Thursday, April 01, 2010

Cinema Paradiso

Small town joys, I tell you! For the fourth time yesterday, I watched Avatar, that much written about movie. This time, with ma and the best friend Raksha at the famous Cauvery Mahal in Madikeri.

It is one of two theatres in my town, the other being Basappa Theatre, which got DTS sound recently. Apparently, when Cauvery Mahal was first built, there was a competition organized in the town to select a name for it. Cauvery was but the obvious choice then, I suppose, during my grandpa’s time. That’s another story.

So I watched Avatar again. Great movie. It was unlike the other times when I watched it in multiplexes. The small town experience was quite something, one that I and the best friend giggled through.

I have to describe it in detail, bear with me please, like you all so kindly do. The theatre used to be one horrific place, with broken seats, gum stuck at the sides, below the seats and wafts of Charminar and beedis from everywhere (this was before the smoking in public ban and Mr Ambumani Ramadoss). There used be a few ceiling fans, making more noise rattling than actually dispensing some air. I don’t think the interiors have ever been re-painted. What I most remember is the little food counter below a flight of stairs that led to the theatre.

There is a story that I have to tell you about that. Those were the days of Gold Spot fizz drink, potato chips and slightly sour sweets, the late 1980s. My parents apparently used to take me to the pictures even when I was a kid. I would get fidgety when the lights turned off and would turn around and look at the people instead. It would fall on poor dad to indulge me when I wanted to have a soft drink. Fizz was not what I particularly loved and would end up finishing about half of the bottle and give it off to dad. The long corridor in front of the food stall would have me running up and down. Dad would thus miss out on most of the movie while amusing me.

The old man who used to man the stall is still there, he still looks the same and continues to be grumpy.

Over the years, I have watched several movies in these two places. Some movies that were very popular would be screened at both places. Since Madikeri would get just one print of the movie, the screening would be delayed by about 10 minutes in one theatre. As soon as one reel was over, an attendant would rush with the reel on a bicycle and screen it at the other place, a 5 minute walking distance.

Morning shows used to be dedicated to X rated movies, or once in a rare while, some English film. Raksha and I, for all the years that we have stayed friends, have never gone to watch a film by ourselves. Madikeri is not really a place where would do things like that.

What I like best about the two theatres is how every movie begins with the song “Kodagina Cauveryyyy” from the Kannada movie ‘Sharapanjara’, another masterpiece by Puttana Kanagal. As the song plays in the backdrop, the screen would be lit dimly with ads from the local saree shops, a no-smoking caution and others. The film would begin scratchily, it did so yesterday too. The light is dim, the sound quality is hardly great and there is a tendency for the screen to go completely blank sometimes. That’s when the hooting and whistles begin.

The hooting is another of those things so quintessentially Madikeri theatre. Even yesterday when the action sequences were on, or for no rhyme or reason, there were people screeching and whistling. You can only imagine then how it would be at a Kannada movie starring the latest hero, whatever his name might be.

The tickets are a mere Rs 30 for a balcony seat!! Living in a city, I cannot imagine being able to watch a movie at that price! In those swanky multiplexes, you can’t even get a Coke for that price. I remember, my parents, the other best friend Manju and I had gone to watch that famous Kannada film Mungaru Male. The movie had just released and there was such a huge crowd that we ended up in the ground level seats, broken chairs, no chairs, no cushioning, more hooting and screaming…whoosh…that was quite an experience!

Sometimes, it is the whole experience that makes a moment all the more memorable, isn’t it? Like the great meals that I had written about, it is not just about the food, but the whole of the moment that makes it a beautiful memory. Life is made up of hundreds of such moments, it is the bouquet of these that make a life good, me thinks.

The small town experience is something that never fails to make me fall in love again and again with my Madikeri. This time too, the weather was perfect, just a tad cold in the late evenings, slightly windy, a shiny grey. The air was pure, as always. Well, what can I say, I have written about this several times: Madikeri is where I fall in love with the town, the people, the experiences, the whole moments of it, over and over again. If heaven were to be a place on earth, it would be here, here, here.

As for Avatar, it is a great movie. I watched 'Hurt Locker' too. For the life of me, I don’t see why it won so many Oscars. But then, what’s the award got to do with good entertaining cinema anyways?

1 comment:

Caro said...

I like your blog! Now I'm craving a small-time escape...your writing is intoxicating.