On a friend’s unfashionable laptop, when DearCinema.com went live, little did I know that my life was about to change! Something that I thought I was doing in my free time, the little that I got from my hectic job, is going to drive me crazy to leave everything behind to start on a journey where no roadmap can be of any help. A road filled with doubts and discoveries, excitement and agonies, apprehensions and re-affirmed faith!
I still wonder why on earth there wasn’t already a DearCinema.com! Had there been one, life would have been much different.
I guess, there come moments of truths in everyone’s life, when one has to get out of the comfort of lies that we weave around ourselves. I was quite a well-to-do, reasonably successful, television journalist and producer, when I suddenly started missing a life I had left behind in a small, cozy film society of Jamshedpur and film libraries of Delhi.
It all started about fourteen years ago in the humble town of Jamshedpur. Amitava Ghosh, an assistant in a national bank entered into the lives of about two dozen young students who were underprivileged compared to any big city boy/girl, yet curious and enthusiastic about changing the world. Mr. Ghosh took them to a film festival and gradually turned them into film society regulars. Dada, as we called him, the founder-general secretary of Celluloid Chapter, a film society in the city, is nothing less than a messiah, who took us to the dark cave where the light of cinema revealed itself.
Ivan Fila’s Lea was the first foreign film that I watched in its 35mm glory. I, along with a friend, went to Dada and told him- the film was beautiful. Dada said- then watch it again. But how? Festival began at 10 am, so come at 8 and go and request Bapi, the projectionist yourself. Bapi da had only one condition-you’ll have to help wind the reels. So we had two such exclusive screenings of the film. Such was life back then!
Soon, I met Vidyarthee Chatterjee, who came to our college to show us Sushant Misra’s Indradhanura Chhai! This is how I met Vidyarthee da. When I saw Luis Bunuel’s The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, I had sleepless nights. My restlessness took me to Vidyarthee da’s home, where I found solace. Dada knew everything about every single film on earth, this is what an eighteen year old believed.
It grew into a ritual later. The auditorium followed by a walk through jubilee park to Dada’s house. Jhal Mudhi was my companion while I listened to dada. One film that dada often talked about but I couldn’t find it anywhere was Jiri Menzel’s Closely Watched Trains.
That was not a time when torrent or even DVDs had arrived. I often thought, will I ever be able to watch all the films I heard about from Dada? Honestly it looked impossible!
Later, when I moved to Delhi, I discovered a great place called “French Culture and Resource Centre”. Nothing less than a heaven on earth! What a collection!! But how do I watch it, I needed a VCR or VCP to watch the VHS cassettes! The legacy of Pundit Nehru came to my rescue. Without knowing much about it, I applied for Jawahar Bhavan Trust Scholarship and got it. I did the best thing with the money, I bought a VCR! Even the shopkeeper in Gafar Market, Karolbagh advised against buying a VCR and said DVD is the future but what I had my eyes set on was a treasure of world cinema!
Mumbai is a much different city. Sarovodaya Video Library could very well be mistaken for a Gandhian institution. A place where I could finally catch hold of “Closely Watched Trains” and felt as if I’ve won over my limitations! The place has a much bigger collection than any film library I’ve come across in the country! Yet, it’s a private enterprise that could very well be illegal!
My angel in the city was a red-orange haired gentleman “Rajan”. His bag is what I envied the most and always wished someday I’ll have every single title that he hides in the bag. Those who know him love him and those who don’t, can mail me for his number. He’s one man who can get you literally any film under the sun. You will never know, he might very well be behind the bars on the charges of piracy. The man who could bring to your home a classic like “Pickpocket” or latest Oscar nominee like “King’s Speech” instantly!
The only competition Rajan faced for me is from torrent! See, what technology can do? How it can put me at par with the most fortunate in the world, those who gave me a complex by owning Criterion collection! The films those I always wondered, if I ever will be able to watch, lie in my hard-disk.
I won’t like to take any undue credit for shaping DearCinema or giving it a direction! The site has given a direction to my life. It got me out of a mundane and meaningless life that I lived. I met many great scholars and writers on cinema. I feel indebted to the four-year old baby that’s DearCinema.com today!
Happy birthday to you DearCinema!!