I have loved watching movies for as long as I can remember. I remember movie nights from the time I was young and stayed in Delhi when my entire family would come together to devour Hindi movies on weekends, especially since we do not follow that tradition anymore. My earliest memories of having seen a movie with my family is that of Rangeela and Halo. The screening of newly released Hindi movies by the cable operator was enthusiastically received by us. That is how I first got to watch the iconic Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. I have vivid memories of being traumatized after watching Titanic for the first time when I was in the third standard. My parents were intially thrilled at the prospect of having a quiter me around before getting really concerned. It was a norm to watch Goopy Gain and Bagha Bain with my grandparents every time we visited Kolkata. Gradually, we began exploring other genres as well. My grandmother would always cry while watching Kabuliwala and my grandfather had seen Bhooter Bhbishyat so many that he remembered the dialogues verbatim. I will be forever grateful to them for having introduced me to Bengali cinema. I have some fond memories of catching up on movies with my cousins during vacations as well.
My dad was next posted to posted in Suratgarh. Some of my happiest memories associated with childhood are about this place and the K.V. No.2, I attended there. Those days were carefree and filled with fun. Studying did not seem as tedious as it did later on during middle school. Life was all about having a good time with the large number of friends I had made, participating in oratory competitions, drawing for the sheer joy of it, listening to music on cassettes, passionately going through borrowed books from the library, especially Enid Blyton and cycling in the evening. Since there was no movie theatre at the Air Force Station, movie screening on weekends would draw a large crowd. Dum was one of the first movies I saw during such a screening. Two years later my dad got posted to Ojhar and we stayed in the HAL township. This place didn’t boast of a movie theatre either and therefore movies screenings were always welcomed. I saw the Sound of Music here. Bunty aur Babli was the first movie my sister and I ever watched in a theatre. The 90s and early 2000s are indeed reminiscent of another era when life was simple yet joyful. Three years later, we moved to Kalaikunda Air Force Station. There was something about the air there which shouted gloom in capitals. There were very few people I could connect to here and that made them even more endearing to me.
Two years later, we moved back to Delhi where I completed the last two years of my schooling. During the span of next ten years I visited Delhi intermittently many times. I had been asked out on a movie date by Sidharth for Wake up Sid as he could claim two free tickets on providing identity proof that verified that his name is Sidharth indeed! Three Idiots was the first movie I watched in a theatre at Ambience Mall, Gurgaon in this city. Since the location of the theatre is such that it cannot be reached easily through public transport I never visited it again. The first time I went out alone after twelfth was to watch Rajneeti at Movie Time Raja Garden with one of my best friends Nishka. I have visited this theatre several times recently due to the allure of cheaper tickets but I had to finally stop due to safety concerns. With bigger and shinier multiplexes popping up all over the city, the theatres situated at Rajouri Garden lost the charm with which it captivated visitors earlier. The mall that houses the theatre I mentioned previously, now has a roof that leaks when it rains, doesn’t have a functional elevator anymore and is full of empty eating joints and shady-looking spas. Even the path leading to the Rajouri Garden metro station isn’t lighted properly although it is of barely a few meters. I have visited Pacific Mall, Tagore Garden and PVR Sangam, RK Puram a couple of times due to good connectivity from Palam but found the ticket prices to be exorbitantly high. The former at least boasts of an extremely vibrant food court whereas the latter doesn’t fare well even on that aspect. I have also visited PVR, Naraina and INOX, Patel Nagar as I couldn’t find tickets for the movies I wished to watch anywhere else. However, neither are they easily accessible nor are the tickets reasonably priced. The later doesn’t have any eating joints around either. My love for Bengali movies took me to PVR Anupam which happens to be India’s first multiplex. I have visited far off theatres such as PVR Logix, Noida and INOX, Nehru Place for the same reason. There was a time I frequently visited INOX Janakpuri, situated right next to Janakpuri West metro station before I discovered the beauty of Cinepolis, Janak Cinema. This place boasts of cheaper tickets and a diverse food court apart from being easily accessible through DTC buses. I was thrilled when PVR, Vegas situated at Dwarka, Sector-14, became operational after being under construction for many years as it was at walking distance from the last organization I was employed at. However, the expensive tickets and lack of accessibility through DTC buses ensured that I don’t visit it too frequently. I now visit it only to watch Bengali movies as there are select few theatres in the city that screen Bengali movies. I am the proudest of my discovery of the single-screen theatre, Liberty Cinema where I can afford as much as popcorn as I want. The only flip side is that this theatre isn’t easily accessible through buses and is situated and it is almost equidistant far from Karol Bagh metro Station and Rajendra Place metro station. I have also been to Race Course once for movie screening.
