Hell, I like multiplexes as much as the next guy. Standing at the box office window with so many awesome options — if you feel like a touch of non mainstream, you could catch Gangs of Wasseypur, and boast to your South Bombay friends how mid brow you can be.
“Gangs is not really Hindi movie, it’s more arthouse, Anurag is a fan of this avant garde Turkish filmaker, blah blah.” Or be up with the best of Hollywood. Or be completely ‘leave brains at home’ and feast on GOLMAAL 3.
All these delicious possibilities in a single venue, multi screen experience. Plus Mexican nachos in a red plastic tray. My older friends think I’m a traitor.
Man, you’ve forgotten the Bombay we grew up in — the joys of single screen cinema houses, tasteless popcorn. The majestic Eros and its Art Deco architecture and mayonnaised chicken rolls. The Towering Inferno in Cinemascope. Pure nostalgia. Creeping into watch one’s first ‘Adult’ film, praying that the usher doesn’t notice our fledgeling moustaches.Smoking chillums in the graveyard outside Liberty Cinema. Movie houses had history. You hung around Strand Cinema. And got spooked by the introduction of 3D sound in Sterling in The Omen.
Movie watching in the 70s and 80s was specific and geographical — English films released in primarily South Bombay cinema houses. In contrast, Hindi movies knew their place - in the world of North and Central Bombay - Sholay parked for five years in the Minerva Theatre. You double deckered your way into the heart of Lamington Road and Dongri to watch Mithun Chakravarty disco dance his way into our hearts. Or Manmohan Desai separate a young Big B from himself in a double role and then reunite him with himself, 20 years later. This was fantasy cinema, meant only for what was referred to as the ‘front benchers’. And English films, stayed on their own turf — Saturday Night Fever, ensconced in New Empire.
The twain never met. The audiences never merged. English speaking minorities saw Hollywood and the Hindi speaking masses watched Bollywood.
Then came change. Multiplexes and some pretty nifty filmmakers made Bollywood accessible. I’m still not sure which begat which. But suddenly it became cool to see Dev D and Shanghai. And Bollywood had become upmarket. Fair enough. Except that the next stage is when we went totally regressive (400) — like a fast spreading virus, Bollywood began to dominate our lives entirely. Filmi gossip which was restricted to the trade journals and the cine magazines like Star & Style, became mainstream.
And today it’s all we read about - Akshay’s new Vitamin B diet, Katrina jumping the Green channel, Priyanka’s new haircut, Bipasha’s new six pack, Shahid new smile, Salman’s new scowl. There was a time when Montek Singh Ahluwallia told the nation about the annual budget.
Now we hear it from Kareena Kapoor. Film actors act. That’s what they’re paid to do. They are meant to lighten our mood in a darkened auditorium for a few hours. Not be the only light in our lives.
Rahul da Cunha is an adman, theatre director/playwright, photographer and traveller.
Reach him at rahuldacunha62 @gmail.comThe views expressed in this column are the individual’s and don’t represent those of the paper.