Cinema and Hyderabad: From the 60’s to the present

“The End”. For Telugu films the end freeze was “Subham”. Which signified anything but ‘Finis’; more an auspicious beginning. Probably why Hyderabad’s love affair with films never ends.

The silver screen often had a black screen facing it; the zanana section. Even the most conservative had to visit the cinemas. Theatres were named ‘Picture House’ unambiguously or ‘Lighthouse’ ambitiously. Whatever the language, the projector’s beacon always beckoned. One dropped anchor at Secunderabad for a Hollywood shore-pass. Abids and Nampally sang like Sirens, ‘Aaja Re..’, luring audience to the bedrock of Hindi Cinema. Ranigunj and Narayanguda had Telugu ruling the film waves from Madras.

Interval. Those were the days of premium-priced Premier shows on the eve of a film’s release. Much coveted. Of flaring bell-bottoms and wiggling belle-bottoms. As much coveted. Of ‘morning’ shows at 12 noon and later (even for addictive indulgence Hyderabad displays habitual indolence). The glory days of florid hand-painted hoardings that enraptured and ensnared (the most stunning flashed a dual signature: Ambaji-Prabhakar). This bridge between the two halves, past and present, popped and crackled spectacularly like corn. And the mela of Telugu cinema was unleashed at RTC Crossroads — the Big Top where over-the-top celebrations of a film’s release were daytime Diwali.

The Beginning. Of bigger seats, better sound, brighter projection. Of heightened film experience and straitened pockets. Multi-cineplexes emerge. And multiplicate. Some miss the crisp chota samosas and Sangeet’s chutney sandwiches. But the story continues; the passion undiminished, the end nowhere in sight. Subham.

(This piece was written for The 2012 diary of Daily Hindi Milap. A painstakingly produced diary whose theme was the history of Telugu cinema)

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