make-up department a perfect example of national integration.

Q4. Why did the author appear to do nothing in the studio?

Answer:The author’s job in the studio was to cut newspaper dippings of all the relevant news items and articles that appeared in different newspapers and maintain a record of the same. This tearing of newspaper gave an impression that he was free and simply whiling away his time. People used to barge in his cubicle and lectured him.

Q5. Why was the office boy frustrated? Who did he show his anger on and how?

Answer:The office boy had joined the studio years back. He aspired to be a top film star, or top screen writer, lyricist or director. He felt frustrated on not being able to realise his dreams and had been given a job much below his calibre and dignity. He blamed Kothamangalam Subbu for all his woes, ignominy and neglect. He often gave vent to his frustrations in the narrator’s cubicle. The narrator yearned for relief from the never-ending babble of the office boy.

Q6. Subbu is described as a many-sided genius. Justify.

Answer:Kothamangalam Subbu may not have had much formal education but, by virtue of his being born as a Brahmin, he had had exposure to many affluent situations and people. He had the ability to look cheerful at all times, even after a setback. He was always full of creative ideas. Above all, he was a charitable and extravagant man and hospitable to his relations. His loyalty had put him close to his boss. But he seemed to others a sycophant and a flatterer and, probably, that was the reason he had enemies.

Q7. How did the lawyer unwittingly bring an end to a brief and brilliant career of a young actress?

Answer:A talented but very temperamental actress lost her cool on the sets. The lawyer recorded her outburst and played it back, much to her embarrassment. The actress from the countryside was so terror- struck that she retreated and never got back to films. In this way, his mischief making brought an abrupt end to the brilliant actress’ career.

Q8. Why did the magazine, ‘The Encounter’, ring a bell in the writer’s mind?

Answer:The writer wanted to participate in a short story writing contest organized by ‘The Encounter’, a British publication. Before sending his entry, he waited, confirm the authenticity of the periodical, so he visited the British Council Library. When the author read the editor’s name, a bell rang in his mind. It was Stephen Spender, the poet who had visited the Gemini Studios.

Q9. What was significant about the book which the author took from roadside?

Answer:‘The God That failed’ was the name of the book which caught the attention of the author. It contained the essays of six eminent men, who described their journey into communism and their return from it after being disillusioned. It suddenly assumed great significance for the author as he discovered that one of the essays had been written by Stephen Spender, the poet, who had visited the studio. He now understood the reason for his having been invited.

Q10. What do you understand about the author’s literary inclinations from the account?

Answer:The author was very knowledgeable young man whose job required him to pour over the newspaper all day long. His interest in creative writing and participating in story writing contests indicates his interest in literature. This interest was so keen that he read books on varied subjects and went about buying them even when he was short of money.

Q11. What kind of people, according to the author, are meant for prose writing?

Answer:According to the author, prose writing is not the pursuit of a genius. It is for the patient, persistent and persevering drudge whose heart can take rejections and whose spirit to keep trying does not get killed so easily.

Q12. Why was Gemini Studios a favourite haunt of poets?

Answer:Gemini Studios was a favourite haunt of poets as it had an excellent mess which supplied good coffee at all times of the day and for most part of the night. Meeting there was a satisfying entertainment. Moreover, Mr. Vasan was a great admirer of scholarly people.

Q13. ‘Prose writing is not and cannot be the true pursuit of a genius’, says the author. Explain the statement.

Answer:In this statement, the author says that prose writing can’t be the true pursuit of a genius because it is always rejected. A genius is not that is accepted everywhere. The author states all this with criticism that prose writing is actually meant for rejection. Prose writers are patient, persistent and persevering drudges. They can’t be down played by rejection slips. Everytime he gets a rejection slip for his manuscript, he starts making a fresh copy and sends it to another publisher with return postage.

Q14. ‘Suddenly the book assumed tremendous significance.’ Explain the statement.

Answer:The author bought one copy of the book ‘The God That Failed’ from the footpath. Six eminent men of letters in six separate essays describe their journey into communism and their disillusioned return. Among them one was Stephen Spender. The author at once recollected that Stephen Spender had visited Gemini Studios. He knew about the mystery of his visit now. So, the book assumed tremendous significance for him.

