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.
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.
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.
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?