New Delhi, 09 Jul 2021 7:30 IST
The short documentary is an ode to a bygone era of film reels and the people who were integral to film projection and distribution.
Most of us would remember the exhilaration of watching a film in a single-screen theatre. The crowds singing along and even dancing to the hit songs, clapping at the punchy dialogues and whistling at the heroine’s dance moves. The seamless movie experience was brought to us by the faceless projectionists, keeping a watchful eye to ensure that the show ran smoothly.
Avadhoot Khanolkar’s documentary short Bade Wala TV captures the experiences of an analogue projectionist, Jagjivanram Maru, who has projected innumerable films for audiences over his career spanning more than 40 years. Through his experience, we track the changing technology in film projection from a method calling for manual work to the coming of digital projectors. In his words, “The fate of film and my career are running parallelly.”
We see Maru at his home, travelling to his workplace, and in the projection room where he knows every nook and corner. He excitedly recalls the film moments that stand out for him — from Gabbar’s immortal dialogues in Sholay (1975) to the time he missed his cue and forgot to give the audience an interval! In fact, the indelible bond between him and cinema is evident when he marks the major moments in his life with the films that were being played by him at the time.
As we see his deft fingers rewinding the reels, loading them onto the projector, taking us through the nuances of his craft, one understands the kind of work that projectionists put in to ensure a seamless movie-watching experience for us, the audience. While the passing of time and technological changes are inevitable, Maru is among the last of his kind, holding on to the vestiges of a different time without rancour. Despite the inevitability of his career coming to an end, he praises the superior sound and picture quality in digital projections, admiring the improvements objectively.
A simple story which pays tribute to the countless projectionists, coolies, print-checkers, shuttlers who were once the lifeline of film distribution, Khanolkar’s film is imbued with a love for cinema and vividly conjures up the sense of nostalgic loss for an almost bygone era. The peeling walls of the cinema, the dilapidated theatre structure telling us that it is just a matter of time before the door shuts on yet another single-screen. The heralding of the change is not trumpeted and many will not even notice as it slowly goes into oblivion. However, the documentary preserves this piece of history for future generations.
Correction, 11am: The short documentary is made by Avadhoot Khanolkar and not Khandolkar as an earlier version of this review had it.
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