Growing up as a teenager in Jamshedpur was hardly an interesting proposition. I am talking about late 70’s when there was no TV, just an old Murphy radio (valves and all) on which we would listen to Radio Ceylon. The eight pm slot on Wednesday was keenly awaited the whole week when the magician Amin Sayani would cast his spell. We would crouch next to the radio set with pen and paper listing the sixteen songs as they were played in the count down program. The radio volume being inversely proportional to the nearness of the forthcoming tests/ exams. No local newspaper, the print media revolution in small town India happened decades later (we used to get Calcutta’s daily, The Statesman, delivered home in the evenings.). The only PC I knew of was a guy in the neighborhood, Pradeep Chatterjee. So no computer games and of course no internet. Evening entertainment was limited to cricket in the neighborhood rocky patch (admiringly called the “field”) where we would fancy ourselves to be the local Bedis and Vishwanaths! No Pizza Huts or Coffee Days, but an occasional furtive visit to the local “hotel” (for some reason these ramshackle hole-in-the-wall eateries were all called “hotels”) for some hot singharas and a cup of tea.
And then I discovered the joys of cinema. Jamshedpur then boasted of five cinema halls in the city and a couple outside the city. And one of the halls was air-conditioned as well! It is not that I had not seen movies before, but these were largely limited to once a year, at the end of the final exams. Or if I was lucky to convince my parents, another at the end of the half-year examination. And I submitted myself to the joys of the silver screen. A burly sardar classmate of mine, SS, was the partner in crime. S was a quiet sort of a chap deeply devoted to all things non-academic (which used to be a bit of an embarrassment for me, a reasonably good student, at times) and always willing to join up for a movie.