The freedom and independence that accompanies being a hosteller also compelled me to learn how to be your own. It was an issue I never had to face in school as had been fortunate enough to be surrounded by some great friends in each of the six schools I attended as a defense kid. Catching up on a movie every week became one of the ways I dealt with being distraught at law school. I vividly remember being uncomfortable around most of the batch mates and would be pretty stressed out at the prospect of going out for movies in huge groups. However, I do have some very fond memories of Rajshree Cinema located in Sector-21 of Gandhinagar that I was fortunate enough to visit a couple of times before it got demolished. It was the first single-screen theatre I ever visited and was thoroughly charmed by it. I visited Cinemax, Sector-11 only a few times as I still hadn’t developed the habit of watching movies every week. It had been pretty popular amongst GNLUites as it wasn’t too far from the old campus situated in Sector-24. However, the biggest drawback of this theatre was that there no eating joints around it. So a bunch of kids flocking here to catch up on a movie would have to either visit Sector-16 or Info City later for a meal. I still cannot point out what made Info City such an attractive hangout spot for college going kids across the city. Sector- 21 was not usually preferred because it wasn’t half as great for food as it was for shopping. During my third year, my family relocated to Sector-17 and GNLU was finally moved to the new campus situated in Koba. City Pulse, which wasn’t earlier frequented by GNLUites because of the distance from the old campus, now became a go-to place. City Pulse not only boasted of a movie theatre but many eateries situated amongst the lush green. I was particularly fond of the collage of movie stills through the ages that adorned the walls of the theatre and a café at the entrance. The quaint little café had been gifted by the owner of City Pulse to his 15-year-old granddaughter Aira who was fond of baking. It had been an absolute pleasure to get to know her over many cups of coffee. For someone such as me who was stuck at law school, it was an embodiment of everything bright and beautiful. During the same year, GNLU’s annual cultural fest became national for the first time and students were allowed to put up stalls. Putting up a stall named after my dog Brownie stationed at GNLU, where every variety of cupcake was well-received gave me a much-needed sense of purpose. I had not done well at any on the traditionally coveted measure of success at a law school and it brought me immense joy to discover that not only did I enjoy the process but was pretty decent at it a. During the same time, I began using my friend Suriti’s cycle to test the waters regarding my stamina. I will be forever grateful to her for letting me rediscover the joy of cycling. I gradually learnt to be more independent as well as more stubborn about using my cycle to visit the theatre. I became a rather proud owner of the cycle which I had bought with the stipend I had received for the first time during my fourth year. Talk to any college going kid in your vicinity and you would realize that organizations that pay stipend are still hard to come by. I was so grateful about being able to purchase my cycle that I even wrote a gratitude mail to the partner at the law firm where I had interned! Apart from having loved cycling since childhood I also saw at a way of protesting against auto drivers who would never charge by the meter in Gandhinagar. So, I would insist on cycling to the theatre while my closest friends would take an auto to the theatre. Since my friends weren’t too comfortable with this arrangement, I eventually began going for movies alone and loved every bit of it. A few years later I realized that you never watch a movie alone because you are always surrounded by other viewers who are watching the movie with and witnessing the same emotions. During my fourth year, I had been keen on watching Ship of Theseus. Since it wasn’t being screened in any theatre in Gandhinagar I ventured out to watch it at PVR, Thaltej with two of my seniors. Till date, art-house movies and independent cinema produced by smaller lesser-known production houses can afford only very few numbers of screens at obscure times. As a result, these movies reach out to even lesser audience and as a result it creates a vicious cycle in terms of reach. While visiting Ahmedabad last year, I watched Saand ki Aankh at Cinemax Dev Arc Mall, with my best friend from GNLU, Snehi for the first time. I am yet to check out the famous Flintstone style drive-in theater situated in Ahmedabad. While pursuing L.L.M in T.I.S.S I visited one of my best friends stationed at Vadodara and we were extremely eager to watch Lipstick under my Burkha. We gushed over how relatable the movie before I realized much later that the movie doled out some extremely problematic messages in the larger context.
