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On and off the silver screen

A cameo by chance that the actor himself could not manage to see

It seemed a moment of serendipity when I unexpectedly heard from one of my acquaintances that I was figuring, however fleetingly, in Kaushik Ganguli’s latest award-winning Bengali movie Cinemawala. The film is a tribute to the remaining single-screens that are home to celluloid.

I started brooding over how it would be at all possible. The Rupkatha cinema hall situated in the heart of the temple town Bishnupur, a small sub-divisional town of Bankura district of West Bengal, had been without doubt selected for shooting after something like Magellan’s circumnavigation, by the director in search of a suitable cinema hall.

Fortunately, the compound walls of our house and the cinema hall are attached. Ganguli and his team shot in two phases at Bishnupur. The narrow road in front of the cinema hall remained congested on those days of shooting. Most of the onlookers had an earnest desire to be filmed in the movie. Frankly speaking, I had no such intention. Actually, I am always scared of thick crowds.

However, I could recollect the moment in which I chanced to be caught on camera. I thought it was perhaps in the scene where two persons were canvassing in a rickshaw on the road. Unwittingly I was then crossing the road on my motorcycle.

There are two ironies about the film that have struck me. First, a film in tribute of celluloid was shot in the digital medium. Secondly, Rupkatha alias Kamalini (the name of the cinema hall that figures in the film) was deprived of the opportunity of showing the movie on the first release date, reportedly in fear of impending box office failure. The movie was screened at the Rupkatha cinema hall in the second week of release. To the hall-owner’s utter dismay, there were of a large number of empty chairs in the 1,200-seat auditorium.

Cinemawala is steeped in nostalgia. It revolves around the golden days of celluloid films churned by the cinema hall owner Pranabendu Das from a small town. Now he is forced to dispose of his movie theatre Kamalini because its celluloid-standard projection facility has been made obsolescent by digital technology. On the other hand, his son Prakash, a seller of pirated DVDs, is the sworn enemy of celluloid projection. The quarrel between father and son symbolically represents the contention between two generations.

One evening I entered the hall to see the film. But I could not concentrate fully on the film as my mind was engrossed in finding myself in the picture. Actually, I was so excited when my friend told me about it that I forgot to ask him the exact point where I figured. I spent hours in a reverie imagining how I would look in the film.

So from the very beginning my attention was mainly focussed on finding myself. I was surely not in the first half of the film. During the interval I had a cup of tea in a stall on the premises. Then I had a smoke. When I re-entered the hall the movie had already run for a few minutes after the intermission. To my utter disappointment, the gatekeeper, who is also my neighbour, informed me that the scene where I figured had just passed.

Disheartened, I saw the remaining part of the movie with attention. But my heart’s desire to see myself on the silver screen remained unfulfilled. Then I decided to see the movie in the next show, which would be the last one. The next day was Friday; the picture would change. Therefore it was the last chance I must catch. I went to the counter to collect a ticket for the next show. The counter was closed.

The last show had been postponed for want of spectators. I returned home with a heavy heart. My earlier serendipity turned into disappointment.

nandi.budha@gmail.com

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Printable version | Mar 23, 2020 11:37:04 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/On-and-off-the-silver-screen/article14496001.ece

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