Q15. Explain the appropriateness of the title ‘Poets and Pancakes’?

Answer:The chapter describes Gemini Studios and its functioning very clearly. Its employees are little unrecognized poets. Though they work in a film studio, the focus is on the author’s station in the Studios as a make-up boy using pancakes on crowd players, and how he failed as a poet. So, the title is appropriate.

Q16. How humorously does the author describe Frank Buchman’s Moral Re-Armament Army?

Answer:The author humorously calls the Moral Re-Armament Army after someone as ‘an international circus’. Then he states that they were not very good on the trapeze. Their acquaintance with animals should have been much as animals play tricks in a circus. “But the group ate animals”, says the author their acquaintance with animals was only at the dining table.

Q17. What was thought of a communist by the studios people?

Answer:According to these people, a communist was a godless man. He had no filial or conjugal love. He had compunction about killing his own parents and children. He was always out to cause and spread unrest and violence among the innocent and ignorant people.

Talking about the Text

Discuss in small groups taking off from points in the text.

1.Film-production today has come a long way from the early days of the Gemini Studios.

  1. Poetry and films.
  2. Humour and criticism.

Answer:1. Film production is more technical nowadays. While earlier only five per cent of the shooting was done outdoors, nowadays outdoor shooting is no more limited to such a negligible percentage. The cameras and other equipments are more advanced allowing for more varied and accurate presentation.
The quality of make-up has improved many folds from the days of the Gemini Studios where only pancake was used. The people involved in various departments are experts in their specialised work, be it the director, producer, scriptwriter, lyricist or the actors. The overall quality of the films is more striking and lively.

  1. In India poetry and films are intricately linked. The people at Gemini Studios, all claimed to have the talents of a poet. The main reason behind it was their monotonous and leisurely life at the studios. However, these people were not knowledgeable or educated enough to be poets. Unlike poetry, films can be enjoyed by people with little resources who cannot afford to cultivate taste for poetry and literature.
  2. The story is interspersed with instances dipped in subtle humour. The humorous instances, however, make interesting and relevant comments on the behaviour of general people. A humorous story has more readers, a humorous film more viewers. This is because they provide entertainment and a respite from the tedious existence. Criticism by means of humour is more effective, hence writers and film-makers often use humorous elements in their works and make sarcastic comments and criticism.

Poets And Pancakes Long Questions and Answers

Q1. How does the author come to know about the periodical ‘The Encounter’?

Answer:The Hindu published an advertisement about a short story contest organized by ‘The Encounter’. The author wanted to know about it before he spent a lot of money on postage sending his manuscript to England. So, he visited the British Council Library. There he saw many untouched copies of ‘The Encounter’. When he read the editor’s name, he felt like he had found a long lost brother. He sang as he sealed the envelope and felt that the editor would also be singing the same song when he would open the envelope. Actually the editor was the same Englishman, Stephen Spender who visited Gemini Studios long time ago.

Q2. ‘Poets and Pancakes’ is a beautiful example of humour in its chatty and rambling style’. Comment.

Answer:‘Poets and Pancakes’ is an account of Asokamitran’s experiences at the Gemini Studios. Asokamitran
deals with a wide variety of ideas where despite one thought leading to another, the thematic coherence is never lost. The author has adopted a chatty and rambling style. The style has a flow and the reader glides smoothly with the flow of the narrative. Asokamitran highlights human foibles and unusual behaviour with the help of subtle humour. All the characters are so life like that the reader seems to come across in real life. The subtle humour is neither superimposed nor superfluous.

Throughout the chapter humour seems to be spontaneous and interwoven. Even the choice of the title shows that Asokamitran has a flair for natural humour. He ridicules without hurting and the entire account becomes very interesting. Throughout the chapter the reader doesn’t find even the slightest trace of malice. But every now and then the author speaks with his tongue-in-cheek way and pays left-handed compliments to different characters to the great amusement of the readers.

Q3. What was the opinion of most of the people at the studios regarding communism?