During the same time when I was in college, I began frequenting movie theatres in Kolkata as well on my annual trips. The first theatre I visited in Kolkata was the single-screen theatre, Priya Cinema situated on Rashbehari next to Deshapriya Park with my grandfather. I had been thrilled with the cheap packets of popcorn that were being sold during the interval. Alas! I soon discovered the popcorn to be so salty that I struggled to finish even my first packet. I lost him a few years back and I now usually go out for movies alone when in Kolkata. Ever since that time I have discovered the multiplex at Lake Mall situated at Lake Market and Acropolis Mall situated at Rajdanga but my favourite till date remains the single-screen theatre at Priya. I still remember the jubilation over the completion of Lake Mall in the padha since the site had been under construction for a really long time. Rabindra Sadan surrounded by lush greenery where I would be happily chattering over many cups of lebu cha with another of my best friend Dabbo comes at a close second. I was extremely proud to take out one of my favorite mashis for Kontho when I first began earning. We visited the single-screen theatre Jaya Cinema for the first day, the first show of Zero and for the first time, I witnessed the fabled fan frenzy accompanying the screening of movies of popular actors. The biggest drawback of this theatre is the ladies washroom which isn’t user friendly at all with no single cubicles. I have been fortunate enough to visit Manasi Cinema Hall at Mecheda and Shishir Mancha at Kalyani. I loved the old world charm they exuded.
I had to relocate to Bengaluru soon after graduation to recoup from severe depression and figure out my way professionally. I began frequenting the auditorium at Command Hospital weekly for movies by using the monthly movie pass that would just cost about two hundred bucks. I have extremely fond memories of the day I left the screening of Noor after the first half to celebrate getting into T.I.S.S with Nishka. The other one was the single screen Rex Theater situated on Brigade road which I would mostly frequent with her. This was the theatre where I first went out for the first day, the first show of a movie. We had gone out for Ae Dil hai Mushkil and could relate to the camaraderie shared by Anushka and Ranbir to our friendship. Last year while visiting the city, I visited the site of the theatre with a heavy heart which was wound up to pave way for a multiplex. Rajendra Singhji Army Officers Institute, Mahatma Gandhi Road was another favorite due to its lush green gardens and the great snacks it offered. I once watched Mowgli at the theatre there.
It was love at first sight with Mumbai when I visited it for an internship during my final year of law school. There is a certain aura about the city that sets it apart from the rest of the country and makes it irresistible. The first movie I saw in Mumbai was The Children of War at Sena Cinema, Navy Nagar, Colaba. I loved the video library near Afghan Church from where I used to borrow CDs frequently during my stay which lasted two months. That’s how I came across the gem Life is Beautiful. The next time I went to Mumbai was as a student of T.I.S.S. I was ever so grateful for the theatres at K Star mall and Cubic mall situated at walking distance from Maitri Park where I resided. I used to often cycle to these malls to watch movies, about twice a week. The weekday ticket costing Rs 119 always ensured that I was left with enough cash to purchase popcorn to my heart’s content. I still miss the late-night shows which one can’t even imagine attending while in DelhiI went to watch Newton at Sterling Cinema, Fort the night before my last end semester exam at the end of the first semester. I randomly struck a conversation with the guy watching the movie alone sitting close to me which lead to a lasting friendship. Ali and I still ping each other often, mostly for asking for movie reviews. I watched Star Wars with Sidharth while he was visiting me at INOX Ghatkopar. I went out for Padman with Prachi and Sameer to Balaji Cinema, Kopar Khairane. That was the last theater I explored in Mumbai.
I have had a beautiful journey with cinema till date and look forward to exploring many more theaters around the world about which I shall keep you updated. Signing off for now.