banno, dhanno and teja in bumm-bumm-bhole-land

growing up with the movies

I grew up around Liberty, Novelty, Minerva, Maratha Mandir and Metro. Those were the nicer theaters, we went to every once in a while. The ones with lovely balconies, red carpets, grand staircases, the beautifully gaudy murals on the walls, the ones about which my father told us stories about premieres, and waiting outside to watch the stars, and him seeing Nargis come for the Mother India premiere show at Metro.

At a time when going to the movies was not considered high-brow entertainment, in fact, looked down upon, in fact, thoroughly disapproved of by elders, my mother made sure we got our 2-3-films a week fix. We saw just about everything that was released, wherever it was released. Not even the most unrespectable dingy theaters put us off if we were in a mind to catch a particular show.

In Mumbai, we did not spare the Shri Krishnas or the Alfreds and the Edwards, full of sweaty, disheveled men, taxi drivers, coolies, just men, and in Pune, we saw films at Vijay in the red-light area, at Liberty in the cantonment area with a lot of bemused soldiers, at West End or Capitol, at Alankar or Apsara in Nana Peth. Our city darshan as children revolved around movie theaters and foods associated with it. The sugarcane juice outside Empire Cinema. The falooda mastani near Vijay.

My mother, despite being a very beautiful woman, was completely unconscious of being in a theater with so many men, she never felt awkward, self-conscious or nervous about being in what I can see now, in retrospect, as extremely shady surroundings, and that definitely made my sister and me quite capable of getting into all kinds of situations, with no thought of being girls.

As a child, it was all very glamorous, the art deco architecture of the theaters, or the old opera or play houses converted to cinema halls; there was one theatre which still had an old swing in the balcony. And yet despite the glamour, and despite how different our own lives, and our own houses were, we seemed to be a part of the industry which was around us. We lived where the film offices were, where the dancers and choreographers lived, where the extras lived, where the audience lived, and the stars were around the corner. I remember two dancers who lived next to my aunt, Huseina Kaki, in a Byculla shawl. Once when we went to eat lunch at her house, like we did everyday from school, their door was open, and they were sleeping on the floor, and even today, whenever I catch a glimpse of them in a film, I remember seeing them sleeping that day, and I remember the excitement I felt then. Anyway, the dancers at the back were always my favorite people in a film, writhing on the floor, tossing their heads around,

My mother loved Nargis, my father preferred the delicate Shakeela. My first film was ‘Brahmachari’ or at least the first film I remember going to, when I was 3, and I was ever after more, the lover of handsome, goofy men.

As children, we spent most weekends at our maternal grandmother’s, Maaji. Ignoring her disapproving muttering, we would take off, dressed up, ready to traipse long distances in the sun, to watch a movie with Mummy’s childhood friends or neighbors.

When we were back home, we went out sometimes with our aunt, Shirin Kaki. She did not need much persuasion, but she was not free to come to any show. She could come only in the afternoons, when our uncle was out at work, and even so, he always found out she had been to the cinema, perhaps by the sparkle in her eyes, and scolded her all evening. Shirin Kaki would go to Maratha Mandir to see films alone too, on the rare occasions when my mother was not available. She was the first woman I knew who went to see films on her own.

I studied for my Xth Std. exams, all morning, and evening. The afternoons were reserved for a film with my mother, who agreed it would relax me. When Dhanno gave her Xth Std. Exams, we used the same method.

Those were also the days when theaters released old films when there were no new releases. So, I saw films like ‘Teen Deviyan’ (1965) or ‘Navrang'(1959) or ‘Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baaje'(1955) or ‘Pyaasa'(1957) on the big screen. ‘Yeh duniya agar mil bhi jaaye toh kya hai’ was my Dad’s favourite song, and I guess that philosophy permeated down to us children, leading us away from materialistic success, because of course, who cares?

My prized possession when I was about 13 was a Stardust sponsored Neeta’s Natter ‘Cat’ T-shirt, which I think we ordered through the mail, or got as a freebie with an annual subscription. It was the first T-shirt I owned, and it necessitated the buying of my first pair of jeans.

