'I could not participate in the La Tomatino festival'
Kannada actress Vinaya Prasad was in Spain to shoot for the Lal Jose's Malayalam film Spanish Masala. She shares her experience with Shruti Indira Lakshminarayana and also talks about the La Tomatina festival.
You were in Spain during La Tomatina. Did you participate in it?
Along with the cast and crew of my Malayalam film Spanish Masala, I went to Spain to shoot for the film. La Tomatina festival forms an integral part of the film. I shot the entire celebration on my camera. I could not participate in the festival as our film cameras were all over the place and I wasn't supposed to be in the scene. So I found myself in a place on the first floor of a building and enjoyed the visuals.
How was the experience of watching the festival?
A lot of Kannadigas and Malayalis recognised me and helped me find a comfortable place. The sight of so many people gathered to celebrate a festival was overwhelming.
La Tomatina takes place at Bunol. The street where it takes place is not more than half a kilometer long. Nearly 40-50,000 people come three-four hours before the start of the hour long festival. 70,000 kilos of tomatoes arrive in five trucks every 10 minutes. Also there is a rule that needs to be followed: Tomatoes need to be squeezed before they are thrown at each other.
Image: A scene from Spanish Masala
'I am against celebrating such festivals in our country'
Was it safe as the festival has large participation?
La Tomatina is a very well managed affair.The festival takes place in summer time, there are chances of people dehydrating or experiencing fatigue but there is nothing to worry as there are hospitals in the vicinity. Water jets are also kept to keep people's bodies cool. Tomatoes also act as a coolant. There is a lot of drinking water which is available. Till today there has not been a single incident of stampede.
Once the festival ends, the street is cleared and cleaned in two hours flat. The walls of houses lined up on the street are also repainted within two days.
Why is the festival celebrated?
I came across three versions. The first one says that two boys vying for the same girl once came across each other on this Bunol street and attacked each other with tomatoes that a vendor was selling nearby and the crowd joined in and thus originated the festival.
According some others, in 1945, farmers got truck loads of tomatoes and poured it on the streets and threw them all over as a mark of protest against the dip in prices. This made the government take notice and bail out the farmers. Ever since tomato farmers are said to be in a secure position. In fact after this incident, edibles like ketchup and soup became popular.
There is one more version that says that a political party once attacked members of a rival party at their public meet by throwing tomatoes at them and thus originated La Tomatina.
Image: Vinaya Prasad
'I am the link between the hero and the heroine in the film'
Many cities in India want to host La Tomatina festival. Your view on that?
The festival is a part of the culture in Spain, but in India, I oppose it. In a country where thousands are going hungry, using tomatoes to have fun rather than as food doesn't make sense.
In Karnataka itself, 50 regions have been identified as draught hit. Some people argue that tomatoes unfit for consumption are used, but why use such tomatoes and expose yourself to health hazards? In fact when it was proposed to have one such event in Kerala, an intellect had remarked: 'Here we grow coconuts, so why not throw that at each other!' We also need to see how equipped we are in managing the crowd and cleaning up the mess that follows.
From your experience there, how do you find the Spaniards?
They are very committed and hard working people. Entrust them with some work and be assured that it is done. They also possess great leadership qualities. What I also noticed is that law doesn't discriminate between the poor and the influential. They are disciplined when it comes to following traffic rules as well.
Generally when you say Spain, people identify it with pickpockets. But usually they are people who have come from other cities. However there were a few things that I didn't like about their lifestyle. They are very carefree people and their public display of affection tends to put to shame even the broadminded. You'll find most of their TV programmes selling flesh too. I wonder what impact this will have on youth and children.
What is your role in the film Spanish Masala?
The film directed by Lal Jose stars Dileep, Spanish actress Danialla, Biju Mohan, Kalaranjini and Kunchacko Boban. I play a Spanish translator in the film. So, I learnt the language from books and the Internet.
I am the link between the hero and the heroine. The hero comes to Spain looking for his lady love and I help them communicate. His mother also comes to Spain to meet her future daughter-in-law and La Tomatina forms a part of that scene.
Image: A scene from Spanish Masala