Deepika Sorabjee: Mumbai, not as cinema-friendly as you would expect

Deepika Sorabjee: Mumbai, not as cinema-friendly as you would expect

India's film capital doesn't have one permanent repertory theater. Get outta town?!

Deepika SorabjeeWith more than 100,000 attendees, the recently concluded Mumbai Film Festival proved this city has not just a taste but an appetite for world cinema, documentaries and indie Indian cinema -- besides mainstream Hollywood and Bollywood movies. 

Yet the festival comes once a year -- a long time for a film enthusiast to wait to catch up on the year’s alternate cinema releases.

More on CNNGo: 2011 Mumbai Film Festival made simple

It’s precisely the reason why the Prince Charles Theatre in London is one of my favorite cinema houses in the world.

Prince Charles is a repertory cinema -- a cinema that shows older classics and noteworthy current or older alternative films. The shows during the day have no repeats, each show timing has a different movie, though there may be repeats during that week.

A membership is encouraged. For an annual fee one gets discounted tickets through the year.

Manhattan has its Film Forum, among others. Eurospace and Cinema Rise and several more exist in Tokyo -- city that is mad about cinema, just as you could say ours is.

But Mumbai has no theater of the sort.

Akashwani was one such Mumbai cinema in the 1970s and 1980s, to be found in a leafy lane by the LIC building at Churchgate.

It was a time when art house cinema in the city was catching on and it found an audience. Unfortunately, for reasons unknown it shut in the late 1980s.

Understandably, the advent of video rentals and then DVDs meant increasing access to such movies.

More recently in 2010, the Goethe Institute and the Max Mueller Bhavan ran public screenings of a cinema program by Majlis and used the charming, anachronistic, Edward Theatre in Kalbadevi to host a series of art films.

More on CNNGo: Art movies at Mumbai's old Edward Theatre

This triggered Enlighten Films to hold the Naya Cinema Festival at the same venue. For a few days, the theater functioned as a repertory cinema and it only underlined the lack of a serious dedicated cinema of its kind in the city.

The Taj Enlighten Film Society does run its film club at Metro Big Cinema, a venue which was used by the French embassy and Unifrance to run the excellent French film festival last December.

Film clubs like Taj Enlighten Film Society currently, and Prabhat Chitra Mandal in the past, try to fill a gap and the new Projector Friday society is attempting to bring even more off-beat cinema, in novel ways, to a public it knows is out there.

All this isn’t enough. In a city of 20 million, surely at least one repertory cinema in a dedicated permanent venue, showing special films year round, needs to exist?

Given the fledgling indie cinema we are starting to nurture, an average indie film runs for two to three weeks in the multiplexes. They really need a re-run.

Other than festivals, where can one watch an old Ritwik Ghatak or a Mani Kaul film? Where can one watch the new Woody Allen film that ran for barely a week? Where can one watch a Hollywood or Bollywood blockbuster from two years ago, on the big screen?

These films must be given another chance, a rebirth, a re-release.

Mumbai newspapers need a listings section that allows you to catch up on movies like you do on your reading. And who knows, it might affect dating culture too.

More on CNNGo: 5 best Mumbai cinemas

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Deepika Sorabjee.
Having studied medicine at Bombay's oldest medical college, Deepika focuses on passions she could not study.
Read more about Deepika Sorabjee
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