Talkies Town

In 2007, Marathi theatre and film actor Trupti Bhoir had debuted as a producer with Marathi film Tujhya Majhya Sansarala. Unfortunately, the film for which Bhoir had borrowed money from a number of people, didn't do well in Mumbai and Pune. Thereafter, she decided to show the film in touring tent talkies, also known as the "Tambu Talkies", which were a part of yearly jatras (fairs) that take place in Vidarbha and Marathwada and attract around five to six lakh people. Though she managed to find a tent to showcase her film, she couldn't. What followed then, became a learning experience for her. So much so, that she decided to make a film inspired by this life-defining incident. And her film Touring Talkies was showcased at the 17th International Film Festival of Kerala 2012 on Tuesday at Thiruvananthapuram.

Recalling her encounter with the world of touring talkies and her struggle to pull the audience, she says, "While other tents had 800 to 1,000 viewers, there were barely 10 people watching my film." She was disheartened and while taking a stroll around the venue of the jatra in Satara, she noticed that the posters of the other films were very loud. "The posters were very in-your-face and had photos of a saas beating her bahu; a scary dacoit, or a mother running with a baby in her hand," explains the 31-year-old. The next moment, she visited a local video library and bought a number of VCDs of such masala films and asked her team to redesign the poster of her film. "Although the hero of my film, Upendra Limaye, had nothing to do with dacoity as a character, we showed him as a dacoit in the poster. Similarly, we displayed every actor differently in the poster," she says, adding that next day, there were 150 people in her tambu. Yet, Bhoir wasn't satisfied. So she distributed pamphlets in the surrounding villages which said that everyone who watches her film had a chance of winning a gold nose ring through a lucky draw. The marketing gimmick worked and the next show had 1,200 viewers. "After this, it was pure word of mouth and the numbers didn't decrease. I travelled with the jatra to different places for three months and gradually I recovered the amount I had invested," says Bhoir.

In 2010, she approached Gajendra Ahire, who has directed films such as Sai (2006), Shevari (2006) and Tya Ratri Paus Hota (2009). When he gave a nod, Bhoir took him to explore the world of touring talkies, travelling with the jatras to places such as Buldhana, Paithan, Pusegaon and Shingnapur, also the places where the film was shot. "I got to see a completely different culture of cinema there. The people associated with touring talkies work purely on passion. With a projector and a tent loaded onto a truck, they roam around from one place to another for six months, simply showcasing films. These tents are basic multiplexes; they have around 8-10 shows in a day," says Ahire. The shooting of Touring Talkies began in December 2011 and concluded in May 2012, and is now slated to release in February 2013.

Though inspired by Bhoir's experiences, Ahire's screenplay tells a different story. "I didn't want the film to have autobiographical elements. Of course, it will have shades of my experiences but through a different story. It's about the life of the people associated with touring talkies, their hardships and the passion they have for cinema," adds Bhoir, who also plays the role of Chandi, the protagonist in the film. It also stars other popular names of the Marathi film industry such as Subodh Bhave, Neha Pendse, Milind Shinde and Kishore Kadam. The film's background score has been given by Ilayaraja.

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