Our contributing columnist Ayush Mishra looks back at watching movies in the 90's.
“15 Rupees for Balcony and 10 for Stall”
“What!! This is too much. Last time it was 10 for Balcony!”
“Yes, but sir, the songs are very good and the movie is ‘super duper hit’ across the country. There is Aamir Khan and Karisma Kapoor. Do you want tickets or not? You are holding up the queue”
“OK, 4 tickets. Balcony.”
And then walking up on the long stairs for Balcony seats. Outside the theater a big poster has been hung across the outer wall. And small colourful posters from upcoming Bollywood movies adorned the inner wall.
“Bhaiya we will surely come for this one. It has Salman Khan in double role”, me pointing towards a poster with two laughing Salmans, a surprised Karishma and another unknown actress.
“No No, this Nana Patekar one has that song ‘Ek Machchar aadmi ko hijra bana deta hai’ from Philips top 10”, brother pointing towards another poster.
I would keep on yammering about other movie posters till we reach the door of the theater. A man with beedi would take the pink coloured tickets, check the seat numbers and show it to us in dark theater using a long torch. By now, I would stop yammering and start absorbing the huge screen. The screens in single screen theaters were humongous. A glee would come on my face seeing such a large screen. As we settle in, the uncomfortable wooden seats are forgotten. Perennial smell of Beedi and Maawa is forgotten. A unit test within two weeks is forgotten. A movie was going to begin and all the world’s problems can be kept outside the red neon adorned EXIT doors. Escapism in its glory.
Watching movies in theater in 90s was an accomplishment. There were no multiplexes. There were no online ticket bookings. And in small town like Veraval & Jamnagar, where I grew up, there were no more than 3 theaters in whole town. Getting tickets for a popular and successful movie, even in its 50th day of release was much of a task. And yes, the movies reached their 50th day and even 100th day unlike now where even the biggest blockbusters are not able to survive 4th week!
But what made that era beautiful was the fact that we went into the theater without any knowledge of story that would unfold in front of us. Only the star power would bring us to the theater. With advent of movie trailers, promotional tours and numerous interviews that the current crop of stars give before each movie, it has become very difficult to go into the theater without any pre-conceived notion. But 90's was perfect transitional phase for movies in India. After the dark age of Indian Cinema of 80's ended, which did a great job at removing family out of movie theater by releasing some of the most ridiculous storytelling possible and absurd action movies targeted at only male audience, 90s brought the families back to the theater with movies like Swarg (1990) and Hum Aapke Hain Koun (1994). The songs were breaking new grounds with many new music directors and singers getting opportunities. And Bollywood was getting several fresh new faces and heartthrobs.
TV advertisements for movies had just started with the release of Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jaayenge (1995). DDLJ was trend setter movie in many ways, but the most under appreciated one is its use of TV as medium of advertisement. But PR/Marketing of movies was still in its infancy, so what we really got in the name of trailer was a montage of various scenes with a movie tune playing in the background. So, the only way we knew that a movie was coming, was through the numerous colorful posters pasted around city and the Philips Top 10 songs! In today’s world it would be impossible to have a whodunit masterpiece like Gupt (1997) released on Friday without getting spoiled by Saturday morning, thanks to social media. But the day we saw that movie in theater, and the final reveal, will forever be etched as one of the best suspense thriller moment in our minds.
See how the joys of watching movies evolved in our Part II entry here!