New Delhi: A makeshift cinema hall under a 140-year-old bridge in Delhi is allowing poor rickshaw pullers and migrant labourers to escape into a world of Bollywood song, dance and romance. With the rusty iron floor of the bridge as its ceiling and some old rags acquired on the cheap from a nearby crematorium serving as curtains and floor mats, the cinema shows four films a day.
Organisers pooled their savings to rent an old TV set and video compact disc player, and charge Rs. 10 rupees admission – a hundredth of the price of entry at Delhi’s fanciest movie theatres. Mohammad Noor Islam, a junk dealer and one of the regulars at the cinema under the double-decker bridge over the Yamuna river, said it helps to keep them away from vices like drugs and gambling.
“Films are much better. Many men get hooked on gambling, drugs and alcohol and they pass their time by drinking or smoking,” he told Reuters Television.
The dark and breezy interior of the cinema hall provides relief from the city’s sweltering streets where temperatures have soared as high as 47 Celsius. After dark, the cinema hall becomes a night shelter providing comfort in the scorching heat.
Ishfaq, one of the cinema’s co-founders, runs a small food stall nearby. He said it was an excellent place for people to unwind after hours of hard labour. “The place is wide and open, there is a cold and pleasant breeze here because it is so close to the river Yamuna – it feels like an air conditioner is on,” said Ishfaq, who offers meals for 5-10 rupees.
On an average day, about a 100 people use the cinema hall to watch films, rest and catch up on some sleep. Ishfaq worries that the cinema, which operates illegally, might be shut down by the authorities.