Meenakshi Shedde: Gaiety-Galaxy, My Love
For still hanging in there, a big thank you to Manoj Desai, who runs the theatres
When Tom Brook, host of the popular Talking Movies on BBC World News, wanted to interview me some years ago, and asked me for my favourite theatre, I had no hesitation in replying, "Gaiety-Galaxy." So that's where we shot my interview. Sadly, there was no Salman Khan film that week, but Ravi Jadhav's delightful film Time Pass was showing. Brook could not believe his eyes: discreetly, and with permission, he shot the audience reacting to the film — they were laughing, hooting and dancing in the aisles.
Gaiety-Galaxy, of course, is the very janata-class theatre in Bandra, just about serviceable. But because most of the films I see are either at press previews in swish, soulless multiplexes, or as video links for international film festivals and awards, I have developed an intense attachment to Gaiety-Galaxy, or G7, to give its official name. It comprises Gaiety, Galaxy, Glamour, Gemini, Gossip, Grace and Gem. I also adore single screeners, including Aurora at Matunga, Deepak Talkies at Lower Parel and Liberty at New Marine Lines. What makes Gaiety-Galaxy (GG) special is that it is technically a multiplex with seven screens, but unquestionably single-screener in character and facilities.
It's the ultimate barometer of whether a movie will be a hit or a flop. A pilgrimage for Salman Khan fans, legend has it that Bollywood's A-listers go disguised in burqas — men, too — to check the public reaction to their films, first day first show. If coins are being tossed at the screen, it's a super hit; if rexine is being ripped, uh-oh. I like the working class crowd that comes here. College kids cutting classes, middle class dentists, ladies' gangs, labourers, women in burqas with children. Whereas the multiplex crowd is a kind of banal, upmarket McDonald's audience; you can copy paste it anywhere.
I find multiplexes like PVR clean, efficient and soulless, and I have an intense dislike for pompous signs saying "Concessionaire"— not that anyone there knows its meaning. I am revolted by organisations who confiscate water bottles from environment-conscious film lovers, and force you to buy plastic water
bottles for R60 or more. Worse, when the government mandates that they supply free drinking water, they will pathetically hide the cooler away behind the furthest wall, or near the toilets. I hope the BMC fines them severely for being such environment ke dushman. GG unhesitatingly welcomes you with glasses of free drinking water, Indian-hospitality style.
GG has real character. The show timings are hand painted on a poster by the door. Gaiety Galaxy's walls are charmingly hand-painted with planets and spaceships. I miss the hissing, furtive negotiations for black tickets: GG does BookMyShow. You can still see a movie for Rs 80-Rs 100. All snacks cost a flat Rs 30 — popcorn, two veg samosas, a burger, ice cream or Pepsi cup. Best of all, you can get asli chai for R20, whereas some multiplexes charge you about R150 for appalling teabag pi**. The loos are decently clean, not fancy. The reception area has showcases with awards celebrating silver and golden jubilees (remember those milestones?). For instance, the Amar Akbar Anthony golden jubilee award has the three title characters cast in brass; the Zanjeer 100-days one has a rearing horse; there's Jadoo for Koi Mil Gaya's silver jubilee. For still hanging in there, a big thank you to Manoj Desai, who runs the theatres.
Meenakshi Shedde is South Asia Consultant to the Berlin Film Festival, award-winning critic, curator to festivals worldwide and journalist. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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