April 06, 2013

#2: The First Sight?

“The best films are like dreams you're never sure you've really had.” – Jim Jarmusch’s 'The Limits of Control' (2009) 

When we were kids, my brother and I had one daily ritual. Every evening, after playtime, we used to listen to stories that our Baba, Grand Dad, told us. Those were stories from mythology, from fiction he read, and from his own imagination. My Baba was my first storyteller. And my Mom always let us finish our story sessions with him before beckoning us for studies. I still have the memory of such evenings, just like the memory of the first child-magazine Mom bought for me. However, I’m not sure if what I have in my mind are bits and pieces of visual memory, or images re-imagined after I grew up. Similar is the case with my first memory of experiencing a movie in a theatre. I can never be sure whether the image I have in my mind, of watching ‘Nache Mayuri’ (1986) as a two-year old, is a memory or re-imagination.

But I remember watching ‘Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak’ (1988) on VCR, and how my 18-year old Bua had fallen in love with Aamir Khan, treasuring several picture-postcards of the young heart-throb. We then watched all his films that released in a theatre near us, including duds like ‘Daulat Ki Jung’ (1992), and we watched all his films that never released in our town but were available on video, like ‘Raakh’ (1989), and ‘Love Love Love’ (1989). I also remember that once, along with one if these movies, we had watched a B-grade zombie flick called ‘Khooni Murda’ (1989) on VCR. One of my uncles had announced its name before playing the film, and I mistook it as ‘Khooni Murga’ and kept searching for the ‘killer cock’ as the ‘killer zombie’ avenged his death.

It must be mentioned here that watching movies was always an adventure. Baba never approved of it – it was indecent, according to him. Dad’s interest in movies was over by the time I was born. And it was only rarely, when Baba was out of town and Dad was out working, that we – Mom, Bua, my brother and I, went to the movies. It was always secretly planned and executed. But I guess none of such opportunity was missed. Munger had four movie theatres when we had shifted from the village, a couple of months after my brother was born. I can never forget their names – Konark, Neelam, Vijay, and Baidyanath. On our way to school, we kept looking for the movie posters and informed Mom of the latest releases. When the young Divya Bharti became the craze of the nation, we watched almost all her movies, including ‘Dil Ka Kya Kasoor’ and ‘Shola Aur Shabnam’ (both 1992). I also remember watching Ronit Roy’s debut film ‘Jaan Tere Naam’ (1992). My brother used to dance on its number – ‘First time dekha tumhe hum kho gaya’ during family functions! I think 'Maine Pyaar Kiya' (1989) was the first film I watched twice, the second time in Jamalpur's Railway Theare. One of my maternal uncles was a projectionist there and I remember its spiral iron stair-case that appealed to me more than the dingy projection room and the spools of film being projected from there. 

I also remember having gone to watch the debut film of a to-be superstar that also starred our favorite Divya Bharti. But this new kid did not appear on the screen until the first half was over. I remember deciding to take a nap, and telling my Mom to wake me up once ‘he’ arrived. When he did, with a song on a motor-bike, it was a bang. He was to rule India’s cinema consciousness for next few decades. The star was Shah Rukh Khan. The film was ‘Deewana (1992)’.

Around the same time, the fifth theatre opened in our sleepy town. It was called Siddharth and the inaugural film, ‘Saugandh’ (1991), was the debut vehicle of another to-be superstar. There is one scene in that film that always comes to my mind. The actress is unconscious, cold and wet, in an isolated hut in a jungle. Our hero, Akshay Kumar, removes all her clothes and sleeps with her to ‘save her life’ by providing the heat of his body. As a seven year old, I was intrigued by this scene. This also reminds me of one afternoon when National TV was showing several films back-to-back. During the counting of votes after the General Elections, such was the norm with Doordarshan. We were watching ‘Jab Jab Phool Khile’ (1965) and suddenly, at one point, a scene was deleted. I overheard my Mom telling my Bua – this is the scene where Shashi Kapoor (the hero) sleeps with the girl to ‘save her life’! It’s funny indeed, how cinema was also the first source of ‘knowledge’ that we never got otherwise. And it’s great that I frequently over-heard such ‘enlightening’ conversations between my Mom and Bua. More about such conversations, that along with these early movies formed the basis of my cinema consciousness, in the chapters to come!


  1. What if Christopher Nolan quits INTERSTELLAR and decides to do one more film on BATMAN.


  2. Already in love with this section. Eagerly waiting for more of these. :)