October 5 marks the birth anniversary of Louis Jean, famously known as Louis Lumière, one half of the Lumière brothers. The Lumière brothers (Louis and Auguste) were pioneers of the motion film and also the cinematograph or the motion picture film camera. Thanks to their use of film, the movie industry is still known as the film industry, despite the digitisation of cinema halls.
Very few cinema halls today (except for second rung theatres) use analogue projectors; besides the number of single screens in the city has reduced. Today, the same operators who would constantly be on their toes manning these projectors have made the switch with the digital projectors.
After tremendous efforts from owner Nazir Hoosein, Liberty has retained the romance of the single screen and its Art Deco style architecture till date. It uses a mix of digital and analogue projector. The cinema hall, which opened in 1949 with Dilip Kumar and Raj Kapoor starrer, Andaz, went digital in 2007. Sheikh Mohammed Aslam, who has been manning the projector at Liberty for 17 years now, had to learn the ropes. “I worked at Super Cinema (Grant Road); it’s where I learnt to use the projector. I shifted here when I was 20 and perfected myself at Liberty,” says Aslam. He feels that the workload has reduced greatly with digitisation, but the room feels very ‘sust’ (boring, lazy) with less work, “Earlier, we would have to keep a check, constantly; sometimes, not even finding time to drink water, now you can attend a phone call.”
Liberty still uses a mix of analogue and digital projection, the national anthem played at the beginning is still film, while for some movies the hall uses analogue after a week as it becomes cheaper. “We still have families asking if the movie is in ‘film’, if not, they aren’t interested,” he tells us. When asked if he prefers multiplexes to single screens, he replies, “Single screens have fixed shows, so families can plan their day according to the three shows, at 6.30 after the kids return from school or at 9.30 after the shops are shut. It isn’t haphazard. Several well to-do families still come here despite several multiplexes.”
Surprisingly, Aslam isn’t a big film buff but has met several big producers from the industry who would come to the projector room — from Sanjay Leela Bhansali to the Rajshri Producers, “Rajiv Rai (from Trimurti) would organise poojas in the projector room. But the biggest hits have been Hum Aapke Hai Kaun, which ran Housefull for several weeks and also Dil Toh Paagal Hai, Mohabbatein and Kuch Kuch Hota Hai.”
Ask him does he fear losing his job due to further advances in technology, he says, “People today might prefer the lesser load of work. But if a time comes when we too lose our jobs, I’ll have to go back to the cheaper theatres, though I wouldn’t want to.”