Karuna Gupta (Part 1)
Duration: 01:08:42; Volume: 0.192; Words per Minute: 94.671
Karuna's arrival at Kumar Talkies
Mother: The rickshawalla is waiting, please pay him.
Pankaj: See that ... latest, Judai (name of film) poster...
Mother: Very good ...
Pankaj: Today, I want to shoot with you.
When I was envisioning Kumar Talkies, I knew that my mother would be important to the film. But it was very tricky to decide when to shoot with her. Soon we realized that if we were to interview her early in the shoot, we would be tainted with her memories and world view. So, my mother was called towards the end of the shoot. She was coming to Kalpi after a decade. We made sure we filmed as she was entering Kumar Talkies. We wanted to capture her first impressions, her spontaneous reactions. She did not have a clue what the film was all about. There was so much excitement of her arrival at Kumar Talkies, that the shot lasted almost three whole minutes …
Mother: ... Namaste! How are you? (to Javed)
Hashmi was the Manager of the cinema theatre and Javid was his son.
Pankaj : Aslam is now ...
Mother: Yeah! I met him in the market. He said he was going to come here
Aslam, an employee at Kumar Talkies. He announces the new film on the rickshaw, manages the crowd … He’s seen a lot in the actual film
Pankaj to Javid: Come! Meet her ...
Pankaj to Mother: Do you want to come inside, we’ll talk about things …?
Mother: This place was lying vacant ... we wanted to do something here. But we already had so much land to take care of ... there was just no point doing it.
Pankaj: There was a paper factory here ...
Mother: The owners were Kisen ji ...
Pankaj: Now it’s lying vacant ... that’s Bishnoi ... his paper unit.
Mother: Is he still there ...
Bishnoi handmade paper manufacturer
Mother: The rickshawallah was saying about Kumar Talkies ... that ‘now it is better.’ Otherwise, this road was slushy and impossible to ride. I told him ... that is good.
Before the film shoot began, I used to talk to my mother, trying to dig out information about Kumar Talkies, but she did not have much to share. But her physical presence at Kumar Talkies made all the difference. It helped reconnect to Kumar Talkies - its past and present.
Pankaj: See this logo ... is it something specific?
Mother: No! Of no significance.
Pankaj: but is very prominent ...
Mother: It is just like Sudarshan Chakra
Pankaj: I thought it might a be logo for KT
Mother: No, ... nothing like that. Initially, ‘Kumar Talkies’ was written in paint and then there were lights too in the beginning ... then slowly everything vanished.
It’s interesting to note, the way my mother was mapping the physical space of Kumar Talkies. It was almost always linked to her attempt to comes to terms with the fading away of a dream that she and Dad had for Kumar Talkies. Their romantic dream of owning a cinema theatre got entwined with the socio-cultural politics of the small town. Kalpi, didn’t like ‘out siders’ like my family to start a business there ...
Mother: Namaste! (to Mr. Wajid, the manager) I was telling Pankaj that ...
Wajid (interrupts): My servant Ikram informs me, ‘they have come, The director and actor etc. but today even the heroine has come’. I was sure it was you who’s coming ...
Mr. Wajid Ali Hashmi
Mother: I was telling Pankaj that long ago ... I told Wajid bhai that we are going to Mumbai. He had suggested that we should travel via Jhansi so that he could hand over ‘hugh amount’ to us. So, when Wajid bhai used to visit us in Delhi we used to make fun, ‘ where is our huge amount!”
During the shoot, the tension between my mother and Wajid was quiet apparent. A lot of money from the earning from the theatre was promised to my Dad which never reached him.
Wajid: Let’s go …
Pankaj: No, we are here for another two hours. We are not letting anyone go without interviewing
Wajid: You are interviewing everyone!
Pankaj: Ready? Let’s go ...
(Pankaj and Mother walk around)
Mother: Can we walk this side
Wajid: So she’s with you …
Pankaj: Definitely we’re coming later to meet you
Mother: What is that?
Pankaj: It’s the new generator room.
Mother: Earlier the generator was here ... it was here even when Dad came a few years ago. They have recently moved it here...
Power / electricity failure
Power cuts were frequent and erratic. The entire cinema depended on these generators. The generators were the lifeline. Hence, my mother was very curious about them
Mother: This is ‘Ala’. Back then, people used to pee here. We asked them not to. Few of them fell unconscious.
Pankaj: Nah! It’s a myth ...
Mother: If you don’t believe me ask Wajid bahi. A spirit enters it. Every Thursday, people offer flowers and sweets to it. It is called Sayeed ka ala.
2 robberies at home in Kalpi, robbed my parents of everything. They packed their bags after that.
Mother: This was Tallam Guru’s cabin. He was a local goon. He used to look after the cinema. He was a watchman but also a goon.
