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Changing Culture of Cinema Halls

Mohammad Asim Siddiqui

By Ziya Us Salam
OM Books International, Noida, 2015, pp. 280, Rs. 385.00


The subject of films has been approached from the perspective of stars, auteurs and spectators. At other times the collaborative nature of the cinema is emphasized by bringing in the contribution, or noise, of other players which include, among others, story writers, lyricists, music directors, cameramen, fight masters, choreographers and even minor actors. Zia Us Salam’s book Delhi 4 Shows: Talkies of Yesteryear while showing awareness of all three perspectives, tries to approach cinema, Hindi films in particular, from the perspective of cinema halls and the cultures associated with them. His narrative of the rise and fall of cinema halls in the capital of India strikes a chord with people living in any big city of India as the process of urbanization, especially in the era of technology-driven globalization, has had a similar impact on the film viewing experience. This book could have been written only by somebody with a deep knowledge of Delhi and its love affair with cinema—insider knowledge which comes from living in a city and watching films with the elites and the subalterns—and a deep understanding of the variety that the city offers in terms of its people and their cultures. His description of the usual business in Chandni Chowk on a winter afternoon presents a tableau of just one dimension of this variety. The book offers an interesting insight into the interests and viewing behaviour of different classes of society which include English speaking elites, Muslims from orthodox families in and around Jama Masjid, migrant labourers from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, school going children, black marketeers and sex workers from the G.B. Road. Delhi cinema halls have also had the distinction of attracting top politicians and film stars from both Bollywood and Hollywood. Places have often been used as metaphors in literature and films. Cities emerge as characters in many works of fiction. Dominique Lapierre turned Kolkata into a city of joy. Anita Desai and Amitav Ghosh also treat Kolkata as a character in their works. Mumbai becomes a character in numerous works of Shobha De and Mussoorie is more than a city for Ruskin Bond. In Zia Us Salam’s book not only does Delhi emerge as a character but also its cinema halls which have had a distinct identity. Each cinema hall has a little history—interesting, revealing, gossipy and at times sad. Zia Us Salam’s lively and indulgent ...

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