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Documentary ‘The Cinema Travellers’ is a bittersweet look at the fading culture of touring cinemas

Shirley Abraham and Amit Madheshiya evocatively capture a fast disappearing film exhibition tradition in rural India.

The truck trudges along, barely holding its contents together. It spills over at its stop, unloading its matter with a thud. The tents are built, the posters plastered and tickets sold. The movie reels are fitted into a projector used and rusted beyond belief. The establishment is then pulled down, only for the truck to make its way into a new town, onto a new set of people. This whimsical nature of a touring cinema is evocatively brought to screen in The Cinema Travellers. The documentary, directed, produced and edited by Amit Madheshiya and Shirley Abraham will be shown at the Mumbai Film Festival in the competition section after a premiere at Cannes and screenings around the world, including New York Film Festival.

A touring cinema does not hold the same romance anymore. Television brings the world into the living room. Films don’t come in large rolls of print but are instead projected into theatres or burnt on pirated CDs. The Cinema Travellers chronicles this shift in the medium.

‘The Cinema Travellers’.
‘The Cinema Travellers’.

The intimate portrayal was eight years in the making. Madheshiya was documenting the phenomenon in a photo-essay that won him the 2011 World Press Photo award, and Abraham’s research helping the project make its transition to the big screen. That development happened organically, Abraham said. “It had been about three years of having researched the travelling cinemas,” she told Scroll.in. “We spent a lot of time trying to understand their motivations, absorbing ourselves into their journeys. There was a moment when it dawned on us that change is in the air and once the technological shift happens, it will change the playing field at large. It was at that point that we decided to make a film about it.”

Three characters are at the centre of the narrative. Mohammed and Bapu run touring cinema businesses. Prakash is the ingenious engineer. “We chose them because they represented three different perspectives and the continuum of life,” Madheshiya said. “Mohammed lives in the present and is a businessman. He is not in romance with cinema, as much as it is his livelihood. On the other hand, we have Bapu who is so nostalgic about how cinemas used to be. His entire narrative is rooted in the past. And then we have Prakash who is a bridge between these two people. He lives in the past too, but he is also somebody who can look ahead and is a man of the future as well.”

The result is a diverse look at a tectonic shift in film viewing practices. “The story wasn’t merely about technology being obsolescent, it had to go beyond that,” Abraham said. “By the time we actually came to make the film, we had spent about three years with all of these people. We had a sense of how each one would respond to this moment of change. We really wanted to understand what the place of cinema is in our civilisation. Why would you preserve it?”

‘The Cinema Travellers’.
‘The Cinema Travellers’.

The intimacy that the filmmakers shared with the characters is reflected throughout its 96-minute run. The people featured in the film seem oblivious to the lingering camera – a possible consequence of the amount of work that went into its pre-production.

“With your first film, you want to create something that will hopefully live for the time,” Abraham said. “The biggest burden was the knowledge that we had been entrusted with this story. It was a beautiful burden, but the travelling cinema is also a beautiful burden that these showmen are carrying. So many times, we were struggling to find the right grammar and narrative to tell the story. But we take pride in how the struggle inspired us to create this story. You discover that eight years have been spent on it, but at that time it was all about getting on from one point to another.”

The documentary also functions as an archive of a uniquely Indian film exhibition tradition. “We are speaking about something that has ceased to exist in the rest of the world, perhaps,” Madheshiya said. “Travelling cinemas were the first medium through which films came to people, and since then things have progressed and changed.”

Madheshiya’s photographic eye results in beautiful frames infused with rich details. The shift from still image to the moving one was, for him, a learning process. “As a photographer, it was all about consolidating a moment and finding a story in one single image, so the transition was terrifying,” he said. “It initially appeared to me as a chaotic process. But then the aesthetic evolved. It was a journey of four to five years.”

Abraham, who has directed short film projects for The Guardian and Al Jazeera in the past, found a story to sink her teeth into. “Money is not our currency,” she said. “We had this beautiful story about imagination and ingenuity, and how their need for cinema goes beyond their daily lives, and our biggest struggle was to be able to translate it.”

Initially a self-funded project, The Cinema Travellers was the beneficiary of generous grants from the Sundance Film Festival and the Bertha Foundation. The rousing festival reception is an encouragement to aim higher, said the filmmakers. “These film festivals are like travelling cinemas in every way – they go to places and transform it for a week or so with cinema from all over the world,” Madheshiya said. “But we would like to take the movie through travelling cinemas too.” Distribution is definitely on the cards. “We have the conventional offer to go via a theatrical release,” Abraham said. “We also have offers from online platforms. This decision will impact the life of the film, so we want to make sure that we’re discussing all the possibilities to choose the model that would be the best fit.”

Shirley Abraham and Amit Madheshiya.
Shirley Abraham and Amit Madheshiya.
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As corporate India changes from strait-jacketed to stylish, here’s how you can stay on-trend

For men and women, tips to make your office style game strong.

