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Women Viewing Cinema

Women viewing cinema

Women’s access to public spaces and public amenities across class and locations is mapped through the trajectory of urban development. Memories of cinema are recounted in the context of the contemporary trend of domesticating entertainment.

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(The earliest films I have seen in this city are in two areas, one was the classy ones and you went for premiere shows like family outings, those would be on Lamington Road. And other times in tin theatres, there was one in Vile Parle East. It was called Vyankatesh Talkies then it became a fancy theatre called Shaan then it declined. The advertising of Vyankatesh theater… the man used to come in a bullock cart dressed in some fancy costume and he would say ‘Vyankatesh Talkies Parla, first you come to our talkies then we will come to yours…’ whatever that meant. And we would run after him. This was a standard way to advertise, there were very few posters, maybe at the railway station or something like that.)

  • Pyasa I think I saw bunking…everyone was talking about it, songs were very good. First it used to be a reward, ‘Let’s watch a film’. And then they started relating to the story…it is an interpolation, you know how women like taking a bath, at there leisure. Unless they are rushed to go to work it’s just being alone by themselves. Maybe cinema provided them with that. They are alone with that screen and by themselves women don’t have that space unless they are praying, no one minds that. That time is their own I remember my neighbour that time not the current but the one who lived there earlier minding it very much when the video library started. She said once a month this guy used to take me out…it’s an outing it’s going out. She said if he is at home then I have to prepare his snacks at home, earlier during interval he would eat samosa or popcorn. It’s definitely about going out.
    Sonal Shukla 68 years old. Hindu Gujarati. Feminist activist; educationist; Director, Vacha Women’s Library. Has lived all her life in Bombay. Primary language: English and Gujarati. Current residence: Vile Parle West
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(It was like a hungry person… you have been deprived of food for very long and then you binge. Sometimes I have seen three films in a day, Amber Oscar Miner, Gaiety Galaxy Gemini. One show over to another to another… those were not the days of multiplexes but I created my own multiplex. I would finish one show and then not changing the area or the locality… after finishing one movie go to the other hall and watch another. Sometimes it has happened that in the other hall, half of the movie was over but it was okay because I had to see it. Like how we catch up on our reading after a long holiday I caught up on my cinema watching in a big way. I was 23 when I came here and since then it has been one rollercoaster ride. )

  • I came to Bombay during the period of Emergency, in 1975. Bombay symbolised freedom. I got married and within a week I was in Bombay. And you get in a local train nobody recognizes you, you stand at a paan beedi shop nobody recognizes you; you can have your bhel, you can enjoy your freedom. For me Bombay is liberation from lot of dos and don’ts and from unwanted ties. It is a city that lets you be. I suppose films in some way give you that platform of shared activity, because you suddenly feel integral part of what you are watching. You are not a passive audience, you are active and Bombay gives you that chance.
    Farrukh Waris 59 years old. Aristocrat Shia Muslim. Vice Principal and Prof. of History and Mass Media, Burhani college, Nagpada. Migrated from Lucknow after marriage in 1975. Primary language: English, Urdu, Hindi.  Residence: Bandra West
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(Just imagine this is the purdah… so we have the purdah in the middle, you sit on that side and I sit here. And you install that machine, the one that shows picture (projector), in the center. That is how… from both ends the entire road used to get filled with people and the purdah used to stand tall right in the middle. It was installed at some height… everybody could see it from far. So people used to play crossing over to the other side from under the purdah. That was great fun watching it on purdah… large pictures – it was like an open-air theatre. People used to scream, comment, clap… have a lot of fun. Like that I watched Dharmatma, Gai aur Gauri, Apna Desh, and Pinjra – that was a Marathi filim and the one with that girl – it’s about election… then I also saw Zanjeer and one Jitendra filim – with some famous song. We used to go there in the night and carry some blankets with us. So we slept right there after the show was over. In the morning we used to get up and come back home.)

  • They show Amitabh as a porter in films… in Deewar, in other filims also. They showed godis (docks) in Deewar, Hum… I have seen all these places. I used to go to godis (docks) with my father. He was a loader there. Then last year we went to Town…Town, Gateway of India, Nariman Point, all those places we saw… I could recognise everything from the pictures. I also told my children, ‘see this is the road, this is the water… isn’t it just like the pictures that we have seen?’ I didn’t see these places earlier but now I have… they are like that only… Town is like what you see in filims.
    Sushila 33 years old. Tulu (Makhadwadi) caste. Works as domestic maid. Has lived all her life in Kunchikarve slum, Kalina in Bombay. Primary language: Hindi-Marathi
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(Once we went to see Wanted. Salman Khan is everyone’s favorite and so we went…it was the first time all of us together was going to the theatre to see Salman Khan. Early in the morning all the girls turned up fully made up. When I asked them to take off the burqa since we were entering the theatre they all went to the ladies room. I kept wondering why they were taking so long and the film was about to start. So I went to check on them. What I see is everyone has opened their hair loose and is busy touching up their makeup. I told them the film was starting and so they ran. They were sitting in the dark wearing heavy makeup, till the end. Even during the last song when people started walking out they sat on till the very end. They didn’t want to get out of the theatre. For me taking them to the theatre was a great experience.)

