We drive by “309 Cinema” all the time and never pay any special attention to it. As the name implies, it is a multiplex (quite old.. compared to other multiplexes around here) on Route 309, not far from where we live. We’ve often wondered how it is still in business competing with all the state-of -the-art theaters with fully reclining seats and some that even serve food and drinks inside the hall! Yesterday when Vidya and I walked up to the ticket counter at 9:40 AM and bought a couple of tickets – it evoked waves of nostalgia for me!
The last time my wife and I watched a movie in this theater was Jan 9th 1991! We used to live in the apartment complex across the street from the theater. We were expecting our first baby. Uma had taken maternity leave and was anxiously & restlessly counting down at home. Jan 9th was the due date! Since there didn’t seem to be any signs of the baby showing up any time soon.. we decided to go to the movies! It was an evening show of Home Alone – which was a phenomenal hit for director Chris Columbus and launched the career of Macauley Culkin!! It turned out to be a special and memorable movie for us… even though we had to wait couple more weeks for Ramya to show up!
Yesterday’s viewing of “The Big Short” was the first ever ‘Morning Show’ that I had watched in all of my 32 years in the US! For some reason we’ve never considered early morning as a good or convenient time to go to the movies. If I have to think back to the last time I went to such a morning show … it would take me all the way back to my late teens in Hyderabad in the early 80s.
When we were growing up in Hyderabad, Morning Shows were quite popular. Typically, these time slots were used to bring back older classic movies. Later they also used this slot for brand new movies as well. The demographic that was targeted by these shows was very well defined – majority were housewives who would have a few hours break after they were done with morning chores and done dispatching kids and husband off to schools and office respectively! The rest were college kids who were either skipping classes or those that were out of colleges because of student strikes for one grievance or other (these were regular occurrences in those days)! TV was fairly new back then and we only had a single government channel, which showed 1 movie per week on Sundays. Also, this was obviously before the advent of VCRs – So, if you wanted to watch an old Raj Kapoor classic such as Shri 420 or all-time Hollywood classics like Ben-Hur, Lawrence of Arabia or McKenna’s Gold — you had to pop into one of the Morning Shows at theaters like Meera Talkies, Shaam or Regal (for Hindi and Telugu ones) or Liberty, Skyline, or Sangeet for the English ones!
Meera, Shaam and Regal were within a couple of miles from my college and when there were student strikes at the college, we used to catch the ‘latest’ old movies. I have vivid memories of watching Raj Kapoor and Nargis classics like – “Chori Chori”, “Shri 420” and “Awara” at these morning shows. The music and songs from these movies left such indelible impressions that even today when I listen to them they transport me back to those morning shows in Meera Talkies when I first experienced them!
It wasn’t all old movies that we watched at these shows. I have vivid memories of skipping classes with my buddies from college and watching the Kamalhasan and Sreedevi classic – “Vasantha kokila” (which was remade in Hindi as “Sadma”). It was quite a popular movie and we barely managed to get the tickets. The theater was mobbed with college kids. It was an excellent movie with superb acting by lead actors. This was also the movie that was famous for Silk Smitha’s role as the temptress who tries to seduce Kamalhasan. I clearly remember the row of college girls seated behind us, who were giggling and repeating all the dripping double entendres that Silk Smitha was dishing out! I don’t know about today’s Hyderabad, but back then, I thought that was shocking and scandalous! I was glad that it was dark – so that no one could tell if I was blushing! If a brown man blushes is a dark theater, is he really blushing? 🙂
“The Big Short” – my debut Morning Show in the US was an excellent tutorial on the housing and credit bubble of 2008 and how the big banks ripped off the public of trillions of dollars! The director attempted to explain the complex jargon and concepts in layman’s terms. I have to admit that I only got the overall gist and not the intricacies that were presented. For Vidya it was essentially a redo of one of her economics classes from the previous semester. The performance by Steve Carell and Christian Bale was superb! I am expecting these guys will walk away with a bunch of awards in this upcoming season!
If this write-up stirs up your own nostalgia about skipping classes and going to movies, please share your experiences in the comments section below!