Answer:The people at the Gemini Studios wore Khadi dhoti and a clumsily tailored white khadi shirt. It was a crowd of dreamers and an assembly of Gandhiites and khadietes. The Congress rule meant prohibition and most employees worshipped Gandhiji but beyond that they had no admiration for political thought of any kind. They hated the term ‘communism’ as to them a communist was a godless man, incapable of love and always out to spread unrest and violence among the innocent and ignorant people.

When Frank Buchman’s Moral Re-Armament Army visited the Gemini Studios in 1952, they gave them a warm reception. Later they learnt that MRA was a counter movement to international communism and the big bosses of Madras like Mr. Vasan simply played into their hands. Later, the mystery of the visit of Stephen Spender was resolved and the writer came to know the reason of his visit and that the Boss of Gemini Studios had not been interested in Spender’s poetry but in communism. But the khadi-clad poets of Gemini Studios fell the same aversion for communism.

Q4. The English poet who visited Gemini Studios was as baffled as the audience. Why was that?

Answer:When Gemini Studios prepared to welcome Stephen Spender, they did not know the identity of the
visitor. All they knew was that he was a poet from England. However, he was not one of the poets from England that they had heard of. Later they heard that he was an editor. But again he wasn’t the editor of any of the known British publications. When the gentleman arrived, the mystery’ of his identity deepened.

The Englishman left the audience dazed and silent as no one knew what he was talking about. The people of Gemini Studios led lives that least offered them the possibilities of cultivating a taste for English poetry. The English man talked of the thrills and problems of an English poet. His British accent defeated any attempt to understand what he was saying. His lecture lasted an hour but it left the people confused. The poet himself was equally baffled. He too must have felt the strangeness of his talk. His visit remained an unexplained mystery for a long time.

Q5. Explain the statement ‘Subbu is tailor-made for films.’

Answer:Kothamangalam Subbu has many qualities of head and heart with a great fund of humaneness. He has the ability’ to look cheerful at all times. His loyalty to his principal is complete. He is always ready to say nice things about everything. He is resourceful. He has an inventive brain as he can create new ways and means to dramatise some difficult propositions in films. Film-making goes very easy with him. He is a poet also and has written a novel titled Thillana Mchanambal He successfully recreated the mood and manner of the Devadasis of the early 20thcentury.

He is an amazing actor and has performed better than the supposed main players. Above all. he has a heart of gold for his relatives and near and dear ones. His house is a permanent residence for them. In fact, he is tailor-made for films. He gave direction and definition to Gemini Studios during its golden years. His success in films overshadowed and dwarfed his literary achievements. He is a poet, an actor and a creative assistant roled into one.

Q6. What idea do you get about the narrator from the chapter ‘Poets and Pancakes’?

Answer:Asokamitran used to work in a cubicle tearing up newspapers all the time. Most of the people thought that he did nothing. So anyone who felt so would enter his cubicle and deliver an extended lecture. He never tried to say anything in his defence. He kept himself busy with his work, without poking his nose into anyone’s affairs but he was wide awake and highly observant. He very well knew what was going on around him. He had a deep psychological insight into the human mind.

He could see through Subbu’s sycophancy, the lawyer’s smartness and the office boy’s frustration. He was very fond of books and bought books all the time even when there was paucity of money. His description of S.S. Vasan’s battling with half a dozen pedestal fans while reading his welcome address and an account of Stephen Spender’s accent are examples of his brilliant sense of humour. He was a man of cool temperament who never jumped to conclusions or pounced upon opportunities rashly. On the whole, he emerges as a responsible and conscientious man.

Q7. Describe Stephen Spender’s visit to Gemini Studios.

Answer:There was a lot of speculation about Spender’s visit. Initially, everyone thought he was a poet but later they heard that he was an editor. The author describes him as a tall, very English and a serious person. It was evident from Boss’ speech that he knew very little about the visitor. When Spender addressed the gathering they were all dazed as they couldn’t understand his accent and didn’t understand what he was talking about.

Even Spender must have sensed the incongruity of being called to talk about the travails of an English poet in a film studio making simple Tamil films. His visit remained an unexpected mystery. It was only much later that Asokamitran learnt that the reason why the boss had invited Spender. Spender was disillusioned with communism

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