Pappettan's Cafe in Kochi pays tribute to a legendary filmmaker

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Movies and food have always shared a special affinity with each other. The restaurants and eateries opened by actors like Mohanlal, Sidhique, and Dileep are as hit as their movies. If these actors have ventured into the food business years after establishing themselves in the movie industry, here is someone who opened a small eatery just to make his way into the cinema.

Pappettan's Cafe functioning near the Manorama office at Panampilly Nagar is the latest hangout of filmmakers, actors and cinema lovers. The walls of this cafe are adorned with sketches of unforgettable characters from movies directed by legendary film maker P Padmarajan, after whom the cafe is named. The extremely poetic dialogues from the film maker's cult movies, written on the walls, would beckon the cinema enthusiasts to enjoy the charm of Padmarajan's world and some delicious food as well.

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Sabari, the owner of the Pappettan's cafe, is a self-confessed loyal fan of Padmarajan and his incredible work. He says that he has opened this cafe to earn some money to set out on a trip that would help him work on a movie that he intends to do on his own.

"I am already troubling my family enough in the name of cinema. So how can I ask them for money for this trip? Besides, the newcomers may financially struggle a lot in the movies. I thought it was the right time to do something to earn a steady income. I wanted to do something which is equally beneficial for me and others. I didn't have to think much as I knew I would open a cafe," says Sabari. One of Sabari's friends was reading the stories penned by Padmarajan at that time. The idea of setting up the theme of the restaurant based on Padmarajan's books and movies was suggested by him. The credit of suggesting the cafe's name – Pappettan's Cafe – too goes to Sabari's dear friends who have always supported him. Sabari says that he wanted to open a space where hundreds of people, who dreams of cinema, like him, can discuss movies over a glass of refreshing black tea. Other than the intention of making money for his trip, Sabari is glad that his eatery has become the favorite hangout for those who are passionate about cinema.

Though he opened the cafe, Sabari admits that he doesn't know cooking at all. However, his uncle, who is a great cook, has joined him at the Pappettans's cafe to cook some mouthwatering delicacies. Sabari says that steaming hot puttu and spicy beef curry are his chittapan's (uncle) specialty. In fact, he has become an indispensable part of the cafe and even the customers address him as chittappan like Sabari does. “I am crazy about Padmarajan's books and films. I can’t even explain my love for Clara, Jayakrishnan, and his Mannarathodi from the movie Thoovanathumbikal. I definitely have a special feeling towards his writings and movies," explains the youngster.

Within a few days of opening the cafe, positive reviews began to appear on the social media. That is how Padmarajan's son Ananathapadmanaban came to know about the cafe which honors his father's legacy. It was him who spoke about it to ace filmmaker Lal Jose, who paid a visit to the cafe to try out some delicious dishes and enjoy the wonderful ambiance. Ananthapadmanaban, too, had come to Pappettan's cafe.

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Sabari is excited when he says that other filmmakers like Sajith Jagathnandan, Sajid Yahiya, Tom Immatty and producer Sandra Thomas had stopped by his cafe to enjoy the food and the unique theme. He says, "Lots of assistant directors who dream about movies, like me, come here. I am really happy to know that they really love this place. I have even arranged a collection of Padmarajan's books. The students at the nearby actlab often come here and read these books while enjoying some tea. I and my friends too would have done the same if there were spaces like this."

To the movies

Sabari hails from Pathanapuram, from a family which loved cinema like any other middleclass Malayali family. He was studying in class 8 when the comedy cassette 'De Maveli Kombathu' released. Sabari was crazy about those cassettes and he wanted to be like the artists featured in it. His father was in the Gulf while his mother worked as an anganwadi teacher. Sabari did a TTC course after his plus two. He says that enrolling for TTC was like a confinement for him especially just after completing plus two, where he had a great time enjoying with his friends. Sabari confesses that he was almost on the verge of tears when his students recognized him at the temple festivities and called him 'sir.' When it became obvious that he wouldn't pursue a career in teaching, his family had forced him to go to the Gulf, a place where he wasn't very keen to end up. Sabari had, in the meanwhile, completed a course in quality control. He was sure that his cinema dreams wouldn't be fulfilled if he takes up a job in the Gulf. So he returned home lying to his family that he didn't land any job. However, they were not ready to give up that easily. Sabari was sent to Visakhapatnam for another job soon after returning from the Gulf. He, however, is happy that he found three amazing friends there who also became his partners while opening the cafe.

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It was through an art director whom Sabari met at his hometown that he was able to work in the movie Mannankattayum Kariyilayum. When he went to the sets of the movie, he had no intentions to become an assistant director. However, he was determined to learn about film making and enjoy whatever he was assigned to do. "I helped around for three days, working hard and learning. One day, the director called me and asked me to ring someone up. When I asked him whom should I introduce myself as, the director told me to introduce myself as an assistant director. I was stunned and told him who I was and why I was working on a film set. The director had already understood my passion for cinema as he watched me work hard on the sets. So he told me to assist if I was interested. That is how I became an assistant director. Joby chettan won a special jury award for his performance in that movie," Sabari reveals how he made his entry into the movies.

Actor Saiju Kurup who had acted in that movie asked Sabari to move to Kochi if he really was interested in the movies. He had even given the youngster the numbers of filmmakers Sajid Yahiya and Mithun Manuel Thomas. Sabari had assisted in another movie called Orange Valley and hopes to direct his own movie by 2019. "I have to take a trip to the north India to do some research for my movie. I am trying to earn the money for that trip by running this cafe. Even if I get busy in the films, I will continue to run this eatery as I am always in love with beautiful cafes and the works of Padmarajan. A portrait of Padmarajan sir is done on the cafe wall with one of his most beautiful lines about memories written below it. Similarly our cafe too is a wonderland of memories. Our dreams and desires find wings when we are at this place," concludes Sabari. 

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