Before the arrival of mythological T.V shows like Ramayana and Mahabharata on Doordarshan channel, movie audiences were eager to watch Hindi mythological movies like Jay Bajrangbali, Jai Santoshi Maa, Nala Damayanti, Har Har Mahadev etc. Mythology was a successful genre in 60’s, 70’s and 80’s era. The mythological movie on Goddess Santoshi Mata was so phenomenally successful in 70’s era that the cinema halls were no less than temples for devotees catching glimpse of Gods and goddesses. Even biopic on Shirdi Ke Sai Baba was a blockbuster in mythological genre. 60’s and 70’s was the time when mythology genre was a successful formula for movie producers.
It was in this era when wrestler Dara Singh had made his cinematic debut in Hindi movies and was an icon in his own times. He was more popular than the WWF wrestlers like Dwayne Johnson and John Cena. He became popular for portraying mythological figures like Lord Hanuman, Bheem, Balram and Shiva on screen. Bajrangbali was one of the successful mythological movies of 70’s featuring Dara Singh as Lord Hanuman. Dara Singh’s personality was synonymous to courage, strength, masculinity and bravado. He was an idol for youngsters in wresting grounds. After playing role of Lord Hanuman in movies, Dara Singh once again portrayed the role of God Hanuman in Ramanand Sagar’s TV serial – Ramayan.
During my childhood times, there was a single screen cinema called ‘Jawahar’ near my residence. My grandfather and maternal uncle were serious movie lovers. Be it a historic, romantic or a typical Bollywood masala movie, they were a sucker for it. Nowadays apps like Bookmyshow, PVR Cinemas make it easy to book movie tickets from the comforts of home. Earlier newspapers had a separate page for the details of newly released movies in city. The black and white movie posters in newspapers had their own charm. My grandfather and uncle planned an afternoon show on Sunday. Even I and my younger brother couldn’t resist the thrill of watching a movie in theatres. It was the mid 80’s era when Ramanand Sagar’s TV show – Ramayana had just started on Doordarshan Channel. The Sunday’s morning time was scheduled only for Ramayana serial. It was a thrill for me to watch the story of Lord Hanuman on 70 mm silver screen. Since it was Sunday, the queue was obviously long for afternoon slots. Unlike today’s multiplexes, it was a cinema hall minus the air condition. The old shabby seats, bugs and tiresome ceiling fans were all the single screen cinema hall could afford. The cheap pop corns and stale hot Samosas were relished by audience during intervals. The Samosas of cinema halls have their unique taste.
I thoroughly enjoyed ‘Bajrangbali’ with the audience and clapped at every action sequence, special effects in the movie. Watching God Hanuman on silver screen gave me the feel of praying before God in a temple. As the end credits began, I was too emotional to leave the cinema hall. I cherished that moment of watching an interesting movie in cinema halls. Today’s kids are crazy for stuffs like Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, Avengers, Superman, Batman etc but lord Hanuman is father of all super heroes. Sadly, the old cinema hall couldn’t continue screening movies due to lack of maintenance and arrival of posh multiplex movies. It got closed down in late 90’s. Wish I could bring back the joyful moments of my childhood times!! I just have to close my eyes and rewind to that golden age of childhood innocence.