“The place where Bharatmata Cinema stands today (near Currey Road station) was originally a recreation ground for the mill workers and mill superintendents. Films was (sic) the new thing so they decided to build a theatre,” shares Kapil Bhopatkar in the documentary Bharatmata Ki Jai, directed by students (now alumni) of Tata Institute of Social Sciences’ (TISS) as part of their Masters’ project. Avadhoot Khanolkar, Anurag Mazumdar, Arpita Chakraborty, Shweta Radhakrishnan and Amol Ranjan, the five filmmakers of the documentary had set out to explore the cinema hall — the many meanings it holds through time — between late December 2011 to early February 2012.
Bhopatkar, the owner of the cinema hall narrates in the documentary, “So they built a theatre, which was known as Laxmi Talkies. After building the theatre they realised...they didn’t know how to run a theatre and where to source the films from...It’s when my grandfather stepped in.” The film establishes the sanctum-like importance the cinema hall has had since the mills shut down and displaced 2,50,000 workers becoming a time capsule of sorts. The documentary includes interviewing the third-generation owner, Bhopatkar to trailing the figure of on-the-ball usher or ticket collector, Baban Waghmode.
“Baban has been working at the hall since the 60s after the nearby mill (he used to earlier work at) shut down,” informs Ranjan. He shares, as is evident throughout the film, that Baban can recount Marathi, Hindi and Hollywood cinema with equal ease including an Orson Welles’ film that he had watched.
Ranjan talks that the idea germinated in reaction to “the current scenario as shopping malls are creeping in, in numbers. Bharatmata Cinema is the only single-screen theatre that exclusively screens Marathi films. The tickets are cheap — balcony is priced at `30 while stall seats go for `25.” After the mills shut down, people from the same strata kept coming in. Ranjan feels that through this film they are looking at the “classes involved in cinema weaving.”
The TISS students’
endeavour has had its share of hiccups. Ranjan conveys, “We didn’t have a ready script so it was very difficult. We started with interviewing Bhopatkar and Baban but since Baban wasn’t able to articulate what we wanted him to; we shot two interviews with him. He kept on giving us, one to two lines’ answers but we wanted his witty character to come out, on the screen.” From conception to post-production; the five-member team has worked upon all facets of the documentary. Watch the documentary , Bharatmata Ki Jai, to discover the working class’ emblem’s unique and heartening journey.
On July 19, 6.30 pm
At Little Theatre, NCPA Marg, Nariman Point.