Indian cinema is celebrating its 100th year. In the last one century, the industry has witnessed qualitative, quantitative and technological changes. Many of them have just become a part of the grand history of cinema. Bioscope may sound an alien word to many youngsters living in the digital age.
But some people in India have been keeping the tradition alive, just for the love of it. The earnings are meagre for them but the passion to maintain a tradition is high. Hanif and Firoz Khan in Ahmedabad are trying hard to maintain a tradition passed on to them by their grandfather and father.
The two have regular jobs but still take lot of pains to keep the tradition ticking-- showing movies to children through the traditional bioscope or what is called the moving cinema.
When most people prefer to take a siesta during weekends, the duo pull out their handcart on Sundays. They are sure that their earning may not even cross three figures even if they toil for several hours in the dust and sun. But the never-dying passion makes them to go around the city in the hope some children will be their customers. On many occasions, the collections may not even touch Rs 50 as the children are lured by modern technology. They admit it is no longer a business or a source of livelihood. Surprisingly, they claim that, there is still a demand in some sections in the city and children do wait.
“The children are interested as they find it very convenient and bioscope moves to a place close to their homes,” said Firoz Khan, who moves around the walled city areas. Hearing the bell, children come out of their homes and they are treated to colour trailers of recent English and Hindi movies. “Children opting to view the bioscope have to pay Re one,’’ said Khan.
For many an uninitiated child, it is a wonder machine where pictures pop up in a dark box and make creaking sounds. For those used to television sets, the experience is new. They hear the hissing sound of film rolls moving and the images, sometimes blurred and faded, appear on a tiny invisible screen inside the box. Yusuf Khan of Dariapur in the walled city area in Ahmedabad, who is a regular viewer, said: “It is the trailer which is important and we do not get to see the English movie trailers. So this is a good way to see the synopsis of movies,’’ added Khan. His argument is that asking for Re one at home once a week was also not a difficult task.
Another regular viewer is Yunus Sheikh, who waits for Sundays. Sheikh said he likes watching both Hindi and English movies when the mobile cinema is at his doorstep. He does not mind paying an extra buck to see both Hindi and English movies. Sheikh comes to watch the movies with his friends and it is like a Sunday treat for him with his cousins.
He recalled that his parents go down the memory lane and recollect their childhood days and how they would eagerly wait to see the bioscope when there were very few theatres.
“This used to be a source of income till my father’s time but realising the dwindling demand we had to look for alternative employment in theatres and multiplexes,’’ said Khan brothers. They are also sure that the next generation may not carry on with the bioscope culture and the equipment and their possession may end up in some museum.
Hanif maintains that they do earn a decent amount from the shows during festivals and carnivals. “At the time of the Christmas carnival held previous year our per day earnings were many a time more than the whole year’s earning,’’ said Firoz.“Our grandfather had brought the projector from Bombay Chor Bazar several decades ago,” Firoz said. “We have been in this business since then,” he added. The brothers push their mobile cinema through the serpentine alleys of the walled city, allowing addicted crowds of schoolchildren to gather around and watch the shows. It is popularly known as the Prakash Travelling Cinema.
Hanif claimed theirs is the only such bioscope in the world. Even though the claim may appear exaggerated, it is certainly one of the few functional ones remaining in India.
“Our earnings are meagre. We do have a heart. If children who cannot afford to turn up, we adopt a lenient view. We allow them to take a peek at the bioscope. The joy on their faces make us very happy. The satisfaction is immense and we feel proud at that time,” Firoz said with pride. The two also follow the market-driven economy. If the demand is more during fairs, they quietly jack up the rates to as high as Rs five.
“The projector was made in France and used to show only silent movies. We added a sound receiver later to show the talkies,” Firoz said. “We show all the latest movies, in this bioscope,’’ said Firoz.