  • Since there are many girls here who have never been to a theatre we had once arranged a trip.  We went to Eternity Mall in Thane – 8 or 9 girls from Rehnuma (a Public Library for Muslim girls). Everyone was wearing burqa and we faced a lot of difficulties because of that. The security people got very hassled as they couldn’t see anyone’s face. They made everyone remove their burqas. Everyone around us was so suspicious… we were baffled. Then it dawned on me. We were in Thane and so many girls in burqa had come from Mumbra… that was the issue. These days one sees this trend and that’s the reason why many women have stopped wearing burqa. I too have stopped wearing burqa… even in public places like in the train the way people look at us or behave with us has changed…
    Aqila 24 years old. Wahabi Muslim Works in a NGO for Muslim women. Primary language: Hindi. Current residence: Ambarnath
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(During the school holidays… my uncle was working for United Artists Distributors and so every Saturday evening he brought home a reel. At that time we didn’t have that Linking Road bus, so we used to take the 83 bus to where Standard Chartered Bank is and walk down to that old Lido Cinema and there my uncle and I would watch the Matinee show. Then he used to bring the reel back because he had to take it to Ballard Pier on Monday morning. That way I saw a lot of movies like Wizard of Oz, Phantom, and Alibaba and the Forty Thieves, and all. Not that I understood everything, I was quite small then.)

  • When I was working, in various places… Charni Road and places like that, during my break, I used to go to see movies in town – alone, by myself only. Sometimes I used to go for an interview and watch the first show that used to get over just before the rush hour. Because the interview was at about 10/11’o clock… so the matinee show I could catch. I used to see that show all by myself after the interview and then come back home. I used to often escape to go for movies. Mostly I would go on Saturdays. Or sometimes I used to bunk to go see a movie. But on Saturdays instead of coming home in the afternoon 12 to 4 I would watch a movie and come home. They used to always wonder why I have come so late. When I would go for a movie in town I would never tell them.
    Liby In her late ‘60s. Goan Christian. Former Stenographer. Had come to Bombay from Goa at the age of 10 and lived in Bandra since then. Currently being the care giver for her ailing mother. Primary language: Konkani, English. Current residence: Pali village, Bandra
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(And what people keep saying Falkland Road Falkland Road, big deal… I walked past that road every day on my way to school. In the mornings we saw all ‘those’ women, washing their clothes, cleaning their rooms and on the way back from school or after we finished playing and were walking back in the evenings, they would be all decked in gaudy dresses and hanging about solicitng. We didn’t really think too much of it or discuss it with our families or even with each other, it was just something we routinely saw around us. I remember when I was a little older, maybe in the ninth or tenth standard, my brother and I were going for a movie. I walked down to Silver Talkies and was standing outside waiting for him when some half drunk fellow boldly walks up to me and pinches my chest. As you can see… I am really large and that chap mistook me for one of the ladies of Falkland Road.)

  • During Ganapati and Holi and other such things, these people used to show films on the road. All the children used to gather there, then the bhaiyyas (people from up North), people from the mohallahs (neighbourhood) nearby, ‘the women’ (from the red light area) too – everyone. And that my father had strictly forbidden. Even if it was literally behind my house he would say, a no is a no… go to bed. Feeling dejected, I would lie wide awake on my bed and savour the film dialogues through the night. But my father was all game to take me to watch these Gujarati comedy plays. On our birthdays or Navroze as a family we would all dress up and go to Tejpal or Sophia and laugh our hearts out. On one hand we read Shakespeare in school and then we watched these hilarious parodies, full of sexual innuendos… Much Bhonu about nothing, Rumi and Juliet and others like Moby Dikra, Mota dil na mota bawa
    Pervin Dordia 50 years old. Parsi Housewife. Lived near Falkland Road before marriage. Now lives in a Parsi Colony in Andheri East. Primary Language: English and Parsi Gujarati.
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(Yes, me went a few times (to Film City). But they don’t give us work nothing. They not even let us near the shooting. They shoo us away. We know not anyone who got to work there. After we came here, we are told that pictures are made here, people said ‘Film City is here… it’s like this here… like that…’  We kept running to that place. We went there for the first 2-3 years… just to see… what shooting is… who is the hero… we don’t recognise any hero neither we know one heroine from the other… just to see. What will we understand there? What can we understand when we don’t know anything in the first place, tell me? That is how it is. We have seen the Qualis (generic name for expensive cars) and all pass by, we can see that much only from where we are. Have seen no shooting, no function!)

  • Six years… we were brought to this place six years back. We were living in Kurla, Jari Mari. They demolished our homes… they said to expand the airport. So, we were sent here. We had to face a lot of trouble ‘cause there is no job nothing here. There I worked in a company… a paper company. Now I not go there. Traveling to that place you need lot of money… you travel all the way, duty starts at 9… The pride of Bombay, Film City is just next door. My son wants work in the Film City. He keeps running, but he will get his due only when God is with him. God is sleeping now, that is why… a bird flies…with its wings… but only when it spots a tree can the bird rest. It has to find a branch to sit on. If the bird doesn’t find a branch, then where will it sit? Tell me, where will the bird sit?
    Radhika Bhansude 50 years old. Chambhar caste from the Ghats. Former industrial worker. Rehabilitated from Jari Mari slum near the airport to Goregaon East near the Film City and Sanjay Gandhi National Park. Currently works as domestic maid. Primary language: Marathi. Current residence: NNP Colony, Goregaon East