Cinema in urban underbelly

Pooja Jain
Bombay,India – July 2017. Audience seated within a darkened picture house.

Cinema in urban underbelly
by Pooja Jain

Cinema in India gained popularity as a form of entertainment during the early twentieth century. Audience members response to the film may be effected by their own culture upbringing or personal experiences such as religion, city or political standing. It is more than simple escapism.

Illegal video parlours in the underbelly of Bombay function with poor infrastructure, sometimes using cheap video projectors, and often manage with a mere TV set. The tickets cost between 0.31$ and 0.76$. These cinema halls are dominated by men of the lower social order, mostly migrants.The single screens are losing out to multiplexes by improving the movie watching experience. Daily wagers have to accept dependency in order to get work, housing and an identity in the urban setting.  In most cases, labour contractors hire the migrant workers who are brought to the city to work on daily wages within an irregular work flow. Each morning they gather and wait for contractors to come and tell them their place of work, which changes everyday. Most of the migrants live in clan based clusters. These shanty cinema halls show films in their native languages like Tamil, Punjabi,Bhojpuri and telugu. It gives a sense of belonging to a community. Big hollywood films are dubbed into Tamil and Telugu regularly.

The cinema exhibition centre also functions as an entertainment house, temporary shelter and a waiting zone to get work for daily wage work. Audiences can always be found at the front, stressing their identity and sentiments in dance, songs, and other ways. These cinema halls live in constant fear of eviction by the municipality. Where does that leave the marginalised groups and the weaker sections of society? Is there another way of going to the movies ? By letting oneself be fascinated by twice over by the image and its surroundings.

Pooja Jain
the authorPooja Jain
Pooja Jain (b.1986), is a Photographer based in Bombay,India.


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