Within the contemporary practices of cultural production and discourses pedagogy is increasingly foregrounded more as a cultural action than a programme to transmit knowledge and skill. Responding to this trend Project Cinema City too has developed its own pedagogical initiatives along with its agenda of research, art making and archiving. The pedagogical initiatives are sometimes designed around the neighbourhoods and at other times as an extension to institutional curriculum.
Under this programme we will be documenting single screen neighbourhood theatres, and ancillary trades and cultures associated with the exhibition circuit. The land use pattern of the city of Bombay will provide the context for this research as the single screen theatres shut shop one by one, to be replaced by the multiplex wave.
The research and documentation will be processed to gear up towards a public campaign to save and revive the neighbourhood theatres. Cinema is essentially a public culture, and this research will foreground that it is primarily the single screen theatres (where the audience consumes the phenomenon of cinema) that provided a homogenous space for a heterogeneous public.
A) Study on Versova-Juhu Beach-Bandra
These neighbourhoods form the elite western suburbs of the city with all three neighbourhoods having popular sea fronts. The theatres in these areas dates back to the 1940s and while some of them still stand in their original form, a lot of them have been refurbished / bought over to give them a more modern look, very reflective of the neighbourhoods themselves – which changed from being idyllic seaside villages to prime real estate markets by late 20th century.
B) Study on Dharavi
Slum theatres are a fairly new phenomenon that emerged in the city in the 1990s when television took over as the major form of entertainment for urban residents. They are a mutation of the video parlours that cropped up selling / renting pirated VHS tapes of latest Bollywood flicks. A parallel phenomenon that was occurring was the increase in the migration of daily wage labour from the nearby states. Slum theatres function especially for these workers, often showing films in regional languages like Tamil, Telegu, Bhojpuri. They also double up as resting spaces for these workers who have no place to call home in the city. Documentation of Balaji Video Slum Theatre in Dharavi. Photo Credit: Sameer Tawde
C) Study on Dadar-Parel-Ghatkopar
These neighbourhoods form the central-southern area of the city with Dadar and Parel located within the official city limits and Ghatkopar at the beginning of the central suburbs. While a lot of the single screen theatres in the city areas are still standing, the ones in the suburbs have shut shop and only traces of their presence can be seen.
D) Study on Kalbadevi
Edward Talkies, located in Kalbadevi, was established as a drama house in the 1880s. It was taken over by Bejand & Gertrude Bharucha in the 1930s and converted into a cinema hall. Since then Edward Talkies has been run as an affordable cinema theatre with current ticket rates as low as Rs. 18. Photo Credit: Zulfiya Hamzaki
E) Study on Goregaon-Kandivali-Borivali
These neighbourhoods form the northern western suburbs of the city. There was a development boom in these areas from the 1970s onwards and they are primarily agricultural-turned-residential neighbourhoods. There was also a spurt in the number of large capacity theatres that cropped up here. Interestingly these theatres were the first to convert into “mini” theatres in the late 1990s, following the steep decline in attendance at single screen theatres.
F) Study on Chembur
The neighbourhood of Chembur forms the eastern suburb of the city. It is primarily a residential neighbourhood but it was first developed as an industrial zone. The majoritarian communities that are settled in this suburb have roots from southern India. Thus a lot of the theatres in this area have matinee and Sunday shows of Tamil and Telegu films.
15 weeks of…
Lecture-Demonstrations on Cities in the Cinema
Workshops on the cities that produce cinema
Encounters with filmmakers, camera persons, writers and visual artists
Exercises on camera, sound, editing and script writing
Field visit to studios
Public screening of world cinema on cities: Thursday evenings at Edward Theatre, Grant Road
The course is designed as 16 credit certificate course. The teaching schedule comprises of 4 modules and is spread over 15 weeks. It caters specially to graduates of sociology, literature, design, urban studies and media studies.
With the sharp increase in digital related cultural practices and social science discourse around popular cultures, there is an urgent need to create a relevant module of an academic course that can address the contemporary issues and production methodologies. The theory of culture, and the production processes and its contexts need to be brought under the same pedagogical scheme in order to train the students to be able to cope with the emerging and overlapping disciplines. Hence the course is designed as a combination of cultural theory, practical on production process, exposure to cinematic and literary texts and lecture-demonstration on emerging Asian cultural identity.
Module 1: City Narratives
Module 2: Cinematic City: Bombay/Mumbai
Module 3: Locations of cinema in the city
Module 4: Representation
In 2010, weekend training classes were conducted for selected undergraduate students of Wilson College in South Bombay, Bhavan’s College in Northern Suburb, SIES (Sion) in Eastern Suburb and Bhurani College in Central Bombay. The training sessions covered theory and practical classes on documentation, archiving and mapping processes. The students were encouraged to make video portraits on their neighbourhoods and facets of its public cultures. These video works are part of the current Cinema City archive.