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The vanishing cinema talkies

Updated on January 30, 2018

Panchali, Padmini, Cheeru, Sarasu, Janu and Sarada Kuttikrishnan-all women's folk in the village are on a hurry mission of finishing their daily chores at the kitchen. It is just 11 in the morning. Yet they are anxious about finishing their jobs and are crazy of doing things fast. Their mind is not in the kitchen, it is heavily centred around today's matinee show! It must be so naturally when their favourite actor Prem Nazeer's new Malayalam film "Thacholi Ambu" is running full packed in the nearby "Laxmi" talkies.

Panchali will miss anything but the Laxmi and Prem Nazeer. It is so since her adolescent age. Watching a matinee from the nearest talkies was her most sought after hobby. Not just hers but of anyone during the period of the '60s and 70s. A Large crowd, long queue and the disappointing display board "house full" were the usual scenes at any talkies. The queue was better termed "serpentine queue" at those times.

The demolished structure of a cinema talkies in Arthunkal, Kerala
The demolished structure of a cinema talkies in Arthunkal, Kerala | Source

The women preferred matinee shows. The men and families opted first show (at 6.30pm) and second show. The matinee was sure to give you a head ache for reason unknown on your return home. The second show at 9,30 evening was very interesting. Rush, heat, and dust were absent then. The movie lovers went back home walking relaxed keeping torches and chatting about movies only.

Prem Nazeer, Sathyan, Madhu, Ummer, Jayabharathi, Sheela, and Sarada were the favorite actors. Melodious songs gave a soothing effect to our ears. Marvellous dance scenes treated our eyes too. The subjects (screenplays) were down to earth ones and related to the common man. And outside the silver screen also there were no show-off scenes. The audience opted for the cheaper tickets first. They purchased higher circles like First class and balcony only when they had no other choice. The case is just reverse in the present scenario of movie watching.

Songbooks, snacks, tea, soda....everything were supplied at your seat inside the thatched house called "talkies", where, you could see long fans rotating with sound. The dim lights, the fire extinguishers and "Exit" and "Enter" display boards in red light also caught your attention. It would be heavy darkness inside. You would also feel the smell of beedies and scene of smoke were there on the air. Bugs might be troubling you, but you were least bothered. Interval period was compulsorily allotted for a 'sound' eating. 'Nurukku' or 'Murukku' was on the priority list. Ice, Ice cream and roasted groundnuts were also bought for a lavish eating provided enough money was there in the purse.

I have a clear memory of certain visuals in and around the talkies, I saw in my childhood days. "Laxmi" talkies in Kallai was my favorite spot for movie watching. It was the oldest and a reputed one in Kozhikode district. Its Projector was believed to be one of the best in the whole state. I remember it is of Philips Company and imported from Holland. Tamil movies were mainly played here and as such, it was a famous meeting spot for the Tamilians settled in Kozhikode. Though we had many Theatres in our city, it was the one near my home. Naturally, I was a regular here.

I remember boys entering the cinema hall with whistle and shouting. We called them bad boys. They entered removing their shirts. Their bodies were wet; so do their dresses too, a visible mark of the struggle for a ticket! The moment they enter inside, they would shout their friends' name. It would go like thus: Jayaaa, Dasaa. Josaay, Basheerey....Someone would start staring at the women sitting in the back seat. And the courageous would even dare to touch or pinch the women. Some ladies in return would shout at them and utter words unprintable. Throwing paper rockets was a compulsory ritual for many. These bad boys' certain witty comments would cheer us like anything.

The Interval or intermission period would show you what is running in the nearby cinema theatres. Highlights of the coming movies will be shown on the screen. Naturally, the audience will take a decision at this time regarding what to watch next.

A Nostalgic Song from an Old Tamil Movie

A song scene from "Kadathanattu Makkom"

Panchali and Sarada had the habit of going to talkies every Fridays since the films change that day. Watching a movie and telling its story to someone were their prime hobbies. The narration was commendable and the listeners had no need of going for watching it anymore. Both the narrator and listener were seriously engrossed in the talk. They would cry, laugh and act like what their heroes did on the screen.

It is all a story of the past. Nothing is there now. No Nazeer and Sathayn. Panchali and Sarada too are no more. Now, each day, we hear the news of talkies getting demolished. The remaining few ones are remodeled to function as Kalyana Mandapams (Wedding Halls) or Godowns. What is more painful is that the film stars and the superstars are least bothered about these negative trends. They have many associations and are fighting with each other without interval. But we, the poor movie lovers are at the receiving end on all aspects related to movie watch. Our cheap talkies are dying daily. Tickets rates are going high. The talkies are vanishing. But the nostalgic memories of talkies are still intact and vibrant. It will never vanish!

Do you agree that the talkies are dying?

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      nimmy 3 months ago

      Hai Suni, your post about our dying talkies is very much attracting and also helped to reach that unforgettable enjoying days .Nobody can easily forget that preciousexperience especially lovers.enjoying romantic songs in same talkies but in different seats had a magic power,any way thanks to bring me that golden days .

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Changes have affected us in so many ways. An interesting topic. Modern technology has grown rapidly.

    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile image

      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 5 years ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)

      Hi Josephji,

      I admit that talkies went with some bad things like the good ones as well. But as you said, my intention was just to create a nostalgic feel of those gone experience in our childhood. Thanks for your clear expression.

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      p.k.joseph 5 years ago

      Talkies are vanishing.Really it is not vanishing, T.V. screen is a small talkies which replaced the old one to our home.during my college days we usually went for second show at leela theater, chevayur.many local people came there ,not to see cinema but for immorral activity without fear.near my seat was a middle aged man with a lady (may be a prostitute ) doing sexual activities.other side some people having hot drinks ,speaking utter words ,smoking and spiting on the floor.It is inevittable that talkies vanishing ,It is part of technology development which happened fourty back in the developed coutries. however ur article gives nostalgic feelings .

    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile image

      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 5 years ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)


      I hope you went through the article once again. My reason is obvious. When your loving Amma is a character in the article my curiosity for hearing more from you is justified. Anyhow thanks for commenting.

    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile image

      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 5 years ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)

      Hi July,

      Your reply is touching and it boosts my confidence level. Frankly speaking I couldn't read till today Mlgudy Days, though Prasant had advised me. Anyhow, if you have a copy, give me please. Yes I could have written more about Talkies, but I stopped there. The demolition of Laxmi is still haunting me too well. Not mere Laxmi all other Theatres Like Pushpa, Sangam, etc. Still I have more love for Talkies rather than Theatres. Shall write more on different topics. Once again thank you for encouraging me.

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      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 5 years ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)


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      julie 5 years ago

      don't know what to write,first when i read it went as if i was reading RK Narayans MALGUDY DAYS,so it went smoothly and happily,I was living through ur lines,I was going through my childhood.not only that i was remembering ur youth,but when it entered into the existense of the charactors tears rolled on through my eyes,the very reason that they r not alive.YOU did it very well,could have wrote more about it , can u suggest any other title for this blog?ur selection is fantastic,the way u presented also nice,interesting.Introduction is apt for the topic,all the best dear.....keep on writing

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      surendran 5 years ago

      It takes me to those nice yester years. Yes. The time changes, changing our life and the techniques along with it.