Pankaj: Even then thefts happened here ...
Mother: He had left this place by then ...
Mother: This was the main entrance to the cinema.
(the gate mom is referring to now serves as back gate to the cinema)
People used to exit from the other side as that gate
(this is now the main gate of the cinema, we see it quite a lot in the film) opened into the city.
And Eric used to stay in this room. It was open here ...
Pankaj: This room now has looms.
Eric was a projectionist who used to stay in the premises of Kumar Talkies.
Wajid’s younger 2 sons had utilized the space and set up looms
Mother: When the construction of the cinema began, there were large stones. They were so big that even the crane could not lift it. So, I gave an idea to Papa ... why not use them for making a staircase. So, we hired a lot of labour and built a staircase to the cinema using these stones.
Kumar Talkies: construction
Mother: Next to the Ala/shrine there was a big chimney ... of the dal mill. Once a man fell of it, nothing happened to him because of the Shrine.
Mother: I am not joking. People don’t climb up the Sayeed Ka Ala/ Shrine. And generally, people don't stay in the house, which has a shrine.
The image that my mother painted about of my Dad was that of a romantic. Even after so many years, I never got insights into what transpired within him to come up with the idea of starting a cinema theatre. It was apparently, his first venture as an entrepreneur.
Pankaj: What was it like when there was a rice mill around this place?
Mother: Umm ...
Pankaj: When you came here initially ... in 1960 ...
Mother: We came here in 1962 ...
Pankaj: But Bhaiyaa/brother was born in 1965
Mother: yes, yes... your grandfather wanted to start a chemical factory out here ... It was named U.P Rang Masale Udyog ... this spot behind the cinema screen ... there was a pulley there for a dal mill ... there were hugh godowns here ... it was not covered ... we had to clear up this place ... there were scissors and other material lying around. We used the same bricks to redo this into a cinema. We had to buy materials from the market too.
Kumar Talkies: construction
Mr. Purwar echoes the same sentiment. In 1857, Kalpi was plundered by both Indian and British troops. Post 1857, there was rampant migration to Orai and Kanpur. And there was a deep felt sentiment among the local people, that outsiders came, made profits and took the money out of Kalpi. Hence, their resistance towards outsiders. On the other hand, it is interesting to note that the dal mill belonged to my grandfather Musaddi Lal, a trader in food grains. Kalpi was the hub for grain trade in North India. When my father went to sell the ancestral dal mill that was shut now, the large space, strong walls gave him the idea to make it into a cinema hall.
Pankaj: Which year did the cinema start finally.
Mother: In 1974
Pankaj: No it was ’68!
Mother: yes yes, the cinema began in 1968. Dad stayed here for 3-4 years to get this done. He faced a lot of problems getting the permissions and license from the corporations, municipal board etc. Local people did not want an outsider to come here and make a cinema hall. People felt that they were doing well here ... why get outsiders to make a cinema hall here
Pankaj: When in ’68?
Mother: 3rd March. And the opening picture was Gunaho Ka Devata. It starred Jitendra and Rajashree, V.Shantaram’s daughter.
Kumar Talkies: inaugration
Pankaj: So you were there for the inauguration?
Mother: Yes ... people came from Delhi for the opening ceremony. They stayed here for 2-3 days and we went for sigh seeing around Kalpi. We went for boatride in the river. We had a lot of fun!
There was no road route to this place ... only trains. Road bridge came much later … one had to take a longer route to reach here.
(loud banging on the tin roof)
Pankaj: Uncle was saying that the entire ceiling was destroyed by the monkeys.
Was it the same in your time?
Mother: No ... there were no monkeys out here. In fact, we used to sleep in the open!
Pankaj: The wall of the back screen ...was it the original wall of the dal mill?
Mother: Yes ... the rest is all new construction.
Initially, there were curtains here. Uniforms for the staff with ‘Kumar Talkies’ tailored badges on them. It’s all gone now ... no one maintained it.
Mother: This was a good pucca road, tongas used to come from here. (points to the other side) This was the main entrance of cinema ... the road was good this side. They would come from here and enter the cinema
As a seven year old kid, when I was in 2nd class I distinctly remember going to kalpi for a short vacation. There was not much to do, so at times I took great pleasure in selling tickets at Kumar Talkies. A joke about those Kalpi days, still runs in our family till date. Since Kalpi was famous for leather, one day, Wajid's son took me to a shoe shop. I tried many shoes and finally was asked to choose one. I complained that the shoe was uncomfortable. I was bluntly told that once I start wearing them they will ease out. Back in Delhi, when I tried the shoes, they belong to two different pairs. My mother immediately called Wajid and narrated what had happened. He replied, ‘ Don’t worry someone else will buy the other pair.’ Kalpi was also famous for a sweet called Gunjiya. Each time Aslam came to collect a new print, he would bring a large box of sweets
Pankaj: Which were your favorite films?
