Only a day left to leave for the U.S, I decided I wanted to visit Old Delhi once again. I wanted to find repairers of film projectors. A filmmaker who I’d visited a few days back, had told me that an entire lane in Old Delhi, behind Bhagirath Palace Market, used to comprise store after store of men who made a living repairing film projectors. As it turned out, or maybe I did not look hard enough, I could not find any. Shopkeepers had directed me to Photo Market, which is a lane of camera repairers.
Merchants on Photo Market directed me to other stores that sold and repaired film projectors, but not of the old analog kind. Those projectors are long gone and the stores along with them, one guy told me.
I find this hard to believe.
I did however find many commercial printers who printed film posters in the hundreds of thousands for distribution to theaters in smaller towns, or to urban theaters. What surprised me however was the sheer quantity of posters of older classics – including pretty much everything from Amitabh Bachchan’s angry young man cycle, and even composite posters, each one containing stills from multiple Raj Kapoor films – arranged in a circle around Raj Kapoor’s name – that surely were printed for a festival of Raj Kapoor films at some local theater.
Then there were the reels and reels of film, lying around in corners, waiting to be packed off to mofussil theaters. I have written elsewhere of the prominence of “junk prints” during the early film history period in South Asia, and the prevalence today of junk prints. These however were complete films, somewhat earlier in the life cycle of a print, that were waiting to be sent out to some theater. I wish I had more time away from institutional archival research – and parental care (although the latter is very satisfying for me these days) – to engage in some interviewing and research in Old Delhi.