“We’re screening a movie.”
“It’s a guerrilla style docu, about a die-hard rajni fan.”
“We’re screening it at the BMC pipeline.”
“Meet me at PikNik hotel, Saki Naka.
Dude, I don’t know about you. But that was it. I mean the only thing missing was the smugglers and the on-off lights.
This had all the promise of an adventure.
So Z and I hoofed it all the way from Parel to Santacruz and then while pleading with our auto driver to cut lanes and lights, to Saki Naka. We were late. By about an hour.
But P kept saying, “It’s cool. We haven’t yet started. People are still finding their way.”
Finally we reach Saki Naka. And yeah, never have I so looked forward to Saki Naka. Ten minutes of getting lost, asking for directions and we make it to PikNik.
P emerges from what looks like an interesting beer bar, and leads the way. Around the corner, a really short walk, a sudden turn, a short flight of steps. And now I know why they haven’t started as yet. It’ll take a guide to get here.
And thank god. Because it’s amazing. What looks like movie-set caught in a time-warp. A single track unused railway line. Silent tin and brick shanties on one side. Neat and tidy, with plastic buckets and folded clothes hung over doorways.
We stand on a brick platform, the railway line running alongside. The road is above us. In the distance we hear traffic, a car goes by. Here, the only light is from the single bulb of a tea stall. A woman pours strong, sweet tea. People talk, some laughter, cigarettes are lit, introductions made. And Z looks at me with a big grin. The evening is turning out far better than we ever imaged it to.
Then, we start to walk. Under a bridge, water dripping down the stone walls. Bright colours on walls. We walk past houses, women making rotis, kids hunched in front of computers in the community centre, men just returned from work, washing their feet. We walk on the living, breathing track.
And I start to think how appropriate all this is. The docu, on an eccentric, wildly intelligent, unconventional hero. Sagai. Part owner of a tamil video parlour in the shanties of Chembur. Film lover, rajni devotee, astute and devious in his observations of the cops, the ‘system’, with mad opinions on blue films, reading women and slasher films.
And his story, his love for films set here.
We reach the BMC playground. Chairs, a projector and a white screen. We all settle down. Some on the floor, some on chairs. The barbed wire of the playground reflects on the screen, and then the docu starts.
I’m hooked. It doesn’t just bring alive Sagai, it brings out everything that pushes me to understand that he’s probably so much better versed in his understanding of films, because of his love of the medium. He leaves critics, the world movie buffs, the hindi movie retro tripping yuppies far far behind This is rare because it is so genuine.
And I laugh at all his radical ideas, his friends, their trippy conversations. Their reading, their interpretations. And I feel sad. For the video parlours that are closing. For folks who love the movies, but find it increasingly difficult to afford them. And finally, like Sagai, I’m left hopeful.
And somewhere through the docu, Z turns to me and says, “this is the most perfect evening.”
And I realise yep, it is.
Thank you Projector Friday. Thank you Jagan. And yeah, thank you Sagai.
(PS: The movie is so worth your while. Call jagan the director, beg, borrow, steal a copy or a screening. And watch the trailer here.
Also if you live in Mumbai, catch the awesome Projector Fridays for the most fun, the most out-of-the box stuff. You can check them out here.)