The new Udayan Express having failed to catch my fancy – for me it was merely a couple of unreserved second class general compartments to be tacked on to the Chennai – Mumbai Janata Express at Guntakal, I decided to take a bus – I beg your pardon – I mean a video coach to Mumbai and that explains succinctly why a splitting migraine headache has become an inseparable part of my life.
The video coach I boarded in Bangalore’s busy Majestic centre was the last word in luxury – plush push – back seats, red carpeted aisles, air conditioned interiors and of course, the LCD colour TV at a rakish angle on a rack above the driver’s cabin.
The driver, aided and abetted by a conductor and movie hungry passengers switched on the VCR even as the coach was at the outskirts of Bangalore and would you believe that he switched it off only the next morning when we stopped at King’s Circle in Mumbai?
|I had to pinch myself to make sure that I was indeed travelling to Mumbai in an omnibus and not attending the technical sessions of a snooty Film Appreciation Society|
In between, I was the (un) willing audience of no less than 6 full – length, U/A certified Hindi feature films. The first movie to go on was Andhaa Kanoon and a loud groan ripped through the coach. “Oh no,” grumbled the chap sitting next to me, “I’ve seen it in a clarity premiere and it’s a big disappointment. Amitabh Bacchan as the angry middle aged lawyer defending the underdog is like the proverbial curate’s egg, good in parts, but Reena Roy’s cabaret sequences are scintillating. Laxmikant - Pyarelal’s music score and Indivar’s dialogues deserve no mention.” It was heart warming that my ticket entitled me to free, frank and healthy film criticism.
The passenger in seat number 47 on the left aisle called out angrily, “Hey conductor, I demand to know why Andhaa Kanoon is being screened.Your booking clerk had specifically assured me that Manthan was to be shown and I particularly wanted to see this new wave art movie and judge for myself whether Mahesh Bhatt deserved the Filmfare award for best direction.” “I’m sorry sir,” apologized the conductor, “but pirated video prints of Manthan are yet to reach us.”
Even as these scholarly exchanges were underway, I had to pinch myself to make sure that I was indeed travelling to Mumbai in an omnibus and not attending the technical sessions of a snooty Film Appreciation Society or of the 11th Indian International Film Festival.
As the coach arrived in Kolhapur, Ek duje ke liye was ready to be shown and an animated discussion filled the coach. Would Rati Agnihotri upstage Jayapradha and Sri Devi and get the break in the big bad world of Bollywood? The passengers had done their homework all right by honing up on the latest issue of Picture Post. The next movie on the menu was Do Joot and the chap in the next seat was all excited. “Moushumi Chaterjee in a light cameo role is fantastic with Raj Kapoor putting in a great appearance,” and he proceeded to narrate the entire story, leaving no detail behind thus adding to my throbbing headache.
As the coach left Pune on the last leg of its journey, two more feature films were yet to be screened and to paraphrase the late Robert Frist, “I had miles and miles to go and many more pirated video films to watch before I could sleep.”
Video Coach? No, thank you, I would rather take the State Transport bone – rattler any time.
By S. Raghunath
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