17 February, 2007


Lots of things have been happening around with me personally. Honestly speaking mind was not at ease to blog. Thanks to my fellow bloggers for encouraging me to come back. It was not my intention to be away from blogging. I shall see to that this does not happen frequently. I have been reading everyone’s post but was not able to comment. Since I was taking a break from everything, had a good time watching lots of classic matinees in private television. Do we still have public television is another question. It was memorable to watch wonderful old films. They are a delight to watch with the whole family. While watching few of them I went to those old days.

I started recollecting my memories. As far as I could remember, the first theatre I had watched a movie should be ‘National’ theatre in Tambaram. There was a worker who was dumb and he used to have a round log and use it now and then to bring the crowd under control. He was lovingly called as “Oomai”. He looked as a terror when I was a child. At the same time, I laughed on thinking about this, when I shook hands with him when I was in early 20’s. He was still working in that theatre. I started panicking once when I was struck between crowds in a small lane like ticket counter. I was holding my mother’s hand tight. Probably it was for some picture like “Tirumal Perumai” or some other picture on god’s belief. The first place any boy knows that he has grown is only when he stands in ladies queue and denied entrance. Also, when a boy enters a ladies compartment in the local electric train along with his mother, and the whole crowd keeps grumbling, he realises that he is coming off age. This happened to me too.

More than going to theatres, I have wonderful memories of having seen movies in tents and called as ‘Kottai’. Last week I was seeing some movie, and there was this scene. The whole village crowd runs behind a small vehicle which comes, with new posters that are likely to be shown in their cinema tent. I laughed at it and my children asked the reason. I had to explain the fun we had in running after the man who stuck the posters. It is a great art. After pasting on the wall, he used to apply handful of paste on the poster too. Later I realised that it was for the cattle to taste sour and not eat the poster.

All of us in the street would gather and see the movie in the theatre. I always thought that the actors were behind the screens and they disappear silently after the movie is over. It was a mystery then. The tents were so comfortable. We used to enjoy sitting in the sand and watch movies. When we were young our mothers were on the ladies side. During the intervals they used to pass on the snacks and water for us. We used to carry few small bed sheets to put them on the floor and sit. Many times we used to dig the sand while watching the movie. Some smokers used to put their beedi and bury them inside. So while digging, our hands used to pick them up and throw them. Later our hands also smelt those of beedis. While walking back home, we used to discuss about the characters in the movies. If the film had a sad end, the girls in our street used to have wet eyes, including my sisters.

It was a great experience to go for night shows as we started growing up. Most of the night shows had a MGR movie. There used to be rivalry between villages during second show. It was considered as a risk. But still we enjoyed going with friends. We used to gather the sand like children build castles nowadays in the beach and then sit on top of that to watch films without any hindrance. If there was anyone huge in front of us and hiding us in any way my friends used to grumble “Hey…listen he is sitting on the place where we spat…”. The person on hearing this, used to move away from that place and we would continue watching the movie without hindrance.

I could not understand why the films used to get cut while being shown. There used to be long whistles from the public especially if it was cut during interesting scenes. This was a common enquiry before deciding to watch the film.

“How is the new movie? Are there lots of cuts? Is it good print?” and stuff like that. We never understood the meaning of Eastman colour movie. By the time we realised to understand we grew up.

My Dad used to take me for night shows along with his friends, when I was even less than eight years. I still remember him, standing along with his friends and myself, discussing about the movie after the night show under a huge tree which was believed to be a home for ghosts.

I am glad that those tents which gave us so much of entertainment during our younger days, still exist.
Pic courtesy: Narayanan Venkitu


arvindh said...

Reading your post I was rerminded of a Tamil movie in which they show someone coming to the ticket counter with just 15 paise. The ticket issuer retorts "15 paisakellaam padam kaatta mudiyaadhu" and then softheartedly changes his mind - "sari, rendu reel paathuttu po".
It was fun to go down memory lane with "thara ticket" and "bench ticket". Keep writing.
Great to hear that you recently sketched something. Looking forward to seeing them.

