All Things Aural and Visual


It was clearly over-hyped. Krishnaveni theater, the tent kottai in my native Tiruvannamalai looked less rundown.

Seriously? This is what these buggers had been keeping us away from for six months?

The significance of the occasion, itself, was not lost on us. Lifting of the moratorium on the entertainment hot spots of the college was an important milestone in the lives of freshmen. It had started with us being allowed into the back rows of the Common Room to view "U" certified TV programs. Then into the Table Tennis room. And now the AV Hall...

"Next would be Back Post" my senior, Chandru, had told me, building a feverish expectation.

The "Audio Visual Hall" (aka AV Hall) was no mystery to us as we had attended numerous drab events and ceremonies there. But I had hoped that, by night, it would somehow transmogrify, like Amitabh Bachchan in Shahenshah, into a posh and leathered entity, with lights, popcorn, weighing machine, cotton candy, and the whole shebang - like an expansive mofussil theater.

None of that happened. The hall looked the same - the uncomfortable plastic seats; the poor view; the bad acoustics; all of it stayed. Except that there was a large seventy-mm screen hanging precariously from the top, towards the front of the AV Hall.

The bustle in the hall, however, was discernible. The second-, third- and final years came in prepared; clad in pyjamas, lungis, and shorts; equipped with pillows, cigarettes, and snacks in hand; and waited for the movie to start with bated breath.

My Maddu seniors took me to the front-most left hand corner of the hall. Every state and gang had their own little corner, you know.

The movie began to applause and catcalls like it were a Rajnikant Diwali release. It was, in fact, a dubbed, Malayalam, educational porn movie, called "Pehli Raat"! Within the first few reels, as the "hero" of the movie started one of his "lessons" (on you-know-what), the entire crowd went into a frenzy, stood up on the chairs, and rained the screen with slippers.

What the...?! Is this actually happening? I had thought.

Then, one of the final years came up to the front of the screen and beckoned to the projector operator to stop the proceedings. The movie was stopped and the scene was repeated - thrice - to thunderous applause and slippers. The two-hour movie took us nearly three-and-a-half hours to complete. It was surreal.

"Welcome to the AV Hall!" Shankar patted my back, seeing my bemused expression.

This was just the beginning. Every Friday, from then on, the AV Hall screened a few brilliant, some horrible, and mostly mediocre Hindi, Odia, and English movies. The quality of the movies depended on (inverse proportion to) the scale of kickbacks the elected AV Hall Secretary took from the distributor and (on direct proportion to) how rarely there were strikes in Communist Calcutta (from where we got our movie prints).

Against these daunting odds, the AV Hall provided, arguably, some of the happiest moments registered in the memories of most Rengcolians.

The hall had rows of low-hanging fans against which the seventy-mm screen dangled clumsily. All the movies were screened with a constant ensemble - the images of six ceiling fans – that needed to be subtracted from individual memory. The screen was further compromised by students who threw slippers at it for scenes they enjoyed… and for those they reviled.

“Hot” scenes were screened twice, and sometimes thrice, failing which a battery of slippers showered upon the screen disfiguring the image and making the screen swing violently hither and thither.

Sentimental scenes, mawkish dialogs, and AK Hangal - that left entire theaters moist-eyed in mainland India - were treated to slippers of disdain.

Slippers spoke at the AV Hall!

Several years later, when I would catch a movie with one of my classmates, Ajit, in a plush multiplex, he would scoff at the slide, “Enjoy a quiet movie-going experience”, before the start of the movie; “How do you remain quiet while watching a movie? Then, that would be a silent movie”, Vijay quipped, in his characteristic style.

"Sshhhh...." someone shushed us from behind.

"Chappal kidhar hai be?" Ajit asked threateningly. As the old cliche goes, you can take a Rengcolian out of AV Hall, but you can't take AV Hall out of a Rengcolian.

So, what were your AV Hall experiences in college? What were the most memorable movies that you watched during college?

34 comments:

  1. """Next would be Back Post" my senior, Chandru, had told me, building a feverish expectation.""
    :)))) ...

    oh get outta here Puttu .. ( difficult I understand.. cause it's your own blog )..
    Hilarious account of your 'Surreal pehli raat' ...I have one question though .. where did all the slippers go after the screening was over ? And where did you guys get hold of so many slippers ? Mandir ke bahar se churate the kya ?

