When Happiness Was the Price of a Movie Ticket

Like everywhere else, people in Bundelkhand have moved from cinemas to TVs to smartphones. But the nostalgia remains.

Representative Image. Credit: PTI

We’ve been taught to think bigger is better. But with the advent of a whole new range of technology, we now like our miracles pocket-sized. The people of Banda would concur; earlier bedazzled by the magic of the giant silver screen, they would flock to Mandakini Talkies, also known as Atarra Talkies, their friendly neighbourhood theatre, to get their dose of filmi masala. Larger-than life heroes, gravity-defying stunts, absurd villains and romantic misadventures never looked better. But now, they prefer to downsize their dreams. After all, what could be easier than having a world of entertainment in the palm of your hands?

And so it is that amidst the new-fangled media flurry, Mandakini Talkies in Atarra kasbah of Banda has remained dormant for the last four years. Vinod Shivhare, the owner of Mandakini Talkies, spoke to us with a resigned air about him, “When we were younger, we would go to the talkies; it was so crowded back then! Especially when a film newly released-it’d be crowded for weeks. When television came, people stopped enjoying the talkies as much. I guess people just want newer things.”

Babu Prasad Vajpayee, a local once-patron of the cinema, summed it up, “Now we don’t go to the cinema, we just watch things on our phones.” And when we asked whether his phone screen matched up in terms of the experience, he simply shook his head.

Uttar Pradesh, the country’s most populous state, accounts for the largest number of mobile subscribers in the country. Mobile device users with either a dongle or a mobile phone account for almost 89 % of broadband subscribers in India. With the simultaneous rise of both mobile phones and internet usage, the very nature of entertainment has transformed as much in urban India as rural.

Watch an interview with the residents of Banda about their ambivalent feelings towards this technological shift:

Shop owner Suresh Raj shared fond memories of the talkies and the buzz around them, “In all of Banda, there was only one talkies and this was it. If there was a particularly exciting movie, families would flock to the cinema to watch it. Oh, if there was a religious film, people would watch that!” He too has made the tech transition though, through time, “Things became different because of televisions. People started watching things at home. And now we have our phones!”

Another Banda local, Gauri Shankar Gupta, is visibly agitated during the interview, “What’s a man to do!” he starts off, and ends in a melancholic acceptance: “We’ve all learnt to make do with our tiny screens.”

It’s hard not to reminisce about a not-so-distant past wherein movie watching was a collective experience – laughter and tears and even wild hooting was part of the package. Suresh Raj really brings home the nostalgia when he decides to croon us an old Hindi film song, impromptu, “Tere chehre mein who jaadu hai, bin dor khicha jaata hoon…

This piece first appeared on Khabar Lahariya. It has been edited to meet style guidelines.

Khabar Lahariya is a rural, video-first digital news organisation with an all-women network of reporters in eight districts of Uttar Pradesh.

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