Bioscope: The Cinematic Pandora's box | art and culture | Hindustan Times
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Bioscope: The Cinematic Pandora's box

Living in an era where cinema is coming closer home day by day, it really seems eons ago when there used to exist a colourful unwieldy device that looked so intriguing that one couldn't resist the longing to look through and get lost in its fascinating world. Kanika Johri peeps in...

art and culture Updated: Feb 11, 2011 19:40 IST
Kanika Johri

Living in an era where cinema is coming closer home day by day, it really seems eons ago when there used to exist a colourful unwieldy device that looked so intriguing that one couldn't resist the longing to look through and get lost in its fascinating world.



But now you see a bioscope only at craft fairs where there is so much else to see that even this harmonium like contraption with its colourful posters and exotic peacocks is lost in oblivion. It's now simply an antique way of looking at pictures.



BioscopeSanjay Chauhan is 30 and has been coming to the Surajkund Mela with his father and their bioscope for the last 25 years. He charges Rs 10 for a 22 frame peep and winding the reel as a couple of children look through the device, he says, "I have been coming to the fair all these years and will continue to come here every year with my bioscope."



Being part of a generation which has probably never seen a bioscope in real life, I was specially attracted to this quaint looking device when I spotted it. The first time I saw it was an Incredible India advertisement on television and now this.



Far among the madding crowd, stood the bioscope obscured by an imposing carved idol of Ganesha behind it. The device has an archaic looking music player fitted behind it, the source of the Sheila Ki Jawaani blaring from it.



And then you see the most astonishing sight, even this antique device has wedded itself to technology in order to survive the modern times. The source of the music in that archaic music player is not a cassette or a tape but in fact, a pen drive!



The bioscope has come a long way from being one of the pillars of cinema, when it was created by the Skladanowsky brothers in the 19th century. For the longest time, it was the biggest highlight of the day for the rich who would be willing to pay any amount to peep through that device and see what it had to offer. Slowly, it became accessible to the masses and then evolved what came to be known as 'traveling cinema'.



Now, even though all you see is a slightly torn Kuch Kuch Hota image of blunt hair Kajol, a Dard-e-disco Shahrukh and a bridal Aishwarya, it's heartening to see 8-year-olds peeping through the steel tiffin boxes with shining eyes.



According to Chauhan, he has about 100-200 curious children and sometimes even adults (like me, probably) coming to him, asking him for a peek through the bioscope, where they can get lost in its world of Bollywood stars and national monuments.



Perhaps, there still is scope for a bioscope in our dynamic world of cinema.