April 26, 2015

Louche Tales of Theatre

Dictionary definition 
  1. disreputable or sordid in a rakish or appealing way.
    "the louche world of the theatre"
My earliest memories of Theatre as in Cinema is of watching a Ramsay Horror film in one of my Dad's friends theatre. The movie was Kabrastan and the theatre was Ratan Theatre of Moga owned by Bedi uncle. Moga was a small town, people didn't go there for films or dinners for entertainment. The only outdoor entertainment were Kitty parties or social functions at family and friends places. Biweekly BnW and Technicolor films on Doordarshan and the new emerging rental Video were the only source of film entertainment. So when Dad took us three kids out that day to meet his friend, we knew it was definitely possible to catch a film on big screen. While my father sat outside with uncle for a chit chat, me and my brothers were deposited in the VIP room. The darkness of theatre coupled with a horror film, you can hardly expect a 7 year old to be brave, especially when the two elder brothers make sure that you are hyped in to a state of anxiety and fear. As soon as you enter you see this man watching TV at one time and suddenly there is a dead man with a grotesque face talking from the TV in a horrid voice. You only wish you don't start crying because your brothers would never let you forget that for life. So being a wise 7 year old I requested to be taken out to be with my father. The movie was not nice being a reason good enough. It had been only 10 minutes and I was happily sitting on my Dad's lap enjoying a cola, when my brothers walked in too. Clearly the movie was not good enough for them too. Well Whatever the reason it was quiet obvious that we wouldn't talk about that really happened. As for the version we tell others, the movie was so scary and we were so brave. Of course !!
Amongst all this my love for cinema came from my mother. Lived and educated in a city like Chandigarh she was used to First Day First Show. 
Bobby is one movie she can't stop talking about. There are pictures of her on her convocation day in two Bobby plats. She and her friends during her college days lived from one Friday to another. The younger brothers and cousins came along as chaperones because the girls wanted to watch the film. The big screen wonders, charm of the stars, the fashion and the hairstyles, the dancing around the trees, the romance and the villains. 
The lure and lore of cinema runs across every part of the world and its one of the biggest mediums to influence and educate and not only entertain. BnW film Anpadh released in 1962 was probably one of the films which even turned out to be a social awakening. When my mother's unwed aunts saw it they decided to continue their education lest if such a fate befalls them. Girls should be educated and independent after all. 
My mother still a crazy fan, can't get enough of it. Look at the irony that she married a man, my father who detests watching it on cinema. While my mother can't watch on TV, my father only watches it on his usual Zee Cinema the typical 70-80s a bollywood dhishum dramas. Probably watching on TV is not a pleasure for my mother because she always has chores around the house and no one can pause or wait a million times. 
Infact her love for cinema was so immense that she blackmailed me into tagging along on my trip to cinema with friends. My friends gave me such dirty looks, but I don't think anyone understands my mother's love for cinema as much as I do. It just makes her so happy and because she wouldn't do it alone, I make sure to take her for a film or two on the big screen every time I visit or she visits. Although most of them are disasters but it's just about going and she wants my father to go to, which makes him unhappy and me in the frustrating middle as always. 
This was the era of single screens much before the multiplexes with its hierarchy of Balcony, Upper Stall and Lower Stall. There were Vip rooms also for the near and as the name suggests VIPs - from bureaucrats to politicians to their families and network. The tickets used to be so cheap but not for those days - Rs 25 for balcony, Rs 15 and 10 for the stalls respectively. Of course the stalls were for the noisy lot who whistled and guffawed throughout the film. They danced when the songs played, they whistled when the heroine or the camp came out in a bikini or any raunchy dress, they mocked the loosing party for not being man enough and rolled on the floor when the comedian did his part. It was considered no place for a respectable family crowd which mostly took balcony where such so called nonsense behaviour was not displayed. But these seats were reserved much in advance especially the weekend shows. One had to stand in queue and prey that there are tickets left when their turn came. 
The ladies queue helped if you came yourself to buy the ticket or else someone had to come and book in advance, and there was a slot for that too. If you didn't get the ticket and you were desperate you could make the big compromise and risk of going to the upper stall area but never the lower stall. That was a forbidden if you had ladies with you. The other option was to have jaan pehchaan with the Cinema Manager or the owner or someone in the six degree of separation. The Liaison business works well everywhere. It helped us get last moment tickets to "Andaz Apna Apna". You may ask how. Arre we ourselves owned a Cinema in Faridabad - Sagar Cinema and we were called seenema wale, like gaon Wala, Delhi wala, dhoodh wala, we too had a family tag to profession. 

The theatre launch ceremony was a grand affair with Mr Advani gracing the occasion, of course invited through the route of jaan pehchaan. The film played at launch was Khatarnaak - an 80s Sanjay Dutt starrer action film. Well forgotten by film archives, I remember this film well. It could have been Thaanedaar but it was a super hit and we couldn't get the rights easily. 

As a kid I thought it was awesome to have a theatre of your own and you could watch a movie whenever you want and as many times as you want. And that's what we did with Hum Aapke Hain Kaun. The dream film of every 80s kid. It was like a family wedding video and every one was invited to it and still is. This film was a super duper hit and was up and running for a long long time. It would be modest to say  and anyone had seen it, they had seen it Atleast double digit times, danced to its songs, parroted its dialogues, flirted with the same lines and dreamed a fantasy of a lover just like in the film. Much later our cinema went into a troubled financial phase and with advent of multiplexes it became a different competitive landscape. The B grade and adult films started playing for the lower stall audience. Governments way of satisfying the wrong elements of the society. We were forbidden to ask which film was playing even though we knew from the posters displayed across the city. The friends kept asking when am inviting for a VIP show for I was their seenema wali jaan pehchaan, but they figured it was never going to happen. I still remember the unlimited Rs 2 popcorn and campa cola offered for free, I always took orange one, and if allowed another by adults then follow with a Limca and a cola. The winters were ok but in the heat of summer too we survived the whole film on the top VIP floor in the humid air of an overworked cooler which hardly worked. The labor was instructed to refill water during the interval so the guests could enjoy at leisure. The VIP room was just next to projector room and kids were not permitted to enter. Much later we sold this family business and moved on but it left our generation of cousins with a lot of childhood memories. From going for late night shows with men of the family, evening shows with moms and aunties or weekend shows with cousins and family friends, each trip was nostalgic. 
Entertainment is one thing, cinema also gives us such beautiful memories - of songs sung and lyrics remembered, of dance moves copied and routines rehearsed, of dialogues narrated and punchlines delivered, of tears of tragedy and tears of comedy. Louche cinema is poetry of life! 

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