06/02/2015 8:23 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:24 AM IST

The Lost Pleasures Of A Movie Hall

Disappointed moviegoers are seen next to a board announcing 'full house' for a screening of the popular Bollywood Hindi film 'Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge' (The Brave hearted Will Take The Bride Away) at the Maratha Mandir movie theatre in Mumbai on December 12, 2014. The 1995 Bollywood love flick titled Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge or 'DDLJ', as the movie is commonly known in India, is the longest running movie in Indian cinema history and clocked a successful run of 1000 weeks at the Maratha Mandir movie theatre on December 12. AFP PHOTO / INDRANIL MUKHERJEE (Photo credit should read INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP/Getty Images)

There's always a charm in watching movies on the big screen, though I sometimes feel out of place amid boisterous college students and kids (see my post on watching movies with kids). With my kids relatively grown up, watching movies in theaters has become a calmer experience, but it is a huge task to find a film that the entire family can watch together. We generally end up watching superhero flicks and science fiction extravaganzas such as Interstellar, which are stunning to watch for their scale even if you can't completely fathom them.

Growing up in 1980s India, though, we watched almost all the new releases on the big screen. We had no satellite TV or multiple movie channels back then. Our parents took us along for all the latest potboilers regardless of whether they were appropriate for our age or not. Apart from seeing everything in bright colours and giant proportions, what elated us about the big screen movie experience were the little things.

The magical "Interval"

We used to really await the Interval, the mandatory break in movies when people rush to the loos or to get snacks. We siblings anxiously waited to get our favorite soft drink. Campa Cola, Limca and Gold Spot were my favourites. We had never even heard of Coke. Yes, soft drinks were a really big deal because they were had very sparingly and were a huge treat. Those were the days of the sickeningly sweet Rooh Afza, and later Rasna. Grinning from ear to ear, we'd pair our precious soft drink with a small sealed packet of salty popcorn or thin salted/masala potato chips. No sir, not the fancy stuff you get now but very rudimentary snacks which were delightful to us kids. You could also get cold samosas, but we didn't much care for them.

The usher with the torch

There was an usher with a torch who would escort you to your seat if you got late because you might stumble and fall in the dead dark of the cinema hall. The stairs had no lighting and tumbling was a common occurrence. The seat backs were not lit either, and there were no cellphones that one could use to light up the proceedings. The seats were not the plush kinds now available in multiplexes. You had regular seats made of foam that could not be eased back. Sometimes, you would also encounter torn upholstery and someone's left over snacks sticking to your clothes. While going to your seat, you would most likely trample on someone's feet.

The seat categorisation

And how can I forget the nomenclature and the thrills associated with each category. There were Stalls and Balcony with a separate entrance and exit for both. Some theatres also had the Dress Circle. The Stalls were where you sat when you were broke but still wanted to watch a movie enough to risk a headache. I remember watching Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak with my head at an uncomfortable obtuse angle to my neck, as I tried to glare at the monsters on the screen. In those days, the most rowdy crowds inhabited the Stalls; catcalls and vulgar comments were a part of the package. The Balcony was the safe haven, with a better crowd, generally families. It was less of a strain on the neck too.

The ticket prices

Unlike today, you did not have to loot a bank to watch a movie on the big screen. These days, the tickets are obscenely priced, and the snacks are an even bigger rip off. Even as a cash-starved teen, I could watch a movie in the theatre with my pocket money. I really wonder about the teens of today. Their parents must be giving them a fat sum every month, and I am dreading the day when my son starts asking me to shell out.

And how could I not add how much I miss the time when talking over cellphones and incessant chatter were not a part of the movie hall experience.

Do you have any fond memories of watching movies on the big screen?

This post has previously been published on Rachna says

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