This is a guest post. The author chooses to remain anonymous.
‘Why hasn’t the movie started yet!’ yelled one of the members of the audience seated in the dimly lit hall of Swagat Cinema. Located in one of the forlorn and forgotten lanes of the city, Swagat Cinema stood proudly, catering to the carnal desires of the city’s men. The theatre was the only one in the city that screened pornographic and B-grade movies to the lust thirsty animals of the city. The show started at around seven in the evening and would continue till two in the night. It had a seating capacity of around 70 people. It was open in the dark hours because that is when people would be free and the darkness would veil their faces from the shame they might face.
‘Will you show us the movie today or am I supposed to touch myself seeing the dark screen only?’ shouted another man. His question was followed with a roar of applause and whistling and a lot of creaking noises that the seats gave out. ‘Animals’ Prabhat told himself as he tried setting up the film reel onto the projector. With the click of a button, the movie started projecting and was received with a thundering applause by the audience. The movie went by the name “Adamkhor Haseena” and the plot consisted of a witch who killed men after spending a night with them. The audience were never interested in the story. What attracted them were the exposed bodies of women, the gyrating hips of the dancers, and the shoddy sex scenes that seemed so fake that you could understand the actors were just doing it for the money. If the audience were lucky, they were treated with pornographic movies from South-East Asia where breasts were fully exposed and actual penetration was shown on screen. On those lucky days, most of the audience members would have a happy ending along with the movie.
After switching on the projector, Prabhat took out the newspaper from his cloth bag and started reading it. This was his daily ritual. While the men continued to bark at the screen, he would read a newspaper he bought in the morning. Initially, the dimly lit projector room made it difficult to read, but after connecting an incandescent light bulb in the room, reading had become easier.
Prabhat Pradhan was the forty-year-old manager, usher, and projector man of Swagat Cinema for the past fifteen years. After watching ‘Deewar’ at the age of 20, he decided he was destined to be an actor. He couldn’t become one while staying in his small town, so he decided to run away from his house leaving behind his parents and family to pursue his dream of becoming an ‘angry young man.’ He joined a theatre troupe at first that performed Jatra(Odia theatre) from place to place, but after 2 years of serving as a part of the background dancers, he decided it was time to achieve something more. He left the troupe and headed to the capital city which was the hub for regional cinema. After wandering from place to place and being repeatedly rejected by most of the production houses, Prabhat found Swagat Cinema. Someone showed him the direction to the theatre when he asked about cinema people and on reaching the theatre he thought he could go in and see if they had a job for him. Working at a theatre would magnify his chances of joining the industry he thought. Little did he know how wrong he was.
Ignoring the poster featuring a scantily clad actress, he entered the cinema hall hoping for a job. The manager of the cinema offered him the job of an usher and he happily accepted it. His job was to sell the tickets to the people. The salary was a small figure but Prabhat was happy that he had a start. He found a single room house not far from Swagat Cinema. He felt his dreams were finally ready to fly.
Over the years, his job included putting up posters outside the Cinema, getting the film reels from the cinema center located at the bus stop, handling the projector and when the manager left his job the owner made him the manager of the theatre. It was cheaper for the manager and easier too as Prabhat had gained the owner’s trust over the years.
He had realised that the cinema screened here was not the one which he had dreamt about, but he didn’t want to leave the job either. As he had to work in the evenings only, he would spend the daytime looking around for his big break into cinema. Every day he would face the same result but he never let the hope of him joining the cinema die. After his initial days as an usher, he saved some money and bought a second-hand cycle for himself. The cycle helped him a lot when he had to bring in the film reels.
Over the days, Prabhat’s life became a routine that he followed regularly. His day began with him waking up in the early hours and running off to the railway tracks where he accompanied a lot of other men to give back what Mother Earth had provided to them in the form of food. After a quick bath at the nearest tube-well, he would get ready and cycle to the nearest Shiva temple. After finding out what kind of movies Swagat Cinema screened, he felt it was a sin he was committing to exposing himself as well as others to pornography. So to wash off his sins, he would visit the temple asking Lord Shiva for forgiveness. He knew God would understand that he was doing this only because he had no choice. He would always keep his slippers under someone else’s while entering the temple because he felt there were thieves everywhere. Breakfast for him was a cup of tea. Every Monday he had to take old film reels to the cinema center and would get three new film reels from them. The three film reels were for the three slots of 7-9, 9:30-11:30, and 12-2. After storing the film reels in the projector room, he would go out on his journey of being rejected by various production houses. A lanky fellow, with a narrow face and a flat nose and eyes as good as closed, no one wanted to even cast him as an extra. In spite of the rejections, he never lost heart. ‘A hero always finds a way out’ he would say to himself and ride his cycle back to his workplace.
Continued on Part II.
Now, do you want to find out how Prabhat finds his dream turn into reality? Or, does his fate has other plans for him? Stay tuned for the second and final part of this story!