Watch­ing movies ulta

Mid Day - - OPINION -

I’M not sure what brought on this nos­tal­gia at­tack, re­call­ing cin­ema the­atres I’ve loved. I think it was the Ganesh vis­ar­jan devo­tees play­ing Lungi Dance that brought it on: in my child­hood, the sar­va­janik Ganesh fes­ti­val brought the com­mu­nity to­gether in many ways. There were com­pe­ti­tions in singing, mak­ing ran­go­lis, an­tak­shari, ath­let­ics, cricket and bad­minton. Above all, they would screen pop­u­lar Bol­ly­wood and Marathi movies, pro­jected on a white bed­sheet strung up over the colony chaurasta. You sat on the road with hun­dreds of colony peo­ple and learnt the skill of watch­ing movies seedha (from the pro­jec­tor side) and ulta (from the back of the bed­sheet, watch­ing images in re­verse), de­pend­ing on where you man­aged to sit. A cou­ple of thou­sand peo­ple en­joyed th­ese nightly shows in theatre-less bliss.

Reg­u­lar movies we watched at Roop Talkies in Santa Cruz, an en­tirely wretched invention. We watched movies like Haathi Mere Saathi star­ring four ele­phants, Ra­jesh Khanna and Tanuja, 1971, with our feet on the seats, to avoid hav­ing rats scram­bling over them. And it had a loo that must have stunk all the way to Church­gate. At Dhar­wad, then Dhar­war, where I spent all my May va­ca­tions, we posh types sat on wooden benches at the cin­ema; the riff-raff sat on the ground. I saw Anu­raag there, in which Vinod Mehra is in love with a blind girl, played by Moushumi Chat­ter­jee.

Much later, as an arts edi­tor with a Mumbai daily, I en­joyed movies at Deepak Talkies, built in 1926, next door in Lower Parel. I watched Bho­jpuri movies like Kab Hoi Gavna Ha­maar, star­ring Ravi Kis­han, along with tex­tile mill work­ers, tai­lors and sing-channa ven­dors. I was puz­zled when the happy end­ing mar­riage didn’t hap­pen. The labour­ers laughed and teased me, “Kya madam, aap kuch bhi nahin samjhe.” That’s when I un­der­stood that the movie was dis­cussing child mar­riage, fairly com­mon: the pro­tag­o­nists were al­ready mar­ried as in­fants, and on at­tain­ing pu­berty, the girl pines to be sent to her hus­band’s, via a cer­e­mony called gavna. Movies at Deepak were so much more fun than the cyn­i­cal power play on dis­play at press pre­views at Fa­mous Stu­dios, Ma­ha­laxmi. Ob­se­quious pro­duc­ers hov­ered over crit­ics in the in­ter­val — “Ek aur samosa? Kuch thanda laoon?” — and learnt to gauge from how many millimetres a top Bol­ly­wood critic raised his eye­brow, how many stars he would give the movie on Fri­day.

I am un­der­whelmed by mul­ti­plexes, and my en­dur­ing favourite re­mains Gai­ety-Galaxy, since called G7, at Ban­dra: it has seven screens and is even on bookmyshow. The largely tapori crowd goes hys­ter­i­cal when Sal­man Khan comes on screen. Once, Tom Brook from the

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