‘Blue Lagoon’ – films & Bombay’s old theatres

The last time I recollect reading ‘Blue Lagoon” was in 1980 when i must’ve been in the sixth grade. Brooke Shields & Christopher Atkins. What a siren the leading star was or the hype around her was, although with absolute Bushy eyebrows….urggh. Though she rocked the film.
 
Now this is kind of over 2 decades ago. The poster says, ‘Return of the Blue lagoon’ a romantic & adventure film. Starring Milla Jovovich. Sorry leading star as insignificant as the name suggests. But don’t miss fine print, in Hindi.
 
The interesting point is I took a photograph of this poster in a running taxi because of the poster. More so it was put up at Imperial. Now if anyone remembers old Mumbai or the original Bombay, this theatre is a landmark.
 
Like Imperial there were 18 old theatres in the same lane or around that vicinity. As a kid we would go to these single screen cinema theatres – Shalimar, Novelty, Swastik, Don haathi –because at the entrance of the theatre are 2 elephants!- Majestic, Opera House, Roxy & Imperial cinema halls. 
 
Ugly smells would emit, scary looking people because tickets were most cheap & disgusting smelling toilets. All members of our family are fillum buffs. We loved to go for films & as kids the ONLY leeway I got for having a ‘party’ was taking paltan to watch films.
 
Now the story of old theatres is as old as the structures! ‘m total supporter of old heritage, architecture, buildings. Only because they have solid character. They convey certain pattern in architecture, construction & more so each structure is distinct. It is not a mass product. Hence although every multiplex may have a diff name, they more or less look the same. Malls below or within the building & structure that conveys this is a modern theatre.
 
Single screen the hoardings are definitely Prominent plus they still have hand painted hoardings. And these old theatres, though they are now redundant i believe are worth more than just nostalgia pieces. They are landmark places of the old Bombay, while the new Mumbai IGNORES.
 
Imagine which multiplex will allow forget hoardings even to screen, ‘andheri rat mein diya tere haath mein’ ‘Khooni atma’ ‘tanha dil’ ‘sharabi yaadein’ and I will not be able to remember the B & C grade films that get adequate screening, space & dekho the way they should.
 
These cinema halls were first constructed for labour class. By closing them down, removing them we erasing history of our city. Let us not forget this Bombay, urf Mumbai city has been built essentially by the labour class. The migrant workers originally from Konkan came resided & then the cinema halls began etching our city’s horizon for these labourers, working class. Hence the tickets too were less & it still is. Imagine seeing Fanaa for Rs 60/- while most saw it for 280/- minimum.  The working class helped the film industry. Yes because they paid ticket fares from their daily wages & let us remember that the single film theatres still make or break film fortunes. A multiplex doesn’t. Definitely Dhobi Ghat can’t run in single screen…it would have been fun though coz the reactions, CTs are imp.
 
Now Opera House theatre is one place where i have most good memories. I saw ‘Amar Akbar Anthony,’ on my b’day in my 4th standard. The last film i saw at Opera House theatre Gumnam, Aa Galey lag jaa. Then one fine day we heard the theatre has shut down! It was as sudden as this. Imagine sitting in the boxes instead of balcony. One box for every family or couple could too. My baba though BIG. My happy birthday he allowed me to take building friends to see my favourite movie fm a box!
 
But due to some internal family issues this theatre ruts now. I really liked the theatre. Wow! I felt soo high when I went to the Opera Theatre in New York, when i saw ‘Phantom of the Opera.’ Yes, Opera House is no match to the American theatres, but hello, we should be proud of the fact that we have one theatre wherein Opera was played live during the British times.
 
Roxy & i have a special bond. In 1994 when i returned from one of my many trips to Marathwada-Latur & Osmanabad, which was rocked by the earthquake in Marathwada – 1993, my father reminded me to go & get my snap clicked by the govt officials for election I card. On my way back i detoured, went for a walk to chill & suddenly saw NO Roxy building. I stood there open mouthed & gaped. I crossed the road in  a rush & asked nearby strangers, hawkers “what happened to Roxy?” “What is coming here? Who pulled this theatre down?” I didn’t realise that tears were running down my cheeks. One of the oldish hawkers smirked & asked me, “What is it with you? How does Roxy not being here change your life?”
 
I was upset, “How can you ask me that? I saw films here, it is our theatre, for our locality. Now god knows what will come up here.” Roxy was our landmark. In Bombay-Mumbai usually meeting places have traditionally been bars or theatres. By theatres i mean single screen cinema halls. So Roxy was name for the bus stop on the side of that theatre & Opera House for the opp side. No one calls or knows the bus depot, stop as Pt Paluskar Chowk. It is known as Opera House.
 
One day in 70s a tall sky scraper was seen rising adjacent to Roxy theatre. How can i forget that ‘Ek Dukhe ke liye’ ran for months on end at this cinema hall. The first few weeks EDKL flopped! Miserably. Therafter suddenly, no one knows what changed the fate of this film, we saw queues from Roxy sprawling till Kennedy Bridge, good 400 odd metres long. Roxy was on top of everyone’s minds. After the spate of suicides more & more people went to see EDKL. I know of people who saw that film over 10 times. The romantic phillum that rocked the nation. If i’m not mistaken some politician had to also send our appeals to public asking them to take this film as fiction. Well may be the name ‘Roxy’ had some role to play in the film’s destiny.
 
The Theatre after ‘Antarnaad’ a film on Pandurang Shastri Athavle, a baba man. Called himself spiritual but would get the first model of a new car hitting the market & had income or collection (since he was some religious fellow) of rs 900 crore. I’m yet to see 900 lakhs…that apart…te film was made by Shyam Benegal, i don’t know why. I wanted to ask him all my life…that film sealed the fate of Roxy.
 
Since then many a theatre has shut shop. I live in an area where dance, music, art forms, films thrived & i sure wasn’t deprived. Now every day i walk to office which is on Lamington Road. I pass these theatres & my heart bleeds to see them shut. They are forced to remain open & charge not above a certain amount. Whatever the collections are made to pay up 47% entertainment tax. Multiplexes have it free for rfirst 5 yrs yet they charge a bomb & make up. We need these theatres & Blue films too.