Unreeling a starry era at Moti theatre

Cinema Hall
Last Updated 20 May 2014, 14:40 IST

As you walk through the small and narrow passage packed with a mish-mash of shops in Chandni Chowk, you do not realise you are entering into a different world altogether. Here stands a single screen cinema hall which has seen better days.

 Known for its illustrious past it only screens Bhojpuri films today. Moti Cinema will instantly recapture the memories of the heart-warming Italian film Cinema Paradiso when you meet the theatre projectionists, Shiv Kumar Jaiswal and Satish Kumar, who have been watching films through the little projection hole for over 25 years. Much like the endearing pair of Alfredo and Toto in the drama set in Sicily, these two are talkative and friendly, just that they have lost the love for cinema, a passion that fuelled Alfredo and the little boy Toto who turns into a director.

Sitting beside the rusted-looking projector, Shiv Jaiswal is often lost in reverie when he speaks of the glorious days of Moti cinema. 

“There was a time when crowds used to queue up to watch a Raj Kapoor movie here. The queues extended almost till Lal Quila. Imagine a movie running for 52 weeks straight!” exclaims the projectionist with a glimmer of joy in his eyes.

These days Moti cinema barely screens any Hindi movies; the target audience now are the Poorvanchalis and Bhojpuri movie goers. “Our audience loves action, so we run Bhojpuri, Tamil-Telugu dubbed movies and some old Bollywood movies in between to keep up with their tastes.”

The alleyway that leads to the cinema is flanked with huge hoardings of Tamil and Bhojpuri movies, but the hoarding atop the cinema hall announces the screening of an upcoming Bollywood flick, Heropanti. “But it’s Bhojpuri actors who pull crowds to Moti,” chips in Satish Kumar who is idling in the projector room waiting for his evening shift. With an air of boredom surrounding him, he says, “I miss working manually on a projector.

 These computers have made work easier but boring”, adding, that a UFO machine was installed in the cinema a year ago to run films in a computerised fashion. “As it happens in other big cinemas, this machine can load up a movie from Mumbai through satellites.” 

Working as a manual projectionist for a good part of his life, he misses the whirring sound of the projector. “It almost used to feel as though we had to stir a film into action. That feeling is now lost.”  Fondly ruminating over old times, he says, “If during those times, Yash Chopra, SRK and Juhi used to come down when their movie, such as Darr, released in our cinema, now actors like Dinesh Lal Yadav, popularly known as Nirahua in Bhojpuri films visits the cinema during the launch of his movies.” Incidentally, Nirahua, the actor who also did a stint in Bigg Boss 6, came down to Moti cinema only six months ago for his film Aulaad. 

In the  vicinity of Moti cinema a lot has changed. A single screen theatre Kumar cinemas has turned into Abhishek Cineplex, giving in to the charms of the contemporary era. While other single screens such as Golcha and Delite, have chandeliers, art deco setups , and palatial facades, (and how can we forget the famous samosas at Delite), what Moti has is the spirit to continue as a single screen theatre in the mêlée of the modernised and mushrooming multiplexes in the city.

(Published 20 May 2014, 14:40 IST)

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