    Chhe ... we girls really got a raw deal in college .. in everything .. including AV hall movie experience .. I am almost prone to remember we were shown Jai Santoshi Ma :(((((.

    But yes .. I do remember the thrill of watching dil hai ki maanta nahin .. where the 'pretend pious image' conscious Sitae condescended to join me for the screening ..

    I remember being told by seniors to stay a safe distance away from the front , back , sides , centre and other pockets where volatile boys sat ..

    Everything went well ..only gitche being , I had already watched it and related the whole story to sitae before the screening .. so I kept looking at her gleefully after every scene to convey -- I told u no ?..
    At the end of the movie the only response I got from her was a whack on my head with a disgruntled look.. cause she felt she was seeing it for the second time .

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    1. :-)))). Nice...like in all situations the whack on the head was richly deserved :-)! Sitae doesn't resort to violence unless it is absolutely necessary!

      With regards to where the Chappals went, please read Santi's account!! The boys had a healthy way of recycling slippers via the AV hall!

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    2. Was reminded of another incident. There was this Rishi Kapoor murder mystery which was to be screened at AV Hall. Randhir and a couple of others stood outside the hall and caught everyone to reveal who the killer at the end is (spoiler: It was Rishi Kapoor!). It was too funny :-)). Some people just turned back to the hostel, as they felt there was no point watching the movie :-)).

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    3. Zanks a lot Puttu .. I was just planning to browse for a murder mystery with Rishi Kapoor and watch tonight .. I won't bother now..

      Standing outside your blog and revealing the killer .. ๐Ÿ˜พ..

      By the way I wanted to use the word 'glitch' in my account .. it got autocorrected to gitche ..

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    4. And please don't go by sitae's name .. very violent person she was .. especially when it came to me ..

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    5. Please don't drag my pious name through the dirt. I have no recollection of above mentioned beatings, although if said incident did happen, I am sure it was well deserved.

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    6. Lol! Am laughing at the Rishi Kapoor spoiler now. Kisine Randhir ko chappal uthake nahi maara?

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    7. Arre..kahaan?! Tirupathi ko laddoo? Randhir ko chappal? Hargiz nahin!

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  2. AV hall was special and I never missed a show. 100% attendance in 3rd and final year. Ironically, my department with <5% attendance and AV hall were both equal distance from hall of residence number 5. Thus, AV hall movies were prioritized even higher eating monthly feast in the hostel.. we elected Sadat as AV hall secy who had absolutely no clues about Hindi movies. The only recommendation that he selected from my eclectic list of Hindi movie was Lawaaris. I had vivid memory of watching that movie as a kid with my brothers in a 70mm theatre in Patna and Ambitabh singing “mere angne mein” was etched in my memory...
    I was in the front row with Santi next to me and both of us were really excited about watching Lawaaris again. Somehow, second time watching the movie wasn’t the same. It was beyond boring. But then something unimaginable happened. Someone threw a chappal and hit Bachchan Sahib smack on his face. As expected, Santi got senti and walked up to the screen trying to protect his idol. He was shouting “kisne chappal mara”. In his rage, he had left his chappals behind... I picked up the chappal and threw it back at him.. Another memorable day at AV hall ended with barsat of chappal..
    I did feel bad for Sadat for recommending the Lawaaris movie.

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    1. Hilarious recounting of AV hall incidents Samir :-)))!!! I remember the Sadat days as AV hall secy. I think he sincerely got a list of movie recommendations from many of us.

      Lawaaris incident too funny!! You know it could have been me. I remember at point, along with Kaushik and Seshu would throw slippers at the big stars, just to watch the fun. Well, once we did the unthinkable -- threw slippers at Rajnikant! The Maddus were out of control:-))!!

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    2. Chappals at Bachchan Sahab! Slippers at Rajni Sir!!! Ram Ram!!!!

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    3. ROTFWL!! Samir, can't imagine that's you throwing shanti's chappal back at him! Waise, given a chance, I would've got up and backed Shanti. Couldn't have withstood chappals being hurled at Bachan Saab! :-)

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  3. Sorry Brags, I was too busy with my studies and hardly went to AV Hall..

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    1. :-))). I will not say anything. Let Krishna come and even this out with you:-)!!

