The disappearance of the traveling cinema on the outskirts of our cities can be due to several factors – the least of which is not the real estate boom because vacant land is swiftly being built upon. But, seen along with the rise of the multiplexes, it also suggests the end of film watching as the experience of an inclusive community. Where tent cinemas were once associated with afternoon shows of Bhakta Kumbhara (Kannada) and Maya Bazaar (Telugu), there is something furtive about them today, and it is perhaps only in the dark that they come into their own.
This photo essay is dedicated to the tent cinema as it is today – surviving away from the glare of the metropolis, in crevices towards which the noses of the law are not pointed and where a faint whiff of illegality hangs in the air. The tent cinema is increasingly a male preserve, the men seen there are even defiant in their masculinity, as their studied indifference and sardonic stares suggest. Whether employee or client, the people shown in these images seem rarely content only to be. Their “fall” perhaps needs masking – at least through a parting show of bravado.
Editor’s Note – Anil Cherukupalli
Indians love motion pictures. Ever since movies came to India they have seeped into every facet of the culture across most of the country and acquired a diversity of form seldom seen in the rest of the world. Pradeep’s essay captures one facet of the diversity of the film viewing experience, the tent cinemas of Bangalore. As the evening light fades, these shady and often illegal spaces come to life. Men drift in, looking bored but still interested in getting their regular fix of naked flesh on screen.
The essay as a whole, apart from documenting these disappearing cinemas, brings out the basic need for visual gratification that the men who come to such cinemas seek. While many in urban India have found easier access to pornography through the internet there is still a vast majority that seeks out titillation in a public cinema. These spaces seem melancholic and sad as if lamenting their past glory and only waiting for the day that they get shut down. As the photographer mentions in his note, most of these spaces disappear overnight. And with their disappearance, something is lost, a little bit of cinematic history perhaps. Or perhaps the loss of a collective cinematic experience of the magic of motion pictures that such spaces provided even with their less than ideal viewing technology, an experience which is now replaced by the sterile but glitzy gratification provided by the modern multiplex.