Panaji: Sitting on the Mandovi river bank here, where he has set up his maiden Goa show of the 107-year-old ‘Touring Talkies’, Vijay Kulkarni has mixed feelings.
He is excited about the fact that this is the first time that the ‘Touring Talkies’ has travelled outside Maharashtra.
"But this may be the last time too," says 65-year-old Kulkarni, the owner of Sri Ram Touring Talkies and Vijay Touring Talkies.
According to him, the three-year-long famine in Maharashtra which patronised this industry has sucked the life out of the Touring Talkies industry.
"The Touring Talkies are in their climax. Now the movie will get over," he said.
"People in Marathwada, Vidarbha and Western Maharashtra are dying even for a drop of drinking water, how can they patronise movies now ?" asks, Kulkarni, who hails from Maharashtra`s Satara village.
The Touring Talkies which used to exhibit shows in a tent during `jatras` (traditional Hindu festivals across Marathwada, Vidarbha and Western Maharashtra) are hardly appreciated now as they have just become a ritual due to the famine.
"Each jatra used to host 30-40 shows and sometimes 10 Touring Talkies companies used to set up their tents there. But that has now become thing of the past," he lamented.
The Talkies are banned from putting up shows in urban areas where theatres exists. With patrons struggling to piece together their lives in rural Maharashtra, the Touring Talkies is facing a shutdown.
The Talkies industry, which began as early as 1904 when a Parsi businessman Manik Seth showed the first ever `silent movie` for the Britishers, is now slowly inching towards its demise.
After the journey of the most successful model of cinema exhibition began over a century ago, it spread across Mumbai, Madras and Kolkata.
But the Touring Talkies in Madras and Kolkata merged themselves with the theatre chain, Kulkarni said.
The last fort for the Touring Talkies were the 2,000-odd exhibitors who toured entire rural Maharashtra, screening dubbed Hindi, Marathi and South Indian movies.
Kulkarni claims that the number of Touring Talkies began dwindling from 1995 onwards and now there are only 35 such companies are left, struggling to survive.
"The concept of multiplex is also a brainchild of Touring Talkies. We install 10 screens at one place during a `jatra` exhibiting ten different movies. We can always say that the multiplexes imitated the concept from us," he says.
Away from the air-conditioned push back chairs and dolby sound system, the rural audience still enjoy the best of movies while sitting on the ground, on the 30x16 feet screen.
Goa government-run Kala Academy, which has hosted Kulkarni?s Sri Ram Touring Talkies, is currently showcasing the movie ‘Touring Talkies’ produced by Trupti Bhoir and directed by Gajendra Ahire.
The movie speaks about the life of people involved in the Touring Talkies in Maharashtra. Kulkarni who joined the Touring Talkies as a projection operator in 1969, began his own company in 1985.
Heading a team of 15 people, Kulkarni himself drives the 1985-model truck loaded with two projectors to the spot where screening is scheduled.
"There is no support system to this dying business," he said pointing out that the last help came from internationally famed music director A R Rehman, who adopted one of the companies by paying Rs One lakh annually.
"If there are few more people like this who could come forward to help this dying industry then it would be worth it. Or else, this would be few of our last shows that we have been showcasing for the audience away from the four-walled theatres," he concluded.