The Last Show
Photo by Divya Dugar
Tangled between the canvas tents, poles and ropes, Akbar grinned, “We do not know how many people will turn up for the show tonight, but we do our best to continue the tradition.” Akbar grew up watching cinema on talkies, and used to wait eagerly every year for them to arrive. “It was a huge affair; we used to prepare weeks ahead,” he says. “But now things have changed with cable television and VCDs.”
A few years ago, I spent a month travelling on the road across the Indian state of Maharashtra on a battered bottle-green truck assembled together from old garage parts. The inside of the truck was plastered with a Bollywood film poster; projectors were perched parallel to each other and boxes of 35mm film reels were strewn around. Most of the religious festivals in Maharashtra feature touring talkies as an essential part of the festivities. A wide array of movies are shown: ranging from the latest Bollywood, regional and religious films to even Hollywood blockbusters dubbed in Hindi or Marathi.
“It is the end of an era as only a handful of these touring talkies exists. Due to dwindling viewers and, consequently, financial burden, many owners are forced to shut shop,” explains Anup Jagdale, the second generation of talkies’ owners. “We are trying to bring modern features such as Dolby sound and the latest Bollywood movies to attract more viewers, but the overhead costs are still a lot.”