The year was 1982, which with my investigative journalism skills, I can confirm to be 35 years ago, when I first watched Moonraker, starring the recently-demised Roger Moore, at Madurai’s Thangam theatre, the largest movie hall in the entirety of Asia. Whether this claim was true or not, Thangam theatre was surely the largest theatre in the world that had rats, the size of a standard football, darting around from under the seats. Alas, this monument was razed down a few years ago to make way for a commercial complex.
But this is about Moonraker and James Bond. I should say that we, the then callow youth of rustic Madurai, were totally won over by Moore’s droll humour and understated British one-liners. Ha. Ha. Ha. Who am I kidding? We still don’t know what ‘droll’ means. The thing that won us over was when Bond kissed women, which was often, the camera actually lingered on the pair and not move on to two artificial flowers in a coy hug as was the case in Tamil movies. James Bond made us realise that to understand English movies we need not necessarily understand English.
In Moonraker, there were also interesting action set-pieces where James Bond, upon being chased by the villains, turns in a trice his slow-moving Gondola on the placid waters of Venice into a whirring motor boat, which, of course, also had the capacity to be converted into a vehicle that could be driven on the cobblestoned streets of Venice.
In time, we realised James Bond could do anything and come up trumps in any situation. Nothing was beyond him. He was the Superman who didn’t have to change his attire in a phone booth. He was the Batman who didn’t have to drive around in that Batmobile, which anyway was just a snazzy version of the car that Soppanadsundari had kept. Also, James Bond had swell gadgets. His watch was capable of launching missiles. His pen could shoot down opponents. His shoes had hidden knives. He was, well, Rajnikanth lite!
So when Roger Moore passed away this week, there was understandable sadness and a tinge of nostalgia of what Bond movies meant to some of us. It was also an occasion for me personally to revisit a spoof cartoon series that a friend and I had planned on James Bond some years back. Though I had written a few lines, the cartoons never materialised as the friend who was do the drawing got married and went off with her husband to some foreign country.
But today is a good time to run a few scenes from that spoof that we had edgily titled — we also sincerely believed this to be the core idea of the entire Bond series —The Spy Who Laid Me.
(The scene opens with the heroine, a top scientist at a private lab that is into high-end nuclear research. The boss of the organisation Dr Rio, of course, is evil and he is planning to sell the ‘Neutron Centriplator‘ to other evil forces that want to usher in World War III)
Heroine: The final modules of ‘Neutron Centriplator‘ are ready. The gamma version is up and running. We just have to run planckoscans.
Boss: Good job, Linda. We seem to have already hit the upper-ceiling of made-up science jargon that we can mouth in this film.
Heroine: You are telling me. There is no such thing as ‘Neutron Centriplator‘ in the first place. I just thought that up.
(When the boss isn’t looking, she pockets all the detailed sketches of the project)
(Scene shifts to a Minister’s office where M, Bond’s superior, has been summoned)
Minister: We have credible info Dr. Rio is in touch with the villains who the writers of this story have still not decided whether they will be East European or Middle-Eastern. Anyway, we have to move fast before they get hold of the Neutron Centriplator.
M: I get it. Will despatch Bond immediately to Hawaii.
Minister: But why Hawaii when the lab is in Switzerland?
M: Because the scientist Linda is holidaying there. Also, it will help us show her in fetching bikinis smooching Bond amidst the tension of an impending World War.
(Scene at: ‘Q Division’ with Bond, M and Q around)
Bond: What improbable thingy are you going to arm me with in this movie?
M (Deadpans): The only item left to give you is the Aladdin’s lamp.
Q: (Hands over a belt) The belt-clip has a transmitter that can spot nearby nuclear devices.
M: If there is a nuclear device nearby can he not spot it anyway?
Bond: (Smirks) I never asks questions. I just find answers.
(Cut to chase. It’s the climax)
Bond: Tell me, which wire to cut? Blue or red?
Linda: That must be a dialogue from your previous film. We are not dealing with a simple bomb. Heard of ‘Neutron Centriplator‘?
Bond: Heck, how do we deactivate it then?
Linda: No time for that. Dr Rio is taking his private personal submarine to escape, you need to find a way to stop him.
Bond: Private submarine? Huh, this is outlandish even by my film’s standards.
(Bond, who wears a special sneakers, dives into the sea and he starts inhaling through a special pipe attached to his sneakers as their soles are embedded with small oxygen tanks. Bond is attacked by a shark but he ferociously fights it off and kills it with a handy pen knife hidden inside it though was a mighty canon. Now, Dr Rio targets his submarine straight at him, but Bond catches the underside of the submarine, makes a hole into it and gets in and after killing all the extras doing duty as guards, he takes out Dr Rio with a small nuclear gun that was attached to his sun glasses).
Linda: Whew! That was close. Dr Rio had almost made it away with the Neutron Centriplator. Imagine its sinusoidal vector throttle…
Bond: Darn it. No need for science gibberish in this scene. We just need to be under the sheets as if we are making love as they pan out, play the theme music and run the credit lines that no one is anyway going to read.