Mother: I saw Sangharsh here ... starring Vaijantimala and Dilip Kumar. It is very good film. And I saw Dil Ne Phir Yaad Kiya ... starring Nutan. It was a super hit. Manjile Didi was also a hit ... such a hit that women began crying while watching it. They thought, ‘look what injustice is happening to the brother”.
Mother: All this land belonged to us. But there was no one to look after it. Slowly, it was taken away. All the land behind this tomb was ours ...
Pankaj: When did this fall apart?
Mother: They did not look after it ... after we left this place. And then the robbery ... they had put a ladder, climbed into the room ... and stole the entire box.
Pankaj: ... and after that immediately Dad left?
Mother: Yes. We all left within two days of the theft. There were even no clothes to wear! They stole everything ... cash ... jewelry.
Mother: This place was decorated with flags all around for inaugration.
Kumar Talkies: inaugration
Mother: There were stones all over this place.
Pankaj: Uncle says, all these stones were grinding stones.
Mother: Yes. These stones were used as steps on the other side ... Dad used to take that road to go to Allahabad Bank ... he had to go there everyday to deposit cash.
My father made lots of friends because of Kumar Talkies, but none in Kalpi. These ties are the few things that my family took back from kumar talkies. A business plan that did not work with time, translated to long lasting bonds.
Pankaj: When you take a right from here you go to the market ... and then the left ...
Mother: ...to the station. We used to go to the station from here only. When Dad was to come from Kanpur ... hearing the train arriving we knew he was here.
Pankaj: Then what about this road?
Mother: This one used to lead to Vijayghat ... now its all gone. Vehicles used to ply here ...
Pankaj: The road on the other side of the cinema ...
Mother: It was ok, but would become slushy during the rains ... but vehicles would ply ... we had visitors because of the cinema... sometimes the District Magistrate ... sometimes other officers. Dad used to entertain them.
When the ETO would come for checking, (Entertainment Tax officers) we would get phone calls in advance, we would get prepared for them. They used to come from this road.
Pankaj: You left soon after the cinema began ... ’68 you came and ‘70 you left ?
Mother: Yes ...
Pankaj: Were there dacoits back then?
Mother: Nothing in particular. But I got to know that few times Dacoit Man Singh had come to watch films. People were conscious but he did not hurt anyone.
While making the film, we were aware that 'dacoit film' as a genre was very famous. We planned to screen Chambal Ki Kasam. Even though Wajid was very apprehensive, the film was a bit hit. It was screened for four days. Good business for Kumar Talkies. It was also the time, when in Bandit Queen, a scene around Kalpi Police station was included in the film. People held a lot of resentment against the scene because it was not shot in Kalpi but some other location. Even Prof. Puwar voiced similar sentiment. I felt strange because I was assistant editor on Bandit Queen
Pankaj: The dacoit phenomenon was just starting out ...
Mother: In the 80’s it was at the peak...
Mother: If the robbery did not happen, we would have stayed back... done something for Kalpi. That’s why we made the cinema here ... maybe this place will develop. But because of the robbery ... And it was a robbery planned by the locals ... they did not want us to stay here. They felt jealous ... that outsiders were coming and settling here.
Mr. Wajid Ali Hashmi too, in his interaction with my mother echoes the same sentment. He even claims he knows the person who robbed us.
Mother: This area was very clean. We used to use this road. I used to use this road while going to Allahabad bank to offer prayers ... there was a pepal tree there ... I used to offer water to the tree. Even Ratnesh used to come by this road.
Ratnesh an officer at Allahabd Bank, soon became a brother to my mom. The ties with him are strong till date.
Mother: There were godowns here, between these walls. They have been broken down recently by Wajid Bhai, as the structure became weak.
Pankaj: In the 60’s, when Dad began this cinema hall, what kind of films were shown? What are the films you remember seeing here?
Mother: No art films were shown here. Nobody liked them. When we showed an art film once, the public hooted. They said the film had no abuses or fights. The ‘latest’ pictures were shown here.
And if Dad screened films starring 'Nutan' continuously, there were rumours in town, that Nutan was his mistress back in Delhi ... that’s why he was screening films staring her. Also, since our cinema was new ... there was a keeness to screen the film first, even before Orai.
Mother: Initially we would hire films on ‘percentage’ or on a ‘fixed rent’.
Pankaj: An agent would come with the film?
Karuna: If film on ‘percentage’ an agent would come with the print. He would take his share from the ticket sales. If we hired prints, then all losses or profits were ours.
