Saturday, November 21, 2009


As school kids in the days of yore, we rated a movie as 'immensely
watchable' or a 'must-see' only if the blokes featuring in it fought like
cats and dogs at regular intervals. While songs and dances were for the faint-hearted, we settled for nothing short of a surfeit of fight sequences - the more the merrier - involving swords, sticks, bicycle chains and what not. For us, harried as we were by some of our tyrannical school masters, watching the hero beating the daylight out of the baddies was a cathartic experience. As we jumped in our seats baying for the villain's blood, we honed our whistling skills which stood us in good stead later in life.

While the 'fightful' movies were for us, the under-12 tots, the stripling of the under-19 category with raging hormones and an apology of a beard had skewed appetite for lewd sequences code named 'Scenes'. The members of this nocturnal species tip-toed into the darkened cinema halls that showed Hollywood skin-flicks with hope of catching a few 'Scenes'. Like cockroaches on their nightly errands, they crept into the theatres after the lights got dimmed, only to go underground temporarily during the intermission to avoid being fodder to back-biting gossip-mongers.

Yet, our country-cousins who cut their theatrical teeth on the long winding 'Yakshagana Field Drama' that rang down the curtain only at cock-crow, based their ratings on 'per-penny footage'. For them a movie was good value for money if it cost them, say, two pennies per hour for a eight-penny ticket. So lengthy were the movies catering to this 'niche market' that, according to a local gag, the first place the police looked for in search of a missing person was the cinema hall that showed ' Dashavataram ' or ' Sampoorna Ramayanam ' (Hindu epics with long story lines).

Next on the list was the ' Lachrymose Brigade ' consisting of women folk who thronged the movie halls to watch tear-jerkers, carrying with them terry towels to wipe off their tears. The mothers-in-law amongst them wept uncontrollably at the travails of the on-screen daughters-in-law only go home later to get on with the business of harassing their own daughters-in-law. The house-wives wailed at the hardship of starving on-screen families even as their famished husbands and children waited at home for the 'return of moms' to get their quota of nourishment.

Those were the the days when the movie's star cast included a few garrulous members of the audience. These interjecters peppered the on-screen conversation with generous contributions of their own, transforming dialogues into 'trialogues and 'multilogues'. "Thrash the villain soundly," one would shout to the movie's hero. Or, "Don't arrest him. He is innocent," another would advise the police.

Often the audience of the front-bench variety joined in the on-screen dance number and were kept away form the stage by the management-appointed 'bouncers'. On one occasion, while a popular matinee idol danced, it became a free-for-all as the bouncers too, carried away by the revelry, joined the floor!

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