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Balcony view

I miss Calcutta, its languid pace and that inherent melancholy which only cities as old as she is are known to suffer from. Therefore, every vacation in Kolkata means visiting my old hangouts, writes Kumkum Dasgupta.

india Updated: Apr 03, 2007 23:15 IST

I miss Calcutta, its languid pace and that inherent melancholy which only cities as old as she is are known to suffer from. Therefore, every vacation in Kolkata means visiting my old hangouts. Two such old favourites are the twin movie theatres, Lighthouse and New Empire. Located side by side, these two halls provided us our first taste of Hollywood and the world that existed beyond our cosseted lives. Sadly, Kolkata’s swanky new multiplexes have managed to edge Lighthouse out of the race. But New Empire is still fighting it out.

The best part about these halls was that the entire focus used to be on movies — unlike these days, when watching a movie is just one part of a day-long picnic that includes shopping for a kurta, eating at the food court or just chilling out at a coffee shop.

Recently, during a reunion at a friend’s place in Kolkata, I floated the idea of watching a film at New Empire, just for old time’s sake. “You want to watch a movie in one of those halls? C’mon we have multiplexes like the ones you have in Delhi. We don’t watch movies in those halls anymore,” a friend said agitatedly. I stuck to my stand. She gave in.

The next day, we stood outside the hall, clutching two yellow paper tickets. Watching a movie during our school days used to be a big affair. Since there was no tele-booking, we had to reach the hall well before time and queue up outside the hall for those precious tickets. A ‘house full’ board would mean negotiating with the ‘blackers’. Once the tickets were in hand, we would rush into the hall, nudging everyone out of the way since we couldn’t bear to miss the trailers of forthcoming movies and even the black-and-white Film Division news clips.

Cut to the present. We sauntered in breezily and located our seats in the ‘balcony’ section. No pushback seats, no high-end sound systems, no soft carpets and an AC that worked reluctantly. The first half of the film went off peacefully. Just when Leonardo Di Caprio and Djimon Hounsou had almost zeroed in on the ‘blood diamond’, the projector decided to raise the red flag. The speakers followed suit. Protests and hooting followed. Almost everyone had a take on how it is difficult to watch a film in old halls like this. I looked at my friend and she had that ‘I-warned-you’ look plastered all over her face. I waited, looked at the blank screen and smiled. I got what I wanted: memories that speak a thousand words.