I probably saw at least 50 films while I was in the womb. And Dhanno saw at least 250 because I was at FTII then, and saw at least 1 film a day. The first film she saw when she was about a month old was ‘Midnight Cowboy’. I sneaked into the Class Room theatre with her, hoping she’d stay quiet and still and not piss off the other students, but then realized the sound level was too high for her, and walked out after 15 minutes.

When she was a toddler, she showed the same excitement as I had about going to the movies, waiting outside for tickets when the show was house-full, pleading with me to accost every stranger with a request for tickets, or sidle up to the black marketeer to buy them. If we ever had to come back without watching a film, it was the saddest thing in our lives.

The 80s were the only period when I quit going to the movies, I was a young woman by then, did not want to spend too much time with my parents, and I was not brave enough to watch ‘Tohfa’, ‘Himmatwala’ and their ilk. My parents, by then, were also happier with their new VCR. We owned a few video tapes, and for some reason, we watched them again and again with the same pleasure.

Then came cable TV, DVD players, downloads, multiplexes. The distance between films, the audience, the industry seems to have grown wider and wider. The heart of the movies no longer seems to be in the old mohallahs, the small towns, the small cities, but in some strange place which does not exist, in some corporate world, where numbers are all that matter.

Reading the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – “In moments of great stress, every life form that exists gives out a tiny subliminal signal. This signal simply communicates an exact and almost pathetic sense of how far that being is from the place of his birth.”

But the best stories, at least for me, are the ones with a happy ending, the ones where things go round and come back.

And so, these days, the most exciting thing for me is that KAPHAL-Wild Berries, will have its first official screening at the 15th Mumbai Film Festival at Liberty or Metro.

I tell Teja, “I can’t believe this. This is one of those stupid things that makes me so, so happy.”


32 comments on “growing up with the movies

  1. Atul Sabnis
    October 3, 2013

    What a lovely journey!:)

    • Banno
      October 4, 2013

      Thank you, Atul

  2. Ankur
    October 3, 2013

    I wish I could be there for the screening! You have fun:-)

    • Banno
      October 4, 2013

      Ankur, Wish you were here, too. But hopefully, I can bring it to Delhi.

  3. Ramsu
    October 3, 2013

    Forget the stories they tell, the worlds they can transport us to, the stars, the music, the cinema halls, even the food outside… I love the movies because, in the midst of what is often a communal experience, they can offer up a kernel of something that is very personal. My favourite stories aren’t necessarily the ones that make me happy. They’re the ones that are personal above all else. Like this one.

    All the best with the screening!

    • Banno
      October 4, 2013

      Thank you, Ramsu.

  4. Anu Warrier
    October 3, 2013

    Congratulations, Bano! That must be so exciting!

    Loved reading your reminiscences; much the same childhood as I remember having, only, in my case, it was my dad was who was film-mad.:)

    • Banno
      October 4, 2013

      Thanks, Anu. Well, as long as there is one parent or elder who is film-mad, all’s well at home.:)

  5. Tess
    October 3, 2013

    Lovely post! Brought back so many memories of my own! Happy for you and the screening of Kaphal.

    My own dad was a movie lover too, and I remember while there were days when there was no money for food, there still seemed to be a few rupees for a movie. During pre-board exams while most friends were banned from having any life at all, I remember my dad asking if I wanted to come along for the super movie xyz at film festival abc. And my own quick calculations about how I could organise my time better to complete revisions before I went tripping off! And it was this love which inspired many solitary movie viewings at halls, and much confidence as a young teenage girl growing up in Delhi.

    • Banno
      October 4, 2013

      Tess, thank you for sharing your own memories. Yes, it seems funny now how my parents too, struggling as they were to make ends meet, always had money for cinema tickets. Which is why I also hate the fact that these days tickets are so expensive.

