When a boy from a village tucked away in the corners of the country sees a lorry rolling in, knowing that the movie reels of his favourite Amitabh Bachchan film are in a box at the back, you can only expect him to bounce about in joy.
And it is this exhibition of pure wonder and delight that travelling tent cinemas deliver, that Shirley Abraham and Amit Madheshiya bring to light in their documentary called ‘The Cinema Travellers.’ Which makes the other side of the documentary, that of having to deal with the effect that modernization has had on this phenomenon, rendering it obsolete, even more poignant.
For over five years, the makers of this documentary followed two travelling cinemas and their excursions across rural India.
The film focuses on two tent owners and a projector mechanic, Mohammed, Bapu and Prakash, capturing their lives and joys as they get the show on the road (pun intended), erect tents in farmers’ fields, set up ticket counters, and play their films to packed village audiences; and then, as change catches up to them, their struggles to find audiences, and their failures and successes as they make their own journeys to digital.
In an interview with The Hindu, Abraham explains, “there were murmurs of a digital invasion for a while. And we saw it changing the shape and form of travelling cinema: the projectors getting sleek and light-weight and the hand painted posters change to printed ones. More and more people are watching movies on their smartphones and it’s successfully slowly taking over the ritual of people gathering in a dark theatre to watch a movie.”
The film is an ode to the magic and charm of travelling tent cinema and the lives it touches, and its blend of wonder, colour, joy and quiet reckoning makes for an engrossing 96 minutes; this is a movie about movies that will linger in your mind, even as the latter quietly fades away.
Written by Advaitaa Ravi
Featured image source: Indie Wire