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    2. We believe you Gautham! That's why we are where we are and you are where you are today! Lol!

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  4. Beautifully captured...one thing u missed to mention....people going to AV Hall with different slippers and exchanging them there��

    ...the next morning at backpost people used to recognise their lost slippers!!

    There used to be another thing with this AV hall night shows...people used to come out 15 mins before nd climb up the trees near the workshop nd make abnormal sounds to scare the people coming after the movie

    SANTIKARI

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    1. Goodness Shanti, had you guys done this to me after the Exorcist movie (making abnormal sounds from trees), I would've probably died from a heart attack right there!!

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    2. I remember Exorcist @ the AV Hall! I had avoided the movie throughout life and finally had to bow to AV hall pressure. A couple of people fell unconscious during the show!

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  5. I think we need to have a special screening at the reunion, so we can get to experience the chappal throwing too...

    I cannot remember the first movie I watched in the AV Hall, but I can be darn sure it was no 'Pehli Raat' or even a distant cousin of 'pehli raat' . It must have been some Raj Kapoor or Jitendra movie I watched while sitting in my mother's lap.

    the uncomfortable plastic seats; the poor view; the bad acoustics was my movie haven where I watched almost every movie as a child. Although not as 'interesting' as the boys show, the staff / girls show used to be fun too, with several false starts and repeats, although never repeats of educational scenes.

    My friends and I had designated seats too, a few rows from the front , to the right of the middle aisle. right under a fan. Far away from where the moms sat... the walk back home at night, after watching movies like "Woh Koun Thi" and being glad that my house was not the last one on the street.

    I distinctly remember watching a movie called Ship Wrecked (I think) , which had some heavy duty storm action, and i was so immersed in the movie experience that I actually felt drops of water fall on me as the seas raged on screen. That was my first ever 4-D experience. I am sure the keepers of AV Hall left the leaky roof unfixed for that very purpose. Can your Krishnaveni theater beat that ?

    Friday evenings, we would walk / bike down to the Mangala Mandir to see the poster of the week. We would also sometimes go close to the AV Hall, to hear all the ruckus from within, and imagine what it must be like inside.

    Sadly, I don't remember movies from when I was a student at the college. The trauma of watching with Rachna must have blocked that from my memory.

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    1. 4-D effect for free!! Lol! There was indeed something called a free lunch in AV Hall!!

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    2. :-))) Too funny! Lovely story-telling.

      I can imagine. If AV hall was your neighborhood theater from childhood, there could have been no better experience!

      What is Mangala Mandir? Don't remember.

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    3. Yeah we should definitely have a 25th reunion AV hall show! Have to add this to the list of asks to the organizers.

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  6. This write-up is hilarious and depressing at the same time. Hilarious because the stories are a riot of laughter!! Depressing because we girls never had a share of all that fun despite being in the same batch of the same college! :-( We were always herded in and out of AV Hall like a bunch of sheep with spondolytis in the neck (from constant looking down). There were no dearth of shepherd men around us - only thing missing was probably a stick each in their hands!

    Throwing a chappal by any of us would've created history - "Ms. Xyz becomes the first woman to throw a chappal at the screen in AV Hall!" And a direct entry into REC Hall of Defame! The Profs would've slammed a big zero in her sessionals and she would've been shown a data driven exit.

    I guess that was the best a college, with a terribly skewed ratio of 65 girls:1500 boys in a conservative state, could do in terms of checks and balances!

    As for movies, the only one I have a recollection of is Exorcist. So scared was I post the movie that I remember asking my roomie to accompany me to the rest room for the next couple of nights, making sure she continuously talked to me or made some noise across the wall every time I was on the job. Yes, I needed ample assurance of her not pulling off a prank on me by deserting me in the middle of my critical job!

    P.S.: Am dying to see Pehli Raat!

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    1. Served you right, Ms Maji!! Being the first to do several other things :-))!!!

      I may be wrong but I had heard that girls are now allowed to view the movie during the "student's show"? Is that correct? Not sure.

      We should definitely have a student's show during the reunion!

      P.S. Yeah...tell me how you liked 'Pehli raat'. I remember, in fact, during our 2nd year, when there was a strike in Calcutta, during the annual "film fest", the AV hall sec had to source 2nd- and 3rd- grade movies locally. Made for some hilarious viewing!

