When my family shifted to Guwahati in 2002, Hindi movies were just pouring down on me. Guwahati seemed like the Land of Bollywood because of all the posters – something I hadn’t seen back in Imphal, or all of Manipur. To me, at least, it was the Mecca of Bollywood. From morning till night, I was exposed to some sort of Hindi entertainment. The landlord used to play old Hindi songs on his radio. I think he used to carry it with him, because I could hear the sound moving around in his flat. In the school bus, the driver used to play funky Hindi songs and in school, all my classmates and friends would be discussing Hindi films actors and whatnot.
One day my father took us to watch Kal Ho Na Ho. That was the first time I watched a Hindi movie in Guwahati, in a theatre. I was fascinated by Shah Rukh Khan. The movie was so emotional that I cried, which is perfectly okay because it was a sad movie and I was a kid. Soon after that, my sister and I became crazy Shah Rukh Khan fans. I used to collect posters of him and would draw pictures of him and paste it on the doors. I feel kind of weird when I recall those days. I mean, it was not an actress but an actor with whom I was obsessed. Why was I not fascinated by Preity Zinta or Sushmita Sen or Aishwarya Rai?
Our family used to go and watch a film every week (mostly Hindi films) until my father realised the awkwardness of watching new-generation-movies with me and my sister. He probably realised after we encountered the sex scene between Saif Ali Khan and Preity Zinta in Salaam Namaste. We all felt really awkward. I remember my mother telling me to close my eyes if such scenes come up again. But I didn’t close my eyes, I only pretended. There were a lot of awkward moments after watching the movie. My mother told my father to not take us to watch such movies as it would have bad impressions on us, the kids. We still continued with our tradition of watching movies every week even after that. But, the last movie we all watched as a family in the theatre was Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna. My sister really insisted on watching that film because Shah Rukh Khan was there. There also, it was the same scenario as Salaam Namaste. My mother kept telling me not to watch when the scenes came. I felt like laughing. And that was the full stop to our family movie outing.
With the family out of the picture, it was my friends’ turn to accompany me for movies. And that was when I found my freedom, the freedom to do whatever I want without letting my parents know. It is not a good thing to do but I was at an age where everything fascinated me and made me want to try or do or watch anything that came my way. My friends and I started going to these really shady theatres. The movies we watched here were mostly Bhojpuri and Bengali. Watching a Bhojpuri film is very addictive. It makes you want to speak Bhojpuri all day long. I used to keep using lines like “Ka re babua?” or “Tension na lo, kono baat nahi.”
Even though we watched shady movies once in a while, mainstream Bollywood movies were the ones for which we bunked school and coaching classes. We bunked school because morning shows were the cheapest and we had time till late afternoon to share a drink and discuss the movie. I was never caught bunking, not even once. At this point I would like to say that I am not proud of whatever I did but we were all teenagers and everyone goes through that phase.
We had a Bihari friend who was sort of the main guy behind our plans because he was a professional in all this planning and stuff. He would get movie schedules, tickets and bikes. The day Dabaang was released, half of our classmates didn’t go to school. But, my friends and I came to school, and then left to go for the movie. We went to the cheapest theatre in the city called Meghdoot. Rats used to run around inside the theatre. But we were all okay with it. Some forty or fifty students of our school were there. We all acted like it was a reunion party. Inside the theatre we were sitting with our shirts unbuttoned, like some gundas. We took off our shirts and were dancing when the song Munni Badnaam Hui came.
Movies like Dabaang heavily influenced me. It kind of shaped my entire personality. The way I talk, the way I behave, my clothing, everything kind of changed. That was when I realised how a reel life can change your real life. Then, just when I was getting back to my real self, Gangs of Wasseypur arrived that made me a huge fan of that style of movie. The movie had a huge effect on my vocabulary. It seemed kind of cool to speak in Hindi and use that typical Bihari accent. My friends and I back in Guwahati used to talk to each other using the dialogues of the film. We never got bored of the film. “Ey salla Hindustan me jab tak sanimaa hai, log ch***ya baante rehenge.” This dialogue is from the movie and dialogues like these make it impossible to forget the film. And also, that was the movie which turned me into a big Nawazuddin Siddiqui fan.
Now, I am here in Bangalore and it is sad that my love for Hindi movies has been affected because of many reasons. I don’t have friends who enjoy the same passion for Bollywood and, moreover, local cheap theatres don’t show Bollywood movies. Multiplexes are a no-no to me for Hindi movies. I don’t know why but I enjoy watching Hindi movies in cheap theatres. Probably because my friends and I have always preferred cheap theatres back in Guwahati.