Suji said...

Have heard my mom speak about these theaters. Have never experienced them myself. It must ve been great fun.

Arvindh is gr8 at inspiring ppl to sketch. :)

Narayanan Venkitu said...

Good Old days...Balaji..isn't it. I can see 'Oomai' right before my eyes as I type. Hmm..those days are gone, those movies in National theatre, the movies in our Tent etc. are all memories now.!

Thanks for publishing my photo man!

Jeevan said...

Your post remains my days on watching film in cinema kottai in my grandpa village, but dint get chance to sit on the sand. I remember that my mom used to stand in the ladies line to get ticket for my bro and me and we go along with her out of the line that was preventing to go in line.

Now also the cuts are their in the some theaters, recently also i heard the whistle sound from audience in drive-in theater where the current cuts. We also discuss about the films in classroom. To surprise many of the kottai's has the same gateway model. Very nice memories friend:) hope every thing goes fine with u and ur family.

Dan said...

great post balaji. I have watched few movies in kottai and one of them was a night show.

also boys coming of age is proved by the fact not allowed in ladies queue in movie hall and not allowed ladies compartment - a very good observation. have personal experiences here too.

Hope all is fine @ your side.

Cyberkitty said...

lovely post, u should keep posting! i love watching movies too - any movie.

Balaji S Rajan said...

Arvind - I shall post them shortly. I do not remember that movie. But those memories are great.

Suji - You should experience.

NV - How can we forget those good old days. Sometimes on hearing me, my son feels jealous of us. On weekends my kids make me to talk and keep their mouth wide open. I was thinking about this post since long, but was wondering for a picture. On seeing your picture of the Kottai, I thought I should post it.

Balaji S Rajan said...

Jeevan - Even you seem to have good experience like me in watching movies in such kottais. Bench and chair tickets will have bugs biting us, especially when we were wearing half trousers. If we were planning to sit in bench, we used to go in dhoti or lungi. But the pleasure of going to floor ticket is great.

Dan - Thanks for your comment. It used to irk me when we were taken in the ladies queue. I have felt irritated many times with ladies of our house.

Cyberkitty - Thanks. I shall keep posting.

Anonymous said...

Balaji & Arvindh, the movie that you are talking about is 'Aan Paavam' - Absolutely a nice movie and super comedy. Gotta watch in Google Videos (yes the entire movie is available) watch it when you find time.


Marutham said...

:) Lovely post on old memories- again from u!
Andha naal gnabagam... ;)

Namakkum theatre'kum no touch at all....
May be in future poganum... :)

Ravi said...

Balaji Sir,
Sooooper... was lovely to read the post. Though I haven't been in a tent kottai, I always wanted to. Heard lots from others. For long, I thought the word was "Dakies" and then realised it was "Talkies". Its a surprise that the sand in your tent was clean. People even used to dig a small hote and urinate. The higher class was the "bench" ticket. Ahh... so much fun!!

Loga said...

Nice to read ur post after a long time...haven't had such experience as seeing film in tent, but heard similar stories from my mom,
Just to get the experience of watching movies from sitting on sand, i and my cousins went once to a very old theater(it was showing some old movie) at cuddalore, nalla irunthuchu...we also had a dog watching the film with us...and as u say i also discuss about the characters until I reach home :)

Jo said...

Kottai reminds me of what we call Cinema Kottaka in Malayalam and the old days of watching movies in the open public grounds in a 16 MM screen with all the disturbances of the surroundings. :-)

Balaji S Rajan said...

Shubha- Thanks. Which Shubha are you? Are you the one known to me for ages? (Dubai)

Balaji S Rajan said...

Marutham - Thanks. Ponga.. Just go and experience it.

Ravi - Correct. The higher class was bench and the first class was Chair. But the problem was they were not comfortable. Either we had those 'Mootai Poochis' or not enough space. After all, we were never able to whistle or make any sounds in those ones.

Loga - Nice to know your experience.

Jo- Were they not a great experience. Natural. isn't it?