  6. Naeema
    October 3, 2013

    I am sure Aqeels craze for movies must be from his maternal side.All the best batul bhen and please inform us about the screening.

    • Banno
      October 4, 2013

      I will definitely let you know about the screening, and will hope that all of you can make it. And thanks, Naeema, for getting Jiji to read this. It meant a lot to me to hear from her.

  7. sukanyabora
    October 4, 2013

    Leaving a comment after a while. Glad you have starting posting again. So happy for you. Best wishes for the screening. Thank you for sharing your love for the movies. I come from a movie crazy family. We were fanatical about catching every new release or movie playing at the nearby theaters. Those were the times!
    My kids have taken after me and some more-if they had their way, they would watch a movie every other hour.

    • Banno
      October 4, 2013

      Thanks, Sukanya. Well, we still see almost everything that releases. And we do watch several movies a day. Here’s to more movie-viewing with your kids.

  8. thandapani
    October 4, 2013

    My movie viewing was quite similar. I grew up in Jamnagar and we had those exotic (now) cinema halls with murals on the walls and fancy curtains that went up and down.

    I have seen all kinds of films in theaters. Old re-runs and the new ones. In Jamnagar, during the 70s there was this tradition of throwing coins at the screen (at the foot of the screen really) when a favorite song or a scene was played. Mughal-e-Azam always got a steady stream of coins. I remember the tinkles I heard when Noor Jehan started singing – Awaz de kahan hai.

    In fact, the phrase ‘khoob paisa padiya’ was a phrase that denoted the success rate of a film.

    Congratulations on the release of your film. May it see a huge success.a

    • Banno
      October 5, 2013

      Oh yes, Thandapani. The throwing of coins, and the whistles, and sometimes, if you were lucky, people dancing in the aisles. Which sometimes even Dhanno did.:)

  9. Mahendra
    October 4, 2013

    Beautifully written, brought back so many memories! Thank you.

    • Banno
      October 5, 2013

      Thank you, Mahendra.

  10. Space bar
    October 5, 2013

    Banno: What a lovely coincidence! I remember your diploma at Alfred theatre and Dhanno’s conjunctivitis – how can I forget! These are all stories of why we keep falling in love with films – there can never be enough stories!

    I hope to see your film when I return.❤

    • Banno
      October 5, 2013

      Space Bar, oh yes, Dhanno’s conjunctivitis. I am so glad that I put all those areas of my childhood in my diploma.
      KAPHAL at Hyderabad? Hope we can see it together.

  11. Teja
    October 5, 2013

    ghar main pahele suno bhi aur phir itna lamba padho bhi..!

    • Banno
      October 5, 2013
  12. kateshrewsday
    October 6, 2013

    Wow. You really have always been immersed in film, haven’t you, Banno? Little wonder you have ended up creating work to be seen on the screen. Beautiful description, I loved this.

    • Banno
      October 7, 2013

      Yes, Kate, books and movies. A real addict.:)

  13. Violet
    October 16, 2013

    Is the fest still on? Can I watch?

  14. Violet
    October 18, 2013

    Both working days😦 Nevertheless, let me check with the husband man, and see if we can make it. I have been waiting to watch one of you movies, since ages..

    • Banno
      October 24, 2013

      Violet, some other time.:)

  15. Satish
    November 28, 2013

    Such a lovely trip down memory lane. Beautifully written. Hope the festival went well.

    • Banno
      December 6, 2013

      Thank you, Satish. Yes, the film got a really good response with the audience at the festival. The same at Hyderabad. In fact, I won the Golden Elephant at the children’s film festival, for Best Director.:)

  16. Satish
    December 10, 2013

    Wow, that’s fantastic.. many congratulations! Any chance of a screening at the Bangalore Film Festival later this month?

  17. Banno
    December 11, 2013

    No. We did not enter it.😦 a lot of things about distributing the film are out of my hand.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


This entry was posted on October 3, 2013 by in Banno, kaphal, the movies and tagged , , , , , , , .

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 420 other followers

%d bloggers like this: