Monday, 14 May 2012

The Matinee

Summer of the early 90s, Bangalore was bliss. English weather, an early morning game of cricket and hot delicious mom cooked food. My test results were out and they at least looked like what I had expected. All's well. The handing over of the marks sheet 'directly' to the parents had gone down quite well and my II standard class teacher had no specific remark to pass on except for her usual grouse of me being a real pain in the neck sometimes. No psychiatric evaluation or counselling was needed. All's well. 

The most anticipated time of the year had come around and a 2 month long vacation just exploded ahead of me! Freeedoooomm! 

The new month had just bloomed, which meant that mom and dad's respective bank balances had just swelled a little and something good was waiting around the corner. Cable TV was unheard of and there was very little to do at home. To catch a matinee was the plan! yay!

Bangalore in the early 90s was pure southern spice. No exorbitant shopping malls to jeer at you, no hot wheels to frown upon dad's earthly Bajaj Chetak and no harsh afternoon sun to drain your Sunday spirits. The Palsamudra trio hitched a ride on Hamara Bajaj to the nearest single screen cinema hall showing the newly released movie of Kannada filmdom's greatest idol Dr. Rajkumar!! 

After finding a parking space for the scooter quite effortlessly, dad left us to get the 'balcony' tickets - the special upper crest seating arrangement away from the noisy and mischievous plebeian crowds in the lowly 'Gandhi' class. While I was preparing myself to be seated amongst the elite, I was in for a rude jolt, when the balcony tickets were sold out and all those were left were the second class, just a few rows behind the notorious screen front crowds. Well, dad again left us to buy the 'other' tickets while all I could watch was the swelling crowds for the Sunday matinee. A few quick turns of the head had me seeing huge two storey high cardboard cutouts of the cinema's lead protagonist. Huge marigold garlands adorned the enormous works of art. "Jeevana Chaithra" was the thespian's first movie after a long hiatus of 3 years and the crowd was in the grip of a feverish fervor. 

The hall owners were quick in putting up the 'House full' boards at the gates, but fortunately we had our tickets and would be the privileged ones to get in. While, waiting for the earlier show to get over, I could see the nimble footed black ticketeers attempting to raise some quick bucks for themselves. I was quite new to what was happening and a query placed with my ever attentive mom gave me some convincing responses with a light reprimand not to concentrate on such things. 

The morning show had just concluded and the gatekeepers opened the gates and I could see a flood of people streaming out, men, women, children and old folks. All of them seemed quite satisfied with their spend. 

Though the tickets clearly had the seat numbers printed on them, the swelling crowd's insanity knew no bounds, when I was unwillingly being transported inside the hall gates and a scared 9 year old had to but struggle and reach out to his mom's hand to survive the mad mob. We finally got inside in one piece and were able to locate our seats. After a few minutes, the lights were all put off and the silver screen lit up like magic! 

For the first 10 minutes, all I could hear was the loud hollering and hooting of the great icon's staunch supporters from all across the acoustically designed hall. It was a hysteric. I had not seen anything like this before, my whole life. 

A few reels later, which had the aging actor involved in an action sequence made the entire hall go berserk. I could literally feel the electricity in the air and the passions soared as high as Bangalore's Utility building. Then started the unexpected - Metal rain!!!! Yes! ardent fans showing their respect for their matinee idol by showering coins. Tiny circular missiles were bombarding me from behind. Even the elite balcony viewers got into the game and some rich buggers even threw newly introduced Re 2 coins as well. Of course, my honest intentions of collecting the fallen coins and depositing them in my own pockets for very pious purpose of buying my favorite mint & coffee confectionaries from the 'kirana' store near my home was all drenched in the scornful looks of my parents. My very first venture of making some money was thwarted by my own kind! 

While the action scenes made the crowd behave like street urchins, the songs had them prancing around like little princesses. The ruffian 'Gandhi' class fellows took to their usual pagan dance moves in front of the large screen. It was a fair in a dark room. 

After a good 90 minutes, we had the intermission and my usual cravings for junk food soaked in god - knows - what - oil, were promptly turned down by my over protective parents and a quick lesson on the ill effects of theater food was handed down, which I surprisingly remembered at most of our subsequent movie outings. Maybe, dad's flaring temper and teeth clenching did the trick.

All the whirring fans inside the hall had the people rush in droves to the only available loo on the lower floor. It was a mess. A chaotic place where the heavy scent of sulphur stung your noses. I remember having controlled my urge to relieve, for a good 10 minutes before I got my turn. It was quite hard for a kid my age to overpower larger men who obviously were in a greater rush than I. Got my turn, relieved off the pressure, All's well. 

The second half, after the intermission, though was less eventful and things went on peacefully and my expectation of another coin shower drowned in the silence. The hall wore a more somber look since the latter part took a more serious turn and the protagonist was going through all sorts of trouble. 

Finally after another 90 minutes, the movie closed with a lesson on morality. The matinee was finally over. 

Dad found his Bajaj Chetak and we hopped on to our journey home. 

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