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The Film Show

BY SIVA GOPAL OJHA

It was too ambitious a thing for a boy of eight to organize a film show, and a feature film at that. The story relates to a boy who attempted this some fifty years ago.

Raju was a student of Class III then. He, along with his inseparable friend Saroj, was very curious to know how films were screened. One lonely afternoon, Raju and Saroj strayed from school during Tiffin hours to the local theatre nearby. The matinee show had just begun. No, they were not interested in enjoying a film show. It was too mean an objective for an innovative duo such as Raju and Saroj.

What they wanted to know was how a show was conducted. Both the boys, carrying their school bags, tiptoed to the projection room on the first floor of the hall and found the door unlocked from inside. As they entered the room, nothing was visible in the beginning except for the running projector. They could also hear the projector’s crackling sound and could see a beam of fluctuating light emerging from it and falling on the screen placed at the farthest end of the hall. There was no one in the projector room. They shut the door behind them and stood silently like two shadows.

Raju was surprised that there was no one inside. The machine was running on its own. The reel at the top was rotating very slowly while the one at the bottom was whirling faster. The show had just started. The film entered the machine at the top and returned to the lower reel following a circuitous route through the machine. Raju observed everything minutely. An identical machine was standing adjacent to the running one. There were reels mounted on that too. But it was idle.

The two boys were watching the proceedings with curiosity. There were several small openings on the wall of the projector room, and through one of them the beam of dancing light from the projector was released. The beam grew wider and taller as it traversed across the length of the auditorium before finally stopping at the screen. A dance sequence was being screened with a hit song in accompaniment. The boys peeped through two holes on the wall. To their surprise they could watch the movie and listen to every thing that was going on.

Their glee was short lived as the door opened behind them and a burly man edged past the door. He was furious to find two young intruders inside. Raju told him that he wanted to find out how a film was screened. The man, obviously the operator and in charge of the place, uttered some chilling words in a low husky voice and scared the boys away.

But Raju was a quick learner and had learnt by that time the tricks of the trade. What were required to screen a film were just some simple gadgets.

“Very simple, Saroj. I need only two things to organize a film show.”

“And what are those things?”

“Can you go to that projector room again and ask the operator to part with some rejected films? I saw some torn pieces lying on the floor of the projector room. The operator might throw them anyway.”

“Why will he give them to me? He may even ask for some money.”

“Give him two annas.

Thus saying Raju gave Saroj a two-anna coin, which his mother had given him as pocket money for the day. A beaming Saroj came back in no time with a heap of coiled films that kept slipping from his hands. They were so curly that it was difficult to straighten them up for viewing against light. The two friends were viewing the small lengths of films holding them against the afternoon sun. What was surprising was that the same person featured in every slot for innumerable times. Seeing this, Raju said to Saroj:

“That operator has deceived you, Saroj. See? The same picture appears again and again.”

“True. There should be different pictures in each slot. Isn’t it?”

“Anyway, now you get me a big torch.”

“What will you do with that?”

“Didn’t you notice that the machine was beaming out light and the picture appeared on the screen?”

“My uncle has a long flashlight with five cells inside. Will it do?”

“Bring it to school tomorrow. We will arrange a film show in the Tiffin hours. But don’t tell the class yet. We will surprise them tomorrow.”

Both the boys reappeared in school just in time after the recess to join the other boys. Nobody noticed that they went missing for the duration of the Tiffin recess.

The next day, Saroj brought the big torch hidden in his school bag. Raju carefully retained the torn pieces of film. The periods before lunch seemed endless to the two. Only once, in between the periods, Saroj asked:

“What about the screen?”

“You fool! Can’t you see the blackboard?”

“But the screen in the hall was white.”

“Doesn’t matter. The film is in black and white. On a blackboard you will see the reverse. Black hair will look white and vice versa. Don’t you understand this much, you fool?”

So the remaining hurdle of the screen was also resolved. As soon as the school bell sounded to announce Tiffin hour and the teacher left the classroom, Raju quickly closed the door and announced the film show.

Class III students could not ask for more. They forgot to open their Tiffin boxes and remained seated. They thought that Raju was exceptionally brilliant. He could do almost anything. Raju declared:

“Absolute silence please. If you shout, our teacher will come back and spoil our show. Saroj, come here. Hold the film in the same manner that the machine was holding it. I shall flash the torchlight on and off. Boys, look at the blackboard. You will now enjoy a dance sequence by Meena Kumari. I could not arrange a sound box. So I shall give a running commentary for your benefit.”

The boys sat patiently with their eyes glued to the blackboard. Raju flashed the torch as Saroj held the film in front of it. But nothing happened. Only a glimmer of light descended on the blackboard with a faint suggestion of a picture. Gradually the glimmer of hope disappeared from the boys’ faces. But Raju was still confident. He thought that only focusing had to be adjusted. Throughout the recess he tried to do that with due assistance from Saroj.

Time melted away slowly and the recess was over. This time the teacher appeared in the doorway. It took him a few minutes to understand what was happening. But unlike the operator of yesterday, he did not rebuke the boys. On the contrary he praised Raju’s efforts and encouraged him, saying that one day Raju would succeed in whatever profession he chooses to adopt in the course of his life. Raju could not believe his ears. His failure so far now induced tears and he started sobbing. The compassionate hand of the teacher was now on his head.

Today Raju is a renowned filmmaker of the country.

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Reviews:

Hi, Mr. Ojha. This story in my opinion is an average writing. I couldn’t get the fun of reading a short story from it. It’s only like some news which we read in newspapers. According to Rabindranath Tagore, a short story must have some mystery to unfold which leads the reader to imagine. This imagination connects the writer and the reader and the character of the story becomes realistic. Here in this story there is lack of reality as well - the theatre was empty! No one was there! It is absurd!                                                                                                                                                                                                     Moumita Dutta  6/6/07

Mr Ojha’s Response:

Dear Ms Moumita Dutta, Perhaps you'll do justice to yourself if you read the text thoroughly again. The theatre wasn't unoccupied. In fact matinee film show was going on there in the afternoon when the boys went there. The projection room, which is above the auditorium was temporarily deserted, though one projector was running and the other was on waiting. This was the usual procedure in theatres before the advent of multimedia projectors.
The operator went out temporarily, came back in minutes and discovered the two boys.

Regarding definition of a short story, it won't be out of place to mention that even when a short story ends, the reader tends to believe that it's still not over.
Thanks for commenting.
                                                                                                   Siva Gopal Ojha  6/8/07

 

 

Other works by Siva Gopal Ojha:

Short stories:

Essay:

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