While making Kumar Talkies, I got insights into how the means of exhibition had changed over the years. Earlier, the exhibitors representative would accompany the film print. He would take a percentage. Then it moved into a system where cinema owners hired the film print for a fixed amount. It was his gamble. He had to calculate. Earlier the cinema owners were running to Delhi, 12 hours door to door, to deposit the print and take the new print. Over the period of time that changed, once the distributors opened their offices in Kanpur, closer to Kalpi. As cinema grew as a industry in the 1980; so did production and distribution. The rental culture was in.
We had to treat the agent lavishly as if he owned the film himself.
Mother: The concept of the ‘percentage’ is over. It is only ‘fixed’ hire now...
Pankaj: along with these changes ... the subject of the film has changed.
a young boy humming a hindi song which is being played in the distance
Mother: The two walls that you see here ... there was just one earlier. Then people began to gather and sing quawali’s ... it became a separate part. Before that, all this was part of the dal mill. It was not a part of Kumar Talkies but a part of dal mill.
Pankaj: And out here?
Mother: There were berry trees all over, an old woman used to own them, kids would be plucking berries all the time …
It’s odd, in today’s time this concept of ‘first day, first show’ doesn't exist much. There are people who swear by this, but as a phenomena it has died. Also, one realizes that being a cinema owner, brought with it a lot of privileges in a small town like this.
Mother: ... behind that Gopi used to live. He used to deliver milk. He used to say, ‘You can pay me less ... instead give me a ticket in the evening.’ He wanted to see first day, first show. He was hardly 16 or seventeen ... a very nice boy.
Affect of Kumar Talkies
I think its the advent of cable, more than TV, which brought business down for cinema hall. Shahid's scene in the film, explains that. A viewer can get to see a dozen films everyday. Secondly, with time the ticket prices did not increase. While I was shooting in 1997, tickets were priced at Rs.7 at Kumar Talkies. So, as Mr Wajid Ali Hashmi articulates in his interview, 'the expenses are going up and the revenues are going down'. This situation led to the cancellation of the night show. It wasnt feasible to run Kumar Talkies for a handful of people.
Pankaj: Was the audience number much bigger compared to the present?
Mother: yes ... there were morning, noon, matinee and night. Four shows! Because the theatre was new, people came. In fact, for many years the cinema theatre was running just fine. After the coming of the video it fizzled but otherwise it was doing well.
Mother: This was the main entrance of Kumar Talkies. There was a very big bulb put up here so that people don’t feel inconvenience...
In the actual film, this idea is substantited using 8mm footage
Kumar Talkies: inaugration
Pankaj: When it was inaugurated ...
Mother: ... it was white washed, flags were put up all around ... the DM’s car went past this road.
Mother: Shiv’a idol was kept here. Now it’s all so dirty. There were two wells here ... they must have covered them both. This cover has been made recently. There was none that time.
Pankaj: Was the garden there?
Mother: No ... it was all-open. This gate was here. It was for private use. For the staff and for us. It was as green as it is now. This patch was for the children to play. You used to ride cycle here...
Pankaj: I don’t remember anything!
Mother: But we remember!
Mother: There was a cooler placed here, Papa used to sit here. It was all open. This red wall wasn’t there. Only that wall was there.
Pankaj: I thought Dad made a garden here...
Mother: No! He was planning too ... this area had water for the horses.
Mother: Yes. The dal mill had horses. The owner used to move around in a horse cart ... when he would step out. There were no rickshaws back then. Also, it was also a matter of prestige to travel in your own horse cart.
History of Kumar Talkies
Mother: People were awe struck, they had questions … making a cinema theatre out of a dal mill ... why did they have to make one ... that too coming all the way from Delhi to this place.
Mother: There was a big terrace. Papa and I used to sleep on that terrace.
Pankaj: Chotuji, have you met her? He’s Javed’s youngest son …
Mother: Where is the sweet box we got?
Pankaj: We will get it here ...
Mother: All this was connected through the terrace...
(sound of train moving in the background. Sound track of the film song too)
All this was dry. The pulley was there ... next to the road. That road led to the station.
Sounds of climbing staircase to Mr. Hashmi's house. We move to the terrace. Distant sound track of film song, from the town.
Karuna: And that was Allahabad Bank ...
Mother: This road was really good. It was not made of tar but good enough for vehicles to move.
Pankaj: Behind it ...
Mother: A railway line and beyond it farm lands. Nothing else. Labour used to work in the fields. There were no trees back then. One could see the cash counter of Allahabad Bank from here. When the robbery happened they put a ladder, people could see but no one bothered.
Mother: Even the terrace was not flat. It had two tiers. You had to climb one to get on the other. It is changed now.
Pankaj: and that side?
Mother: lanka … used to go there by Tonga, never went on foot.
Pankaj: You never climbed the Minar?
Mother: Yes, I did. When the theatre was inaugurated, we did come here. There were too many stairs.
