[Reader-list] exchange program/ mamta- nandita

mamta mantri bawree at yahoo.com
Thu Aug 10 13:15:05 IST 2006

Mamta wrote:
11/7, a date evoking bad memories in the mind of
Mumbai. To my good luck, I was in Delhi, another big
city-space, on exchange programme, as a part of which
I had to visit cinema halls there. The pleasure of
meeting Nandita at Regal hall at Connuaght place was
doubled with the visit to the hall. What was striking
was the employment of the space by the owner.
Gigantic, large, magnificent, splendid were the words
that came to my mind. I was reminded of Eros in
Mumbai, my favorite hall. The black and white pictures
of Dev Anand, Madhubala, Raj Kapoor and others added
to the feeling of nostalgia. Well, we then headed to
Stadium Restaurant next door, and began chatting about
and with each other. The Restaurant was again huge and
the other side was interesting, though under
So, other things apart, we began discussing the
motivation behind the research. It was pleasant to
discern that her motive were as personal as mine were;
and a part of a personal journey; like I had embarked
upon.  That hit me instantly. 
The next journey that we undertook was to Excelsior,
at Chawri Bazar. As we moved to the ground from the
Metro, N told me about the engineering marvel that
this station was. The moment we were out and began
understanding the place, she recollected an incident
worth remembering. She wanted to enquire about the now
extinct Amar cinema to a particular richshaw wala, in
front of the Metro station. He said," Kyon mazak kar
rahe? Aap wahi par to khadi hai." Walking through the
old city was an experience in itself. Although all old
parts of cities look similar (I am thinking of Surat,
Vadodara, Ajmer, Alwar, et al), yet there is something
very distinct about each city in an unknown manner.
So, Excelsior felt very closer to the cinema halls
that I studied in Mumbai, although very different in
terms of color(striking blues and greens as opposed to
biege here), stairs, terrace et al. Somehow, the
memories of this hall remain not of affluence and
renovation, which does get seen, but that of now
defunct A/C, the fans, the closed dilapidated garage,
the hands-on-the-breasts-poster of "Sadhu Bana
Shaitan", the fake new film "Heeralal-something", the
lassi-ka-bada-glass" and the good-looking manager. The
lack of time deterred us from making longish and
detailed conversations. 
We then began to walk towards Jami Masjid and Meena
Bazar and moved on to Chandni Chowk-Parathe-wali-Gali
and had a wholesome lunch, the best being the Banana
paratha. Then we went on to see Moti. Very much like
Naaz in Mumbai, the entrance to the compound passed
through an overflowing and so many posters....dirty
surroundings, colorful paraphernalia.  
The following days, we visited Ritz at Kashmiri Gate,
Rivoli PVR, Delite and Golcha at Daryaganj, and Odeon
at Connaught Place.
During the brief visits to all the halls, the
following came to my mind:
The ticket rates are higher than that of the cinema
halls under survey in Mumbai; most of the halls showed
fresh releases. They were huge and royal in magnitude,
and accommodated women and families. 
The canteens were cleaner, safe and very inviting.
Always felt like eating there.
It looked like the owners took very genuine interest
in their theatres. The most striking was the Delite,
which proudly boasted of its grand past with photos of
the then President, Prime minister and other
dignitaries. Well, Delhi has its plusses. 
While the entire war of cinema halls seemed to
concentrate around PVRs as opposed to single screen
halls there, the tough fight given by the owners of
single screens is worth noting. I simply could not
resist the temptation of watching a film there, but
had to stop myself due to paucity of time. But I did
visit the projector room, terraces, and of course, the
loos. They say, one can gauge the place by its loos.
The loos are worth a visit. 
For me, the experience got intense with emotions of
resistance and tough fights all along the way by these
cinema halls, along with the humane facet to it.  


Nandita wrote:

“I am wearing an orange Gandhi T-shirt. The code word
is ‘lal gulab’.”
 “Ha ha ha
 “Alright then, see you at five.” 

I met Mamta at a few minutes past five near Regal. 
Unfortunately, my orange t-shirt was too conspicuous
and left no need for the use of the code word.  It was
a hopeless attempt to be filmy. With Regal next door,
I couldn’t resist taking Mamta there right after
exchanging pleasantries. So we went in. The shutter
bug took over Mamta and she captured the past actors
and actresses’ photos hung on the gallery. To explain
the plan of the theatre which was built for live
performances, I took her to the floor plan, pined up
in a glass box next to the box office. 
“I didn’t come across these in Mumbai halls.”  She
observed. I had come across these floor plans in every
cinema hall in Delhi and took it to be a standard
format for safety rules to display the plan with the
fire exits. At Standard Restaurant, we discussed our
journey so far, our motive, experiences and
impressions of the Cinema Halls. It was an animatedly
passionate discussion. It was elating to find a fellow

In the next five, six days we went to Excelsior, Moti,
Ritz, Golcha, Delite, Rivoli and Plaza.  I was a
little apprehensive taking a guest to the Halls.
Having gone alone to all these places, I wasn’t sure
how they would react to another inquisitive visitor.
My apprehensions were put to ease by the warm welcome
we received at Excelsior.  It was fascinating to know
that like many cinema halls in Mumbai that Mamta was
studying, Excelsior too had a durgah. The cinema hall
patronized it. The Manager believes that it was the
pir who looks after the Hall, that is surviving
against all odds. After comparative observations on
ticket prices, film genres and audience between Mumbai
Halls and Excelsior we headed towards Moti, another
interesting hall in Chandani Chowk. On our way we
visited Jama Masjid and had a sumptuous lunch of
parathas at the parathe wali gali. After the indulgent
meal we just about dragged ourselves to Moti. A
bhojpuri film was playing there. When we entered the
balcony wing a mujara was playing.  Majority of the
audience were totally involved in the song, clapping
and hooting. It was as if they were watching a live
performance and the screen didn’t exist. Though the
audience consisted of shop attendants, rickshaw
pullers and laborers, Mamta found most of the viewers
more urbane than Mumbai. 
In the course of visiting the cinema halls we came to
understand the differences and similarities between
the cinema halls in Delhi and Mumbai. Beside the
higher ticket rates and larger space in Delhi, I feel
there was a subtle difference in the owners and their
management. From what I understand after discussing
with Mamta, the Delhi owners seem to have a residual
feudalism in them. The cinema hall owners that Mamta
had met in Mumbai were more approachable.  

What was especially delightful for me was to see
someone look at the cinema hall, its people, the
screen, the projectors and its operators with the same
intensity of emotions as I had approached it.  It was
an enriching experience.


this is also the opportune moment to thank Vivek,
Ashish and Sarai, for the pleasant trip... 

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