Popcorn for Breakfast!

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!

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First Morning Show in 32 years (certainly derserves a selfie)!

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!

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Nostalgic about these Evergreen Black & Whites @ Meera Talkies!

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!

 

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Author: Yash

I immigrated to the US in 1983 from India. I feel that I have been here long enough to not be called FOB (Fresh-off-the-Boat) by my kids. But I guess they seem to have some other standards which involve pronouncing words like "Vote" ,"Vending" and "Video" properly - which I guess I will never achieve (because of my 21 years in India) - so, I am going to pass myself as that Indian with an "exotic" accent!! My interests : writing - Just realized that most of my work so far has been Nostalgia-centric. I enjoy this genre and feel it's an un-ending well that I can draw from. As a matter of fact, this right here is fresh nostalgia for 10 years down the road!! (-: golf - I am terrible at it and it's a damn frustrating game, but I still love it ("painful pleasure"). One of these days I will actually take lessons so that I wont embarrass myself too much on the golf course. As long as there are golf courses around here (with low standards) that would allow me to play - I will play and enjoy golf!! tv - I love "The Daily Show" with John Stewart , "ColbertNation" with Stephen Colbert and "Real Time with Bill Maher". These shows are brilliant and they probably have the best writers in the business. On the Daily Show - my favorites are Jon Oliver and Aasif Mandvi along with some vintage Colbert doing the "This Week in God" segment. music - I am a huge fan of Shakti (John McLaughlin, Zakir Hussain, Vinayakram, L.Shankar) as well as their later avatar - "Remember Shakti" (John McLaughlin, Zakir Hussain, Selva Ganesh, Mandolin Sreenivas, Shankar Mahadevan). Thoroughly enjoyed the two live concerts that I attended of this fusion group. I enjoy Hindustani and Carnatic classical instrumental music. youtube - YouTube has an unbelievable amount of entertainment from which you can draw your specific narrow niche!! In my case - these areas happen to be - street foods from various parts of the world, Indian classical music, debates about religion & belief, Indian Classical Music played by non Indian (e.g. Ukrainians doing wonderful Bharatanatyam, a French lady performing amazingly in a Carnatic Concert, a Chinese lady teaching Bharatanatyam in China etc.)

10 thoughts on “Popcorn for Breakfast!”

  1. Excellent…as usual Yash. You are a very good writer. You have stirred old memories…..the things we experienced during the 70s and the early 80’s. watching the devotional midnight movies on SHIVARATHRI was a unique experience in itself.
    Deccan chronicle continues to provide the details of the morning shows in various theaters of Hyderabad even after 40 years…..!

    1. Thanks a lot Srinivas Rao! Appreciate your feedback.

      Checking the cinema/movie pages of Deccan Chronicle was such a tradition in Hyderabad that a lot of people subscribed to it just for that (and subscribed to The Hindu or Eenaadu for the news)!

  2. Loved reading your blog…took me down the memory lane. My parents wouldn’t let us watch movies unless it was animal centered like Haathi mere Sathi, or old black and white movies. We used to go to morning shows at Meera Talkies (I think) to watch old Telugu movies. When we got to the theater we’d find a row of slippers. The house wives would would show up 10 min before the ticket counter opened. You couldn’t jump ahead in the line as they remembered exactly where they had left their slippers. Fun times.

    1. Suhasini – I am glad this blog helped bring back memories of childhood days in Hyderabad! I remember the times when the ladies line would be shorter and the guys would therefore request/beg the women to buy the tickets for them! I also remember the ticketing counter being shut in my face with a “House Full” sign!

  3. Nice blog, Yashodhar. Yes, definitely stirred up memories. We usually went to second show after dad returned from work That too after having dinner in a restaurant. We invariably got late to the movie. Morning shows were only from school. Once with my beloved, late grandmother to ‘Bhakta Tukaram’. That day is still vivid, we went in an rickshaw to a cinema in old city, cant remember the name.

  4. Appreciate your feedback for the blog! Thanks for sharing your memories here. One time when I was in 5th grade, 6 of us went to a movie along with my friend’s uncle (the chaperone) in one rickshaw (manual one, not the autorickshaw)! It was James Bond’s “Dr No” in Lighthouse theater! Even after 40 years these memories are extremely vivid!

  5. Excellent write up! Thanks for your blogs! Brought back a sweet memory with my late, lovely grandma. I travelled to ponnur with my grandma and forced her to watch ‘Devatha’ morning show in subbaraya theaters. I also got samosa and a cool drink during intermission which is special in those days. She talked about our trip and movie together to others in the village for a long time and I believe right after that she was diagnosed with cancer😢

    1. Thanks for your kind feedback! I am happy that this blog of mine enabled your to take that trip down memory lane! I do remember watching a couple of old Telugu black and whites in “Subbaraya Picture Palace” when we went to the village for summer holidays! In some of those village theaters there used to be several categories of seating. The cheapest one was sitting on the floor and then the next highest was on wooden benches.. then regular chairs etc..

  6. Dear Babji,your narration is as usual captivating.you have linked so many issues that arouse the memories of the readers as well. Vidya linked her lessons in economics!! Pl keep writing often.

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