The film raises a relevant issue using a simple web of relationships — failed or otherwise — that makes it worth every penny. Go watch it.
The life of Pranabendu Das (Paran), the owner of a closed single-screen cinema hall, revolves around the theatre and films. He realises that his rebellious son Prakash (Parambrata), who makes a living selling pirated movie DVDs, has a similar obsession when the latter starts his own illegal business of screening films with his partner Asim (Lama).
Cinemawala is a simple film. And it delivers a simple yet important message. But is anyone listening? Today's entertainment world is fast transiting to a very personal space. Virtual reality is taking movie-viewing to a different level altogether. The day may not be far when even multiplexes will have to diversify or down shutters. In such a scenario, how relevant is the survival of single-screen theatres? True, these halls still play a big role in semi-urban or rural areas, but, I believe, the question here is more about adaptation than survival.
In the film, Pranabendu and his Man Friday, Hari (Arun), refuse to think beyond the golden era of Bengali cinema and, in turn, the good old celluloid projector. The demand for films had never gone down in their small town. This is made evident by the response to Prakash and Arun's venture to screen pirated DVDs at a local fair using a digital projector. But Pranab babu and co are reluctant to let go of their prized projector. They would rather spend long hours in the dingy office of the now dilapidated hall, drinking and reminiscing the good old times, than change with the times. Prakash more or less says that when his father asks him to take over the management of the hall.
And in that attitude hides the question: Which is deadlier — resisting change or embracing it? The frog in the well had learnt the answer the hard way, and so does Pranab babu's son and daughter-in-law, Moumita (Sohini), in the film. It's true that change is not always for good, but when it comes to an industry, one has to go with the flow, and if possible, stay a few steps ahead. For now, video piracy is unstoppable; illegal downloading or online streaming is uncontrollable, and most importantly, people's approach towards entertainment is undergoing a sea-change. Home theatres are common, digital projectors come dirt cheap and when it comes to films, the options are unlimited — right from movies on demand to torrent downloads.
So, the way I see it, Cinemawala raises a redundant question. Traditional media is on the way out. Books and music have led the way, and soon, multiplexes, newspapers and even television may have to bow out. So, where is the room for single-screen theatres? These simply have to adapt to change or go the way hundreds have gone before them.
As for the film as a whole, it's definitely a worthy watch. The storyline is well-scripted, the acting balanced and crisp, and the camerawork is on a par with some of the best. Yes, the narrative does slow down a bit too much in certain scenes, but overall, the film has enough meat to keep you glued to your seat till the closing credits start rolling. Among the four primary characters, Paran Bandopadhyay and Arun Guha Thakurta have delivered stellar performances and have held the film together right from the beginning till the end. Their respectful camaraderie, their inebriated banter, the shared love for cinema — everything seems so natural and pregnant with vibes from a bygone era that it's truly a treat to watch. Even Parambrata and Sohini have done complete justice to their roles. Parambrata has managed to portray his anger towards his father and his love for his own line of work quite well. Sohini too has put in a great performance of a simple homemaker torn between the two men in her house and their personal discord. Lama, of course, provides that much-needed dash of humour with elan.
Despite asking an important question too late to be relevant, Cinemawala does answer itself in part — through Prakash. But that's not the reason you should watch it. It's the fact that the film does all this using a simple web of relationships — failed or otherwise — that makes it worth every penny. Go watch it. Don't brood over the question though. A few decades later, another film will end, maybe asking, "Till a few years ago, every home in Bengal has an LED TV. Now, only 500 remain. Is it that necessary to watch films projected right onto your retina?"