Mother: In fact, when people would see the nanny (Ayah) who lived with us to take care of kids, people here would sigh seeing the nanny, ‘Is she the owners mother who is taking care of the kids.?’ They did not know that the concept of nanny existed.
Kalpi: a cursed city
Pankaj: Not much has changed for you?
Mother: It’s almost the same. Except for few new houses. Rest is the same. No new property has come up. Its all the same, the way it was.
Mother: The rectifier is still there in the same place?
Pankaj: What is a rectifier!
Mother: It was much needed out here… its no longer there. Before going to bed, we would switch it on. It would ensure nobody could enter it. The doors had electric current flowing in them. And in the morning, we would switch it off. It would just ensure that even the staff could not fiddle with things around. It would be put up on the operator room and in the main entrance.
Pankaj: And behind the theatre ...?
Mother: It was all the same. Ravines were not here. Just few mud houses. Ravines are across the river.
Pankaj: Dad would use this road to come from the station?
Mother: Yes. At night, we used to hear the train arrive and then the sound of horse cart ... we would assume that Dad was home.
Pankaj: You said that trains stopped here ...
Mother: It was a small place. Trains would stop here for a short time. But once I forgot my suitcase at home. I went and told the Station Master. He ensured that the train did not leave until my luggage arrived from home. He offered tea and spoke to me cordially, with a lot of respect. There was a certain charm towards cinema. People were very helpful as they knew that they could get free tickets to watch a movie. And we would oblige.
Wajid: Come and sit
Pankaj: No, we’ll get late once the show begins.
Javed: pankaj 3… out … Pakistan loses 3 for 10 runs…
(song coming from the town in the background)
Pankaj: We had 4 days of heavy rain last week.
Mother: So you shot inside ….?
History of Kumar Talkies
Mother: This is a very deep well. And the water was very sweet. Water was needed for everything. There was no motor at that time. There was a pulley here to draw water. Water from here was used for entire construction of the cinema.
pankaj: please ask the kid to stop brooming.
Mother: This place was clean all around. People did not have any problem accessing this place. Now it is all gone.
Pankaj: When I came here last year, the generator was here only.
Mother: The first one was kept there.
Pankaj: This generator was bought from Krishna Talkies in Orai ...
Mother: Yes. ... when Wajid built looms, he kept it here. And then he shifted it there. Originally, it was kept there only.
In fact, earlier there were no generators here. When the electricity would go off, we would tell the control room to start the supply again. Power cuts were not so many initially. We just had to tell them that we were calling from the Talkies (to resume to power supply), they would comply. (one can hear crickets in the background, which implies that now we are inside the cinema hall)
Pankaj: Which was the ladies enclosure?
Mother: Here, this was for ladies. There were two curtains put up to segregate their space. When the film would begin, we would draw out the front one.
Pankaj: A lot of women would come to watch films?
Mother: yes! There were a lot of women. Arrangements were made to make them comfortable, allot them a separate space. They would come with their children and husbands, but would sit separately. Then the horse carriages stopped plying on this road, the women stopped coming too.
Pankaj: So you stayed here for two years?
Mother: Yes ...
Pankaj: So Wajid was given charge of it?
Mother: No! There were two people before him who were given charge. But it did not work out with both of them. Wajid was going through tough times, he had lost his job. Dad used to give him Rs.500 per month for his expenses. Wajid had gone to our family friend Naval Uncle asking him to find work for him. Then Dad asked him to take care of the hall as a Manager.
Pankaj: It’s been 25 years?
Mother: about 20 years.
Pankaj: Is the ceiling the original one?
Mother: They have not maintained it, our sound system was the best one. Better than Krihna and Jai Hind in Orai. There was no echo whatsoever.
Pankaj: Do you remember the film that you saw here?
Mother: I used to see ... not everyday but whenever a new film was shown. Once, a print was being sent back without me having seen it. When the agent got to know this, he said, ‘how can such thing happen that sethaniji herself has not seen it. He unloaded the film and screened it ...so that I don’t miss it. The film that had to go in the afternoon train, left in the evening.
Pankaj: There was a 12pm screening?
Mother: It was Sunday, I saw the 9am show.
Pankaj: Dad used to watch films?
Mother: Yes. He did not have anything to do the entire day. Once the statement was made, he sat down to watch the show. We all used to watch films. Yes! I remember that Dad saw the film Guide about 11 times! He loved that song so much: 'Kaanto se kheench kar yeh anchal' He saw it 11 times here and 10-15 times in Jai Hind Talkies.
Pankaj: Where was Jai Hind Talkies?
Mother: In Orai ...
Pankaj: There is Krishna Talkies too.
Mother: yes ...
Pankaj: They now show only sex films there ...
Mother: There was a time when the business was down in Kumar Talkies ... the owner of Krishna Talkies told Dad that he should start showing blue films. Dad refused.
