I love watching movies. Always have, for as long as I remember. I can watch any movie and enjoy it except for the ghost movies and some stupid superhero flicks.
When I was growing up in the late eighties and early nineties, Bollywood was probably going through its worst phase. The super heroes of Hindi cinema were getting older and to hold on to their careers they were starring in senseless potboilers peppered with mind-numbing action and stupid songs with pathetic dance sequences.
But I loved them. Growing up in a small town called Mughal Sarai near Varanasi, that was all you got those days. Cable television had yet to arrive so the two standalone cinema halls in the town were the only places of entertainment.
But even that was an occasional event. For, a 12-year-old kid wouldn’t be allowed to go for a movie alone or even with friends, you had to go with someone older than you. For me and my brother our uncle, who was twice my age, used to be our only hope.
Provided, he was in the mood to tag us along for a movie. And that happened only perhaps once in two or three months. So we had no option but to for the Sunday evening movies on Doordarshan even though they played old flicks from the sixties and seventies.
The most exciting parts of course were the action sequences that unfortunately came only in the last 20 mins when the hero would beat the villain to pulp and police would come only to say “you’re under arrest” to the villain who was by then half dead.
Slowly word started spreading that there was something called cable TV and if you got connection you could see as many movies as you like. I was told that there were channels that showed only movies throughout the day. And you even had English movie channels that showed movies of Hollywood stars you had only heard or read about.
Wow! That sounded so cool. Names like Stallone, Bruce Lee and Schwarzenegger (Arnold’s name I had heard for the first time from a friend who was bragging about having seen a movie called Terminator in Calcutta. But he couldn’t catch the last name and called him ‘Swizenberger’ ) were filtering in through the grapevine. We couldn’t wait to get the cable connection.
But my parents obviously did not share our excitement. “Cable TV? Your board exams are only six months away,” my mother said, effectively putting an end to the conversation. However, there was a silver lining when after days of pleading she said, “Let your exams get over and if you score well, then we’ll see.”
That was enough motivation to take to studies with a religious zeal. Months passed, exams came and went, I did well despite many odds (a story for another time).
Then came the day we got our cable connection. A dream was fulfilled. Now I could see as many movies as I liked. But alas the Hollywood action flicks I used to dream about were not being shown. I checked the listings in the newspapers everyday and both Hindi & English channels were churning out duds (by my standards because they were not action flicks).
Finally after a few weeks I caught my first Bruce Lee film — “Enter the Dragon”. And my idea of an action film changed forever. Now all the punches of an ageing Dharmendra or Mithun Chakraborty couldn’t hold my attention. I had seen Lee in action.
Then one after the other came Rambo, Terminator, 36 Chambers of Shaolin the list was endless. Some I caught on TV some and on video cassettes (by then the only video shop in town was beginning to stock Hollywood flicks).
Years passed and I graduated to watching serious cinema both in Indian languages and world movies, but even now I feel as excited watching the reruns of those fantastic action flicks that blew me away from watching the tame stuff dished out by Bollywood.