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  7. @Puttindies:
    Man, you have nailed it this time. You have finally arrived. I mean 28 comments (although this includes your repartees) before I could peep in at your blog, that’s something. Either you have paid the readers all the dues with arrears or the selected topic was a super hit! I will go with the latter for now. On a serious note, the topic seems to have struck a chord with all. Very well written too- making use of words like ‘shebang’, ‘transmogrify’ etc. forcing me to turn to google for assistance, which reminds me of my short-lived GRE aspirations!

    Loved the stories posted by all including the one by Don which probably falls in the genre of fiction.
    @Sita made some bold statements mentioning ‘pehli raat’ etc! The episode on ‘shipwrecked’ was hilarious))
    @Ritu: You echoed my views on ‘The exorcist’ although back then it would have been unmanly for boys to show they were scared. I probably spent the night after watching that film with one of my Maddu friends- can’t remember who.

    I also do not remember watching ‘pehli raat’. In fact, my own ‘pehli raat’ seems like such a distant dream. I mean, one doesn’t quite know what’s going on and it’s as if you are in a trance. But I am digressing here.

    I do remember watching ‘Jo Jeeta Wohi …’ and having a crush on Ayesha for some time to come. Then there was the unforgettable ‘Maine Pyaar Kiya’ where I was charmed by Bhagyashree.
    Among other things, I remember there was some kind of literary event for which S.N.Raghavan was in charge and he asked me to contribute some good quotes in English, which I did without sweating much as my diary always used to have a list of quotes to keep my spirits up. I remember S.N was quite pleased with my effort and the quotes were printed on chart paper and pasted all over the AV Hall in prominent locations. I remember feeling a sense of pride seeing those quotes long after that event was over whenever I was there to watch movies. Luckily, they were pasted on the walls at an inaccessible height thus ensuring their longevity. It makes me wonder whether some of those relics have survived till date. I guess that’s asking for too much.

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    1. Maharishi Vashisth ke muh se brahmarishi! Thanks, thanks!!!

      "...Don which probably falls in the genre of fiction" --- :-))))). Man...you are taking on the Don like yenything. You know he has operations in at least gyarah mulks, right?

      "...crush on Ayesha"??? Man :-]]]...you are full of surprises.

      I remember the quotes in AV hall. Not sure if it was a literary event. It was for Spring Time...!!! I think contributed a few quotes as well.

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  8. AV Hall movies were by far the highlight of the week for me. So looked forward to the yellow note in the mess.
    The first movie that we were allowed to - some obscure English movie - we were told to memorize the names of all actors/directors/producers from the casting and that there would be a test after. Was so worked up trying to memorize names I couldn't even follow the movie. Of course there was no test.
    Sadat did a great job and got some good ones.

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  9. Aha Aha.. AV hall is most cosmopolitan and secular place in the world.. Where every language person would not miss to watch hindi, english, odiya.. Does not matter what movie is about..

    Three incidents stand out is..

    Blame it on Rio.. What a babe Demi Moore was.. Uff.. A great AV Hall secretary of Mass.. Cherian Thomas.. Thank you, my friend.. The first ever movie in college that was played multiple times with request from we, the boys. Wish we could re-vote to get him back as secretary for next year. His movie was unique and covering all ranges and tastes..

    Hindi Incident : One hindi movie was being played.. A dialog/song had word "pal" in it. Every state students had their corner in the hall. Maddus who understood Hindi the most were front benchers on left side.. One curious maddu inquisitively asks other maddu what "pal" means.. Instantly another maddu pandit responded instantly.. "pal" is same in Hindi and Tamil.. By the way, in tamil it means "tooth".. Just can't let this incident fade away from memory.. Love
    the Tamihindi gang..

    Telugu : Pratibandh was being played.. Telugu Movie fan always stood out for their movie craze.. On the day of movie, telugu friends wrote on road "Chiranjeevi, welcome to REC" with posters at few places on the way.. You can take Telugu out of them, but cannot take movie craze out of Telugu folks..

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    1. Funny!! ๐Ÿ˜€๐Ÿ˜€

      Remember “Blame it on rio”. Demi was only in a side gig in that movie though.

      Prathibandh๐Ÿ˜€๐Ÿ˜€!!!

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