The last of the film reel sputters to an end to the buzzing of the projector, spilling out one last bit of light on to the screen in the words 'THE END'. The mammoth american 1930s projecter fittingly named the 'Strong Mogul' hums and then blanks leaving the 112 year old cinema in darkness. The crowd slowly trudges out of the hall, the sounds of whistles and adoration, as another crowd settles itself outside with their faces to gate in the wait for the box office to open for their monday matinee. As soon as Munna, rounds up the drunks out of the theater
There is only one movie house in Bangalore, in Shivajnagar before there was any other and it been around since as long as anyone could remember and it was Elgin Talkies. Of course, that was before television antennas completely replaced church domes and temple spires as the dominant feature of India's urban skyline and it was certainly before multi-screen cineplexes at your neighbourhood mall. It was certainly before video clubs and satellite dishes.
Munna has worked at Elgin Talkies for over 30 years, he started out as the projector's assistant as a boy and slowly worked his way up to supervisor in a Cinema Paradiso style. Even as a boy, Munna was a movie fanatic, his tastes tending to run to Shashi Kapoor and Dara Singh epics. "I went every day, sometimes twice a day, seven days a week,'' he recalled. ''On Sundays, it was enough to join up with an adult who would pretend to be your parent. As a child, you could get in free. So we waited in front of the theater for older men in their 50's to arrive, and we would go up to them and ask if they would take us in with them. We would get in without paying, and once inside we would split up.'' Till one day day projectionist caught him and gave him the job.
The crowd lines up exchanging their 20 rupees for three hours of entertainment. The theater's blue interior is riddled in mildew and age, and the roof has given away in parts to a view of the rafters. Watching a movie in the large but cramped confines of Elgin Talkies in the company of atleast 100 odd men is a lively experience. Huddling around the cinema screen, the audience makes itself seen and heard at every turn of the plot - whistling at the wet saree number, egging on the Bobby Deol as he takes on ten baddies, applauding and often repeating melodramatic dialogue about lost values and dancing and singing to the songs. Once it becomes clear that all ends well, the audience often does not bother to wait for the last scene and starts making its way out. This is how far twenty ruppees will get you at Elgin if you are in search for some entertainment that is.