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.” 

Last-minute preparation before the opening of a morning show at Deulgaon Raja (a town in Maharashtra’s Buldhana district).

Quick tech-check before starting the evening show, which attracts a lot of viewers.

Before the advent of cable television, traveling talkies were much awaited events of the year.

A group of villagers enjoy the night show of the latest Bollywood release in a tent theatre near Shikhar Shingnapur (a famous temple in Maharashtra).

The majestic outdoor cinema screen. Traditionally, traveling talkies brought entertainment to the remotest of villages in Maharashtra, where access to cinema was limited for a long period of time.

A roll of film is being rewound before the screening of a movie at Anup Talkies.

The makeshift arrangement for electricity at one of the cinema tents.

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