Air – Conditioned Halls, Push Back Leather Seats, Lush Carpets, Dolby Surround Effect Sound System, Swanky Interiors & Innovative designs is nowadays a key to most of our city dwelling movie maniacs. Multiplexes have been a major factor in bringing back the upper middle class audience to movie theatres. But most of the movie goers above 25 years, must have enjoyed the glorious days of single screen Cinema. My first childhood memory of watching a movie in a movie theatre was way back in late 80s when my parents took me to see Chota Chetan. It was the most exciting thing to do for me at that time, as till date I had watched the movies only on Doordarshan, and thus getting to watch a movie on a huge screen and that too with paper 3D Glasses was awesome. After that for few years my dad took me to watch various hindi movies at our local single screen theatres and thus my passion for cinema was ignited. I loved the intermissions which used to come with a ring of a bell, just like the recess in our school, and that bell inevitably meant that my dad would go and get me a packet of polythene packed soggy yummy popcorn and a Goldspot. The experience of going to a movie was like a weekend trip to Goa for me back then. But my dad wasn’t watching every movie that was released and so had to wait for the next good movie which he would be interested and would pray for an Amitabh Release as he never missed that.
Then Came 1993 and Jurrasic Park (in Hindi) was released in India and every youngster in the country wanted to watch it. I nagged my parents to give me the permission to go ahead and watch a movie in theatre all by myself with my friends. It was the most exciting thing I had ever done till that time. The theatre was 5 kms from our house, and we friends had taken the bus till the hall. There were three of us, and none of us had ever purchased a movie ticket till then and had no idea how to do it or what categories there were to choose from. When we were in front of the ticket windows we had three different choices: Lower Stall 10 Rs. (It was the longest line), Upper Stall 15 Rs. (little less longer line) and Balcony 25 Rs. (pretty small line). We made a quick count of our funds pool, calculating and reserving a fixed sum for the canteen in interval; we decided to go for the upper stall. After waiting in the queue for 20 odd mins I reached the ticket window and asked for three tickets and the ticket window guy refused, saying they have the policy of giving only two tickets to one person to prevent black marketing. I had no idea about what in the world was black marketing and tried to convince the ticket window guy with my innocent face that I am a kid with no intentions of marketing those tickets black or white and showed them my friends waiting nearby, finally convincing the ticket window guy give me my first movie ticket I ever brought. It was a victorious moment for me, because I felt in my quest to secure my first ever movie ticket, I overcome an earth shattering hurdle and thus considered myself street smart for that feat. I admired my hard earned ticket, which was of pink color, Lower Stall Tickets were of Green Color and Balcony Ticket were of luxurious grey color. At that time, the seat numbering system was only in the balcony of our single screen movie hall. Lower and Upper stall tickets were basically on first come first serve basis. Thus resulting in people standing in a huge cue and ready to rush inside as soon as the gates open with the first ring of the bell to get the best possible seats (preferably near the corners under the huge wall mounted fans). We loved the Jurrasic Park in hindi, though we found it very boring for first 20 mins when a weird old man was just talking and talking explaining some weird technology involving frogs and lizard which we didn’t cared, but as soon as the dinosaurs were on the screens we just loved it. With my first ever experience of screaming and whistling in the theatre I was having the time of my life. Then came the sudden interval with a loud ringing of the bell and while going to the canteen we deliberately took the path leading upto to the top most row of the upperstall, as we wanted to peek and see what luxurious adobe was in the balcony section. Back than movie canteens had a charm of its own, with just one flavoured, atleast 4-5 days earlier polythene packed pop corns, Samosas till they last, Cream Rolls, Parle G biscuits, Thums up, Gold Spot, Limca and tea Coffee. There were no fancy burgers, nachos or cheese flavoured popcorns. While eating those pop corns, one of my friends revealed us an amazing fact that his uncle who lives in Bombay (Mumbai) claimed there were movie halls there which had ticket rates of 75-100 Rs. and some were even A/c. However we enjoyed the rest of our movie, especially the climax where the small girl saved the day moving some kinda device on the desk connected to computer, which many years later I came to know is called the mouse, through which I won’t be trapping dinosaurs, but checking the Facebook.
Few months later I had a chance of revisiting the movie hall again with the release of Rangeela and this time I was introduced to a viewer friendly world of ticket black marketing. The movie was house full and we were planning to go back home disappointedly, when a shady looking guy came and asked me “ticket chaiye, balcony ka hai.?” I was overwhelmed that a kind hearted guy was taking pity on us seeing are disappointed faces and offering us his tickets, but lo and behold, he asked 40 Rs. for the balcony ticket. In a second I realized what black marketing was all about and later spent most of my college life trying to spot the guy selling tickets in black as I was always late to reach movie hall. Black marketing people were the life savers for people like us who had this compulsive urge to watch the movie on the day of its release. How much I miss them nowadays in the Multiplexes, when I forget to advance book my tickets and when after reaching the theatre I find all the movies house full. I always wish to spot a kind hearted black marketer lurking in the Air Conditioned alley of PVR or Big Cinema, ready to save the day for me.
Post 1993 the only respectable single screen cinema in our area was rumoured to be being renovated and would now become A/C and I was pretty excited to experience it. The owner had timed the renovated theatre with the release of Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge. Outside the main gate of the theatre the owner had now proudly written: in huge bold letters “Vinay Theatre”, and in little less huge but still bold letters “A/C” and then yet in the third line with small letter which were not bold it was written “Air-Cooled”. Yes our small town theatre had become A/C, which contrary to our expectation was installed with around 10-15 huge Water Coolers and not the Air-Conditioner. However it was still an upgrade and we were proud of it. The theatre even had gone ahead and got rexine cushioned seats for balcony section, and had also come up with two box sections.
Then came 1999, and the first ever Multiplex of Ahmadabad was inaugurated with people loving it, comparison were drawn with the movie theatres of Singapore and America as per their relative’s residing country. My first ever Multiplex movie was “Mann”, though I hated the movie, but I loved the new experience and feel, and also fresh pop corns with masala seasoning. I felt this was life, watching a movie like King. Soon there was a flood of multiplex, each new one making the older multiplexes look like a piece of junk. PVRs, Cinemaxs, Big Cinemas changed our total viewing experience, enabling us to at least console ourselves that Pop corn were tasty and seat was so comfortable that I slept off, while watching Khatta Meetha.
Lekin Cinema ka Magic to tab bhi tha, jab Multiplex nahin tha...