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It's the beginning of new beginnings for 2012 and what better way to welcome it than celebrating the most popular agricultural festival - Pongal. This harvest festival is most special to me for various reasons and it works as a great analogy to the film world also. Bhogi Pongal symbolizes our disposal of all the unpleasant and unwanted elements in our lives by symbolically burning old stuff and embracing the positive and new things in life. As far as cinema is concerned, I see it as a day for discarding or forgetting the badly made films in the past and giving way to new films that deserve to be greeted. This should be the day to put behind any awkward relationships between producers and actors, catfights between two artists in a multi-star cast film, ego clashes between director and music composer and other such petty issues by forgiving the bygones and starting afresh.

Perum Pongal or Surya Pongal is so significant because of its sheer purpose of 'thanking' the Sun God for his grace and light when most needed for the crops. It's not just relevant to the farmers and agriculturalists who express their gratitude on this day but this implication, in my interpretation, extends to the world of filming also. Ask a cinematographer on any outdoor shooting day and he'll be grateful to the same Sun God for the ideal lighting that is bestowed upon, to capture the actors and shots in the best possible way. Natural lighting is everything in filming a song, fight or scene during the day especially in an outdoor spot and one can't thank the Surya Devan enough for his co-operation. If he gets moody, he is capable of letting the clouds hide him and not give you his darshan. If you've to can a sun-rise shot with the artists in the foreground or just as silhouettes at a specific location situated away from where you're staying for the night, it requires the entire crew to be up early morning by 4 a.m, get ready, travel to the pre-decided spot, set up the camera, get the artists to rehearse before our great ball of fire wakes up from his sleep and starts popping into the boundless sky dot on time and finally go for the shot when the clouds make way. That virgin sunrise makes only a cameo appearance for a few minutes and therefore you better respect his limited time while he poses for your camera and somehow pull it off. With too many takes or lack of planning, Mr. Kathiravan will not wait for you as he's got the entire world to attend to. So in a way, Surya Pongal is an ideal day for the film sorority also to bow and pay their respects to the Sun.

Maattu Pongal has always been that once-in-a-year luxurious spa indulgence day for all the cattle of the farmers. Bathed and decorated with vermillion or sandalwood paste, colorful bells and garlands, the cows get their well-deserved attention and appreciation for all the toiling in the fields through the year. Cine folks can contribute in their own small way towards the upkeep and maintenance of these cows that thankfully don't get used and abused in films anymore. If beef is your favorite meat in that cattle spread and not really into animal activism or not bound by the laws of the state, a generous donation on this day can still be considered for the caretaker's sake who may just be that die-hard simpleton fan of yours innocently whistling and cheering for your film in his village's non-AC movie hall.

That brings us to the last day of Kaanum Pongal that traditionally brings families together over a sumptuous meal known as 'kootaanchoru' accompanied by kummi, kolattam and lots of kondattam. While we know that it is also celebrated as 'Uzhavar' Thirunaal in honor of the farmers who work for our produce at the most hard-working level, it might just be a parallel occasion to appreciate all the sweat and toil of the lesser known but very pertinent spot-boys, light assistants, production helpers, wardrobe assistants, dolly track handlers and others without whom a seamless shoot is very difficult. During any shoot, if you've noticed, barring that half an hour of rest during the lunch break, they will always be sprinting around, holding skimmers while being boiled themselves under the sun, protecting the actors from the harsh weather and lights with their third hand - the humble black umbrella borrowed or fought for from the production department with limited resources, getting that chilled glass of freshly squeezed juice on time, draining oneself out only to be sharing a room with ten others by end of day. While the parallel drawn has got nothing to do with the economic status and grading the level of occupation of both worlds because every honest job is a dignified job, the commonality lies in the way both field-working farmers and set assistants slog it out in tough working environment. They truly deserve to be appreciated, praised and recognized on this 'Uzhavar' Thirunaal that's more close to our hearts than a general Labors Day that other countries also follow.

The festival of Pongal and our Padangal (movies) has always had an implicit understanding between the two where both complement each other in their celebrations and success respectively. Pongal releases are also sentimentally very essential to most stars to commence their year as they plan their films well ahead to ensure timely release and capitalize on the 4 day mela every year. Search for any random video in Tamizh on the festival on youtube and the background song is invariably the festival's filmy anthem 'Thai Pongalum Vanthadu Paalum Pongudhu' from 'Mahanadhi'. And most families try to catch a movie as part of celebrating this joyous occasion. While we usher in the New Year and new beginnings with new releases and new harvest season, right now the most important thing on our to-do list has to be that delectable chakkara pongal, paal paayasam, bite on a juicy 'karumbu' and utter loud and chirpily in chorus 'Pongalo Pongal'.

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