Office wear in India tends to be conservative. For men, the staple blue or white shirt and dark trouser arranged in a monotonous assembly line has been a permanent feature of the wardrobe (a tactic shrewdly administered to ensure minimum time is spent shopping). For women, androgynous work wear has been ever reliable and just as dull.

But camouflage is of no use in the corporate jungle anymore. The Indian office is no longer a place for dull, unthinking conformity, it is a place that expects vibrancy in thought and action. With a younger workforce and a greater mix of multinationals and jobs, there is a greater acceptance of edgier trends. Men are stepping away from their blues and greys and women are reshaping their workwear to be more interesting and distinctly feminine. As corporate India is proving its mettle on the global stage and to itself, it’s also growing confident in expressing individuality and style in the formal work environment. From clothing to office décor and fashion accessories to work tools, the workplace is becoming a place to display merit as well as taste.

Work clothes have shed their monochrome and moved into the light of technicolor. Bright colours have steadily become popular as Pantone’s annual colours of the year show us. For the corporate warrior who wants to be stylish here is our pick of trends worth considering.


Statement jacket. A statement jacket is one that doesn’t merely stand out in a crowd, but blows it open for you. How do you recognize one? You’ll know it when you see it. Most statement jackets have a non-traditional color. They could also have subtle prints on them if you want to go funky.

Technicolor socks. Multicolored socks (or hipster socks as they are known in some quarters) peek out every once in a while and brighten things up in the workplace. From polka dots and caricatures to geometric patterns, you can choose a pair to suit your mood or your workplace. A great way of telling people you don’t take fashion rules seriously (except these ones).

Plaid: Well played is well, plaid. Great for your 9-to-5 and even performs well after. Plaids, in shirts and jackets, are perhaps the most versatile tool in the corporate warrior’s armory, and straddle the fine line between formal and casual effectively. They’re also age-resistant meaning a young buck in his twenties can rock them as much as your seasoned forty-plus campaigner. Plaid, though Scottish in origin, has an Indian connection too, in the Madras checks that became popular all over the world after the World War.

Inside collars and cuffs. If you like to keep it classy but still a little edgy, nothing does it like contrast or printed insides of your collar and cuffs. After the work day, when it’s proper to roll up your sleeves, it even adds a touch of evening character.

Coloured Shoes. Alternate your staid blacks and browns with variants like burgundy, light buttery browns and ashen blues. Play with moccasins, tassel loafers and lace-ups. Go beyond leather and try suede and maybe even canvas. But do remember to take a quick course in matching.


Floral prints. Flowers are back (though one could argue that they never went out) and now they’re storming the bastion of your office. Even the traditional Indian paisley is making its way into formal wear. With the prevalence of digital printing, with a little hunting, you’ll even find beautiful florals in watercolour style.

Scarves. The first rule of wearing scarves is to rid yourself of the notion that they are to be worn only in winter. A colourful scarf paired with a monochrome top works wonders. A dozen online videos will teach you to wear it in a dozen ways. Plus, it always comes in handy when the thermostat isn’t to your liking. Kiran Mazumdar Shaw wears scarves frequently, and is a great example of how you can use it strikingly.

Pants. Yes. Pants. Experiment with different styles and you’ll be surprised how they can really spruce up a boring look. Silhouette is everything when it comes to pants. Choose from high-waisted, wide legged, pleated to ankle length pants and what not! The best part is offices rarely prescribe silhouettes, so you can always get by with some style even if your workplace demands a uniform.

Houndstooth. The houndstooth pattern is at the sweet intersection between casual and formal and can be worn to make a splash in either occasion. Whether its jackets or a dress or a simple top, a houndstooth pattern is incredibly versatile.

Chic suits. A sharp suit is a must for a modern professional’s wardrobe. And please don’t even look in the direction of black. Pastel colours or even greys with patterns are great options for suits. Uncoordinated suits are also a great option depending on how edgy you want your office attire to be.


It isn’t enough to be well-dressed in the modern workplace. A good professional is known by his or her tools and how they carry it.

Designer laptop sleeves. Your high-precision instrument deserves a cover chosen with as much care. Black Neoprene is out. Pastel monochromes, geometric patterns and bold designs are very much in. Different materials like cotton, leather and even paper are a great option.

Natural fiber or leather bags (yes kill your black synthetic one now). Briefcases are ancient and black messenger bags are done. Go for a color variant or a subtle pattern. Pay attention to the different leather finishes. Adding a few nicely done metal trims can make all the difference. But convenience and ease are top priority. If you travel a lot, get a stylish strolley and thank yourself later.

Commute pack. The urban corporate needs to be productive at all times, or at the very least, needs to be accessible. A modern commute pack should include wireless headphones, a USB battery pack (power bank) and a wire/gadget organisation pack just so that you’re always prepared.

Machine. We’ve all showed off our latest smartphones. Your work machine is way more important. And like in smartphones, a good laptop is no longer only about performance. The specifications must be top-notch but it has also become an expression of your personality. It can up your style quotient and significantly impact your experience.

Source: Dell
Source: Dell

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Dell and not by the Scroll editorial team.

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