Sunday, June 06, 2010

Memories are Always in Exaggerated Technicolour

I'm heading to India for a short summer break at the end of this month. I already have a set of things planned out. Quite high on the list of priorities is watching a Malayalam film at one of the theatres in Kochi. Reminds me of an old post made during my last trip to Kochi. Reposting it...

Just when the black clouds gathered to send a bolt of thunder warn those who had no business to be out on the roads about an impending thunderstorm.

I was in the throes of making elaborate plans for the day. A movie, I decided was on the cards. The weather be damned..what were rickshaws for after all? And it was to be a family production - get my mom and her always gungho sisters together, lure them with the promise of a movie and lunch out. And as we stepped out, it was pouring as if there was a massive cleaning operation happening up in the sky and buckets of mucky water were being splashed down on earth...

But then I was determined to relive the good old days of watching movies in theatres. The old fashioned way, come rain or shine. So there we landed, dripping enough to make the theatre manager wonder what sort of dementia drive women to movies in a pouring thunderstorm . In fact, my mom even apologised to the rickshaw driver for our lunacy, explaining to him how the tickets had unfortunately been booked in sunnier times and then tipping him a twenty extra to hide the embarrassment of willing participation in her daughter's mission..

There you go - small town living . Everyone deserves an explanation. No matter that you will never see that bloke ever in your life again. But all this was forgotten as soon as I entered the theatre. Like most ones in Kochi, they too are named after women- set of three - Savita, Sarita, Sangeeta. Trust Malayalees to come up with rhyming names for siblings -so what if they are theatres? Sangeeta is more like a preview theatre by any big city standard - seats about a seventy - has a tiny screen compared to its more preferred siblings. But to be fair, I have watched a lot of good movies here. Today too, I saw a very good one...Ruthu( Seasons).Hope I spelt it right..( psst...for those interested, a film review can also be attached) But for me the movie wasnt the only attraction...

It was all about revisiting an old haunt - a swanky theatre complex of my childh. The popcorn stalls looked the same, no tampering with layouts here - the coffee machines were new. Different from the huge coffee filters kept then. but otherwise, it looked like I was in a time warp.The huge elephant's head carved in wood looks a hundred years old and its still there where it hung from nearly 25 years ago, my first memory of the theatre, the woodden balustrade,the chandelier. Nothing has changed. The ticket rates were a hoot -40Rs ticket - the best of the best on offer, printed on cheap purple paper.

My nostalgic nose couldn't have been tickled more. Walk into Sangeeta and you realise why they still charge the same. The red carpet running through the length of it, hadnt been changed since the time I toddled through there blackmailing my dad to get me peanuts to keep quiet through the climax. The seats looked the same too -narrow, uncomfortable with woodden handles. A raddiwala's treasure trove in these days of plush multiplex comfort. But I put it all down to those oft quoted 'walks down the memory lane' and sat down...

And as the movie began, and the lights dimmed, started the real live action. Rats scampering up and down with little animated squeaks to make their presence felt. At first, we laughed, till I felt a furry body scamper past my toes. Or did I imagine it? I can't speak with total authority, but there I was watching the film for the next two hours with both my feet cramped into the narrow space on my chair. And then, I realised I wasn't the only one. Wonder if it was one of those creative minds watching the film who started mimicking the sounds of a tabby cat. For a while the movie was forgotten, half the audience had their feet up, waiting for the cat to advance till one of them spotted the rat scampering across the theatre screen and there was spontaneous laughter....

The film's director would have been crushed were he there. The scene was a teary one, that was to hold his viewers in its grip and here was a little puny rat stealing the thunder.  Add cockroaches and a generous army of mosquitoes to the mix and we had quite a number of characters off screen too. I don't think I'd thought of rats and cockroaches back then. There were the popcorn packets and the other munchies to look forward too and bottles of fizzy drinks to chase the fear of little creepy crawlies away. Or is it that all these theatres have now gone to seed? Dont know if the dirt and grime is more obvious to me now that I too am a visitor seeking the same rich colours- from the screen to the carpet.

The movie to be fair was a really good one...another one I'll be proud to claim is from Malayalam stables. But the 'holistic' experience I'd say was more memorable...


  1. Just got back from my break and nursing a massive hangover.

    Kerala in monsoons is something else..Btw I used to watch Malayalam movies on DD(centuries back). Used to find them enchanting.

  2. I remember going to such a theatre in Nagpur..the highlight was the samosas they offered and of course cheap tickets...

  3. Purba: A break is always wonderful isn't it..I'm literally counting days to the D-day and Ma keeps telling me how the monsoons have begun in earnest. :)

    Kcalpesh: :) Thanks

    V: The samosas in Kerala are yuckkk..They can neither bake nor even decently fry. Ohhh..but there is the banana fry that is yummy, but ma never lets me eat them from outside as she says the oil will always be suspect...:/

  4. It must be all those nibbles that attract the rats and the roaches. I suppose they have those in UK cinemas as well, it's just that the creatures there can't afford the ludicrous prices to enter the auditorium.

  5. You have Malayalee roots!?! What are the odds? :o :)

    PS: Have this vague memory of going to a malayalam film based on politics with this army of cousins, aunts, uncles and some more strangers in Cannanore, Kerala as a child. I was there for my vacations. Was a politics based violent film. Tickets had AC stamped in bold on them. Only there was no ac in the hall. And cause violence scared me, i spend the 3 odd hours admiring the ceiling dotted with rusty fans. It had this unique mattress kind of a finish that I remember to this day!!! :)

  6. Paul: I so agree with you, compared to the premium Rs.40 ticket in Kochi, I shelled out the equivalent of Rs500 for a movie here. I'm sure the rats and the roaches here are circumspect about going to the movies here.

    Choco: :) Im a true-blue tie-and-dyed in coconut dyes malayali. Just that years of living away from Kochi has made me one of those Mallu misfits...

  7. Great Post. Almost had the smell of coconut oil wafting in with the descriptions;). Love Mallu movies too, especially some of the older Mamootty and Mohanlal ones;)

  8. I find it difficult to take a break and even more difficult to come out of all the best.

  9. ... beautifully written - enjoy ur coming n staying in India ... the movies too :)

  10. When it comes to movie theaters my city has a similar flavor to it, had a similar experience in the recent past though not as theatrical as yours. In my case however the movie was so good that I felt like leaving half way through...

  11. Sowmya: I also love those old Mohanlal, Mammotty hits. Though these days I'm partial to good directors and not the actors. :)

  12. Guru, Suneet: Thanks for the visit. Keep dropping by..:)

    Gyanban: I know the feeling. I'm already counting the few days I have at home and then too, some days will be gone in work!!!

    Sharmila: Thanks, I'm looking forward to atleast three movies in three weeks.

    Analyst: If you are anywhere around Kochi, don't forget to give me a shout.

  13. rumba nalla aayee... dunno wether thts malayalee or some other language. but its too cool a read.