Friday, October 31, 2008

Cinema Paradiso


Being a lover of movies and its ways, I immediately fell for this one. It’s a charming account of a movie theater located in a freshly independent Indian town. The town is the modern day Trivandrum in Kerela and the writer, a septuagenarian reminiscing those days, using today’s tools like the computer and internet. His name is Prof Gopakumar K. and he lives in Trivandrum. The abrupt nature, interesting details and subtle wit of the description adds to the charm.

I’m putting the piece in this space, exactly the way it was written, with the old gentleman’s permission. Get charmed!

1948: Sreekumar Theatre, Railway Station Road
. Inaugurated.

Went with Appuchettan. 1st film MGM Technicolor, Bathing Beauty - Esther Williams . Only English movies. Every 3rd day there was a change. 15 Films a month. Other theatres were thatched sheds. Accommodated viewers on the floor (thara ticket). Then, on foldable wooden chairs. Rattan chairs in upper classes. Lice were carried home after the show.

But Sreekumar was a permanent hall. Viewers sat on numbered chairs fixed in rows. Cushion seat in the balcony classes. Rates stared like this: 4 1/2 annas (28 paise) - 10 annas ( 63 ps ) , Re 1 ( British Rupee ) & Rs 1 1/2 . The next 2 classes were in the balcony (upstairs) Rs 2 & Rs 2 1/2 ( separate cubicles ie Boxes ) . There were 3 boxes with 8 upholstered chairs in each. The middle one - The Royal Box was exclusive for the Maharajah & others from the Kowdiyar Palace. On days when Chithira Thirunal (the local King) came there was no Interval.

For keeping cycles 1/4 anna -1 anna = 6 naya paise (ie 1/100th of a Rupee). Cars were parked outside - no parking fee. 1 or 2 motor cycles / no scooters were seen in the car parking area. No Autos in those days. Till 1957 there was season ticket system for students (above 18). Students were spared from submitting any proof like photo ID or admission form countersigned by the Principal .The theatre people trusted the student community. Girl students were not issued with the concession - only accompanied women & girls were allowed.

1st show at 6:30 pm to 8.30 & the 2nd 9.30 - midnight. No A/C & standby generator. People smoked. Once outside after the show one could smell tobacco smoke in the dress. Tea Coffee & Cigarettes were sold at the stall outside .Fairly long printed synopsis were given free. I had season ticket 1953 -1957 Collected about 700 synopses. Still photographs of coming films were exhibited.

There was a pink curtain which rose slowly to the Spnish Gypsy song played on guitar. Then the famous Tamil song of K B Sunderambal (Njarapazhathe pizhundu) when Lord Subrahmonian’s slide was shown. Then came the Maharajah`s welcome etc. Started with Film Division’s B&W news reel. Ads in still slides during the interval.

Teachers in English encouraged students to read THe Hindu Paper & the films at Srikumar. Student Politics not popular. Today we have the TV & computer. In those days we knew more about the Holywood stars - Ava Gardner, Ingrid Bergmann , Elezabath Taylor . Charlie Chaplin Marlan Brando, Bing Crosby, Kirk Douglas & so on.

ShreeKumar theater still stands on Railway Station Road in Trivandrum
, showing Malayalam movies of the day. The ticket price is around Rs 50/- and the place is equipped with AC and dts.

ps: thats the poster of that 1944 musical, Bathing Beauty

10 comments:

Spiff said...

dont know why but reminds me of Drive-in (bandra?)...tickets at Rs 10, the strong stink of the sewage that passes by a few hundred mts away, speakers for you to steal and live action in terms of people fighting with each other......

Seriously speaking the good old days (80s not the 40s of course - I aint that old) did have a lot to offer - when you didnt have to pay for a pop corn stand next to your seat and a globe that rotates on the building - but for keywords like 70mm and dts :)

Atanu Dey said...

Loved the abruptness (which you noted) of his description. Thanks for sharing. Charming.

WhiteMoonWatching said...

so abrupt, but yet so vivid...the whole thing played out in my head like a little movie in itself...reminds me of me grandpapa :D...
maybe coz he was mallu n from the 40's :P :)))

mr bojangles said...

very nice. i remember the time our bai took my sister and i to the theatre in dahanu (crica '86). it was an bacchan movie (movies always came there a few weeks later than mumbai). we sat on benches, there was a noisy fan, and i think the tickets costed 2 rupees. but what an event it was - going to theatre!!! how times have changed..

ghaza said...

very very nice .......... thank you .......... more later ......

of a very said...

man..i sent u some songs .. pls check out.. used the new mixer we bought in blore.. check out other life and la vie en rose, those came out best ..

Smiling Dolphin said...

"one could smell tobacco smoke in the dress" .....love this line:-), cant stop laughing...

ilegirl said...

Sweet nostalgia! There is an old theatre in the next town, closed down two years ago. The description the Professor gave reminded me of rainy winter Sunday afternoons when I escaped the weather and TV football to lose myself in the world of film.

meraj said...

am glad all of you liked the Professor's tale of a theater in a small town and it brought back personal memories.

all of us have a small theater from our childhood with fond memories. mine was a theter called 'Railway Theater' near Gaya's railway station. its shut now.

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