Monday, December 31, 2007

Cinema Halls of India

has a long association with cinema. The first Indian feature film was made in 1899. Today Bollywood is one of the largest film producers in the world, producing more than 1,000 films a year, with an audience of 3.6 billion people. In the 1980s with the advent of home video, cinema halls went through a period of lull in India. Many theatres closed down. The turn of the century saw a come back of cinema halls, this time with smaller halls and multiple screens catering to the ‘globalised’ consuming middle class.

In the Indian cities the old cinema halls are being converted into multiplexes which look the same whether in India or anywhere else in the world. The old cinema halls, some of which still exist, have a distinct character to them. These spaces tell of aesthetics which are local, often stating the owner’s taste. The employees of the old theatres have a personality of their own unlike the corporate executives at the multiplexes.

I found the old cinema hall spaces particularly evocative of time and changing culture. But their conversion into swanky multiplexes or commercial complexes is only a matter of time. As these spaces will leap into the digital world the trivia around will change. I am documenting these spaces before they become a thing of the past. This is an ongoing project.

This documentation was partly supported by the fellowship awarded by SARAI, Centre for Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), Delhi. I am holding an exhibition of a series of 16 Cinema hall photographs in the FLATFILE Gallery, Chicago in 2008, January.

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