Mother: Are there only two coolers left now? All these windows were made for the coolers ... for cool air to circulate. It was an air cool place not AC. Even the fans have gone.
Mother: There were thick bottle green curtains hung here.
Pankaj: Now ...there is only this cotton cloth. (Laughs) Even the light filters inside through them.
Pankaj: Who was the man who met you yesterday? ... Azim ... were there other projectionists before him ... Bishnoi uncle was saying that there were many projectionists. I think he was only with Diwan Talkies ... not with us.
Mother: We had Azim, Eric and Sharma as projectionists. There was one before Eric ... Azim was just there to rewind the reels ... he was always in this state... he smoked weed. We used to get old clothes for children from Delhi for him ... but he used to always high on weed.
Mother: If I spend just two lakhs on this theatre, it will be brand new.
Mother: I don’t exaggerate; I will do it and show.
Pankaj: What will you get in return? Nothing ...
Mother: Who says nothing ...
Pankaj: Will you shift base to Kalpi?
Mother: No ... whoever will be here ...
Hashmi talks about tax evasion in his interview
Mother: When the ETO was about to come for checking, we would get to know the moment he left Kanpur. We would keep aside the statement ... it was very common to sell duplicate tickets ... there was 75 per cent tax ...
Pankaj: Now it is 120 percent.
Mother: I am not exactly sure how much it was ... but I remember Papa telling the DM ... that if the taxes were so high ... malpractices will take place. It is more rampant in smaller towns ... such malpractices don’t happen in Delhi.
Pankaj: Anyway in Delhi, they have reduced it to 60 per cent.
Mother: Once, they were showing the film Manjali Didi ... in the film the actress was feeding banana’s to the young actor, you were with your nannny then ... you kept crying ... suddenly she yelled out to the actress in the film ... ‘why don’t you give a banana to this baby too! He is crying so much!’
Mother: There was a boy who used to come from Orai. He used to make/paint posters. He used to make large handmade posters that were put up in the market and the bus stop. Once I asked him to show crowd. He just ran his brush across ... you could see a crowd standing!
Pankaj: For every film?
Mother: Yes. Initially, we used to get them done a lot ...
Pankaj: These were six sheeter!
Hand painted poster
Pankaj: ... but why?
Mother: There were very few ways to publicize. For many films a six sheeter poster did not come ... and to get this done was the norm ... they used to do it in Orai ... so we used to also get it done. Slowly, it all stopped.
Mother: Earlier, they used to go around doing the publicity on the horse carriage, and then cycle rickshaw.
Pankaj: Even now they use a cycle rickshaw. Sometimes, Aslam goes ... sometimes his son does it.
Mother: His son!
Pankaj: He was saying so ...
Mother: There was Aslam, Munna ... Balbir ... they have all gone away. Ghasiram has become a politician now.
Mother: Water is leaking from the roof. There are watermarks on the screen.
Pankaj: yes, that’s true.
Mother: The coolers have all been removed from here ... look at the state of the doors!
Pankaj: They have locked this door permanently ...
Pankaj: ... because they only use two doors.
Mother: ... there were eight buckets painted in red, filled with sand ... in case of a fire. It was very well organised. The jamun tree was not there back then ... one could have a clear view from our verandah ... one could figure out from the verandah, if the screening was on or was it interval time or a documentary/newsreel was on ... earlier it was a norm to show a newsreel before every film screening ... I could get a clear view from my balcony. I could hear all the dialogues from the balcony ...
Pankaj: You were mentioning that Dad used to watch films regularly ...
Mother: Yes, night shows. Sometimes, when he had to entertain guests, (SHO, DM, Bank Manager) he used to watch films with them.
Pankaj: What were his favourite films?
Mother: Dad saw the film Guide about ten times in Jai Hind theatre at Orai. He loved the song ... Kanto se khechke yeh anchal. He loved the film so much that he hired the film print from them directly. When the film screening was on at Kumar Talkies ... if he heard the song ... he would stop his work and run to watch it.
Pankaj: Were there House Full shows?
Mother: Yes. There would be brawls when Sangarsh and Manjali Didi was being shown. We had to call the police. There would be advance booking too. Every friday a new film will be shown. When Mecca Medina was released ... it was House Full. It was the same day, when the robbery in our house took place. All the four shows were House Full along with advance booking.
Pankaj: But how long would it take a recently released film ... reach here?
Mother: Not immediately. This was not a A class city like Delhi ... also the business was less here but it would not take so long to get the print here. May be within six months ...
Times have changed. Now there is a simultaneous release all over the country. Within 1 or 2 weeks, even smaller towns get to see the new film.
Pankaj: What are the film you remember seeing?
Mother: Sangarsh starring Dilip Kumar and Vijantimala ... it had the song – mere pairo mein ghungroo badha de, to phir meri chaal dekh ley… Sapno Ka Sudagar ... starring Hema Malini ... these were very famous films.
