POETS AND PANCAKES English class 12 NCERT Summary and Question answers

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes



“Poets and Pancakes” is a chapter from the book “My Years with Boss” written by Ashokamitran, an Indian author who won the Sahitya Academy award. The story is about Ashokamitran’s experiences working at the Gemini Studios in Madras, India during the 1950s and 1960s. The studio was one of the most prominent film-producing organizations in India and was founded by S.S. Vasan.

The chapter provides a detailed insight into the Indian film industry, particularly the various people who work behind the scenes to make a film. Ashokamitran describes the use of a popular make-up brand called Pancake at the studio, and how it was extensively used on the actors and actresses. He also talks about the importance of everyone from the makeup artists to the guards in the filmmaking process, highlighting that for a film to be successful, all the people working under production must be perfect in their work.

The author also talks about the office boy who longed to be a director or screenwriter, but blames his lack of success on another colleague named Subbu. He reflects on how Subbu had the upper hand as he was a Brahmin and was very close to the boss, and how he was able to recommend practical ideas when the boss had a problem in doing a scene in a film. He also talks about the legal advisor who destroyed the career of a talented actress and how this reflects the importance of having a legal team in the film industry.

The story also mentions a guest who visits the studio, an Englishman whose purpose and accent remains a mystery to the staff. Ashokamitran reflects on how he did not have much money when he left the studio but had much free time and how discounted goods on sale interested him.

In summary, “Poets and Pancakes” is a story that gives a comprehensive insight into the Indian film industry, the different roles and personalities that make a film possible, and the personal experiences of the author Ashokamitran while working at the Gemini Studios. It is an interesting read for students who are interested in understanding the workings of the film industry, and how various individuals contribute to the making of a film. The author’s personal anecdotes and reflections add a unique perspective to the story.


• 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 to give an advantage to (an opponent).

• the favourite haunt -a frequently visited place

• heard a bell ringing -stirring an often indistinct memory

Imp Questions and Answers

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.

Ans. ‘Poets and Pancakes’ has an underlying tone of humour which is satirical and has been deployed by the author to point out human foibles. The instances of humour, used by the author, mark the eccentricities and idiosyncrasies without making any direct and rude comments about anybody. For instance, the author portrays the make-up artists and the usage of the pancakes interestingly. 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.
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 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.

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

Ans. Kothamangalam Subbu succeeded in securing the place closest to the boss by means of flattery. Mr. Vasan was the boss at Gemini Studios and Subbu, his right-hand man, became the number two at Gemini Studios. He offered solutions whenever the boss was in a fix. Subbu used his entire creativity to his boss’s advantage. He was a multi-faceted genius and if a producer was not satisfied Subbu would come up with fourteen alternatives. With Subbu around, film-making became a sheer pleasure. Moreover Subbu gave direction and definition to Gemini Studios during its golden years. Thus, the other employees considered him number two in Gemini Studios.

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

Ans. The Gemini Studios witnessed a surprising visit by a tall Englishman who was proclaimed to be a poet. The visit raised many queries and doubts in the minds of those who were working in Gemini Studios. The Englishman’s name was unfamiliar and his credentials too were unconfirmed. 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 in his speech which made no sense to the simple people at Gemini Studios.
The studio made films for simple people whose limited resources did not provide them with an opportunity to develop a taste in English poetry. The audience failed to understand anything the poet said, all the more, because of the latter’s accent. 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.

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

Ans. The author, Asokamitran, had a very tedious and unchallenging job at the studios. Though to others, who just saw him tearing papers, he appeared to be doing nothing, the job kept the author well informed. his interest in literature and writing is highlighted in his willingness to participate in the short story contest organised by the British periodical, The Encounter. Moreover, the author appears to be a keen reader visiting libraries and buying books on wide-ranging topics whenever he could afford them. He also read essays ‘The God Who Failed’ to know more about the poet Stephen Spender. Besides, the Narrative also establishes the fact that the author was one of the most knowledgeable persons in Gemini Studios. His idea about how prose writing was not meant for geniuses but for those with Patience and perseverance, highlight his reflective and deep thoughts on literature and creative Writing.

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