Sunday, 7 December 2008

Video Nights in Belgaum

The other attraction in taking a “luxury coach” from Bombay to Mangalore was that most of these buses had a video player and colour television and showed at least three movies during the journey. This was during the early ’80s, when most middle-class Indian households had not even a colour TV to boast of, let alone a video player. So there was something incredibly satisfying and romantic at the prospect of leaning back in your seat and watching a movie as the bus negotiated the dangerous hairpin curves of Bor Ghat or as it sped swiftly through the deepening night along the Konkan coast.

The videotapes were invariably pirated camera prints of the latest Hindi film releases. Since the whole process of making a camera print involves someone sitting with a clandestine video camera in a projection room, most likely with the connivance of the projectionist, or even in some undetected corner of the movie hall, and videotaping a movie when it is actually being screened in a theatre, one could hear applause and catcalls in the background and see the back of some of the viewers’ heads as they got up from their seats and made their way across the aisle for a smoke or a toilet break.

The prints were grainy and the colours were awful. The soundtrack, often stepped up for maximum volume for the benefit of the viewers at the back of the bus, screeched painfully and reverberated within the confines of the bus, making sleep nearly impossible.

The passengers took these minor inconveniences in their stride and grumbled good-naturedly and without malice and sat stoically through the movies.

Not that there was no respite, of course. The movie timings were more or less fixed and rest of the time you could sleep or daydream or look out of the window. The first movie started once the bus had left the choked suburbs of Sion and Chembur behind and got onto the Eastern Express Highway to Pune and beyond. The second movie was put on around 3 pm which got over nicely in time for Belgaum and Hotel Ramdev. The third and final movie, which I seldom got around to watching for obvious reasons, was screened around 9 pm and finished close to midnight.

Sometimes you were lucky enough to catch a really good movie from an original print instead of a pirated one. One such movie which I saw on such a bus journey was Mere Apne, which also marked the directorial debut of a man called Gulzar.

Photo Courtesy:


Ravi said...

BTW, where did you catch the bus from -Dadar or Matunga? I think they also had a terminus in Parel near Hotel Shantidoot.

Vijay said...

Aaah.. good old Video coaches..good point about the "extra sounds" that came from the side... I remember watching a video where a fly kept sitting on the lens and someone was using a stick to poke at it...watched the entire movie that way..

Rada said...

@Ravi: Actually, I used to catch the bus from Sion, somewhere close to Rupam cinema!

@Vijay: Now watching DVD quality movies at home, I wonder how we put up with those awful camera prints! We must have been pretty desparate...

Vijay said...

@Rada: good thing we didnt know DVD quality then (or about DVDs period)... I guess its about what you have..our expectations at that time were lower..

Nikhil Narayanan said...

I avoid bus journeys for this reason.
Trivandrum to Bangalore.
A Salem based operator shows Vijay songs,then some lousy Tamil flicks.
Karnataka KSRTC shows Kannada movies that can be shown to torture Guantanamo bay prisoners.Now they have started picking up bad Hindi movies also.
I have seen the worst Malayalam movies ever during these bus journeys.

Maddy said...

i have done a few of those Bombay Bangalore trips in the 80's from Sion to Bangalore. At that time it was OK, the movies were a reasonable 'time pass'. what was it a 24 hour trip? or was it less? I forgot.

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Stepping Sideways... by K. Radhakrishnan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License.