Pankaj: Were they hit films all over India or only in Kalpi?
Mother: All over India and in Kalpi ... Majali Didi, Santoshi Ma and Dil Ne Phir Yaad Kiya starring Rehman, Dharmendra and Nutan. Then there was Ram aur Shayam ... many of the Yusuf Bhai’s film starring Dilip was liked by many there ... also because there were a lot of Muslims in this area.
Pankaj: ... and there were lots of releases of Nutan’s films simultaneously ...
Mother: We took prints on hire from the agents. So, if it was a agent for R.K Studio, he had many of Nutan’s film under that banner. Like ... Dil ne phir se yaad kiya ... and Saudagar... Bandini. When there were many of Nutan’s films shown, people would say that ‘Sethji is from Delhi ... she’s her mistress, he likes her a lot ... so he is showing so many of her films, back to back.’ People were not very sensible ... they could not figure out whey so many films of one particular actress was being shown.
Pankaj: Subsequently, when the dacoit films started, that time you were not there?
Mother: Yes, they too were shown... Mujhe Jeene Do and Jis Desh Mei Ganga Behati Hai. It was understood that when Jis Desh Mei Ganga Behati Hai was shown Daku Mansingh would come to watch the film. I am not sure which film he saw but there were many dacoit films that were shown here.
Pankaj: Dacoity started in the 1980’s ....
Mother: ...that’s not true. We used to show Hunterwalli. Especially during monsoon, when the audience were fewer, we used to get cheap films. We used to also show low budget films.
There was a lot of charm people had towards cinema. People from decent families would also come here to watch films.
Affect of Kumar Talkies
Pankaj: The other place, Dewan Talkies was here?
Mother: Yes, but by the time it was shut down. There was a rule that if there is a permanent theatre in one area, then within a certain radius, it’s not permissible to run a touring cinema. Once there was a touring cinema who took license for 3 months, Sapno Ke Saudagar was released in both the places at the same time, we did lose on the profits a bit.
Pankaj: When you came with Dad around ’66, did you watch films in Dewan Talkies?
Mother: It was all about our ego ... if our own theatre was being built, how can we do there and watch films.
Pankaj: Do you know what happened to Dewan Talkies after it shut down?
Mother: The haveli is lying vacant ... nobody is staying there.
Pankaj: I was told that when Dewan Talkies shut down, it was made into a club, a camouflage for betting.
Mother: Also because there is a country liquor shop in front of Dewan Talkies. So, it was natural for people to pick a bottle and head towards it to play cards.
Pankaj: I noticed that people play a lot of roadside games ... Ludo.
Mother: Gambling is a favorite pass time here. They wanted to play games of winning and losing ... and excuse for fighting. Playing poker all the time...
Pankaj: Did the laborers have the same attitude back then also?
Mother: Yes, nothing has changed. Young boys ...10 -14 years were ready to do menial jobs in lieu of a cinema ticket. That was why this place was so clean!
Pankaj: What happened after you returned to Delhi after the robbery here?
Mother: We had rented out the theatre to many people. But soon they began showing illegal prints. Earlier, we used to get prints from Delhi and then later from Kanpur. If the Motion Picture people got to know, we would be in trouble. Since, the license was on our name, we would face problems. So, we gave the contract to his distant relative. He too began showing the illegal prints. He also stopped sending the rent. It was then Dad came here, got to know Wajid uncle was unemployed so made him the Manager.
Pankaj: Till date there is nothing written about Dad’s position?
Mother: Nothing but Wajid used to draw a salary. Now there is nothing. The people whom we rented out the place behaves as if they own the place.
Mother: There was a canteen too. It made good profits. There was special crockery kept for us. There were 25-30 cycles for each show. The cycle stand also ran profitably.
Affect of Kumar Talkies
Pankaj: But the seats are still the same?
Mother: Yes. They are repaired. But we had got foam put in the last rows and also put iron frames to the others. But they were wooden seats just like these ones. There were no seat numbers. People could sit anywhere. So, if someone’s favourite heroine’s film was being shown, and if he got a back seat, he would break few chairs in front of him to go close. The seats were bound to get damaged.
Pankaj: These are still the old speakers?
Mother: Yes, they are the same speakers. It was better ventilated back then. There were exhaust fans all around. There is no rectifier also. It is a must for a cinema hall or a tall building. You just have to whitewash the place during the annual license renewal time. I have a feeling that it has not been done this year. That is why it is in such a state. During the license renewal time, all the equipments, sand buckets and toilets ... everything should be in place. The toilets had to have two doors, and also stipulated number of toilets had to be there, otherwise the license would be cancelled.
Mother: This place was ok until we were here ...
Pankaj: There were many factors contributing to what followed ... the coming of TV.
