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Movie Memories-9: Gaiety-Galaxy, Akele Hum Akele Tum & tickets in black! by Sharad Raj

Gaiety-Galaxy complex in Bandra, Mumbai

The maternal side of my family was steeped in movie watching, entertainment news and gossip columns of the erstwhile Stardust and Star & Style. And they were all well placed professionals, yet. Going for a movie was a Saturday ritual in our family, either as an independent unit or with friends and extended family members, whatever the case maybe. It was sacrosanct. Bollywood entertainers were an integral part of my life long before Ray and Ghatak entered my life. Godard and Fellini were unheard of, Hollywood was the epitome of good cinema, with Jaws, The Great Escape and Towering Inferno being benchmarks of what a good movie should ideally be. Of course, certain Charlie Chaplin and Alfred Hitchcock were considered a class apart, far away from weekend entertainers, one was used to. Hence my entrée into moviedom can be considered a genetically loaded trait that I inherited from my nansaal(maternal side).


My poor father steeped in Keats and Ghalib had to make peace with this movie mania of his in-laws for the love for his wife, my mother. Dad was at the helm of a very successful medical practice, hence well connected and influential. So, booking tickets for a movie was never an insurmountable chore for us. He would pick up the phone, call the movie hall, speak with the manager and our tickets were kept at his office for us to pay and pick. Always pay for the tickets and NEVER buy one in black, were his commands that we would dare not challenge. So up until 1995, I had never bought a movie ticket in black!


Then Mumbai (Bombay, back then) happened and with that I got married soon after. My wife and I started our lives on frugal remuneration. Movie-going was not so frequent as affording a ticket every weekend was difficult. To add to that it was impossible to get movie tickets in Mumbai in current booking unless the film was a big flop. Both she and I had never bought tickets in black. It was highly impractical to go to a theatre, once to stand in a que and buy tickets and then go again to see a film. Cost apart our work schedule did not permit us that luxury. Mind you those were pre-internet, pre-cell phones and pre-multiplex days.


Then in 1995 came the Amir Khan, Manisha Koirala starer, Akele Hum Akele Tum directed by Mansoor Khan.The unofficial remake of Kramer vs Kramer starring Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep. This was a huge reference point and one was keen to see what Mansoor Khan after two immensely successful films, Qayamat se Qayamat Tak and Jo Jita Wahi Sikander had done to this popular Hollywood film.


My wife and I made the Akele Hum Akele Tum plan for a Saturday evening at the suburban Mecca of movies the Gaiety-Galaxy-Gemini complex, off S.V. Road, in Bandra, a posh Mumbai suburb. The dinner at a humble restaurant was factored in and we decided to take an auto rickshaw that evening to the movie instead of BEST bus, to add to our luxury. We had no advance booking but took a chance. Lo and behold we were disappointed. Tickets were sold out! We were put off, as we were keen to see the film. It was then that I mooted the idea of buying tickets in black! What followed was a long silence of contemplation and the dilemma of choice. My wife too had never had to buy tickets in black and was brought up on similar principals. However, more practical of the two my wife started to calculate the cost of coming to see the film on another day.


The cost of travelling by an auto rickshaw and a meal in a restaurant second time in a month were costlier than buying two tickets in black for Rs. 220/-!!! Returning home without seeing the film meant it would ruin my Sunday. My wife knew that. She was not much of a movie buff so it did not matter to her as much. I pressed the cost angle to her. Coming again to see the film in fair price was a luxury she agreed, so what did we do? We decided to buy the tickets in black!!! Practical economics had shattered the combined upbringing of my wife and mine.


As luck would have it, it turned out to be a bad film and rued the fact that we compromised for such a forgettable film and returned home well past midnight disappointed and disturbed, in silence. We both had allowed the high cost of living in Mumbai to overpower and influence our decision. And took us  awhile to tell our folks that we had watched a film by buying tickets in black!


The shackles of bourgeoise morality were broken and that evening started my long-lasting friendship with the gate keeper, (as the me guarding the doors of the theater were then called) of Gaiety-Galaxy. I never even tried to book a ticket thereafter and with great confidence started to go to Gaiety-Galaxy, say high to him and he would take me in to the manager’s cabin and give me the tickets!


The films to follow Akele Hum Akele Tum were Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Mission Kashmir and Pyar Toh Hona Hi Tha!

Sharad Raj is a Mumbai based filmmaker, faculty & Editor of Just Cinema.

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