Accepted Paper:

at a tent theatre near you: exploring shared ritualistic viewing practices during the annual visits of traveling cinemas in Maharashtra  


Shirley Abraham

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the material, institutional and social dynamics in the annual settlement of cinema created in rural Maharashtra,and the tensions that shape these encounters. It will also examine how shared audience practices have constructed a distinct way of viewing and visualising films here.

Paper long abstract:

For about six decades now, exhibition of films through organised companies of tent cinemas provides the necessary material, sensual, spatial and institutional conditions for audiences in villages in Maharashtra to engage with large screen cinema. This paper reflects upon the inception of touring cinemas as an import from the mainstream production and distribution industry in then Bombay, to their continued sustenance as a distinct site for provincialising and reprocessing its fare, through its patrons whose desires and devotion has sustained these nomadic cinemas. Examining the inventive lineup of films, it will focus upon these mobile cinemas as unique system of projection and reception, where the social existence of mainstream Hindi and regional language films is constantly shifting, reacticulated through multiple occasions of public exhibition across the jatras (religious fairs). Further, it will locate the development of this collective ritual of viewing films in a tent, its contours shaped through historical engagement of its audiences with this site of hectic social activity. Thus, live entertainments, pilgrimage, societal exchange, marketplace and the playground of a fair become crucial elements to construct the physical, spatial and collective social sense of film viewing here.

The paper will be accompanied by a photoshow of the travelling cinemas image series and a short narrative from the documentary on the cinemas.

Panel P14
Social sense and embodied sensibility at the cinema: towards an aesthetics of film-going