Gallery: India’s traveling ‘talkies,’ a dying cinematic icon
As Bollywood divas gyrate to a raunchy dance number, hollow giggles can be heard coming from a group of elderly men huddled together.
Children exchange smiles as a roar of excitement erupts from a group of young men.
It's a common scene inside India's famed touring “talkie” tents -- temporary cinemas pitched on large, dusty festival grounds.
I recently spent a month traveling across the Indian state of Maharashtra -- the birthplace of Bollywood -- on a battered green truck assembled from parts found in various garages.
But it’s not the truck's appearance that's noteworthy. It's what's inside that transports villagers to the glitzy world of Indian cinema, which this month celebrates its 100th anniversary.
Plastered with movie posters, the truck has been fitted with two 1930s-era projectors, perched parallel to one other. Canisters of 35mm film are scattered around the floor.
Pilgrims, visitors and local villagers look forward to these annual talkie visits -- it's the closest many will ever get to an actual cinema.
An array of movies are shown, including the latest Bollywood hits, regional and religious films and even Hollywood blockbusters dubbed in Hindi or Marathi.
Dying cinematic experience
Once an integral part of the state of Maharashtra's rural village culture and a common fixture at religious fairs (jatras), the traveling talkie industry is today on the brink of collapse.
"The concept of watching movies in a tent no longer appeals to audiences in the drought-ridden state’s villages," said a recent article on the website Bollywood Life. "(People) prefer cable TV or DVDs at home."
Though opportunities to view a movie in a rural Indian tent are becoming rare, travelers can still visit Maharashtra's jatras for a taste of this dying cinematic experience.
These include festivals in villages such as Deulgaon Raja, not far from the city of Aurangabad; Shikhar Shingnapur in southwest Maharashtra; and Pusegaon in Maharashtra's Satara district.
Those heading to this month's Cannes Film Festival can check out the next best thing. Among scheduled screenings is the new release, "Bombay Talkies," produced in honor of Bollywood's 100 years in film.
The movie features four short stories by four Indian filmmakers -- Karan Johar, Zoya Akhtar, Anurag Kashyap and Dibakar Banerjee.
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