Does the craze continue?

“Broadway pe Phantom of the Opera !”

Tsk! Maratha Mandir mein DDLJ, with popcorn !”

This is a dialogue from a beloved onscreen pair — Deepika Padukone and Ranbir Kapoor — in the hit film Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani. They’re talking about the ideal filmi romance. So naturally, comparisons come easy and it’s difficult not to let your imagination run astray.

However, after coming across crossing a billboard that said “1,100 weeks of Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jaayenge ”, there was little that could stop me from finally “falling in love” in all its glory. Despite having lived in the city for three years, I hadn’t visited one of the most popular tourist destinations for Bollywood buffs. The spot in question is Maratha Mandir, where the film has been screened for the past several years.

Soon, I found myself making my way to the South Mumbai cinema hall on a Thursday morning eagerly looking forward to those iconic moments like, “ Jaa Simran, jee le apni zindagi! ” or “ Bade bade deshon mein aisi chhoti chhoti baatein hoti rehi hain!

We’re experiencing a time when anyone will think long and hard before parting with the slightest amount of cold hard cash. But Rs. 25 seemed well worth it for three hours of entertainment. Walking through the once-grand foyer, the smell of freshly made popcorn inundated my senses. And there I was, following Padukone’s instructions. As she says in the romantic drama, I walked up to the ‘balcony’, a word only single-screen theatre regulars would understand. I was struck by the emptiness of the floor. There was barely anyone watching the magic unfold, as the virtues of being a “Hindustani” in a foreign land were extolled. There were some corner seats occupied and as the film progressed, more and more couples made their way in, forgoing all film-viewing etiquette, blocking the younger, much cuter Karan Johar completely from view.

Ultimately, a cockroach and a rat made their appearances around me in fast succession and I was forced to abdicate my seat moving to a torn and squeaky one. When Simran realised that Raj was “the one”, the interval had come along, much to the surprise and dismay of those corner seat occupants. What caught my eye was a group of college girls enjoying the show. Upon enquiry, they excitedly said this was an item on their “Bombay bucket list”, which had to be ticked off before boarding their flight home to Chennai a few hours later.

While the employees of the iconic theatre claim that the weekends witness house-full shows, the sparse attendance were written off as a reaction to the demonetisation and the current cash crunch.

When the theatre decided to stop showing the film in February last year, there was immense opposition from fans and the film’s cast too. The show, which has been running for over two decades now, however, seems to be running at bare minimum as the occasional Bollywood buff and some blossoming college romances find their way to the oft-quoted but scarcely visited monument by itself.

The writer is an intern at The Hindu

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Printable version | May 7, 2021 7:39:04 PM |

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