Mother: Even the Station Master would show us favors, he would release the film prints without adequate papers in good faith.
History of Kumar Talkies
pankaj: so tell me what it was like when it started…
Mother: These walls belong to the old dal mill. It did not have a roof. There were godowns all around and two rooms to live in. So, while making this dal mill into a cinema theatre, we did not have to invest a lot of money. The bricks and iron of the Dal Mill were recycled. But there were a lot of official clearances to be acquired. That took a lot of effort as many people did not want a cinema hall to come up here... the touring cinema was already here.
Mother: We had very good system here. It was Russian made. Whoever saw it, said it was really good. The cinema hall was advertised as an air cool place, not AC, but air cool. There were at least six coolers around. The ceilings were proper, so that there is no echo.The DM who had come for the inauguration told Dad, that a really good theatre has been built in the given space and that it was a good investment. There were curtains and fans all around and we showed good films. People used to come in large numbers because good films were being shown. There was a lot of commotion when the publicity was done. A horse carriage with loud speakers would announce the new film release.
Hand painted poster
Mother: Initially, we did not get six sheeters for publicity. We used to put boards on either side of the main road. And even if we have the six sheeters, we used to get hand painted posters done as they were in fashion back then. There was a painter called Sharma from Orai, who did the paintings.
Quickly before the lite fades… 582, pankaj in conversation with mother inside Kumar talkies … and after bloop its wild…583
voice of Manoj Lobo, he’s become a big DOP in industry
Mother: Are there wooden mesh boxes for the posters to be put up
Pankaj: Yes. They had put up posters on it for the shoot. They took it off because public takes them away.
Mother: They could lock it.
Pankaj: You know how easy it is for them to break that… They are colour posters ...
Mother: Yes, I once saw a house with a film poster of Roti, Kapda Aur Makan in front of their house. They said, this is all they needed in life.
Kalpi: a cursed city
Pankaj: How was Kalpi back then?
Mother: It is just the same, just few minor changes. There is a bridge now and the station looks better and bigger. I see no development in the past 25years. Pokhrayain and Orai have developed better.
Pankaj: There is a legal case against the theatre?
Mother: ya, the municipality is to provide a proper road leading to cinema, they never did that. We even contributed 50% for the road. They have levied a hugh ‘show tax’ whereas the business was bad. The tax kept adding. They also said we showed two illegal films and that we were making profits to pay the tax. There was one case with the Motion Picture also. But we eventually won the case. But the show tax case is till on
Pankaj: The case was there when Dad was around ....
Mother: Yes... must be 10-12 years. The UP Board says we need not pay the tax. The Corporation says we have to pay the tax. The is not clarity at all. Hence, the case is dragging for years now.
Pankaj: You were saying few things about Kalpi ...
Mother: They say that once you go half way across the bridge over the Ganga, one's mind gets corrupted. There is a myth that Shravan Kumar was carrying his old parents, half way across the bridge, he gave up, saying he can’t go any further. His blind parents asked him where they were, he said beyond Jhansi. He enquired if he was on the bridge at Kalpi, he said yes. They asked him to return immediately saying that his mind will get corrupted.. The water in this area is not good. There is a saying that there are goons, thieves and bad women in this area. It’s a barren land. I don’t know if this is all true. But strange, in spite of being in U.P, we see not mango trees here. Nothing grows here. Everything is brought from outside.
Kalpi: a cursed city
Pankaj: There is a saying that Kalpi will not flourish nor vanish.
Mother: It’s true. Nobody will prosper here. It will remain same. People will not prosper.
Pankaj: Dad must have made friends when the cinema was running ...
Mother: Kalpi was the grain center. They were dealing with the selling and buying grains, they had established businesses. They worked all day and in the evening would come here, watch film and also meet Dad who looked forward to their company as he did not know many people here.
Pankaj: But be never made lasting friends ....
Mother: We were from Delhi. The way of life and thinking was different. He never made close friends. We were here for 2 yrs, so they were just acquaintances….mr. Jaitley was there….but he too after a point cheated… So, he never made close friends here.
Kumar Talkies: future
Pankaj: What will happen to the cinema hall?
Karuna: Looking at its condition, it doesn’t look it will run. There is no maintainence. Nobody is taking an interest. One doesn’t know what will happen. May be we’ll give to someone else. I won’t feel nice if it closes down. Lot of effort and dedication went in putting this up. It has been there for 30 years now. I would like it to run. Lets see what happens. There is nobody to maintain it properly, nobody from our family is there to maintain it. May be we’ll give it to someone else. Deep inside, I feel it shouldn’t close down. Lets ee what happens after 20 years....
The film got over in 1998, the cinema ran for another 5-6 years. Then Javed converted it into a paper factory. That too didn’t work out after few years. Hashmi died in jan’2013.