That was my ever first experience going to a multiplex cinema hall. My friends had told me about multiplex but I had never been to one. Never found a chance. Also, I am not interested in modernism. I am happy with what I have. Till a few years ago I ever had time to entertain myself by going to movie theatres due to my busy schedule. There was a time when, in Rohtak, we, the boys, bunked classes and treated ourselves with some new releases in Liberty, Sheela, Sangeet, Palace, or Ashoka. And if it was of my favorite supper start Amitabh Bachchan, I was the first one to go and watch his movies. Who had the courage to say anything wrong about his performance in my presence? His worst movies also won him my silent appreciation. Many times, I went to see his old hits also, all alone.

The Cinema Halls before Multiplex.

The British had built most of the Cinema Halls, before the multiplexes came up. They had thick walls to prevent the sound to go out of the hall and also no noise from outside could come in. Most of them had big fans fitted against them. They had seats on the front row made of wood whereas the other ones had cushions on them. The halls, which went through irregular maintenance, had chips floors, comfortable seats, fringe lights, snacks counters, and a big parking lot. Most people used to come on bicycles or on rickshaws. To park the bicycles they had to pay one rupees separately. People used to place the bicycle against the wall one after another. We always preferred to park our bicycles at the last so that at the end we are the first one to pick our bicycle and leave.

The black marketers in Cinema Halls.

People had to struggle to get a ticket for the new hit. Out side the Cinema halls the black marketers were always there humming in low voices to tell you the rates of the tickets. They already had several tickets in their pockets, which they would purchase in advance. The management would place a board mentioning House Full outside the cinema hall and the owners and the black marketers sold tickets at high rates. Sometimes people had to pay four times more than the actual cost. The management also got the half of the money earned as their share. We, the students used our identity cards to avail of discounts on tickets and no one had the courage to question us. We could be in large groups or alone, once we showed the identity card of the college they gave us the tickets.

The Vendors inside the Cinema Halls.

During the interval, as soon as they switched on the lights in the hall, the sellers would come in. In the summer months, they came to sell softy-ice-cream or popcorns. They shouted loudly to announce their presence and about their products. The most common way of selling in every cinema hall was — Aaaaaaaa le paaapreee aalee.  Thandi softy aaleeyyyyy. Some also carried glass bottles of lemonade or fizzy drinks on which they tinkled with the bottle opener. They always sold that stuff at a higher rate than the market price. To have a cup of tea people had to move out to the main lounge. The lights in the hall were dim and people had to struggle to find their seats when they returned. I never had extra money to treat myself with all that luxury. There was nothing better than watching my favorite actors on screen.

The Actors were the Icons.

After the movie was over, we would move out to the hall and rush to our bicycles. The cyclists would block the main entrance to the premises of Cinema Hall. That was the time in Rohtak when auto-rickshaws had just started invading the roads. Many of them waited outside the cinema hall for the passengers and jammed the way for others. Those were the days when movies were the best way of entertainment. Everyone wanted to see the new release and so the box office was on fire. Many had a target of seeing the first show on the first day and those who achieved their target became the talk of the town. The movies had a charm from the glamor of their actors, the lyrics, the directors, the music, the stories, and the performance. Every actor had his own style, and he or she was known by that.

We copied the Actors and the Singers.

Every singer had his or her own melodious voice and every director had his own style of directing the film. They presented the dramatic sequences on the screen and created such an illusion that every moment of the movie appealed to the watcher. In the morning hours, all stations of All India Radio were full of advertisements for these movies. We tried to copy many of the actors. When we arrived home, after watching the movie, we looked in the mirror to look for some resemblance to the actor in our actions. Time has changed now. Years ago, I visited a cinema hall. This time while in that Metro city I took a chance to go to a multiplex. There were no black marketers.

The Movie.

People arrived in their expensive cars with tickets on their mobile phones. Those who didn’t have the tickets on their mobiles were moved towards the ticket counter. I also bought one and entered the hall. Most of the sequences of the movie were based on the movement of the camera. I didn’t recognize any of the actors. They were all new and perhaps had no training in acting. There was no melody in the songs. Most of the songs were filmed to support the story from the background and the singer sang at such a high pitch that he appeared to be a patient with regular constipation. Hardly any work had been done on the story and there were no figurative dialogues. The cinematographer’s work was to be appreciated but most of that was also the result of the computer.

Aaahh!!! those Modern Vendors of the Multiplex.

During the interval, young girls dressed up smartly approached people with their menu cards in their hands and asked if they wanted to order something. I found the rates of all the stuff beyond my pocket. The sellers of my college days sold their stuff expensive but only for a minor profit. When the movie was over, people rushed out of the hall. There were no bicycles but their expensive cars were there. The traffic jams outside the cinema hall made them forget everything. I looked at the crowd rushing to the shopping malls, in the other part of the multiplex.

I moved across the road to walk to my hotel. I missed that time when the movies had a massage for society and the world. It felt like I was on the other side of the wall. That time has gone for never to return.


Written by

Sumit Raj, better known as Summit is the founder of Shimla Walks and qualified tourism professional from Delhi University. Summit is a published author with six books to his credit, now. His seventh one titled ‘Shimla Walks’ is on the way and is to be released soon. Summit loves Himalaya and says that ‘Mountains travel in his veins with blood’.

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