A few months ago I eulogized the passing of Elizabeth Taylor now I must do the same for a neighborhood theatre that was courageous in showing first run Bollywood films. For five years I diligently strove to increase the viewership of this fascinating, complex, and vastly entertaining, joyous genre. Alas I must admit, begrudenly, defeat. This is a personal loss and a major one for the community.
This closure did not come as a complete surprise. A year ago I spent a week in Mumbai during a record-breaking monsoon, interviewing a myriad of Bollywood directors, screen writers, editors, questing after the formula to attract more Indian Americans to the darkened theatres, wanting them to bask in the glories of their past and present culture; I naively hoped that reviews from a Westerner might entice them out of the comfortable familiarity of their living rooms; but once again I am forced to eat humble pie or Gulab Jamun, Kheer, the sweets favored by discerning Indians cursed with a cavity prone “sweet” tooth.
One director Subhash Ghai (“Taal”), scoffed, chided my naivety, saying Indians would always rather watch their Bollywood choices in the confines of their homes surrounded by friends and delicacies prepared by a caterer or a “homely” wife. It is a status symbol having the latest films, on DVD, some before they have reached the wide screen. Unfortunately, Mr. Ghai’s prophesy has been realized, especially in this major urban milieu; hopefully it does not hold true for suburbia.
Sadness, replaced by optimism; now Netflix will be my sole source of the Bollywood creations; and like the Indians, instead of sitting, often solitarily, in the presently dead Pipers Alley Theatre I will be ensconced, cocooned, gobbling Naan, Tandoori Chicken, Paneer Masala, in the blissful bosom of my home. Knowing that I fought valiantly if unsuccessfully, awakening to the fact that “the power of one” does not always prevail, but in the words of Clarence Darrow “lost causes are the only ones worth fighting for.” In those sentiments I reap benign satisfaction and solace.