Enjoying moving images

Enjoying moving images

Over The Rainbow exhibition takes you on the journey of travelling cinema

Enjoying moving images

A vestibule illuminated only with a low-watt bulb at Max Muller Bhawan, barely allowing you space to take a step or a two, leaves you surprised. All you can see when you enter it are three shut windows on three remaining walls, effectively keeping you mystified and curious, wondering whatlies beyond.

Open the left window first. A video of village kids having a gala time is being played out. They are excited and hovering all around a big screen. Thats it. Move to window number two, for that is what will explain the images in the first. Surprise once again, as you see lots of people watching something. Whatever it is that they see, is leading to lots of astonishment and laughter. The mind is in a churn now, to establish the link between the first two, directing you to open the third and the last window. It is that of a projectionist playing a film.

Everything seems to be unclear for a moment till you suddenly ‘see’ the connect. “The windows led into mystical landscapes and meditative images from the world of travelling cinemas. Each of them works in concert with each other,” says Amit Madheshiya who has been working with Shirley Abraham on travelling tent cinemas of
Maharashtra since 2008.

Talking about this particular tent cinema installation which was recently exhibited as Over the Rainbow, Amit says, “Images in the videos represent nomadic cinema which brings with it the magic of silver screen to remote villages just once in a year. It shows the excitement of kids when the screen is placed in an open area, the facial expression of enthralled audiences captured by the film whereas the last video highlights the gestures of the projectionist. The three videos explore the world around cinema.”

The travelling tent talkies (of Maharastra) were begun about six decades ago when a handful of farmers, lawyers and electricians – carted off second-hand European projectors from then Bombay, along with some discarded film reels. These pioneers screened the first mythological films in jatras, annual religious fairs which collected thousands of potential audiences on their own. Gradually, the line up expanded to include social dramas, actions films, comedies, dubbed Hollywood and Tamil films.

Today, travelling cinemas which tour villages in Maharashtra have been relegated to being a mere economic outfit, a small 'C grade' window of exhibition, sometimes finding presence in the distribution figures of Marathi cinema but are yet to be given due place in the mainstream. “They are now fighting a stiff battle for survival, facing the onslaught of cable and VCD in the villages,” says Amit.