Bollywood's golden era comes alive in Kolkata thieves market (Feature)

Kolkata, June 22 Kabadi Galli is a dingy, winding lane at the end of Kolkata's famed 'chor bazaar', or thieves market, but unlikely as it may sound, it is a treasure house of memorabilia from the golden days of Hindi cinema.

Sunday, June 22, 2008 | 7:25:49 AM IST (+05:30 GMT)
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Kolkata, June 22 (IANS) Kabadi Galli is a dingy, winding lane at the end of Kolkata's famed 'chor bazaar', or thieves market, but unlikely as it may sound, it is a treasure house of memorabilia from the golden days of Hindi cinema.

Apart from old brassware, lamps and planter's chairs, Mashooque Ali's shop 'Filmistan' stocks booklets, hand-tinted posters and other film collectibles dating from the 1930s right till the 1980s.

'This 45-year-old shop was started by my grandfather who once used to work at R.K. Studios (Mumbai). We have our outlet in Mumbai too,' Ali told IANS while bringing out dozens of gaily coloured film booklets from the 1950s and 1960s.

Starting at Rs.400, these booklets not only contain the synopsis of the story with a list of credits, but their main attraction is that they have the lyrics of all the songs of a particular film.

'However, the highest-priced booklets are from the 1930s. They include a 17-page one of India's first talkie 'Alam Ara' (1931), 'Achut Kanya' (1936), New Theatre's 'Bari Didi' and Imperial Film Company's 'Nek Abla' (1932),' Ali proudly said.

This is not all - Filmistan also stocks hand-tinted posters of the kitschy series of Amitabh Bachchan starrers like 'Coolie', 'Suhaag' and 'Trishool' and old favourites like 'Pakeezah', 'Chandi Sona' and a rare vintage 'Nagin'.

The bright colours of the film 'Aan', the exquisite detailing in popular devotional film 'Navratri' to the sheer beauty of Raj Kapoor's visage in 'Awara' - entering the shop is like being transported magically to an era gone by through a time machine.

'This shop was set up specially for cine-lovers. But nowadays possessing these rare film memorabilia has become a fashion statement. Hoteliers and businessmen come and buy these for interior decoration,' Ali said.

Filmistan also stores booklets from the 1960s Hollywood films printed in the US, priced between Rs.1,000 and Rs.1,500.

But what catches the eye are small stamp-blocks of the famous R.K logo that has a man, woman and a violin inspired from the Raj Kapoor-Nargis starrer 'Barsaat'.

Show cards, rare working stills, beautiful black and white photographs of 'Jis Des Main Ganga Behti Hai', 'Awara', 'Mera Naam Joker', prints of India's first film 'Raja Harishchandra', Satyajit Ray's 'Apu' trilogy and stacks of old LPs - the surprises in store for cine buffs are unending.

You can bargain for the beautiful bronze statue with black enamel work detailing the film 'Taj Mahal' that was presented to a select few during the film's premiere in 1963. Or for the silver jubilee trophies of Rajshri productions' 'Dosti' and 'Khandan', or a bronze figure of Sanjay Khan's 'Tipu Sultan'.

Decrepit biscuit tins decorated with images from 'Mera Naam Joker' and Rajesh Khanna-starrer 'Kati Patang', which would have probably been thrown away years ago, are carefully preserved here.

'See, the picture of vamp Bindu crooning 'Kya Naam Hai Mera' on the lid of Qurbani powder - named after the film - has still not faded. We have preserved even the talc and the puff,' Ali said excitedly.

Although these memorabilia housed in a small shop on a dusty lane don't come with certificates of authenticity like auction houses, 'Filmistan' truly brings alive Bollywood's golden age and makes it accessible to a large number of film buffs.

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