The vanishing cinema talkies
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 women preferred matinee shows. The men and families opted first show (at 6.30pm) and second show. Matinee was sure to give you 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 favourite 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 too 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 favourite spot for movie watching. It was the oldest and a reputed one in Kozhikode district. It's 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 on 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 it's 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 remodelled to function as Kallyana 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?
- A nostalgic symphony called "Chithrageetham"
Doordarshan was the main entertainment channel in India before the emergence of cable channels. Programs based on films were so hit during those period. Chithrageetham was such a popular one.